Uptown drone shot. Photo courtesy of Jeff Muschar Photography.

With several multimillion-dollar developments underway and dozens of new parcels coming onto the market, Pittsburgh’s Uptown neighborhood is poised for rapid transformation.

Citing longstanding issues with blight and disinvestment, local leaders welcome the rising prosperity but they also want to see that it’s carefully managed.

“In light of an escalating market, Uptown wants to get it right,” says Jeanne McNutt, Executive Director for the community development organization Uptown Partners Pittsburgh. “To grow responsibly by providing housing options for residents of all income levels, and to ensure that all who live and work here benefit from current and future investment.”

Those current and future investments include both private and public projects.

Before the end of the year, UPMC will break ground on Mercy hospital’s new Eye and Vision Rehabilitation Institute, part of the healthcare giant’s $2 billion expansion citywide.

In addition, the neighborhood is only a seven-minute walk from the PPG Paints Arena and the coming Lower Hill Redevelopment Project, slated to include 500 new apartments and 250,000 square feet of commercial space.

On Thursday, July 11 at its monthly meeting, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) will vote on a proposal to turn a collection of 36 city properties in Uptown into a mixed-use, mixed-income residential development with the private company Bridging the Gap Development.

In the private sector, local property owner Sal Williams, whose previous tactic of turning parcels into parking lots has often been met with resistance from the local community, has put a number of his parcels on the market in the last year, including the entire 1700 block of Fifth Avenue just this past month with Dev Meyers of RE/MAX Realty Brokers.

Speaking with NEXTpittsburgh, McNutt says the region has a number of workable solutions to head off economic displacement as the market heats up.

At the state level, her organization is advocating for the Longtime Owner Occupant Program (LOOP), a bill proposed by local state legislators earlier this year that would provide tax breaks to long-established homeowners.

Locally, McNutt encourages city officials to expand “financial support and resources for necessary home repair, to allow legacy residents to age in place and remain in their homes.”

She adds, “The Community Land Trust model to preserve affordability is also worth exploring.”

Most of all, McNutt says the city should aggressively push the development of more affordable housing “to ensure Uptown remains a mixed-income community.”

Though she’s mindful of the risks, McNutt is also quick to emphasize the benefits of new populations and new capital for the long-underserved neighborhood.

“Additional density can help add new residents without displacing existing residents,” says McNutt. “Welcomed neighborhood-wide investment will generate an unquestionable vibrancy boost.”

Bill O'Toole

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