Petition filed for conservator to take over South O rowhouses


Kaycee Orwig | Senior Staff Photographer

According to a petition, the houses at 3401-3421 Bates St. and 392 Coltart Ave. near Boulevard of the Allies are a “public nuisance” due to their dilapidated and uninhabited state.

By Millicent Watt, Staff Writer

Coming off of Route 376, one of the very first things that drivers see are the row houses at the corner of Bates Street and the Boulevard of the Allies — houses that are uninhabited, boarded up and spray painted with graffiti and have shattered windows.

Oakland Gateway Ventures, a real estate developer, bought 3401-3421 Bates St. and 392 Coltart Ave. near Boulevard of the Allies, with plans to replace the houses with a hotel and apartment building in 2014. But the Oakland Planning and Development Corp. stopped the construction in 2017.

According to Wanda Wilson, OPDC’s executive director, the plans stopped due to noncompliance to the property’s zoning regulations, changes extending beyond the property’s boundaries and community opposition.

Penn Pioneer Enterprises, a real estate company that specializes in selling properties to investors, filed a petition Jan. 29 in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court to request the property move to a new owner. Under the state’s Abandoned and Blighted Conservatorship Act, Penn Pioneer Enterprise is urging that a conservator — specifically Community Reinvestment Partners — take over the real estate and rehabilitate it.

According to the petition, Community Reinvestment Partners has “flipped” multiple houses within the neighborhood, and has the necessary resources to do so. The petition also said the property “negatively affects the economic well-being of residents and businesses in close proximity to the properties, including decreases in property value and loss of business.”

Wilson said Penn Pioneer Enterprises reached out to OPDC to help involve the community in the discussion about the property.

“They reached out to us to let us know that they would like to engage in a community process about what they plan to do,” Wilson said. “So, we’re just in the beginning discussions.”

Nina Fratto, a sophomore chemical engineering major, said although South Oakland houses are not the nicest, the houses are noticeably different due to their state of disrepair.

“They’re really decrepit looking and they don’t really fit the area either because they’re so run-down,” Fratto said. “South O houses aren’t really the nicest, but they don’t really fit the vibe of the areas in terms of them being overgrown, having holes, stuff like that.”

Oakland Gateway Ventures is owned by Oakland Gateway Land Co., LLC, and neither company lists any officers or phone numbers with the Pennsylvania Department of State. The companies are registered at 252 Fourth Ave. in Rankin, located about 15 minutes east of Oakland, according to state records.

According to the petition, the houses are a “public nuisance” due to their dilapidated and uninhabited state. The petition also said the property poses potential safety hazards because of the “presence of vermin and the accumulation of debris, uncut vegetation or physical deterioration of the structure and grounds.”

Wilson said the conditions of the house worry people in the neighborhood.

“I mean there are community concerns because of their conditions, that’s clear,” Wilson said. “They’re vacant and blighted.”

Jess Lott, a junior accounting and marketing major, said when she sees run-down houses in South Oakland, it makes her feel unsafe walking by.

“I feel like sometimes when you’re walking through South Oakland and you see a house like that, it almost makes you feel a little bit unsafe, like, is somebody gonna like come out of there,” Lott said.

Both Lott and Fratto said they recognized the houses because they were in worse condition than the surrounding houses, with boarded up windows, shattered windows and graffiti.

Fratto said it would be a good business opportunity to rehabilitate the houses and rent them out to college students.

“From a really cynical perspective, it would be a really good business opportunity to exploit college students,” Fratto said. “It can also be a really great way to have more houses in South Oakland where more students want to live.”

Lott said that, at some point, all the houses in South Oakland will have to be flipped due to their age and condition.

“There are people in South Oakland that have tried to flip buildings and I think at some point, it may be years down the road, but a lot of those houses in South Oakland are probably going to have to be torn down and rebuilt,” Lott said.