CMU class to do free parking assessment for Dormont
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Dormont will be the subject of a parking assessment at no cost to the borough.
As part of Carnegie Mellon University's sustainable community development course, graduate students will examine the borough's situation for several weeks and come up with recommendations for improvement.
"A good parking study can cost you literally tens of thousands dollars," said Jeff Naftal, borough manager. Dormont applied to be considered for the project and was informed of acceptance in January.
A team of three students has been assigned to assess Dormont's needs.
"We've given them a tour of the borough, a rundown of all the things we think are problems, concerns and issues: business, residential, on-street, off-street," Mr. Naftal said.
Matthew M. Mehalik, adjunct assistant professor of environmental policy at Carnegie Mellon, teaches the course, which involves in-depth examination of the economic and social value that is created when development occurs in a sustainable manner.
"Parking is always very tricky for communities," he said. "It's sort of a thread-the-needle type thing. If you don't have enough parking, businesses will suffer. But if you overbuild, it also can have detrimental effects."
A Forest Hills native and Woodland Hills High School graduate, he is familiar with Dormont and its configuration.
"They have a lot of really good things put in place in their business district," he said.
Mr. Mehalik has been instructing the master's degree course for five years, and 32 students are enrolled this semester, the largest group so far. That includes several from Adelaide, Australia, participating via simulcast.
"It's been a good way to have hands-on education and also have some good come about from it," he said.
Along with coming up with ways that Dormont can improve its parking situation, students also plan to identify resources that can go a long way toward achieving the objectives, including providing a basis to apply for grants.
The course schedule calls for a final report to be provided to the borough in late May.
Wilkinsburg is another community for which students in the course have worked on a project. They assessed vacant and abandoned properties in the once-thriving borough, helping to determine which buildings might be worthy of reinvestment and rehabilitation.
"There is a lot happening in Wilkinsburg, a lot of great things in place, and they're getting the attention they need," Mr. Mehalik said. "This is an example of the community pulling together and working on issues to turn things around."
In Verona, students examined the benefits of residentially zoned property along the Allegheny River.
"Verona has been looking for ways to attract young people to move to the community, and this is great for people who enjoy kayaking" and other water activities, Mr. Mehalik said.
The sustainable community development course is offered through Carnegie Mellon's Heinz College School of Public Policy and Management. Components include housing, business and economic development, cultural and social development, transportation systems, and open spaces.
First Published February 28, 2013 5:53 am