Construction update, new Brashear executive director at S.S. Planning Forum
April 16, 2019
A new executive director of the Brashear Association, and updates on the South Side Parking Enhancement District (PED) and the East Carson St. streetscaping project, headlined the April 9 meeting of the South Side Planning Forum.
The meeting was chaired by Tom Smith, editor of The South Pittsburgh Reporter, who is serving as interim chair of the Planning Forum. He follows Hugh Brannan, who retired from the Brashear Association after 36 years of service and as Planning Forum chair.
His replacement as executive director of the Brashear Association was introduced at the meeting: Andrea Matthews, who began her new role on April 1.
“This is about service,” she said. She plans to attend all of the Planning Forum meetings.
Member Tracy Myers said anyone on the board would be happy to meet with her and fill her in on their respective organizations as well as forum activities.
Ms. Matthews was the founding executive director of the Children’s Sickle Cell Foundation, Inc., and, more recently, worked as a public health analyst with the Health Resources and Services Administration, Health and Human Services, in Rockville, MD.
A native Pittsburgher, Ms. Matthews grew up in Beltzhoover. Her children participated in the Brashear Association’s educational programming, and she served on the board of directors as a first vice president.
City Councilman Bruce Kraus said he met Ms. Matthews 15 years ago at a Neighborhood Leaders program on the Hilltop.
“I cannot think of a better person to assume this role in the Brashear Association.
“She has all the skill and talent to take the organization forward,” he said.
Next, Mr. Kraus and nighttime economy coordinator Allison Harnden provided an update on the South Side PED, which is the enforcement of South Side Flats parking meters from 6 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, and which was created in 2017.
The revenue from the PED must be invested back in the neighborhood for public safety, cleanliness, and infrastructure improvements.
To date, $333,052 was collected. For 2019 so far, $57,000 was collected.
Expenditures to date total $85,441, which includes cameras, training, and cleaning and power wash.
For St. Patrick’s Day, about 45 portable toilets, paid by PED funds, were available in five surface lots for a cost of $3,500. The meters took in $3,600, “so it was a wash in cost,” Mr. Kraus said.
Block by Block, which provides under contract a two-person Clean Team, is back to keep the area free of trash, litter, weeds, and more. The team covers six days a week: Monday through Friday, and on Sunday.
The main daily focus has been East Carson St. between 10th and 25th streets, and the side streets about one block in both directions. A clean up was recently added continuing down to 7th St., the streets around the Market House senior center, and a few other streets with heavy leaf and trash curb line accumulation from the winter months.
The two Clean Team workers also serve as ambassadors, frequently answering questions about directions and more for visitors.
Mr. Kraus said the day after St. Patrick’s Day the Clean Team worked on 10th to 25th streets and the side streets, while the city’s Dept. of Public Works did East Carson St. The result was “great compliments,” Mr. Kraus said.
Regarding the city’s current East Carson St. streetscaping project from 10th to 25th streets, Ms. Harnden said there are laws governing sandwich boards and so they will be confiscated.
Mr. Kraus said the sandwich boards are illegal as encroachments on public right-of-ways and require a special permit. The goal of removing the sidewalk signs is to not impede the right-of-way for pedestrians as construction is occurring.
Also, it was noted that moving the construction fences is considered vandalism, according to the city’s Dept. of Mobility and Infrastructure (DOMI).
Mr. Kraus said the construction company told DOMI it is costing them time and money to re-erect fences following their being moved by either revelers or business owners. As there are cameras on the street, the perpetrators will be cited for vandalism.
To a question as to whether there is a limit, generally, to the number of sandwich boards, Mr. Kraus said those wishing to have them can fill out an application as there is a process in place.
But in construction zones, it is a matter of public safety, and important to those with disabilities.
“The public space must be open to navigate,” he said.
Regarding the East Carson St. streetscaping project which is underway, the work includes: all electrical conduit being installed for pedestrian lighting, highway lighting, and new traffic signals.
Eighty street trees will be removed, with new trees installed at the end of the project. Old utility poles with no purpose are also being removed, totaling about 40.
For project questions, email: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Mr. Kraus said there will be a temporary convenience but permanent improvement. He thanked everyone for their patience.
The project has two separate starting points: from 10th to 17th streets, and 17th to 25th streets. The work will last about six months, with the state likely beginning their project this summer that will last 16 to 18 months.
The $12 million East Carson St. safety improvement project will extend from the Smithfield St. Bridge to 33rd St., and be carried out by the state Dept. of Transportation [PennDOT].
It will include resurfacing, upgrading intersections, ADA ramps and more.
Next, in the report of the Development Review Committee (DRC), Ms. Myers said the proposed “Distillery at South Shore” went before the Planning Commission that day. The commission has 45 days to issue its decision.
The project is the redevelopment of a building at 129 McKean St., at the corner of McKean and 2nd streets. It is between where the Liberty Bridge and the T-line pass over the Flats. The structure originally stored whiskey barrels.
The formal proposal is for renovation and addition to the existing structure for use as grocery (limited), retail (general), and restaurant (general).
The new building will have eating venues, a cigar smoking area, a site for artists to display their works, and more. The ground floor would have a fresh market.
Ms. Myers also reported the proposed Red Dog pet resort will not happen. She said it has nothing to do with the site or the project, but was a business decision. She said she knew no other details.
The resort was planned for the corner of 26th and Sidney streets in the retail site on the first floor of the garage attached to City Apartments. The business planned to offer boarding, grooming, pet massages, and more, and was expected to hire up to 40 employees.
Ms. Myers also reported a potential new clubhouse/office building on the upper level parking lot of the South Side marina was progressing.
In her neighborhood plan update, she said money is being raised to fund a consultant to help figure out the future structure of the Planning Forum.
At previous meetings, she said the Brashear Association’s service area has evolved, and might not stay the same. Mr. Brannan said at a prior meeting he did not foresee a situation in which Brashear did not serve the South Side in some way, but Brashear’s focus of service is shifting to the Hilltop communities
Ms. Myers said, therefore, it needs to be determined how Forum leadership will be structured. Also, is it realistic for the Planning Forum to continue to operate on a consensus basis? Should the arts and culture sector be represented? Should the Planning Forum become a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation?
To help with that process, a request for proposal (RFP) was drafted for a consultant.
In announcements, Candice Gonzalez, of the Chamber of Commerce, reported that from Jan. 1 to March 31 the South Side Welcome Center had 50 volunteers for 422 hours of donated work. There were 1,106 visitors to the Center, 1100 East Carson St.
The Chamber Happy Hour will be held on May 16 at Carmella’s Plates & Pints, 1980 East Carson St.
OpenStreetsPGH will be held on July 28, with the route including South Side. Hosted by BikePGH, OpenStreetsPGH is a free community event that opens miles of streets from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for people to walk, run, bike, and explore spaces that would otherwise be used by motor vehicles.
The South Side Summer Golf Classic will be held on Monday, July 29, at South Hills Country Club.
In South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA) news, a light contractor for the 18th St. steps has been approved. The next meeting of the SSSNA will be at 6:30 p.m. on May 14.
In South Side Community Council (SSCC) news, the 28th Annual South Side Home Tour will be held on Sunday, May 19 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Please contact the SSCC if you would like your home added to the tour. Homes on the Slopes are especially sought.
“We could use more houses and sponsorships,” SSCC Board President Barbara Rudiak said.
The next Planning Forum meeting will be on May 14.