South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret Smyka
Contributing Writer 

Planning Forum may explore if a NID meets needs of S.S.


Discussion of an exploratory process to study and establish a model that meets neighborhood needs once the South Side Local Development Co. goes out of business in two-and-a-half years was the focus of the May 11 meeting of the South Side Planning Forum.

Tracy Myers, president of the board of the South Side LDC, said it is a "good thing" the non-profit organization is closing its doors as it means goals were achieved, such as stimulating the economy where the private market did not.

"The private market is humming along," she said of the South Side today. Funders, she said, are clear that other neighborhoods have greater needs.

"The neighborhood is viewed as a success by those funding our efforts," she said.

She suggested conversation begin on South Side about a "Neighborhood Improvement District," or NID, as a potential strategy for delivery of neighborhood services.

To that end, Ms. Myers said the South Side LDC posted a new position for a one-year community organizer/liaison to help "move along" an exploratory group on the possibility of a NID or some other strategy.

The South Side LDC's wish is for the exploratory group to be a function of the planning forum.

Planning forum members were asked to consult with their respective organizations and report back on whether they support the following two actions:

The first is the formation of an exploratory group with a broad-based membership of community stakeholders which will convene the processes necessary to study and establish a NID or any other model which meets collective community needs.

The other action is the provision of leadership to facilitate these educational processes.

"It's a great opportunity for the neighborhood to come together and identify priorities," said Ms. Myers.

If a consensus is reached to endorse the exploration process, the plan is for the new community organizer to work for the planning forum and exploratory committee, although the person's office would be housed at the South Side LDC.

The committee's members will be determined by the planning forum.

"We want the planning forum to take leadership and form the committee," said Judy Dyda, manager of community planning at the South Side LDC. The planning forum will also serve as repository.

She said the board feels this is the time to examine neighborhood needs away from the South Side LDC.

Chuck Half, a South Side LDC board member, said the board is concerned that the exploratory committee be inclusive with people who work, play, and live on the South Side. It also needs to include business people. So far, everyone who has volunteered is a resident.

Misi Bielich said non-resident property owners, such as landlords, should be included.

"It will be an important segment to take into consideration," said Ms. Myers.

Forum Chair Hugh Brannan said the forum's role will be similar to its role in the LTV site and the transforming of UPMC South Side.

"We are not making the plans. We are taking responsibility for the community discussion," he said.

In the LTV update, Ms. Dyda reported the Hot Metal Flats will consist of 52 units, with rent varying from $1,300 to $2,000. There will be 45 covered parking spaces and 14 exterior spaces.

Amenities include a dog washing station; internal bike racks; and. exercise room.

The project could be started by summer.

There is still no contact with the FBI or Homeland Security about possible use of the nearby, proposed Get-Go site. Giant Eagle has appeared before the SSLDC Design Committee, with the design recommendations being examined.

Construction on Toby Keith's country-themed "I Love This Bar & Grill" should begin in late fall. The goal is to open by spring, 2011.

The retail side of Rynn's Luggage closed, with the company operating out of office space. It vacated 30,000-square-feet warehouse space in the neighborhood.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA) continues to work to develop a fifth garage. The other garages are performing adequately.

The widening of a portion of East Carson St. continues, with minor issues around construction.

The retail study of East Carson St., SouthSide Works, and Station Square to make sure businesses are not competing with each other, is continuing.

In other news, a decision by the Zoning Board of Adjustment on the request by the Diesel nightclub for a rooftop deck will likely not be rendered for six weeks.

Adam DeSimone, who owns the multi-use venue and property at 1601 East Carson St. with his father and brother, wants to erect an open rooftop deck of 1,600-square-feet plus stairwells and restrooms.

The maximum deck capacity would be 120. Diesel's current capacity, without a deck, is 600.

The planning forum communicated their conditions to the board's chair.

The forum also sent a letter to Assistant Police Chief Paul Donaldson citing concerns about a homeless camp off 18th Street. Drugs, violence, health effects, and a recent murder are the issues.

The next meeting of the Planning Forum will be June 15 at 5:30 p.m. at the Brashear Association. The second Tuesday — which is the usual meeting date — is June 8. However, as to not conflict with a Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI) one-day forum on June 8 at the Sheraton Station Square, the Planning Forum will meet a week later.

The non-profit RHI promotes cooperation among those involved in hospitality, safety, and community development groups. Its approach is communication, cooperation, consensus, commitment, and collaboration among stakeholders.

Attendance is open to anyone. For information, visit:

The June 15 forum meeting will feature a presentation on an Aldi supermarket becoming part of the Goodwill building development.

The presentation is a rescheduling of one that had been planned for the May 11 meeting. Aldi officials requested the postponement.


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