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Tarentum rolls out its plan for redevelopment, municipal building

| Friday, June 26, 2009

A focus on West Tarentum, particularly West Seventh Avenue, and creation of a redevelopment group are among the highlights in the borough's new comprehensive plan.

The plan was released at a public hearing Thursday night by the people who put it together, three consultants from Third Sector Development. About 15 residents attended the hearing.

Council will give its final approval of the plan in July.

Among the key points in the plan:

• Designate the Third Ward — effectively West Tarentum — as a redevelopment area that will mix renovated and new buildings. They would have businesses on the first floor, with apartments on the upper floors along West Seventh Avenue.

The municipal building would move from Second Avenue to West Seventh. It also would include a fire station.

It would be a new building using state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly building methods.

• Use the Keystone Opportunity Zone property located high above the borough's western end and the gas wells located there as an energy facility. It would convert the borough's natural-gas resources to electrical power through the use of fuel cells and supply Tarentum's Redcat Power Co. through an upgraded smart-grid system.

• Create a special Riverfront Assessment District that will allow the borough to use an assessment on sales from recreation-related businesses to provide financial support and maintenance of the riverfront and the Community Trail Initiative.

• Encourage landowners to renovate vacant structures or demolish them and build apartments or townhouses.

• Renovation of vacant upper floors in the commercial district in West Tarentum.

• Reconstitute the former Pride In Tarentum group into a new board, the Redcat Redevelopment and Revitalization Committee.

Jeff Schaffer of Third Sector said the Redcat group would act as the primary channel to handle redevelopment, working in conjunction with the Allegheny County Redevelopment Authority.

"I like a lot of things that are in it," Councilman Tim Rapp said of the plan. "My biggest concern is how we keep people's enthusiasm up?"

That will be one of the challenges facing council, along with securing private and public financial support.

Borough Manager Bill Rossey said the Redcat redevelopment group is one facet that is going to require public involvement if the plan is to come to fruition.

"We need people to get involved with that committee, to sit on that board and help with that vision," Rossey said.

He acknowledged that getting people and companies to make business investment in the current economic climate is not going to be easy.

However, he said Dollar General Stores is interested in building a store along West Seventh. He said that a good percentage of its merchandise is grocery-type items, and it could help fill a need since there are no grocery stores in the borough.

"I feel that if we get a couple of things going over there, it will spread." Rossey said.

Schaffer said perhaps the biggest asset the borough has is the feeling the residents have for it.

Several times Schaffer mentioned that the involvement by Tarentum residents in creating the plan was proportionately as good or better than Cranberry Township, which was doing a new plan around the same time.

"This community never sank as far as some other communities," Schaffer said. "The people care."

Additional Information:

Review the plan

Anyone wanting to read the new comprehensive plan for Tarentum can do so by visiting the borough's Web site and following the link on the home page to the comprehensive plan.

Also, a copy of the plan is available for public inspection at the Tarentum Borough Building, 318 Second Ave.

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