Duquesne plans to revitalize business district

| Thursday, March 15, 2012

Duquesne officials have announced the development of a multi-agency plan to rebuild the city's Grant Avenue business district.

Meanwhile, the city's move to rezone an industrial park to allow commercial development has raised concerns with its owner, the Regional Industrial Development Corporation of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

The separate but related matters both were discussed at a regular council meeting Wednesday.

At the meeting, Mayor Phil Krivacek said the city plans to work with its redevelopment authority and the Duquesne Business Advisory Corporation to create the Grant Avenue Project to stir business development along the corridor.

The mayor said the city and the two agencies always have worked together but until now lacked a formal agreement to address business on Grant Avenue.

"There are good buildings here," the mayor said.

Though the GAP plan is still in the formative stages, the mayor said officials are looking at buying and renovating properties to attract small businesses.

He said prospective buyers will have the option of paying for the facade and other improvements through their mortgages on the properties.

Krivacek said property owners who donate their properties to the city for redevelopment could be eligible for tax credits through the project.

The mayor said the project also will address inadequate street lighting as a way of spurring investment, and likely will include some demolition work.

The GAP is funded through a $200,000 grant from the Allegheny County Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund.

On a related matter, council approved an ordinance to modify its zoning for the Duquesne City Center industrial park, making the property a commercial rather than industrial zone.

City officials cited slow development at the park and a lack of communication between RIDC and the city as reasons for seeking the modification.

"We have no idea what's going on," Krivacek told an RIDC official attending the meeting. "We need to let you know that we want buildings going in down there so that the people of this city can enjoy it."

The mayor said RIDC's adherence to an industry-only model for the park is preventing hotels, drug stores, restaurants and other businesses from moving into the city.

RIDC director of engineering Dan Sharek, who expressed concerns at the onset of the meeting about the rezoning plan, said RIDC's plans for the site always have been to attract manufacturers with better paying jobs to the location, rather than lesser-paying retail and commercial businesses.

He cited the ongoing development of a 55,000-square-foot pipe-coating facility by Dura-Bond Industries as an indicator that the property is being developed.

Sharek said RIDC is concerned with the ordinance because retail development doesn't support the higher-quality jobs that industrial development can bring. He said RIDC likely would not oppose commercial zoning if there was a demand for commercial property.

The new zoning ordinance would make commercial development the norm in the park. Industrial developers would have to seek a zoning variance if the ordinance is approved on second and third readings.

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