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PITTSBURGH-On Friday Gov. Ed Rendell announced the Department of Environmental Protection is providing $1 million to help remove asbestos and other hazardous construction materials from the former seven-story Nabisco bakery building in East Liberty. The bakery has been shuttered since 1998 and is being redeveloped by Walnut Capital Partners into a $100 million mixed-use community.

It is estimated that the asbestos removal process will cost $1.3 million. The bakery site is part of the 6.5-acre tract where Walnut Capital plans to break ground by fall on its mixed-use venture designed to house 223,000 sf of office space, 165,000 sf of retail, a 120-room hotel, a 1,200-car garage, 38 residential condominiums and a 38,810-sf fitness center. The project is expected to create 1,600 new jobs.

In a prepared statement, Rendell says, “We can grow our economy, create new job opportunities for our working men and women, and improve the environment by cleaning up these abandoned industrial sites.” He adds, “Making these sites shovel-ready helps Pennsylvania attract investors and stimulates development, which is great news for our communities and our residents.”

EPA Secretary Kathleen McGinty delivered the funding Friday to local officials. The funding is part of Rendell’s Growing Greener II initiative which is investing $625 million to clean up rivers and streams, protect natural areas, open spaces and working farms, and shore up key programs that are “designed to improve the quality of life and revitalize communities across the state,” McGinty says.

According to Walnut Capital principal Anthony Dolan, Bakery Square at Eastside will offer tenants “an exciting lifestyle center environment in an affluent and densely populated location, with a new urban aesthetic that integrates historic architecture with new construction.” Dolan points out that more than 350,000 people live within five miles of the site, and three of the region’s top employers are within two miles. They are UPMC Hospitals, the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.

Home Depot and Whole Foods have already established retail locations near the development site which is across the street from Mellon Park on Penn Avenue. Other national retailers within the neighborhood of Walnut Street and Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside are Ann Taylor, Williams & Sonoma, Pottery Barn, The Gap, Talbot’s, Banana Republic, Coach and Sephora. Trader Joe’s also plans to open a new store directly adjacent to Bakery Square, according to Dolan.

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