“Community building” means different things depending on whether you put the emphasis on the “MUNE” in community or the “BUILD” in building.
In the former instance, community itself is what one sets out to build; in the latter, building is in some manner undertaken by a community.
We should like to do some of both.
To paraphrase a former Defense Secretary, “community building” also means building with the communities you have — not the communities you might want or wish to have at a later time.
Development forces are already at work in different theaters as we begin our civic transformation.
The Hill theater is fiercely engaged at the Lower Hill / Upper Downtown, and can be defined by the following:
- High civic demand for development
- Zoning still up in the air
- Private entity owns development rights on entire footprint, Sports & Exhibition Authority owns land.
- Development rights will begin expiring in years, absent new development.
Impasses between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Hill District community in rezoning the quasi-City land include affordable housing, inclusive workforce and commercial development practices, neighborhood legacy acknowledgments in naming and place-making, identified source funding for some Greater Hill Master Plan (pdf) and neighborhood initiatives, and enforcement provisions for whatever is pledged. To that grand neighborhood consensus, the Comet and others like to add that anything purporting to connect Downtown to the Hill District ought to have brilliantly complete streets, suited to the needs and aims of the environment.
Councilman Robert Daniel Lavelle, who represents the Hill District, Downtown and parts of the North Side, duly reminded the Penguins at a recent community meeting that he can “tear [their] plan up.” And this is a Councilman that has been anxious for the prosperity of new development.
More on-point, recently to the Times:
Mr. Lavelle, the city councilman, said the Hill District tumbled into poverty and crime with the demolition of many blocks in the 1950s to make way for a civic arena. It wiped out a grid of stores and jazz clubs that the poet Claude McKay once called “the crossroads of the world.”
“When you tore down the Lower Hill District, you took away the entrepreneurial spirit,” Mr. Lavelle said. “The extreme poverty was a result of that.” (NYT, Trip Gabriel)
That gets me thinking upon dirigisme.
The rules of any “nuclear endgame” between the City and its hockey team may involve not just a stalled transformation, but the lease for the Consol Center. If the City moves to solicit new proposals for any Lower Hill parcels upon whose rights the Penguins’ have or will soon expire, that could entail the Penguins making vague (and likely erroneous) references to that 30-year lease, which will get every sportswriter and sports broadcaster in Pittsburgh mad.
Few desire mad. Everyone wants significant commercial and residential development happening in the Lower Hill soon that is smartly tailored for Pittsburgh.
Making it so means pruning only the most unsustainable of avarice from what are otherwise responsible, unobjectionable plans presented by the Penguins: that which involve sealing off too much legitimately available opportunity and benefit to the community, or that which will consume very many public funding opportunities without reasonable collaboration.
Basically, it’s just a routine matter of urban planning and negotiation among several parties. It’s a simple microcosm, but high-angst due to historically challenging topography.
|National Get Outdoors Day|
The Allegheny River theater is different, where until the train tracks opposite in the Strip District, land sprawls flat into a post-industrial distance and the Buncher Company is further along.
Here is what we see at “Riverfront Landing”, that section nearest to Downtown:
- Low-to-moderate civic demand for development.
- Zoning fixed at private entity’s behest last year.
- Entity owns most property free and clear.
- City retains provisional power over historic 5-block building at heart of immediate plans.
When we say there is low “civic demand” for development near the site, we mean that those who traverse the Strip District near Downtown — whether it be for a commute, work, shopping, a meal, a drink or to visit to the Heinz History Center — are not given to turn their heads and say, “Come on already. What a mess.” It just looks like Pittsburgh: a river, parking lots, greenery and small industrial relics; and there is enough excitement going on around it, it doesn’t seem such a shame.
But of course Buncher Company is willing and now able to transform things at what it calls Riverfront Landing, so change is due. Creating jobs and attracting new stake holders is nice, besides.
Buncher Company is a company with a fascinating history, which might account for its nuanced and evolving tone on whether to proceed despite what comes of the historic Produce Terminal.
