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  #3801  
Old Posted Sep 2, 2020, 6:58 PM
eschaton eschaton is offline
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Someone asked for more information on what's happening with the "Achieva building" in the Strip District.

Well, it's here:



It's a renovation, obviously, not an entirely new building. They're redoing it as a "tech flex" building which will have both office space and semi-warehouse-like space for R&D.

They're planning to install a sidewalk on Smallman, which I will be thrilled about.
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  #3802  
Old Posted Sep 2, 2020, 8:18 PM
bmust71 bmust71 is offline
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Yes - thank you Eschaton. Oxford loves their aluminum siding...

Doesn't look bad, especially for Oxford.

Side note - Steel is going up at Hopper Place.
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  #3803  
Old Posted Sep 3, 2020, 4:13 AM
BrutalistUtopia BrutalistUtopia is offline
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Thanks eschaton! The community feedback tool at https://engage.pittsburghpa.gov/forgingpgh is nuts! Bunch of good suggestions so far, though much of the language used implies that the first group of people to get active on it are urbanists/YIMBY types. There's definitely a big wave of downzoning efforts down the road, but for the time being it feels fun to pretend my suggestions are being listened to. I encourage everybody to take a look at it.
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  #3804  
Old Posted Sep 3, 2020, 12:46 PM
eschaton eschaton is offline
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Originally Posted by BrutalistUtopia View Post
Thanks eschaton! The community feedback tool at https://engage.pittsburghpa.gov/forgingpgh is nuts! Bunch of good suggestions so far, though much of the language used implies that the first group of people to get active on it are urbanists/YIMBY types. There's definitely a big wave of downzoning efforts down the road, but for the time being it feels fun to pretend my suggestions are being listened to. I encourage everybody to take a look at it.
At this point around half of the comments are made by me (using my real name). Hopefully others will chime in soon.
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  #3805  
Old Posted Sep 3, 2020, 2:52 PM
Don't Be That Guy Don't Be That Guy is offline
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At this point around half of the comments are made by me (using my real name). Hopefully others will chime in soon.
Well, there goes my morning.

Honestly, I don't have warm fuzzy feelings about this plan. Considering the advisarial manner which the city deals with development, the current make-up of Planning Commission, and the the very loud voices of neighborhood NIMBYs, affluent homeowners, and lefty activists that attend the meetings and dominate online discussions, I'm concerned that the plan will result in a wholesale down-zoning of much of the city. I'd also look for inclusionary zoning, community benefit agreements, fewer by-right projects, design requirements and intensive neighborhood review processes via the certified neighborhood groups.

I hope that I'm wrong and this could be great, but land-use planning and new zoning in the recent past have not been favorable to the arm-chair urbanist or YIMBY crowds.

Last edited by Don't Be That Guy; Sep 3, 2020 at 3:27 PM.
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  #3806  
Old Posted Sep 3, 2020, 3:56 PM
eschaton eschaton is offline
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Originally Posted by Don't Be That Guy View Post
Well, there goes my morning.

Honestly, I don't have warm fuzzy feelings about this plan. Considering the advisarial manner which the city deals with development, the current make-up of Planning Commission, and the the very loud voices of neighborhood NIMBYs, affluent homeowners, and lefty activists that attend the meetings and dominate online discussions, I'm concerned that the plan will result in a wholesale down-zoning of much of the city. I'd also look for inclusionary zoning, community benefit agreements, fewer by-right projects, design requirements and intensive neighborhood review processes via the certified neighborhood groups.

I hope that I'm wrong and this could be great, but land-use planning and new zoning in the recent past have not been favorable to the arm-chair urbanist or YIMBY crowds.
The Uptown rezoning is (IMHO) about as good as we could expect from the city. No parking minimums at all, big increase in allowable building heights, etc. Worst thing I can say about it is basically that they didn't immediately apply the same standards to Oakland.

RIV zoning is more of a mixed bag. It generally increased height limits and reduced parking minimums by 50%, but also added a lot of form-based requirements which make development more expensive. Still, a step forward.

These are the only two big zoning-related things done while Peduto has been mayor.

