The Pitt News

Old Pittsburgh makes room for new apartments

An+artist+rendering+of+the+new+apartments+by+Humphreys+%26+Partners+Architects.+%7C+Photo+Courtesy+of+Craig+Wack
An artist rendering of the new apartments by Humphreys & Partners Architects. | Photo Courtesy of Craig Wack

An artist rendering of the new apartments by Humphreys & Partners Architects. | Photo Courtesy of Craig Wack

An artist rendering of the new apartments by Humphreys & Partners Architects. | Photo Courtesy of Craig Wack

By Erin Hare / Staff Writer

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In North Oakland, new Pittsburgh, that of students, young professionals and blooming industry, is colliding with the old as a 17-story luxury apartment complex goes up next to a cozy dive bar filled with regulars who remember the steel economy.

The artist renderings of the new building, which Humphreys and Partners Architects designed, depict it dwarfing neighboring businesses, such as Logan’s Pub across the street.

But while other neighborhoods have sourly dismissed similar projects, people in Oakland, both those of old Pittsburgh and new, are embracing the latest addition.

Take Logan’s bartender, Terri Barreneche, 51, of Bloomfield, who has worked at Logan’s off-and-on for six years. While the students who will ultimately occupy the apartments may only remember Pittsburgh’s industrial past intellectually, Barreneche saw it firsthand.

She grew up in a mine town in Indiana County and was an adolescent in the late ‘70s when the steel industry in Pittsburgh collapsed.

“I saw people lose everything,” Barreneche said. “That area still hasn’t recovered. Most people my age and younger moved away. When you’ve seen that … any kind of progress is a sign of a healthy economy.”

Construction on the apartment complex — aimed at nearby college students — is currently underway at the corner of North Craig Street and Centre Avenue. The high-rise will house apartments, shops, a parking deck and common areas consisting of a fitness center, study lounges, rooftop pool and an indoor-outdoor lounge on the roof. All apartments will be fully furnished.

The building is primarily designed to house Pitt and Carnegie Mellon University students. The national college housing developers heading the project, EdR and Park7 Group, expect to complete construction in summer 2018.

Despite concerns that new development in Pittsburgh is pushing out locals and low-income housing, mainly in neighborhoods such as East Liberty, the new complex hasn’t heard any protest from neighbors.

“We have not experienced any resistance from the community,” said Craig Wack, public relations coordinator at EdR. EdR’s partner, Park7, Wack said, received letters of support for the project from both the Bellefield Area Citizens Association and the Oakland Task Force.

Like traditional dorms, the apartments will have security in place to keep residents safe, such as security cameras and key fobs.

Analogous to resident assistants, the building will also offer discounted rent to residents who operate as community assistants. CAs will work about 20 hours a week helping out around the office and will receive compensation, in addition to discounted rent.

Although the apartments are being built for a student lifestyle, Wack said that any qualified person can live there, as per federal fair housing laws. There will be 329 units that include 64 one-bedroom apartments, 136 two-bedroom units and 129-three bedroom apartments. Each bedroom will have its own bathroom.

In Oakland, the EdR project is the third of its kind. Last year, Texas-based Campus Advantage announced it would complete a similar, 137 bedroom building — aimed at students — along Forbes Avenue by 2017. And the planned Skyvue apartments nearby, set to open this fall, are seeking student tenants as well.

According to University spokesperson Joe Miksch, there is an adequate amount of housing in Oakland, but the quality may be lacking. He expects the new development, like the EdR project, will elevate off-campus housing choices while not directly competing with the dorms Pitt already offers.

“The University welcomes additional housing that is safe and affordable for our students,” Miksch said. “We … believe a wider selection to meet student needs is good.”

According to Wack, the project will benefit more than just students. Because the first floor will be entirely dedicated to retail space, it will bring more jobs to the neighborhood, too.

Will Terry, 46, of East Liberty, said he’s been a regular at Logan’s for 10 years. Sitting in the pub on a Tuesday afternoon, Terry said he’s excited about any development that creates jobs.

“It’s about growth,” Terry said. “You can’t stand in the stone ages forever. Especially Pittsburgh, they need all the growth they can get.”

And Barreneche, the bartender, sees the development as an opportunity to rejuvenate North Oakland. Even if established business in the area see a rent hike, she said the new retail shops and foot traffic from apartment residents would offset the increased overhead.

“I’ll tell you what, if you had known Pittsburgh in the ‘70s when we lost all the steel mills and coal mines, you would be happy for any development and progress,” Barreneche said.Craig_Courtesy_Humphreys & Partners Architects

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Old Pittsburgh makes room for new apartments