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Group Discusses Possible Revamp of Swissvale's Business District

The Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) met to discuss how to improve and expand Swissvale’s businesses.

After council’s approval to move forward with Part I of a , EDAC group has shifted its focus to motivating and fostering local businesses.

The think tank of businessmen and residents discussed several ideas to improve Swissvale’s business sector during their meeting last night, including appealing to new businesses, creating welcome baskets and improving safety.

“The more people we get here and the more energy, the more projects we can take on,” said Darrell Rapp, councilman and EDAC member. Rapp said he sees EDAC transitioning into a forum to discuss the smaller issues that sometimes affect businesses in a big way and that council can’t always address.

Part of Rapp’s new vision for EDAC included the introduction of Charles Starrett into the conversation to inform the committee about the nonprofit company, Enterprise Zone, that helps businesses both big and small throughout Allegheny County.

“The primary goal is to assist business, attract new business and create jobs,” Starrett said. In his experience, the main thing that divides the successful and unsuccessful business areas are safety and security.

Pam Reddy’s main safety concern was what she considered to be an unsavory crowd that loiters near the 24-hour by her workplace at . Reddy proposed asking the council to seriously consider giving the Sunoco an 11 p.m. curfew, something that other committee members were quick to agree with.

“If you closed Sunoco at 11 o’clock, our town would be a ton safer,” Reddy said. “If [council] can send you a fine in your mailbox because you didn’t cut your grass they can close the Sunoco.”

The committee also invited the idea of improving lighting on some darker streets, including Noble Street in particular. One idea Rapp proposed was to ask businesses to leave their lights on after closing to improve the visibility on the sidewalks.

Community outreach and communication were also a big topic of discussion for the group. Some ideas included improving the borough’s website, creating welcome baskets for new residences and businesses, connecting with the Swissvale Rotary Club and getting local shops and services more involved with community events like .  

“I think it’s just a matter of coming up with all the creative ideas and putting them on the table and decided what works and what doesn’t,” said Dr. Michael Yue of on 2000 Waverly Ave. Yue stressed the importance of engaging both the young and old with projects like the welcome baskets for the elderly and online communication for the youth.  

At future EDAC meetings, Rapp hopes to turn ideas into results to help the community. Reddy expressed that the lack of results was what she had heard had been the downfall of the previous EDAC group.

“I want to start to identify several tangible projects that we or a few people could do and kind of put something together,” Rapp said. Once this happens, Rapp hopes that it will increase Swissvale’s business district and attract outsiders.

A future construction project on the Kenmawr Bridge that connects Rankin and Swissvale could be the new revitalized business district’s chance for a new first impression to outsiders. A possible construction detour would lead commuters straight through Swissvale.

“The idea of diverted traffic to get exposure is something that’s out there and is a possibility. In some ways maybe we can think about it as a goal. If that traffic was diverted there now what would their reactions be? You want people to say ‘I want to come back’ there rather than ‘I never want to go back there again’,” Rapp said.

While the date is still up in the air for the bridge’s renovation and the project is on the back burner, the prospect provides hope.

Todd Anderson July 19, 2012 at 04:44 AM
It's great that there is so much effort to improve the business district. Something lacking in the business district is sidewalks wide enough to allow for outdoor dining. I don't know what could be done about that, but it may be worth looking into. I will say that I'm afraid what is most needed to revitalize the business district, are more people with higher incomes living within walking distance of the business loop. The people living there now don't have the incomes to support many local businesses. Of course the unsavory crowd that frequents the business district are discouraging outside investers.
Akasha Brandt July 19, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Todd these area great ideas! You should go to an EDAC meeting. They are public and very eager to get feedback from the community and businesses.

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