Last edited by eschaton; Sep 3, 2020 at 4:10 PM.
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  #3807  
Old Posted Sep 3, 2020, 4:15 PM
Don't Be That Guy Don't Be That Guy is offline
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The Uptown rezoning is (IMHO) about as good as we could expect from the city. No parking minimums at all, big increase in allowable building heights, etc. Worst thing I can say about it is basically that they didn't immediately apply the same standards to Oakland.

Riverside zoning is more of a mixed bag. It generally increased height limits and reduced parking minimums by 50%, but also added a lot of form-based requirements which make development more expensive. Still, a step forward.

These are the only two big zoning-related things done while Peduto has been mayor.
I'd say they are both mixed-bags. They both rely on bonus points, which is good in theory but in practice tends to enshrine architectural/planning ideals and technologies that are best practice or cool at that time. They also include things that are not practical for implementation like 50% on-site energy generation. No market-rate building in an urban context is going to accomplish that, but it sounds cool to people not failure with the requisite technologies and costs.

Good things in the RIV are wider sidewalks, reduction of most setbacks, some level of riverfront protection, reduction in parking minimums, most surface parking, and street build-to line minimums.

Otherwise, the form-based requirements that are really based on little more than individual architectural tastes. The new riverfront setbacks are larger than they should be in an urban context. And it increased the by-right height limits but actually reduced the allowable height. The old UI zone had no height limits with a Special Exception, and those are granted unless a party with standing can prove that doing so would cause harm to their property. The new by-right limits are capped at 60 feet while up-to to 95 feet is allowed with bonus points. So in practice, the new zoning actually reduced height and density.

So, yeah, it's a mixed bag, but (IMHO) the city should be incentivizing greater density and more housing in both neighborhoods and neither zone change really does that. And let's not say anything abut the Baum-Center overlay. It's not really the Mayor's doing, but having attended a lot meetings I can say there are a lot of people in Pittsburgh that love city amenities but dislike the density and private investment that it takes to make those amenities possible, and those people have very outsized voices.

Last edited by Don't Be That Guy; Sep 3, 2020 at 4:43 PM.
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  #3808  
Old Posted Sep 3, 2020, 5:26 PM
eschaton eschaton is offline
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Originally Posted by Don't Be That Guy View Post
I'd say they are both mixed-bags. They both rely on bonus points, which is good in theory but in practice tends to enshrine architectural/planning ideals and technologies that are best practice or cool at that time. They also include things that are not practical for implementation like 50% on-site energy generation. No market-rate building in an urban context is going to accomplish that, but it sounds cool to people not failure with the requisite technologies and costs.

Good things in the RIV are wider sidewalks, reduction of most setbacks, some level of riverfront protection, reduction in parking minimums, most surface parking, and street build-to line minimums.

Otherwise, the form-based requirements that are really based on little more than individual architectural tastes. The new riverfront setbacks are larger than they should be in an urban context. And it increased the by-right height limits but actually reduced the allowable height. The old UI zone had no height limits with a Special Exception, and those are granted unless a party with standing can prove that doing so would cause harm to their property. The new by-right limits are capped at 60 feet while up-to to 95 feet is allowed with bonus points. So in practice, the new zoning actually reduced height and density.

So, yeah, it's a mixed bag, but (IMHO) the city should be incentivizing greater density and more housing in both neighborhoods and neither zone change really does that. And let's not say anything abut the Baum-Center overlay. It's not really the Mayor's doing, but having attended a lot meetings I can say there are a lot of people in Pittsburgh that love city amenities but dislike the density and private investment that it takes to make those amenities possible, and those people have very outsized voices.
IIRC one of the ways that Minneapolis succeeded in city-wide upzoning was when it was pointed out that it basically eliminated most of the threat of gentrification.

Essentially, in city with strict zoning, development tends to focus on a few areas. First, those zones without many residents. Second, those areas where the market has improved enough to warrant construction, but aren't upscale enough yet to have organized NIMBY opposition. But if you allow legal four-units with no off-street parking anywhere, it means there will be a trickle of new units across the entire city, so nowhere bears the entire brunt of the current development cycle.
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  #3809  
Old Posted Sep 3, 2020, 7:27 PM
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IIRC one of the ways that Minneapolis succeeded in city-wide upzoning was when it was pointed out that it basically eliminated most of the threat of gentrification.

