Roundtable discussion…, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from MDGovpics’s photostream

Neighborhood-enhancing development and redevelopment is the backbone of economic growth for any city. However, even for experienced developers, navigating the city bureaucracy to bring a plan to fruition can be extremely time consuming and costly. These barriers to entry can dissuade smaller developers and even push larger developers out to the suburbs where there are fewer hurdles to jump. The answer is not to relax our standards; it is to create better coordination between developers and city departments and among the various departments themselves.

1. Coordination is Key

Too often development is delayed or prevented because of a lack of coordination and communication among city departments. When a potential developer files their initial plan they should be granted a timely group meeting with staff from all departments that will need to approve any part of the plan, including City Planning, Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority, Public Works, Building Inspection, and City Council. If every department or authority is aware of the plan up-front, potential issues will be identified at the outset and a coordinated approach can be crafted – rather than a developer having to find out mid-project that something is missing or an element of the plan has been denied. This Development Roundtable will facilitate greater communication among city departments and lead to stronger working relationships across departmental lines in addition to speeding up the development process.

2. Make City Development Easy and Enticing

Changing the reputation of Pittsburgh as a bureaucracy that is archaic and difficult to navigate will open the doors to a major increase in development throughout the city – not just in the East End and the Golden Triangle. Allegheny County is booming and we are competing with affluent communities around our borders for development opportunities. We must do everything possible to entice developers into the city with clear communication, an easy to understand process, and defined expectations up front – not surprises halfway through a project.

3. Building Trust

The Development Roundtable will create a new level of trust between private developers and city officials. Developers will be comfortable coming to the city and discussing potential issues before they become project-killing problems. They will be more likely to solicit community input up-front as part of a coordinated approach. And most importantly, they will be able to do more business and contribute to a more vibrant and growing Pittsburgh.