PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — For years both the Highland building and the Wallace building were empty and eyesores in East Liberty, but pretty soon they’re going to be the cornerstones of new development there.
Ground was broken for what will be 127 market-rate apartments, retail space and a 180-car parking garage on Highland Avenue between Penn Circle and Penn Avenue.
The renovation of what used to be thriving buildings has begun and it’s taken years to get to this point.
“We always come so close but yet so far away,” said East Liberty Development Inc. Executive Director Maelene Myers. “And finally now this building is going to turn around. It’s been 15 years in the making.”
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl also talked about the time it’s taken to develop this key piece in the development of central East Liberty.
“Six different developers over the last 20 years had plans and couldn’t complete the project.” he said. “So for us to be here today breaking ground in the heart of East Liberty, I think, is a testament to the work of so many and the commitment over so many years.”
It’s the latest in a gradual transformation of East Liberty that started with a mall concept in the 1960s that did not work.
Eventually, the departure of the Sears department store on Highland Avenue led to the arrival of a Home Depot. Then new stores began to pop up in the East Liberty perimeter including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Target. Redeveloping the perimeter may have helped set the stage for more development in the neighborhood core.
“The periphery, it was important for us to develop that,” said East Liberty Development, Inc. Board Chair Pamela Collier. “But now the market is ready.”
The first rental units in the new project are scheduled to be available by the spring of 2013.