South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Safety will benefit from South Side PED district

 

March 20, 2018



Updates on the South Side Parking Enhancement District (PED), and on the East Carson St. business district strategy consultant contract, were presented at the March 13 meeting of the South Side Planning Forum.

The update on the revenue generated by the new South Side PED was conducted by city Councilman Bruce Kraus, nighttime economy coordinator Allison Harnden, public safety director Wendell Hissrich, and public works superintendent Bill Crean.

 The PED -- the enforcement of South Side Flats parking meters from 6 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays – began March 17, 2017, with a month-long grace period during which tickets were not issued for violators.

The Flats became the first neighborhood to be designated a PED in the city.

Ms. Harnden said the money generated from March, 2017 to the end of the year, minus expenses, was about $134,000. In total, almost $200,000 was collected from March, 2017 to March, 2108.

The revenue from the South Side PED is in a trust fund to be invested back in the area. The money must go to public safety, cleanliness, and infrastructure improvements in the neighborhood.

Mr. Hissrich said for public safety, the plan is to use $25,000 for five high-resolution cameras, and $10,000 for training for police and bar owners on how to handle bars and their patrons on busy nights.

Mr. Crean said for public works, the plan is to purchase a $43,000 trash-eating machine to be operated Saturday and Sunday mornings, and to purchase trash cans with sensors and for recyclables. In the beginning, 12th through 19th streets would be targeted for the early morning cleanings.

The proposed curbside trash cans are equipped with sensors that inform workers when a can needs to be emptied. The system is expected to save time by directing workers only to those cans filled with trash.

The purchases must go before council for a vote. “So it will all be part of the public record,” Mr. Kraus said.

He also said the additions are designed to supplement services, not replace them.

“We need this to be an ongoing conversation,” he said of potential future expenditures, such as bike patrols or enhanced lighting.

“I’m going to be an S.O.B. about this,” he said about no money being wasted, and of evidence of “substantive change.”

To a question if there is a solution for trash, like bottles and pizza boxes, thrown in residential areas by patrons leaving Carson St., Mr. Kraus said it is part of the conversation.

At prior meetings, he has expressed interest in exploring business partnerships, such as with pizza shops, as pizza boxes frequently end up in the street as litter on weekends.

To a question if any big-ticket purchases are planned, Ms. Harnden suggested extra ambassadors on the street.

Mr. Kraus said to showcase how safe it is on the South Side, he likes the idea of “visible” ambassadors, or creating a so-called safe space, which other cities have for people who suddenly find themselves in need, such as becoming too drunk to drive home.

To a question of how to educate patrons that an “anything goes” mentality on the South Side is wrong, Ms. Harnden said marketing campaigns are needed that capture peoples’ attention.

In conclusion, Mr. Kraus said at the current pace, $1 million will be generated through the PED in five years. The enhancements it will fund will make the neighborhood safer and more inviting, he said.

Next, Josette Fitzgibbons, neighborhood business district manager for the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA), updated attendees on the status of an East Carson St. business district strategy.

Following the issuance of an RFP (request for proposal), and the review of submissions by a proposals team, the $40,000 consultant contract was awarded to Fourth Economy, a national community and economic development consulting firm.

Besides developing a business district strategy for East Carson St., the consultant will: participate in project team meetings, South Side Planning Forum meetings, and public meetings; meet with relevant stakeholder groups; survey businesses and customers; work with the city’s nighttime economy manager to develop an impact study and policy review; and deliver a report with the results of the surveys and interviews, and recommendations.

The result will be a three- to five-year strategy for the East Carson St. business district.

Ms. Fitzgibbons introduced Jamie Reese, of Fourth Economy, who will serve as project manager for the study; and Tara Torres, who will speak with business owners, residents, and patrons to solicit their views, reasons for coming to South Side, and more.

A public meeting on the project will be held sometime in late April or early May.

Ms. Fitzgibbons said what is needed is a look at the business district as a whole: what businesses are doing; which is having overflow crowds; which businesses are struggling; and more, or what she referred to as “boots on the ground.”

She said a void was created with the closing of the South Side Local Development Co. (SSLDC), which was to be the “eyes and ears” every day for East Carson St.

 As for a timeline, Ms. Fitzgibbons said the goal is early summer to receive recommendations for the next steps.

There will also be a report on the present status of East Carson St. that will be used as a blueprint for moving forward.

Next, there was a brief overview of the recent Responsible Hospitality Institute’s (RHI) Social City Summit in New Orleans attended by a group of city officials.

At RHI, the best practices in nighttime management are shared by community leaders nationwide.

Forum member Barbara Rudiak, who attended the summit, said while many cities have similar challenges as South Side, their nighttime economies are embraced at different levels. In New Orleans, for instance, it is so intrinsic to their economy that litter is cleaned up by morning.

Mr. Kraus said “life at night” is their approach to keeping the city energized after 5 p.m., and which is different from “night life.”

Ms. Harnden said she met officials from around the world with a role similar to hers, but with different perspectives.

A woman from Chile, for instance, is doing a design around nightlife areas and how they can impact peoples’ views. She is developing a map of the areas people are afraid of in the hopes of capturing fear points, and then changing them.

In other business, Tracy Myers, chair of the Development Review Committee (DRC), said the group did not meet last month.

In her South Side Neighborhood Plan update, chair Ms. Myers said a letter is being prepared to send to South Side businesses thanking them for maintaining their property, particularly as the 25th Anniversary of Historic East Carson St. is celebrated this year.

She also reported Planning Forum members are reviewing the neighborhood plan to ensure that their respective organizations’ responsibilities are being met. The plan is to review the assigned activities and, in May, to report back if there are changes.

The next focus will be on policies.

In announcements, Candice Gonzalez, of the South Side Chamber of Commerce, reported that in January-February, the Welcome Center had 68 volunteers for 435 hours of donated work. There were 1,389 Center visitors from around the world.

The Chamber will co-host, with the Business Network International – Rainmakers, a “Networking Happy Hour” from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on March 29 at The Urban Tap, 1209 East Carson St. There will be complimentary hors d’oeuvres, and a cash bar. RSVP to the Chamber.

Ms. Gonzalez also reported that the 2018 Summer Golf Classic, sponsored by the Chamber and the South Side Bar and Restaurant Association, will be held on July 30 at the South Hills Country Club in Whitehall. The club’s website is: http://www.southhillscc.org .

Proceeds benefit the South Side Welcome Center and provide equipment and supplies for the Chamber Clean Team.

To register, and for information on any Chamber events, email info@southsidechamber.org. 

The next Planning Forum meeting will be on April 10.

 

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