Hill District residents braved the snowy weather to attend a town hall meeting with their elected officials, community groups and developers. Discussion on Feb. 15 was centered on the Hill District Master Plan, which will receive $350,000 in grants from city planning departments and the Urban Redevelopment Authority.
|MAKING PROGRESS— Aliya Durham, YMCA district vice president, left, and Paul Cali, of DRS Architects, present artist renderings of the new Thelma Lovette YMCA.
“We’ve always had these miscommunications in the Hill so we thought it would be good to have all the different government representatives and community groups together,” said Rep. Jake Wheatley, who organized the meeting.
The master plan will look at development in the Arena District, Centre Avenue, Middle Hill and Wylie Avenue, Oak Hill Phase Two, Sugartop/Clarissa, and Crawford South. Specific projects discussed at the meeting included the renovation of the Kaufman Building, housing on Dinwiddie Street, restoration of the Granada Theater into a mixed use redevelopment, Bedford housing and Oak Hill housing.
“The master planning process is going to impact our community greatly. You heard about education, you heard about development, you heard from those of us who are elected officials, but the next step is you,” said District 6 City Councilman Daniel Lavelle. “When I’m Downtown or (Wheatley’s) at the state, if we know the community’s engaged, we come with a much louder voice. It helps move things much more efficiently when the community is driving it.”
The Hill District Consensus Group has developed a set of principles for the Lower Hill District. Their purpose is to guarantee residents of all income levels are included and restore the area to the neighborhood it was before the development of the Civic Arena.
In order to promote community engagement, Jules Matthews, executive director of the Hill House Development Corp. suggested setting up a website that monitors the progression of the master plan. She said this would clear up any questions by the residents to ensure their voices are heard.
“We can’t get excited about a high rise in Lower Hill with luxury (housing) and then our seniors don’t have somewhere to live because they can’t afford it,” said Matthews. “It’s very important that we think about these developers coming in and that they understand what we need.”
Few answers were given about the grocery store development in the Hill District. Jason Matthews, the real estate investor representing the Hill House Association, could only say there are three grocers interested and one pharmacy.
Another issue eliciting response from the audience was public safety. They addressed Mayor Luke Ravenstahl with concerns over troubled areas and were asked to continue to cooperate with police in identifying areas of high crime.
“It’s my preference to have those officers out of their vehicles interacting with folks,” said Ravenstahl.
Lavelle also committed to making sure the Zone 2 citizens group is active. He said he would provide the support and staff to get it up and running before turning it over to the community.
The Hill District Education Council also shared their plans to bring a completely African-centered school to the Hill District. They also have plans to incorporate foreign language and technology in the remaining Hill District schools.
Other entities represented included Historic Hill Preservation and YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh as well as the offices of state Sen. Jim Ferlo and Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato.
This was the first of four meetings set to occur throughout the year. A series of meetings for the master plan will begin in March.