URA chief at chamber breakfast
Created on Wednesday, 21 April 2010 10:40 Last Updated on Monday, 03 December 2012 19:20 Published on Wednesday, 21 April 2010 10:40 Written by Christian Morrow - Courier Staff Writer Hits: 1965
So when she introduced URA Executive Director Rob Stephany she told him to relax because he’d be preaching to the choir.
“He’s probably the most engaging director we’ve had,” she said. “We see him out in the community, and he’s been a big supporter of the August Wilson Center.”
|SEEING WHAT DEVELOPS—Urban Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Rob Stephany discusses new development strategies with members of the African American Chamber of Commerce as chamber president and CEO Doris Carson Williams looks on.
Stephany gave a brief history of the URA and its revitalization projects over the years and a summary of his own development history with Bloomfield-Garfield Corp. and East Liberty Development Inc. before Mayor Luke Ravenstahl tapped him to lead the authority.
While he cited URA successes such as the developments in Washington’s Landing, Frick Park and South Side Works, not all have had the desired spill-over effect of raising property values in adjacent neighborhoods.
“The property values on Washington’s Landing have increased substantially, but there has been no economic spillover into Troy Hill,” he said. “At Frick Park, next to Squirrel Hill, we’ve seen spill over along the one road that accesses the project, and all around the South Side Works, we’ve seen off-site appreciation of up to 225 percent.”
Stephany also pointed to Penn Avenue in Garfield as an example, noting that on one side there are $200,000 properties, while across the street are $16,000 properties.
“And it’s like that all the way to Wilkinsburg,” he said.
Though Stephany said the authority is known for its success in reviving former industrial sites like South Side Works and Frick Park, it is also known for white elephants like the Lazarus and Lord & Taylor stores. He said the authority is now looking at a smaller scale and more directed strategy to improve and stabilize neighborhoods.
“We’re now investing in ‘the edge,’ where stability meets instability,” he said. “All the neighborhoods we’ve invested in have improved, except the distressed neighborhoods—they’ve gotten worse. We have substantial investments in these neighborhoods, which raises the question: are they mis-investments?”
Stephany said the authority is moving from a “big bang, utopialand” strategy to a smaller-scale strategy.
“But ‘Main Street’ (retail) is still hard to do,” he said. “One bad Saturday can determine whether the rent gets paid or not. But it’s become clear that we need market-driven strategies instead of community development corporation-driven strategies.”
As if on cue, one audience member noted that on Wood Street, Downtown, small, unsubsidized businesses are popping up to take advantage of the increased retail demand created by the Point Park University expansion and the Piatt Place and Market Square redevelopment. So, there is some spillover from those large projects.
One point Stephany did not bring up was the future of the 28-acre site where the Mellon Arena now sits. But when asked, he said care should be taken, lest other initiatives get lost in shuffle.
Digital Daily Signup
Sign up now for the New Pittsburgh Courier Digital Daily newsletter!
- Cheerios ad with multiracial family prompts racist outcry (8)
- This Week In Black History (1)
- That intelligence agencies monitor our calls and Internet usage shouldn’t come as a surprise (1)
- Central Baptist Church hosts 'Spring Hat Sensation' at LeMont (2)
- Pitt hosts national summit tackling poverty research cuts (2)