Stakeholders celebrate the ground breaking for Columbus Square. From Left: District 6 City Councilman Daniel Lavelle; Linda Nelson, of Manchester Citizens Corporation; Mayor Luke Ravenstahl; Yarone Zober, the mayor’s chief-of-staff;George Jugovic, regional director for the Department of Environmental Protection; Mark Masterson, executive director of the Northside Community Development Fund. State Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-42nd; George Jugovic, regional director for the Department of Environmental Protection; Sally Flinn, from Fourth River Development; Joseph Glover, Sr.; Carol Glover. (Photo/ Henry Clay Webster)
They arrived early — before many of the politicians, bankers, developers, reporters and cameramen.
For Carol and Joseph Glover, Sr., the groundbreaking ceremony for the Columbus Square development project on Thursday, Jan. 14 signified their hope of retiring in a renewed Manchester.
“It’s building up the Northside,” said Carol, who remembers growing up in the neighborhood when local businesses flourished. “They’re doing it up there on Federal Street, and they’ve needed to do it here for awhile.”
The Columbus Square project involves the conversion of the salvaged, four-acre American Electric site on the corner of Columbus Avenue and Sedgwick Street in upper Manchester into a single-family housing development of 31 brand new units. The total cost of the project will be between $14 and $15 million, according to Jerome Jackson, executive director of the Manchester Citizens Corporation.
Having lived outside Manchester for years, the Glovers are now hoping to buy one of the first five units that Columbus Square Associates, a partnership between developer Fourth River Development and MCC, hopes to have finished later this year. MCC, the main community partner pushing for the development, has already received interest on the first nine houses.
“We think if they get it developed here, it’ll illuminate the neighborhood like the Fourth of July,” Joseph, Sr. said.
Acting as the MC, Mark Schneider of Fourth River Development welcomed the crowd and first thanked Mayor Ravenstahl for standing behind the project since he met with the mayor in 2006.
“The mayor has continued the great Pittsburgh tradition of: ‘If you have a good idea, let’s give you what you need to finish the job,” Schneider said.
Ravenstahl praised the 10-year property tax abatement that would be given to buyers of all 31 houses.
David Hopkins,left, of PNC Bank, awarded members of Manchester Citizens Corporation with a check for $75,000. Next to Hopkins, from left, stand Linda Nelson, Earl Coleman, Brenda Moye, Jean Lewis, Patricia Washington, Roberta McHenry, Jerome Jackson and Virginia Barnes. (Photo/Henry Clay Webster)
State Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-42nd District, who brought state funding to the project by way of the County Infrastructure and Tourism Fund, predicted the development’s success. “My real estate background says this project will bring people to the neighborhood, because of the convenience of living in this neighborhood.”
The new units incorporate historic designs, courtesy of Devlin Architecture, so that they complement Manchester’s historic designation. The new three- and four-bedroom units will all feature two-car garages, a concept that should attract suburbanites used to more spacious lots.
After Fontana, Manchester’s new City Councilman Daniel Lavelle praised MCC members for “fight[ing] for this neighborhood unrelentingly for years.”
In a similar tone, Mark Masterson, executive director of the Northside Community Development Fund that has provided over $600,00 in financing for the project, championed the Manchester residents who have spent years lobbying for this project.
“It takes patience, perseverance and sometimes knocking down doors. I know what this takes having been a community organizer in my own neighborhood, there’s a lot of hours that you aren’t paid for.”
David Hopkins from PNC Bank, which is providing homebuyers with mortgages of 1.5 percent below market rate, used the opportunity to present MCC with a grant of $75,000. PNC assumed National City’s role in financing the project when it bought much of the bank’s assets in early 2009.
“I want to thank Jerome Jackson and Stanley Lowe. We felt more comfortable with each subsequent meeting,” Hopkins said.
Linda Nelson, of MCC, thanked Lowe for lending the money to start the project years ago.
“Some people wanted to see a parking lot [here], some people wanted a jail, some wanted a factory, but we knew what [belonged in this spot],” Nelson said.
In honor of two people who have been at the heart of Manchester’s revitalization efforts for 50 years, two new alleys will bear the names of Arthur and Betty Jane Ralph.