New apartments going up next to the Garden Theater on the North Side. Photo by TH Carlisle for NEXTpittsburgh.

Sixty-three new apartments are coming to the heart of the North Side.

This week, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) voted to sell the currently vacant land located next to the long-empty Garden Theater building for $109,328 to make way for a new five-story apartment complex.

The land, at the corner of Federal Street and West North Avenue next to the Garden Theater, had previously been occupied by three houses dating back to the late 1800s. The URA had been attempting to find a commercial partner to redevelop the historical buildings for several years.

A previous agreement with Trek Development and Q Development would have preserved the buildings within a larger eight-story structure. But disagreements with the city’s Zoning Board delayed the project until several of the necessary historic tax credits were no longer available.

The structures were condemned by the city last July, and demolished last month, just weeks before today’s sale to Trek and Q went through.

Speaking at the URA‘s monthly meeting on Thursday, Executive Director Robert Rubinstein called the destruction of the previous buildings, and the heritage they represent “somewhat bittersweet.”

As he explained to the crowded conference room, restoring the rapidly deteriorating buildings was not economically feasible, by the board’s estimates. “We had to call it a day and move forward,” he said.

Trek and Q will present designs and renderings of their prospective $17.7 million project at the next URA meeting in April. No word yet on the likely rental cost of the apartments. (No word on any future tenant for the Garden Theater, either, though for many years Pittsburgh has been hearing about possible progress toward its reopening.)

John Ginocchi, executive vice president of Trek, was present at the meeting. In his remarks to the room, Ginocchi emphasized that the final plan for the property would reflect the input of community members who will meet with the developers over the next several weeks.

The board also approved funding for several projects related to Liberty Green Park in East Liberty. The 3.25-acre site on the corner of Larimer Avenue and Station Street will feature a playground, community plaza, open lawn, picnic areas, public art and green infrastructure to help remediate stormwater flooding in the area.

Bill O'Toole

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