Verona revitalization may begin at water's edge

| Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Making good use of riverfront property will be what drives revitalization in Verona, according to a council member and a group of graduate students working on ways to improve and sustain struggling towns.

Councilwoman Rhoda Gemellas-Worf said developing land along the Allegheny River — adding trails, docks and landscaping — could be what attracts visitors to the business district and promotes growth in residential areas.

"It's our priceless commodity right now," Gemellas-Worf said of the riverfront in the borough.

A group of Carnegie Mellon University graduate students, who spent four months researching what it would take to rejuvenate this town, agree. They said the borough could become a "recreation destination."

The students set out in late February to study the economic, environmental and social needs in the borough. They determined that riverfront development would be integral to revitalization.

"This could become the Ohiopyle of the Allegheny River," said Kathy Hrabovsky, one of the students who worked on the "Sustainable Verona" project, which was designed to give local leaders ideas for community improvement.

Through their research, Hrabovsky and three other students in the CMU School of Public Policy and Management determined that enhancing riverfront access will add recreational opportunities, which would in turn benefit the business and residential districts.

The students on Tuesday presented their findings to council.

Gemellas-Worf said borough officials already are trying to implement some of the students' ideas. She said the borough applied for a grant to "revamp" Riverbank Park and plan to apply for a grant to improve the public dock now on the river.

Details about those grants, such as who would award them and how much the borough is seeking, wasn't immediately available.

Denise Gemellas, Gemellas-Worf's sister and a member of the community group, Verona in Progress, applauded the students for their vision and said she's confident their suggestions will become reality in the borough.

"We are just thrilled they did this as a study," she said.

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