By Justin Criado

The board of the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA) approved an Observatory Hill revitalization project that will focus specifically on Bonvue Street during its meeting March 10.

The URA will provide $400,000 in grants and loans, in addition to $150,000 in deferred second mortgage loans to make the houses more affordable.

“Observatory Hill Inc. has been working very hard to improve the quality of life in the neighborhood,” OHI President Glenn Miller said. “This funding was critical to our effort on Bonvue Street to fill funding gaps and to keep the houses affordable.”

The Observatory Hill Development Corporation and Northside Leadership Conference (NSLC) will renovate vacant properties on the street and sell them to owner-occupants in an effort to address nuisance properties, foreclosed properties and drug-related violence in the area, according to a press release.

The Northside Community Development Fund provided pre-development financing to acquire properties and secure architectural drawings. The Executive Director of the Northside Community Development Fund is Mark Masterson, a resident of Observatory Hill.

“I am so proud to be a part of OHI. [We are] a small group of volunteers who invest their time and talents to make positive changes in our neighborhood,” Leslee Schaffer, Neighborhood Improvements Committee Chair, said. “….We have assembled a great team and we will continue to work on our mission of improving the neighborhood with stable, affordable homes.”

Schaffer also noted the support of Mayor Bill Peduto.

“I was so encouraged by Mayor Peduto when I spoke to him about our project and asked him for help,” Schaffer said. “He did not even hesitate and offered it.”

NSLC Real Estate Director Jon Huck served as project manager. A contractor has been selected, according to Schaffer, but contract terms have yet to be finalized.

A timeline for the project was not immediately available.