Verona hears details about participation in the Allegheny Together program
A couple years ago when Christina Kozera and her family were looking for a place to build six condominiums, the small borough of Verona caught their attention.
"We decided to build the condos on the (Allegheny) river," said Kozera, 56. "We have full access to the docks and a swimming pool. And we had no problem selling them."
In fact, Kozera and her family liked the area so well that they moved into one of the condominiums from Level Green.
Kozera was one of about 60 residents, business owners and council and planning commission members who packed the Verona Council chambers last week to hear details about the borough's participation in the Allegheny Together program, intended to revitalize business districts in the county.
Verona's aging business district is a small stretch along Allegheny River Boulevard.
Jessica Mooney, a project manager with Allegheny County's Department of Economic Development, said the three-year program is intended to provide technical assistance to communities.
Bridgeville has been selected for the program this year, too. Four other boroughs -- including Tarentum -- participated in the first year.
Mooney said the county has hired Town Center Associates, a Downtown planning and management firm, and the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation to help Verona.
Mooney said the borough will begin by organizing and creating a plan for revitalization. Next October, businesses can apply for matching grants for facade renovations.
Randy Satz, owner of the Hula Bar & Grill at the corner of Center Street and East Railroad Avenue, said he's eager to get involved.
"We need to sit down and brainstorm and get our ideas together," said Satz, 53, of Shaler.
Ethan Raup, manager of community revitalization programs for the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, said the goals are to "bring the buildings back to their useful purpose, bring in new customers and new tax revenue."
Mark Peluso, executive director of Town Center Associates, told the crowd at Monday night's meeting to consider lighting and landscaping, building facades and signage when planning.
Peluso said revitalizing the business district should translate into higher property values in the town.
"You are competing with other communities," Peluso said. "You want to be the cool community. You want people to feel it when they drive through town. You want to attract and keep good people."