Journal of Housing & Community Development

Revitalizing Larimer

May 21, 2021
by Libby Miller

The Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh won a 2020 Award of Excellence in Community Revitalization for Cornerstone Village Phase II, a decades-long project to redevelop a mixed-income development in Pittsburgh. Nominated from among the NAHRO Award of Merit winners each year, the Awards of Excellence winners are chosen by national juries and honored at the annual National Conference and Exhibition in November. They represent the very best in innovative programs in assisted housing and community development.     

Cornerstone Village Phase II is a critical phase of the Larimer Redevelopment that occurred under a $30 million FY2013 Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant to revamp the neighborhood. The process launched after the City of Pittsburgh, the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (HACP)Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), private property owners, neighborhood residents, and community stakeholders came together to develop the Larimer Vision to Action Plan. HACP and its partners delivered the successful replacement of mixed-income housing through creative financial transaction, participatory site acquisition, inclusive relocation process, and community capacity building. Once the four-phase project is complete it will consist of more than 330 units throughout the Larimer and East Liberty area.  

“It was a community grass roots project; something we worked on for 10 years,” Caster Binion, HACP’s executive director said. “We were able to bring a community together. We were able to create something that is unique in the city of Pittsburgh.”   

Cornerstone Village Phase II includes 150 residential apartments located in 13 buildings on 6.67 acres of land. The development features 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom units in a mix of townhomes, and garden apartments. All 150 units were designed to look modern, sleek and attractive to fit into the rest of the makeup of the community at large.  

Larimer Street is the main drag in the area which in many ways divides the public housing community from higher end developments and business offices, such as Google. But Binion says with the redevelopment in place it’s hard to tell now which side of the neighborhood you are standing in.  

“It is two cities in one world. You have lower-income on one side, and you cross the street and it’s another story, but the amenities are the same,” Binion said.  “We are happy we created this: an integrated mixed finance community.”  

The development is ideally located for working families, as it is within proximity to Pittsburgh’s large transit hub, large departments stores, and big employers. It also utilizes green infrastructure to continue the housing authority’s and city’s goal to be a more sustainable community.  

Binion is not shy when it comes to admitting this massive undertaking to redevelop came with its challenges. He said the biggest piece was getting input from the community and local partners to unite and work together toward the same goal.  

“With any change there is difficulty. We had to build relationships,” he said. “I am not going to say it was an easy process. But in that process, we create friendships, trust, and we gain volunteers who put hours and hours of work in.”  

The next phase of the redevelopment is slated to start later this year and the entire project is on track to be finished shortly thereafter. For the residents the housing not only offers a decent, livable place to live, but it also provides them access to community centers, parks, and other important services to have a quality of life.  

“It would put a tear into your eye if you saw how this community came together to make a change,” Binion said.  

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