Top of the heap
A 238-acre former industrial dumping ground in Pittsburgh is turning into a sought-after residential neighborhood. Summerset at Frick Park is a $250 million public-private project that is converting a tundra-like landscape of slag into a neighborhood of 700 new homes.
For decades, the hillside near the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, just five miles from downtown Pittsburgh, was notable for just one thing — the 20-story mountain of slag heaped on top. From the 1920s to the early 1970s, steel companies dumped more than 20 million tons of the molten steel byproduct there, creating a barren, lunar-like landscape.
Former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy recognized that the site’s proximity to downtown, as well as to medical and higher educational facilities in the nearby Oakland community, would make it a sought-after place to live. Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) purchased the land from a private entity in 1995 for $3.8 million and attracted a group of investors, developers and builders — Summerset Land Development Associates (SLDA), led by locally based The Rubinoff Co. — and gave the group exclusive rights to create a master plan for the site.
About $60 million in public funds have been used for site preparation, water and sewer line installation and road construction. SLDA purchases the lots from URA and sells them to homebuilders. City officials estimate that they will recoup about $6.3 million annually in local income and property taxes when the project is completed in 2011.