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East Liberty Residents Concerned Over Future Of Penn Plaza Parklet

East Liberty residents voiced concern and frustration with the future of a 2-acre city park Tuesday night.

The small area, or parklet, is surrounded by Penn Plaza, a mixed income apartment complex. Tenants have to vacate before March of next year when the landlord plans to redevelop.

The city has proposed selling the park in a deal with the owners but has promised that another park will be included in the redevelopment.

The current residential property will change to mixed use with possible retail space. City Planning Director Ray Gastil said that’s a big change and the city wants the community to help set priorities for the park.

“We heard a lot about how it’s used as a resource,” he said. “Who uses it, when they use it, how they use it and we got a lot of information and feedback about that. And that’s useful but it’s also thinking about the future. The composition of how it gets used or the program could actually, it might have some positive changes.”

Tara Coleman works at Social Status, a boutique in East Liberty. She says she wants new development but wants it to meet the needs of the neighborhood.

“You don’t want people allowed to live in a place where they can’t really afford to shop, to eat,” she said. “Everyone has to have a hand in what makes a community and how changes affect them ultimately.”

The city hired a consulting group to lead the community meeting as well as a meeting earlier in the day with a select group of residents, the developer and representatives from city agencies. Residents' input will be included in the development master plan.

The meeting was held at East Liberty Place South, a mixed income apartment building on Penn Avenue that opened last year. The building and the one across the street replaced a high-rise building.

The city will hold another workshop March 15. 

Sarah Schneider is WESA's education reporter. From early learning to higher education, Sarah is interested in students and educators working to create more equitable systems. Sarah previously worked with news outlets in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Idaho. She is a graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale where she worked for the school newspaper, the Daily Egyptian.
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