Essentially, in city with strict zoning, development tends to focus on a few areas. First, those zones without many residents. Second, those areas where the market has improved enough to warrant construction, but aren't upscale enough yet to have organized NIMBY opposition. But if you allow legal four-units with no off-street parking anywhere, it means there will be a trickle of new units across the entire city, so nowhere bears the entire brunt of the current development cycle.
I love this angle. If zoning changes could be framed in a positive light it seems like it would have more widespread support.
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  #3810  
Old Posted Sep 3, 2020, 8:09 PM
eschaton eschaton is offline
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I love this angle. If zoning changes could be framed in a positive light it seems like it would have more widespread support.
Neighborhood-based zoning (or rezoning) in general I think is a failure because it pits neighborhood against neighborhood. That's why a city-wide rezoning opens up tons of opportunity - because no one neighborhood/city block is being singled out. You can't have East Liberty complaining "why not Shadyside?" and so on.

If I were head of zoning in Pittsburgh, I'd basically reduce city zoning down to the following:


Residential: Basically restricted to four different built forms: Detached, Attached, medium-density apartment, high-density apartment. However, these would govern things like setback, lot size, and height, not number of units. As long as you made a fourplex with the massing of a detached single family home, you could put it into a detached-zoned area. No parking minimums except maybe in the detached zones.

Mixed-Use: Covering all of the areas covered by existing commercial/office zoning, some existing multifamily areas, and some of light industrial areas as well. Essentially everything which is feasibly compatible with residential uses. Have it at two density levels - one covers local business districts (and allows for everything up to mid-density apartment buildings) and a higher density version for Oakland, East Liberty, the Baum-Centre corridor, etc. No parking minimums.

Non-compatible: Basically the residual industrial zones of the city which are still used for industry (i.e., not the Strip District) and the little bits of Highway Commercial and the like in the South Hills.

I suppose we could keep things like explicit zoning for parks, hillsides, EMI, etc. But I think seven primary zones is more than enough.

Last edited by eschaton; Sep 3, 2020 at 8:21 PM.
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  #3811  
Old Posted Sep 3, 2020, 8:17 PM
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^Love it! Can you please run for city council so I can vote for you?!?
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  #3812  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2020, 2:14 AM
eschaton eschaton is offline
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September 15 planning commission agenda is now online. Only three new items for next week, all of them relatively small.

1. Conversion of the second floor of 908 Penn Avenue to residential. This will add an additional five units downtown. I believe the upper four stories were already residential.

2. Rehab of an existing small industrial building in Uptown into tech/flex space. This is one of those projects before the Commission because of the Uptown Public Realm. It's a Desmone project, but unlike most of their stuff, I don't totally hate it as far as industrial rehabs go.

3. Construction of a new single-family home at 1204 Grandview. This is one of those sites which was (up until recently) in use as a restaurant, meaning it's effectively a downzoning of the prior use. The design is meh. I particularly find the decision to have two one-car garages with a central entrance a bit odd. I suppose it gives the illusion of their being two townhouses there, but it necessitates two different curb cuts, with the space left in between probably not enough space for anyone to park on the street (not that the millionaire who buys this would want a prole parking in front of their front door). I guess the one good thing I can say regarding it is it's one story higher than the commercial building getting knocked down, which will mean it looks a bit more intensive from the street.

Also, there's a slightly modified presentation regarding 1501 Penn Avenue. The firm added a riverfront view and several additional renderings for context, but does not appear to have modified their design much (which isn't surprising, given you can't come up with an entirely new design in two weeks).
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  #3813  
Old Posted Sep 10, 2020, 6:43 PM
eschaton eschaton is offline
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The October 1 ZBA agenda is now online. Items of interest:

1. Construction of five new townhouses in Bloomfield. This is a Rothschild-Doyno project. The location is here, with the homes fronting on Pearl Street even though the parcel technically has a Friendship Avenue address. This project will necessitate the loss of the 1920s-ish Storefront on Pearl, along with these two saltbox houses on Friendship. These homes were highlighted by Carol Peterson as being quite old in the past (she believed they were relocated from somewhere else in the neighborhood in the late 19th century, since this was formerly a brick pit site) so i will be interesting to see if there's any preservationist outcry over this. I would doubt it, however, and honestly the trade seems worth it to me. It's interesting how they set up two of the townhouses to allow for access to rear parking directly through the parking lot in the rear.

