Putting Penn Plaza & LG’s plan in context: CMU Tech4Society and East Liberty Photo Project

Will LG Realty’s development plan for Penn Plaza have a positive social and economic impact on the City of Pittsburgh? The below data from CMU Tech4Society and photos from East Liberty Photo Project argue that it won’t.

A few months ago, CMU Tech4Society created a series of maps and infographics to show the larger context of displacement that Penn Plaza is a part of. The group’s research found that displacement disproportionately affects Black and low-income people.

Now, these infographics have been adjusted for inflation. The new graphics make it clear that rents are rising in East Liberty at a higher rate than inflation can account for.

Continue reading “Putting Penn Plaza & LG’s plan in context: CMU Tech4Society and East Liberty Photo Project”


Penn Plaza Public Hearing: Say NO to LG’s luxury development

Penn Plaza Matters

On May 15, the Planning Commission will hear public comment on LG’s new development plan for the Penn Plaza site. Tell them to vote NO on this plan, which will create HIGHER RENTS, MORE BLIGHT, MORE SEGREGATION, & MORE DISPLACEMENT.

PLEASE NOTE: This is also election day, so make sure you vote that day!

After demolishing the homes of over 500 long-time East Liberty residents, LG Realty’s proposed redevelopment includes nearly 1,000,000 sq ft of luxury retail and office space, and ZERO affordable housing. On top of that, they are trying to shuffle a rubber-stamped “community process” through as neighborhood consent, when hundreds of residents have showed up to meetings to voice opposition.

The City has refused to reschedule the hearing so it wouldn’t fall on election day. This is another example of the “public process” being broken. Come out and MAKE YOUR VOICES HEARD!

WHERE: 200 Ross Street, 1st floor
WHEN: Tuesday, May 15 at 2 p.m.

CAN’T MAKE IT? Write a quick letter to the Planning Commission asking them to VOTE NO on LG’s luxury plan, and to create a legacy of housing justice. You can use our form letter here OR write your own letter. Correspondence can be emailed to dolores.hanna@pittsburghpa.gov or dropped off or mailed to 200 Ross Street, Suite 309, Pittsburgh, PA 15219. (Talking points for letters can be found here.)

From the City Planning Commission’s website: Public testimony is welcome during Planning Commission hearings and is limited to 3 minutes. No advance registration is required, but interpreters for the hearing impaired will be provided with 4 days’ notice by contacting Richard Meritzer at 412-255-2102. Written testimony may also be sent in advance of any Commission hearing.

RSVP on Facebook

Tell the Planning Commission to vote NO on LG’s Development Plan

We’ve made it easy for you to ask the City of Pittsburgh Planning Commission to vote “NO” on LG’s development plan for luxury office and retail at the Penn Plaza site. Simply scroll down and click the button to input your name & send your letter. (Don’t worry, you can edit the letter before sending if you wish.)

To make an even greater impact, you can write your own letter to the Planning Commission and email it to dolores.hanna@pittsburghpa.gov with “Pennley Park South Development Plan” in the subject line. THANK YOU!

Dear City of Pittsburgh Planning Commission,

I am writing to ask you to vote “NO” on LG Realty’s redevelopment plan for the former Penn Plaza site (Pennley Park South). This plan fails to meet many of your criteria, namely 922.11.B.3 c), d), & i).

In preparation for this development, LG displaced hundreds of low-income residents out of their walkable, high-amenity, high public-transit- access neighborhood — many to locations with poor amenities and transit, & with much higher concentrations of poverty. A retail & office project with no identified anchor tenant in a neighborhood with high retail & office vacancy does nothing to demonstrate positive “social and economic impact” (criterion c). LG should demonstrate that their project would create an actual, measurable, and non-speculative positive social impact that more than offsets the social harm they have caused.

Furthermore, LG’s mass eviction of residents of color and low-income tenants and demolition of affordable housing has damaged the city’s “public health, safety, morals, comfort or general welfare” (criterion d). Without addressing this damage, LG’s new plan — part of a deal made behind closed doors without the input of displaced residents — contributes to Pittsburgh’s history of housing policies and planning decisions that have strengthened patterns of racial inequity.

Finally, LG claims to benefit the community by contributing less than half of their tax subsidy to fund “replacement” “affordable” housing units, but their definition of affordability is far beyond the means of displaced Penn Plaza residents, & many who have lived in the neighborhood for decades. Some of these units would be far from East Liberty and its amenities. The plan does not identify the other sources that would contribute to this “replacement” housing, how likely these sources would materialize, & how much LG would contribute to each unit. Without concrete evidence, the plans for “affordable” housing are entirely speculative. Please remember what happened with the plans for affordable units recently on the Penguins’ Lower Hill site.

Also, since it does not address the city’s affordable housing gap of nearly 20,000 units, this plan squarely contradicts many of Pittsburgh’s “plans and policy documents” (criterion i), including OnePGH, P4, and many recommendations of the Affordable Housing Task Force.

It is time for the city to live up to the pronouncement of the Mayor’s office that “if it’s not for all, it’s not for us.”

Send your letter now

“Penn Plaza Lives”: Displaced Residents Fight For Affordable Housing in Pittsburgh


On March 31, 2017, the last residents were evicted from Penn Plaza. The affordable housing complex was demolished three months later. But the story is far from over for former tenants, as they demonstrated at a public meeting on LG Realty’s plans to redevelop the site.

