commissioner’s column: Kristen Linfante

As commissioner, I have the pleasure of serving as liaison to a number of boards that are affiliated with our municipality. One such board is the Mt. Lebanon Partnership. In chatting recently with Eric Milliron, Mt. Lebanon’s Commercial Districts Manager, and an active participant in the Partnership, we both agreed that the Partnership is somewhat akin to The Wizard of Oz, in that this humble group serves as the magic behind the curtain that makes so many wonderful things happen in Mt. Lebanon.

While many may not be familiar with the Partnership itself, most are very familiar with the wonderful events the Partnership creates for our municipality year after year. Mt. Lebanon’s ULTRAparty, Uptown Farmers Market, Winterfest and Plein Air Mt. Lebanon are just a few of their contributions that make our community a more vibrant and unique place to live. They may be the humble workers whose efforts happen behind the scenes, but they are truly passionate, hard-working individuals who are dedicated to strengthening and enhancing our municipality through sound economic development initiatives, exciting events, a commitment to historical architecture and design as well as overall sustainability of the community.

Beginning this month, the Mt. Lebanon Partnership is rolling up its sleeves once again. This time it will begin working on a public outreach initiative pertaining to Mt. Lebanon’s Transit Oriented Development (TOD) project. For those of you not familiar with the TOD, Mt. Lebanon aims to develop the space (literally the air) above the Uptown Mt. Lebanon T Station. Since Mt. Lebanon is already “built out” with very little ground space anywhere to build further, our goal is to develop a “second story” in the open space over the T stop.

TOD is defined as a compact, relatively dense pedestrian environment within walking distance of a transit station. The goal is a 24/7 mixed use development of residences, parking, retail shops, restaurants and businesses all within a safe and inviting pedestrian plaza or plazas. The prospect is very exciting! An original study was done back in 2008 which presented the project conceptually. Since then, much work has been done, thanks to Milliron, municipal planner Keith McGill and others. The current commission has identified the TOD project as one of its top priorities and views the TOD as a valuable opportunity. It has enormous potential to bring vast economic growth to our community, in addition to valuable new amenities, services, living spaces and transit conveniences. Most recently a market analysis was done as part of the planning process, and the results of the analysis are currently being reviewed.

The next step in the process is to establish “principles” or community values for the project so that developers can best understand the needs and desires of the community. The Mt. Lebanon Partnership will be spearheading the public participation process in order to solicit broader community input into the project. In addition to providing a community-wide survey, the Partnership will develop an ad hoc Public Participation Committee composed of a variety of stakeholders. The goal of the committee is to assemble the community’s “wish list” of principles and values, which will ultimately be presented to the commission for consideration. This list will accompany a short list of priorities that have already been established by the municipality. Those include a consideration for green building principles, a response to market realities that will offer long term returns to Mt. Lebanon, and a desire to have the space integrated or “folded” into the fabric of our existing community.

I thank the Mt. Lebanon Partnership for its continued commitment and service to our great community.