On July 18th, 2016, ACTION-Housing hosted a ribbon-cutting for the Penn Mathilda Apartments to celebrate its opening at 4812 Penn Avenue. PA Congressman Mike Doyle, State Senator Jay Costa, State Senator Randy Vulakovich, Mayor William Peduto, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Councilwoman Deb Gross, and Judge Michael McCarthy all attended and shared their thoughts as a part of the celebration. The Penn Mathilda Apartments are ACTION-Housing’s newest affordable housing development with 39 affordable units, half with a preference for veterans, in Pittsburgh’s quickly changing East End. The first floor is 6,000 SF of commercial space divided into four storefronts intended for businesses that meet the needs of the neighborhood. Three of those spaces are now leased to arts and community-oriented uses.
The project is located at the gateway to the Penn Avenue Arts District on a property that had been blighted for years. It is well served by transit and biking and walking infrastructure and is close to many amenities such as commercial districts, food, parks, schools, and employment opportunities. It utilizes high quality, thoughtful design that is contextual with the surrounding buildings, but is also innovative. The high ceilings and large windows bring abundant natural light into the building. There is also an emphasis on incorporating art into the design; artists at Pittsburgh’s Glass Center created hand-made pendants for all tenant kitchens and local artist Ben Grubb fabricated the geometric balcony on the front of the building. There is a piece created by Adam Kenney and local glass artists in the lobby of the building as well as a custom bike rack designed by mossArchitects.
“This is exactly the type of project that we like to do – high quality housing in a great location with access to amenities and strong community partners,” said Lawrence Swanson, Executive Director of ACTION-Housing. “We hope that this will be a benchmark project for affordable housing in Pittsburgh.” The Bloomfield Garfield Corporation and Bloomfield Citizens Corporation, both neighborhood-based community organizations with long histories of collaborating with ACTION-Housing, were instrumental in providing support for this project and encouraging ACTION-Housing to create new affordable housing for veterans in their neighborhoods. From interfacing with the community to assisting in finding commercial tenants, this project could have not been possible without their support.
The $11M project was funded with a combination of Low Income Housing Tax Credits from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, tax credit equity from the National Equity Fund (NEF)/BNYMellon, and funds from the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh. Grants from the Heinz Endowments and the Richard King Mellon Foundation and a loan from Bridgeway Capital were used for development of the commercial space.
As is the case with the entirety of ACTION-Housing’s portfolio, the building is high performing from an energy perspective and conforms to the 2012 international energy code. The building is fully leased and there is a waiting list of over 200 people, clearly showing the need for housing of this type in a desirable area.
The development team includes mossArchitects, Repal Construction, Iams Consulting, Langan Engineering, and Building Performance Architects.