Hope for Perrysville Avenue and Charles Street


2531, 2533 and 2537 Perrysville Avenue have sat vacant for eight years after they were seized in a drug bust. (Photo/Henry Clay Webster)

After sitting vacant for the better part of a decade, three buildings on Perrysville Avenue might finally have a chance at a second life.

At a meeting planned for April 7, representatives from the mayor’s office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Perry Hilltop Citizens’ Council and a city building inspector will tour the buildings to determine their condition and how they might be used to help revitalize the dreary, derelict corner of Perrysville Avenue and Charles Street.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office seized the three buildings — 2531, 2533 and 2537 Perrysville Avenue — in a drug bust when they brought down one of the largest cocaine and heroine rings in Western Pennsylvania.

“Operation Family Store,” named after the Perrysville Avenue store used a front, brought down drug ring leader Oliver Beasley and his associates. Beasley, formerly of Penn Hills, was sentenced to life in prison.

Since then, the Attorney’s Office has held on to the buildings, said Asset Forfeiture Chief Mary Houghton. The Attorney’s Office does control the buildings but does not hold the titles.  

Houghton said that while in many cases the properties would have been auctioned off, the Attorney’s Office held on to them in an effort to pass them to community groups intent on revitalizing the neighborhood.

Perry Hilltop Citizens’ Council board member Janet Gunter said the council has been working on taking control of the three buildings for years, but proceedings have gone slowly.

“[The corner of Perrysville Avenue and Charles Street] is dismal, it’s blighted, it’s intimidating,” Gunter said.

Houghton said that sometimes, forfeiture litigation could take years. “Different cases take a long time.

“As soon as the potential transferee is ready and available to receive the property, the United States will move to approve the [court] order [to transfer the property].”

Currently, Beasley’s associates or businesses affiliated with him hold all three property deeds.

According to Gunter, the Attorney’s Office has “changed their terms” for transferring the property, dragging the proceedings out. She added that the mayor’s office worked as a liaison between Perry Hilltop Citizens’ Council and the Attorney’s Office to schedule the April 7 building tour.

The mayor’s office did not return e-mails or phone calls for comment.

Houghton did not wish to comment on negotiations with any particular group or the requirements for transferring property to the Perry Hilltop Citizens’ Council, nor could she comment on the condition of the buildings.

“We do look forward to working with them,” Houghton said.

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