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Pittsburgh URA powerhouse Diamonte Walker to leave the agency

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
Diamonte Walker joined the URA in 2017, and has been the agency's deputy executive director since 2019.

Diamonte Walker, deputy executive director of Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority, will leave her position for a job in the private sector on April 14.

During her time with the agency, Walker has been a central force in shifting the URA’s focus from large-scale developments to neighborhood-scale processes and equitable investment. She oversaw efforts to focus on how the work of the URA can create public benefit, particularly for Pittsburghers who have traditionally been left behind.

She will leave to become the founding chief executive officer of a program that aims to end the cycle of poverty through post-secondary education and wraparound support for single parents, according to an agency release.

Walker was not immediately available for comment.

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URA Executive Director Greg Flisram described Walker’s leadership style as “community-centered,” and said she will be missed by staff and agency partners alike.

“She approached economic development by building up people first, centering efforts to improve quality of life for all Pittsburgh residents, and ensuring everyone had access to tools and resources necessary to be a part of Pittsburgh’s economic resurgence,” he said in the release.

Mayor Ed Gainey, who served as a URA board member before his inauguration, said Walker would be “profoundly” missed.

“Her vision helped reshape the URA and helped to transform it into an organization that puts the residents of our great city first,” he said in the release.

Walker began work at the URA in 2017 as the agency’s Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise program officer. When the URA’s longtime leader Robert Rubinstein announced his departure in April 2019, Walker took the helm until former Mayor Bill Peduto appointed Flisram. Walker was thenappointed deputy executive director. She was the first Black woman to hold the post in the agency’s 80-year history.

For three years Walker has led some of the URA’s largest efforts, from helping to establish the Housing Opportunity Fund to creating the Avenues of Hope initiative, which invests in the commercial corridors of historically Black neighborhoods. She led an early example of that work with an effort to bring smaller, community-based businesses into the process of revitalizing Centre Avenue in the Hill District. Walker guided the URA’s role in the redevelopment of the Lower Hill and also took the Pittsburgh Land Bank under her charge.

The PLB languished for years, but in 2021 Walker managed to find the money to hire its first full-time staff person, and shepherded processes that could soon allow it to recycle land.

Walker helped streamline the URA’s processes and improved access to the agency’s resources for small businesses and minority entrepreneurs, according to the release; the agency also credits Walker with reinvigorating its housing development entity, and overseeing investments in businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A spokesperson for the URA said the agency cannot name the organization Walker will be joining.