Hill development committee looks to leverage funds

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A year ago when the Rivers Casino made its first $1 million in payments to the North Side and the Hill District to assist in neighborhood development projects, state Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill, said unlike the Northside Leadership Conference, which had already leveraged an additional $900,000 in development funds, the Hill had no mechanism to allocate the funding.

Now it does. On Aug. 9, Wheatley’s office released a press statement saying the Advisory Committee for the Greater Hill District Development Growth Fund is preparing to review real estate projects with the purpose of rebuilding the neighborhood through residential and business development.

JakeWheatley
JAKE WHEATLEY

Each neighborhood will receive $3 million from the Rivers Casino per an agreement made with original casino developer Don Barden, who included it in his application for the city’s only gaming license. The Hill is to receive its $3 million in five yearly installments.

Wheatley, who has shepherded the process since before the casino was built, said he is “pleased to work with this distinguished committee to move projects forward that will revitalize this historic neighborhood and its economy.”

The committee is comprised of representatives from several community organizations including William Generett, Pittsburgh Central Keystone Innovation Zone; Bonnie Young Laing, Hill District Consensus Group; Richard Witherspoon, Hill District Federal Credit Union; Jules Matthews, Hill House Economic Development Corp.; Marimba Milliones, Hill Community Development Corp.; Kimberly Ellis, Historic Hill Institute; Rev. Johnny Monroe, Schenley Heights Development Program; and Rev. Glenn R. Grayson, Wesley Center AMEZ Church.

In addition to Wheatley, elected representatives on the committee include Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, and Pittsburgh Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle. They are non-voting members, serving strictly in an advisory capacity.

According to the fund’s bylaws, all projects to be approved must be for development above Crawford Street. The committee will make funding recommendations for approved projects to the POISE Foundation, which is managing the fund and which will distribute the monies.

Wheatley said the committee has not formally elected officers yet and will do so before finalizing eligibility requirements, per-project funding limits, and submission procedures. He said they are taking their time for a reason—they want to get it right.

“We have to decide how best to use these funds to leverage the maximum amount of investment. We want to spend it wisely and get the biggest bang for the buck we can,” he said.

“We will meet with investors who can help us do that. And don’t forget—there’s still the Master Plan process for the Hill. We don’t need to get ahead of that. We’d rather do this right than do it fast.”

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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