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August 31, 2006

Oak Hill developer appeals suit dismissal

A lawsuit filed in federal court against the University by the developer of Oak Hill — an 80-acre residential area adjacent to Pitt’s upper campus — was dismissed last month. But the plaintiff, Beacon/Corcoran Jennison (B/CJ) Partners, LLC, a Boston-based residential real estate development company, has appealed the decision.

The federal suit, filed May 1, contended that B/CJ, which acted as guarantors on various federal notes issued in 1996 that helped finance phase I of the Oak Hill development project, would be liable for some $15 million if the housing development project should prove unsustainable.

(See May 11 University Times.)

The lawsuit alleged that Pitt attempted to thwart existing legal agreements between the developer and the city mayor’s office, the Housing Authority of Pittsburgh, which owns the land, and the Oak Hill Resident Council.

Specifically, the federal suit alleged that Pitt officials had offered “inducements to certain representatives” of the Oak Hill Resident Council to undermine the council’s relationship with the developer.

The University has acknowledged interest in purchasing the undeveloped portion of the land to construct sports fields for its athletics teams, particularly soccer and track and field, which were displaced when Pitt Stadium was razed in 1999.

University officials said last fall that Pitt had offered the Housing Authority $3.5 million to purchase about 15 acres at the Oak Hill site.

The suit was dismissed July 20 by United States District Judge Arthur J. Schwab “for [plaintiffs’] failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted,” according to court documents. “The complained-of conduct is not improper under the law and, as pleaded in the complaint, is privileged as a matter of law,” Schwab wrote in his opinion.

The plaintiffs filed the appeal Aug. 17.

—Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 39 Issue 1

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