A future built on Tarentum’s past
By Tom Yerace,
VALLEY NEWS DISPATCH
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Holding on to some of the borough’s past to help it move into the future will be the subject of a public workshop on Jan. 16.The Key Issue Workshop concerning architecture and design in the business district, including the preservation of historic buildings, will be discussed.
It is the first of three workshops held in conjunction with the Allegheny Together program established by Allegheny County.
“This is for the Allegheny Together program, which is basically focused on revitalizing the downtown business district, but they want the whole community’s input on what it would like to see,” said Tarentum Manager Bill Rossey. “They just want some feedback here.”
The program — in which Tarentum is one of only four pilot communities — complements a broader revitalization effort that the borough has started.
Rossey said this workshop should be of particular interest to residents who believe in preserving the borough’s history through its buildings.
“We’ve lost too many valuable buildings already that can’t be replaced, and I wouldn’t want to lose any more,” Rossey said.
The workshop will be conducted by Town Center Associates, a consulting firm working through a contract with the county, and the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.
“This program is focused purely on central business district revitalization,” said Mark Peluso, Town Center’s executive director. “Any planning activities that are going on related to the downtown come into play.”
Peluso said this workshop and two more that will follow, are designed to encourage input about how the community feels on key issues related to the downtown business district. He said the program is basically meant to provide a long-term commitment and a long-term strategy in reviving such districts.
“This is a very difficult issue for our communities that have experienced an economic downturn in downtown business districts,” Peluso said. “It’s really a pretty exciting opportunity for Tarentum to be connected to this.
“It’s a really rare opportunity. Most towns have to wrestle around for years to get the kind of support needed to get this kind of effort under way.”
Part of that support is input from the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.
“We are putting a lot of time and effort into Tarentum, and the reason is simple: we think there is a solid foundation already in place,” said Ethan Raup, a foundation representative. “The historic fabric is strong.”
“The connection to the river and the riverfront park is strong. These are things that a lot of towns would love to have.”
He said Tarentum seems to have people in the business community and local government who are committed to making an investment in the revitalization effort.
Raup estimates that Tarentum has 20 to 25 buildings in the business district that display historic architecture that should be preserved. He said it is an important aspect in keeping the downtown districts economically viable now and into the future.
“The way these older downtowns compete is to offer quality services, small mom-and-pop stores that care about details and offer an overall experience such that you want to be there,” he said. “The quality of the architecture is as important as anything to that whole overall experience.”
“I think that differentiates from going to Pittsburgh Mills for example,” Raup added. “The architecture is part of the experience. The people living in the upper floors bring a vitality to the town that you won’t find in business parks.”
Rossey said he hopes that residents demonstrate their commitment to the county, by turning out in force to participate in the workshop.