Pittsburgh’s Hill District braces for $11 million infrastructure injection

By Jamie Wiggan

PITTSBURGH— Pittsburgh’s Hill District is set to receive an $11.3 million injection into its aging infrastructure systems, which officials say will improve accessibility for residents and help connect lower, middle subsections and superior of the district.

The neighborhood is one of 166 communities across the country selected for the federal RAISE grant program which this year channeled a total of $2.2 billion toward infrastructure projects.

“It’s going to help us a lot in trying to reconnect that community and connect them to the things that are happening around them,” Jake Wheatley, chief of staff for Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, told the Pittsburgh City Paper.

“I think it’s going to be important.”

Wheatley says details of how the money will be spent are still being worked out, but notes it will go to a range of necessary infrastructure upgrades, including roads, sidewalks, services utilities and drainage, and ensuring that the neighborhood is accessible to residents with disabilities. Projects will be clustered around targeted areas where investment is most needed, adds Wheatley.

Beyond meeting immediate community needs, U.S. Representative Mike Doyle, D-18th District, told City Paper that these investments are meant to spur local development.

“We knew that if we were successful in reconnecting the Hill District to downtown Pittsburgh, it would drive more investment here,” Doyle said. “Well, to have investments here, you have to be able to get here; the infrastructure must be such that it allows businesses to locate here and employ people.

To secure the competitive funds, Doyle said a delegation of local officials traveled to Washington DC to present their proposal directly to the Secretary of Transportation. He says as part of their presentation, Pittsburgh leaders discussed their responsibility to right past wrongs when it comes to redevelopment efforts in the Hill District.

The Hill is a historically black neighborhood in Pittsburgh that was partially bulldozed in the 1950s as part of a city-led urban renewal campaign. Many Hill residents are still expressing pain following the redevelopment program, and some have called for repairs, as Black Pittsburgh reports.

“We really pushed for this project and told them why it was important,” Doyle said.

Marimba Milliones, president of the Hill Community Development Corporation, said city ​​paper the influx of federal funds reflects years of planning by community stakeholders assembled as the Hill District Commercial Redevelopment Task Force. According to Milliones, some of the federal grant spending will help advance an existing master plan being developed for the greater Hill District community.

“Over the years, thousands of residents have participated in these processes,” Milliones said. “And it’s the CDC’s job to continue to deliver that message consistently.”

Jaime Wiggan is editor of the Pittsburgh City Paper, where this story first appeared.

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