Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced today that The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA) received three awards for Excellence in Economic Development from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC). The winning entries (population 200,000-500,000) were:
Bakery Square: From Vacant Factory to Mixed-Use Mecca in the Real Estate Redevelopment & Reuse category;
Eastside Phases I,II and V in the Neighborhood Development category; and
URA Monthly Newsletter: April Fools/April Edition, Honorable Mention in the Newsletter/Newspaper category.
“Congratulations to the URA staff for this exciting recognition, which acknowledges and highlights your dedication and innovative thinking,” said Ravenstahl. “Both Bakery Square and Eastside have had a tremendous impact on the East Liberty community and surrounding neighborhoods. Though each development was a large undertaking, the hard work of our staff, the expertise of our development partners, and the determination of our residents made them a reality. We are just beginning to see the positive effects of these projects, and I look forward to keeping that momentum moving forward.”
The honors were presented at an awards ceremony on Tues., Sept. 20, during the IEDC Annual Conference in Charlotte, NC. A panel of economic development experts consisting of members from both the public and private sectors judged the projects.
"We recognize the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh for providing successful strategies to promote new standards in economic development in this period of global recovery,” said Dennis Coleman, IEDC chair. “Our awards honor organizations and individuals for their efforts in creating positive change in communities. They are showing that they are at the forefront of the economic development profession and are using innovative and effective practices that can be replicated in other communities."
The Excellence in Economic Awards Program annually recognizes the world’s best economic development programs and partnerships, marketing materials, and the year’s most influential leaders. The program honors organizations and individuals in 28 categories for their efforts in creating positive change in urban, suburban and rural communities.
About the winning projects
The Bakery Square Project revitalized an abandoned industrial strip of East Pittsburgh through the strategic reuse of a former 6.5-acre Nabisco Bakery complex. Originally built in 1918 by the National Biscuit Company, the lot sat vacant since 1998. Thanks to a dedicated developer and strategic financial investment from the City and State, the site was turned into a LEED-certified, mixed-use lifestyle center.
The project currently includes office space, retail, a 120-room hotel, a coffee shop, a gym and an 849-space parking garage. Tenants such as Google, UMPC Technology Development Center, Anthropologie and Coffee Tree Roasters have crafted an identity that radiates through the area. Situated a short walk from two residential communities attracting young professionals, the project was also a part of the City's attempt to reverse a decades-long trend of businesses and young workers moving to the periphery of the City. It has helped area businesses attract customers, property owners see an increase in the value of their homes, and Pittsburgh citizens appreciate the potential for large-scale reuse projects that bring in new employers while maintaining the architectural integrity of the Pittsburgh’s industrial past.
The EastSide project is the successful multi-phase, 20-year plan developed to bring new employment and transit options into a retail corridor that had suffered through decades of disinvestment. Phase I brought Whole Foods store into a vacant commercial building; Phase II built a dense, two-story retail center mixing national and local businesses; Phases III and IV will include office/retail/residential units and a transit center; and Phase V brought a large two-story Target department store designed to fit within an urban context. With a plethora of new stores and establishments in the area, more customers are already being drawn into the community.
The impact has been felt across various sectors: private investment has improved significantly, affordable and market-rate housing has increased, hundreds of new jobs have been created, and new projects are eager to enter the area. As an example of the success the project has seen, within the first two years of opening, the demand at Whole Foods was so strong that it hired 100 more employees than it had previously expected. Additionally, 56% of all new hires were from low-income communities, and 63% of the jobs paid more than minimum wage.
The URA Monthly Newsletter was created in December 2010 to inform current and potential clients and partners about the value of the organization’s work and dispel previous misconceptions. It also serves as an internal communications mechanism for staff. It has helped the URA to break down barriers with some community organizations, realize more positive news stories, and lift morale amongst staff as they began realizing the sum of their hard work.
The newsletter team created a publication they would want to read, with intriguing titles, fun tidbits about Pittsburgh, and development stories. The response to the first three editions was so positive the team decided to take a risk and do an April Fools version.
The April Fools edition mimicked the real one, but was full of fake news. The URA received over a hundred positive responses (no negative), as well as coverage by local media who were surprised that a government agency had a sense of humor. The real April newsletter was sent out the next day.
The newsletter, and information on all URA projects, can be found on the URA website at www.ura.org.
About the International Economic Development Council
The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) is the premier membership organization dedicated to helping economic development professionals create high-quality jobs, develop vibrant communities and improve the quality of life in their regions. Serving more than 4,500 members, IEDC represents the largest network of economic development professionals in the world. IEDC provides a diverse range of services, including conferences, certification, professional development, publications, research, advisory services and legislative tracking.