It makes a fine point:
Mr. Balestrieri cautioned that development could be slowed and marketing affected if the produce terminal is excluded from the project. He said a prospective condominium owner or building tenant might balk without knowing the future of the hulking Strip District icon.
I think it’s important to know what it is,” he said. (P-G, Joe Smydo)
What Buncher misconstrues in the discussion of “What happens when the City declares a building historic?” are all the thoughtful processes and resources assembled at hand to weigh what are the civic (including economic) needs outweighing aspects of preservation, and what are the mitigating or creative adaptations that can be explored while maximizing historic value.
Buncher pays enough for architectural and design consultants. It is unknown, aside from undue self-securitization, why it seems averse to taking advantage of the City’s own resources and expertise in pursuing that course with some optimism. The City and its URA might be best-suited to devise commercial uses for its prized past possession.
On the other hand, much was said last year about the ecological health of our river and the vibrancy of public space along that river front. This is the province of zoning and planning. The property owner’s zoning was duly passed. It might be tempting for Mayor Bill Peduto to hold a punitive line over the Produce Terminal in order to convince Buncher to readdress that past perceived avarice, but doing so now to any excess would probably fall into the province of political vanity.
While the scope and potential for both development and its challenges expands as one travels upriver, Riverfront Landing is just a routine matter of urban planning and negotiation among several parties.
Doing things right takes a little more time than doing them heedlessly. We all know this from experience.
If the Hill District and the Allegheny Riverfront theaters are complex due to inherited urgency, the Hazelwood, the Homewood and the At-Large theaters all represent different sorts of clean slates.
By all accounts in Hazelwood, at the former LTV Coke works site along interior of the Monongohela, we today see few intrinsic challenges and a developer in ALMONO who must patronize many fine planners, consultants and advisers. The City also did patient work. Councilman O’Connor of the area voiced no concerns. No major concerns arose from the community, aching for jobs lost years ago.
The opportunities lie in what exactly spreads from that footprint.
Housing renovation? Mainstreets development along 2nd Avenue? Claiming Junction Hollow? A greenway corridor connecting towards Downtown? Something heavier, transit-wise? It’s all in play, and the City will have opportunities to encourage community building and improve some more crassly expedient practices.
|Conde Nast: Julian Capmeil|
Digging a network of canals is one idea. The feds are requiring expensive upgrades to our storm water infrastructure, to meet its volumetric calculations of need. Intelligently designed landscaping and canals would satisfy a portion of that need as determined by a judge, much like a holding tank. Water features enhance both community sentiment and commercial demand. The ability to host kayak racing competitions through an interlocking series of canals along the Mon would be gin for Pittsburgh.
We shouldn’t be shocked if some our more dazzling fantasies fail the reality test, however. Next-level success is just a routine matter of organizing, city planning and negotiation.
While our previous theaters were given massive nudges by some developer, the Homewood theater appears on the agenda due primarily to Mayor-elect Peduto.
Knockout development in northern Shadyside, East Liberty and southwest tip of Larimer is causing ripples of interest, recently evident deeper into Larimer. Councilman Ricky Burgess is not unwelcoming of investment. The community is vocal for change. Homewood itself is blessed with not only flat land but a square corners, rectangular street grid; miraculous in this city.
Yet by investing so much symbolism in his commitment to Homewood and by choosing to name it properly — not to creep towards the troubled and traumatized community — Peduto has committed to build a Homewood for Homewood; for its own sake.
I will not speculate on what that means. There must be a blizzard of stakeholders, property titles, built environments and natural resources to sort out. The chaos of its eager unpreparedness represents the cleanest of all possible slates within which to organize, plan and negotiate.
|City Parks Blog|
Finally there is the At-Large theater, or as I like to call it “The West End” but really the other 80 neighborhoods now less conspicuous on the development radar.
Like a ninja, the City will have to recognize, concoct and seize opportunities to build community in ways smaller for now, but no less burdensome of history and no worse as investments.
