Construction of Columbus Square underway

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By late summer, the first four homes of Manchester’s 31-house Columbus Square development on the former American Electric Co. site will be ready for their new owners.

Construction on the first phase of the project began in April and will include the infrastructure necessary for all 31 houses, landscaping, reconnecting Juniata Street where it is currently a dead end and the first five homes, one of which will serve as a model for potential buyers.

Sally Flinn, a principal in the Columbus Square developer Fourth River Development, LLC, said they have two deposits on homes already. Once the first five are completed, construction on subsequent units will begin as people purchase them.

Manchester Citizens Corporation Executive Director Ahmed Martin said the size of the project will help in their efforts to re-brand the neighborhood and provide a variety of housing products.

“This is a catalytic project for the neighborhood,” Martin said. “We hope to see [new] Manchester residents who want to live in a vibrant community and a neighborhood of choice.”

Houses range from two to three bedroom single-family homes, and buyers can choose their floor plans based on a number of options. Buyers also have the option of a brick or cement plank siding exterior, and each home comes with a garage and private yard.

Prices range from $179,000 to the mid-$200,000, depending on options chosen.

The houses also will be EnergyStar certified, Flinn said. EnergyStar certification indicates that a home meets certain energy efficiency standards. West Penn Energy Solutions will evaluate the homes’ efficiency to ensure they meet those standards.

Once buyers put a deposit down, they will work with a builder to pick their options and develop a sales agreement, Flinn said.

Fourth River plans to market Columbus Square to large employers in the surrounding area, like Rivers Casino, the U.S. Postal Service, CCAC and others, because many employees could then walk to work.

“Just with the price of gas these days…” Flinn said. “It’s location, location, location.”

PNC Bank will offer discounted mortgage rates and down payment assistance for those buying in Columbus Square. PNC also financed the construction of the model home, Flinn said.

Financing for the project was also provided by the Northside Community Development Fund.

Although Fourth River broke ground on Columbus Square in January 2010, Flinn said finalizing plans took awhile since they are working with the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the city Department of Public Works and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, each of which has its own process.

“It does take some time but they’re our partners so we’re excited to work with them,” she said.

In addition to Columbus Square’s first phase, MCC is nearing completion of the first phase of its Renaissance Housing Project that renovated seven dilapidated homes in the neighborhood.

Two of those buildings have an apartment that could be rented out, Martin said. Six of the seven are under contract, and all should be finished by the end of May.

Martin said MCC is already preparing for the next phase and its next Great House Sale, but that no date has been chosen yet.

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