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  #1041  
Old Posted May 15, 2012, 4:12 PM
BrianTH BrianTH is online now
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Yeah, I am not necessarily promoting 5637 Forbes as a model of good urban land-use policy, just noting the implications of projects like that for the density of the relevant neighborhoods and the City in general.

But to address that issue a second--I agree the issues identified with this project are serious ones. On the other hand, a number of people have started pointing out that various barriers to density-increasing projects in well-established, well-located, walkable urban neighborhoods with good public transit are creating a range of problems, basically because people who would otherwise like to live in those neighborhoods are being crowded out by high prices, which in turn has a host of ill effects.

Now in Pittsburgh, at least, there is no fundamental reason as yet why we should have to tear down structures like those SFHs along Forbes to address this problem, because we do indeed have a lot of centrally-located land available for non-destructive residential infill (elimination of surface parking lots, of course, not counting as destruction). On the other hand, we're not in full local control of all the relevant policy areas--for example, providing adequate locational substitutes for Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill would require providing reasonably good public transit service (the Forbes Avenue buses have issues, but that is still a lot of service overall). And, unfortunately, rather than facilitating such smart expansions of the local public transit network, the state is instead in the process of trying to dismantle large portions of the existing local transit network.

So in an ideal world--or at least a better world--we'd either gain more local control over these related policy areas, or more rational folks would gain the upper-hand at higher levels of government. But if that doesn't happen, we're going to be forced into some very tough choices about land use (choices which, in the better world, we wouldn't have to make).
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  #1042  
Old Posted May 15, 2012, 9:12 PM
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Let's face it, Pittsburgh has a lot of backwards people involved in planning and development, and it doesn't help to have such people in PA power either. They're doing everything now from demolishing the WRONG buildings for redevelopment purposes resulting in an overall downgrade from what was there before, to cutting necessary components to a transportation network.

And yeah, I can't believe I didn't see that at the bottom of that post. I thought the Cork Factory had more units than that, but I guess I thought wrong. Still, nice to see a nice increase in residential units within very close proximity of one another...
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  #1043  
Old Posted May 15, 2012, 9:31 PM
daviderik daviderik is offline
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Bayer wants repairs to iconic Pittsburgh sign

http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/...ty-635942/?p=0

This needs done. City Council has no vision. They allow every downtown building to put a giant sign on top of their towers. But not this? I still wish they didn't block the electronic sign on the new transportation terminal. That would have become a real exciting corner in downtown.
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  #1044  
Old Posted May 16, 2012, 2:16 PM
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Originally Posted by BrianTH View Post
Yeah, I am not necessarily promoting 5637 Forbes as a model of good urban land-use policy, just noting the implications of projects like that for the density of the relevant neighborhoods and the City in general.

But to address that issue a second--I agree the issues identified with this project are serious ones. On the other hand, a number of people have started pointing out that various barriers to density-increasing projects in well-established, well-located, walkable urban neighborhoods with good public transit are creating a range of problems, basically because people who would otherwise like to live in those neighborhoods are being crowded out by high prices, which in turn has a host of ill effects.

Now in Pittsburgh, at least, there is no fundamental reason as yet why we should have to tear down structures like those SFHs along Forbes to address this problem, because we do indeed have a lot of centrally-located land available for non-destructive residential infill (elimination of surface parking lots, of course, not counting as destruction). On the other hand, we're not in full local control of all the relevant policy areas--for example, providing adequate locational substitutes for Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill would require providing reasonably good public transit service (the Forbes Avenue buses have issues, but that is still a lot of service overall). And, unfortunately, rather than facilitating such smart expansions of the local public transit network, the state is instead in the process of trying to dismantle large portions of the existing local transit network.

So in an ideal world--or at least a better world--we'd either gain more local control over these related policy areas, or more rational folks would gain the upper-hand at higher levels of government. But if that doesn't happen, we're going to be forced into some very tough choices about land use (choices which, in the better world, we wouldn't have to make).
Right, I understood your position -- just took your mentioning of the Forbes development as an opportunity to bring the issue up.

