Burgess calls for specific plans for Pittsburgh's struggling neighborhoods

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Councilman Ricky Burgess today introduced legislation that would provide funding to create comprehensive community plans for the city’s distressed neighborhoods, a move that he believes will spur development.

Mr. Burgess said he wants to ride the coattails of the success of the Larimer Plan, a wrap-around blueprint that took into account employment, social services and education in addition to housing. The plan was developed for the community’s application for a highly competitive $30 million federal grant.

Mr. Burgess believes that creating the plan made the neighborhood more attractive to investors. A $100 million project that includes mixed-income housing and mixed-use buildings is now slated for the area, though the city has yet to get word on the grant.

The councilman believes the success could be replicated in other city neighborhoods. His legislation lays out criteria for which neighborhoods would be targeted and would create committees that include community members, city council members and planning department staff.

“When these communities do this type of planning, development will follow,” he said.

The bill calls for $200,000 to be taken out of the street paving budget, reducing the amount of money for resurfacing streets to $6.3 million, but Mr. Burgess called that piece of the legislation a work in progress.

Kevin Acklin, Mayor Bill Peduto’s chief of staff and chief development officer, said the intent of the bill is generally in line with the mayor’s plan to invest in communities that have missed out on development. But he said the mayor is weary of “politician-driven development,” and wants to take elected officials out of the planning process.

“Our initial view is that this is something that Mayor Peduto ran on, which is to invest in the neighborhoods that haven’t seen any significant investment for decades,” Mr. Acklin said. “In terms of having politicians define how development occurs in the neighborhood, that’s something that we want to get away from.”

Mr. Acklin said the city should not dip into the street paving budget except as a “last resort.”

Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @Moriahbee.

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