Mayor Peduto unveils tool to ‘level the development playing field’ |

Mayor Peduto unveils tool to ‘level the development playing field’

Natasha Lindstrom

As swaths of Pittsburgh enjoy a building boom, Mayor Bill Peduto says he’s been posing an earnest question to newly arriving developers: “Why didn’t you invest before?”

“The response that I’ve gotten from several of them was Pittsburgh was always perceived to be a closed market,” said Peduto, who maintains that “for decades” city officials awarded government contracts and tax incentives based more on political clout than actual merit.

“That system of a city that’s for sale will forever be gone, and it will be a city that’s open for business,” Peduto said Tuesday as he unveiled a tool expected to “level the development playing field.”

Starting in early 2017, a 12-point set of criteria created with input from hundreds of regional stakeholders will guide decision-making on city contracts and investments, Peduto said. This tool assigns numerical values to gauge a project’s likely effects on areas such as housing, rainwater, air quality, energy, innovation and community.

“We’re not simply looking for what projects will make money,” said Peduto, “but what projects will enhance our environment, give everyone an opportunity to benefit from it, and to create a Pittsburgh that is true to its roots.”

The quantifier tool marks the first tangible product to emerge from a fledgling initiative dubbed “p4,” short for planet, people, place and performance.

“We intend to use it here at The Heinz Endowments for our investments and development,” said Andrew McElwaine, the foundation’s vice president for sustainability. “Anyone interested in prioritizing development to achieve maximum community benefit can do the same, and we hope they will.”

In April 2015, the inaugural p4 conference drew 300 people to the Energy Innovation Center in the Hill District for sessions about smart urban planning, with many speakers drawing on success stories in Scandinavia.

Next week, the second p4 conference will focus on “people” and “place” in the context of social justice and equity — namely, ensuring the city’s most impoverished and minority neighborhoods aren’t excluded from the type of revitalization that has swept through Downtown, East Liberty and the North Side.

“This time, when Pittsburgh reinvents itself, it has to reinvent itself for everybody,” Oliphant says on a video promoting the two-day, midweek p4 event scheduled for Oct. 18-19 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

“We need to make sure that all neighborhoods are healthy communities of opportunity,” said Presley Gillespie, president of Downtown-based nonprofit Neighborhood Allies.

The city and The Heinz Endowments are sponsoring next week’s summit. Andre Heinz, son of the late Sen. H. John Heinz and a board member for The Heinz Endowments, will host. The Heinz Endowments — the region’s second largest foundation — has put money toward projects including the renovation of Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts, Downtown; the design or construction of green buildings; and redeveloping the Almono site in Hazelwood.

Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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