The good points you make display to me how frustrating a project like this Terradime one on Forbes is. It only seems that this developer wanted to put high-end condos with a highly-questionable "green" designation in a "North of Forbes" Squirrel Hill location (that designation is laughable anyway, but that's another issue) to justify the asking prices.

And the city gives the developer carte blanche because they'll take any construction they can get, even though proper planning for the neighborhood (to say nothing of historical preservation of a significant chunk of one of the original blocks of Squirrel Hill) would say "wait a minute, let's take a look at what we're approving here... this guy wants to knock down original homes that are in very good structural shape to build a 5-story luxury condominium wedged in between single-family homes... and there's a surface lot directly across the street... and we've been trying for years now to revitalize Murray Ave but have failed miserably in every attempt we've made to attract a solid developer... neighborhood grass-roots efforts have been pushing for Murray Ave redevelopment especially lower Murray where there is direct access to the Parkway... bus service along Murray is the same as on Forbes -- very good... we have vacant and decaying properties and an empty lot on Murray... hmm, maybe we should take a look at how a project like this could be incorporated somewhere else?"

But luxury condos on Forbes won out... and now it seems that they are going to be rentals anyway? Utter failure.
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  #1045  
Old Posted May 16, 2012, 7:54 PM
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Originally Posted by daviderik View Post
http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/...ty-635942/?p=0

This needs done. City Council has no vision. They allow every downtown building to put a giant sign on top of their towers. But not this? I still wish they didn't block the electronic sign on the new transportation terminal. That would have become a real exciting corner in downtown.
Apparently Luke Ravenstahl isn't happy with that new law. According to that article he lacked the power to stop that going into law. There are things this city does that I like (altho it's in conjunction with PNC and other locally based corporations that DO have a vision), but for the most part, this city is ass backwards. This stupid sign ordinance and the felony against smart planning they're about to commit in Squirrel Hill seem to be the biggest interests for this city unfortunately...

The state's no better. They're going to be responsible for something that will prove counterproductive to this:

http://triblive.com/home/1807264-74/...erage-compared

Oh, and at the national level, they're cutting tax credits for renewable energy projects. What the hell are you doing, Obama?
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  #1046  
Old Posted May 16, 2012, 8:40 PM
Minivan Werner Minivan Werner is offline
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Why wouldn't they rent the 4 homes on North Forbes and build the condos across from it on the empty lot?
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  #1047  
Old Posted May 16, 2012, 10:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Jonboy1983 View Post
Apparently Luke Ravenstahl isn't happy with that new law. According to that article he lacked the power to stop that going into law. There are things this city does that I like (altho it's in conjunction with PNC and other locally based corporations that DO have a vision), but for the most part, this city is ass backwards. This stupid sign ordinance and the felony against smart planning they're about to commit in Squirrel Hill seem to be the biggest interests for this city unfortunately...

Oh, and at the national level, they're cutting tax credits for renewable energy projects. What the hell are you doing, Obama?
Well, the sign ordinance doesn't bother me. Peduto and others don't have anything against LED signs themselves; they were against allowing electronic billboards to be plastered all over the city -- on buildings, on hillsides, all along the parkway, etc. That was the reason for the ordinance. It stopped Idiot Ravenstahl from giving Lamar Advertising (which is one of the most bottom-of-the-barrel companies around) a pass to put billboards up all over the place. It's bad enough we now have a skyline that looks like a fucking tacky xmas tree, at least we don't have 20+ more electronic billboards promoting Bud Light (or whatever beer it is now) like the one you can get a beautiful view of as you cross the Liberty Bridge heading south.

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Originally Posted by Minivan Werner View Post
Why wouldn't they rent the 4 homes on North Forbes and build the condos across from it on the empty lot?
For whatever reason, it was obviously easier (cheaper) to demolish the 5 houses and barber shop and build where they are. Also, their location is "North of Forbes"... barely, but it still holds some weak cachet that they can probably justify charging higher prices for.

