He's Bringing ‘The Right Kind of Development’ to Pittsburgh

Trek Development and William Gatti are building mixed-income housing across the region.




photo by nate schuckers

 

If you look at the trickiest development projects around Pittsburgh, one name pops up again and again. The affordable-housing project at Mellon’s Orchard in East Liberty? Trek Development. The overhaul of the long-stalled Garden Theater on the North Side? Trek Development. Converting the South Side’s Brewhouse, long home to artists and squatters, into studios, a gallery and market-rate and affordable lofts? Trek Development.

“He is someone who we feel is doing the right kind of development that we want to see happen,” says Urban Redevelopment Authority Chairman Kevin Acklin of Trek founder, President and CEO William Gatti. “It’s not easy to do development in a way in which the community wants to see.”

But Trek Development’s very first project almost torpedoed the company before it got going. In the early 1990s, Gatti — then in his mid-20s — had just opened the doors to his company. The Indiana, Pa. native had worked briefly with another developer on a project that used affordable-housing tax credits. He thought to himself: “I can do this.”

​Gatti took on the conversion of a high school in Saltsburg, 30 miles east of Pittsburgh, into senior housing. “I fell for that idea of, ‘You can have this old school for almost nothing,’” he says today, sitting in his office in the redeveloped Century Building, Downtown. “But the conversion costs were immense.” It also took more than 18 months to lease; many residents viewed it as an institutional nursing home.

But the project also taught him a few valuable lessons. The first: Appeal to your market — older folks living in rural areas were nervous about living in a big apartment building. (His next project, cottage-style living with front porches for seniors, fared far better). The second lesson?

 “Pick your projects carefully,” Gatti says. “Just because it is there and it finds you doesn’t mean it’s a good project.”

Gatti’s definition of a good project extends well beyond the high-end condos in which many developers seem to specialize. Trek converted public housing in the Hill District into the affordable Dinwiddie Townhomes; adapted the 12-story Century Building to include restaurants, offices, residential units and a bike commuting center; and built affordable townhomes and an office building on the site of the former UPMC Braddock hospital.

Securing tax credits for affordable housing and historic projects has helped. So has marshaling support by listening to the community. “We try to spend a lot of time in neighborhoods,” he says. Community backing for the Mellon’s Orchard development, for example, stands in stark contrast to opposition to the Penn Plaza overhaul.

When it comes to the Garden Theater — a one-time icon with an ignoble three-decade stint as a porn theater before the URA bought it in 2007 — Trek has secured broad support for a mixed-use project of restaurants, retail and 56 residential units. Although the project is being held up by a lawsuit by an out-of-state property owner, Gatti remains confident it will come together. Still, he concedes he may have forgotten his own pick-you-projects-carefully advice.

“When you take on something that is one-in-a-million shot — an impossible shot — there is an appeal to that,” he says. “We can be the ones to solve this! But sometimes, you fail.”  
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Host an event in Pittsburgh’s urban sustainable homestead. Join a club for mushroom hunters. Tour a coal mine. Listen to some banjo music. We list our new favorite experiences, food, drink, personalities, stores, items and activities in the ’Burgh.
Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Fourteen years ago this month, the mighty Kinzua Viaduct met its match.
Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

The restaurant, run by Dinette’s Sonja J. Finn, boosts the dining experience at the Carnegie museums in Oakland.
Thrive: Smooth Moves While Getting Lost in the Music

Thrive: Smooth Moves While Getting Lost in the Music

FASTER Pittsburghʼs Hip Hop Cardio promises to get your workout into a groove.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Marc-André Fleury Pens Loving Farewell Letter to Pittsburgh

Marc-André Fleury Pens Loving Farewell Letter to Pittsburgh

In a letter for The Players' Tribune, Fleury recounts his 14-year career as a Pittsburgh Penguin and the bittersweet weeks leading up to his departure to Las Vegas.
Pittsburgh-Area Fireworks 2017: When & Where to Watch Them

Pittsburgh-Area Fireworks 2017: When & Where to Watch Them

You can get your fill of fireworks throughout the long holiday weekend, if you know where and when to look.
See The Tiny House with Room to Grow

See The Tiny House with Room to Grow

The housing company Module, a Pittsburgh start-up, creates an alternative housing model that grows in size as you grow in income.
Watch: Pittsburgh Penguins Video Tribute to Marc-André Fleury

Watch: Pittsburgh Penguins Video Tribute to Marc-André Fleury

With a tear in our eye, we bid the “Flower” Au Revoir.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Host an event in Pittsburgh’s urban sustainable homestead. Join a club for mushroom hunters. Tour a coal mine. Listen to some banjo music. We list our new favorite experiences, food, drink, personalities, stores, items and activities in the ’Burgh.
Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Fourteen years ago this month, the mighty Kinzua Viaduct met its match.
Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

The restaurant, run by Dinette’s Sonja J. Finn, boosts the dining experience at the Carnegie museums in Oakland.
Thrive: Smooth Moves While Getting Lost in the Music

Thrive: Smooth Moves While Getting Lost in the Music

FASTER Pittsburghʼs Hip Hop Cardio promises to get your workout into a groove.
Curling in Pittsburgh: ‘It's Basically Golf and Chess on Ice’

Curling in Pittsburgh: ‘It's Basically Golf and Chess on Ice’

On the eve of its largest annual event, the Pittsburgh Curling Club has plans to increase Pittsburgh’s appreciation for its intricate sport.
Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in June

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in June

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Marc-André Fleury Pens Loving Farewell Letter to Pittsburgh

Marc-André Fleury Pens Loving Farewell Letter to Pittsburgh

In a letter for The Players' Tribune, Fleury recounts his 14-year career as a Pittsburgh Penguin and the bittersweet weeks leading up to his departure to Las Vegas.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Pusadee's Garden Will Close at End of Year (But Not Forever)

Pusadee's Garden Will Close at End of Year (But Not Forever)

Look for some big changes at the Upper Lawrenceville restaurant, which is expected to shutter for at least a year.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Read on for some under-the-radar ideas on how you and the kids can survive a rainy day this summer.

Comments


High-Wire Acts at Carnegie Science Center

High-Wire Acts at Carnegie Science Center

The North Shore landmark's new ropes course is a draw for adults and youths alike.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Pittsburgh Pirates Looking for Relief from Their Bullpen

Pittsburgh Pirates Looking for Relief from Their Bullpen

The just-completed, pivotal 10-game stretch began and ended the same way for the Pittsburgh Pirates –– with no one having an answer for the faltering bullpen.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Make the Cut with Jonathan Moran Woodworks

Make the Cut with Jonathan Moran Woodworks

The Strip District-based woodworker's cutting boards can be custom made with the wood of your choice.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Buckle Up ... Again, as Cars 3 Hits Theaters

Buckle Up ... Again, as Cars 3 Hits Theaters

Reviews of "Cars 3" and "47 Meters Down," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Brewing Up Romance: A Couple Comes Together over Beer

Brewing Up Romance: A Couple Comes Together over Beer

See how this couple used their love of beer and breweries to create their special moments.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Blooming: Pittsburgh Botanic Garden Hosts Town & Country Tour

Blooming: Pittsburgh Botanic Garden Hosts Town & Country Tour

From a forest of Japanese maples to a rocky urban sanctuary, the annual tour covers 14 very different gardens across the East End.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Visit Thiel College for a Summer BBQ

Visit Thiel College for a Summer BBQ

On three days this summer, the college will host visit days for prospective students.

Comments

Edit Module