Developers and residents at odds in Oakland

CBS Pittsburgh
CBS Pittsburgh

Developers and residents at odds in Oakland 02:51

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood is the third-largest commercial district in the state, but it's also a residential neighborhood.

Are the two compatible? KDKA-TV's Andy Sheehan takes a look at the dynamic.

It's a vacant tract of land overlooking the Monongahela River and developers want to turn it into Portal Place, a $300 million health science complex meant to capitalize on Oakland's hospitals and universities and bring high-skilled, high-paying jobs to the neighborhood.

"If it doesn't happen in Oakland, it's not coming to western Pennsylvania," developer Andrew Molnar said. "These are the types of jobs that have to be in Oakland."

But under a new zoning plan about to be voted on by Pittsburgh City Council, Molnar says new restrictions on building size and height will kill the project and those jobs will go elsewhere.

But while developers say the city's new rules will bring development to a screeching halt, some longtime residents in South Oakland say they don't go far enough. They say tall buildings over-shadow their homes, block the sun and take away views of landmarks.

"To see the Cathedral, to see Downtown, we're not going to be able to do that," resident Millie Sass said. "That would be important if I was on Mt. Washington, but nobody seems to think residents in Oakland have a right to demand these things."

On Monday, both sides will square off at a public hearing before Pittsburgh City Council, which is slated to begin debate on the zoning restrictions. Georgia Petropoulos, CEO of the Oakland Business Improvement District, says development can be achieved without threatening existing neighborhoods.

"You can strike a balance, but part of that balance is recognizing, first of all, what you have always been," Petropoulos said. "We've always been a job center and what we're saying is there now a chance to continue to thrive and grow that job center."

The goal is a healthy balance between the need for developers to develop and for those who live in Oakland to have a sense of place. Right now, it seems neither side is happy with the current attempt at compromise.

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