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Is East Liberty Re-Development Leaving Some Residents Behind?

EAST LIBERTY (KDKA) - The City of Pittsburgh is one of the hottest real estate markets in the country and old neighborhoods are being transformed.

But, are some people being left behind?

Pittsburgh is changing and nowhere more rapidly than in East Liberty, which is suddenly a magnet for young professionals like the software engineers who work at Google.

The neighborhood has all the new urban amenities like LA Fitness, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. There's new construction everywhere and it's all driven by Pittsburgh's new economy of education and hospitals.

"From Carnegie Mellon, from Pitt, from our hospital systems. They create energy. They create growth. Real growth. Real jobs. Folks coming to Pittsburgh from all over the country from all over the world," Todd Reidboard, of Walnut Capital, said.

Walnut Capital is now expanding Bakery Square at the old Riezenstein Middle School site and building 350 luxury apartments and dozens of townhouses.

"This building's been vacant for 30 years. We opened June 1, we're 90 percent rented," Reidboard said.

Closer to East Liberty's core, Walnut just refurbished the old Highland Building with 99 more apartments. A one bedroom efficiency unit rents for $1,450 a month.

"We're looking for young people new to Pittsburgh Carnegie Mellon Tepper Business School. We have a lot of those students," Gregg Perelman of Walnut Capital said.

But, while making room for the new, what happened to the older residents who used to call East Liberty home?

People like those who lived in the Penn Circle Towers and two other housing projects that came down in the past decade.

"Those people who were in those towers were sort of forced out, but since then the development has been very strategic," Rev. Ricky Burgess said.

Since then, East Liberty has built a mix of housing for low and moderate income families. While there's less housing for the poor and working poor, Burgess says the neighborhood is achieving balance.

"What you want for a healthy community is a diverse community, diverse ethnicity, diverse economically, diverse in every way," Burgess said.

Reidboard thinks ultimately the re-development benefits everybody.

"As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats. Not only are we helping people who are new to Pittsburgh, but the folks who live here have an opportunity to invest in their homes because values increased," Reidboard said.

KDKA-TV's Andy Sheehan spoke to some people who like the change they've seen in the old neighborhood.

"It's doing very good with the redevelopment and helps people in the East Liberty community. It's very good," Stephen Robinson said.

The challenge for East Liberty is the challenge for the rest of the city going forward - how to encourage growth and vitality and still find room for everybody.


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