Maelene Myers with Mayor Ed Gainey as he accepted his impact award at our impact report release party in September

In honor of our impact report launch, we shared an in-depth interview with ELDI Executive Director Maelene Myers. In it, she told the fascinating story of how she went from being a single mother on welfare to leading one of Pittsburgh’s most successful community development corporations. She also took us back to the early planning process for the neigbhorhood and gave us a look into how the community plans were formed through hundreds of meetings with East Liberty’s long-time residents.

Now, with East Liberty’s community plans nearing completion and our impact report out in the world, we checked in with Myers again to ask her, “What’s next for you and East Liberty?” Her response sheds light on just some of what we will be focusing on in the year ahead.

What’s next for you and East Liberty?

I’m asking myself how I can take my experience and passion and share it. How can we apply ELDI’s lessons learned to the East End, to the entire city of Pittsburgh, to other cities across the country? Our impact report is a key part of that. The report highlights both community plans and tells the story of East Liberty and all the community development lessons we’ve picked up along the way. So, I will spend my time and energy ensuring that we continue our promise of work and housing opportunities, while also lending our tools and expertise to other organizations so that they can transform their communities.

ELDI is also spinning off a project management company called Main + Elm Development Company sometime at the end of the year or the beginning of next year. They will become an arm of other ELDI spin-offs Rising Tide Partners, Catapult Greater Pittsburgh, and other organizations to do real estate development and project management. ELDI will continue to do the work we’ve been charged to do, but we’re focusing on the commercial core and restoring our downtown. For example, our work with Walnut Capital and their expansion of Bakery Square into the core of East Liberty. I want to get reconnected with the businesses in the neighborhood to be able to work together with them. I also want to improve local workforce development and address the traffic jams we have now as parking is starting to be a nuisance again. And then lastly, how do we make it safe for our youth? Ultimately, we’ve got to figure out how we can get back into the schools to talk about job opportunities and make them feel like they’re part of the neighborhood.

I’m also thinking about how we can bring in the new East Liberty—how can we engage with new residents to make them feel some ownership? How do we get families to not feel the division between Black and white or the haves and have-nots? How can we begin to blend that the way we blended Shadyside with East Liberty?

I have a lot more work to do before I’m done. I have all the things I need here to keep me grounded in the neighborhood that I love and cherish and want my kids to be a part of. I’ve made some missteps along the way, but now I’m going to get out there and reconnect—to listen to the good and the bad. That’s how we learn. That’s how we grow. Not that it’s going to be easy, but like I said at that first meeting in the Regent Theater: We have to start somewhere.

➡ Discover 20 years of community-driven transformation in East Liberty’s Impact Report.

➡ If you haven’t read our first interview with Maelene, we promise you don’t want to miss it. Check it out here.