I believe the lot across the street is part of St. Edmund's. I have no idea if that was even an option the developers looked into.
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  #1048  
Old Posted May 16, 2012, 10:56 PM
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I'm generally not in favor of more stringent planning and development codes, unless government money is involved. The developers on Forbes have the right to develop their property as best they see fit. The government shouldn't tell people what they can or cannot do with their property as long as it fits within the zoning. I've been involved in far too many instances where the local government is out of control and holding back development.
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  #1049  
Old Posted May 16, 2012, 11:43 PM
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I'm generally not in favor of more stringent planning and development codes, unless government money is involved. The developers on Forbes have the right to develop their property as best they see fit. The government shouldn't tell people what they can or cannot do with their property as long as it fits within the zoning. I've been involved in far too many instances where the local government is out of control and holding back development.
Sure, and because of this notion, we get the god-awful Buncher properties around our city and on our riverfronts; we get a cement factory in the heart of the city, we get riverfront apartments that resemble a motel 6; we get a Goodyear outlet more suited to McKnight Rd right downtown; we get a suburban motel next to our new arena... should I go on? How about Allegheny Center?

What we get are mistakes... and their costs are exponential.

Also, the development on Forbes DID NOT comply with the zoning laws. They had to get variances for height, density, and setbacks. As was stated above, the city takes anything it can get; city government is every bit as complicit in flawed development as private developers are, if not more so.
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  #1050  
Old Posted May 17, 2012, 12:54 AM
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Allegheny Center was brought about by the concept that government planners knew what was best; the very concept that you are now championing. If Buncher didn't build Seagate that lot would probably still be a parking lot. If Horizon hadn't built the hotel next to Consol it would probably still be a dilapidated hospital.

It's easy to spend other peoples money. Everybody has opinions on design, but that doesn't mean those opinions are financially feasible. I love great design, but that doesn't mean that every project has to be the Guggenheim.

What if someone just decided that your house wasn't modern enough and told you it had to be redesigned. Why should someone else make that decision for you?
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  #1051  
Old Posted May 17, 2012, 4:19 AM
PITairport PITairport is offline
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If Buncher didn't build Seagate that lot would probably still be a parking lot.
Well it still should be a parking lot.

The Seagate building and that Hampton Inn next door could have been built in any one of several lots in that immediate area. But instead they effectively block the convention center from ever expanding.

There needs to be a good balance between letting the free market do its thing and proper urban planning/zoning. Taking away the only parcel which would have allowed the convention center (already scaled down from original plans) to freely expand was short term gain for perhaps long term loss.
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  #1052  
Old Posted May 17, 2012, 5:37 AM
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Allegheny Center was brought about by the concept that government planners knew what was best; the very concept that you are now championing. If Buncher didn't build Seagate that lot would probably still be a parking lot. If Horizon hadn't built the hotel next to Consol it would probably still be a dilapidated hospital.

It's easy to spend other peoples money. Everybody has opinions on design, but that doesn't mean those opinions are financially feasible. I love great design, but that doesn't mean that every project has to be the Guggenheim.

What if someone just decided that your house wasn't modern enough and told you it had to be redesigned. Why should someone else make that decision for you?
I was giving examples of planning mistakes, of which Allegheny Center is one which leaves a legacy of expensive problems long after initial construction. And, by the way, Alcoa had as much to do with Allegheny Center as "government planners" did.

Buncher has built and owns some of the egregious examples of damaging misuse of land in the city, the least of which is the Seagate bldg. Putting a suburban motel next to a new downtown arena, on the city's most prime redevelopment land is counterproductive to stimulating the type of investment that is supposedly desired -- shooting yourself in the foot while the gun is still in the holster.

