South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

 
 

By Al Lowe
Contributing Writer 

Mount Washington plans to develop housing strategy

 

June 15, 2010



Mount Washington's park system now has a new name: Emerald View Park.

The announcement was made at a recent workshop meeting with an entirely different purpose – to discuss developing a 10-year housing strategy plan for the Mount Washington and Duquesne Heights neighborhoods.

Residents and staff had been previously asked to suggest new names to replace the former unwieldy name it had – Grand View Scenic Byway Park. Suggestions included: Grand View Urban Park, Wild Urban Park, Wild Mountain Park, Green View Park, Confluence Heights Park.

The plan was to choose a new name that showed off the parks' wild and green character, urban setting and spectacular views.

One of the guest speakers that night, Christine Brill, of the Studio for Spatial Practice, an architect and urban design firm, complimented the MWCDC on the park system's new name.

Her firm and another, Urban Practices, gathered data for a housing strategy so the MWCDC can acquire property, develop a real estate program and maximize partnerships with developers. "We currently don't have a housing strategy," said MWCDC executive director Chris Beichner, who asked the consultants to visit every Mount Washington street.

The purpose of the meeting that night was to gain more input that would help in devising the strategy, said Ms. Brill and Jim Hartling, of Urban Partners, a firm specializing in marketing and development.

The consultants sent surveys out to people who recently moved to and from the Mount. They received back 121 surveys from new residents and 37 from former residents.

Why did people move to Mount Washington? Because it was convenient, close to

friends and affordable. However, the new folks had reservations about the business district, public safety and blight.

A third of the residents who left did so because they felt there were not enough amenities for children. However, one attendee objected because Pittsburgh Whittier K-5 is a really good school, better than most elementary schools.

Most of the new residents were under 35 and two thirds commuted to work.

Attendees at the meeting were asked to rate 10 actions to prioritize the MWCDC housing efforts over the next decade.

They were asked to decide whether the following 10 actions were very important, somewhat important or not important.

Those actions were:

Marketing the neighborhood's strengths; Expanding supportable commercial services there; Improving amenities for neighborhood children such as playgrounds and parks; Increasing parking supply and access; Improving the quality of new development throughout the neighborhood; Improving the quality of existing housing stock; Transforming vacant lots into community-serving uses; Expanding the range of quality affordable housing options; Expanding the range of quality rental apartment options; and Improving signage and welcome gateways.

The consultants also reviewed the existing conditions of Mount Washington.

They characterized the area as a dozen micro neighborhoods. These vary in physical condition, open space and topography. The average price range of homes varied among them, from $30,000 to $100,000.

The Mount even has a couple of mobile homes.

One of the biggest assets is the magnificent view along Grandview Avenue.

However, longtime homeowners may need a program to encourage them to rehabilitate their dwellings.

"There are real opportunities to build up and enhance the commercial district," Ms. Brill said. Residents would like to see supermarkets, pet supplies shops and auto supplies stores.

The next steps for developing the strategy are: prioritizing which actions to take, deciding on phasing and implementation and also identifying resources and target areas.

"We have to focus our concentration…We have to rev up and face the challenges in some areas," Mr. Beichner said.

 

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