South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Austin Vaught
Contributing Writer 

Infrastructure repairs continuing on Mount

 


Infrastructure repairs along Grandview Avenue and other development projects were discussed by representatives from the Mayor’s Office at the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation (MWCDC) last Thursday.

Grant Gittlen, community and government affairs officer and Sally Stadelman, deputy manager for the Office of Community Affairs said city officials recently met to discuss sidewalk repairs, a possible geotechnical study for the hillside, and seed funding for a comprehensive planning effort for multiple Mount Washington development projects.

Mr. Gittlen began by discussing sidewalk repairs along Grandview Avenue between the Monongahela Incline and Ulysses Street. Repair work is currently in progress and will continue through the spring of 2017. Repairs to the railing and rusted fence along Grandview Avenue were scheduled to be finished this fall; however, due to a late start, the work will not be finished until spring.

Also in the works are plans to replace the Jersey barrier on P.J. McCardle Roadway with new guardrail and fencing. That work will begin when construction on the Liberty Bridge is finished.

Mr. Gittlen said the city has allocated $175,000 for the combined projects; however, contractors have estimated the total cost to be near $230,000, so additional funding will be needed for completion.

Part of the remaining project costs include repairs to the three structures that support the sidewalk’s extension over the hillside. One of the structures needs to be demolished; however, that project is in question due to concerns about the structural integrity of the hillside.

Mr. Gittlen also said the mayor’s office discussed conducting a geotechnical study to evaluate high and low risk areas on the hillside. The Department of Public Works estimated the study would cost approximately $1.5 million, which would likely require funding at the state and federal level.

According to Mr. Gittlen, a similar study was recently conducted by the Port Authority and many of the findings later turned out to be inaccurate. As a result, the city is also considering an alternative “slow management strategy” where they’d evaluate what equipment and resources would be needed to maintain the hillside over time.

“Instead of doing a study and acting on it, we’re just going to act.” Ms. Stadelman said.

Also discussed was the concept for a new gateway sign extending over Shiloh Street to draw Mount Washington visitors to the businesses off of Grandview Avenue.

According to Ms. Stadelman, money for the gateway sign was allocated in the 2015 city budget; however, $11,500 is still needed to fix a foundation point that was struck by a vehicle and relocate it to allow for more room on the sidewalk.

Mr. Gittlen also said the mayor has a desire to see a comprehensive planning effort for Mount Washington development that includes projects along Grandview Avenue and in both Grandview Park and Olympia Park. The goal is to allocate $50,000 in the 2017 budget to start forming that plan.

Residents expressed concerns about the need for restrooms along Grandview Avenue and the lack of transportation between inclines, both which Mr. Gittlen said could be prioritized in a comprehensive plan.

Ms. Stadelman also provided an update on the Olympia Park shelter reconstruction. She said $150,000 has already been allocated to replace the roof. Another $150,000 will be available in the 2017 budget for lower level renovations including electric, mechanical, and plumbing work. More funds are expected to be allocated in 2018.

Following the presentation, new MWCDC board president Michael Grande provided an update on the status of the organization.

Mr. Grande said the MWCDC hired a consultant last year to help identify new funding sources. The consulting agency suggested the MWCDC explore possible affiliations with other community development organizations.

“As far as foundation money goes, one of the things that’s well looked upon is partnering or making affiliations with other organizations in the community development field,” Mr. Grande said.

As a result, the MWCDC board formed a new committee to evaluate possible affiliations with community groups and explore additional funding sources.

One possibility Mr. Grande mentioned is an affiliation with Economic Development South (EDS), an organization that works with several community development groups across multiple Pittsburgh neighborhoods. MWCDC board members will meet with EDS in December.

Several residents raised concerns about negative community impacts that could occur as a result of the MWCDC affiliating with another organization.

Mr. Grande stressed the MWCDC is not exploring a merger and the plan is to remain autonomous. He also said an affiliation would allow the organization to save money on “back office resources” and direct more funds towards projects.

“We’re trying to get somewhere and by the summertime make a decision on how everything is going to look going forward with the organization,” Mr. Grande said. “But we are going to go forward, that’s the important thing I want to put out there.”

The new board committee is planning to meet two more times before the end of the year and also plans to “dive deeper” into additional funding sources.

Mr. Grande said the new board is also considering ways to increase community involvement. One idea is to change the format of the community forum. The plan for the January forum is to have a social event; however, a location hasn’t yet been selected.

“Then from that point on, what I’d like to do is have you guys suggest topics you’d like us to cover,” Mr. Grande said.

There is not a MWCDC community forum meeting scheduled for December. The possible social event would take the place of the January 19 forum. For more information on the MWCDC, visit http://www.mwcdc.org.

 

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