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City council mulls makeover for Greensburg's 5th and 6th wards

| Thursday, July 18, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

A consultant offered interesting ideas on how to spark development in Greensburg's 5th and 6th wards, and some can probably be brought to fruition, three city council members said.

Randy Finfrock, Rob DePasquale and Kathleen McCormick attended a public meeting last week to hear Paul Ostergaard of Urban Design Associates of Pittsburgh present ideas for establishing a health care district in the city.

“I think it's like anything else: Some of it's a pipe dream, but that doesn't mean it can't be done or part of it (can't) come true,” Finfrock said.

“The plan looks great,” DePasquale said. “There are a lot of ideas there. If everything happened, it would be fantastic. But realistically, it's not all going to happen.”

Council hired Urban Design to listen to residents and business leaders, analyze their concerns and suggestions and design a health care district centered around Excela Health Westmoreland Hospital in the two wards.

Both Finfrock and DePasquale said they believe most of the funding for development must come from private investors.

A proposed pedestrian bridge connecting Seton Hill University to the Depot Street area may require public money to build, they said.

Finfrock called the bridge “the cornerstone” of the development proposal and said completing the bridge would be necessary to entice investors to build the shops, housing and other construction proposed in the Depot Street area.

“The concept is great,” DePasquale said of the bridge. “The devil is always in the details. And the big devil is the cost.”

Students today want to be closer to services than they did 25 years ago, said DePasquale, a St. Vincent College professor. Today's students generally have more disposable income than their counterparts a quarter-century ago, he added.

“The bridge is something that is a very good idea,” McCormick said. “I don't know who would be responsible for (paying or overseeing) the bridge.”

An emphasis on development near Depot Street makes sense, DePasquale said. The area is flat and has vacant buildings and parking lots that would be prime sites for construction projects, he said.

McCormick was pleased that neighborhoods weren't forgotten in the review.

“I liked they said they want to keep neighborhoods intact and build them up,” she said.

All three said they remain open-minded on the proposal of implementing two-way traffic on West Otterman and West Pittsburgh streets.

The two streets once carried two-way traffic, Finfrock said.

Ostergaard explained during the presentation that the two roads handle fewer vehicles than they did in the 1950s and ‘60s.

Highways subsequently built outside the city whittled the traffic volume in Greensburg, he said.

Switching up the traffic flow “is an interesting idea,” DePasquale said. “It was one I didn't expect to come out. I'm not 100 percent sure on that.”

“I think that is doable in some sections and might resolve issues with speeding,” McCormick said.

PennDOT maintains both streets, and its input and review on possibly making the roads two ways will be key, the council members said.

Finfrock was less impressed with the emphasis placed on creating bike paths through the two wards.

Greensburg has older residents and it is hilly, making use of bike paths seem less likely, he said.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or bstiles@tribweb.com.

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