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CMU graduate students to provide free study on Dormont parking woes

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Helping several communities

Besides Dormont, seven other towns are being assisted by graduate students in a Sustainable Community Development course at Carnegie Mellon University to study community needs. The towns and the projects are:

• Ambridge — Study reuse of the historic “Hotel of the Unfortunates” built by the Harmony Society

• Aspinwall — Study ways to enhance the business district

• Carnegie — Design a system of signs

• Collier — Create a sustainability strategic plan

• Elizabeth — Study adaptive re-use of the historic Ekin House

• Homestead — Make plans for restoration, re-use or removal of blighted or abandoned properties in the business district

• Stowe — Study restoration of a historic bell landmark at a major intersection

The CMU teams also will be designing a countywide system of signs, similar to those pointing to landmarks and neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, and studying the economic benefits local business districts can get from the Allegheny Together program.

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Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Dormont will get a study of its parking problems and recommended solutions for free, rather than having to pay consultants tens of thousands of dollars, thanks to a Carnegie Mellon University graduate program.

Borough Manager Jeff Naftal is scheduled to meet on Friday with a small group of CMU graduate students in the Sustainable Community Development course to discuss the students' 10-week project: a study of Dormont's parking woes, and ways to improve parking that could help the long-term viability of the business districts and residential neighborhoods.

Naftal said he hopes the students will look at parking throughout the borough, which lacks convenient parking in its West Liberty and Potomac avenue business districts.

Residential neighborhoods have limited on-street parking or permit parking, a situation made worse by people who have driveways or alleyways behind their houses but who park on the street instead, he said.

“If we had to pay for that kind of study, we'd probably be looking at $100,000,” Naftal said.

Carnegie Mellon adjunct professor Matthew Mehalik said the class is in its fifth year of sending students into communities to help them tackle their problems. After meeting with officials to determine needs and expectations, teams of three students will conduct field research, compile findings for seminars with officials to be held in late April and early May and present final recommendations to communities and the class at the semester's end.

Dormont was connected to the CMU program through the Allegheny Together program, a county-run Main Street revitalization program.

In Dormont's case, the students likely will look at how parking practices and locations can be tweaked to make stopping in the business district more attractive and accessible to drivers and prevent parking from impeding pedestrian traffic, Mehalik said.

The parking study should make it easier for Dormont to find grants for making recommended improvements.

“‘Sustainability' is not about being ‘green,' necessarily; sustainability is about what will allow the city of Dormont to be here and vibrant 10, 20, 50 years in the future,” Naftal said.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or

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