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Eight neighborhoods receive Elm Street funds from URA

Pittsburgh now boasts more Elm Street districts. Manchester, Central Northside, Troy Hill, Lawrenceville, East Liberty and the South Side Slopes were all deemed Elm Street districts by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, with Mt. Washington and Bloomfield-Garfield receiving overdue funds.

As a complement to its Mainstreets Program, the Elm Street Program focuses on the neighborhoods surrounding Mainstreet districts, says Elm Street Program Coordinator Josette Fitzgibbons. Recipients of the funds must focus on five areas: clean, safe and green; neighbors and economy; design; image and identity; and sustainable organizations.

Each community is given funds for a one-year Elm Street planning process, says Fitzgibbons, which Mt. Washington and Bloomfield-Garfield were late in receiving. Both neighborhoods were designated as Elm Street districts in 2009, but due to state budget cuts the funding was not available.

Bloomfield-Garfield has its plan ready, say Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation Deputy Director Aggie Brose and its resident Elm Street Coordinator Kathryn Vargas. They plan on using funds for vacant lot and street cleanups, outreach and community groups. "The residents feel ownership over the planning and outcome," says Vargas, adding that she hopes more residents will get involved as plans develop further.

Mt. Washington will use its Elm Street funds to engage residents and increase curb appeal by cultivating growth, development and community investment, says MWCDC Executive Director Chris Beichner. "It will help us to attract a different population of our community to become involved," adds Program Manager Greg Panza.

Fitzgibbons says it is unknown whether the usual five years of operational funding that take place after year one will occur, depending on the state budget.

For now, it's important to work together to create stable plans that include both community programs and initiatives like streetscape improvement, she says. "It's the combination of the human and the bricks and mortar together that make it a successful program."

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Writer: Alex Audia
Sources: Josette Fitzgibbons, URA
               Chris Beichner and Greg Panza, MWCDC
               Aggie Brose and Kathryn Vargas, BGC
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