On a dark and stormy night, 65 Central Northsiders waded through the streetstreams to look at what the neighbors had helped create over the past seven months - the first draft of the neighborhood master plan.
Staff from Pfaffmann + Associates architects, Jackson-Clark consultants and the Studio for Spatial Practice guided residents in coming up with the overarching plan to define the neighborhood's expectation of future development. Starting last winter, residents met and divided into groups to consider six categories: Economy/Jobs/Market; Residential; Architecture and Urban Design; Education/Youth/Arts/Culture; Safety and Transportation and the Garden Theater Block.
It's not too late for those who have not been able to participate. The Central Northside Neighborhood Council will convene residents again to discuss the plan and encourage feedback.
Find the plan at http://centralnorthsidecommunityplan.nexo.com/publicforum
At the Mattress Factory museum last night, on storyboards arranged along the walls as if in a gallery, the neighborhood became a pretend world, with a boutique hotel and courtyard tied into the Garden Theater, where a blues and jazz festival is playing on the marque, with the Sonic Cafe next-door at the old Masonic Temple and marquee lighting the whole world would want to beat it to.
Just ideas, just pictures. But the neighborhood has been picturing itself as a place the world would want to beat it to.
Unfortunately, the drug-and-violence set sends its idiots through often enough to make it a place some say they want to beat it from. And our own residents are some of the idiots.
"It's a great plan," said David McMunn, a Central Northside Neighborhood Council and Mexican War Streets Society activist. "The bar is raised. We have spent months of hours and energy putting this together. Now how do we make this work? The city has to take part in it."
"Participation was good" through the planning process, said consultant Pat Clark, who monitored the "Jobs/Economy/Market" storyboard last night. He said about 35 people came to that working group and that about 30 percent were minorities, "As a measure of success of any discussion, I always look around to see how many people of color are there.
"We need better jobs and training," he said. "We have great housing stock. If there is stimulus money for training in weatherization, this would be a good place to apply it. You get people good, well-paying jobs and all this bad stuff goes away."
Many of my neighbors are frustrated, believing that nothing is being done to stop the destruction that visits our streets several times a summer. Unlike in many neighborhoods far more beset by crime, with many more shootings than our "only" two or three, most of my neighbors have very high expectations for quality of life. They argue that "only" two or three shootings should be considered a crisis.
More could be done, and more is being done than we know. You hear the same thing at nearly every neighborhood meeting when a place packs because there was another shooting: Reiteration of the problem, reiteration of the solution, reiteration of the details, the same pestilence over and over.
But last night was the good news: the Central Northside has a masterplan, complete with short- and long-term strategies to make the neighborhood safer, with more jobs, more options for kids, a green corridor to tie the hillside to Allegheny Commons Park, alterations in street directions to keep the streets convenient only for the people who live on them, more green planning, smaller housing up the hillside and the Garden Block as a regional and local destination.
The new Federal Street housing and a Carnegie Library branch expected to open this summer help the ideas spring from the page as possible next steps.
As a follow-up, Randi Marshak, a member of the board of the Central Northside Neighborhood Council, writes:
As part of the Central Northside Community Plan process, the urban designers from Pfaffmann and Associates have taken a look at the street grid and how it relates to safety in regard to drug dealing and pedestrian safety. They will be recommending how best to change the streets to be resident friendly and more difficult for those using our streets for nefarious purposes. Speed bumps are not allowed in the city, so they will be making recommendations for other traffic-calming measures.
Of course working with the city to make these changes will take time but the effort will be made.
August 26th there will be a meeting which outlines their recommendations in regards to these issues. The entire final plan will be presented Sept 14th at the September CNNC membership meeting. More information about these meetings -- time, place, etc.-- will be posted closer to the dates.