Gainey, Walnut Capital reach deal on Oakland Crossings project


TPN File Photo

A Walnut Capital advertisement.

By Martha Layne, News Editor

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and Walnut Capital reached a deal last week on proposed zoning for the developer’s Oakland Crossings project, which will receive a vote later this month from the City Planning Commission.

The initial proposal, which sparked controversy in the community, has been amended to include narrower and more clearly defined zoning, a public benefits agreement which covers affordable housing, food access, inclusive contracting and the creation of 250 “good paying” union construction jobs.

The revised project will now be done in a phased approach, which allows for expanded green space, protection of Zulema Park and an overall smaller zoning footprint. Its first phase will only encompass Halket Street, as well as the former Quality Inn and Isaly’s sites on the Boulevard of the Allies. The plan will also ensure that multifamily residential developments will include at least 10% of units at rent that are affordable to households at or below 50% of the area median income for at least 35 years.

Gainey said he has always focused on making Pittsburgh more accessible for everyone.

“From the first day we walked into office I told my team that any development must move us forward on making Pittsburgh more equitable and affordable for everyone,” Gainey said. “This agreement is the first time a private developer has committed to using the Housing Authority Choice Voucher Program to reach inclusionary zoning requirements in Pittsburgh’s history and will include a new grocery store that will bring much needed options for fresh food to this neighborhood.”

Gainey and his administration held meetings with residents and stakeholders over the past few months in order to listen to concerns and ideas brought forth by community members.

Bruce Kraus, a member of the City Council who represents part of Oakland, said the agreement represents what can happen when “we center the needs of our communities.”

“This public benefits agreement is the result of listening to residents, students and small businesses and addresses their concerns around equitable growth for their neighborhood. This deal will help Pittsburgh grow while ensuring fairness and inclusivity for all of us,” Kraus said.

Todd Reidbord, the president of Walnut Capital, said the plan’s changes were made together as a way to solve problems previously brought up.

“We thank Mayor Gainey and his hard working team for their leadership,” Reidbord said. “First, they took the time to listen. Then, they raised the bar higher on what’s possible, motivating us to roll up our sleeves further and think bigger. We worked together to problem solve innovative ways that ensure the community receives its long-awaited grocery store and that we can build a sustainable, affordable, inclusive mixed-use development that lifts up everyone in the community.”

Gainey said he plans to continue to make Pittsburgh livable for everyone, while still allowing for new developments to proceed.

“My priority has been to make sure that Pittsburgh remains livable for all of us,” Gainey said. “But we have to create new opportunities for economic growth, pathways towards prosperity and inclusive equitable development that helps us keep people here.”