If you’ve ever wondered how ELDI helps shape developments in East Liberty, then you’ll want to know more about East Liberty’s Community Planning Committee.
Established alongside the 2010 East Liberty Community Plan, 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.
We already showed you how the committee works and heard from Community Planning Committee member Lenore Williams. Continuing our series, we’re talking to another member of the committee, Stefani Danes. Stefani is an adjunct professor in the School of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon University. She shares her perspective of the committee, from the vision all members hold to the types of projects on which the committee provides input.
Dive in below.
What do you do and what is your stake in East Liberty?
I am a designer. As an architect, I design housing, communities, and community facilities. As an urban designer, revitalization strategies. As a teacher, design studios for both undergrads and grad students at CMU. As a fabric artist, contemporary quilts.
I care about East Liberty because it’s one of Pittsburgh’s unique assets, because it is recovering from a history of poor decision-making, and because it’s a microcosm of the issues and opportunities in urban America today. What most inspires me to invest my time in East Liberty is that its leadership is committed to transformational work on behalf of the community and has the courage and creativity to try new ideas.
How did you become a member of East Liberty’s Community Planning Committee, and how long have you been on the committee?
Can you take us inside a typical meeting?
How does the committee work to safeguard the vision for East Liberty outlined in the community plans?
East Liberty’s community plans outline paths toward a more sustainable and equitable neighborhood. While CPC members come from many different backgrounds, we share that vision. We’ve learned a lot from each other and from ELDI’s staff members, so I would say we have an in-depth understanding of the neighborhood—physically, socially, politically, and economically—and we share a desire to help bring about the community’s vision.
Can you give an example of a development in the neighborhood that the committee has helped shape?
I would point to the way we’ve helped stitch the neighborhood back together by, for instance, re-integrating Penn Circle into the local street grid. This has not been one big project, but many, many smaller steps, each one finding a balance among the interests of pedestrians, property owners, utility companies, and others. This work will go on for a few more years, but the progress is evident.
We have long underestimated what a committed community can do for itself. Community planning is a voice of the neighborhood and can help strengthen the local economy, culture, and sense of place.
What do you wish more people understood about the community planning process in East Liberty or about community planning in general?
We have long underestimated what a committed community can do for itself. Community planning is a voice of the neighborhood and can help strengthen the local economy, culture, and sense of place. It is by speaking for the community’s vision and upholding a fair planning process that it best serves the neighborhood.
Anything else you’d like to share about your experiences on the committee?
It takes very little time for anyone new to the committee to start contributing to the discussion and sharing in a common sense of purpose. It’s a rewarding experience. I believe we feel that as a committee we play a positive role in making East Liberty a good place to live and work.