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Created on Wednesday, 16 January 2013 10:55 Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 January 2013 10:55 Published on Wednesday, 16 January 2013 10:55 Written by Christian Morrow - Courier Staff Writer Hits: 661
R. DANIEL LAVELLE
by Christian Morrow
Since the funding to begin construction on the Centre Heldman Shop ‘n Save was finally secured, Pittsburgh Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle is thankful he doesn’t have to answer questions about the project every day on his way to work.
But with development projects along the rest of the Centre Avenue Corridor proceeding, and development of the 28-acre former Civic Arena site looming, Lavelle’s concentration is on making sure residents of the Hill District enjoy the fruits of this revitalization.
Lavelle, who joined fellow councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess and state Reps. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill, and Ed Gainey, D-East Liberty, for a meeting with the New Pittsburgh Courier two weeks ago, said development resources, for now, have to be disproportionately allocated to Black neighborhoods. And for now, that is being done.
“We have to be intentional in our efforts, especially when Pittsburgh’s Black community is the poorest of any city in the country,” said. Lavelle. “The mayor understands that this renaissance has to reach Manchester, the Hill and Lincoln-Larimer, and not just Downtown.”
As for making sure the residents benefit from all the coming development, Lavelle said ideally there would be a website that posts contracting and employment opportunities for given projects well in advance. Barring that, the community needs to stay in constant contact with developers and owners.
“The community has to be in step. When they need a lawyer for this reason, or an accountant for another, we need to know that’s coming ahead of time,” he said. “I’m seeing what I can do legislatively to make that happen.”
Lavelle also said the community and its representatives need to be creative about benefitting from the coming investment, especially in the arena site.
“At some point, the Pittsburgh Penguins are going to go to Wall Street for money. When they do, there should be an opportunity for Mrs. Johnson from the Hill to invest $1,000 so she can see a profit too,” he said. “The banks will profit, the Pens will profit, and I want the community to have the same enrichment opportunity.”
In terms of development itself, Lavelle said he is determined to make sure Community members benefit from job opportunities over the lifetime of any given project.
“My goal is to literally create a new wealth legacy for African-Americans in the Hill and throughout the city,” he said. “And to ensure participation at every stage; from the food cart selling sandwiches, to construction, to professional services, to property management, all the way down the line.”
Legislatively, Lavelle has already made sure new parking revenue at the 28-acre site goes to a Hill development fund. He has also required banks that want city funds to reinvest in the poorest Black neighborhoods, and co-sponsored legislation with Burgess that created a Department of Equal Opportunity and to fund a disparity study.
Lavelle said he is currently working to reestablish the Black Contractors Association through the Urban Redevelopment Authority where he serves as a board member.
He wants to get it back up and running so there is a current database of Black plumbers, electricians, etc. that anyone can use. If anyone should know who and where these guys are, he said, it’s the URA.
“We can’t do this piecemeal, we have to be strategic,” he said. “The investment in people is just as important as the investment in infrastructure, and is critical to long term success.”
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