Markers of progress in Greater Homewood, along the Mon and in places like the West End will acclimatize Pittsburgh to more deliberative and sensitive city planning functions on titanic-sized items.
The demonstration of real productive engagement with the Penguins and Buncher Co. and the eventual implementation of some community-building in the Hill and the Allegheny Riverfront will reward patience and alert Pittsburghers to an enlightened vision.
A selective embrace of market forces, together with the respect dividend for building community in challenging theaters, will enable Pittsburgh to follow through in rehabilitating its vast, half-abandoned and poverty-stricken expanses properly — and will act as the most encouraging and illustrative diorama for why to invest in a smart, collaborative and efficient government.
In the interest of moving forward while retaining institutional and personal credibility, we accept responsibility for our role in encouraging what has become a significant misunderstanding.
We regret having informed you that we cannot pursue the Inclusionary Zoning practices used in the Almono development in Hazelwood only because the City will not allow it.
We regret using the term “affordable” housing to describe rental units accessible only to the upper middle class.
We regret having encouraged something called the Greater Hill District Master Plan, a fine and solid planning document with the legal weight of cotton candy to which we do not intend to adhere, least of all in the Lower Hill.
We regret having so often touted our willingness to “identify funding” for public art, infrastructure and residential affordability gaps — in an attempt to obscure that we already possess more than sufficient funding, or that via this business venture we shall soon possess it. We regret that in all past agreements, documents and contracts regarding jobs and business development opportunities, weak language such as “best faith efforts” and “minimum goals” is all we could muster — and there have never been enforcement mechanisms.
We regret having asked you to participate in the Curtain Call public art project in order to diminish your opposition in 2008 to our plans for the Consol Energy Center — and that we did not see the project through.
We regret that we always brand our development for you positively by putting overwhelming emphasis on the “green cap” over the Crosstown Expressway — while the costs, funding sources, and timetable for such a feature is literally the last thing on our agenda.
We regret having invited you to scores of community meetings over months and years at which our position on your specific concerns does not change, only so we can later demonstrate the quantity (not quality) of our community engagement.
We regret having hired enough consultants to give you inspirational speeches about our intentions, we might otherwise have funded several community projects.
The truth of the matter is we have no interest in addressing your demands. We are trying to find commonalities across two very different worlds. Our only concern is to parlay these 28 acres of the Lower Hill of the City of Pittsburgh into the greatest possible long-term profit for ourselves, because life is short and we want to live as grandly as we might.
But our efforts to get you to like us have become counter-productive and silly. In the interest of not generating further ill-faith relations, we suggest that you redirect all your concerns about affordable housing, place-making, shared prosperity and community building to your civic government.
Best of luck at the City Planning Commission on December 9th and thereafter. However, in this new spirit of honesty and collegial frankness, our impression is that you are not destined to make out very well there either — especially since we gave ourselves every advantage by submitting our plan at the end of the year during the waning moments of the Ravenstahl administration.
But in government at least you will encounter decision-makers whose capacity to feign a cooperative spirit has not been utterly exhausted.
Sincerely (at last),
The Pittsburgh Penguins
PS. By the way, thanks for your support in demolishing the Igloo, without our having to give up anything of substance.
Pittsburgh is conditioned to seek industry, growth and development.
The green PNC Tower continues to rise Downtown, and major work with Almono in Hazelwood will soon begin to percolate. Down the pipeline, four major new revitalization efforts are on Mayor-Elect Bill Peduto’s agenda: in the Strip District with Buncher Co., in the Hill District with the Penguins; and both Homewood and Smithfield St. by his own choosing. And let us not forget the other eighty-two neighborhoods.
The alchemy and adaptability required to build popular momentum behind such a development vision is reflected in the whole political latticework for moving that jobs agenda together with agendas for municipal retirees and taxed residents, for public safety and due process, and for arranging necessities such as transportation, infrastructure and education in an Eds, Meds and Tech-rich economy.
As the drawstring is pulled and this web of conviction acts on Pittsburgh, the purpose in all is to cull unsustainable avarice, undue self-fortification and political vanity — and to let the commons thrive. But it would require an epic guide to envision beforehand how it all will work.
