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Six Allegheny River Towns Picked to Receive Funding, Help

By Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Monday, October 25, 2010
Last updated: 5:41 am

Six local communities were chosen for a pilot project of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council to revitalize river towns with free professional services, work plans and tips on finding money to pay for the urban makeovers.

Millvale, Etna, Sharpsburg, Aspinwall, O’Hara and Blawnox are the first communities chosen for the countywide project.

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council is rolling out the Allegheny County River Towns Project to help communities visualize, analyze and identify redevelopment projects and to re-establish ties to the rivers.

The project is paid for by grants from two anonymous Pittsburgh foundations, said Jim Segedy, director of community planning at the nonprofit’s Pittsburgh office.

The Environmental Council has signed a memorandum of understanding with Allegheny County to help carry out its master plan, which includes redevelopment of the region’s riverfronts.

The six communities were picked for the project because they have begun redevelopment projects close to the Allegheny River, Segedy said.

“Millvale has its trail and waterfront park, Aspinwall has the marina, then there is the housing development in O’Hara,” said Segedy. All of these communities are part of the 17 river towns slated for a proposed trail along the Allegheny from Millvale to Freeport.

“This is not another study,” Segedy said. “We are looking for short-term action projects, prioritized projects to help improve the quality of life in these towns and help with storm water management, water quality flood protection and economic development.”

What that means is that the Environmental Council will provide — free of charge to the communities — architects, engineers, landscape architects, planners and other professionals to assess the towns and come up with ideas.

“It’s a great way for the communities to look at their assets and do it in a unified, collaborative way,” said John Stephen, executive director of the Allegheny River Towns Enterprise Zone. “And that will improve the chances to bring in grants and resources,” he added.

Community input is critical, Segedy said.

“This is their communities and we want to do what they think we need and we want. We’re not from the government, we want to help,” he said.

After walk-throughs in all six communities next month, the council will hold public meeting in December for residents to talk about what their ideas are for improvement in the towns.

Then the council will provide a list of prioritized projects, directing the local governments to grants and other resources to jump start redevelopment projects, Segedy said.

“Shovels should hit the ground in the spring for some of these projects,” he said.

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