South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

South Side learns more about RFP for business district plan

 

August 15, 2017



An update on the status of a request for proposal (RFP) for an East Carson St. business district strategy was the lead presentation at the combined July-August meeting of the South Side Planning Forum.

The project will be focused on the development of a business district plan for East Carson St. Plan funding will come from the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA) and the office of city Councilman Bruce Kraus, said Josette Fitzgibbons, neighborhood business district manager for the URA.

The project will include: working with URA staff and others to collect data for the corridor; surveying businesses and customers to determine the current retail and hospitality market; working with South Side organizations and the city’s Nighttime Economy manager; and developing recommendations for the implementation of the plan.

She said the next step is getting ready to put out the RFP. A proposals team will review the submissions. The URA will hire a consulting team.

She hopes there is a plan in place by mid-2018.

Among the goals is for the consultant, working with the community, to come up with a plan. Another goal is to help the community develop resources to fund a staff person. The URA does not fund a staff person, she said, but can help identify resources.

Ms. Fitzgibbons said what is needed is a look at the business district as a whole: what businesses are doing; which is having overflow crowds; which businesses are struggling; and more, or what she referred to as “boots on the ground.”

A three-to-five-year strategy for East Carson St. will also be developed.

She said while all of the South Side organizations at the forum table are effective neighborhood leaders, the goal is to look to tie them altogether “to better serve the district.”

She said a void was created with the closing of the South Side Local Development Co. (SSLDC), which is not to say the South Side Chamber of Commerce has not done a good job since then. “This is about the missing piece,” she said.

In the evening’s other presentation, Jessica Smith, of the American Red Cross of Southwestern Pennsylvania, informed attendees about the upcoming “Sound the Alarm,” a home safety and smoke alarm installation event.

It will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sept. 23.

Red Cross and community volunteers will go door-to-door in Allentown, Beltzhoover, and Knoxville to discuss the importance of creating fire escape plans, and offering to install free smoke alarms where working smoke alarms don’t currently exist.

The event is being done in partnership with the Beltzhoover Consensus Group and the Minority Emergency Preparedness Task Force. The Red Cross is also working with the city’s Fire Department.

Ms. Smith said that the goal is to install 1,000 smoke alarms that day and volunteers are needed. Training will be provided that morning, and no experience is required. Volunteers will travel in three-person teams.

She said to volunteer, or submit the name of a family who could benefit from a smoke alarm, email Jennifer.bailey@redcross.org, or call 412-522-9512.

In her report of the Development Review Committee (DRC), chair Tracy Myers said clothing retailer H&M closed its SouthSide Works store, and that the search is on for a new tenant.

She also reported the Soffer Organization created a joint venture with Thor Equities for management of the SouthSide Works. The New York based management firm has done work in Paris, Los Angeles, and other major cities.

She called the founder of Thor Equities “the Steve Jobs of retail.”

Regarding the marina, Ms. Myers said damage from the recent storms was a couple of docks being taken out. “It looks like the marina on the whole is okay,” she said.

She reminded attendees the prior planning forum meeting included discussion on the Infrastructure and Maintenance Policies in the 9th update to the South Side Neighborhood Plan.

Historic preservation falls within those policies, and will be addressed at the next planning forum meeting, she said.

Ms. Myers also said the plan document will be in a constant state of review as opposed to the prior method of reviewing it every two years.

In updates, forum Chair Hugh Brannan said a city representative will be invited to the October forum meeting to give an update on the special permits process.

Dawn Lorincy of the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA), said the annual StepTrek, a non-competitive, self-guided walking tour of the Slopes, will be held on Oct. 7. Tickets are on sale. Sponsors are being sought.

She also reported the goats “are doing their job” in eating unwanted and invasive vegetation in the 65-acre South Side Park. Their services were acquired through a $10,000 grant.

Next, Candice Gonzalez, executive director of the South Side Chamber of Commerce, said the Pirate game event in July was “very successful.” Another successful event was the July 31 South Side Summer Golf Classic, co-hosted by the Chamber and the South Side Bar and Restaurant Association, and held at the South Hills Country Club.

Barbara Rudiak, of the South Side Community Council (SSCC), said South Watch was scheduled for the next day, with a focus on wildlife and trash issues. The new South Watch aims to improve the quality of life on the South Side by bringing people and institutions together to identify code violations, advocate for their remediation, and monitor the outcomes.

Duquesne University’s upcoming new student orientation will result in student volunteers in the neighborhood the morning of Aug. 19.

Attendee James McNeel, managing director of the City Theatre, said rehearsals start soon for the theatre’s 43rd season this fall. Discount tickets are available for some shows; visit http://www.citytheatrecompany.org for more information.

Ms. Fitzgibbons announced the URA will conduct a small business resource fair at the Market House on Sept. 6 at 4:30 p.m. She called it a “one-stop shop for information on how to start a business.”

Mr. Brannan reported the 100th Anniversary of the Brashear Association will be celebrated in a Centennial Gala on October 19 at the Heinz History Center. The event will begin at 5:30 p.m., with dinner at 7. Tickets are available at a discounted rate through September 1.

The next forum meeting will be on Sept. 12.

 

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