In what's described as an unusual city-suburban partnership, Pittsburgh's Carrick and Overbrook communities have joined Economic Development South, the community development corporation for Baldwin Borough, Brentwood and Whitehall.
City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, who represents Carrick and Overbrook, and Gregory Jones, executive director of Economic Development South, pushed for the partnership because of the communities' shared interests along the Route 51 and Brownsville Road corridors.
After joining Economic Development South about a year ago, Mr. Jones said, he began working on marketing and development opportunities that would better link communities along the two corridors. He said that effort meant looking northward to city neighborhoods.
"At that time, the councilwoman was looking out" to the suburbs, Mr. Jones said.
Ms. Rudiak said she supported the partnership partly because her neighborhoods lack a community development corporation -- the type of economic development agency that has fueled growth in the city's East Liberty, Lawrenceville and Bloomfield-Garfield neighborhoods.
Community leaders hope that an expanded Economic Development South will wield more influence with state and federal agencies that fund transportation and development projects. They also hope that the communities will be able to undertake more meaningful projects together than they would be able to manage individually.
"The funding landscape is a lot different than it was five or 10 years ago," partly because state legislators have less money to donate to community groups, Ms. Rudiak said. She said government agencies and philanthropies want to invest money in high-impact projects benefiting many constituencies.
Redevelopment of a former grocery store on Brownsville Road is one possible project for Economic Development South. The site is in Carrick. The other side of the street is Brentwood.
The Baldwin, Brentwood and Whitehall borough governments make annual allocations to Economic Development South.
Ms. Rudiak has not asked her colleagues on city council to allocate money to Mr. Jones' group; such a request likely would spark debate in a city with perennial financial problems.
However, Ms. Rudiak said she and Economic Development South might be able to pool money for projects benefiting the Brownsville Road and Route 51 corridors. Under that scenario, she said, her grant money would pay for work in Carrick and Overbrook, while Economic Development South would fund the work elsewhere.
Julia Tomasic, president of Carrick Community Council, said involvement in Economic Development South has been "a nice way to get to know your neighbors" and brought recognition of common challenges.
"I think it's a really important partnership, and I think it's been a long time coming," she said.
Mr. Jones said he's working on a "corridor communities" branding campaign to reinforce the notion that Carrick, Overbrook, Baldwin, Brentwood and Whitehall all are part of something larger. He also envisions a website that markets the communities to prospective businesses and residents, perhaps emphasizing their suburban feel and easy access to Downtown.
"If gas is $10 a gallon, Cranberry doesn't look so good anymore," Mr. Jones said.
Joe Smydo: email@example.com or 412-263-1548.