TRID session begins focus on development
"Show me the money."
The catch phrase from the Tom Cruise film "Jerry Maguire" was appropriate for an planning exercise during a SMART TRID (South Metro Area Revitalization through Transit: Transit Revitalization Investment District) session at the Warrington Recreation Center on April 19.
Participants were given phony money – a $10 bill, a $20, a $50 and a $100 and were asked asked: If you had the money, where would you spend it to improve the community?
They were asked to stick the fake dollars along points posted on the walls to suggest possible ways of improving areas near the South Hills Junction.
All of the TRID planning sessions focus on ways of adding redevelopment and revitalization around the Port Authority transit hub, South Hills Junction, and also near Broadway Avenue on Beechview. A TRID involves a state program allowing taxes generated by new development to be used for transit and site improvements.
Interface Studios, an urban design and planning firm based in Philadelphia, is involved in creating a TRID plan that will be submitted to local taxing bodies for consideration. Scott Page, an urban designer from Interface, led the discussion that night.
Some of the planning points where participants were asked to stick the phony bills they were given so they could show their enthusiasm for the suggestions included:
Short Term Image Overhaul: Creating a block watch and junction patrol; Installing emergency call boxes; Creating community gardens on vacant lots; and, Replacing and redesigning the unsightly green wall along Warrington Avenue.
Public Realm Improvements and Extreme Makeover of Infrastructure: Investing in legible signage to help brand the station; Using technology to provide real time information regarding arrival of buses and transit vehicles; Creating a public access road through the South Hills Junction for a planned Park n Ride; Improving neighborhood lighting along staircases and station area and rebuilding junction staircases; Adding crosswalks to slow traffic along Warrington Avenue; and, Adding greening and public art at vacant sites;
Potential Development Scenarios: Installing a deck over part of junction and building a grocery, pharmacy and parking area; Adding new kiosks for vendors of coffee and newspapers; Building new housing along Haberman Avenue; Redeveloping the salt storage site for housing; Redeveloping the railroad tie storage area for new recreation center; Developing small stores along Warrington Avenue; Building a new recreation center in Beltzhoover and redeveloping the existing Warrington Recreation Center for retail.
Patrick D. Roberts, the city's principal transportation planner, noted some of the planning included small steps that would make remarkable improvements in the neighborhoods.
Interface's future planning would consist of refining the planning scenarios to be presented to representatives of the city, Allegheny County and the school district, he said. Each taxing body would have to consider whether to commit taxes generated by such development projects back into site and transit improvements.
In late May Interface will sponsor another public meeting "to present a draft plan for everyone to review," Mr. Page said. All this planning for the area located within a half mile around the South Hills Junction was being done to empower residents, to coordinate efforts and to raise money.
After each meeting at the Warrington Recreation Center Interface held a similar meeting in Beechview to discuss their recommendations and concerns.
"People really feel disconnected from the South Hills Junction. It is like a wedge between Mount Washington and Beltzhoover," Mr. Page told the audience. "It is difficult to reach through walking and driving."
Problems include the steep hills, industrial storage areas and an unsightly wall.
As part of the process, his team interviewed many local residents.
He said Interface was well aware a spray park was a short-term improvement planned for the Warrington Recreation Center. "We don't want to discourage anyone from undertaking a project that is already funded."
"We heard a lot that we need a Park n Ride at the South Hills Junction. We want to target certain areas for greening and community gardens. We need to make the station inviting and safer," Mr. Page said.