Zoning changes that are part of the long-developing Oakland Plan were given final approval by Pittsburgh City Council on Feb. 21.
The package creates three new zoning districts in Oakland:
• Residential-mixed use in Central Oakland between Louisa and Dawson streets, where multiunit housing would be permitted with some affordable housing required.
• Urban center-residential mixed use to allow for mixed-use development around the Boulevard of the Allies.
• Urban center-employment along the Fifth and Forbes corridor that will allow taller buildings and limit residential use.
When the plan was presented last fall, Pitt officials had objected to some of the rules in place for the Fifth and Forbes corridor. The University was concerned that the zoning would hinder development of classroom space in that area and University-owned student housing closer to campus.
Two amendments concerning the urban center-employment zone along Fifth and Forbes were added to the zoning package at the Feb. 21 City Council meeting, when the plan was preliminarily approved. One increased the amount of classroom space allowed in a building to 80 percent, and the other changed the maximum height permitted to 210 feet north of Forbes and to 120 feet south of that street.
A Pitt spokesman said in a statement this week: “The University of Pittsburgh thanks City Council and the city’s planning staff for a transparent and inclusive process that allowed for constructive dialogue and meaningful input from all parties involved. We look forward to continuing to work with our neighbors to collaboratively implement the ambitious goals laid out in the Oakland Plan.”
Read more about the changes in the Post-Gazette.
After months of debate and pushback from various groups in Oakland, Pittsburgh City Council last summer approved a zoning change that would allow Walnut Capital to proceed with the first phase of its Oakland Crossings project — a 33,000-square-foot grocery store and 426-unit apartment building at the former Quality Inn site owned by the University of Pittsburgh on the Boulevard of the Allies.
Then in January, Walnut Capital said it was pausing the project before it really got started because of high construction costs, inflation, interest rates and an ongoing labor shortage, according to comments from Walnut Capital president Todd Reidbord in the Post-Gazette.
Pitt has envisioned the building as providing much-needed non-student housing for faculty, staff and others in the community. The grocery store has long been sought by Oakland residents.
David DeJong, senior vice chancellor for business and operations, said in a recent interview, that, “Walnut asked us for some time. We are very committed to the development; we are very committed to to the neighborhood. The neighborhood wants and needs those and we want them to be there. We’re listening to Walnut’s concerned about the timing right now and and being patient with them.”
Walnut had hoped to begin construction late last year or early this year. No new timeline for the project has been announced.
Construction will begin in May on a complete transformation of The Eatery on the ground floor of the Litchfield Towers complex.
The work will be done in phases with the back-of-house kitchen being renovated over the summer, ready to begin service for the 2023-24 academic year.
From fall 2023 until the project’s completion, different stations will close down and new ones will replace them. The project’s website says: “Each station that closes down will be accommodated with additional outfitted stations in The Eatery and other spaces on campus, ensuring that the value of the dining program remains consistent.”
The renovated space will have 10 stations, including ones focused on Latin American, Western Asian and classic American food, as well as a dedicated kosher space, plant-forward farm-to-table station and an enhanced allergen-friendly area.
The $27.5 million project, which was approved by the Board of Trustees Property and Facilities committee last fall, will include a new accessible entrance on Forbes Avenue.
— Susan Jones
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