January 30, 2007 |

Plans for South Hills HS depend on school lease extension

Members attending the forum session of the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation held on Jan.18 heard a brief update on plans to convert South Hills High School into an apartment complex.

MWCDC executive director Ethan Raup said the URA was requesting that the Pittsburgh Board of Education extend the time allowed for the lease application. That way the development team from A.M. Rodriguez Associates could apply for tax credits from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency for more funding to develop the project. If all goes as planned, the renovations could start in the fall or early next year, Mr. Raup said.

Finding a use for the former high school, now vacant, has been a concern for the MWCDC and many residents.

The monthly meeting held at the Mount Washington Senior Community Center featured a short presentation from newly elected State Rep. Chelsea Wagner and a brainstorming session on how to improve the Mount.

Ms. Wagner said she was a public transit rider and spoke about her opposition to the proposed service cuts and fare hikes being considered by Port Authority. “Trust me, I'm passionate about this issue,” she said.

She said she hoped to become a member of the transportation committee and have input on decisions regarding the Port Authority.

Anne Massucci, second vice president, MWCDC said she wished for more of a police presence and another police station since the Zone 3 station covers too much territory. Ms. Wagner said she heard that concern expressed a lot when she campaigned door-to-door.

Ms. Wagner's district encompasses Mount Washington and all or parts of: Whitehall, Baldwin Township, Castle Shannon, Overbrook, Brookline and Sheraden.

Her office will be located at 900 Brookline Boulevard and will be a half block away from former Rep. Michael Diven's old office. She said she hopes repairs will be completed to her office by the beginning of February and that currently she and her staff operate out of her home.

After Ms. Wagner left, MWCDC welcomed the newest member of its staff, Ilyssa Manspeizer, who will be the organization's park resource manager. “If anyone has ideas for the parks, talk to me,” she told the group. Previously, she worked setting up elephant conservation programs in Ethiopia and researched wildlife utilization programs in Zambia.

Next came Program Manager Greg Panza's opportunity to lead the group of close to 30 people in brainstorming ideas.

“Remember the old TV show SWAT?” he asked. “Well, this is SWOT - Strengths, Weakensses, Opportunities and Threats.”

As the group gave input, Board of Directors president Paul Tellers summarized the ideas on a large sketch pad.

Strengths?

These were some of the MWCDC members' responses: schools, single family dwellings, parks, swimming pool, inclines, community center, senior center, churches, ballfields, historical properties like the Carnegie Library, green space - and, of course, the majestic view along Grand View Avenue.

Weaknesses?

Some responses were: trash and litter, absentee landlords, narrow streets, no tourist center and lack of parking. Mr. Tellers noted that years ago every third family had a car. Now families have three cars. This, of course, leads to parking congestion.

Opportunities?

Members suggested: tourism, historic preservation, attraction for empty nesters and recreation areas.

Mr. Panza said perhaps the Mount should have a Newcomer Night to welcome new homeowners.

Threats?

Aging infrastructure, property taxes, crime and unscrupulous landlords.

Mr. Panza thanked the group for all the input and hoped to use the info for MWCDC strategy planning. One participant who previously lived in Texas told the group he never saw meetings like the MWCDC's there.

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