East Liberty Presbyterian Church, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from rwoan’s photostream

More than $2 billion of new development and investment has taken place in my Council district over the past 10 years. Every one of these developments has gone through a robust community process and has been tailored to be profitable while meeting the needs of the community. This strategy of development is good for developers because it builds trust within the community and it is good for our neighborhoods because it leads to increased property values and community-enhancing goods and services. It is time to employ this strategy throughout the City of Pittsburgh.

1. Planning for the Future

Some of the most successful developments start from community plans. Starting in 1998, I worked with residents, businesses, and community organizations to develop a consensus plan for East Liberty. That plan has led to the amazing growth we’ve seen and the community benefits it has brought with it, from a new Target that sells fresh groceries and employs local residents to beautiful, affordable new housing in East Liberty and Larimer. Once the community puts together a plan, development should be built around it, not in spite of it.

We must work to create strong community plans for every part of our city and require developers to stick to those plans.

2. Taking an Active Role in Development

Working with neighborhoods to create community plans and guide development builds coalitions and skillsets that have a lasting impact on a neighborhood. The bonds that are formed by working with your neighbors to envision the community you want to live in can lead to greater civic responsibility, a reduction in crime through the creation or enhancement of block watch networks, and stronger social and professional relationships. This planning process also builds connections and trust with local developers and opens lines of communication that can prevent problems before they arise and open doors to new development opportunities.

3. Enhancing Neighborhoods Through Design

Developments that take place in communities with active, involved residents are much more likely to include attractive, sustainable design, streetscape improvements, and beautification of the surrounding area. This is especially true in neighborhoods that have strong community plans.

While community-based development may take a bit longer, the results bring increased value, open lines of communication, and stronger bonds between neighbors and between neighborhoods and developers.