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Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Another aspect of revitalization planning: it takes a long time

I mentioned the other day ("Revitalization planning vs. positive thinking as planning") that one of the things that defines revitalization planning is a focus on facts, current conditions and that life isn't rosy and that changing things in the face of unfavorable market conditions can be very hard.

I laugh to myself a lot at community meetings when people complain about a project not being underway after only a few months.  I finally figured out patience some when I was 47, and I realized that "fast tracked" transportation projects like a street reconstruction, can take 10 years.

Similarly, there were some construction projects that I was involved with that have taken 12-15 years to come to fruition, that's a long time.

I connected with people from the Strip District in Pittsburgh around 2005, because the International Public Markets and Public Spaces conference was in DC, and I led a tour. 

The Pennsylvania Railroad Fruit Auction & Sales Building is located between the 1600 and 2100 blocks of Smallman Street in the Strip District in an area that’s ripe for expanded downtown development. FILE PHOTO BY JOE WOJCIK: Pittsburgh Business Times, "Report: City in deal to redevelop produce terminal."


In 2008, I attended the National Trust for Historic Preservation national conference in Pittsburgh, and I did went on some tours of the Strip District and reconnected with the group Neighbors in the Strip (now called Strip District Neighbors, and sadly, the people I knew are no longer involved, "Staff of Strip District group resigns," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).

One of their white elephant projects is trying to adaptively reuse the old Pennsylvania Railroad Produce Terminal.  Various proposals had been made in the years before 2008.  And for a time they ran a small market in part of the building.

But instead of signing an agreement with NIST, the city signed a contract with a major real estate development firm, McCaffrey Interests.  NIST felt dissed. 

OTOH, you can concede that a well financed real estate firm is more likely to be able to pull off such a difficult project.

That doesn't mean it's necessarily any faster.

They are still working out details of the contract ("Pittsburgh URA approves deal on Produce Terminal redevelopment," Pittsburgh Tribune-Review).

That's a project that's been underway for 20 years or more and likely many years to come.

And as the resignation of my colleagues shows, it's often contentious and community organizers may run into the buzzsaw of local government, the Growth Machine, and politics.

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