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South Neighborhoods
New Clairton housing to bring new life to Millvue Acres

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

By Jonathan Barnes

One of Clairton's older neighborhoods soon will sport a whole new look with new homes, new streets and even a new community center.

South Side Development of Clairton, a planned $12 million development set to begin in September, ultimately will add 69 new homes to the neighborhood, known as Millvue Acres.

Phase I will involve demolition of some homes and such infrastructure improvements as new water, sewer and electrical lines, new streets and landscaping improvements including new trees.

The first phase will focus on construction of 44 new housing units that initially will be for lease, but after 15 years will be turned over to the Community Economic Development Corp. of Clairton, which will sell them on a lease-to-own basis.

Phase II will involve building 25 new single-family homes that will be sold to lower-income families for $40,000-$50,000. The houses will be three-bedroom, 1 1/2-bath homes with basements.

Urban Design Associates of Pittsburgh prepared the neighborhood revitalization plan. Pittsburgh partnership Falbo-Pennrose Joint Venture is developer of the project. Besides the Sanders Task Force, funding will come from the Allegheny County Department of Economic Development, the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh. Perfido Weiskopf Architects of Pittsburgh is the architect.

Organizers said the impetus for the project was the Sanders Task Force, established by the Sanders consent decree, a settlement of a lawsuit brought by residents of public housing against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Allegheny County Housing Authority and Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County.

The lawsuit claimed that they were responsible for historic and systemic racial discrimination in public housing in Allegheny County.

More than 100 vacant lots and homes were acquired for the plan, which organizers are quick to point out is not a housing project, although it is around the Millvue Acres housing community. The development will bring new lifeblood to the community, task force administrator Joyce Norrish said. "The neighborhood has a lot of deteriorated, vacant units. And the consent decree calls for revitalizing the neighborhoods around public housing."

"A lot of the homes will be 'visitable' for the disabled. And some will be totally accessible units," task force administrator Julie Kascal said.

Developer Ralph Falbo, a partner in Falbo-Pennrose, said the new housing would fortify the good housing already in the community.

Because the new development will enhance the neighborhood with new infrastructure and new homes, it will build up the neighborhood instead of tearing at it, as some housing projects do, some organizers of the revitalization effort said.

The addition of new homes, plus three parklets and a new community center, could set the tone for future redevelopment efforts in the Mon Valley, CEDCC president Cheryl Hurt said.

"Any time you have homeowners in a place, those people have a stake in the community. And when you have pride in your home, you have pride in your neighborhood and city. This offers first-time homeowners the great American dream of owning their own homes."

Jonathan Barnes is a freelance writer.

Correction/Clarification: (Published July 1, 2003) Perfido Weiskopf Architects of Pittsburgh is the architect for South Side Development of Clairton, a new development in the Millvue Acres neighborhood that will bring 69 new homes to the city. A story last week failed to identify the project architect.

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