Committee discusses efforts to re-energize neighborhood

Don’t call it a neighborhood redevelopment plan.

No, the Park Avenue Plan, which City Council gave a positive recommendation of approval for on Tuesday, is more of a neighborhood stabilization.

Existing residential and commercial properties in the plan area are a mixture of dilapidated and pristine, according to the plan authored by Matthew Ingalls, principal with Ingalls Planning and Design. The plan area encompasses Park Avenue west to Campbell Street and east to Market Street, south to Little League Boulevard and north to above the UPMC Susquehanna campus.

The city and others funded a plan Ingalls developed that puts the right players into the mix, according to Stephanie Young, city community development director.

The consultanting firm ranked housing from best of 1 to the worst 5, and shaded colors accordingly.

A map of the 1 through 5 houses looks like a multi-colored puzzle.

Scattered amid houses in the best condition are those that are falling apart, damaged, in need of repair or condemnation, according to the plan.

Rather than bringing in a single, large anchor-tenant, the plan reveals a strategy to get homeowners and property owners of rentals and owner-occupied structures into the 3, 4 and 5 ranks, Ingalls stated.

The plan calls for action, such as a steering committee to oversee progress. It has ideas expressed by citizen input from several meetings, like wanting places for children to play, more greenspaces and links to downtown.

A bright spot in the plan is the opening of Dolly’s Restaurant at Walnut Street and Park Avenue, Mayor Gabriel J. Campana said.

Campana said he is looking forward to more development in the neighborhood, which has seen its bad times with high crime and disinvestment.

Following the nod of approval from the committee, council is expected to take a look at the plan Thursday night.