Photo: Sandstone Quarry, a new, 65-unit, mixed-use housing complex which was formerly the Allegheny Dwellings, officially opened on June 13 in Fineview. Photo by Zach Armstrong

A ribbon cutting ceremony on June 13 marked the official opening of Sandstone Quarry, a 65-unit housing complex including townhomes, duplexes and a four-story apartment building.

By Zach Armstrong

The first phase of revitalization for Allegheny Dwellings is complete. The official opening of Sandstone Quarry took place on June 13 with a ribbon cutting ceremony hosted by the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (HACP) and TREK Development Group.

A ribbon cutting ceremony on June 13 marked the official opening of Sandstone Quarry. Photo by Zach Armstrong

The new, 65-unit housing complex includes townhomes, duplexes and a four story apartment building. Forty-seven of the units are classified as “affordable” using project-based vouchers while the remaining units are renting at market rates starting at $875 per month for one and two bedroom apartments and $1,375 per month for three bedroom townhomes. Eight of the units are reserved for residents with physical disabilities, including two which are equipped for residents with hearing or vision impairments. The rooms for
residents with hearing impairments, for example, include doorbells which make lights flash in the tenant’s room when they are pushed.

TREK Development Group and Allies and Ross Management and Development Corporation (ARMDC) partnered with the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh to build the housing complex. The cost of development totaled $24.7 million: Funding came from a
conventional loan, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and low-income housing tax credits.
Originally, the design of the Dwellings consisted of six brick buildings that faced toward each other, blocking the view of Downtown. Sandstone Quarry, however, was redesigned to provide residents with a picturesque view of the Pittsburgh skyline and an observation deck on the fourth floor.

“It’s one thing to have affordable housing that looks like affordable housing, it’s another thing to have affordable and mixed-use housing that is quality,” said Mayor of Pittsburgh Bill Peduto at the opening ceremony.

Sandstone Quarry is designed to provide residents with a picturesque view of the Pittsburgh skyline and has an observation deck on the fourth floor. Photo by Zach Armstrong

Construction for the housing site began in 2018 with the demolition of 97 apartments. Residents who were displaced for the reconstruction were given the option to either take a government subsidy, known as a section 8 voucher, which would be used to purchase housing from a private landlord or stay in another public housing community where they could choose whether or not to come back. According to HACP, 15 displaced residents will be returning while another 11 have been determined eligible for return.

“We probably did a pretty good job as far as relocation,” said Caster Binion, executive director of HACP. “Usually when people take a voucher, they might not return, but they might this time since the units look so great.”

Former residents of the Dwellings played a role in making decisions about the interior design of Sandstone Quarry. Officials from TREK and HACP invited them to meetings and interviewed them to find out what they wanted out of the new complex.

“We didn’t just come in and say ‘We’re gonna tear it down,’” said HACP Chief Community Affairs Officer Michelle Sandidge. “[The former residents] engaged in the process. Everything from color scheme to furniture, they did it all.”

During World War II, Western Pennsylvania was referred to as the “Arsenal of America” and provided the U.S. military with industrial supplies like steel and oil needed to win the war. Over 1.6 million Pennsylvanians worked as civil defense workers and the state was in need of housing. When the Dwellings opened in 1943, it initially served as temporary housing units for these workers.

The Dwellings faced a series of problems including crime and poor physical conditions in the years leading up to its renovation. Between 2013 and 2017, the Dwellings received two failed inspection scores from Housing and Urban Development (HUD) based on conditions not meeting standards for federal subsidized housing. HUD inspectors work on a scale of 100, and buildings must receive a minimum of 60 points to pass. Evidence of infestation, the presence of mold, and broken windows are just a few potential reasons why inspectors deduct points. Ricardo Washington Jr, who lived in the housing complex with his two-year-old daughter, was shot in Dec. 2017 while standing on his front porch.

Carolyn Brown, 72, resided in the Allegheny Dwellings since the 1950s and raised her children there. When TREK began renovating the Dwellings, Brown was moved to another public housing unit on the Northside.

“[The Allegheny Dwellings] was a good place until people started to move others who didn’t belong there into their units and they started selling drugs,” said Brown.

During the June 13 opening ceremony for the Sandstone Quarry, 6th District Councilman Robert Daniel Lavelle pointed to Exavier, a one-and-a-half-year-old toddler, who will be residing in Sandstone Quarry, as an example of why safe, quality, affordable housing is so important. “This is really about ensuring that young man can grow up living in a dignified setting, viewing himself positively as he grows up and he moves forward, so that we can all collectively nurture him to become the best man possible,” said Lavelle.

The opening of Sandstone Quarry is one of many recent efforts to rebuild public housing across Pittsburgh into quality structures. Last year, HACP opened several new housing projects including 20 new units in East Liberty. HACP anticipates that they will renovate the remaining units of the Dwellings sometime in the future.

“I will continue to use all the resources available and use financially innovative ways to produce affordable housing throughout the city,” said Binion.

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