Could the North Side be Pittsburgh’s next development hotspot? Builders and buyers alike are increasingly betting on it.

As the construction boom in the Strip continues and Downtown Pittsburgh sees millions of dollars in new investments, many observers say it’s only natural that interest and money would spill over the river.

“You can really just walk to Downtown,” says Luke Ezzo, owner of the general contracting company Elevation Construction & Development. “I wanted to work down here as much as I could when I got the chance.”

As a contractor for projects large and small, Ezzo’s own portfolio of North Side projects gives some sense of the burgeoning development trends.

He’s working on several residential units spread across the neighborhood, mostly rehabilitations, but a few pieces of new construction as well.

In addition to managing ongoing projects on James and West Jefferson streets, Ezzo and his team are putting the final touches on four renovated townhouses and three new buildings along Middle Street (see photos), just off East Ohio Street.

Rehabs on Middle and Shawano streets.

Designed in collaboration with Hart Architectural Services in Greenfield, the four rehabilitated townhouses along the 800 block, all presold, will be finished September 1.

The newer units further up along the 700 block will be ready in late October or early November.

While the units vary slightly depending on their location, each one is roughly 2,250 square feet, and listed at around $500,000.

On the commercial side, Elevation is also working on the renovation of the long-simmering restaurant Fig & Ash on East Ohio Street, and they recently restored the facade of Refucilo Winery on Western Avenue.

Even national chains are getting in on the action. Elevation did some contracting work for October Development on the Comfort Inn hotel, projected to open in 2019 at the corner of East Ohio Street and Madison Avenue.

Developers say the hotel will have 96 rooms, and be managed by the North Side-based Priory Hospitality Group, which already manages The Priory, a boutique hotel on Pressley Street.

Speaking to NEXTpittsburgh, Ezzo says that he and many developers and his fellow North Side builders are attracted to the historic character of the area.

With Allegheny Commons, Allegheny West, The Mexican War Streets, Deutschtown and Manchester all within a few blocks of one another, the North Side contains more historic districts than any other portion of Pittsburgh.

“I do think that there’s room for new construction in the neighborhood,” says Ezzo. “But I think keeping the historic, architectural features alive in some of these new constructions is really important.”

Ezzo’s work routinely brings him into contact with community groups such as the East Allegheny Community Council, Historic Deutschtown Development Corporation and the Northside Leadership Conference, which he describes as pro-growth, but also advocates for maintaining the local character.

Mark Fatla, executive director of the Northside Leadership Conference, tells NEXTpittsburgh that far from seeing preservation and development as opposing forces, local stakeholders have embraced their local heritage as a means to spur economic development.

“It gives folks something you can’t get anywhere else,” Fatla says. “It’s those historic, walkable neighborhoods that offer a different way of living that’s become more and more attractive to folks.”

Correction: A previous version of this article misrepresented Elevation Construction’s role in several of the projects discussed above. They are a general contractor, not an owner or developer.

Bill O'Toole

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.