In 1979, the East Liberty Quarter Chamber of Commerce formed the nonprofit East Liberty Development, Inc. (ELDI) to facilitate redevelopment efforts in East Liberty and begin the process of reversing the effects of well-intentioned, but ultimately disastrous, 1960s urban renewal efforts. Once a bustling community and commercial district, by the early 80s and 90s, East Liberty was a shell of its former glory. The neighborhood was a sea of vacant buildings, with crime, a high unemployment rate, and a feeling among long-time residents that the City had abandoned them.
To begin the monumental task of turning the neighborhood around, ELDI began hosting community meetings, bringing together community members from all walks of life to hear their struggles and vision for the neighborhood. This was the foundation of the 1999 community plan—A Vision for East Liberty. Ever since we’ve been working hard behind the scenes to steward the community’s vision outlined in that plan, and in the subsequent 2010 East Liberty Community Plan. The goal? Re-establish East Liberty as the vibrant, mixed-income community it once was. A key part of this process was the development of East Liberty’s Community Planning Committee. Below, we take a look at the purpose of this committee and its role in neighborhood planning.
What is East Liberty’s Community Planning Committee?
Formed alongside the second community plan in 2010, this committee guides new real estate developments in the neighborhood, from family homes to large-scale projects like Target or the Mellon’s Orchard South Apartments. The committee is made up of ELDI board members, community members, and representatives from City government. Their role is to ensure that any development being proposed matches the community plan and fits within the fabric of East Liberty.
What goes through the Community Planning Committee?
Every real estate project undertaken by ELDI goes through the committee process, and while projects undertaken by others are not required to go through the committee, if the project needs City Planning Commission or City zoning approval, most developers elect to get feedback from the committee. This means that East Liberty’s Community Planning Committee provides input on the majority of developments in the neighborhood.
Where does a project go after the Community Planning Committee?
If it is an ELDI project, the project then goes to our Real Estate Investment Committee (comprised of ELDI board members and local bankers) then to the Finance Committee, ELDI Executive Committee, and finally to the full ELDI board. If the project is from a developer, then a support letter is provided, assuming that the project is approved. If it’s not approved, then the developer is asked to make revisions and come back to the committee.
We spoke to Lenore Williams, chairperson of the Baum Centre Initiative and a member of East Liberty’s Community Planning Committee since 2014, to get her insights into how the committee works. She shares her experiences and what she wished more people understood about development in East Liberty. Read the Q&A.