2. New single-family home in Central Northside. The presentation is super-crude - maybe there will be more information at the hearing. This is the location.

It's also worth noting that a handful of first stories in historic commercial which were being used for commercial purposes (in South Oakland, Highland Park, and South Side Flats) are being converted into all-residential structures, with the earlier non-conforming uses going away. Bit by bit, the backstreets of Pittsburgh are getting blander.
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  #3814  
Old Posted Sep 11, 2020, 1:18 PM
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PMC is on the precipice of buying the Allegheny Building downtown. It's yet another handsome prewar office walkup. Undoubtedly it will lead to another residential conversion, since that's what PMC does.

Also, the URA met yesterday. The agenda is here. The biggest thing officially on the agenda is a modification of the Granada Square Apartments project to allow for a 77-stall parking garage. However, the meeting apparently also contained word of a planned 66-home development by the same group behind the Scottish pub opening in the James Woods House. It's unclear if this is going to be affordable or market rate, and the details seem a bit sketchy (they talk about the development as if it could all be on one block, which is impossible given the number of units). We will see what happens.
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  #3815  
Old Posted Sep 15, 2020, 6:25 PM
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PMC is on the precipice of buying the Allegheny Building downtown. It's yet another handsome prewar office walkup. Undoubtedly it will lead to another residential conversion, since that's what PMC does.
It really is a beautiful building. Is it in fact a walk-up only? 19 stories and no elevators at all? I wonder if that means that they would add elevators if it's developed into condos/apt's.
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  #3816  
Old Posted Sep 15, 2020, 6:35 PM
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It really is a beautiful building. Is it in fact a walk-up only? 19 stories and no elevators at all? I wonder if that means that they would add elevators if it's developed into condos/apt's.
The building has elevators. It is an old school walk up with the small lobby similar to the fourth ave towers. This was built before setbacks and plaza's
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  #3817  
Old Posted Sep 15, 2020, 10:33 PM
BrianTH BrianTH is offline
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Nice Next Pittsburgh article updating what is going on with 10 of the top developments in the area (mostly City but also the airport):

https://nextpittsburgh.com/features/...-2020-updated/
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  #3818  
Old Posted Sep 16, 2020, 1:59 AM
eschaton eschaton is offline
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The building has elevators. It is an old school walk up with the small lobby similar to the fourth ave towers. This was built before setbacks and plaza's
Yeah, that was inartful of me. I was using walkup to refer to the style of building.

In other news, it seems like the Troianis attempted to get emergency demolition permits for the Market Street buildings, and were rejected.

Also, the Planning Commission rejected the new tower in the Strip District. The rejection was "unanimous" insofar as no commissioners voted in favor. However, only three voted to reject. Three were not present, one abstained, and one recused themselves. It seems Commissioners Mondor, Deitrick, and Mingo once again basically just shat all over the design.

Not a single member of the general public spoke in opposition. This is all on the commissioners.

Ultimately, I agree that it's kinda a drab - and maybe even an ugly - building. But I'm just not sure that the fact that three people don't like a design which apparently complied with all zoning requirements is enough reason to kill a $200 million project.
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  #3819  
Old Posted Sep 16, 2020, 12:47 PM
Don't Be That Guy Don't Be That Guy is offline
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But I'm just not sure that the fact that three people don't like a design which apparently complied with all zoning requirements is enough reason to kill a $200 million project.
Legally it isn't. The devil is in the details of the written record, but if the building meets all code requirements then the developer would most likely win if they appeal the Planning Commission's decision. Commissions get a lot of leeway, especially with attaching conditions of approval, but "We don't like it" isn't a legally sound reason to reject a project.
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  #3820  
Old Posted Sep 16, 2020, 1:56 PM
eschaton eschaton is offline
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Legally it isn't. The devil is in the details of the written record, but if the building meets all code requirements then the developer would most likely win if they appeal the Planning Commission's decision. Commissions get a lot of leeway, especially with attaching conditions of approval, but "We don't like it" isn't a legally sound reason to reject a project.
It seems the technical reason for rejection is the Commission did not believe the raised colonnade counted towards the 10% open space requirement. It's pretty clear they were fine with the height, but not the "massing" - and expect some sort of setback and/or plaza on one of the main frontages.
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