Mt. Lebanon has embarked on a multimillion-dollar project to improve Washington Road and nearby areas over the next few years.
“It is one of the biggest investments we’ve made in a long time,” assistant municipal manager Ian McMeans said, “and it’s a unique opportunity to have a generational impact on the face of our community, the Uptown Business District.”
He and commercial districts manager Eric Milliron gave a presentation during the Mt. Lebanon Commission’s Nov. 26 discussion session regarding what is called Vibrant Uptown, a project that has some $3.8 million earmarked for a major facelift.
“Vibrant, in this sense, means that we’re attracting more customers. The customers who come to Uptown have a better flow, and we’re serving all of the customers and the visitors to the district, not just a select few,” Milliron said. “We really want to be a tick above the average or just a typical streetscape.”
Impetus for the project is language in the municipality’s most recent comprehensive plan, approved in 2013, about revitalizing the commercial stretch of Washington Road. The Mt. Lebanon Partnership, a nonprofit group promoting economic growth and correcting deteriorated conditions, subsequently developed an Uptown Strategic Plan, and Milliron’s office has been successful in securing applicable grants.
“This all kind of came to fruition earlier this year, when the commission decided to go out to market on a bond issue and include funding as part of that bond issue for this project to happen,” McMeans explained. “Once we had funding in place to actualize this project, we entered into what’s called a project visioning stage, which is where we are right now.”
Along with Washington Road, the project addresses Parse Way, off which the Mt. Lebanon light-rail station is located. For years, municipal officials have discussed making the area more presentable to passengers who disembark at what Commissioner John Bendel called “another front door” to the community.
He has joined Kelly Fraasch as the two commissioners on a Vibrant Uptown leadership committee, which also includes municipal administrators and representatives from Gateway Engineers, Mt. Lebanon Partnership’s design committee and the Mt. Lebanon Economic Development Council.
At this point, the project has no definitive timetable.
“Kelly and I were pretty firm on pulling back any dates for deliverables right now or when we’re going to go to bid, because we have to get the design right first,” Bendel explained. “Getting the vision and design is paramount, and then when we do it follows.”
His term as commissioner wraps up at the end of the year, as do those of Fraasch and Steve McLean, commission president. None sought re-election, and succeeding them in January will be Mindy Ranney, Leeann Foster and Andrew Flynn.
In the meantime, the leadership committee and a broader-encompassing Vibrant Uptown steering committee have taken steps that include consulting with LaQuatra Bonci Associates, a South Side landscape architecture, urban design and land planning firm, and accessibility specialist Penny Reddy. A next step is to ask those subject experts to submit proposals about assisting with the project going forward.
“It’s not looking to replicate what has been done in other areas,” municipal manager Keith McGill explained, “but to try to pull the best elements from some of those other projects and see how they could be applied here, if we feel those are appropriate.”