Smart plan: East Liberty can take another step forward

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After a ban on vehicular traffic through its core all-but killed the East Liberty business district and its surrounding residential streets, the neighborhood sat for too long as an indictment of 1960s urban planning theory.

The first big move in a better direction came in 2000, when a new Home Depot opened its doors. Other retailers soon followed -- Target, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and more. Now commerce is alive and well again in East Liberty.

In an ironic twist, implementing a plan that exemplifies the latest theory in urban planning could be very good for East Liberty now. The goal of "smart growth" is to build housing and retail that is walkable, bicycle-friendly and close to public transit.

Mosites Co. has plans for more than 360 apartments and 50,000 square feet of retail space that would be built in conjunction with $52 million in improvements designed to better link East Liberty businesses to the Port Authority East Busway and the rest of the neighborhood as well as Shadyside.

An estimated 33,000 people travel through the busway's hub every day, and another 375,000 live within a five-mile radius of the site. By adding new roads, pedestrian walkways and bridges, along with parking for cars and bicycles, it should be easier for those people to reach the retail establishments, too.

This joint venture by Mosites, the Port Authority and the city's Urban Redevelopment Authority is another big step in overcoming the mistakes of the past to create an East Liberty ideally positioned for the future.

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