Conference to focus on revitalization

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When about 300 municipal officials and business people gather this week in Pittsburgh for their annual convention, they'll not only talk about community revitalization projects but participate in one.

The Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities conference will begin Tuesday with members helping to build a playground at Allegheny Commons on the North Side. Later, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl will deliver a welcoming address about efforts to harness financial and human capital for improvements Downtown and in the city's neighborhoods.

"The mayor is very excited to roll out the red carpet for decision-makers across the state. There's no better time to show off Pittsburgh than now," mayoral spokeswoman Joanna Doven said, citing projects ranging from Downtown construction to neighborhood cleanups and green-ups.

During the four-day gathering at the Omni William Penn Hotel, Downtown, mayors and other municipal officials will discuss cuts in state funding, green initiatives, unfunded pension liabilities and Marcellus Shale development, among other topics.

But the theme is "Celebrating Community Renaissance," giving Mr. Ravenstahl an opportunity to discuss the city's simultaneous efforts to manage decline and promote revitalization.

Visitors will take a tour of sites showcasing the city's progress and potential. The stops will include Market Square, Downtown, site of new housing and restaurants; the former Civic Arena site, a 28-acre redevelopment opportunity in the Lower Hill District; and Bakery Square, which has helped to bring growth to East Liberty.

"It's not an easy task to turn around neighborhoods. I think Pittsburgh is probably in the lead of much of that," said Rick Schuettler, the league's deputy executive director.

In a stop likely to underscore the challenges of redevelopment, the group will visit the 55-acre Strip District site that the Buncher Co. wants to use for retail, offices and housing as part of the city's plan to remake the Allegheny Riverfront. For three weeks, Councilman Patrick Dowd has held up a financing plan because of concerns about the project.

Lock Haven Mayor Richard P. Vilello Jr., league president, will lead the conference. Thomas McMahon, former mayor of Reading and a past league president, will receive the organization's distinguished service award.

Ms. Doven said Mr. Ravenstahl will highlight the importance of public-private partnerships, such as the groups behind funding and construction of the North Side playground Tuesday, and leveraging the goodwill of city residents. ServePGH, the mayor's volunteerism program, recruits residents to clean up their blocks and clear elderly homeowners' walks of snow during the winter.

Mr. Ravenstahl is on the league's board of directors. City Councilman Bill Peduto is on the league's Core Communities in Crisis Task Force.

neigh_city - state

Joe Smydo: jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548. First Published June 18, 2012 12:00 AM


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