Two prime-real estate mud pits have stakeholders in our city's most tourist-prone neighborhood livid.
A half dozen residents and advocates of Mount Washington implored CIty Council at a hearing yesterday to do something to make Craig Cozza either finish developments on Grandview Avenue or fence them properly until he can.
They can't be called developments at this point since nothing has happened for years. The larger project is in the 1400 block of Grandview. The smaller is at 341.
Resident Don Decker expressed "frustration that the city permits developers but does not oversee that the development proceeds."
Chris Beichner, executive director of Mount Washington's Community Development Corporation, said the lots are "unsightly and dangerous" because the fencing is not adequate and trespassers push it down. "Why not ask developers to meet a timeline? And then the city should enforce these timelines."
"More than 1 million visitors walk along Grandview Avenue" every year, he said. "We're disgusted and embarrassed" that they have to see Cozza's mud pits.
Frank Valenta, who lives near Sweetbriar, said he has asked for council's intervention six times since the "first mess" started. He said that was 10 years ago. "All of you council people have a stake in what we're here for," he said. "The view!
"It's a crime, and it's immoral, what one developer is allowed to get away with on a major street in Pittsburgh."
Cozza Enterprises' website claims it "strives to temper the visions of a new Pittsburgh with the city's neighborhood principle. Its philosophy is to meld creative new designs with the existing fabric of Pittsburgh's communities."
It's safe to say that mud, weeds and floppy fences don't meld with the fabric of Grandview, which is wow central in Pittsburgh.
"I know," Mr. Cozza said yesterday. "It has been a long time." He said he just got clear of a lawsuit with one of the residents. It held up the large project, near Sweetbriar Street, which is to be 37 condos, he said. The smaller one is 14 condos.
"All the plans are being finished up now and i really think we will be able to start the smaller project this year. I'm more confident we are going to get that financed, and we're probably going to put that project out to bid this spring.
"It's been a long hard road," he said. "You can't get financing when you have a lawsuit hanging over your head." He said he bought the larger property seven years ago. It has been three years since he got a building permit for the other one.
"Now is a difficult time to be building condos. We will do it as fast as we can. We would love to get it going. We had issues with neighbors" over both projects. They were against the projects getting started when it looked like they were going somewhere and now they are angry they have gone nowhere.
"It hasn't been fun," he said. "For what it's worth, i'm tired it has taken so long, too."
For what it's worth, Council isn't sure what it can do when a project is privately funded.Stakeholders want a law, pertinent to any developer, that would say, simply: Make sure you can finish in a certain time or lose the land.
In the meantime, said Coucilman Bruce Kraus, "let's enforce the laws we have: Require him to keep the property safe,"
A strong fence and weed clearing isn't too much to ask. Mr. Cozza has promised imminent action in the past. This is yet another wait-and-see thing... with another tourist season almost in bloom.