The comment about other people's money and design are irrelevant to what I am talking about. I'm talking about the misuse of land in favor of developer's short term fiscal health, which more often than not results in greater direct and indirect costs for taxpayers -- to say nothing of the negative externalities created.
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  #1053  
Old Posted May 17, 2012, 12:05 PM
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I guess I don't share the same hatred for the Buncher properties as most others here... While I certainly agree that the Seagate building isn't the highest and best use for that particular piece of land, I'm not against it being there. Same goes for the Hampton Inn across from the Heinz History Center. I think we all kind of have to remember one thing here, Pittsburgh is a city that has/had been losing population for decades, one that hasn't grown in 50+ years, one that was more or less stagnant or declining for decades. Any development was probably looked upon as a major benefit by previous mayoral administrations, and frankly I don't blame them. You can't afford to be TOO picky when there's so little to choose from. Nowadays, as development efforts are finally getting some real traction and Pittsburgh is no longer declining/stable, finally seeming to grow both in population and overall economic status once again, I think we can be more choosy.

All of this being said, I think it's still going to take time for many of those people in city government to get over the notion that they have to take anything they're given in terms of development because Pittsburgh's still a dying city and start being more choosy once again. Too much "old blood" is likely at work here, not enough forward-thinkers and "new blood"...

It takes a long time for old habits and old notions to change. It takes a long time for old dogs to learn new tricks, and I think that's more or less what we're dealing with here.

Aaron (Glowrock)
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  #1054  
Old Posted May 17, 2012, 1:30 PM
BrianTH BrianTH is online now
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Oh, and at the national level, they're cutting tax credits for renewable energy projects. What the hell are you doing, Obama?
Among other things, not appointing himself Dictator and dissolving Congress:

http://www.denverpost.com/business/c...on-tax-credits
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  #1055  
Old Posted May 17, 2012, 1:38 PM
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I believe the lot across the street is part of St. Edmund's. I have no idea if that was even an option the developers looked into.
It is indeed a well-used St Edmunds lot. If you wanted to develop it you would likely need to replace the parking spots with a structure on a portion of the lot (and even that may be tough because it is used as an in-and-out drop-off lot), and that would obviously make the expected return on investment a lot lower.
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  #1056  
Old Posted May 17, 2012, 1:42 PM
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Sure, and because of this notion, we get the god-awful Buncher properties around our city . . .
That sort of land banking is best addressed with economic incentives to develop. You can start with shifting to a higher property tax rate on land rather than improved properties, with realistic, up-to-date land-value assessments.
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  #1057  
Old Posted May 17, 2012, 1:47 PM
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Taking away the only parcel which would have allowed the convention center (already scaled down from original plans) to freely expand was short term gain for perhaps long term loss.
The convention center is very much not "free" from the public's point of view, and it seems to me that preserving open lots between Downtown and the Strip on the speculation that the public paying for an even larger convention center (it would have to be something like twice the size to reach that far) some day is not a particularly good idea.

I'm not saying I love what Buncher has done there so far, but the problem in my view isn't too much utilization of that land, it is too little, leading to a blank spot in what should be a dense urban fabric.

Last edited by BrianTH; May 17, 2012 at 2:11 PM.
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  #1058  
Old Posted May 17, 2012, 2:00 PM
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While I certainly agree that the Seagate building isn't the highest and best use for that particular piece of land, I'm not against it being there. Same goes for the Hampton Inn across from the Heinz History Center.
I'm actually fine with those particular uses of the land that they are directly sitting on. Those are not the coolest structures ever, but not the worst either, and you can get to some pretty intense uses of land with structures that size.

The problem in my view is all the parking.

Quote:
Nowadays, as development efforts are finally getting some real traction and Pittsburgh is no longer declining/stable, finally seeming to grow both in population and overall economic status once again, I think we can be more choosy.
I somewhat agree with that, but I also think you can get TOO choosy, which even in a regional growth scenario means you end up pushing too much development out to far-flung greenfields as opposed to infilling your existing urban footprint. And this is not at all a theoretical concern--NIMBYism has had this effect in many other older U.S. cities that are much farther along the redevelopment track than Pittsburgh.

