Monday, March 17, 2008

Monday: Doing it Rightways, Always

[URA deputy director Rob Stephany] said Larimer's "adjacency to stability affords an opportunity they haven't had for 40 years. There are mixed-income housing market pressures a few blocks away. So instead of Larimer surrounded by blight, Larimer finally has some strong edges to build off of."

"And if you do it right," said Paul Svoboda, legislative assistant to state Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, "the people who have been invested can stay invested, and they will get to meet new and diverse neighbors." (P-G, Diana Nelson Jones)

You must think the Comet is about to gnaw this article apart. After all, the words Walnut Capital's $113 million Bakery Square development appear prominently near the top, which to us is basically like catnip.

Not so fast! All that flat land -- all that vacant property -- this is the kind of neighborhood that really needs redevelopment. One way or the other, Larimer's time is fast approaching.

The URA is buying up cheap property all throughout Larimer, and putting it in what it calls a "holding pattern" -- something involving nonprofits, sunflowers and possibly unicorns.

That's fine -- really, it is -- but what is it being held for? This is where Larimer makes such an interesting case study.

As we move forward, are we going to optimize the opportunities for some, while surreptitiously mitigating the influence of others? Are we going to plan exclusively from on high, manufacturing only a plausible facsimile of community participation, picking and choosing? Or are we going to regard community members as the invaluable, indispensable experts that they are when it comes to their own neighborhood?

More to the point, will the community organize itself politically in time to lead its own redevelopment?

Ms. [Ora Lee] Carroll, who for years has touted her neighborhood by pleading for investment, now is plotting the future with Pat Clark, a community development consultant who has worked on land-use and investment strategies for communities throughout the region.

This is a legitimate good news article. The Comet is going to put this issue in a holding pattern, as it were.


The last time a customer stepped inside the Lord & Taylor building, Downtown, Luke Ravenstahl was serving his first year on City Council and a guy by the name of Roethlisberger was in his rookie season with the Steelers. (P-G, Mark Belko)

Wow, when you put like that, it sounds so ... not very long ago.

Arthur Ziegler, president of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, said he is not surprised by what has transpired. Mr. Ziegler and other local preservationists loudly protested the renovations that turned the former bank's majestic open interior, with its marble columns and floors, into a multilevel department store.

"We said it would be a tragedy when Murphy wanted to destroy that space. The building's significance was not only its magnificent exterior but its magnificent and unique interior. I certainly think what happened to it was tragic. Since it so far hasn't worked, that only compounds the situation," he said.

The maintenance of our historic structures (our built environment is the new catch phrase) can to help improve the prospects for sustainable and profitable development, even if it does not seem readily apparent to particular developers at a given time. Please make a note of it.


  1. Speculation.

    Speculation is NOT a developer.

    Hell, Lord and Taylor downtown is in the hands of a speculation firm. Nothing was done for 3+ years.

    And what is worse, LAND SPECULATORS.

    Even worse, Land Speculators with TAX BREAKS.

    So, the fix:

    Land Value Tax Policies.
    = = =

    I am glad you blogged about the article. It is very nice to see and READ about Ora Lee Carol -- and her teaming up with Pat Clark. That's wonderful. We need to work together.

    Back in 2001 I tried to get ORA LEE CAROL to run for mayor! She did run for city council when Ricky Burgess got the nomination -- after the other got nixed from ballot.

    But, competition goes out the window when the URA enters and screws things around. Folks like Ora Lee Carol and everyday folks are in a deep hole in efforts to re-vitalize -- or re-enter a world that is warm to competition in a more fluid and dynamic marketplace.

  2. Why would the URA need to buy all the vacant land if it was not for the purpose of "holding" and reselling at a much higher price. Landbanking...

    Appears that the URA is landbanking for future use. Which may mean that the citizens from the community will still be at a arms length in obtaining parcels.

    URA's guideline will not enable purchases from everyday people. This is telling us that only developers with political connections will be getting any of the land that the URA has purchased unless they planning to do in house developement projects.

  3. Rauterkus: I'm no fan of real estate speculation in government, either. By and large, we do way too much of it.

    Nothing was really going on in Larimer. Vacancy. One figure I heard was a 70% decline over forty years.

    Number two, these properties were DIRT CHEAP. If nothing's wrong with them, clear the junk off and take responsibility. I have no philosophical problem with this.



    "Appears that the URA is landbanking for future use. Which may mean that the citizens from the community will still be at a arms length in obtaining parcels."

    Which MAY mean. Only may. Hence the subject of my post. Let's see if this community-driven Rob Stephany is all that he's cracked up to be.

  4. Bingo. The city should arrange that a portion of that "holding pattern" property -- that landbank -- should be put into a form or forms other than URA holdings. Even if it's a different public outfit; outstanding if it's independent from the public.

    Only a portion. Diversify. What we need are more people with crazy sunflower schemes.