Economy & Business
5:06 pm
Wed February 27, 2013

Allegheny River Towns Enterprise Zone Expanding Role – Housing, Recreation Projects on Tap

Sharpsburg main street, like several others, has suffered from years of decline
Sharpsburg main street, like several others, has suffered from years of decline
Credit Josepeh/Flickr

Allegheny River Towns Enterprise Zone (ARTEZ) completed the Enterprise Zone program in June 2012, but thanks to new funding it will continue its work in Millvale, Etna, Sharpsburg, Aspinwall, Blawnox, O’Hara, and Shaler. Previously those who worked for ARTEZ focused solely on business development opportunities.

“They decided that they needed to focus on projects like affordable and sustainable housing, coordinated intercommunity approach to zoning and development ordinances, the development of riverfront trails, and also addressing issues like vacancy and blight in their main street business districts,” said ARTEZ Executive Director Irish Whitworth.

An Enterprise Zone is an area that has been designated by the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) as financially distressed and disadvantaged.

Whitworth said it’s important for the work of ARTEZ to continue in areas that have seen years of decline and are dealing with vacancies and blight on main streets. And she said, in many cases, local managers have their hands full with day-to-day operations.

“In these communities there isn’t already a group that funders can turn to, or even that residents can turn to and say, we have an interest in this kind of project, or a business that’s looking to move into a community and needs to find space,” said Whitworth.

Now that the scope of ARTEZ has been expanded, it will seek to become a full-scale community development corporation. Whitworth said some upcoming projects include a riverfront overlay district which would allow for the regulation of space that would encourage open-space and parks, and discourage things like gas stations near riverfronts.

“We’re also looking to do a sustainable housing initiative where we’ll inventory existing housing stock in priority community and hopefully develop target points for the next few years to do some housing rehab or new development,” she said.

Another upcoming project includes an improved access road to an industrial park in Etna.

Since ARTEZ completed the Enterprise Zone program, new funding is coming from the Heinz Endowment and the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County.