TribLIVE

| Opinion/The Review


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Vanaski: Bank on land bank changing face of Pittsburgh neighborhoods

Daily Photo Galleries

Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 11:06 p.m.
 

A meeting at Central Baptist Church in the Hill District about land bank legislation attracted so many Pittsburghers last month that the church had to move the audience from a meeting room to its sanctuary.

City Council members Ricky Burgess, Darlene Harris and R. Daniel Lavelle rallied those opposed to the legislation.

Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith attended but was undecided about the idea.

“This land is your land,” Harris told the crowd. Burgess said of the land banking proponents: “I do not trust them,” adding, “This land is all we have left.”

Weeks later, the legislation passed with some changes. The only member voting “no” was Harris, whose stated objection was that the city's Real Estate Department does something similar to what a land bank would do. The land bank's board has the authority to acquire land, clear property titles of liens and other debts and sell blighted properties to developers.

I asked Burgess what changed so drastically that he ended up supporting the ordinance. He said he wanted the community and the council to have greater participation in the workings of a land bank, and that changes to the bill addressed that.

“(The bill) gives me and residents direct participation,” Burgess said, noting that residents and council members can be part of the land bank board, and affordable housing is stipulated as a priority.

The question of how a land bank might change the literal face of some city neighborhoods — and if it's worth that cost — is not one I ask lightly.

At the Hill meeting, Burgess kept saying: “We don't want them dropping the SouthSide Works in Homewood.”

My first thought when he said that was: What's wrong with that? What's wrong with something that could change the landscape of a neighborhood whose landscape could use a change? There are entire blocks in city neighborhoods, including those around Central Baptist Church, with dilapidated buildings. Would I rather see a Starbucks there? Sorry, but yeah.

Burgess concedes that land maintenance of delinquent properties is something lacking in the city, and something the legislation hopefully will help correct.

The land bank is part of a continuing conversation about how to rebuild low-income communities, he said. There's no set answer about that, however.

“But I look forward to working with new administration to make that happen,” he said.

Nafari Vanaski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at 412-856-7400, ext. 8669, nvanaski@tribweb.com or on Twitter @NafariTrib.

 

 

 
 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Stories

  1. Ex-Penguins defenseman Niskanen still miffed by coaches’ firings
  2. Starkey: Chryst a miserable failure at Pitt
  3. Steelers’ Bell, Chiefs’ Charles elevating running back position in NFL
  4. Pouliot scores in NHL debut as Penguins tame Panthers, 3-1
  5. South Fayette football team distributes Steelers tickets to Carlynton, Wilkinsburg
  6. Pitt players support Rudolph for job
  7. Pitt football fights to overcome steppingstone status
  8. Minor league report: Other prospects on Penguins’ radar
  9. Penn State wins 2nd straight women’s volleyball title
  10. Pair of NYC officers killed in ambush shooting
  11. Energy sector adjusts to global oil plummet
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.