commissioner’s column: Matt Kluck

Matt Kluck

Many of the distinctive architectural features that we Mt. Lebanon residents take for granted are what distinguish our community and permit a large portion of it to be considered for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.   Some of the things that make our older neighborhoods historic are evident, but I believe there also are many “little things”—amenities—that the planners who developed our subdivisions from the 1920s until World War II included with the goal of raising the “livability” of our community. Picture, for example, the gracious entries that help define the personalities of Mt. Lebanon’s neighborhoods such as Mission Hills, Lebanon Hills, Virginia Manor, Sunset Hills or Beverly Heights.  Take notice of the features that invite people to explore these areas, and in particular of the curvilinear streets built to follow the contours of the land, making it easier to drive as the opening of the Liberty Tubes boosted development here and providing beautiful vistas in the process. Developers also generously endowed these neighborhoods with parks and parklets, not just at the entries but also at major intersections of the curving streets. This planned “marriage” of architecture and complementary design provided our neighborhoods with character and a sense of neighborhood pride that continues to this day. Other desirable older suburbs that developed similarly include Mission Hills, Kansas, and Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Until a few years ago, beautiful plantings and flowers graced the entrances to most of our neighborhoods and the smaller parklets within, creating a positive impression that became a signature for Mt. Lebanon. Unfortunately, the decision to maintain these features took a downturn along with the economy; funding shrank. Fortunately, Mt. Lebanon still maintains 31 entrances, parklets and flower beds under contract, and many generous residents devote their time and money to tending planting areas in their neighborhoods and to keeping the uptown planters looking great.

Attractive neighborhood streetscapes are not a necessity, but if we wish to continue to maintain a quality of life that is a cut above what people in many other communities experience, we need to acknowledge that Mt. Lebanon’s beauty is not an accident—that the early developers had a special vision, when they made parks, parklets and flower beds a priority—and we need to continue that tradition. I would like to think Mt. Lebanon has the resources to maintain the amenities that distinguish our neighborhoods, and I believe that as the municipality prepares for the 2013 budget, decision makers should pay closer attention to preserving and improving our neighborhood entries and green space, so future generations also can enjoy the enduring beauty planners intended for Mt. Lebanon—“A Community with Character.”

Mt. Lebanon’s historic preservation board, to which I serve as commission liaison, is in the process of nominating a large portion of Mt. Lebanon to the National Register of Historic Places. Re-investing in our historic planting areas would reflect our commitment to the developers’ foresight and most certainly would contribute to achieving this highly sought-after designation.

Thank you to the volunteers who recently canvassed neighborhoods determining whether residential and commercial buildings would be  “contributing” or “not contributing” to the National Register District. In the process, they also took photographs of the neighborhood streetscapes