Mount moving forward with all gardens, search for new director
Attendees at the monthly community forum held Jan. 17 by the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation learned about an improved garden planned for the small park next to the neighborhood fire station.
They also heard about other news and issues. "There has been a lot happening and not enough time to get it all done," Frank Valenta, president, board of directors, said.
Work on the garden is a volunteer project to be undertaken by employees of the Burt Hill architect firm. "A group of us wanted to use our expertise and to do things to give back to the community," said Carla Lukehart, who, along with colleague Evaine Sing, attended the meeting on the Mount. They are both landscape architects.
"Our number one goal is to add more green space and to replace some of the concrete with vegetation. We want to make it a place people want to visit, so it is no longer dark and scary," Ms. Sing said. "Mount Washington is one of the first places people visit when they come here (to ride the incline and to see the view)."
One of the trees will be removed to add more sunlight and a section of the landscape will be fragrant and designed to attract birds and butterflies.
Local residents refer to the area as "Firemen's Park" but the official name, unknown to many, is the Charles Lewis Memorial Park. Mr. Lewis was a fire chief, member of Fire Company Number One and neighborhood resident.
The memorial will be undisturbed. The two women said MWCDC program manager Greg Panza obtained cooperation from the firefighters.
An audience member said she really appreciated the project and the effort to improve the park, which she described as an "undesirable" area no one now visits except homeless people.
Board member Thomas Reinheimer said he enjoyed gardening himself and asked why the volunteers wanted to add plants that were native species. The women said they did not want non-native plants that would dominate the garden. "We're not closing the door on non-native plants," Ms. Lukehart said.
"The best time to do this is the beginning of spring, around the first of April," she said.
She said the firm planned to monitor the garden's success and may get involved in similar projects throughout the city.
Mr. Valenta walked in while they were making their presentation. He apologized and said he came from a previous meeting.
He informed the group that MWCDC was using Dewey & Kaye Inc., a local research firm that recruits personnel for nonprofit organizations, to aid with the search for a new executive director.
MWCDC is also relying on Bookminders, a local accounting firm, to provide advice on financial matters.
Mr. Valente and Treasurer Paul Renne recently met with one of the organizations that gives the MWCDC grant money. Mr. Valente said the "quick exits" of two MWCDC officers who left and took other jobs "was of concern to those who issue our grants." Also, "they're very particular how we spend our money."
Mr. Renne was not present at the community forum.
Mr. Panza announced that production on the monthly newspaper, The Viewpoint, which is mailed to residents within the 15211 zip code, "is on hold." However, flyers containing important information will be mailed to residents.
A business district vision planning session will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 11 at the Senior Center. Representatives of the local consulting firm Pashek Associates that has been involved in the planning sessions will attend.
A meeting of the barrier replacement task force is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Jan. 29 at the Chatham Village clubhouse. The committee wants to replace the barrier, sidewalk and fence railing along McArdle Roadway leading up to Mount Washington from the Liberty Bridge.
Board member Tom Brady asked residents to contact the Mayor's 311 Response Line or Councilman Dan Deasy's office to complain about a property known locally as "The Edge," which is adjacent to the Mon Incline. "We're sick of it. It's an eyesore," he said. He said the property was rat infested, deteriorating and vandalized by local youth.
There was a lot of discussion about Map Pittsburgh, a City of Pittsburgh project that has neighborhood residents and the Department of City Planning working together to develop mutually agreeable rezoning proposals. These plans, a result of Map Pittsburgh meetings in neighborhoods, would be brought to the planning commission and city council for approval.
Businessman Chuck Wallace told the group that he wants to have both sides of Virginia Avenue, from Foodland to Rite Aid, rezoned from residential to commercial.
"We have the most incredible view ever but the area is not being used to its full potential," said Tara Tippel, of Avalar Real Estate. She recommended the Mount try not to imitate Shadyside or Squirrel Hill but create its own "niche."
In other business, Mr. Valenta introduced Emilio Rizzo, a local resident and University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work student, who is writing about the MWCDC as a class assignment. "I heard a lot of stuff I'm concerned about," he said.
During past meetings there were many complaints that the city refused to top trees, thus allowing the majestic view along Grandview Avenue to be partially obstructed.
After the meeting, Mr. Valenta said city crews removed trees along Bigbee Street and had a contractor remove trees on the west end of Grandview Avenue. He noted there were still trees obstructing the view on Grandview from Shaler to Republic avenues. Plans to replace the trees that were cut down would be discussed at future meetings.
"They said they had no money to do this and all of a sudden money came along from some place," Mr. Valenta said.