PITTSBURGH-Gov. Ed Rendell has provided $12.3 million in state funds to the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust to implement construction of the first phase of the Cultural District Riverfront Development. Billed as “the nation’s first master-planned, green, mixed-use arts/residential downtown neighborhood,” the project covers six acres of the city’s 14-block cultural district and is expected to cost $460 million.

The plan calls for 700 residential units, 159,000 sf of retail and entertainment, and a four-star hotel on primarily blighted land acquired by the trust over the past 20 years. The trust selected Concord Eastridge, which has headquarters in Phoenix and Washington, DC, as lead developer for the plan, and the lead architect is Stuttgart, Germany-based Behnisch Architekten.

The state funding kicks off the opening $90-million phase of the project to help with demolition and site preparation of the two-block area on Fort Duquesne Avenue between Seventh and Ninth streets. This phase will contain between 180 and 220 residential units along with retail space. It is expected to break ground this summer for opening in early 2009. The entire project will take five to seven years.

The funding consists of $7 million in Redevelopment Assistance Capital Funds, $3 million in Housing and Finance Authority tax credits, $1 million in Growing Greener II funds to develop the underground garage and two mixed-use sites, another $1 million from the Growing Greener II industrial sites reuse program, and $300,000 from a state community conservation partnership program.

Retail will be primarily located on the ground floor of residential buildings, which are a mix of high-rise, mid-rise and townhouse units, according to Susan Eastridge, CEO of Concord Eastridge. “One goal is to attract a permanent downtown population,” she says. The initial residential units will be condos, most of which will be priced between $300,000 and $400,000, with some above and below that average.

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