By Al Lowe
Contributing Writer 

Mount hires writer to hear your stories


Lisa Johnson wants to hear a good story.

The Mount Washington Community Development Corporation hired her recently as a part-time writer/researcher to write the text for informational and directional signs to be installed along the Grand View Scenic Byway, which runs through Mount Washington and Duquesne Heights. The area was designated a Pennsylvania Scenic Byway in 2003.

She introduced herself to MWCDC members at the group's monthly forum meeting held on March 20.

She is expected to identify local themes for the signage after conducting research and interviews.

"Help us tell the story! We need you!" is the headline on handouts she is distributing to seek interviews. "We are looking for all kinds of narratives and images…As residents you know much more distinguishes the area than the view…We want to inform residents and visitors alike of the many remarkable people, places and history present in the area, making the experience of traveling along the byway as informative as it is beautiful...We need photographs, family movies, old diaries, letters, stories or other relevant documents to insure that the informational markers reflect the dynamic range of life on the Mount," the handout said. She can be contacted at or by calling the MWCDC at 412-481-3220.

Ms. Johnson told the group that she was studying for a doctorate degree in history at Carnegie Mellon and liked to work with people in the community. She was formerly an event planner for radio station KFAI in Minneapolis.

Another speaker at the forum was Jeff Paul, of Pomo Development, who plans to build 22 townhouses or condos at the site of the former Duquesne Heights Community Center. Frank Valenta, president of the MWCDC board of directors, said he appreciated that Mr. Paul sought the feedback of neighbors before starting the project. If he gains approval of the planning commission and obtains the sewer permits he hopes to start building in August.

The project will take three years. The price per condo is not set yet but is expected to range between $300,000 and $375,000. Mr. Paul hopes to have the first ones built by January. Plans call for four parking spaces per unit.

He said he heard from neighbors who don't like Port Authority buses parking near the Duquesne Heights Community Center and creating fumes. He said he is also aware that some Mount residents are dependent on catching buses. Will the bus stop be eliminated? "I'll leave it up to the neighbors," he said.

Mr. Valenta announced that MWCDC recently hired Christopher Beichner, 29, of Seneca in Beaver County, as executive director. "I think everyone will be impressed by him," Director Pete Karlovich said.

Attendees joked that he is going to need a home in Mount Washington and perhaps Mr. Paul could be helpful.

"Hurry up and build one, Jeff," Mr. Valenta said.

Mr. Beichner started March 31 "because he gave notice to his employer," he said.

Mr. Valenta complimented Mr. Karlovich and staffers Greg Panza and Ilyssa Manspeizer for helping out when the organization was without an executive director or assistant executive director.

He said the MWCDC would not fill the assistant executive director position but instead continue to use Bookminder's, a local accounting firm, as financial adviser.

Member Thomas McCue spoke briefly as a representative of the McArdle Roadway Task Force, which is seeking federal transportation money to replace fencing, a barrier, sidewalks and lighting for the roadway. "We won't learn anything until the end of summer," he said. He said the project has the support of the mayor, state senators and representatives and most of city council.

Director Mary McCoy said three windows were broken and a playstation was stolen at the Ream Center. Directors were seeking advice on security systems.


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