Firm hired to consider plans for Braddock UPMC site

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Trek Development Group will spend the next 30 days seeking to determine what kind of project makes the most sense for the former site of UPMC Braddock Hospital.

Allegheny County's Redevelopment Authority on Tuesday selected the Pittsburgh-based for-profit firm to come up with plans for renewal of the now vacant tract. "We are going to determine ... what the market needs, what's viable and what's sustainable," Trek president William Gatti said.

That work in the next month will include multiple meetings with Braddock residents, elected officials and local development agencies, Mr. Gatti said.

The land still belongs to University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which closed the hospital in January 2010. That decision divided the community and was preceded and followed by months of protests and lawsuits. The building was demolished in February.

Dennis Davin, the county's director of economic development, predicted that the property would be transferred to the redevelopment authority in the next few months. His department provides staff for the authority.

The authority authorized his department to negotiate a developer's agreement with Trek.

Once a renewal plan is agreed upon, the site would be transferred to a developer.

Trek's proposal was one of two considered by the economic development department. The firm was recommended in part because of its track record and familiarity with projects providing affordable housing for seniors, Mr. Davin said.

Herky Pollock, who chaired the redevelopment authority meeting, said he was impressed by how quickly the county's economic development department had moved to advance new uses for the hospital site. "They are turning a negative situation into something positive," he said.

Braddock Mayor John Fetterman also praised county officials and their boss, County Executive Dan Onorato. "Without his intervention and support we wouldn't have a redevelopment plan," he said.

Borough officials want to see mixed uses on the site, Mr. Fetterman said, and senior citizen housing should be only one element.

"We're hoping that UPMC will provide an urgent-care facility to go with the dental clinic we've been promised," he said. "We'd like to see a community college campus and space for new small businesses."

Urgent care offices provide basic health care treatment, including some imaging services.

Residents also want assurances that jobs in construction and other trades generated by the renewal project will go to people from the community, he said.

David Hughes, a longtime opponent of the hospital's closing and demolition, said the primary need facing Braddock residents remained health-care services now that the Braddock Hospital's emergency room was gone. "Retail outlets and senior housing are not highest priorities," he said. "The best thing the county could do is take some of the [development] money and provide free ambulance service for people who are uninsured," he said.

Mr. Hughes is a member of the steering committee for Save Our Community Hospitals, which fought UPMC's decision to close the hospital. He also serves as president of Citizen Power, an energy and health advocacy nonprofit.

Len Barcousky: or 412-263-1159.