The Doughboy Apartments: Why it’s a big deal!

Over the past week LC has received some questions about the Lower Lawrenceville plan and the Doughboy Apartments. We’re here to provide answers! First question: what made the ribbon cutting ceremony for Doughboy Apartments so notable? This event served as a reminder that PLANSPARTNERS, and PROJECTS are important for place – and that alliteration seems to have a function in community-based blog posting.

PLANS. In 2009-10 the LC, in collaboration with the URA, the Studio for Spatial PracticeLawrenceville United, Lawrenceville Stakeholders, developers, residents, and merchants commissioned the Lola Plan. This plan made both broad-sweeping and specific recommendations about land use in Lower Lawrenceville- a rapidly changing part of our neighborhood.

One set of recommendations related to a specific parcel in the 3400 block of Butler Street, an underutilized surface parking lot sandwiched between two historic buildings. While not a detriment to the district, the parking lot certainly didn’t contribute to the bourgeoning vitality of the neighborhood. As a result, the plan recommended a new mixed-use development of three-to-five stories with retail or office use on the ground floors, housing or office above, and basement-leveling parking.

Enter the PARTNERS. In early 2011, Chip Desmone, principal at Desmone & Associates Architects (located in the Pennsylvania Bank Building directly across the street), approached LC’s executive director, Matthew Galluzzo, with an idea – an idea that would transform that underutilized parking lot into a model for urban infill development. The idea was simple: rip out page 47 of the Lola Plan (minus the faceless sepia-toned people) and actually build it.

Now, for those of you unfamiliar with community plans, this rarely happens. Plans are intended to occupy space on shelves. They make us look busy and sophisticated. They attract and collect dust. It is a surreal experience when someone comes and says “I want to develop that.” So what are you supposed to do when that happens? In this case, Matt Galluzzo shook Chip’s hand, applauded his willingness to comport with the plan, and made him a partner.

And so, Chip began producing conceptual designs. As the designs were refined, Chip carted Matt out to compel would-be advocates, funders and technical resources (read:partners). Some of these people bought into the vision and some actually added to it. These partners included Ralph A. Falbo, Inc (developer), Dollar Bank (funder), the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (funder), Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (funder), Senator Jim Ferlo (funder), Mistick Construction Company (contractor), et al. At some point, the LC acknowledged that the framework for a solid project had emerged and we didn’t need to participate on an intensive basis. That meant that we trusted our partners to complete a successful project. And, it worked.

The PROJECT emerges: The idea sketched out in the Lola Plan eventually became Doughboy Apartments.

Here are some key fun facts about the apartments:

  • A $14.1 million new construction development in Lower Lawrenceville. No other development in our commercial corridors that even approach that scale (unless you include the $630 Million Children’s Hospital up the street).
  • The project features 8,000 square feet of 1st floor commercial space that will accommodate a jeweler, a retail paint studio, and a full-scale restaurant. There’s some history in the neighborhood of developers pushing for 1st floor residential. Including 1st floor commercial represents both a risk for the developer and a genuine respect for the plan’s recommendations.
  • The upper floors include 45 two-bedroom rental apartment dwellings. And, here’s where this story gets awesome (so grab your popcorn). The developer, Ralph A. Falbo, Inc., pursued and secured volume cap bond financing for the project through the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, which enabled 20% of the apartments to be available to individuals at 50% of the area’s median income. That means that an individual can get a brand new 2-br apartment in Lower Lawrenceville (and can afford it) making less than $24,000 per year. Affordability has been a much-discussed issue in our region as a bona fide housing market has begun to emerge. Such financing ensures that a healthy portion of this important project will remain affordable for generations to come.
  • Parking for the development is accommodated both underneath the building and across the street. One of the parking facilities features a state-of-the-art storm-water management detention system, which was made possible by grant funding through the Lawrenceville Corporation and the URA. Yeah, that combined sewer overflow issue? We’re tackling that, too.

So, there you have it.  A 21st Century development for a 21st Century neighborhood. Cake for everyone. Enjoy.

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