OPDC closes on $16 million financing of affordable rental housing development in West Oakland

Rendering courtesy of Loysen + Kreuthmeier Architects 

Rendering courtesy of Loysen + Kreuthmeier Architects 

OPDC closes on $16 million financing of affordable rental housing development in West Oakland

Oakland Planning and Development Corporation (OPDC) has closed on a $16 million financing package for Oakland Affordable Living, a 49-unit affordable housing development made possible through Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) and a Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund (PHARE) soft loan, both awarded by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA). PNC Bank made an equity investment of $11,464,550; the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh and the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh have also funded the project. OPDC’s investment of real estate and project management is valued at $1.9 million. Sota Construction is the contractor; Loysen + Kreuthmeier Architects is the project architect.

"Oakland has long been a vibrant residential neighborhood that hosts the universities and hospitals that drive the economy of Pittsburgh. We are honored to work with OPDC to invest in affordable housing in the neighborhood so that generations of families can continue to call Oakland their home," said Mayor William Peduto.

OPDC will renovate 24 existing units, and construct 25 new units, all in West Oakland. Oakland Affordable Living will offer low-income residents quality apartments in a central location of the city, with easy access to jobs, education, and transit.

“I’ve been in this community since 1968 when I was a Pitt student—now I’m retired and living on one fixed income, but I don’t want to leave to have to find something affordable,” said Liz Bennett, one long-time Oakland resident planning to apply for a unit in the new building. “This neighborhood is wonderful. It’s diverse and the location is so convenient. There’s nowhere else I want to live. This project is going to make a big difference here.”

Oakland Affordable Living will replace vacant and blighted lots on Wadsworth Street, most of which were tax-delinquent. The project also includes renovation and expansion of Allequippa Place on Robinson Street at Allequippa Street, one of the first LIHTC developments in Pennsylvania.

All the units will be 100% affordable, with 30 units (60% of the development) for those making less than 50% of area median income, and 19 for those making between 50 and 60%. Six of the 49 units will be fully accessible, and 13 will have three bedrooms.

“Providing family-sized units was a big priority for us,” said Elly Fisher, OPDC’s Assistant Director. “We are thrilled to address the shortage of affordable three-bedroom units in Pittsburgh.”

OPDC will begin formally taking applications in January 2018. The two- and three-bedroom Allequippa Place units will be ready for tenants in spring 2018; the one-bedroom units on Wadsworth will be ready by November 2018.

Wadsworth Street, existing conditions

Wadsworth Street, existing conditions

OPDC has served Oakland since 1980 and manages a comprehensive real estate program. In addition to a 107-unit rental housing portfolio, the organization also recently launched the Oakland Community Land Trust, an initiative to preserve affordable home ownership opportunities in Oakland’s residential communities.

Oakland Affordable Living is made possible by collaboration with and support from the following representatives, project partners, and funders:

Allegheny County Department of Economic Development
Bridgeway Capital
Common Ground
Corcoran Jennison Company
Diamond and Associates
Heinz Endowments
The Honorable Jay Costa, Jr.
The Honorable Rich Fitzgerald
The Honorable Wayne Fontana
The Honorable Dan Frankel
The Honorable Dan Gilman
The Honorable Bruce Kraus
The Honorable Daniel Lavelle
The Honorable Jake Wheatley
Housing Authority City of Pittsburgh
Local Initiatives Support Corporation
Loysen & Kreuthmeier Architects
Neighborhood Allies
Oakland Development Fund
The Honorable William Peduto
Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency
Regional Housing Legal Services
Sota Construction Services
Urban Redevelopment Authority

OPDC responds to PublicSource Bates Street development article

Public Sourge article screen shot.jpg

The August 10th Public Source article, A developer has big plans for Oakland’s Bates Street corridor, but will zoning laws and residents permit it?, was unbalanced and missed the mark on many points. OPDC offers the following clarifying statements. Contact OPDC at 412.621.7863 ext. 15 or wwilson@opdc.org for more information.

The enormous scale of Oakland Gateway Ventures’ (OGV) current proposal is completely inconsistent with existing zoning. 

PublicSource was incorrect to state that the proposed parking garage is “not recommended” in the H, Hillside zoning district.  In fact, the use is not permitted.  Period.  The article erred by stating allowable height is 85 feet in the Oakland Public Realm Subdistrict D zoning district.  Base zoning allows 60 feet.  85 feet would require a special exception requiring certain conditions to be met.  The article also neglected to mention the many other zoning requirements that would need to be met such as floor-area-ratio, residential compatibility standards, and site development standards.  OGV’s proposal is not realistic in terms of the City of Pittsburgh Zoning Code. OPDC engages many developers in design review—this is a large part of our work. Most developers take zoning and community support very seriously as part of their due diligence.

The OGV proposal is inconsistent with The Oakland 2025 Master Plan, and transportation/sustainability plans/policies citywide, such as P4, The Pittsburgh 2030 District, OnePGH, and City of Pittsburgh Complete Streets Policy

These are intended to support neighborhoods, reduce carbon emissions, improve air quality, increase transit ridership, and reduce the number of cars entering Oakland each day.  Existing policy is designed to prohibit developments exactly like the OGV proposal. The Public Source article did not adequately communicate the extent to which the OGV proposal is in contradiction to publicly-established priorities for the neighborhood and our city.    

