Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

What Aggie Brose & Rick Swartz Want You to Know about Their Neighborhood

Beginning this month, Patrick Doyle introduces people who are making a difference behind the scenes in Pittsburgh. He begins with Bloomfield- Garfield Corporation neighborhood advocates Aggie Brose and Rick Swartz.




photo by tom m johnson

 

After decades of stagnation, the East End faces a new problem: housing prices are outpacing the wallets of longtime residents. Housing prices are up nearly 370 percent in central Lawrenceville since 2000, while the owners of East Liberty’s Penn Plaza apartments are paying low-income renters to move so they can replace it with a higher-end complex. Even ketchup heir Christopher Heinz told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette he found some prices in Shadyside to be “out of his price range.” Not surprisingly, a recent study showed the city lacks 21,000 affordable housing units for low-income residents. Hence the question: How can Pittsburgh manage neighborhood revival without letting capitalism stampede working-class residents?

One answer can be found on the once-moribund stretch of Penn Avenue that bisects Garfield and Bloomfield/Friendship. For 40 years, the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation — led by longtime neighborhood advocates Rick Swartz and Aggie Brose — has pushed a different vision. While passersby might see a neighborhood ignored by developers, Bloomfield-Garfield is choosing affordability and community over glitz. “We don’t think that Garfield has to be the next market-rate housing area,” says Swartz.

“Our goal is to engage with you if you want to develop in the community.”

For the BGC, that has meant playing an active role in creating an affordable, interesting neighborhood. It manages the Penn Avenue Arts Initiative, which aims to attract artists and galleries; the group also has built or renovated more than 200 homes, turning renters into homeowners. The newest crown jewel is the nearly completed Penn-Mathilda Apartments, a three-story, mixed-use building that affordable-housing nonprofit ACTION-Housing Inc. is constructing at the entrance to the neighborhood. The 39 one- and two-bedroom apartments upstairs are reserved for working Pittsburghers who earn between 60 to 80 percent of city median income (veterans also get preference). Those wages, ranging from $31,000-$42,000 a year, once provided stability for a cook or mechanic who worked in the East End to live nearby. Not now.

Lawrenceville’s mossArchitects designed the building, which is both energy-efficient and welcoming — proving that affordable housing can look good, if done thoughtfully. Four ground-floor commercial spaces fit into the broader context of Penn Avenue, providing a location for a restaurant, two retail outlets and community space. ACTION-Housing included parking for residents’ cars and bicycles, as well as a location on popular bus routes. “We’re hoping to facilitate a car-free life,” says Lena Andrews, a planning and development officer for ACTION-Housing. “We’re thinking about the cost of living, literally.”

Building affordable housing isn’t easy — the $12 million for construction costs was met with foundation funding, tax credits and a loan from the Urban Redevelopment Authority — but the need is enormous. Despite little advertising, ACTION-Housing received more than 200 applications in a month. As city leaders who make up Pittsburgh’s new Affordable Housing Task Force discuss the problem, no doubt they’ll look at other cities for models, but they’d also be wise to look to the work of the BGC.

And the area, by the way, is rebounding with completion of the first stage of the Penn Avenue overhaul. Sidewalks have been poured, traffic again flows in two directions, a tea shop, pizza place and Aldi grocery have opened, and restaurants are under construction. “It’s all about making our community a real mix of people,” Swartz says. “Penn-Mathilda is an example of pushing the envelope a little further.”
 

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

The Story Behind Those Colorful Globes Downtown

The “Cool Globes: Hot Ideas for a Cooler Planet” art exhibit intends to encourage passersby to consider the effects of climate change.

Grandmother's Wedding Accessories Timely for Today

The matriarch of the family is the perfect place to look for a meaningful something old.

The Fight for 15 Pays Off: AHN to Raise Its Minimum Wage

Allegheny Health Network is the latest employer in the region to raise its company-wide minimum wage.

Hungry for Something Good, Pittsburgh? Where We're Eating in July

We eat for a good cause with Leo's Sunday Sauce, wonder what took us so long to get to Lola Bistro and hit the main menu at Muddy Waters. Plus, we go offline with Dave Anoia of DiAnoia's Eatery.

Lidia Bastianich Shares Her American Dream in a New Memoir

PM Dining Critic Hal B. Klein talks to the celebrated chef, restauranteur, television host and author about grandparents, foraging and the plight of refugees seeking a better life in the United States.

They Prayed to Our Lady of the Roller Coaster

Two local priests –– riding the Phantom's Revenge to promote Catholic Day at Kennywood –– create a viral video. Along the way they deliver a most unusual sermon.

The Homestead Artist with a Worldwide Reputation

Jesse Best maintains a presence in New York and Tokyo. But, he says, Pittsburgh has been 10 times better to him than any other place.

