Written by The New Pittsburgh Courier
During the groundbreaking for the $11.5 million Homewood Station Senior Apartments development in Homewood, City Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess recalled how his late mother asked him to work to rebuild the neighborhood. With this project, he said, he has started to honor her request.
“I grew up two blocks from this site. I pastored a church for 30 years one block from this site and I married a girl from around the corner. I’ve lived here all my life and I can say without a shadow of doubt this is the most significant development in Homewood in 20 years,” he said. “This is the beginning of building a brand new commercial district in Homewood. This is what transformational development looks like.”
Joining Burgess for the Dec. 18 groundbreaking were a number of partners in the project, including Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Operation Better Block Executive Director Jerome Jackson, Oxford Development President and CEO Steven Guy, Community Empowerment Association founder Rashad Byrdsong and S&A Homes executive VP Andy Haines.
When completed, the Homewood Station mixed-use development will provide 41 new mixed-income, one- and two-bedroom, residential units at the corner of North Homewood Ave. and Susquehanna St. The four-story building will also feature ground floor commercial space for neighborhood businesses, as well as a café.
And thanks to Byrdsong’s workforce development assistance, Haines said the project will also employ community residents both during and after construction.
“We want local contractors and laborers on site and in a management role afterwards. Operation Better Block will be the supportive services provider after completion,” he said. “Like Rev. said, this is the start of the future. It’s important that we’re providing affordable housing for seniors 55 and up. It’s important that we’re getting rid of vacant lots, and it’s important that we’re building taxable properties to help stabilize the community. We’re proud to be a part of it.”
This first phase of five was supported with a $10 million Low Income Housing Tax Credit through the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency and land sold through the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh. The authority provided an additional $317,000 in grant funding.
|NEW BEGINNING—From left: Rashad Byrdsong, Community Empowerment Association; Mark Peterson, Bridgeway Capital; Steven Guy, CEO of Oxford Development; Jerome Jackson, executive director of Operation Better Block, Inc.; Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, City of Pittsburgh; Rev. Ricky Burgess, Councilman of District 9; Andy Haines, S&A Homes; and Ken Doyino, Rothchild Doyno Collaborative. (Photos by Ashley G. Woodson)
Guy said the project would build on existing assets—being adjacent to the East Busway, proximity to the Faison School, and nearby newly constructed single-family homes—to create multiple paths to sustained economic development.
Jackson praised the community for its patience and all the partners for their cooperative and focused efforts.
“This just shows what can happen when community groups work together with government and with the financial community,” he said. “I’d also like to thank Rashad for his leadership on the workforce development piece.”
Ravenstahl, too, thanked all the partners, especially the residents of Homewood.
“We wanted to make sure this third renaissance was felt by every community in the city and this project is a great example of that,” he said. “I want to thank the residents of Homewood whose tireless effort and commitment made this a reality. Thanks for not listening to detractors who said this can’t happen in Homewood. Yes it can.”
The first phase is scheduled for completion next December. Subsequent phases will focus on additional mixed-use, mixed-income redevelopment, as well as infrastructure improvements and greening initiatives.