Way back in 2013, we told you about some demolition activity on the 4700 block of Chester Ave., where a vacant twin Victorian that somewhat resembled a Swiss chalet was getting torn down. This block is more famously known as the home of the Renaissance Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, a short and long term care facility, which was undergoing improvements at the time as well. The nursing home not only owned the demolition site, but it also owned a large swath of land that went all the way to the corner of 48th & Chester, land that has remained vacant to this day.
Given the tremendous growth of student housing in this area, it’s not surprising that the vacant site next to the facility is finally getting developed- if anything, it’s a bit of shock that it’s taken so long for this to occur. The project will rise four stories at the corner of 48th & Chester, and it will include 81 apartments and no commercial use. In addition to the housing, the project will also include the creation of 45 new surface parking spots. Actually, it’s not fair to consider these spots as being entirely new, since some of the site is currently used as a parking area. Still, the 40 legal spots that are associated with the facility are remaining and are technically separate from the new spots.
From what we can tell, the facility and the new building are owned by the same group, but the apartment building is a totally separate development, despite being on the same property. The apartments will be offered at market rate, ostensibly targeting grad students and recent graduates. Interestingly, the site where the building will rise was historically used as a mid-rise apartment building, so this project will reestablish this use after years of vacancy. The design, from JKRP Architects, will possess a more contemporary look than whatever stood here decades ago.
The project isn’t a guarantee to move forward, since it will require approval from the ZBA before it can proceed. That being said, the size and scale of the project seem to fit in with the area and there’s considerable amount of parking being provided- so we don’t think it should be terribly controversial. Of course, Squirrel Hill isn’t the easiest part of town to get a zoning variance, so anything is possible here. We’re rooting for a variance though, as it would be terrific to see this long vacant site finally get filled in.