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Pittsburgh’s University Communities Wary Of Rapid Development From Amazon HQ2

Kathleen J. Davis
90.5 WESA
Participants at the Feb. 7, 2018 panel at the University of Pittsburgh. Rebecca Bagley is center.

The UrbanKind Institute held a community forum Wednesday at the University of Pittsburgh to discuss how Amazon's second headquarters, or HQ2, could impact Pittsburgh's university communities.

The panelists, made up of professors, grad students, and researchers, focused on the human rights angle of rapid development.

Most panelists were wary of the company settling in Pittsburgh. Concerns included students and university workers being pushed from University-adjacent neighborhoods if the cost of living rises to accommodate the 50,000 people Amazon has promised to employ.

Rebecca Bagley, vice chancellor for economic partnerships at the University of Pittsburgh, said she thinks companies like Amazon moving to Pittsburgh is inevitable.

"And so stimulating the types of conversations around being very realistic about what our challenges are, but also being open to that growth," Bagley said.

Some concerns raised by community members during the panel focused on the secrecy behind Pittsburgh's HQ2 bid, and the kind of incentives the state could be offering the company. Mayor Bill Peduto has repeatedly stated that Pittsburgh's bid will not be made open to the public because non-disclosure agreements were signed with private developers. However, last month, the state ordered the city and Allegheny County to share those agreements with the public

The panel also discussed how rapid development could leave behind low-income residents, who have historically been left out of the city's revitalization. Bagley said the university is working to create a pipeline of opportunity from these neighborhoods.

"The important part of this is to have very specific and connected strategies to the community to make sure that there's inclusion, not only in the conversation, but in job growth," she said.

A second forum will take place Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Human Services Building downtown. This conversation will revolve around how HQ2 could impact the community more broadly.