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What’s a National Community Development Expert Have to Say About Pittsburgh?

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Earlier this month, we had the pleasure of hosting nationally recognized community development guru, Alan Mallach for a few days at Neighborhood Allies. He was in town primarily to help us build upon our equitable development work, but also took the time to drop some serious community development knowledge on the Neighborhood Allies team along with a few of our allies…

Huddled around our conference room table surrounded by curious minds, the Neighborhood Allies, PolicyLink and UrbanKind Institute teams listened intently as Alan started to describe his point of view on Pittsburgh and what we might learn from other cities across the country.

“Pittsburgh’s current resurgence is just a blip on the radar. In terms of development and revitalization nationwide, it’s almost unnoticeable. However, the feeling of change here is real, and you need to build off of that momentum.”

-Alan Mallach

The conversation started with recognizing the importance of economics–noting the significant separation between, but also the deep interconnectedness of affordable housing and revitalizing/stabilizing neighborhoods. Coming off of two full days of equitable development discussions, this really hit home for the group, as it is the pinnacle of our All-In Pittsburgh initiative and very relevant in the current landscape in Pittsburgh neighborhoods.

We went on to discuss categories and characteristics of neighborhoods, discussing where Pittsburgh neighborhoods fit and what strategies might work best for them:

  1. STRONG

  2. GENTRIFIED

  3. IN DECLINE

  4. POVERTY

Most of the communities we are focused in fall within categories 3 and 4 and this is where our Healthy Neighborhood Framework works best, confirming that we’re on the right path. That led us into a conversation about Market Strategy vs. Quality of Life, and if both elements should be components of a neighborhood strategy at the same time. Alan quickly reacted, responding that you can’t do one without the other.

Honing in on Pittsburgh, asking for Alan’s suggestions for our city moving forward, we came back to the original question we asked when the All-In Pittsburgh initiative kicked off: How do we make equitable development a reality in Pittsburgh? 

  • We should focus on systems at the city-level
  • We need to align spatial, economic, and racial dynamics
  • We need a real commitment to hiring a local workforce from corporations
  • We need to set expectations for developers. “This is what we, as a community, think is right, and here are our expectations.”
  • We need to create a way for developers to comply with out hurting their bottom line

“You can’t improve a place without people.”

-Alan Mallach

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