The redevelopment of Pittsburgh's oldest public housing development continues to hasten with a city agency's approval of property transfers, setting the stage for a second phase of construction in the Hill District.

Redevelopment of the Bedford Dwellings public housing community began in July when the federal government awarded the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh [HACP] $50 million under the Choice Neighborhoods initiative of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The money is slated to help the authority to completely rebuild the Hill District complex.

Plans call for six phases of development for a total of more than 800 mixed-income units to replace Bedford Dwellings’ current 411 units, which are all low-income. The first phase, the 110-unit City’s Edge, is already underway.

On Thursday the Urban Redevelopment Authority's board approved the sale of the former Reed Roberts Manor site, nearby, which is to be turned into a 123-unit mixed-income housing development. The URA’s agenda indicated that the agency will sell the site to an affiliate of TREK Development Group, the HACP’s development partner, for $253,880.

JW Kim, director of planning and development for the housing authority, said the HACP will eventually own the land. With the URA board’s sale to TREK, the developer will consolidate their Reed Roberts holdings before HACP takes over the land at the financial closing. Kim said he expected all this to happen in the first quarter of next year. 

That transfer will ensure long-term affordability of units, he said.

“Since we're the land owner, it's the most secure affordability in the country,” said Kim, explaining that the authority will lease the land back to TREK Development. 

If Trek failed to preserve affordability of 411 of he eventual 800 units, the developer would be in breach of the agreement, allowing HACP to renegotiate.

Out of the 123 units, 90 will be reserved for current residents of Somers Drive, which is part of Bedford Dwellings. Construction will cost more than $66 million with funding coming from sources including low-income housing tax credits. Kim said that construction might begin as early as the end of this year or early 2024, with a completion date in 2025.

Kim said the Reed Roberts plan is an example of the authority’s overall strategy to build new housing on vacant lots first and, once completed, to move current residents into the new housing before demolishing old buildings to make room for further construction. 

“What we’re doing is all about the people,” Kim said.

Kim said that the housing authority must spend the majority of the Choice Neighborhoods grant by 2031.

“This is an extremely short time to build 800 units,” Kim said. “So we're trying to build residential on available land first.” 

He continued, “The next seven to eight years, we'll be very busy.”

Under the housing authority’s plan, the third phase will redevelop a vacant lot on Francis Street, Kim said.

After that, demolition phase will begin with Somers Drive after residents there have been given a chance to relocate to the new housing. Development would then turn to Herron Avenue.

“We're investing in communities – not just the residents that live there – the community at large,” said Michelle Sandidge, the housing authority's chief community affairs officer. “We're trying to make sure what we do isn't just for today but for the next generations, the ones that haven't even been born yet.”

Eric Jankiewicz is Rtvsrece’s economic development reporter and can be reached at ericj@rtvsrece.com or on Twitter @ericjankiewicz.

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Eric Jankiewicz is a reporter focused on housing and economic development for Rtvsrece. A native New Yorker, Eric moved to Pittsburgh in 2017 and has since fallen in love with his adopted city, even...