Feb 11, 2014
Pittsburgh is known for many things nowadays, perhaps most impressively its approach to redeveloping a former steel town. The Bakery Square development, now entering its second phase, is one example of how Pittsburgh continues to attract new economic activity, reinvest in neighborhoods, and encourage innovation.
Many students at Heinz College have developed a deeper interest in real estate development; the field requires a mixture of many skills that students are refining, including community development, financing, and economic development. As such, the Heinz community was eager to learn more about what motivated the Bakery Squareproject, how it was made possible at the community level, and ultimately why it seems poised to succeed today.
This past October 23rd, a panel of stakeholders in the development took questions on these issues and others in a panel entitled Economic Development 2.0: A Pittsburgh Example. The panel, organized and moderated by last year’s Lauble FellowsMark Heckmann and Evaine Sing, featured four key players in project: Pittsburgh CouncilmanBill Peduto, Walnut CapitalPrincipal and President Todd Reidbord, Acting Executive Director of the Urban Redevelopment AuthorityRobert Rubenstein, and Director of Real Estate at East Liberty Development Inc.Nate Cunningham.
The panelists collectively spoke to the reinvigoration the immediate area has witnessed since the development began. Students were made aware of just how difficult the situation in the East End had gotten, how developers realized the opportunity, and what partnerships had to be forged to make it all happen. The necessity of public sector involvement was also described, including a variety of grant and financing tools. Panelists also shared their perspectives on the communities surrounding the development, suggesting that an important part of their collective stability in a changing neighborhood is that they have the tools to negotiate issues relating to their own welfare. Questions from the audience included the ramifications for future development in the East End, how developers identify opportune sites like Bakery Square, how the nearby residents of Larimer are expected to benefit, and how the continued development may impact use of public amenities.
Much has transpired since this talk. Soon after receiving the news of a four million dollar grant from the Commonwealth, a groundbreaking ceremony for Bakery Square 2.0 took place on February 14, 2013, and construction work is in full swing. See www.bakery-square.com for the latest developments. Meanwhile in August the Pittsburgh City Council approved a bill to appropriate $12 million over several years for a project to revamp streetscapes, improve parks and develop mixed-income housing in Larimer. The funds will assist the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh in a applying for a $30 million grant through the U.S. Housing and Urban Development's Choice Neighborhoods Initiative. Finally, and most notably, in May Councilman Bill Peduto has been elected to the Mayor’s Office.
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