The long-awaited East Liberty Transit Center was officially opened this week, with politicians and local leaders heralding the neighborhood’s revitalization, but with an eye toward making sure long-time residents aren’t pushed out in the process.
The $150 million, six-acre development relied on nearly two dozen funding sources, including a $15 million TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2012.
“This project is a great example of how public-private partners can successfully work together to produce a project that reconnects communities and neighborhoods,” says Terry Garcia-Crews of the Federal Transit Administration, who was on hand for the ceremony.
Along with the fully-reconstructed transit station, the project, most of which is still a work in progress, has 3,000 square feet of mixed-use commercial space, which will house 360 housing units, a 554-space parking facility, a bike garage, and the pedestrian bridge which now connects Shadyside to East Liberty.
Mayor Bill Peduto spoke at the ribbon-cutting event, and said the project was about more than just East Liberty, saying it provided a roadmap for revitalization efforts in other parts of the city. “It gives East Liberty the opportunity to flourish while providing a unique opportunity to rebuild neighborhoods next door,” the mayor says.
He also praised the public-private partnership with developer Mosites Co. that drove the project forward. “Eighteen years ago the community got together to fight blight and crime in East Liberty, and Mosites decided to work with the community on that,” the mayor says. Mosites’ Eastside development has brought in retailers like Whole Foods and Target to the neighborhood.
Urban Redevelopment Authority chairman Kevin Acklin said while the transit center represented a critical connection for East Liberty, there was a bigger picture to consider. “This investment creates the opportunity to leverage private development investment so that we can improve affordability and fend off the market pressures that threaten vulnerable households in our community,” Acklin says. “This is a model for what we hope to achieve in even greater magnitude in the future.”
The next steps in the project involve a new street connection, which will be called Spirit Street, to link S. Highland and Penn Avenues.
The mayor also announced an affordable housing fund for the East Liberty area, to try to keep the development in the area from displacing residents of the neighborhood.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who also attended the ribbon-cutting, says the transit center is one more piece of evidence of rebirth in East Liberty and the region as a whole.
“Transit has become such an integral part of our economic development strategy,” Fitzgerald says. “I’m very proud to be standing here today with so many of our partners that made this project a reality.”