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A Resident-Driven Plan To Reimagine Bedford Dwellings Could Reshape The Hill District

Margaret J. Krauss
90.5 WESA
Before a draft of the Bedford Dwellings plan is submitted to HUD for review, the final community meeting was held Nov. 30 at the Jeron X. Grayson Center.

A nearly 80-year-old public housing complex in the Hill District is in the running for millions of dollars of federal redevelopment funds as the community nears the end of a two-year planning process.

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the city's housing authority a Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant for Bedford Dwellings, a 411-unit development southeast of Bigelow Boulevard.

The $500,000 award funded the creation of a comprehensive plan to revitalize Bedford Dwellings and its surrounding neighborhood. The next step will be a bid for a Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant like the one worth $30 million awarded to Larimer in 2014.

Pittsburgh Housing Authority officials said they've counted 517 days of planning in the last 18 months. The process hinged on community input, said resident Eugenia Boggus.

“What’s most crucial about this is that it’s resident-driven and residents have a key part of this,” she said. “This is where they’re going to live. This is their life.”

Choice Neighborhood grantees must submit plans that provide clear steps to bolster people, housing and neighborhoods. Eventually, Bedford Dwellings will be torn down and rebuilt bedroom-for-bedroom, either on the current site or on sites throughout the Hill District.

That the sites are scattered is key, said the authority's Chief Development Officer Darrell Davis. Over time, HUD realized simply building new housing on old sites didn’t solve systemic problems such as poverty and lack of access to employment.

“The plan is to stop looking at it as a single site,” he said. “Because we’re going to be looking at another project in 30 years, and nobody wants that.”

Current residents will have first choice of the new homes, called the right of return. But by building mixed-income homes alongside federally subsidized homes, Davis said HUD wants Choice Neighborhood grants to help decentralize poverty.

A draft plan will be submitted at the end of December and a final plan is due in June 2018.

Housing Authority officials said they’re committed to rebuilding Bedford Dwellings, even if the community does not secure a Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant. It will just take longer.