Come to the Table

new buildings in lawrenceville

Photo credit: Matt Dayak

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It’s no secret to anyone who lives, works, or visits Lawrenceville—the neighborhood is changing. Over $100 million in investments is currently in the pipeline between Doughboy Square at 34th Street and the 62nd Street Bridge.

As a frame of reference, 207 building permits were issued between January and July of 2015 in Lawrenceville. Only ninety-five permits were issued during the same seven-month period in 2012. Change is definitely happening, and quickly.

Residents, business owners, and community groups have been working diligently over the past several decades to realize some of this change. Crime has decreased by more than fifty percent over the last ten years as Lawrenceville becomes one of the safer neighborhoods in the city. Once vacant and dilapidated houses are now occupied by young families. Community gardens, stewarded by resident volunteers, have replaced vacant and overgrown lots.

The business district is thriving with a healthy, balanced variety of retail uses. Twenty-one new businesses have opened in Lawrenceville since this time last year. Many of these new ventures have presented employment opportunities, brought much-needed tax revenue to the City, and have helped to create a buzz that is being recognized globally.

Setting the Table for Success

Community Garden Harvest Party sets the table

Photo credit: Lawrenceville Organic Community Garden

Yet revitalization cannot come at the cost of the quality of life to those who currently live and work in Lawrenceville. The priorities and needs of the present community must be at the forefront of the planning and redevelopment process.

As these changes have occurred, Lawrenceville Corporation (LC) and Lawrenceville United (LU) have worked to make sure that neighbors have an opportunity to participate in the development process. Unlike many other neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, Lawrenceville’s neighborhood organizations helped create, and continue to support, efforts that foster transparency in an otherwise veiled and complicated process. Newsletters, email blasts, and our Responsible Hospitality and Community Development processes ensure that stakeholders are educated about what is happening around them— whether it’s a liquor license, a zoning issue, or a development project of scale. These “table-setting” efforts frankly do not happen in a lot of other neighborhoods.

Even with these efforts, there still exists reasonable anxiety about the future—and a real concern about the role of community in shaping change. Unbridled investment and development puts Lawrenceville at risk of losing what we all value in the community:

  • Affordability
  • Accessibility
  • Diversity
  • Inclusion
  • Historic preservation,
  • Sustainability
  • Quality of life issues (including  access to parking)

How can we manage this change together and ensure that the community’s priorities are met? If you are reading this piece, you are likely a community member. This is a call to engage—to come to the table. It involves active, meaningful participation by the people who live and work in the neighborhoods where change is occurring and whose lives are most affected by the policies, systems, and structures that are targeted for change. Together, we have an opportunity to steward development the right way.

Community Garden activties at hand built tables.

Photo credit: Lawrenceville Organic Community Garden

This is a call to engage—to come to the table.

Community organizations are now setting the table; developers and elected officials are now coming to the table. But, we need well-informed residents and business owners at the table as well. These conversations will shape the work of our community organizations and dictate the level of accountability we demand from the decision-makers.

On October 1, 2015 our organizations hosted the first in a series of focused community meetings at Arsenal Middle School. The session, “Your Role in Neighborhood Development,” was NOT a meeting about any specific development project but, rather an opportunity to re-set the table while we explored and refined our neighborhood’s role in the development process—sort of “Development 101.” In addition to LC and LU staff, city officials (including representatives from the Mayor’s Office, Councilwoman Gross’s Office, and City Planning) were on-hand to discuss the technical aspects of city processes, outlining opportunities for residents to weigh in on proposed projects. Over 100 residents and stakeholders attended.

We request that you join us for the next two meetings in this series:

January 14, 2016
40th Street & Riverfront Planning and Development
Pittsburgh Arsenal 6-8 Auditorium (220 40th Street)

On the docket for discussion

Community organizations and City representatives will present information on community plans and updates that are relevant to upcoming development projects in the 40th Street Corridor.  This meeting will prepare residents for participating in important upcoming community development project discussions. Childcare available upon request.

January 25th, 2016
Arsenal Terminal Development
Pittsburgh Arsenal 6-8 Auditorium (220 40th Street)

On the docket for discussion

Milhaus Development will present plans to redevelop the former Arsenal Terminal site located at 40th and Butler Streets.  They are currently scheduled to present to the Zoning Board of Adjustment in March. This meeting will prepare residents for participating in important upcoming community development project discussions. Childcare available upon request.

There is a chair waiting for you at the table

These sessions promise to be both exciting and informative. To learn more about the community meeting, or about development updates in Lawrenceville, please contact Lawrenceville United at 412.802.7220 or Lawrenceville Corporation at 412.621.1616. We look forward to working with you. More importantly, we can’t do it without you.

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Neighborhood meeting