PITTSBURGH, PA (September 23, 2020) The City of Pittsburgh and Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA) announced today that they are investing $100,000 in improvements for Esser’s Plaza on the South Side as part of the URA’s Neighborhood Initiatives Fund (NIF) program. The investment was presented to the South Side Community Council today, who are working to revitalize the plaza to be a welcoming, open space where the community can gather.
Located at 12th and East Carson Streets, Esser’s Plaza is a poorly lit park area between Armstrong Park and the old market house in the heart of Pittsburgh’s historic South Side. Formerly the Birmingham Plaza, it was renamed Cindy Esser Plaza in August 2006 to honor the long-time South Side advocate who passed away in October 2002.
The renovation project includes infrastructure and site improvements, new lighting, green areas, seating, paving, and programming. The community group is working with additional partners, including Laquatra Bonci Landscape Architects, who donated the conceptual design, Engineers Without Borders, who will draw up construction documents, and the Colcom Foundation.
“We are so grateful to see the revitalization of this South Side park and community space through partnerships and collaboration, including the NIF program,” said Mayor William Peduto. “Esser’s Plaza was named in honor of Cindy Esser, a community advocate, and we’re grateful to honor her memory by providing the investment the South Side Community Council needs to realize their community’s vision for their neighborhood.”
Funding for this project is part of the second round of the NIF, which totals $568,000 being awarded for 12 neighborhood improvement projects and programs across nine neighborhoods. This program is designed to help unlock the economic opportunity and placemaking potential within neighborhoods by allowing communities to access funding for neighborhood-scale projects, particularly those in Community Development Block Grant eligible communities.
“The Neighborhood Initiatives Fund program is a perfect example of how we are working together to drive neighborhood-scale development in Pittsburgh,” URA Executive Director Greg Flisram said. “We are unlocking the economic and placemaking potential within neighborhoods citywide, improving residents’ quality of life while shining a spotlight on these important community assets.”
The announcement was made today on site of the project where Mayor Peduto, URA Executive Director Flisram, Mayor’s Office Chief Economic Development Officer Marty LaMar, and City Councilman Bruce Kraus were joined by Barbara Rudiak, president of the South Side Community Council, and members of the South Side community.
"Esser Plaza has served as a quiet oasis in the heart of South Sides' Carson Street corridor, for residents and visitors alike, for decades,” said City Councilman Bruce Kraus. “Receipt and application of this NIF grant compliments the dedicated and much appreciated restoration and fundraising efforts of the Plaza Stakeholder Task Force residents, ensuring Esser Plaza remains a safe, clean and well maintained park space for generations to come."
"The Esser’s Plaza renovation project began about a decade ago when the South Side Local Development Company ‘bequeathed’ funds to the South Side Community Council to improve the parks in the Flats,” said Kitty Vagley of the South Side Community Council Plaza Stakeholder Task Force. “That ember was kept alive through the efforts of multiple persons, notably Jennifer Holliman, who engaged the commitment of Engineers Without Borders. The URA Neighborhood Initiatives Fund grant allows the project to be realized and the community is deeply grateful."