Wilkinsburg Tour To Highlight Blight In Hopes Of Spurring Redevelopment

It’s a home tour visitors don’t typically take: overgrown gardens leading to homes with boarded-up windows, peeling paint and broken stairs.

The Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation and a group of Carnegie Mellon University students hope to highlight hidden beauty in the borough and reframe how people see vacant properties. The students conceived the idea for a Vacant Home Tour on May 9 as a way to address blight.

They’ll walk people through the history of five vacant properties in Wilkinsburg that could be prime candidates for restoration.

At each house, volunteer docents from the neighborhood, who researched the homes’ histories and owners, will present old photos or documents to show the houses in their heydays, said Marlee Gallagher, communications and outreach coordinator for the CDC.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/8083071-74/wilkinsburg-tour-properties#ixzz3XCZ490tS
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Bethlehem Approves 30-Unit Apartment Complex Off Elizabeth Avenue

The Bethlehem Planning Commission on Thursday approved construction of 30 apartments on two vacant parking lots off East Elizabeth Avenue.

Peron Development hopes to start construction on the three-story apartment building at Chelsea Avenue and East Greenwich Street within 90 days, company Director of Development Rob de Beer said.

Peron also is about to start on the construction of 110 apartments on East Third Street on the South Side.

“There’s that much significant interest for living in Bethlehem and we want to meet that demand,” de Beer said.

Read more:

http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/bethlehem/index.ssf/2015/04/bethlehem_approves_30-unit_apa.html

Montco Commissioners Kick Off Second Phase Of Lafayette Street Extension Project

NORRISTOWN, PA – The first phase has been completed, and now the second phase of a road project that will eventually connect Norristown to the Pennsylvania Turnpike will begin.

Despite the cold on Wednesday, the Montgomery County commissioners broke ground on the $12.9 million second phase of the project, which will extend Lafayette Street to Diamond Avenue in Plymouth Township. The second phase will also reconstruct and widen Diamond Avenue from the Pennsylvania Turnpike bridge to the Norristown border at Ross Street.

“Many of us were here together months ago when we kicked off phase one of the Lafayette Street extension project. Today we’re here to talk about ramping up phase two of the Lafayette Street extension project,” commissioners’ Chairman Josh Shapiro told a crowd of county employees and local officials involved in the project.

Shapiro told the group that they will begin to see traffic slow down as the second phase makes its way through its expected completion date of spring 2017, but he added there will not be detours on Ridge Pike in Plymouth Township.

Read more:

http://www.timesherald.com/general-news/20150408/commissioners-kick-off-second-phase-of-lafayette-street-extension-project

Pittsburgh URA Set To Approve Housing Developments In Larimer, East Liberty

A new day is dawning in Larimer, with the city getting ready to plant the first seeds in a massive effort to revitalize the neighborhood with the help of a $30 million federal grant.

Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority board members are poised to give the go-ahead Thursday for construction of 85 mixed-income residential units in Larimer and East Liberty, the first phase of a broader $400 million revitalization strategy.

The townhouses and apartments will be built at the site of the former Liberty Park site and Omega Place in East Liberty and the former Auburn Towers site in Larimer.

They were made possible in part because of a $30 million Choice Neighborhoods Initiative grant awarded last year by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Pittsburgh was only one of four cities in the country to win a grant. Forty-three had applied.

Read more:

http://www.post-gazette.com/business/development/2015/04/08/URA-set-to-approve-Larimer-housing-project/stories/201504080115

Vote Clears The Way For Food Trucks In York City

Free-market ideology narrowly overpowered fears of the unknown Tuesday with the York City Council’s 3-2 vote to legalize and regulate food trucks on city streets.

The decision marks the end of a long and sometimes divisive debate over the financial impact roving restaurants could have on traditional brick-and-mortar establishments.

Where some saw food trucks as a potential boon for a growing downtown business landscape, others saw a potentially diluted customer base wreaking havoc on profit margins.

In the end, mobile food proponents got what they’d asked for and more.

Read more: http://www.yorkdispatch.com/ci_27869256/vote-clears-way-food-trucks-york-city

New Beginning: Allentown’s Warrington Avenue Poised For A Makeover

The crowd inside — and eventually outside — 816 E. Warrington Ave. one recent evening gathered to showcase a newly renovated Allentown property. The former Ken’s Variety had been vacant for more than 20 years.

