In one of his first moves as the new mayor of Pittsburgh, Ed Gainey has asked for a pause in the process for a contentious project, Oakland Crossings, that has major implications for one of the city’s most important neighborhoods.
The plan calls for more than 1,000 new housing units to largely serve as walk-to-work residences for Oakland’s booming technology and medical sectors, along with a grocery store, green spaces and other amenities.
Gainey requested a 30-day continuance on the Oakland Crossings proposed zoning ordinance to work with developer Walnut Capital to address community concerns and prioritize affordable housing and equitable development. Former Mayor Bill Peduto introduced the zoning legislation in September.
“I look forward to discussions on this development and those across Pittsburgh and how they can promote equity and affordable housing,” says Gainey. “My administration will be engaging community and student groups, housing justice advocates, and the developer as we continue this work.
“I want to thank the developer and Councilman [Bruce] Kraus for their willingness to collaborate with the Department of City Planning even if it means extending the project’s timeline. I am hopeful we will find a solution that prioritizes equitable development, aligns with the priorities raised by residents in the Oakland Plan process, and delivers on much needed affordable housing prospects for the people of Pittsburgh.”
The Oakland Planning and Development Corporation has emerged as a major critic of Oakland Crossings. Some residents have concerns about the rising cost of housing pushing out longtime residents.
The 17-acre plan includes residential towers near UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital along Halket Street, at the old Isaly’s building on the Boulevard of the Allies and McKee Place. The recently closed Quality Inn/Panera Bread site will house a new grocery store as part of a mixed-use collaboration with Pitt.
Oakland Crossings is intended to prioritize housing for people who work in Oakland and pedestrians over cars. Currently, Boulevard of the Allies is a very auto-centric corridor, and is dangerous to cross on foot. Streetscape improvements and a pedestrian bridge are part of the plan.
Oakland is one of the state’s main economic engines, with more than 50,000 workers and tens of thousands of students. The neighborhood also features a unique concentration of higher education institutions. However, Oakland actually lost 2,000 residents in the last U.S. Census, while other “innovation neighborhoods,” such as University City in Philadelphia, have grown substantially.