As the plans to develop the area around the Mt. Lebanon T station move forward, we thought it would be a good idea to make sure everyone is on the same page about what transit oriented development is. We asked Commercial Districts Manager Eric Milliron to provide an overview. Plans for a public meeting soliciting resident input were still in the works at press time.
What is Transit Oriented Development (TOD)? TOD projects take advantage of mass transit nodes such as the light rail platform along Washington Road in Uptown Mt. Lebanon, or in the case of East Liberty, a committed busway. TOD projects are generally high-density, mixed-use developments that can include residential, office and retail square footage. An area’s local market will dictate what the exact mix is. A TOD is planned around the concept that many residents and visitors to the complex will use the convenient mass transit, reducing automobile congestion. These projects are not new. Seattle, San Francisco, Washington DC, and more recently, Pittsburgh are all embarking on TOD projects to take advantage of our mass transit network.
Where in Mt. Lebanon might a TOD be located? Mt. Lebanon’s Economic Development Council plans to develop the area above and behind the Washington Road T station. Mt. Lebanon owns the air rights and has been working with Port Authority of Allegheny County to explore developing this asset. A transit revitalization improvement district study and a preliminary engineering study have been completed for this location. View these reports at www.mtlebanon.org. Any site that is close to a major transit stop has the potential to be a TOD.
Why is TOD important to Mt. Lebanon? Mt. Lebanon is a built-out community. This means that our town has few open-space development opportunities and instead must rely on infill development (i.e. SpringHill Suites Marriott project) and high-density TOD style projects. Both allow for new residential and commercial expansion, thereby expanding our tax base and providing new customers to our existing businesses.
Are there other TOD projects in the Pittsburgh area? Yes. East Liberty on the city’s East End is embarking on a major TOD project around the East Busway. Our neighbors in Castle Shannon are also close to breaking ground on a platform development by their light rail station.
What will Mt. Lebanon’s TOD project be composed of? The market will determine that. However, it is a safe bet that there will be a mix of uses including residential, commercial office and public amenities. The municipality’s economic development council has created an exploratory committee. This committee is working to understand the current market demands for Uptown Mt. Lebanon and how to broadcast those demands to a national audience of developers. This will be accomplished by issuing a Request for Proposals (RFP). Part of the RFP is to lay out what the community’s expectations/principles are in regards to a development.