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South Park Fairgrounds rehab plan 'worthwhile'

| Friday, Aug. 13, 2010

Allegheny County plans to revitalize the old fairgrounds in South Park, which haven't hosted a county fair since the late 1970s.

"This is a really worthwhile, historic community asset with a lot of value to the people who'd attended the fairs," said Jeaneen Zappa, the county's sustainability manager.

Though "redevelopment" is part of the plan, Zappa said the county is committed to keeping the site as parkland.

Homestead-based GAI Consultants Inc. will conduct at least two public hearings and talk to stakeholders such as historic preservationists, environmental groups, businesses and nearby residents, she said.

Officials will consider the public comments when they draft a long-term plan for reuse or development of the site, divided by Brownsville Road and Corrigan Drive. The Richard King Mellon Foundation and The Heinz Endowments will pay for the $45,000 study.

The area includes wood-and-brick barns and halls that date to the 1930s, a large oval track and its crumbling grandstand, the old "home economics" building, the parks administration building, the children's amphitheater and a playground.

Dennis Cillo, who runs a small business providing horse and pony rides in the park, said he would welcome improvements, especially if they enable him to expand his business.

"Outside of the concerts and the children's theater, there is nothing to attract people to this part of the park," Cillo said. "It would be nice to keep things moving up, growing in this area."

"We'd like to see, in the fairground area, the buildings upgraded, the weeds removed and the asphalt patched," said Karen Fosbaugh, South Park township manager. The township uses the fairgrounds once a year for its "Community Day" festivities, and would benefit from making the area more attractive, she said.

Others think an improved fairground could host more events and become a stronger part of the surrounding community.

"Communities need a sense of having a central point, and this is one of those places," said Sharon Bruni, director of the nearby South Park Library. "In suburbs, where we have a bedroom community ... people need that even more."

Zappa said there would be at least two large public hearings and several focus groups to gather ideas. People can submit comments Saturday at the Allegheny County Green & Innovation Festival, at Hartwood Amphitheater.

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