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Homewood pride comes before bricks and mortar

Pittsburgh Post GazetteWednesday, June 06, 2007
By Elwin Green,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The redevelopment of Homewood will be more a matter of community pride than of bricks and mortar, the keynote speaker at a workshop on commercial development said yesterday.

“We’ve got to lift the community up and highlight the positive things,” said Clarence F. Curry Jr., Minority/Woman Owned Business Enterprises coordinator for the Sports and Exhibition Authority. “We’ve got to toot our own horn.”

Mr. Curry said the community’s redevelopment should build on “magnets,” such as the library, the Alma Illery Health Center and the neighborhood campus of the Community College of Allegheny County, which already attract visitors to the neighborhood.

“They come here to the library, they leave with their money in their pocket.” he said. “We need something to encourage them to stop and spend their money.”

Mr. Curry was one of four speakers at the workshop sponsored by the Homewood Brushton Community Coalition Organization, held at the Homewood branch of Carnegie Library. HBCCO has a community plan for development and is looking for an executive director, but has no land bought and no finances finalized.

Robert Rubinstein, director of economic development at the Urban Redevelopment Authority, offered a glimpse into the information-gathering process that major retailers use when deciding where to locate. Based on data about the area within a half-mile radius of one of the neighborhood’s busiest intersections, at Frankstown and Homewood avenues, he said residents could be expected to spend $9 million on groceries in 2008. Since the average grocery store needs $20 million in annual sales to be feasible, that makes the neighborhood an unlikely target for such a store.

However, he said, Homewood could be a good place to develop “convenience retail” stores such as the Family Dollar slated to open this summer on Frankstown Avenue. It also could offer opportunities for developing light industrial space for manufacturing such goods as T-shirts or compact discs, or for use as artist studios or galleries.

Countering the perception that the URA funds only large-scale developments, Mr. Rubinstein said 90 percent of what the organization finances is “small neighborhood projects.”

J. Arthur Gilmer, project manager for FaithWorks, a Homewood-based nonprofit organization that offers training and consulting to other nonprofits, said the glimpse of a developer’s perspective on the neighborhood was valuable. “We see it one way, walking around the community, and other people see it differently.”

(Elwin Green can be reached at or 412-263-1969.)

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