The 400-Word Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

The fifth "Jurassic Park" film is fun. Empty, somewhat disappointing fun.

Local Brewery Resolves Trademark Dispute With Sass

After Pitt ordered Voodoo Brewery to stop production of its "H2P American IPA," the company relaunched the beer under a new name.

Sprout Fund Passes the Torch

50 Pittsburghers to receive $1,000 Legacy Award to carry on the nonprofit’s vision.

Pirates Can Be Show Stoppers if They Follow Brault's Lead

A Broadway musical about the life and times of the Pittsburgh Pirates? The idea might not be as farfetched as you think.

Pirates Pitcher Steven Brault has Pretty Good Pipes Too

The Pirates reliever sang the national anthem Tuesday night before the Bucs hosted the Brewers at PNC Park. It's worth watching, especially for his teammates' reaction at the end.

Crime in the South Side Has Fallen Dramatically

Illegal activity plunged along East Carson Street following several new security measures.

Fired by City Paper — Charlie Deitch Won’t Be Silenced

The former editor of the Pittsburgh alt-weekly is creating his own "more inclusive" publication.

Czechoslovakia was Forged in Pittsburgh

Rick Sebak details how the establishment of the European nation began with a meeting Downtown.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


The Story Behind Those Colorful Globes Downtown

The Story Behind Those Colorful Globes Downtown

The “Cool Globes: Hot Ideas for a Cooler Planet” art exhibit intends to encourage passersby to consider the effects of climate change.

Comments

The Fight for 15 Pays Off: AHN to Raise Its Minimum Wage

The Fight for 15 Pays Off: AHN to Raise Its Minimum Wage

Allegheny Health Network is the latest employer in the region to raise its company-wide minimum wage.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
What Anthony Bourdain Meant to Me

What Anthony Bourdain Meant to Me

Reflecting on the loss of a person so many of us admired.

Comments

Northeast Kitchen Brings Northeastern Chinese Cuisine to Pittsburgh

Northeast Kitchen Brings Northeastern Chinese Cuisine to Pittsburgh

Chef You Shan Pei comes to Pittsburgh after cooking in Flushing, N.Y. restaurants for 18 years.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Five Best Spots to Get Pittsburgh-Themed Merchandise

The Five Best Spots to Get Pittsburgh-Themed Merchandise

Looking to show off your Pittsburgh love? Get your favorite city printed on basically anything at these local shops.

Comments

7 Best Pittsburgh-Area Places You Should Try for Doughnuts

7 Best Pittsburgh-Area Places You Should Try for Doughnuts

When you're craving the real deal, these local spots consistently churn out the very best.

Comments


The Other Moving Documentary About a Curious Pittsburgher

The Other Moving Documentary About a Curious Pittsburgher

In "Will Work For Views," the video artist and musician Weird Paul is a little bit Dr. Demento and a little bit Mister Rogers.

Comments

Man, There's a Lot Going on at Zone 28

Man, There's a Lot Going on at Zone 28

The relaunched entertainment complex in Harmarville is casting a wide net, with some success.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Pirates Can Be Show Stoppers if They Follow Brault's Lead

Pirates Can Be Show Stoppers if They Follow Brault's Lead

A Broadway musical about the life and times of the Pittsburgh Pirates? The idea might not be as farfetched as you think.

Comments

Olczyk Embraces Awareness, Understanding to Fight Cancer

Olczyk Embraces Awareness, Understanding to Fight Cancer

Olczyk found out last August, in the wake of a six-hour surgery that removed 14 inches of his colon and “a tumor the size of my fist,” the severity of what he was suddenly confronting.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

The 400-Word Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

The fifth "Jurassic Park" film is fun. Empty, somewhat disappointing fun.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: Won't You Be My Neighbor?

The 400-Word Review: Won't You Be My Neighbor?

The documentary about Fred Rogers' work and philosophy inspires even more wonder about the television legend who called Pittsburgh home.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Grandmother's Wedding Accessories Timely for Today

Grandmother's Wedding Accessories Timely for Today

The matriarch of the family is the perfect place to look for a meaningful something old.

Comments

Toppers That Take the Cake

Toppers That Take the Cake

Over the traditional bride and groom standing on top of your cake? Try some of these different ideas for cake toppers.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
PPG Paints Unveils 2019 Color of the Year: Night Watch

PPG Paints Unveils 2019 Color of the Year: Night Watch

Paying homage to the restorative power of nature, this deep green shade is one to watch in the coming year. Here’s how to use it on your walls.

Comments

Five Pittsburgh-Based Etsy Shops You Need to Know About

Five Pittsburgh-Based Etsy Shops You Need to Know About

From furniture to wall art and beyond, these local makers created one-of-a-kind pieces for your home or office.

Comments