South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

 
 

By Margaret Smyka
Contributing Writer 

Hilltop EDC working for betterment of south Pittsburgh area

 

April 7, 2009



Working to strengthen and develop the south Pittsburgh businesses and neighborhoods is what the Hilltop Economic Development Corporation is all about.

In its second year, the non-profit organization meets the last Thursday of every month (except November and December) at the Elder-ado, Knoxville Center, 320 Brownsville Rd ., starting at 6:30 p.m. The public is invited.

It serves the neighborhoods of Arlington, Bon Air, Carrick, Knoxville, and Mt. Oliver.

"We started talking at the Mt. Oliver borough building about how to market the area, not just Mt. Oliver," said Mt. Oliver resident and Hilltop E.D.C. secretary Billie Michener on how the organization began.

"When you go for grants, you get looked at for far more interesting things when it is not for one borough, but also the surrounding area," she said.

Besides Ms. Michener, the other officials are: President Tom Plietz; Vice President Jim Perich; Treasurer Cookie Yoder; and board members: Sara Kudasik, Rosemary Geyer, Maria Prascak, Steve Hutter, Ruthann Omer, Ralph Wood, and Rick Sikora.

The vision statement of the Hilltop E.D.C. is: to help build a sound foundation to support the economic

development and welfare of the community; to create a vibrancy for the Hilltop businesses and neighborhoods;

to enhance the lives and future for Hilltop businesses and residents; and to enrich a thriving community with a healthy quality of life including educational programs, visitor information services, and community events.

Officials are currently holding their collective breath as they await the decision on whether their Mainstreets Pittsburgh application, in which they partnered with the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, is chosen for funding.

The program is funded by, and actively partners with, the state Dept. of Community and Economic Development and the city.

Mainstreets aims to provide programs that will develop a sense of community and unified purpose among participating business districts; protect the physical environment of those business districts through historic preservation and new development; enhance the economic rejuvenation of commerce and property; promote the unique identity and character of business districts; and advocate for citywide policies and programs that strengthen the business districts.

The Hilltop E.D.C. is also awaiting word on a Weed and Seed application filed by the city.

If funded, it would be administered locally by the Hilltop Alliance, which encompasses Mt. Oliver Borough, Carrick, Mt. Oliver City, Allentown, and Beltzhoover.

The Hilltop E.D.C. is a member of the alliance.

Ten Hilltop neighborhoods have applied for funding. If awarded, it would mean an extra layer of police investigation assigned to the area, in addition to a Weed and Seed task force. The U.S. attorney would also get involved in cases.

Weed and Seed mobilizes varied resources to fight drugs and crime to improve the qualify of life in targeted high crime neighborhoods.

Under the program, bad elements are "weeded" out of neighborhoods, while prevention, intervention, treatment, and revitalization services are "seeded" into neighborhoods.

Regardless of future grant successes, the Hilltop E.D.C. has already made a difference.

A public enhancement project involved putting murals in the windows of empty buildings in the 100 block of Brownsville Rd.

All the murals, which are on wood, were created free of charge by board member Maria DeSimone-Prascak, who designs and paints murals for her business, "Maria's Ideas."

The goal is to improve the appearance of the Brownsville Rd. corridor while helping owners attract renters.

More Brownsville Rd. storefronts are being looked at for possible mural installments.

A spring project is the planting of trees on the city side of the clock tower once businesses' approval is obtained.

It will be done through TreeVitalize, a joint project of the county, city, state Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources, and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

With TreeVitalize, neighborhoods with certified tree tenders who organize neighborhood tree plantings are eligible for 10 or more street trees for their communities.

Board member Ms. Kudasik, a tree tender, is working with the city on the project.

The Hilltop E.D.C. is also planning to start "welcome wagon" baskets for new area residents and businesses.

They will contain information about the area, business cards, maps, and more.

For $100, businesses will be put on the maps as advertisement.

Ms. Michener said they are trying to put a sports basket package together to raffle to raise money for the welcome wagon.

Any resident can belong to the Hilltop E.D.C. for $50 annually. If interested, call Ms. Michener at 412-381-0420.

Being a member means saying, "I want to make a difference," she said.

 

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