PITTSBURGH, PA (July 7, 2016) The gift of 660 acres of parkland to the City by Pittsburgh Development Group II has been finalized, enabling the creation of the largest park in Pittsburgh.
A month ago the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh authorized payment of $5 million to secure the property, which is far below the market value of the mineral rights, the value of the property, and the $15 million Pittsburgh Development Group II had invested in the site. The closing announced today completes the transaction, which came after negotiations between the development group and Mayor Peduto’s Chief of Staff and URA board chairman Kevin Acklin.
"This tremendous gift – one of the largest ever to Pittsburgh or any other city -- is a perfect way to further celebrate the City's 200th birthday. It will preserve hundreds of acres of untouched urban forest for generations, and underscore the City's ongoing work to preserve and protect our environment," Mayor Peduto said.
"When Mr. Betters first approached us about this generous donation he told me he was inspired by the legacy of his daughter Roxsan, who died of cancer, and that reminded me of the great City parks associated with two strong women, Mary Schenley and Helen Clay Frick. To honor his generosity I plan to dedicate this park in her honor," the Mayor said.
Charles J. Betters is the principal owner of Pittsburgh Development Group II.
"Pittsburgh Development Group under Chuck Betters' leadership is honored to be part of this historic, philanthropic action on behalf of the city and its residents," said William Newlin, the largest minority owner of the development group whose minority partners were also involved in the gift. "We are further proud to be part of Pittsburgh's national leadership in preserving our natural resources and Pittsburgh's emergence as a new renaissance city."
Now that the sale has been finalized the Mayor will form a working group – including Citiparks, environmental groups, foundations and others – to plan for the park's usage and preservation, and recommend ways to honor Roxsan Betters' legacy.
It is undetermined when the parklands will be open to the public. In addition to parklands, the URA plans to work with stakeholders to study the feasibility of a future housing development on a small portion of the site in an appropriate part of the land.
The property is approximately 660 acres, with 642 acres in the City of Pittsburgh and 18 acres in Baldwin Borough. Together with the land in Baldwin, the site will be the largest contiguous park in Pittsburgh. (Frick Park is 644 acres.)
City officials are meeting with Baldwin Borough officials next week, with the expectation that the borough's portion of the site will be left as parkland.
Studies of the site indicate 5,825 linear feet of perennial streams, 2,899 linear feet of intermittent streams and 5,780 linear feet of ephemeral streams. There are several deep valleys and a waterfall on one of the streams. The palisades on the site offer views of the river below.
The Hays site was previously owned by J&L Steel. Pittsburgh Development Group II purchased the property through a series of acquisitions in 2003. It was master planned for a mixed use development consisting of residential and commercial development. Original plans included a thoroughbred racetrack and casino but had an alternative plan to replace that portion of the site with additional residential development if a racetrack was not permitted.