EDS oversees growing list of developments in South Hills
Major real estate developments are in the works for the South Hills in the upcoming months, thanks to Economic Development South initiatives.
Projects for improved transportation, a website that helps to market communities and businesses across the region and seminars to help train small business owners in the South Hills to meet growing and ever-changing demands all are in the works for the leaders of nonprofit Economic Development South, which has grown dramatically during the last three years since executive director Greg Jones, the organization's first full-time employee, was hired.
“You know that in order to oversee the community's needs, you're going to have to grow,” Jones said. “I knew there was a lot to do.”
When Jones started, there were studies. Lots of them. They looked at the Route 51 and Brownsville Road corridors, but the stacks of paper didn't tie together.
Now, after three years of establishing the ground work and linking together plans for the two South Hills thoroughfares, projects are being implemented across the area, triggering the organization's fourth hire in December when they brought in corridor project manager Kathleen Keating.
The nonprofit economic development organization, focused on bolstering redevelopment in the region, also has begun working with more South Hills communities along the Route 51 and Brownsville Road corridors this year, adding Pleasant Hills, Jefferson Hills and Brookline at the beginning of 2014, now tying in nearly the entire corridor, Jones said. The organization already had worked with Brentwood, Baldwin Borough, Whitehall, Mt. Oliver, Carrick and Overbrook.
“That was always the vision,” Jones said.
During the last three years, the nonprofit organization has raised nearly $1 million through a culmination of grants and contributions that financed projects and initiatives.
For every $1 contributed from the local communities, the organization has brought in about $10 from outside sources, said Stephanie Miller, manager of projects and initiatives.
“Even though we started very small, we've been able to do a lot,” Jones said.
The five main areas EDS has focused on include: real estate development, transit and transportation, marketing, environmental and planning and services for local businesses.
Real estate development includes coordinating with Pittsburgh's last remaining dairy, Colteryahn Dairy, to create the Carrick Dairy District along Brownsville Road. They also are working with the help of grant funding and a developer in an attempt to turn the old Overbrook Middle School on Route 51 into an assisted living center.
Projects, like working to create “smart signalization” along Route 51, also are in the works, Jones said.
Others projects, like the addition of a rain garden, or bioswale, in front of Baldwin High School that collects nearly 180,000 gallons of water a year, already are finished.
A new website, promoting the “corridor communities,” geared partially to market the towns and also the businesses in the area, is set to launch in the next three months, Jones said. EDS leaders have been working with representatives from Agency 1903 to create a website that will hold an online directory of South Hills small businesses that will include photographs and even YouTube videos of the hottest events and greatest features of the area.
A photograph chronicling the events will be provided free of charge by EDS. High school students also will be asked to participate in a competition, submitting videos of “My favorite” local hangout, park or store.
A social media aggregate will allow the Average Joes to add their comments and photos to the website through Twitter or Facebook.
The organization has even partnered with Keller Williams to showcase local homes available to rent or buy on the site.
“It's going to be really useful right off the bat,” Jones said. “Most communities have trouble marketing themselves well. We're anxious to unveil it.”
This week, EDS also launched its first small business seminar, one of several planned for this year alone, as they plan to branch out and help train local businesses on ways to improve in areas that they might be struggling.
“It's really to grow and maintain the businesses we have,” Keating said.
The sessions will be held through a partnership through the University of Pittsburgh and focus on topics, like how to best use social media, succession planning and financial management
“Sometimes, it's not easy to ask those questions,” Jones said.
EDS was receiving regular requests for help from local businesses, and that's where the idea for the program came from, Miller said.
With all of these initiatives underway, the need to add Keating was evident, staffers said. Keating, 27, who moved to Pittsburgh in 2011 to attend the H. John Heinz III College at Carnegie Mellon University, received a master's of science in public policy and management.
Her experience, coupled with her personality, led EDS leaders to select her for the open position out of about 55 applicants, Miller said.
“She's a good-natured person,” Miller said.
For Keating, she's excited to help these long-term plans to become a reality, she said. “We're actually getting down to implementation,” Miller said.
Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or firstname.lastname@example.org.