Hours before the March 21st public meeting started, people were unsure whether it was still happening. A snow day had closed schools and businesses throughout Pittsburgh, including Eastminster Presbyterian Church, which was hosting the meeting.

The snow and the confusion, plus a lack of publicity from the city, didn’t bode well for attendance. But despite everything, over 200 former residents and housing rights activists filled the room by 6pm, chanting “no plan about us, without us.”

They’re angry that LG Realty tore down affordable housing to replace it with luxury development. They’re sick of closed door negotiations between LG Realty and the City of Pittsburgh. Most of all, they just want to be able to move back to East Liberty. It’s where their family and friends are, it’s where their doctors are, and it has access to public transportation and grocery shopping.

LG Realty has been trying for years to replace affordable housing at the site with something more profitable. Every step of the way, angry residents and concerned citizens have worked with the city to stop that from happening.

In February, LG submitted its latest plans for the site to the City Planning Commission. The city needs to hold two public meetings on this revised amended preliminary land development plan (RAPLDP) before the planning commission can vote on it.

March 21st was the first of these two public meetings.

Read the rest of “‘Penn Plaza Lives’: Displaced Residents Fight For Affordable Housing in Pittsburgh” on Medium.

There Are Black People In The Future: Community OpenMic Response

There are black people in the futureFriends and neighbors of East Liberty, join us to show support for this billboard message by Alisha Wormsley. Yes, the billboard is coming back up, but that’s not enough! We want to build our own future; we are tired of living and dying by developers’ whims.

Acknowledging that black people exist should NEVER be a controversial message. As advocates for housing justice, we recognize that the complaint against this billboard by East Liberty Development Inc is part of their ongoing efforts to gentrify our neighborhood. The same efforts that got the Penn Plaza apartments torn down, the same pressure that got the Shadow Lounge closed. And yet, ELDI claims to speak for “individuals of color” in the neighborhood. This is unacceptable.

Our collective outcry got the billboard put back up, but why should we protest only after something we love is destroyed? Resident voices, black voices, working class voices need to be centered in decisions about what happens to our neighborhood BEFORE things like this happen. We deserve a real community development organization — for us, by us. So join us on Friday as we fight for this!

This event is a place for you to speak, share art, and share stories related to our cause. Please contact us for more info at pennplazacoalition@gmail.com.


Support alisha b wormsley, artist of THERE ARE BLACK PEOPLE IN THE FUTURE, at her website.

And in case you haven’t seen it yet, here is the full statement from ELDI about the billboard:

April 6, 2018

The Board and Staff of ELDI are quite aware of the social media firestorm precipitated by the removal of the most recent message on Jon Rubin’s billboard project in East Liberty. Previously, ELDI provided technical assistance and financial support to Jon Rubin in his efforts to open first the Waffle Shop and then Conflict Kitchen in East Liberty. We also provided financial support to Mr. Rubin to structurally modify and convert an abandoned billboard into his current message board. We understood and supported his efforts to use public art to spark community dialogue. It’s unfortunate that the recent turn of events has sparked accusations of racism towards Eve Picker, the property owner, who invested in the East Liberty community twenty years ago when others were unwilling to do so. She acquired and historically renovated the Liberty Bank building which had been vacant for many years, had several large holes in the roof, rotten floor joists, and was home to only pigeons.

It is also frustrating that this firestorm started when we sent an email to both Mr. Rubin and Ms. Picker asking about the meaning of the message in question and suggesting that the message was ambiguous and could be considered tone deaf given the gentrification debate underway in the neighborhood and the need to bring back the displaced Penn Plaza residents. We never demanded that the message be taken down, but simply asked how long it would remain. No one in the neighborhood knows why or when messages are changed, who the authors are or the context of the messages. Ironically, our email was prompted by concerns raised by individuals of color who were confused about the context and intent of the message. Perhaps, a sign should be affixed to the billboard directing people to a website that will contain background on all messages going forward.

Lastly, personal attacks are never productive or helpful and do not foster open dialogue or discussion, much less understanding. There always have been and always will be people of color in East Liberty. The 1999 and 2010 East Liberty Community Vision Plans delineated and celebrated East Liberty as an open, inclusive, and welcoming community; and ELDI is committed to East Liberty being an inclusive community in every area, and will continue to work towards maintaining housing, employment opportunities and amenities for all residents, regardless of their race, ethnicity, age, economic status or any other demographic.

Mayor Peduto: Stand up for housing justice now [ACTION]

Penn Plaza letter to Mayor Peduto

Penn Plaza Support and Action just launched a letter writing campaign to encourage the mayor to stand up for housing justice at Penn Plaza and in neighborhoods throughout the city.

PPSA is calling on him to take three actions:

  1. Purchase Penn Plaza through eminent domain (as the city is currently doing on Banksville Rd)
  2. Revamp the city’s “Public Process” to include our most vulnerable residents
  3. Enact the affordable housing policy solutions that have been suggested by his experts

The group is asking all folks to send these letters so we can further fair housing in Pittsburgh, stabilize our gentrifying neighborhoods, and directly benefit the quality of life for existing residents. We have a form letter that you can easily send. You can also customize the letter before sending it.

Send a letter

Looking for more actions you can take to help Penn Plaza residents? Find out how you can get involved.