As the evening deepened, “Open in Allentown,” a “pop-up” event with a garage-style glass door rolled up, became a stew of neighborhood leaders, investors, consultants, residents of Allentown and nearby neighborhoods mingling over cocktails and catered nibbles.

The event and mix of people signified what Hilltop Alliance executive director Aaron Sukenik called “Warrington Avenue in its reinvention phase.”

One mile from Downtown (Pittsburgh) and cradled by the hot markets of Mount Washington and the South Side Slopes, Allentown is riddled with residential blight, and 35 percent of its commercial properties are vacant. But the newly repaved Warrington Avenue is on the cusp of a transition from being seedy to being seen.

Read more:

http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2015/04/06/New-beginning-in-Allentown-Warrington-Avenue-poised-for-a-makeover/stories/201504060015

10-Story Bethlehem Building Better Suited For Apartments, Developer Says

When Borko Milosev bought a 10-story office building in Bethlehem in December, he had new plans in mind.

Instead of offices, Milosev thought the upper floors of the Santander building on the corner of Elizabeth Avenue and Center Street were better suited for apartments.

“You have an unobstructed views all around it,” he said. “The views are absolutely gorgeous.”

Milosev and a business partner have submitted plans to the Bethlehem Zoning Hearing Board to turn the building’s six upper floors into 48 apartments. The four lower floors would remain offices.

Read more:

http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/bethlehem/index.ssf/2015/03/10-story_bethlehem_building_be.html

Zoning Code Changes Would Help Guide Redevelopment Of Former Industrial Sites In Philadelphia

Two members of City Council are proposing changes to a new zoning classification that’s meant to encourage the redevelopment of former industrial sites into mixed-use residential projects.

The category, Industrial Residential Mixed-use (IRMX), was created during the overhaul of the zoning code that culminated when a new code was enacted in 2012. Because it’s a new category, it has yet to be mapped into many neighborhoods.

But Councilmen Mark Squilla and Kenyatta Johnson are co-sponsoring a bill that would make a number of changes to the category. The changes would require IRMX projects to include non-residential uses, incentivize artisan or light-industrial uses, reduce the maximum lot coverage, and ease parking and loading regulations.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/Zoning_code_changes_would_help_guide_redevelopment_of_former_industrial_sites.html#tBqxSQKwwjLgiCLY.99

Special Project: Is Pottstown More Dangerous Than Other Towns?

Editor’s note:  A continuation of Evan Brandt’s series about crime in Pottstown.  Well worth the read.  The blogging community has been trying to get this problem addressed for a while now and it’s great that the mainstream media and Montco officials are getting on the bandwagon to clean up Pottstown.  We feel Pottstown has great potential but it can’t be realized until crime is brought under control.  When criminals learn that Pottstown isn’t open for business anymore, redevelopment can really take hold.

How many times have you heard it in the past year?

“Pottstown is turning into another Reading.”

It’s the kind of comparison not meant to reflect well on the Berks County seat, labeled in 2011 as the nation’s poorest city.

But comparisons are a way to put things in context.

Read more:

http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20150309/special-project-is-pottstown-more-dangerous-than-other-towns

Has Philadelphia’s Market East’s Time Finally Come?

If Philadelphia were a basketball court, Market Street East would be that inexplicable dead spot on the floor, the place where the ball just doesn’t bounce.

The eight-block corridor has four Dunkin’ Donuts and two Subway sandwich shops — but no outdoor cafe. A McDonald’s sits in what used to be a porn emporium.

The mid-street shopping selection on what should be a glittery avenue ranges from drug store to cut-rate clothing to cash-for-gold. Addicts come and go from a methadone clinic. The homeless own the corners, and the constant, rolling wall of buses fouls the air.

For years, when people like Paul Levy pitched the route’s potential to developers, they answered, “Yeah, I get it, but nobody goes to Market Street.”

Read more:  http://www.philly.com/philly/business/Mall_to_the_Hall.html

Changing Skyline: Developer Roland Kassis Transforming Fishtown Into Hip Haven

Every changing neighborhood in Philadelphia seems to have one: a developer who dominates the scene.

