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Start of revitalization effort generates enthusiasm in Elizabeth Borough

By Margaret Smykla
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Allegheny County’s new small-business revitalization program, Allegheny Together, is in the initial stages in Elizabeth Borough, but it already has made a difference.

“Some people are so excited they have started making changes,” said Carol Hill, president of the nonprofit, all-volunteer Elizabeth Area Community Development Corp.

“It has motivated business owners to take another look at their buildings and realize the value of maintaining and restoring them,” said project manager Jessica Mooney.

The other pilot communities are Swissvale, Stowe and Tarentum.

In September 2007, the county launched Allegheny Together, a small-business revitalization program designed to encourage well-planned, well-designed and geographically focused investment in established commercial districts.

The target is the central business district in Elizabeth Borough, which extends 2¬†1/2 blocks, from Market Street to Strawberry Street. Businesses within that area include Rockwell’s Red Lion Restaurant, Mitchell Plumbing & Heating, PNC Bank, Variety Video, Barton’s Flowers and Gifts, Rite Aid and The Grand Theatre, a renovated movie theater for community events.

The district also houses the borough building, Elizabeth Elementary School, an office of state Rep. David Levdansky, D-Elizabeth, and other office space.

For the first year of the three-year program, the county hired Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation and Town Center Associates to provide technical assistance to the communities. Among the offerings were complimentary architectural design services for facade renovations and information on applying for facade improvement grants and small business loans.

The program kicked off publicly in January for business owners, and four workshops followed, focusing on design, organization, promotion and business development.

Ms. Mooney said the selection of the borough for the program “was a natural progression from the recent commercial revitalization study by the Department of Economic Development.”

That $40,000 study to improve the borough’s downtown district contained recommendations that council President Monica Douglas called “a blueprint for the future.”

They ranged from the costly building of a boardwalk along the Elizabeth Bridge and the Monongahela River, to less expensive bridge lighting, new signs and planters.

Ms. Mooney said the objectives of the program’s second year are to execute initiatives identified in the annual action plan and develop an action plan for the third year. The final year also involves developing a strategy for long-term sustainability.

Mrs. Hill is confident in the program’s goal of making the once-thriving district successful again.

For more information, visit www.alleghenytogether.com.

Margaret Smykla is a freelance writer.
First published on July 3, 2008 at 6:22 am
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