South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Mt. Washington plans for the future

Stakeholder input provides outline for priorities

 


The community input process in the formation of a strategic plan for the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation (MWCDC) continued on June 15 as attendees discussed priorities.

Michael Grande, president of the MWCDC, said the goal is to develop a five-year strategic plan for the organization. He hopes to have it finalized by July.

“We have a passionate community here and want to make sure we capture their ideas so the board, when we get the final strategic plan, will know what the community wanted,” he said.

Funding for the MWCDC is through the city’s Advisory Commission on Community Based Organizations (ACCBO); and the state’s Neighborhood Partnership Program (NPP). The MWCDC’s partner in the NPP is Duquesne Light.

The strategic planning process began in January with a community happy hour during which community feedback was collected. The second step was an off-site board retreat in early March.

At April’s MWCDC meeting, residents brainstormed new projects to incorporate into the strategic plan.

The June 15 meeting was conducted by consultant Chris Beichner of elan evolutions, who explained the process to date: discovery and research; stakeholder input; and outlining ideas.

Discovery and research referred to board member discussion; review of current strategic plan and other plans; review of budget; review of past board minutes; and committee and forum notes.

Stakeholder input sprung from stakeholder survey and interviews; board retreat; and Facebook.

The outline of ideas evolved from the priorities and themes taken from the board retreat; stakeholder input; and priorities from past committee and forum meetings.

The plan that evening was to discuss the common themes of real estate, advocacy, tourism, business districts, and organization sustainability, and establish priorities. Another theme – safety – was added to the list at attendees’ request.

Mr. Beichner said the MWCDC must look at high level priorities, and dive into how they should be brought to fruition. Projects will be created to address the latter.

He said he has knowledge of what investors are looking for.

“Let’s not worry about funding at this point. Let’s think of projects to make the community great.

“We have to have a great plan and a great set of projects supported by the community,” Mr. Beichner said.

Before attendees separated into groups to prioritize the themes, there was discussion about funding and more.

To a question about potential funding sources for plan items, Mr. Beichner said foundations tell him it is not about the money but about projects. Good projects are required to receive funding.

An attendee commented that they were there to establish priorities to develop a strategy to attract funding.

“If we just go after ‘hot topics’ we will end up with a bunch of nothing,” an attendee said.

Another attendee said they needed to understand the role of a community development corporation (CDC) and the city. “We don’t have the means to fix a pothole,” she said.

Attendees next broke into groups to discuss one of the assigned priorities of safety, tourism, real estate, advocacy, business districts, and organization sustainability. After discussion, a member of each group shared the list of ideas, saving the foremost one for last.

For tourism, the ideas included self-walking tour, tourist maps, upgrade Grandview Ave., and better signage. The highest priority was public restrooms on Grandview Ave. by each incline.

The ideas for organization sustainability included visibility; solid, professional grant writers; and advocate for CDCs on the federal level, with the number one idea to create an annual large event.

For safety, ideas included: reflective material to be worn by valets; fencing and increased lighting; repaired steps; surveillance cameras in high foot areas; and curbs/turning mirrors. The most desirous measure agreed upon by the group was to increase law-enforcement and foot patrols’ presence.

With advocacy, the ideas ranged from safety to city steps to tree trimming to vacant lots, with infrastructure deemed the highest priority.

Business district ideas included a hardware and retail store, and a campaign to support local businesses. A “Shop Local” campaign was chosen as the most significant idea.

For real estate, the ideas included addressing the vacant lots on Grandview Ave .; cracking down on absentee landlords; increasing single-family homes; and communicating zoning requests.

The top priority was to conduct a housing fair, with lenders, contractors, architects, and others.

Mr. Beichner said the feedback would contribute to formation of a final plan.

In announcements, National Night Out will be on Tuesday, Aug. 1.

The next MWCDC meeting will be held on July 20 at a site to be determined. For site information once it becomes available, visit mwcdc.org or the group’s Facebook page, or email info@mwcdc.org.

 

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