To lay my cards on the table, at the end of the day I am not going to care all that much about exactly how cool-looking the design of various projects ends up being. That doesn't mean I won't bash unnecessarily poor design, such as the Oakland Portal apartment projects. But my central issues are intensity of land utilization and creating continuous walkable areas, and I will take a project with a merely OK design that furthers those purposes over holding out for some purely hypothetical supercool (and superexpensive) project that no one with money is actually talking about doing.
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  #1059  
Old Posted May 17, 2012, 2:28 PM
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Originally Posted by markson33 View Post
Allegheny Center was brought about by the concept that government planners knew what was best; the very concept that you are now championing.
Another thing... this is totally NOT what I have been "championing". As you'll see in my post that you replied to, I specifically stated: city government is every bit as complicit in flawed development as private developers are, if not more so.

Government planners had much to do with the Allegheny Center (like so many other failed 1960s urban redevelopment initiatives across the nation), but remember, it was an Alcoa project. Planning mistakes are the fault of both public and private players.

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I guess I don't share the same hatred for the Buncher properties as most others here... While I certainly agree that the Seagate building isn't the highest and best use for that particular piece of land, I'm not against it being there. Same goes for the Hampton Inn across from the Heinz History Center...

All of this being said, I think it's still going to take time for many of those people in city government to get over the notion that they have to take anything they're given in terms of development because Pittsburgh's still a dying city and start being more choosy once again. Too much "old blood" is likely at work here, not enough forward-thinkers and "new blood"...

It takes a long time for old habits and old notions to change. It takes a long time for old dogs to learn new tricks, and I think that's more or less what we're dealing with here.

Aaron (Glowrock)
Those really weren't the Buncher properties I was initially talking about. In comparison to most of the other Buncher crap, those are urban gems. Buncher loves to build skyscrapers on their sides.

Liberty Commons in the Strip is just okay...


But my favorite has to be Gateway View Plaza -- it offers stunning views of the confluence of the three rivers and downtown in what is likely the worst use of valuable land in the Pittsburgh region. Buncher is notorious for it. It is warehouse/distribution space located on a most valuable piece of property in the center of the city -- and there is no reason for it to be there! It is a truck distribution facility, with no connections for rail or river transport. Not only is the land wasted on this, but the associated semi traffic contributes greatly to bottlenecks at Carson St., Ft. Pitt bridge/tunnel, 279, West End circle, etc.


You're correct in that Pittsburgh was basically in an economic depression and it took whatever it could get (this happened in a lot of cities in this area of the country). The thing is, Pittsburgh has had a long time (a very long time, actually) to learn from past mistakes, and has to start demanding more sound development.

If Pittsburgh's positive economic outlook is not just hype, then the city should have the ability to provide a fair, development-friendly (but not overly-restrictive) framework in which developers must operate in. Because if they can make money here based on what everyone is saying about Pittsburgh's resurgence, then they're going to want to do business here whether city planning plays a role in their developments or not. Providing the right incentives for developers to work towards a plan goes a long way towards spurring additional development.

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Originally Posted by BrianTH View Post
That sort of land banking is best addressed with economic incentives to develop. You can start with shifting to a higher property tax rate on land rather than improved properties, with realistic, up-to-date land-value assessments.
True. PA's property tax code is antiquated beyond belief and has much to do with destruction of properties in favor of empty lots and/or detrimental uses of the land.

Last edited by Private Dick; May 17, 2012 at 2:58 PM.
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  #1060  
Old Posted May 17, 2012, 2:43 PM
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If Pittsburgh's positive economic outlook is not just hype, then the city should have the ability to provide a fair, development-friendly (but not overly-restrictive) framework in which developers must operate in. Because if they can make money here based on what everyone is saying about Pittsburgh's resurgence, then they're going to want to do business here whether city planning plays a role in their developments or not. Providing the right incentives for developers to work towards a plan goes a long way towards spurring additional development.
I completely agree with this. An entirely laissez-faire approach won't work, and in fact is impossible because there are way too many ways in which land-use policy intersects with other public policy areas. On the other hand, city planning should have firmly in mind that their goal should be to help get good projects done, not just to prevent bad projects. That leaves lots of details to work out and there won't always be complete agreement on exactly how to work out those details, but this is a general mission statement that most stakeholders should be able to support.
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