Neighbors join to redevelop East End
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Leading community development organizations in five city neighborhoods have joined forces as the East End Partnership.
The Lawrenceville Corp., Bloomfield-Garfield Corp., Bloomfield Business Association, Friendship Development Associates and East Liberty Development Inc. "decided we are going to venture out as a regional group," said Rick Swartz, executive director of the Bloomfield-Garfield Corp., whose focus, despite its name, is on Garfield.
It is "a loose alliance" which has Penn Avenue in common, he said.
"We won't dispense with our separate boards of directors, but everyone is going to jump into the pool together. It's something we need to do -- to be more effective collectively."
Common goals do not end with Penn Avenue, he said. The group has targeted several areas for future investment, including Doughboy Square in Lawrenceville, a gutted gasoline station at Penn and Negley avenues in East Liberty, and parts of Butler Street.
"We also want to get beyond the realm of neighborhood boundaries counting for everything, to dispel the myth that you're someplace else when you cross the street," he said.
"We're trying to think a lot harder about how the neighborhoods can improve their economic situation without displacing people," Mr. Swartz said. An outgrowth of the partnership "could be a locally controlled development fund" to take the place of diminishing state and federal money.
Most of these groups have collaborated with adjacent neighborhoods on new housing, property rehabs, investment lures, crime and blight eradication, and small business and green-space development in the past. But this partnership is more official, with a $150,000 grant from the Surdna Foundation, which helps to pay for a partnership director, Jonathan Cox.
Formerly a vice president of operations for the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, Mr. Cox is based at the Lawrenceville Corp., he said, "but they all own a piece of me."
Surdna funded a Moss Architects study of Penn Avenue, from Doughboy Square to Penn Circle, that coalesced the groups earlier this year, he said. It showed how much neighborhood overlap there is in the use of Penn Avenue and how key the corridor is to all of them.
The partnership is pursuing money for streetscape improvements along Penn Avenue from Duquesne Light Co. and recently was one of three groups tapped as eligible for multineighborhood corridor grants from the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development. The Oakland Planning and Development Corp. and North Side Leadership Conference are the other two.
Maelene Meyers, executive director of East Liberty Development, said the partnership can share each of its member's strengths.
"We do bricks and mortar, someone else does Main Street," she said. "The funding stream is not what it used to be, so we have to be more creative and work as a team."
She said she believes "this is the model that we should all be doing, but not everyone wants to. You have to want to share your plans, share your revenues" and not worry about who gets credit.
The Penn Avenue study will be available sometime next month at www.eastendpartnership.org, which is not yet up and running.
First Published July 14, 2008 12:07 am