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Politics & Government

Burgess Introduces Priority Communities Initiative for Redevelopment of Troubled Neighborhoods

Pittsburgh City Councilman Ricky Burgess has introduced four pieces of legislation that he said will help spur development in some of the city’s most troubled neighborhoods.

One piece of legislation would create the Pittsburgh Priority Communities Commission, a body that would be tasked with creating comprehensive redevelopment plans for six to eight neighborhoods that show the most potential for an economic resurgence.

The commission would include members of city government, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the executive director of the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group and city residents.

“It’s going to take the resources of the state, of the feds, and of the county,” Burgess said at Wednesday’s council committee meeting. “It’s going to take the mayor, council, the controller, the business community, the foundation community, community groups and individual residents to all work together to make these communities a priority.”

Burgess said the commission would be expected to take a data-driven approach based on best practices for community revitalization. One of those best practices, Burgess said, is to focus on communities that border neighborhoods with relative economic stability.

“In all these communities, they have strong edges,” Burgess said. “They have edges that are absolutely ready for development now. As we begin to develop these communities, we cannot start in the heart of these communities, but we have to start with their edges.”

One example of a community with strong edges, Burgess said, is Homewood South.

“Homewood South is right next to North Point Breeze, (and) close to East Liberty,” he said. “It’s right now on the cusp of being ready for economic development.”

Burgess said it will be important to ensure that current residents of neighborhoods deemed “Priority Communities” by the initiative are not priced out once development occurs. Instead, he’d like to see these communities, which in many cases are heavily populated by black residents, become more diverse.

“You (would) have white and black, and old and young, and straight and gay, and wealthy and poor, all living in this stable community,” Burgess said. “That’s what Pittsburgh should look like.”

Council voted on Wednesday to hold the four bills for a post agenda meeting. That meeting has not yet been scheduled.