In 1906, a five story white building was constructed on the corner of Forbes and Miltenberger Avenues in the Uptown neighborhood of Pittsburgh by and for the Thomas R. Mackey Baking Company In 2013, it became the Mackey Lofts, a 43 unit affordable and supportive apartment building.
The intervening years were not easy on the building. After its stint as a bakery, it was eventually used as a moving and storage warehouse until 2011. When those tenants moved out the old biscuit factory had started to show its age.
Part of the roof was missing and pigeons took up residence on the top floors. Windows were boarded up, and the building was in a general state of disrepair. It became an eye sore on one of the most well-travelled thoroughfares in the city.
For ACTION-Housing, it was an opportunity.
The Mackey Building was ideally located on the Forbes/Fifth corridor in Uptown. It was also close to the Center for Hearing and Deaf Services and the Pittsburgh Mercy Health system, both of which would end up becoming social service partners with ACTION-Housing for this development.
The Allegheny County Department of Health and Human Services pointed out to ACTION-Housing the need for decent and accessible housing for people who are deaf/deaf blind and or hard of hearing. Eventually, of the 43 units, ten would be equipped with special accessibility features for that population, with another eight for people with mobility impairments.
ACTION-Housing also looked to provide housing for local workers with moderate incomes. Close to Downtown, Oakland, and major Uptown employers, the Mackey would provide an affordable option to live close to work, which is proven to improve the real affordability of a housing unit.
After receiving an allocation of $11 million in Low Income Housing Tax Credits from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, BNY Mellon and the National Equity Fund, Inc. invested in the development by purchasing those credits. The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh also provided ACTION-Housing with a gap loan for the development.
The planned development received strong support from the Uptown Partners of Pittsburgh, and ACTION-Housing was ready to begin construction.
Putting a development team together that consisted of ACTION-Housing, 40/80 Architecture and Alliance Construction Group of Ohio, LLC a minority business enterprise comprised of Key Construction Services, LLC and Mistick Construction, Inc., the team began the year long process to turn an abandoned warehouse into 43 homes.
During construction, the group was able to achieve 35.7 percent women and minority business enterprise participation, strongly beating the stated goal of 25 percent, and made good on a promise to hire local workers.
Over the course of the next year, the corner of Forbes and Miltenberger was a flurry of activity. Exterior improvements were visible to the thousands who commute past the building. Scaffolding went up. The brick façade and huge arched windows were restored to their original brilliance. But inside, the change was most pronounced. The pigeons were, of course, evicted. The roof, of course, repaired.
The large open spaces turned into rows of rooms. The fifth floor was converted into lofts. The second floor was outfitted with special security and accessibility features for people who are deaf/deaf-blind/and or hard of hearing. The fourth floor housed the rooms with accessible features for people with mobility impairments, as were the laundry room and common areas, while all of the rooms were made entirely visitable.
At last, about a year after construction began, around 90 people, including elected officials, funders, investors, public agencies, community members, members of the development team, residents, and others involved in the Mackey gathered in a packed community room to celebrate a dedication, cut the ribbon, and tour the building.
Most of the speakers discussed “vision.” It took a lot of foresight to look at an abandoned building, ripe with decay, in a neighborhood that was too often skipped over for redevelopment, and see the potential that ACTION-Housing and all of its partners were able to see.
Now, the corner of Forbes and Miltenberger has been brought back to life, and most importantly, the people who live in the Mackey have a safe, decent, sustainable, affordable, and accessible place to call home.