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Pittsburgh to develop 'Renaissance Fund' to assist neighborhood groups

| Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012, 12:20 a.m.

Pittsburgh will announce funding next week for a program that officials say will arm neighborhoods with the resources they need to create a plan for development.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl will release details of the “Pittsburgh Neighborhood Renaissance Fund” Tuesday and award about $300,000 in the first round of grants to a dozen neighborhood groups.

Neighborhoods with successful community development plans like East Liberty are better positioned to attract public and private investment, Ravenstahl said. The new program will help more neighborhoods in the south, west and north be a part of that.

Burgeoning East Liberty has followed an outline of planning, advocacy and investment for commercial and residential revitalization, said Skip Schwab, investment officer with the neighborhood group East Liberty Development Inc.

“We have been able to use funds from the city, local foundations and some federal money to make loans, investments “ he said. “We can then help influence urban design and neighborhood planning.”

Grants from the neighborhood fund will range from $10,000 to $50,000 and pay for professional design and planning services.

The initiative is a collaboration of the city, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Design Center, a Downtown nonprofit that invests in strategic projects and encourages good design and planning.

In preparation, the Design Center held a series of community meetings in September. More than 100 people attended each of the five sessions to talk about their wish lists and network with various groups that will partner in the program, said Chris Koch, director of programs at the center.

“We want to be proactive,” she said. “We have 130 pipeline projects.”

The Design Center will provide technical assistance, outreach, support staff and administrative oversight to the neighborhood groups that win grants.

Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or csmith@tribweb.com.

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