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Carnegie among bounce-back communities

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Kurt Toy of Carnegie browses vendor Cindy Byars' wares at the inaugural weekend of the Flea on Main sidwalk market in Carnegie on May 2, 2009.

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Carnegie is one of nearly a dozen Allegheny County towns involved in a program to help bolster its business district.

Leaders since 2007 have been able to participate in the Allegheny Together Program, through the county's economic development department, which helps to rebuild aging walk-through business districts with advice and refers communities to funding sources.

“They helped with way-finding signage to show how to get to the library, borough building and main streets and business signs,” said Joanne Letcher, executive director of the Carnegie Community Development Corp., a nonprofit that promotes the town.

Carnegie joined Allegheny Together in 2011. Today, there are 11 communities involved.

Town leaders start by creating an advisory committee to work with consultants from Town Center Associates, a company based in the Uptown section of Pittsburgh that offers planning services for traditional business districts.

The development corporation, the borough and KMA Design, a Carnegie architectural signage company, took part in the wayfinding effort. Signs will be placed throughout the town over the next four years. Business owners can purchase signs for $428 with business logos that will replace the current banners on lampposts.

Nearly a dozen people, including Letcher, meet monthly.

Six businesses that learned about the Sustainable Pittsburgh organization through the Allegheny Together effort have obtained designations, which are tied to following specific practices such as recycling. The businesses are Black Lamb Consignments, Carnegie Coffee Co., Distinctively Different Decor & More, Modern Mercantile PGH, More Than Words Fine Papers and Puhlman's Flower Shoppe.

Today, Carnegie has more than 400 businesses.

Lance Chimka, manager of business for the county's economic development department, helped to design Allegheny Together to boost lackluster business districts.

“Underinvestment in public infrastructure, rising vacancies, negative public perception, inappropriate business mix, public safety issues, transportation, blight and abandonment are all themes communities want to address,” he said.

Most towns that are assisted, however, are those that with some investment may turn the corner.

Program applications show a community's motivations to make changes, but they also tell the story of the town's past efforts and its vision for the future.

Consultants help the committee put a plan together to bolster business. There used to be so much to do in Carnegie, Letcher said. “People used to come to Carnegie to shop, eat and be entertained. There were three movie theaters,” she said.

She blames malls for causing the decline of many a main street. Carnegie's continuing comeback will be fueled by a younger demographic as the town presents itself as a destination for arts and entertainment with its galleries, acting troupes, restaurants and musical programs, including those at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall.

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or ddreeland@tribweb.com.

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