East Liberty image via SabreGuy29 / Flickr</a.

This week LG Reality Advisors unveiled their plans for Liberty East, a nine-story, 250,000-square-foot mixed-use development scheduled to break ground at the corner of Penn and Euclid Avenues this summer.

Their first tenant? Whole Foods Market.

“The construction of Liberty East will mark the beginning of a new chapter for East Liberty and the surrounding communities, areas that continue to witness renewal and renewed investment at a time when all of Pittsburgh is experiencing rebirth,” said Lawrence Gumberg, founder and president, LG Realty Advisors in a press release. “Our comprehensive plan for the site will result in new commercial and retail development, create much-needed employment opportunities, generate additional tax revenue and contribute to a more vibrant neighborhood.”

Courtesy of LG Realty Advisors.

Liberty East has proven to be one of the more controversial developments in our city. The land was formerly the site of the Penn Plaza apartment complex where, in July of 2015, LG Reality informed all 200 residents that they had 90 days to vacate the premises to make way for their redevelopment plans.

The notice and the resulting displacement set off a social movement that continues to this day, with many activists and long-time residents holding up Penn Plaza as a symbol for the larger gentrification of East Liberty.

Whole Foods, a subsidiary of Amazon, was signed on as a tenant during the earliest proposals for the development but withdrew in 2017 after the City Planning Commission rejected its plan for having insufficient community input.

“As long-time members of the East Liberty community, we look forward to continuing to serve our neighbors here and providing them with a much more comprehensive and exciting shopping experience,” said Scott Allshouse, Whole Foods’ president for the Mid-Atlantic region.

According to LG Reality’s negotiations with the city following a lawsuit filed on behalf of the Penn Plaza residents, the company will also spend $1 million to redevelop nearby Enright Park and contribute $2 million to the city’s East End Affordable Housing Fund.

A Whole Foods location already exists several blocks away on Centre Avenue. Whether it will close or remain open is unclear. The company did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

Bill O'Toole

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