The future redevelopment of the Hill District’s Connelley Technical Institute into a space for Pittsburgh Green Innovators has many environmentalists excited. But what does this new center mean for taxpayers funding the building’s redevelopment and how will it benefit Hill District residents?
“The one impact I’m hoping will be immediate is that as they start to redevelop, that Hill residents will take part in helping to transform that building,” said State House Rep. Jake Wheatley, who represents the Hill District. “I’m hoping residents of the Hill will have opportunities. I’m hoping that building being in the Hill District will be another beacon to attract people to come into the neighborhood.”
The Pittsburgh Green Innovators building will serve as a hub for green projects across the city. This means the site will offer training in green career fields and serve as a center for creating and showcasing new green technologies.
“We’re harnessing all the green groups. We’re going to transform Connelly and it will be a center of all things green. It will be next generation in terms of how buildings are built in the future,” said Sen. Jim Ferlo. “The building itself will become open to the public and the people that work there. The building itself will have all the cutting edge technologies and it will be a showcase for companies that want to showcase their cutting edge technologies.”
Students will be trained in technologies such as solar panels and wind turbines as well as other kinds of engineering. Through partnerships with the Pittsburgh Public School District and Pittsburgh’s universities and colleges, professionals at various levels will teach classes.
“There’s a possibility for connections between Pittsburgh Public Schools and our students being trained in the facility and having access to companies that will be the future,” Wheatley said. “I think all of that being in the same building–-having young students with young professionals—I think it’s a wonderful process to engage our young workforce.”
PGI is projected to train more than 800 workers in the first five years, including secondary, post-secondary, and apprenticeship/certificate students. It is also projected to overwhelmingly increase the number of minority owned businesses in the Hill District with over 70 percent of the new businesses created being minority-owned.
“We’ve actively recruited participation from residents in the Hill District community. There’s going to be a much higher level of job training that will lead to meaningful employment. In order for this project to be successful it has to be indigenous to the community,” said Ferlo. “If folks can get through the high school education protocol we’re talking about opportunities that will be going into the trades. We see as the economy changes and the nature of our workforce changes there are great opportunities for young people to go from high school directly into a high quality job opportunity. That’s how we’re going to measure whether this is successful.”
On July 7, Gov. Ed Rendell announced he would be allocating $8 million in state funding for the project. Another $6 million has been secured from other state and federal funding resources. The total investment for the building including two phases of renovations has been estimated at $50 million.
“With limited resources we were really trying to target what would be the best project that could be funded in terms of moving the city ahead,” Ferlo said. “We’re not producing enough engineers in our society and that’s especially true for minorities and women. We wanted to focus in on the missing link which is really how can we train the existing workforce and how can we react to this paradigm shift with the Obama administration.“