Vanaski: Bank on land bank changing face of Pittsburgh neighborhoods
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.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Big plays cost Steelers defense in preseason loss at Bills
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin mum on Bryant suspension
- Rossi: Beleaguered Steelers need MVP from Big Ben
- Patience serves as virtue amid pitching prospect Glasnow’s quest for majors
- Pirates notebook: Hurdle’s faith in Polanco pays off
- Another Know-Nothing moment
- Pitt star running back Conner remains grounded despite success
- Happ’s strong start, Ramirez’s homer pace Pirates past Rockies
- QB Vick hits ground running in debut
- Architecture: Pittsburgh history in 10 houses
- Port Authority’s plan for car-free communities slow to bear fruit