Pittsburgh OKs initial funding to rehabilitate Brookline Boulevard
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For more than a decade, plans have been in the works to rehabilitate the stretch of Brookline Boulevard that runs through Brookline's business district, a wide roadway pockmarked with potholes whose cracked sidewalks have given way to ascendant tree roots.
Wednesday, Pittsburgh City Council gave preliminary approval to a bill that would allocate $2 million to greenlight the project, news that community leaders greeted with both excitement and some anxiety. Some portion of that allocation will be eligible for reimbursement by the state.
The $6.8 million project is dramatically pared down from proposals floated a decade ago, when the community hoped for sewage and other infrastructure upgrades. The city anticipates footing about $1.1 million of that bill and the remainder will come from state and federal dollars through the Transportation Improvement Program.
The proposal calls for rehabbing the section of the boulevard from Starkamp Street to Pioneer Avenue. It calls for redoing all the sidewalks, replacing the lighting, adding landscaping, repaving the street and creating "bump-outs," sections of sidewalk near crosswalks that jut out slightly into the roadway, making pedestrian crossings more visible. A left turn signal also will be installed from Pioneer Avenue to Brookline Boulevard, and traffic lines will be better delineated.
Construction is expected to run from March to November in phases, to mitigate the impact on traffic and business.
Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, who worked on the legislation, said the rehab will maximize the potential of the boulevard, which has already seen a spate of new business openings over the past few years.
"I just don't think right now we're capturing the value of having this wide, grand boulevard," she said. "It's really going to improve the curb appeal of the neighborhood and really bring out what we've always known has been there."
Nathan Mallory is co-owner of Cannon Coffee on Brookline Boulevard and vice president of the Brookline Chamber of Commerce. While he's excited for the aesthetic improvements, he said he's concerned about the ability for business owners to "get from this side of the fence to that side of the fence."
That fence is literal, as a construction fence may obscure some storefronts from view while blocks are under construction.
Mr. Mallory points out that nearly all of the businesses on the boulevard are small businesses that could be vulnerable with a dip in business.
The district represents a diverse array of restaurants and shops, including a Mediterranean grocer, a Mexican butcher with a streetside taco vendor and a family-owned cake shop.
"We're running cash flow management from day to day," said Mr. Mallory, who said he would likely have to lay off some coffee shop employees.
Ms. Rudiak said the project will be done in phases to mitigate the impact on any particular business or block. "Businesses should definitely expect to remain open," she said.
Mr. Mallory said that despite his fears over the effect on business, he believed the aesthetic improvements would make the area more viable for investment and new businesses.
First Published January 17, 2013 12:00 am