South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

PED decline will reduce Carson St. Clean Team

Updates on Carson construction, Division 4, steps lighting

 

January 19, 2021



Updates on the PED/Clean Team, the 4th Division Public Works campus, and more were the focus at the South Side Planning Forum meeting.

The Zoom video conference was held on Jan. 12.

In the PED update, city nighttime economy coordinator Allison Harnden reported revenue for December, 2020, totaled $2,255.

 The PED is the enforcement of South Side Flats parking meters from 6 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. The funds must be invested back in the neighborhood for public safety, cleanliness, and infrastructure improvements. 

The PED has taken a financial hit with COVID-19 closures.

In its prime, the PED income was about $4,400 per weekend. It dropped with COVID-19, but rebounded to $2200 with the limited reopening of restaurants and other businesses a few months ago.

The fund balance is currently $234,161. It will rise to about $300,000 in February when the $92,126 revenue for 2020 is transferred to the fund and expenditures are paid.

City Councilman Bruce Kraus reported the total revenue since the inception of the PED is $678,798. He said it “blows his mind” that these funds were “left almost on the table,” referring to the years preceding the PED.

He also reported that Block by Block, or the two-person Clean Team which maintains the E. Carson St. corridor and is paid by PED funds, will be with one less person – Artie -- from January 13 through March 31. The reason is to save about $13,500.

Mr. Kraus said he and Ms. Harnden did not want to see layoffs, but thought it was time to “bite the bullet.” He added it worked out great, however, as Artie is needed elsewhere by the company which employs him.

Artie will return as part of the two-person team on April 1.

In the December Clean Team report, the team removed 5176 pounds of trash. They also removed 14 graffiti/stickers, and lent hospitality assistance eight times.

On the East Carson St. construction project, Mr. Kraus said construction is moving along “beautifully.” It should all be completed in September, 2021.

It will result in an “invigorated” East Carson St., he said.

The $16.31 million project includes milling and resurfacing, signage and signal upgrades, concrete pavement patching, drainage, guide rail, ADA ramps, curb and sidewalk, pavement markings and other construction along the 2.5 mile stretch of East Carson St. between the Smithfield Street Bridge and 33rd Street.

 Pedestrian enhancement accommodations, like bump-outs, high visibility crosswalks, and pedestrian countdown signals, are also part of the project.

According to the latest Penn DOT update, single-lane restrictions will continue on East Carson St. between Arlington Ave. and 22nd St. weekdays from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. through late August. Parking and sidewalk restrictions will continue on East Carson St. between Fifth St. and 22nd St. around-the-clock.

Traffic will be maintained in each direction throughout the work zone and parking spaces may temporarily be blocked in various locations as needed while work to occurs.

In the update of DAMs, South Side Community Council (SSCC) President Barbara Rudiak said the SSCC recently reviewed two proposals that are headed to the Historic Review Commission.

A DAM, or Development Activities Meeting, provides an opportunity for citizens, property owners, business owners, and stakeholders to learn about the proposals that affect them and to resolve concerns at an early stage of the application process.

The Dec. 17 DAM featured proposed façade improvements to Excuses Bar and Grille, 2526 East Carson St.

“It really will look very, very nice,” she said.

The other discussed project was of a mural on a building at 2308 East Carson St. The mural already exists as the artist/muralist who commissioned the work was unaware of the DAM process.

The next SSSC DAM will be on Jan. 21, and with two presentations: 1712 East Carson St., to move the ATM closer to the Dollar Bank entrance; and the 2400 block of East Carson St., for signage at the former CoGo’s.

Both proposals will go before the HRC; the signage proposal will also appear before the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA).

In a summary of the DAM process, Ms. Rudiak said the SSCC became a Registered Community Organization (RCO) through the Dept. of City Planning in January, 2020.

The designation gives formal status to community organizations that register with the City of Pittsburgh, and provides benefits to those organizations. 

Among those benefits is guaranteed meetings with developers/applicants, as through a DAM.

Since July, 2020, 14 proposed projects have been presented in DAMs to the SSCC.

