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Mayor Bill Peduto promises to ‘build a Pittsburgh for all’ |

Mayor Bill Peduto promises to ‘build a Pittsburgh for all’

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto wants to change the mission of the Urban Redevelopment Authority so it better reflects the 21st century city.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto wants the Urban Redevelopment Authority to shift focus from its original “wrecking ball” development strategy of the 1940s and 1950s.

Peduto on Tuesday tweeted that the city would “reestablish Mayor (David) Lawrence’s URA” over the next few years to restore neighborhoods and “build a Pittsburgh for all.” He said he wants to concentrate efforts on rebuilding depressed neighborhoods through such programs as workforce development and affordable housing.

Rebuilding Pittsburgh for all residents has been a Peduto theme since he first took office in 2014.

“We know that when David Lawrence created the URA it was about massive projects,” Peduto said Wednesday. “It was about 1940s and ’50s urban renewal, which was done with a wrecking ball. It’s time for a revamp. I want to change the mission. I’m not looking to fire anybody. I’m just looking to bring in consultants who do this on a national level to provide a road map…”

The URA in October will consider a contract with HR&A Advisors Inc., a New York firm that specializes in real estate and economic development consulting, according to board Chairman Kevin Acklin, Peduto’s former chief of staff.

“As we approach the 75th anniversary of the URA, the mayor has asked us to take a hard look at how we are serving a growing and ever-changing city,” he said. “This project is about investing in the hardworking staff at the URA to critically review our many programs and investment strategies so we can arm the URA with the best tools to help build a more equitable city.”

The consultants would asses the URA’s operation, gather information from city officials and community stakeholders, prepare recommendations for implementing a plan and help implement it, according to a proposal from HR&A.

“We will develop an implementation framework that will outline responsibilities and timing, conduct stakeholder briefings to generate buy-in and prepare a final report that will documents our findings, recommendations and next steps,” the company said in its proposal.

Peduto said the process would take years and came as a recommendation from Pittsburgh’s foundation community.

“We need to have an organization that has capacity to be able to deliver the needs of our neighborhoods, programs that currently don’t exist like workforce development, programs that look at land recycling,” the mayor said. “Turning blight into opportunity needs to be a priory of the URA. The focus has to become more centered on neighborhood plans that are developed through the planning department being implemented on a much smaller scale. These are all the critical parts of today’s URA, and we need to restructure the organization around that.”

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter @bobbauder.

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