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Preservation group moves beyond county lines

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Ron DaParma
Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation is best known for its preservation efforts of historic properties throughout Allegheny County.

However, the South Side-based agency has been extending its reach beyond its home county in recent years, including with its latest project in Beaver County — an effort to bring “residential reinvestment” to areas near business districts in nine communities.

The foundation is the lead consultant on the project focusing on Aliquippa, Ambridge, Beaver, Bridgewater, Freedom, Midland, Monaca, New Brighton and Rochester.

“The idea is to work with the local officials and independent local organizations to identify new projects for each of the communities that in general terms fall into the guidelines of the state’s Elm Street program,” said Eugene Matta, the foundation’s director of real estate and special development programs.

Elm Street is a program established by Gov. Ed Rendell’s administration that this year is making available $7 million statewide to improve residential streets near Main Street business districts.

It provides seed money to be matched by funds raised from other sources to make the improvements a reality.

Though not an official Elm Street program, the foundation describes it as an “Elm Street-like” program.

While it will not necessarily be securing funds under that program, it will be seeking support from state and private sources.

The foundation is working under a consultant contract it signed several weeks ago with the Community Development Program of Beaver County, paid for with $50,000 from the state Department of Community and Economic Development.

Also on board is Town Center Associates, an organization serving as “sub-consultant.”

“TCA is headquartered in Beaver County and knows that county well,” said Arthur P. Ziegler Jr., PH&LF president.

“It’s president, Mark Peluso, already has done quite a bit of work in the community,” said Matta.

Examples of the projects funded under the Elm Street program include improvements to building exteriors, streets, new street lighting and trees, sidewalks or other “pedestrian-oriented features,” Matta said.

Other activities include improvements of mixed-use buildings in residential areas, acquisition of properties, demolition and reclamation projects, code violation repairs, emergency housing repairs, addition of home security items, parks and playgrounds and water and sewer connections.

The consultants have held one meeting with community leaders to discuss how to proceed with the program, and a second meeting is scheduled Tuesday.

“We suggested to community representatives that sometime in October we would like to have at least four projects they feel are worth considering,” Matta said. “Then somewhere between October and November, we should be able to start work on applications for funding.”

Over the past year, the foundation has secured five grants totaling nearly $800,00 under the DCED funding process.

Its efforts include helping to attract $2 million in investments in Wikinsburg to rehabilitate four properties in the historic Hamnett Place neighborhood.

It is working as manager of the Main Street program in Vandergrift, Armstrong County, and it received a $7,500 grant from National City Corp. to help form a Main Street project for Freeport, Leechburg, Apollo.

Preservation of historic farms also has been a focus. The organization is involved in a survey of farm properties in Green and Washington counties, Matta said.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633