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Mount Washington celebrates partners, neighborhood work

 


Celebrating its sixth Annual Dinner, the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation (MWCDC) took the opportunity to acknowledge work done by the organization’s staff and board and recognize community stakeholders.

Newly elected board president Breen Masciotra highlighted some of the organization’s projects over the past year. Among them she noted the two-dozen intensive “Listening Tour” interviews with Mount Washington and Duquesne Heights residents to help the MWCDC understand the diversity of perspectives in the neighborhood and the ten new interpretive signs were placed along the Grandview Scenic Byway along with landscaping at Point of View Bluff.

She said nearly 400 volunteers were engaged by the MWCDC, donating more than 2,000 hours of service in Emerald View Park.

Ms. Masciotra said since 2011, the Emerald Trail Corp Program has trained and hired more than 40 at-risk adults who have constructed or renovated nearly 10 miles of trails in Emerald View Park.

In the last year, MWCDC also was able to turn a second blighted property, on Eureka Street, into a neighborhood asset by first renovating and then selling the home.

Illyssa Manspeizer, executive director of the MWCDC, celebrated the passion in the neighborhood volunteers and residents by saying it was “in their DNA.”

“Honoring, harvesting and empowering community initiatives to cultivate growth and community investment in Mount Washington and Duquesne Heights is at the heart of what we aim to do as a community development corporation,” she said.

Over the next several months, the MWCDC will begin conversations to consider creating a community council to address issues in the neighborhoods that have not been addressed to this point. The council would provide a further forum for residents to engage in directing the neighborhoods’ future, Ms. Manspeizer said.

Seguing into the Partner of the Year Award, Ms. Manspeizer noted out of 19 inclines in Pittsburgh, the community was the only one to band together to save their incline, the Duquesne Heights Incline, after it closed in 1962. The award was presented to the Society for the Preservation of the Duquesne Heights Incline.

In a grassroots effort shortly after the incline closed, she explained, civil engineer David Miller and his wife, Ruth, started a neighborhood organization to save the incline. Utilizing small fundraising efforts, the organization was able to make minor repairs themselves and raised $15,000 to complete additional repairs to reopen the incline within six months.

For more than 50 years the society has kept the incline running safely and made it into one of Pittsburgh’s most-visited attractions with nearly 500,000 riders each year, she said.

Kathryn Hunninen, MWCDC director of Park Development and Conservation, presented the Park Advocate of the Year Award to Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc. (CECI).

The Park Advocate of the Year is awarded to an individual or organization that has demonstrated significant financial or organizational investment into Emerald View Park and the community and has been an outstanding partner with passion for the promotion and success of the park initiative, she explained.

CECI received the award for its strong commitment and passion for Emerald View Park, Mount Washington, and protection of one of its most precious assets, the “View.”

Since 2006, CECI has helped to develop cost saving measures, such as engaging volunteers to assist with planting and maintenance as well as implementing innovative techniques for establishing grass cover and caring for new plantings.

She noted that sustainably restoring the view, rather than topping the trees, will save the city $2.8 million over 20 years.

“They has shown great care and dedication for the park initiative and the community for nearly a decade,” Ms. Hunninen said.

The final award of the evening was presented to the Bigham Tavern by MWCDC Director of Economic Development James Eash.

Since their purchase of the business in 2010, the ownership group has invested to transform the tavern into a neighborhood destination and gathering place. All areas of the operation, including interior and exterior renovations, a complete overhaul and expansion of the food menu and the addition of an outdoor patio area have gone into the investment.

The ownership has also shown a commitment to the broader neighborhood by improving surrounding residential properties along Bigham Street through renovations and responsible management.

As part of the program, the MWCDC recognized outgoing board member Peter Karlovich for his years of service and new 2014-2015 board members Alaina Spanoudakis, Kyle Stewart and Josh Whiteside.

New officers are: Ms. Masciotra, president; Amanda Rubio, vice-president; Paul Gitnik, treasurer; and, Bob Zilch, secretary.

 

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