Philadelphia firm to develop comprehensive Dormont plan

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Public involvement is a top priority as Dormont embarks on a new comprehensive plan.

During Tuesday's meeting of the borough planning commission, the principal of the company hired to develop the plan spoke about the process.

"The plan has to be collaborative. We need to share it continuously with the people of Dormont," said Scott Page of Philadelphia-based Interface Studio. His firm has worked on a variety of economic development projects in several states, including a transit study in Beechview.

"We're all about redesigning the public experience with this type of plan," Mr. Page said, explaining that the process integrates numerous entertaining activities to engage residents, along with a strong social media presence. "It helps us build support for what's happening,'' he added.

A comprehensive plan is intended to serve as a municipality's guide for future growth. Although Pennsylvania municipalities are supposed to develop a new plan every 10 years, Dormont's last such effort was in 1995.

Jeff Naftal, borough manager, said he and two planning commission members interviewed three applicants to develop the comprehensive plan, and "the unanimous decision that the best candidate for us was Interface Studio. We really, really like their public engagement," Mr. Naftal said.

Mr. Page said he and his team -- including associate Stacey Chen, who worked on the Beechview project -- plan to gather borough data during the next month and will start discussions with "key stakeholders" in Dormont.

"All of our work is customized to the place where we're working," he explained. "We have to know as much about this place as possible."

The plan will help determine how the borough can best use its financial resources while providing a tool toward applying for grants to pay for improvements.

Also, the plan will establish a basis for zoning in the borough. Mr. Page said the public would have the opportunity to provide input through a collaborative map, to be posted online and also available in a large, "hard-copy" format.

"We'll be keeping a line open so people can always tell us what they think," he said.

Other components of the plan include the borough's infrastructure, transportation, redevelopment strategies and "quality of life" aspects such as safety, health, education, culture and environmental considerations.

Interface Studio plans to compile a variety of data not only from the borough, but also surrounding areas and Allegheny County as a whole.

"What is Dormont's identity vis-a-vis these other towns? We always look way outside of the boroughs we're working in," Mr. Page explained.

That data serves an important function in his company's approach.

"We can present it in a way that everyone can look at the same data set and start making decisions from that," he said.

A steering committee of about 10 to 15, including members of the planning commission and other residents, will work closely with the company during the project, which could take up to a year to complete.

Adoption of the comprehensive plan is subject to a vote by borough council. Dormont is paying $94,495 for Interface Studio's services.


Harry Funk, freelance writer:


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