Creating good policies and programs to strengthen and grow a community like Mt. Washington requires hard, empirical data on neighborhood needs. And that’s data that the Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation (MWCDC) doesn’t have, at least for now.
But as MWCDC Executive Director Gordon Davidson explained last night during a community forum at the Mt. Washington Healthy Active Living Center, gathering that data is among organization’s goals for the coming year.
Working off of plans that were originally submitted to Pittsburgh City Council for approval last summer, Davidson explained that in the coming weeks the MWCDC and its local partners will embark on a broad campaign of research and data collection in what he calls the “nano neighborhoods” located in the Mt. Washington census tract.
Davidson says MWCDC volunteers will hit the streets and scour public records for data on critical questions like the number of vacant and blighted properties in the neighborhood, the number of home-based businesses and what available local real estate could become home to small businesses.
From there, the data will form the basis for neighborhood action plans addressing issues like affordable housing and the need for more women- and minority-owned businesses.
While it will require much physical and analytical work, Davidson says it will be worth the effort.
“This is extremely ambitious,” he said. “But if a significant amount of it gets done, we gain an enormous capacity to help the community.”
Davidson is the only full-time employee of the MWCDC, and was hired last March. He stresses that the organization’s work extends far beyond his own office, much of it depending on board members and volunteers who donate their free time to improving the community. These partners will be key to completing the study.
Speaking to NEXTpittsburgh, Davidson also said that delivery dates for the data depend on which local partners agree to participate in research and canvassing efforts.
But, he says, he is confident the assistance will come and expects each of the action plans to be completed by Aug. 31 of this year at the latest.
While certain issues like housing and economic development clearly need to be addressed, Davidson told NEXT he is looking forward to seeing what other insights emerge from the data.
Among those potential insights: “I’m going to look into if a community land trust is reasonable,” he said. “I don’t know if it is yet.”
The forum also heard from contractor Kris Senko and architect Kevin Hart from Senko Construction and Hart Architectural Services, respectively. The duo discussed a project to construct eight new, single-family townhomes along Grandview Avenue.
While Senko said the project was only at “the very beginning of city approval process,” he vowed to keep sharing information as the project moved forward over the course of the year. He also shared early renderings of the site, which Senko hopes will be under construction before the end of the year.
The project from Senko and Hart is one of several new developments currently underway across Mt. Washington.