As I glanced around the packed room, I could see that a strong cross-section of Tarentum's businesses were represented: Choppers Bar and Grille, the Tarena, Superior Sports Cards, Site Signatures, Joan's Kiln Korner, Seita Jewelers, Ringer's Pet Dog Training, Dusters. The Valley News Dispatch (that had publicized the workshop with a news story and an editorial was also represented. There were certainly many others who I did not see or know.
Council President Carl Magnetta welcomed everyone to the workshop, commenting on the high attendance by the public at the meetings in the Tarentum. He introduced Mark J. Peluso, Executive Director of Town Center Associates, who ran the workshop.
Mr. Peluso commented on how exciting it was to be in the first minute of the first workshop in the Allegheny Together program. Tarentum is one of the four pilot communities (Elizabeth Borough, Stowe, Swissvale, and Tarentum) for this program of Allegheny County.
Lance Chimka, Project Manager in Allegheny County Economic Development, said that Allegheny County has 43 traditional business disctricts, of which 19 are in distressed communities. He commented on how walkable the Tarentum community is. The past county council revitalization programs were good but did not meet all the communities' needs. The recipe Allegheny County is using now for revitalization includes long-term planning, a focus on bricks and mortar, capacity building, and business attraction.
Marilyn Whitelock, Community Relations Coordinator of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, the lead consultant in the Allegheny Together Program, said that the foundation has been preparing planning documents including design guidelines, a market and real estate analysis, and a review of our historic architecture.
Another organization supporting Allegheny Together is CTAC (Community Technical Assistance Center) which has been involved in community development and will be providing centralized workshops for the participating communities in line with the National Trust for Historic Preservations Main Street Strategies with the four points: Design, Economic Restructuring, Promotion, and Organization.
Mr. Peluso gave an overview of how towns like Tarentum developed and changed from their origins when walking was the primary way of getting around, to the present when the downtowns have new possibilites for adapting and being re-energized. He discussed issues affecting streetscape, building facades, and signage.
At the close of the workshop there was a discussion about the role of West Tarentum with respect to this downtown revitalization program. The strategy involves working with a focused area, and being located outside that area does not exclude a location from getting some of the benefits of the program. But it became clear that the business district along West Seventh Avenue was not considered part of Tarentum's downtown.
When I think about Tarentum's revitalization, this division between two business districts is one of the most painful issues I see. The traffic flow from Red Belt/Ross Street to the Tarentum Bridge prevents Tarentum from experiencing a larger, unified business district with all the benefits that it could bring to the town. There are many businesses along West Seventh Ave, including Tarentum's only grocery store. Although food is available at the Rite-Aid, it does not carry fresh meats and vegetables. All the businesses along West Seventh could contribute to Tarentum's revitalization. The division between the business districts is one issue Tarentum must face sooner or later.
There are a number of upcoming events scheduled for Tarentum's Revitalization program.
On January 30 at 7 PM a Design on Main Street workshop will be held at the Brashear Center on the Southside. This is one of four workshops provided by CTAC (the Community Technical Assistance Center) for the Allegheny Together communities.
The Key Issues Workshop on Business Development will be February 20 at 6:30. This workshop is part of the Allegheny Together program. Originally scheduled for the Tarentum Borough Building, the heavy turnout for the first workshop indicates that a new location may be needed for future workshops.
The Key Issues Workshop on Promotion will be March 19. This workshop is part of the Allegheny Together program. Its location may also be shifted from the Borough Building.