East End residents and organizations have worked hard to create a Penn Avenue business district that's small-scale, vibrant, and welcoming. But a new development proposal at the former Babyland site (corner of Penn and Negley) threatens a prominent gateway to the neighborhoods of Garfield, Friendship, East Liberty, and Highland Park.
To complete the project, which falls into the "Local Neighborhood Commercial" zoning district, the building owner is requesting five variances – or exceptions – to the zoning code, which aims to protect the district's unique character and residents' quality of life.
The proposed 6,787-square-foot AutoZone store and 16-space parking lot would create a long, flat, "big-box" facade with no entry on Penn Ave. and no display windows at pedestrians' eye level. Not only is this plan not up to zoning code, it's not in line with the character of our neighborhood.
Five community groups have joined forces to oppose these zoning variances, and we need your support to help cover our legal fees.
What We Need
We offered the developer, LG Realty, the opportunity to meet with residents and discuss these plans face-to-face. Instead, they ignored our requests and hired a lawyer.
The zoning hearing took place on July 17. (Thanks to all who attended and provided testimony! A full story appears in the August issue of The Bulletin.) We're trying to raise a $5,000 fund for legal fees and other costs so we can be prepared for appeals.
If we have any money left over, we will invest it into a zoning advocacy fund for future issues that arise in two or more of these neighborhoods (Garfield, Friendship, East Liberty, and Highland Park).
Our neighborhoods are at a turning point, and this proposal is a step in the wrong direction. If LG Realty's big-box project is approved, it could set a dangerous precedent that could have a ripple effect on the rest of Penn Ave. and neighboring commercial districts.
We want pedestrian-friendly streets. We want stores that serve the needs of nearby residents. We want you, our neighbors, to help us think big, not big-box. Please help us to "keep it neighborhood" by making a tax-deductible contribution today.
Other Ways You Can Help
We need all the support we can get. Even if you're not able to donate, please share this Indiegogo campaign on social media or email a link to family and friends. Also, let us know what you'd like to see at the Babyland site by using the hashtag #BabylandGrowsUp.
Thanks so much for contributing and/or spreading the word!
Above: Together, we can imagine something better for Babyland. Dancers: Texture Contemporary Ballet. Photo by John Colombo Photography.
Above: Why not a cozy corner bistro when Babyland grows up? Photo by John Colombo Photography. Edited by Patrick Burke.
East Liberty Development, Inc.
Friendship Community Group
Highland Park Community Development Corporation
Highland Park Community Council
- Penn Avenue Corridor Master Plan
Five-Year Strategic Plan for the Penn Avenue Corridor, 2014-2019
Pittsburgh City Paper: "Residents worry a proposed AutoZone on high-profile Babyland site could jeopardize neighborhood rebound"
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "East End retail plan draws opposition from community groups"