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COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT: Bridging the Busway - now what?

Posted by Elwin Green on June 14, 2012 at 1:20 AM

So, this has happened really quietly: the final version of the Bridging the Busway plan has been released:

More importantly, it's available a variety of ways. You can download it from the Bridging the Busway website. You can download it from Councilman Ricky V. Burgess's new and improved website. Or you can order a physical copy via Lulu, for $35.80.

Here's a look at the table of contents:

So what happens with it now? Good question, and I'll be back with answers from (at minimum) Councilman Burgess and Operation Better Block Inc. executive director Jerome Jackson.

Meanwhile, I encourge you to check it out for yourself. It's 149 pages, but a lot of that is photos or drawings. Because I was involved in creating the text - both by my participation in the BTB steering committee and by actually doing some editing - I dare not comment on it directly. So instead I'll ask you folks to look it over - read as much or as little of it as you like - and to give some feedback.

Does it make sense to you? Is it clear, or confusing? Does it encourage you, or worry you? Do you believe that anything it describes can actually happen? Do you want anything it describes to actually happen?

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Reply Queen Lucille
11:45 AM on June 23, 2012 
I find it very interesting that Councilman Burgess refers to the BTB Plan as being "community driven" when most of the Homewood community doesn't even know anything about it, and therefore was not involved in the planning, which also is evidenced by the Steering Committee and Project Team lists. Also, trying to read a 149 page anything on a computer is difficult, and it takes FOREVER to download! So, I called Councilman Burgess' office and asked for a copy of the plan and Maurita told me they didn't have anymore and to call OBB. I called OBB and was told that the "people", whomever they are, that have that information are out of town and to call back next week. What the.........? Councilman Burgess should be ashamed for making low income peolpe buy a copy of a development plan for our community that will utilize our tax dollars. I addition, there is no plan for jobs for our residents, and the BTB plan will only benefit outsiders.
No. The BTB Plan makes no sense to me, it is confusing, and it worries me. Yes, I believe it can happen if most of the current residents are moved out of Homewood and people from Point Breeze move in. No, I don't want ANYTHING it describes to actually happen. Homewood has a rich history and tradition, and I want to see it be preserved.
Reply Elwin Green
12:26 PM on June 23, 2012 
Queen Lucille, thanks for your comments. They raise a bunch of questions in my mind; for now I will only ask one.

You say, "most of the Homewood community doesn't even know anything about it." My question is, what would it take for most of the Homewood community to know about something? To put it another way, if you wanted the Homewood community to know about something you were doing, how would you go about informing them of it?
Reply Elwin Green
11:40 AM on June 25, 2012 
You can ignore my first comment, because it goes to the of Homewood being a dysfunctional communications environment. That deserves its own big fat discussion.

Here are my responses to your comments about the Bridging the Busway plan itself.

QL: "there is no plan for jobs for our residents"

Bridging the Busway is basically a set of proposals for developing the physical environment. It is not specifically a job-creation plan. However, it does *encourage* neighborhood job creation:

page 68: "Efforts should be made to hire local businesses, when possible, and to train and place neighborhood residents in jobs created through the redevelopment process."

page 69: "As with redevelopment, a priority should be placed on providing job training and hiring from within the community."

QL: "the BTB plan will only benefit outsiders."

The plan includes a proposal for a grocery store at Homewood and Hamilton Avenues (pages 108-109). Are you saying that no Homewood residents would benefit from that?

QL: "The BTB Plan makes no sense to me, it is confusing, and it worries me. Yes, I believe it can happen if most of the current residents are moved out of Homewood and people from Point Breeze move in."

Please give a specific reference to anything in the plan that would require most of the current residents to move out of Homewood and people from Point Breeze to move in.

Page 43 says, "Four planning questions were developed as a way to focus the data-gathering and analysis process." The last of those planning questions, on page 62, is "How can we ensure that neighborhood revitalization and redevelopment efforts benefit and enhance the lives of existing residents and business owners?"

The first paragraph under that question is titled, "Building Equity for Lower Income Households," and includes these sentences: "For existing residents to benefit from rising home equity, it is essential that their ownership stake in the community is maintained and that redevelopment DOES NOT DISPLACE THEM FROM THE NEIGHBORHOOD. If some existing homeowners are relocated to facilitate future development projects, THEY MUST HAVE THE OPTION TO GAIN OWNERSHIP OF ANOTHER HOME, IN HOMEWOOD, as part of the transaction." (I capitalized for emphasis)

QL: "No, I don't want ANYTHING it describes to actually happen."

I find that hard to believe.

The first recommendation, on page 10, is the creation of a planning forum "to guide neighborhood development, help coordinate projects and initiatives, ensure that projects meet community goals, engage and inform stakeholders and lead/initiate future planning initiatives." You don't want such a forum to be created?

The second recommendation, still on page 10, is that one of our community organizations have a "Homeowner Advocate" who helps to connect homeowners with programs such as income-customized loans and grants for home repairs, energy-efficiency programs, and sideyard lot transfers. You don't want any Homeowood organization to have such a person?

Also on page 10 is this recommendation: "Use existing communication venues, such as Homewood Nation (homewoodnation.com), to share information about events, employment opportunities, development projects and planning initiatives." You don't want that to happen?

Page 94 suggests pursuing urban agriculture: "Combine under-utlized or under-maintained spaces to create food growing opportunities." You don't want that to happen?

Again, I find it hard to believe that you are opposed to every single proposal or recommendation in a 149-page document. So again, I ask you to be specific.

QL: "Homewood has a rich history and tradition, and I want to see it be preserved."

pages 56: "Homewood's significance as cultural destination could be expanded if existing arts and education uses were paired with one or two high quality restaurants as well as performing arts venues tied to existing local jazz and hip-hop educational programs."

page 57: "A focus on arts, culture, education and yout would tie into existing organizations and the newly founded Homewood Children's Village. In the short term, organizaing regular arts, music and youth-oriented events could be explored as a means to re-brand the business district and bring people back to the neighborhood."

I look forward to your responses. Or to anybody else's.

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In October 2005, after a bullet came through his living room window, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Elwin Green began writing "My Homewood," the first blog on the P-G's website. For 4 1/2 years, "My Homewood" shared stories of tragedy and beauty, of perplexity and hope - stories that live again in "The Homewood Chronicles."

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