Donna Jackson, executive director of the Larimer Consensus Group, left, and K. Chase Patterson, the group's chair, look at a new home being constructed in Larimer. Photo by Ann Belser.

K. Chase Patterson, chairman of the Larimer Consensus Group, said the money offered by Walnut Capital to build homes in Larimer will not solve all of the neighborhood’s problems – but no one else is offering millions of dollars to help improve the neighborhood.

The developer has offered $6 million and to help raise another $19 million in a program it is calling Build 100 Homes. The program is part of its community benefits agreement to redevelop 14 acres that is now the Village of Eastside strip mall and Trader Joe’s to expand Bakery Square.

Patterson said it takes $500,000 to build a home in Pittsburgh. The community agreement calls for one-third of the homes built to be sold at market rate, another third priced for workforce housing and the final third for people making half the median income of the seven-county region.

“I don’t know of any other opportunity that is on the floor right now that would guarantee us at least $6 million,” Patterson said at a meeting with residents on Sept. 27. He added afterward that the money would not bring Larimer back to where it once was, but it would help.

Larimer no longer matches its reputation as a high-crime area. Every month, at the Larimer Consensus Group meetings, Community Engagement Officer Jeffrey Crawford rattles off the crime statistics. There were two homicides in 2021, one in 2022 and none in 2023, according to reports from the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s office. Robberies, burglaries, car thefts are all down to the lowest levels in years, Crawford said.

Patterson told the gathering on Sept. 27 that the neighborhood is not dangerous, but with abandoned lots, it looks that way.

Riding through Larimer on a rainy Sunday afternoon, Donna Jackson, executive director of the Larimer Consensus Group, pointed to an overgrown lot in the middle of the neighborhood and said, “That’s city-owned.”

Most of the homes in Larimer are occupied, and many of the people in those homes own them. However, the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh and East Liberty Development Inc. have been building rental housing. Jackson said she wants more homes built for people to buy.

The money Walnut Capital is dedicating to the community initiative Build 100 Homes won’t come anywhere near building 100 homes, but Jackson said there are enough vacant parcels in Larimer to build 200 homes.

Todd Reidbord, a principal of Walnut Capital, said the money will go further than 50 $500,000 homes because they will be sold and the mortgages on those homes, even if they don’t cover the full construction price, will go back into the fund.

Patterson said the construction of new homes will spur others to renovate existing homes either to live in or sell. Some of the money in the Build 100 Homes fund will also be set aside to help homeowners bring their houses up to code.

“Our belief is that this fund is designed to inspire and serve as a catalyst, not to serve as the solution for all the ails that afflict this community,” Patterson said.

Ann Belser is the owner of Print, a newspaper covering Pittsburgh's East End communities. After receiving a master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, she moved to Squirrel Hill and was a staff writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for 20 years where she covered local communities, county government, courts and business.