Collateral footnote by P-G: Diana Nelson Jones
Political footnote by C-P: Chris Potter
Now this is a wake up call:
My French is pretty much limited to asking for ice cream, the bathroom and to go to the Eiffel Tower, but the Washington Post summarizes it this way: “The French urge their citizens to avoid Mount Oliver, Hill District, Homewood-Brushton and Hazelwood.” (Early Returns, Moriah Balingit)
Yes. We are a serious tourist destination for Europeans in general and for French-speaking peoples. Thank you Mario, but your princess is in another castle.
Mount Oliver is war-torn, too? Forgive me, I’m from the North Side by way of Squirrel Hill. Mt. Lebonon, Mt. Pleasant and Mount Oliver is all sort of a blur.
Mount Oliver? This is the municipality which Pittsburgh completely surrounds? I know what you’re thinking, but not until we get a new Police leadership to partner in settling the scourge of urban violence in the Hill District, Greater Homewood and Hazelwood respectively. And even then we’d need to muster a new army and declare war (and/or prepare terms for an annexation.)
MORE: Homewood Nation
In better news, another really good article was written about us:
Once she got back home, she couldn’t help but notice both the exciting changes happening in Pittsburgh’s East End, and the work that still needed to be done in the city’s low-income neighborhoods. She realized Pittsburgh could use a native like her, and that she could apply the skills she learned in New Orleans right in her backyard. (Atlantic Cities, Nona Willis Aronowitz)
Artist and Pittsburgh native D.S. Kinsel, 29, is trying to bridge that divide. He lives in gentrifying Lawrenceville and works as a program coordinator at MGR, a youth empowerment organization. MGR teaches middle and high school age students to use art as a tool for activism. Pittsburgh isn’t full of oblivious young yuppies, he assures me. Many twenty-something natives living in the East End neighborhoods of Lawrenceville, Garfield, Bloomfield, and Friendship are “reaching out and listening to what these [lower-income] communities need.” He welcomes change and transplants—”as long as they’re respectful when they get here”—but he gives most of the credit to people like him who have been there all along.
“Young Pittsburghers want to lay down roots,” he says. “We’re interested in making sure the grit survives.” (ibid)
That’s funny. Not long ago you would have heard, “We’re interested in scrubbing off the grit.” These days they appreciate there is some grit, some neighborhoods, some stories, some history, some real civic, cultural, educational, industrial and technological resources that have produced their own stories.
We’re the ones who work on the big things that need to be made (and try to make them better) and who take care of the home front because that’s what makes life worth living. We want to be beating most everyplace else at football, economically and in terms of quality of life.
The grit is the soil. The grit is the nitrogen.
Unusual squabbling amongst Allegheny County law enforcement:
Zappala asked council for nearly $500,000 to revive a violent crime task force to combat drug-related activity in Pittsburgh’s eastern suburbs.He wants to use the money to hire five detectives, a request that surprised some county officials. (Trib, Aaron Aupperlee)
UPDATE / MORE: Blame this link on Radley Balko.
Thanksgiving is coming. In Pittsburgh there are lots and lots of good opportunities to react to feelings of gratitude, but the KD Turkey Fund has long been a good one (see Julius’s Turkeys). Look alive.
Downtown workers in a hazardous industry at an upscale, profitable and expanding business are being inappropriately classified as “independent contractors” so they can be exploited for fun and profit.
The lawsuit says Blush dictates most aspects of the dancers’ work, including which shifts they work, what clothes they wear, which songs they dance to and in what order they dance.
