Sale of $ 1.5 million of public land paves the way for Esplanade project

A Canonsburg-based developer will buy public land along the Ohio River as part of a $ 475 million development project that would include everything from affordable housing to a Ferris wheel.

the Council of the Urban Redevelopment Authority voted unanimously to sell 5.6 acres of vacant land in the former industrial district of Chateau, near Manchester, to a subsidiary of Millcraft Investments. The developer will pay $ 1.5 million for the land, which cost URA $ 1,350,000, and which Allegheny County now values ​​for tax purposes at $ 256,100.

Millcraft plans to use this land as part of the 15 acre Esplanade. When completed, it may include:

  • An apartment building of 300 units, including 60 units priced at households earning 80% or less of the region’s median income
  • Co-ownership
  • A restaurant and a fresh produce market
  • A pavilion by the river
  • Stores
  • 550 parking spaces
  • A marina and a public jetty
  • An aquarium
  • Medical and technological space
  • Hotel
  • A 53-meter (174-foot) Ferris wheel with a view of downtown.

URA plans to create an investment district for the revitalization of public transport [TRID] to finance the improvement of infrastructure on and near the site. The state-created TRID program allows borrowing to finance development costs, amortized by future tax revenues.

Millcraft is in talks with Manchester Citizens Corp. [MCC] leading to the development of a community benefits agreement to ensure neighboring areas are served by development.

“We are absolutely delighted to see this project moving forward,” said LaShawn Burton-Faulk, MCC Executive Director, at the URA virtual board meeting.

Millcraft project leader James Holcomb predicted “a huge economic impact in terms of job creation and contribution to the economy, and we will do it hand in hand with Manchester”.

Hills sold for office building

The URA board of directors also voted to sell four plots of Middle Hill land to a subsidiary of Hill Community Development Corp. for $ 195,000. The Center Avenue plots, just west of the New Granada Theater site, will become the site of a five-story office building, anchored by the University of Pittsburgh Center for Community Engagement.

A slide from a presentation made to the Urban Redevelopment Authority board on December 16, 2021, regarding a planned office building on Center Avenue.

The office building is expected to cost $ 22 million and is part of a $ 60 million redevelopment of the entire block.

“This is the first commercial development in our hallway in a long, long time, decades I think, outside of the grocery store,” said Councilor Daniel Lavelle, who represents the District of Hill and is a member of the council. administration of the URA. The New Granada site is not far from the Center-Heldman Plaza, where the URA is trying to bring in a new operator for a bankrupt grocery store.

The Housing Office will sell its stake in a building in the city center

The URA board of directors also voted to pay $ 1,306,000 for another authority’s share in the downtown building at 200 Ross Street.

This location has long been shared by URA, the City of Pittsburgh Housing Authority [HACP] and some city government offices. The entities have teamed up to purchase 412 Boulevard des Alliés, and the HACP is in the process of obtaining approval from the Federal Ministry of Housing and Urban Development to move there by 2023.

After HACP sells its 33% stake in 200 Ross, the URA plans to seek out a developer interested in purchasing the building.

The meeting was the last of the URA Board of Directors during Mayor Bill Peduto’s administration. Peduto will be replaced next month by State Representative Ed Gainey, member of the URA Board of Directors. Gainey will have the power to appoint new board members when terms expire or members step down, subject to confirmation by Pittsburgh City Council.

Rich Lord is PublicSource’s economic development reporter. He can be contacted at or on Twitter @richelord.

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