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Slopes hears final presentation on application for Elm Street program


While enjoying a picnic supper, attendees at last week's brief South Sides Slopes Neighborhood Association meeting learned details of the final steps in the submission of an application to the state's competitive new Elm Street grant program.

Attaining designation as an Elm Street district would make the Slopes eligible for grant monies for public realm improvements.

But before that presentation, SSSNA President Bev Bagosi Boggio updated attendees on StepTrek 2005, a non-competitive, self-guided walking tour of the Slopes.

The annual event will take place on Sunday, Oct. 2, noon to 4 p.m. Participants should gather at the UPMC South Side parking lot at 21st and Josephine streets.

This year's theme is “Ascend with the arts,” and will feature Slopes' singers, dancers, artists, and poets in the staging areas and throughout the course.

More information about StepTrek 2005, SSSNA's largest fundraiser, can be found at:

In other Slopes' business, Boggio said anyone interested in being a candidate in the October election should contact her or Joe Balaban.

Next, Jason Vrabel, project manager, Community Design Center of Pittsburgh (CDCP), discussed the Renovation Information Network (RIN), a program of the CDCP designed to help homeowners plan improvements on existing structures.

He said it is related to the Elm St. project, of which he is a consultant, in that it is a residential program that benefits residents and their communities.

RIN matches homeowners with architects, landscapers, or interior designers for low-cost, one-on-one consultations on any home improvement project, such as a new addition or a change of color scheme.

Homeowners receive objective advice, information on the renovation process, and a range of options.

For city residents, the cost for the service ranges from $25 to $50 depending on household income. For Allegheny County residents outside the city, the cost is $150.

The value of the service is more than $500, Vrabel said. The consultant will provide an action plan, and help a homeowner devise questions to ask a contractor.

But no drawings or specifications are given, and no contractor is endorsed or recommended.

More information, including an application, can be found at: RIN.html .

The final presentation on the Elm Street project was by community development consultant Maureen Hogan, who conducted the prior two sessions on the topic at SSSNA meetings.

To summarize: Elm Street districts are residential areas adjacent to designated Main Street districts. Main Street is the state's downtown revitalization program; in the South Side, the Main Street is East Carson St.

The idea behind the Elm Street program is that healthy neighborhoods can be created when there is a small commercial corridor and a residential area that are well connected.

The process began locally with the awarding of $220,000 to the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA) and the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development (PPND) by the state Dept. of Community and Economic Development to fund preliminary planning for a limited number of Pittsburgh neighborhoods.

Those neighborhoods are: South Side Slopes, Friendship, East Allegheny, East Liberty, and Lawrenceville.

A single application will be submitted to cover all five neighborhoods.

The first step in the application process is developing a neighborhood plan for each that will show how the state's money can improve that neighborhood.

To that end, attendees' views on the strengths and weaknesses of the Slopes were solicited during the May SSSNA meeting.

At the June meeting, a summary of those responses as to goals and strategies was distributed.

After their review, “dots” were distributed to each attendee, who were then asked to put the dots beside specific goals and strategies, displayed in the front of the room, to prioritize their importance.

At last week's meeting, a handout was distributed listing the goals and strategies and their priority levels.

For example, improving the general appearance of the neighborhood and enhance connections to Main Street was a high priority goal. Increasing sales in the Main Street District was a low priority.

Maintaining and improving residential quality was a high priority; a high-priority strategy to accomplish that was encouraging property maintenance.

The priorities will be highlighted in the application.

When completed, the five-year plan will be submitted to the URA and PPND for review; they will then submit it to the state in early fall.

Hogan said the plan may eventually be posted on a web site, or she may return to the SSSNA in the fall to summarize its contents.

A copy of the final plan may also be obtained after August 9 by contacting Boggio.

To a question of whether the Slopes is dealing with the same issues as are the other four neighborhoods, Hogan said each has a unique quality, such as the Slopes has the steps. But problems such as litter and vandalism are universal.

The next Slopes' meeting will be held in September as there is no August meeting.


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