In his DAM report of the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA), which also became an RCO last year, Blake McLaren said the organization’s first DAM on Oct. 21 was on the South Side Park master plan Phase 1 improvements.

The park renovations will be done in phases beginning in 2021. They will include improvements to accessibility, parking, signage, and storm water management, as well new recreational amenities and public art.

The proposal will go before the ZBA and the Art Commission.

Phase 1 work should begin in April and end in October, 2021.

In the South Side Neighborhood Plan update, Tom Smith reported committee members felt it was important to continue the Planning Forum.

The next meeting will be with City Planning on the procedure for a new neighborhood plan.

Mr. Smith said the neighborhood plan that has guided development in South Side for the last 30 or so years, and has undergone numerous updates, doesn’t fit in with what the city would like to see in a neighborhood plan.

City Planning came up with a standardized process that takes between 18 and 24 months, and includes an involved public process. This new process is guided by City Planning.

Ms. Rudiak said with the SSCC and SSSNA becoming RCOs there is an expectation the organizations strive to put a neighborhood plan together.

Another expectation would be of lots of community engagement, she said, such as residents, business owners, and other stakeholders.

However, no decision has been made by the committee regarding whether to pursue a new neighborhood plan.

In member organizations’ reports, Candice Gonzalez, executive director of the South Side Chamber of Commerce, said the annual South Side Soup Contest is postponed at this time due to COVID-19.

In the SSCC report, Ms. Rudiak said there are no student issues at this time, but that the organization works with Duquesne University when there are problems.

She also reported the SSCC is looking forward to spring cleanups and plantings.

In his report of the SSSNA, Mr. McLaren said a public art project is being planned in coordination with the park’s Phase 1 renovations.

For more information on the art project, visit: https://engage.pittsburghpa.gov/south-side-park-public-art

He also reported work will begin in a few months on lighting on the 18th St. steps. It will be funded from a $100,000 grant.

Mr. Kraus said he is very excited about the steps’ project, and for reasons in addition to safety.

“It is a brilliant piece of public art,” he said.

The next general meeting of the SSSNA will be at 6:30 p.m. on March 9.

Next, Lynn Kurhan, of UPMC Mercy, said, in the near future, the old South Side ambulatory center on Mary Street will be administering COVID-19 vaccines to those in Group 1B.

 The group includes people living and working in congregate care settings who weren’t covered in phase 1A, first responders, correctional officers, food and agriculture workers and grocery store employees, among others.

She said UPMC is awaiting direction from the governor as to whether the site will administer shots to the community.

Next, new state Rep. Jessica Benham reported a COVID vaccine virtual town hall will be held at Noon on Jan. 21. It will be hosted by Dr. Rachel Levine and members of the PA House and Senate.

To register, visit: pasenate.com/vaccine/

She also announced the state House of Representatives Scholarship is available. Visit: tfec.org/scholarships/ for information.

In the brief question-and-answer period that concluded the meeting, SSCC board member and mother Adrian Smith raised issues about Ormsby Park.

She said she and a group of parents have concerns about: trash, cigarette butts, bodily fluids, homeless people sleeping under the slides, and a lack of programs.

The fear is the issues will be become even more prominent once the weather improves.

Mr. Kraus said he would be happy to organize a Zoom meeting with the Parks and Recreation director and parents.

He also said funds from the recently implemented parks tax will be distributed in early 2022, which will help with the maintenance of city parks.

To a question about the Dept. of Public Works’ (DPW) 4th Division site redevelopment, Mr. Kraus said the hope is to have the new campus up and running for winter 2021.

DPW shut down the former Division 4 facility five years ago when it became uninhabitable as the building was toxic and unhealthy, and no longer viable.

The new campus was supposed to open this winter. However, it hit snag as a seller wanted too much money for his property which the city wanted to buy for the project. Later, the seller agreed to sell, and the city purchased the property.

Now, the campus is being redesigned. There will be electric charging devices and a car wash for city vehicles. The salt dome will not return to the site.

“I expect it to be very nice,” he said of the new 4th Division campus.

The next Planning Forum meeting will be on Feb. 9.

 

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