Saturday, October 2, 2010

It's All About Community

Mt. Lebanon introduces 'star' in business district

About the writer
Matthew Santoni is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review staff writer and can be reached at 412-380-5625 or via e-mail.

-->By Matthew SantoniPITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEWSaturday, October 2, 2010

For years, Mt. Lebanon's Uptown business district has been a paradox: a slice of downtown in a suburban setting; a walkable community that didn't take off until the Liberty Tunnels and automobiles opened up the South Hills to widespread settlement.
Last night, officials cut the ribbon on a $737,000 revitalization project along Washington Road, designed to add a touch of parkland and performance space to the businesses, offices and residences Uptown.
"It's so unique to this area to have a cool downtown area in the middle of a suburb," said Joe Ravita, owner of Empire Music and president of the Uptown Business Association. "Uptown is a place people can recognize immediately, and (this project) is kind of like the star on the top of the tree."
This summer, contractors added a small pavilion to the Clearview Common parklet, located at the intersection of Washington Road and Alfred Street, which can be used for live music, lectures, weddings and other performances, said Eric Milliron, commercial districts manager for Mt. Lebanon. Together with electrical work, plumbing, painting, lighting, sidewalk repairs, new decorations and new banners, the project represented a "re-branding" for Uptown, he said.
"There's a sense of community pride that's intangible, but important," Milliron said. "If you don't make these improvements from time to time, your downtown becomes obsolete."
The banners, interspersed with the logo for the municipality, urge passers-by to shop locally.
"We wanted to emphasize in these hard times how important it is to shop local and support your neighbors," Milliron said.
Much of the funding for the project is from $341,809 in state Department of Community and Economic Development grants, with the municipality adding $205,625, local businesses contributing $91,250 toward facade improvements and the Mt. Lebanon Parking Authority adding $80,000 worth of new parking meters to the area that are solar-powered and accept credit cards, said Mt. Lebanon spokeswoman Laura Pace Lilley. The Mt. Lebanon Industrial Development Authority and the Mt. Lebanon Partnership contributed the rest.
The ribbon-cutting took place at the last of the season's "First Fridays" events, though the pavilion itself got its first use in July when local band Donora played the mostly finished stage, Milliron said.