In Northern Liberties, it’s Bart Blatstein. In Newbold, it’s John Longacre. In Point Breeze, it’s Ori Feibush. On South Broad Street, it’s Carl Dranoff. They amassed their real estate holdings when the neighborhoods were cheap, then became the masters of their destinies when the places emerged, Sleeping Beauty-like, from slumber.

Now, it’s Fishtown’s turn, and Roland Kassis is the reigning developer. Over 25 years, Kassis estimates, his company, Domani Developers, has collected a million square feet of property, mainly in old manufacturing buildings along Frankford Avenue, the neighborhood’s commercial spine. That’s almost as much space as the Comcast Tower holds.

Kassis, 44, who was born in Lebanon, raised in Liberia, and speaks French, exhibits the same manic energy and insatiable appetite for abandoned factories as the other neighborhood titans, but he has a sensibility more in tune with Fishtown’s arty, DIY, tattoo-and-vintage-loving culture. He not only nurtured a yoga studio on Frankford Avenue, he practices there and eschews meat. It’s hard to imagine many other Philadelphia developers chanting “Om.”

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/home/20150306_Changing_Skyline__Developer_Roland_Kassis_transforming_Fishtown_into_hip_haven.html#AgDY2fTHVBtIvMvF.99

McKeesport Backs Effort To Rebuild Housing In Seventh Ward

McKeesport soon may have two new homes built in the city’s Seventh Ward cultural and educational district — and perhaps more after that.

City council Wednesday gave “unqualified support” to ACTION-Housing Inc.’s requests for funding for two homes on space cleared near the Twin Rivers school complex.

“ACTION-Housing will act as a partner with the city in the development and sale of the two new homes,” Mayor Michael Cherepko wrote in a letter dated Feb. 27 to Allegheny County’s Department of Economic Development.

That department handles a housing development fund and affordable housing trust fund that could be part of a mix of funding sources the nonprofit will pursue.

Read more: http://triblive.com/neighborhoods/yourmckeesport/yourmckeesportmore/7898583-74/housing-mckeesport-action#ixzz3TcnnpAo8
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Latrobe Revitalization Program Shifts Focus To Facade, Beautification Projects

Executive Director Jarod Trunzo detailed several projects the Latrobe Community Revitalization Program hopes to advance in the coming year at last week’s Latrobe City Council meeting.

Trunzo wanted to give council a “snapshot” of what the group is working on as it changes its focus on development instead of events.

The revitalization program will continue to operate the Latrobe Farmers Market, but has turned over Steelers Fest and the Great American Banana Split Festival to the Greater Latrobe-Laurel Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Some projects will start in March when the weather breaks, then continue through the summer, Trunzo said.

Read more: http://triblive.com/neighborhoods/yourlatrobe/yourlatrobemore/7751678-74/latrobe-trunzo-development#ixzz3S2xupFNs
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CEO Of Royal Square Development Shares Market Street Vision For York

For Joshua Hankey, Wednesday was about as big a day as they come.

Only minutes after closing a deal on one key property — The Weinbrom Jewelers building at 58 W. Market St. — Hankey presented his $11.7 million plan to redevelop Market Street to a packed audience at the Yorktowne Hotel Ballroom.

The 36-year-old president and CEO of Royal Square Development and Construction presented his vision of a transformed Market Street to about 180 Rotarians and guests, a crowd that included business owners, clergy, attorneys, doctors and other prominent citizens.

The vision, Hankey said, is to breathe new life into the Market Street corridor, so that it serves to link thriving commercial areas on Beaver Street and the Royal Square neighborhood Hankey’s company is redeveloping.

Read more: http://www.ydr.com/business/ci_27461444/ceo-royal-square-development-shares-market-street-vision

Downtown Lancaster Marriott’s Owner Proposes 96-Room, $23M Expansion

Lancaster MarriottThe math is simple.

If the Lancaster County Convention Center wants to attract bigger numbers of large conventions, it needs bigger numbers of nearby, convention-quality hotel rooms.

And right now, despite 299 rooms in the adjoining Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square, plus 134 more at The Hotel Lancaster two blocks away, research studies show that downtown is coming up short.

