Since the COVID-19 pandemic spurred a seismic shift to at-home working, several office blocks in Downtown Pittsburgh have been sitting vacant. However, Reed Pirain explains how that’s about to change, as city officials have come together with state- and county-level agencies to enact a $9 million residential conversion pilot program to bring a new breath of life to the area.
Initially announced in mid-2022, the program will see these otherwise-empty office buildings transform into residential units, but progress had started off slow. The Pittsburgh City Council approved a zoning change during the first week of December, which will now streamline the process.
The Unanimously Approved Legislation
The proposed residential project initially required review and approval from the Planning Commission, as it would cost at least $50,000. But the legislation was unanimously approved, meaning proceedings can move forward without it.
On top of that, the zoning change also removed the pre-existing minimum lot size required per housing unit.
Fueling Residential Growth for an Improved, Healthier Neighborhood
Thanks to the new legislation, the empty offices can be converted into much-needed residential units far faster than what was previously imagined.
Bruce Chan, the senior director of urban design at the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, said that these additional homes are necessary to improve the area’s opportunities for a more resilient neighborhood. The City Council wants to create vibrancy and activity within its streets, supporting a dynamic, beneficial retail environment for its residents.
He told 90.5 WESA that Pittsburgh has always heavily relied on office space to produce tax dollars and business activity — more so than other cities. But the currently under-construction project will definitely change that.
The Conversion Will Bring More Mixed-Income Housing to Downtown Pittsburgh
One of the major purposes of the conversion project is to bring more mixed-income residential units to Pittsburgh. Every government agency that has pledged the funding agrees that the area requires more housing inclusivity, further fueling the necessity to fast-track the project.
As the name suggests, mixed-income developments are residential settings that provide affordable homes to individuals and families with various income levels. Typically, the designation is given to projects that boast dedicated affordable units and market-rate units in the same establishment.
So, the converted offices situated in the Golden Triangle area will be viable for people from all walks of financial life, ultimately bringing more diversity to Downtown Pittsburgh and enhancing the city’s inclusive opportunities.
Bringing New Life to Unused Offices in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The revitalization project will see the currently unused office blocks transformed into residential units.
Once complete, there will be a selection of property sizes on offer, ranging from studios to three-bed apartments, allowing many families to find their perfect home.
The units will boast that new-build feel, with modern appliances, brand-new carpeting, and well-appointed bathrooms. And, due to the government’s desire for more mixed-income housing, most people won’t be priced out of the market, allowing an opportunity to first-time buyers.