West Park Court, the 112-unit senior citizen apartment building located at the corner of Brighton and North Avenues in Allegheny City Central, is on track to be back to community ownership by December 2021.
By Nancy Schaefer
West Park Court (WPC) is a 112-unit senior citizen apartment building, located at the corner of Brighton and North Avenues in Allegheny City Central. Thanks to a dedicated group of neighborhood residents, it likely became the first senior high rise in the country to be developed, owned, and managed by a community organization: the Allegheny City Central Association (ACCA).
Allegheny City Central, formerly known as Central Northside, is a neighborhood with a rich and long history of organizing to support affordable and assisted housing. It is a quiet fact that the community organization likely owns and manages the most affordable units in the neighborhood as they also own and manage Arch Court. The community was also the birthplace of Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS), now known as NeighborWorks, which has 240 chapters across the U.S. These successes were made possible thanks to residents who decided to be the change they wanted to see.
In the 1960s, urban renewal, loss of income, and other economic trends forced low and moderate-income residents from their homes, especially in the lower Northside. A diverse collaboration occurred as pastors joined residents and the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation to pursue development and construction of an assisted living residence for seniors. Organized as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) subsidiary of the former Central Northside Neighborhood Council (CNNC), now ACCA, WPC held its first board meeting at Trinity Lutheran Church in September of 1971.
A dozen meeting minutes books describe the six-year long process undertaken by the group in order to assemble land, secure financing, design a building, and get support for the project. As with any sustained effort, there were times when the obstacles seemed insurmountable and it was difficult to imagine a road ahead. The group toured buildings in the region, took classes in management, made home visits to prospective residents, and wrote proposals for funding. When President Nixon issued a moratorium on housing subsidy in 1973, a group went to the office of U.S. Senator Hugh Scott and reportedly announced “we may not be able to spell constituent, but we know what it means and we aren’t leaving until we meet with the Senator.” Their dogged determination paid off and ground was broken by Mayor Richard Caliguiri on July 20, 1977. By November of 1978, three apartments in the building were occupied. Market rent was $349 per month.
For over a decade, volunteer board members supervised building operations directly, supported by the building manager and staff. Board members interviewed prospective tenants, hired staff, and handled finances. Roy Redman was particularly dedicated and spent countless volunteer hours learning about compliance and building maintenance. In the 1990s, a management company was hired to supervise and handle day-to-day operations while the board provided monthly oversight.
Recognizing the need for substantial rehabilitation, particularly as outside panels began rapidly deteriorating, the board assembled a complex financing package in order to raise the funds needed. Partnering with a private developer enabled the board to secure low-income tax credits and URA bond financing. The deal required the building to be sold to private investors who would use the tax credits for 15 years, then sell the building back to WPC. After 28 years of careful stewardship, WPC was sold to West Park Court Housing Limited Partnership (WPCHLP), a for-profit entity, in December of 2006. Substantial rehabilitation was undertaken, including the replacement of outside panels and installation of a new roof, a parking lot, and new balconies. This partnership will be dissolved once the building is sold back to WPC Inc. in December of 2021.
WPC Inc. has been dormant for 15 years, but is now gearing up to regain ownership of the complex. Regional Housing Legal Services has been contracted to assist the board. New board members will be elected by the membership of ACCA in the fall of 2021. The building should be completely back to community ownership by December of 2021. Anyone interested in getting more involved is welcome to contact WPC at email@example.com.