Uptown biscuit building to become apartments for low-income, disabled

The Famous Biscuit Co. building on Forbes Avenue will be converted into a 43-unit apartment building for low-income workers and residents with hearing and vision impairments, highlighting efforts to make a revitalized Uptown an inclusive neighborhood, speakers said at a construction kickoff Friday.

ACTION-Housing Inc., a Downtown nonprofit, is spearheading the $12 million project, scheduled to be completed in 10 months to a year. The work is being funded with low-income housing tax credits provided by the federal and state governments and a $925,000 low-interest loan from the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority. The venture also qualifies for a property tax abatement program.

“I know what a project like this can do for a neighborhood,” state Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Brookline, said. Tom Cummings, housing director for the Urban Redevelopment Authority, said the agency is considering similar projects for properties it owns nearby.

BNY Mellon purchased the tax credits with underwriting help from National Equity Fund. KBK Enterprises of Columbus, Ohio, and Mistick Construction of the North Side will work together on construction.

“We talk about this as workforce housing,” Linda Metropulos, a consultant to ACTION-Housing, said.

Residents must meet income guidelines to qualify for apartments. One-bedroom units will rent for $590 a month and two-bedroom units for $710 a month.

As Uptown reinvents itself, neighborhood leaders must ensure that there’s a “place for everybody,” Larry Swanson, ACTION-Housing executive director, said. Ten units will be designed for residents who are deaf or deaf and blind. The Pittsburgh Association of the Deaf has its offices and social hall nearby.

The event included a sign-language interpreter. Near the end of his remarks, Rick Savido, president of BNY Mellon’s Community Development Corp., interrupted the interpreter and surprised the audience by silently signing the rest of the speech himself. BNY Mellon later said Mr. Savido told the deaf and hard-of-hearing community that he was proud to help provide safe and affordable housing.

The five-story building at 1801 Forbes was built about 1905 by Famous Biscuit Co., a maker of cakes, crackers and biscuits that eventually was purchased by Nabisco. Better known as the longtime warehouse of the Shanahan Moving and Storage Co., it was “filled with stuff” when ACTION-Housing first looked at it, Mr. Swanson said.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said the project highlights some of his policy priorities, such as the renewal of development incentive programs — a matter to be put before city council — and a desire to better connect the Oakland and Downtown business hubs.

Mr. Cummings said the project qualifies for a city property tax credit of up to $150,000 annually for 10 years. Without council action, the incentive expires next month, leaving other developers with less generous incentives for conversion of industrial space into rental units Downtown and in part of the North Shore, the Strip District and Uptown.

Joe Smydo: jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548.
First Published June 2, 2012 12:00 am
Source: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/uptown-biscuit-building-to-become-apartments-for-low-income-disabled-638583/