But a new proposal by the Marriott’s owner would make the convention center more appealing to the organizers of these big events.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/downtown-marriott-s-owner-proposes–room-m-expansion/article_b1b39a1e-a8da-11e4-b47b-3bbb05f76f38.html

Bethlehem Main Street Streetscape Project Scaled Back, Next Phase To Start In March

Instead of another $2.7 million in upgrades, Bethlehem’s Main Street will be getting a $500,000 overhaul come spring.

Building upon a $532,000 upgrade of the intersection of Main and Market streets, city officials had planned on an extensive $3.2 million streetscape project between Broad and Church streets. But both the city and property owners say a scaled-back $1 million total project is more feasible.

The city had planned to replace all of the street’s sidewalks as it did at Main and Market but will instead just be repairing broken slate and brick on the four blocks, which is Bethlehem’s busiest business thoroughfare.

Hotel Bethlehem managing partner Bruce Haines said he and other Main Street property owners couldn’t afford the higher-priced overhaul. The city is seeking a 50-50 project cost split with property owners.

Read more: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/bethlehem/index.ssf/2015/01/bethlehem_main_street_streetsc_1.html

Belovich Announces Bid For 4th Ward Council Seat In Pottstown

Editor’s note:  We endorse Ross Belovich for 4th Ward Councilor.  We think he would be a wonderful addition to the borough government and brings may good ideas on how to move Pottstown forward.  Something that is desperately needed!

POTTSTOWN, PA = Within days of Pottstown Borough Council President Stephen Toroney announcing he will not seek another term representing the Fourth Ward, another Democrat has announced his candidacy.

North Hanover Street resident Ross Belovich, who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for mayor in 2013, has thrown his hat into the ring.

In an announcement posted on Facebook, Belovich wrote that “I believe that individually we can do good, but together we can do great.”

Toroney announced he would not seek a fifth term at the end of the Jan. 12 council meeting.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20150116/belovich-announces-bid-for-4th-ward-council-seat-in-pottstown

Grand Plans For Riverfront Hotels, Wedding Halls In Fishtown

Developer Bart Blatstein and caterer Joseph Volpe say they have signed a contract with Exelon Corp. to buy the former Delaware Station electric plant on the Delaware River in the city’s Fishtown section.

The property boast a 1,000-foot stretch of waterfront and includes a pier.

“We envision two boutique hotels, each leading into their own ballrooms with 55-foot-high ceilings,” said Volpe, owner of Cescaphe Event Group, which organizes 600 wedding receptions a year at its five Philadelphia venues.

“It’s a one-of-a-kind property,” said Blatstein, best known for the Piazza at Schmidt’s and other housing-and-retail projects that have helped transform some of the city’s older, grittier neighborhoods.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20150116_Grand_plans_for_riverfront_hotels__wedding_halls_in_Fishtown.html#yu0DdUDgHTFBg6HI.99

Pottstown Beech Street Lofts Project Gets Council Approval

While details at this time are not available, the Citizens Action Committee for Pottstown is reporting that Pottstown Borough Council has approved the Beech Street Lofts project for the old Fecera’s building.  The building is currently vacant and in need of redevelopment.

This project will stabilize the neighborhood, provide traction for the arts community (ArtFusion 19464 and Steel River Playhouse) and send a clear message that Pottstown is serious about revitalization.  We believe this will be the transformative project that jump starts a wave of redevelopment in the borough.

You can find more information about the project here: https://www.facebook.com/beech.streetlofts?fref=ts

Generational Shift: Pittsburgh Milennials Help Reshape The City

When Beth Swanson moved out of her house in Collier last spring, she looked at places from Mount Washington to the South Hills and the Strip District before settling on Downtown.

She couldn’t be happier.

“I can walk anywhere I want to go. I can walk to a restaurant. I can walk to go to a show. There’s so much to do Downtown. For me being in my 20s, it’s just the ideal location,” she said.

Ms. Swanson, 25, has lived in a two-bedroom apartment at Market Square Place since May. She is among the growing legion of millennials and young professionals who are helping to fuel the residential building boom in and near Downtown.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/business/career-workplace/2015/01/03/Generational-Shift/stories/201501030003