Who is ‘the community?’ Penn Plaza group challenges early stages of East Liberty URA project

The Urban Redevelopment Authority [URA] presented three potential designs Thursday night for an East Liberty development meant in part to bring some former residents of the demolished Penn Plaza back to their neighborhood. But some attendees raised pointed questions about the community input process, which they felt excluded them. “The problem is ‘the community’ is the Village Collaborative,” said Celeste Scott, housing organizer at Pittsburgh United, referring to a community group that has had early involvement in the URA’s vetting process. “That is the problem that they’re not giving an answer to.”

A group of former Penn Plaza residents and community activists questioned why the URA had chosen Village Collaborative, a community group unveiled last year by the HELP Initiative. The collaborative is made up of faith leaders in the East End.

A pedestrian crosses the street in Beechview. (Photo by Kat Procyk/PublicSource)

Some communities view streets as pedestrian spaces. Could Pittsburghers benefit from more room to play?

Given that our streets are one of our largest public assets, can we do more to use them? The city has already embraced some aspects of the open streets concept. There are models for increasing temporary recreational spaces on streets and open lots in cities like New York and Minneapolis. What would it take for residents to take greater advantage of streets on a regular basis, especially in areas with fewer play options, where streets could be connectors instead of barriers?