PublicSource also neglected to explore the feasibility of the proposed infrastructure changes.  They simply published a drawing without interviewing another party about whether it is realistic.  The drawing showing Bates Street straightened would require blasting through a hillside next to homes where Oakland homeowners live.  The amount of blasting and hillside stabilization that would be required would be a monumental challenge from an environmental impact review perspective and also a colossal cost of public infrastructure dollars.  Lower Bates Street has congestion challenges, but the OGV proposal is not a feasible or desirable solution.  OGV has no expertise in infrastructure planning.  OPDC will work with city and state officials – those without a profit motive -- on viable plans to improve this corridor.  We will ensure that the community is involved through transparent community process. 

OPDC remains strongly opposed to this proposal. It would harm the neighborhood.

In the last week, residents have alerted us that that a representative of the OGV development team is going door-to-door requesting signatures on a petition in support of the project. This representative allegedly claims that OPDC has signed the petition and decided to support the project. This is false. OPDC and Coalition of Oakland Residents, an alliance of Oakland residential neighborhood associations, has made clear to OGV our position.  OPDC will convene a community process to review revised proposals once they incorporate the feedback already provided by the community. OGV has made no attempt to develop a proposal that is consistent with community feedback, The Oakland 2025 Master Plan, or the city’s zoning code. Instead of incorporating community feedback to present a proposal consistent with zoning, they have done the opposite by increasing the scale of the project.

There is no official proposal before any city office.

The developer has floated a lot of grandiose ideas to many organizations and public agencies, but has no support from any government decision makers that OPDC is aware of, despite the materials OGV has created that imply otherwise. The minutes from a public meeting convened by State Representative Jake Wheatley on May 2 provide details.

OPDC is not aware of any public or community support for this project, and indeed public officials and community members are on record describing OGV’s proposals as problematic and OGV’s process as misleading and disingenuous.

The City of Pittsburgh Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Adjustment, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and City Council would all play a role in approving a project of this scale. They would all require that the developer present evidence of having conducted an extensive and transparent community process that results in some form of community support for the project. The developer has not engaged in any public process since a public meeting OPDC convened in May 2014, where dozens of community members expressed unanimous opposition to the project. They have instead engaged in a smoke and mirrors game, misrepresenting conversations they’ve had with OPDC, elected officials, and other stakeholders alluding to having our support.  OGV is deliberately misleading.

Without quoting another source to OGV’s claim that there is a brokered agreement in place for the exchange of Zulema Park, Public Source allowed the reader to believe that this claim is true.

The Public Source article described developer Bill Kane as saying “the city requested the developers to give 30 to 40 feet of their property to alleviate a 40-year old traffic problem by widening Bates Street, adding right and left turn lanes and the Boulevard of the Allies and adding a bike lane. In exchange, OGV would get to build into Zulema Parklet that sits behind the property.” OPDC reached out to the City of Pittsburgh for comment, and Derek Dauphin, Senior Planner for the Department of City Planning responded via email: “Planning did not request or agree to the solution quoted from the Public Source article regarding Bates, Boulevard of the Allies and Zulema Park.”  On February 3, 2016, OPDC hosted a public meeting, and posted the notes on our website, where public officials described processes for changes to streets, transfer of ownership of city property, and review of development projects. At this meeting, city officials denied that any agreement with OGV is in place. The community remains vigilant and will engage in the public process as needed. 

The Public Source article leaves many questions unanswered. Who are all the partners on this development team? Where is the money coming from?

According to the article, OGV has agreements for 219 properties so far – and those 219 properties are located in a neighborhood with some of the most lucrative rental properties in the city. OGV has already sunk more than $2.7 million into its acquisitions on Bates Street for 12 properties, according to public record. What lender is providing assurances to OGV that an additional $47 million could be made available for parcel acquisition alone, given the substantial obstacles and risk the project entails? Or, what property owners are agreeing to assign their parcels to OGV, and in exchange for what interest in the development? OPDC is concerned that residents and property owners are being misled by a venture that is at best extremely risky, and at worst potentially fraudulent.

Eat at Chipotle on Monday, August 7th to support OPDC

Please support OPDC on Monday, August 7th, by eating at the 3615 Forbes Avenue (Central Oakland business district) Chipotle from 3 p.m.-9 p.m. Chipotle will donate a portion of proceeds to OPDC to help fund our work in affordable housing, neighborhood beautification, youth services, bicycle/pedestrian/transit improvements, workforce development and more.

All you have to do is present the below flyer, or simply mention OPDC when you place your order, and we will receive half the proceeds from your order! Please note it is only the 3615 Forbes location that is participating in this fundraiser.

Please spread the word to your friends and colleagues working in or commuting through Oakland that day--every sale helps support our mission to build a more beautiful and inclusive neighborhood for all.