South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Historic designation, E. Carson task forces discussed at Forum


Last updated 5/22/2019 at 9:21pm

A nomination of a South Side structure for historic designation, and updates on the East Carson St. business district strategy and the South Side Parking Enhancement District (PED), were the focus of the May 14 meeting of the South Side Planning Forum.

South Side Presbyterian Church, 1926 Sarah St., is seeking classification as an historic structure from the city’s Historic Review Commission (HRC).

The nomination packet was submitted to the HRC in Dec., 2018. It was prepared by Preservation Pittsburgh in conjunction with the church.

Incorporated in 1851, South Side Presbyterian Church is the oldest active church in South Side. The building was constructed in 1869 when the neighborhood was the borough of Birmingham. Additions followed in 1893, 1913, and 1920.

According to Preservation Pittsburgh, the church is significant “because of its embodiment of mid-nineteenth vernacular Gothic Revival design with late-nineteenth century Gothic Revival alterations; its association with themes of religion, ethnicity, and social history; and that it’s a prominent visual feature of the South Side Flats in which it stands.”

Matthew W.C. Falcone, president of Preservation Pittsburgh, said a public hearing on the nomination is scheduled before city council on May 20. He said he hoped everyone at the Planning Forum meeting would be supportive.

Kathy Hamilton-Vargo, pastor of South Side Presbyterian Church, and a Planning Forum member, said that regardless of whether or not the nomination passes, a community block party and open house will be held at the church from noon to 3 p.m. on June 15.

The free, family-friend event will feature music, food for purchase, children’s activities, musicians, building tours, and more.

“We want to celebrate with the community,” Pastor Hamilton-Vargo said.

City Councilman Bruce Kraus said “it will pass unanimously,” and the designation should be settled by the first week of June.

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

The URA and the city, along with several South Side community groups, have been working to develop a community-driven, three- to five-year business district blueprint for strengthening East Carson St. from S. 10th St. to S. 25th St.

The three task forces, representing three focus areas, are: promotions; economic vitality; and public esthetics.

The three subcommittees of promotions are promoting residential life, business-to-business, and branding.

Economic vitality involves pulling together resources into one database of businesses: looking at what’s there, the vacancies, and more.

Public esthetics involves bringing in people from various city departments to inform South Side businesses of what they need to know regarding operating a business in South Side, such as licenses, permits, signage, historic district regulations, and more.

The open meeting of public esthetics will be held on June 25 in the Hamburg Studio at the City Theatre. No time has yet been set.

There will also be another meeting in July in which the three task forces will provide updates.

“This is not a URA-led process, but a URA-supported process.

“This is the community’s vision,” Ms. Fitzgibbons said.

She concluded by saying there is still time for residents to join a task force.

“We always want new voices,” she said.

Funding has not yet been sought for an East Carson St. business district plan as a plan has not yet been developed. But funding will be needed for implementation down the road.

Next, nighttime economy coordinator Allison Harnden provided an update on the South Side Parking Enhancement District (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.

The gross revenue year-to-date for 2019 is $76,345.93. The gross revenue all years is $454,571.56. The average Friday-Saturday weekend take is $4,100 to $4,500.

Utilizing PED funds, a two-person Clean Team from Block by Block has been retained and is keeping the area free of trash, litter, weeds, and more. The workers also power-wash the sidewalks to rid them of gum, grease, and other detriments.

The main daily focus has been East Carson St. between 10th and 25th streets, and the side streets about one block in both directions.

Regarding the city’s current East Carson St. streetscaping project from 10th to 25th streets, Ms. Harnden said to email: for any questions. Photos with addresses of the problem areas may also be emailed.

Ms. Harnden said there are laws governing sandwich boards in construction areas, and so they may be confiscated.

Mr. Kraus said they are illegal as encroachments on public right-of-ways. The goal is to not impede the right-of-way as construction is occurring. Businesses wishing to have them outside construction zones can fill out an application as there is a permit process in place.

Mr. Kraus also said he received email the handicap ramp at the community council garden was being disruptive. He said all ramps are temporary and will be redone during the PennDOT project.

That work -- 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.

He also said “puddling,” or rainwater covering a surface, at 18th and Carson streets is a problem at the moment, but that it will be corrected by the fall.

Mr. Kraus also reported holiday lights will be PED funded, and it is time to begin thinking of where to buy from, and more, so they are ready to go in November.

To a question about the Dept. of Public Works’ (DPW) 4th Division site redevelopment, Mr. Kraus said the building has been demolished, and a new building/campus will be constructed on the same site on Bausman St. in Knoxville.

DPW closed the facility when it became toxic and no longer viable. Division 4 responsibilities have since been split between divisions 3 and 5.

The new building is only in concept now as the project is in its beginning stages. An ongoing series of public meetings will take place before anything is finalized.

The next public meeting on the issue will be at 6 p.m. on June 10 in the Knoxville Library.

Mr. Kraus said the proposed elements of the new campus include existing fuel pumps and tanks; warehouse/garage/offices; car wash for city vehicles; responsible recycling center; and more.

DPW’s proposal is to return Mathews Ave. to two-way and add a cul-de-sac as it would allow DPW to secure the site and provide safety for DPW vehicles and employees maneuvering the site.

The city’s capital budget has $2 million set aside for the new facility.

The hope is to begin construction in the fall.

In other business, Tracy Myers, chair of the Development Review Committee (DRC), speaking about the task force process and historic district enforcement, said the sandwich boards addressed by the public esthetics task force is all about enforcement.

At the same time, Mayor William Peduto has expressed frustration with East Carson St. signage, she said.

“A lot of business owners don’t know what they’re supposed to do,” she said.

As most of East Carson St. is an historic district, it has its own rules and regulations.

The task force will make recommendations in June, she said.

In the South Side Chamber of Commerce report for April, there were 71 volunteers who donated 603 hours to clean up litter on South Side. The Welcome Center had 1,352 visitors.

The next Planning Forum meeting will be on June 11.


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