McCormack Baron Salazar, HACP and the City of Pittsburgh complete agreement to convert historic Larimer School into mixed-income housing

April 8, 2021 | McCormack Baron Salazar

PITTSBURGH (April 8, 2021) –McCormack Baron Salazar (MBS), the Housing Authority of Pittsburgh (HACP) and the City of Pittsburgh have closed on the financing to redevelop the former Larimer School into 35 high-quality, mixed-income housing units, MBS announced today. Seven additional units will be located nearby in a garden building (4 units) and a townhome building (3 units). All 42 units are expected to be substantially complete by the fall of 2022, along with the school’s Gym and Auditorium, which will be rehabilitated for use as commercial space. Located at the corner of Larimer Avenue and Winslow Street, Larimer School is on the National Register of Historic Places but has been vacant for more than 40 years.

The redevelopment is the latest phase of the Larimer/East Liberty Choice Neighborhood Initiative (CNI), which was awarded to HACP and the City of Pittsburgh in 2014. Through outreach coordinated with the Larimer Consensus Group, community members expressed a strong desire for this development to include restoring the Larimer School. Although partially degraded and scavenged, the building was in large part structurally sound. Through extensive architectural, engineering, and construction investigations and with the support of the CNI, it was determined that the building could be repurposed as housing.

The current phase of development includes 27 one-bedroom units, eight two-bedroom units, and seven three-bedroom units and includes accessible units and sensory impaired units. Thirty-five of the units will be available to low- and very low-income residents, and the remaining seven units will be market rate. Residential amenities will include a washer and dryer in each unit, off-street parking, outdoor patio and green space, and a meeting room. Residents will have access to the community room, fitness room, computer lab and management office located in the adjacent Cornerstone Village.

“A vibrant and diverse community, the Larimer Neighborhood has struggled in the recent past,” said Vincent R. Bennett, President and CEO of McCormack Baron Salazar. “But today, you can see how Larimer is changing and growing. With this next phase of development, including modern amenities and access to services, we look forward to expanding the impacts of CNI deeper into the Larimer neighborhood – and extending the growth occurring in nearby East Liberty. We’re thrilled that restored Larimer School can serve as a bridge between the neighborhood’s vibrant past and its promising future.”

Residents will have access to supportive services including assistance with workforce development, employment, adult education, financial literacy, eviction prevention, health and wellness, and youth enrichment activities. These services are provided by Urban Strategies, Inc., along with a team including Allegheny County Department of Human Services, Kingsley Association, Partners4Work, and Pittsburgh Public Schools.

This phase will be certified to Enterprise Green Communities standards, including neighborhood connectivity to maximize transit options, energy efficient building systems and appliances, water saving fixtures, efficient stormwater management practices, sustainable building materials, and improved indoor air quality.

A core component of the McCormack Baron Salazar development approach is layering public and private funds to transform communities across the country. Larimer Phase IV was awarded an allocation of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, and the project also will be financed with Historic Tax Credits, Choice Neighborhood funds, a first mortgage and other loans. The equity investor is Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing, and the construction lender is Ohio Capital Finance Corporation. The ground leaseholder is the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh; and additional lenders include the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, Allies & Ross Management and Development Corporation, and the Urban Redevelopment Authority. Areas prepped for commercial development will be leased to the Pittsburgh Economic and Industrial Development Corporation.

Additional partners include Mistick Construction, Tai+Lee Architects, LaQuatra Bonci Associates, Michael Baker International, KU Resources, Slosky & Company, ABMECH Acquisitions, Pfaffmann & Associates, Klein Hornig, Eckert Seamans, Dentons, First American, Chris Shea, Becky Foster, Tom Cella, Charlie Uhl, Green Building Consulting, West Penn Energy Solutions, Real Estate Strategies, Valbridge Property Advisors, and Cameron Professional Services Group/Cameron Professional Management.

Saints Peter and Paul Church
In addition to Larimer School, community efforts to rehabilitate and repurpose the former Saints Peter and Paul church and school buildings at 130 Larimer Avenue have received a boost thanks to a $50,000 grant from Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing (OCCH). A community visioning process for the 163-year-old church initially was undertaken by East Liberty Development Incorporated (ELDI); along with Partners for Sacred Places of Philadelphia, which specializes in the adoptive reuse of church buildings; and UNLEAD, a local community organization. The visioning process includes several ideas for the reuse of the space, including a charter school, a community center and a performance and arts venue.

In 2018, with the CNI grant in place and the neighborhood transformation underway, there was renewed interest in the church and school building. ELDI raised approximately $400,000 to abate asbestos, stabilize the church structure and demolish a rectory that was beyond repair. The new $50,000 predevelopment grant from OCCH will help ELDI and the other organizations assemble a team of architects, engineers and contractors to plan the physical solutions necessary to renovate and reuse the church building. In addition to ELDI and Ohio Capital, partners and supporters include the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the City of Pittsburgh, Councilman Ricky Burgess and State Rep. Ed Gainey.