The club also requires dancers to accept “Blu Money” from customers, the lawsuit says. The customers pay $110 for 100 “Blu” dollars, but the club only pays the dancers $90 when they cash them back in, the lawsuit says. (Trib, Brian Bowling)
Now that I have your attention…
If [nonunion City] workers don’t do their jobs, Mr. Peduto can take the necessary legal steps to remove them. If they choose to leave the city’s employ rather than go to work under his terms, they are free to resign. (P-G, Editorial Hectoring)
The P-G simply has not considered the financial and other costs of a long, drawn-out, emotionally frustrating transition conducted in fits and starts, as employees with skill sets better suited to previous mayors wind up engaging in guerrilla trench political warfare for retirement security. The Mayor-Elect has it in his head to fashion an organized, shorter, efficient transition that recognizes years of loyal service and the need for a crew able and willing to turn the ship of state about. But if Council wants to do it the P-G’s way, I guess he could just fire everybody in weekly televised horror shows.
“I support President Darlene Harris. She has been a fair, objective and competent president of council,” Burgess said. “But this year, with the arrival of a new mayor, some members are suggesting it’s time for a change. … And if council decides to change its president, prioritizing diversity means the next council president should be an African-American.”
Councilman Bruce Kraus, who is gay, said Burgess offended him by focusing exclusively on blacks. (Trib, Bob Bauder)
This is only the fourth race for Council President I have witnessed, but it is the first in which negative attacks have spilled out into the public (as to discretionary spending and attendance). It leads me to believe the results are growing more certain.
Councilman Burgess seems in one tactical respect to be like that most politically successful of State Representatives: Daryl Metcalfe of Butler County. He and Metcalfe both tend to lob broad, incendiary and moralizing leaps of logic across their respective chambers — in order to ensure that everybody is talking about their own issues in their own terms with themselves as central. It’s super effective for both representatives, and they’ll continue doing so as long as they are insulated from suffering any kind of political penalty.
The Port Authority wants to use $1 million in Allegheny County money to run a preliminary engineering study on a proposed bus rapid transit line connecting Oakland and Downtown. (P-G, Andrew McGill)
The Comet is usually pretty open to studying things — and this project needs studied.
One million dollars, eh? And engineering, not feasibility, eh? To be continued.
Discussion question: Is anyone who uses the bus to get from Oakland to Downtown and back particularly dissatisfied with it? Anecdotally, a surprising number of riders have been telling me, “Things are fine, convenient, fast enough.”
Recently-paralyzed East Liberty teenager Leon Ford Jr., his parents and many of their friends and neighbors yesterday took to City Council chambers to decry both Ford’s quadruple-shooting at a traffic stop in Highland Park which led to no charges, and a perceived pattern of Pittsburgh police not valuing Black lives.
That incident is being raised in the wake of national news about the shooting death of Detroit teenager Renisha McBride on a Dearborn Heights, MI porch, in a case bearing uncomfortable similarities to the Trayvon Martin fiasco.
It reminds me of the case of DeAndre Brown of East Liberty, jailed a month for a robbery he did not commit, seemingly because detectives on his case declined to investigate his stated alibi in favor of sweating out a guilty plea.
Recommended discussion topics:
1) When a chaotic incident wounds “police-community” relations or simply race relations, how does legal liability inhibit the civic repair process? A human response to either the Ford or Brown incidents would be face-to-face engagement between officials and those affected, some argument, some give-and-take, but surely some accepting of mistakes on both sides, or at least statements of “I/We could have done this instead” and “In the future we’ll bear this in mind in this manner.” But when the individual officers and their union are invested in utterly avoiding liability, the City and taxpayers are invested in minimizing liability, and those affected are invested in establishing as much liability as possible, what insidious effect does that pattern have on processing those incidents and the larger agenda of mending divides? While civil litigation is indispensable to the process of civil justice, what can we do to relieve that collateral clipping of the discourse?
2) How great are the opportunity costs to a City when a full one-quarter of its inhabitants perceive, for fairly valid reasons, that they are second-class citizens upon which their City places little value? What is lost when that 25% deduces from experience that they are considered Enemies of the State and of the privileged majority? And how much would it really take to turn that around?
UPDATE: Something like the acceptance of fault described above actually happened today regarding the Dennis Henderson episode in Homewood. Check out the reaction.
Most ‘Burghers seem enthusiastic over the new leadership and increased civic engagement.
