New Kensington engages redevelopment consultant
New Kensington Council on Monday hired Harrison-based business consultant Brian D. Clark & Associates to design a redevelopment plan for the city.
Mayor Tom Guzzo said working with Clark, a former state legislator who has been involved in many local developments, is one of many positive things happening in the city.
Council approved an agreement that would pay Clark as much as $75,000 to identify properties ripe for redevelopment, market them to businesses and developers, and seek state and federal funding for the projects.
When Clark first presented his proposal in June, he said assets like infrastructure, proximity to the Allegheny River, local educational facilities and the potential for a commuter rail to Pittsburgh could help New Kensington become the type of urban community young professionals are seeking.
“I see a tremendous amount of opportunity here,” Clark said Monday.
Clark said now that the city’s redevelopment authority has done the work of acquiring property and demolishing many blighted buildings, his job will be to package those properties to suitable developers.
He said the first step, which he hopes to complete by the end of the year, will be to compile a catalog of properties and their amenities.
Guzzo said no time period was established in the agreement.
Council budgeted Clark’s maximum fee of $75,000 next year, but Guzzo said the contract has the city paying him in $25,000 increments upon completion of phases.
Guzzo said the city can end the agreement after any phase.
Natural gas leasing
Council on Monday also agreed to work with another consultant: Western Pennsylvania Gas Leasing Consultants LLC will market the city’s oil and gas rights to drillers tapping the Marcellus shale.
Consultant Taylor Troiano said the company was founded by Greensburg attorney Ed Bilik and is working with local clients, including Allegheny Township, Lower Burrell, West Leechburg, Tarentum and Leechburg Area School District.
Troiano said the six-month agreement tasks his company with looking for the best deal to lease the estimated 250 acres of city-owned property. He said the city is not obligated to sign any contracts the company suggests.
The company’s fee is 10 percent of the signing bonus on any contracts the city signs.
Troiano said his company was able to lease land for $3,200 per acre in Allegheny Township, substantially more than the $1,000 per acre initially offered. He said landowners typically earn 18 percent royalties on well production.
Controller John Zavadak advocated for leasing city-owned property, noting the financial benefits could be substantial and the gas may be accessible through horizontal drilling that would not require well heads in the city.
Guzzo and council were quick to point out positive things happening in the city in the face of criticism they received in recent months over crime and blight.
“I think the police department has done a great job of making arrests on the shootings from over the summer,” Councilman John Regoli said.
Guzzo said police have increased patrols and additional warrants have been served. Council hopes to hire an additional officer next year.
Regoli said a part-time code enforcement officer likely will join the two full-time code officers by year’s end.
Guzzo noted several businesses opening or expanding in the city, a recent $250,000 state grant to improve Memorial Park and holiday plans, including his annual free community dinner Dec. 5 and the parade Dec. 6.
“There are a lot of really, really good things going on,” Guzzo said.
Monday’s council meeting was free of the large crowds of people with complaints who attended during the past two months.
The only concern voiced was by Tom Ceraso, a former county commissioner and current chairman of the board at the Valley Points Family YMCA, which has branches in New Kensington and Allegheny Township.
Ceraso read a letter from the YMCA’s board citing their concern about drug-related violence in the city and their willingness to help.
“We must all work together to effect change,” Ceraso said.
Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or [email protected].