(The People is the Hulk)
Residents and stakeholders are encouraged that they are all highly-qualified, accomplished professionals, successful in public-spirited service and a diverse array (in all but age — no 20-something whiz kids quite yet).
The New Haters, such as we’ve seen them, are not raising hackles. Complaints that a few of them presently reside in immediate suburbs are divisive and insipid; grousing that a few of them were officeholders, candidates, public employees or politically active (and sometimes acted in solidarity with the Mayor-Elect and his coalition!) fails to appreciate that the bridge of this ship will need to be run by persons who have been engaged with the local politics and its possibilities. Opposing viewpoints within government appear set to be strongly institutionally encouraged.
Critics do themselves a disservice by missing the forest for the trees. Remember a few weeks ago, when we were writing of biases?
|Bill Peduto (politician) on FB|
Here is the sum total of everything I knew about Six Sigma:
That is satire; and there’s no indication from his tweet that our Mayor-Elect is on the verge of becoming a Six Sigma “Black Belt“. But if you want to envelop Peduto in a negative conversation, question the emergence of a City in which so many highly-paid “executives” with porous duties spend their days buzzwording, statistically overanalyzing, indulging consultants and distracting staff with too much of their own Scientology homework.
Yet even that can only get the reactionaries so far. Political success for the new administration will not be determined by insider optics so much as demonstrated results: in service delivery, resource allocation, civic functionality and good outcomes, one and three years out.
Cautionary notes were raised at the Council table today that diverse “faces” do not equal diversity in terms of power or dollars. True enough. But those outcomes depend partially on how well the team works and jells. Maybe our Chief Urban Affairs Officer and our Chief Education and Neighborhood Reinvestment Officer have been appointed to actually perform.
Some of their meetings will be filmed and broadcast, as well as among Departmental directors. That innovation is another cause for optimism.
The naming of an executive team was only the first pincer in a multi-pronged Transition attack. The public invitations to serve on eight transition teams is energizing people even along with the Ideas section of the Talent City initiative. And remember the whole Talent City approach to objective, transparent and rigorous overseeing and screening of job applicants. This all cultivates the optimistic civic mindset necessary to pursue change.
Today in a step that bridges the need to transform government with the reality of our civic challenges, Peduto introduced a measure to allow for the early full-pension retirements of longtime nonunion employees. Everything seems to be ramping quickly up to speed. It’s the civic challenges themselves that remain the real issues; there are a lot of turkeys on the table, and we shall need to map them out soon.
|Wash. Times (cropped)|
Care of President Wilson, and by resolution of Congress:
Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and
Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and
Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples. (US gov.)
Now that’s a proclamation.
Then care of history, President Eisenhower and subsequent Congressional acts:
Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting in its place the word “Veterans.” With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars. (ibid)
Bottom-line: what are we now to do?
A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. (ibid)
Veterans Day has grown forward and outward, so how about backward and inward? Union Army Brigadier General Conrad Ferger Jackson and Union Army Brigadier General Thomas Algeo Rowley, Pittsburghers both, are each interred at Allegheny Cemetery in Lawrenceville. Westmoco native and U.S. Army Colonel Daniel Leasure saw action in battles ranging from Secessionville to Spotsylvania. Union Army Seargent Alexander Kelly of Saltsburg, Pa. would retire to Pittsburgh after the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm and is interred at St. Peters Cemetery in Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar. And in Arlington Heights, on the rise beside Devlin Street and another Saint Peter’s Cemetery there once stood a Civil War-era redoubt named for storied US naval Captain Robert Smalls.
The City of Pittsburgh Veterans Day Parade begins at 10:30 am at Grant and Liberty, proceeds down Liberty to Wood, and finishes at the Boulevard of the Allies.
Later at 4:00 pm, Point Park University hosts a screening of short documentary The Veterans Breakfast Club followed by a panel discussion.
KDKA has assembled a short list of opportunities to acknowledge service.
The Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania seems to be a well-situated resource for local veterans of recent war.