Exactly one day after owners of the Walnut Grill on Washington Road announced it had shuttered the large restaurant and bar, about a dozen residents gathered at two previously scheduled October 6 meetings with consultants from Environmental Planning and Design to register their thoughts about the future of Uptown Mt. Lebanon.
The Washington Road business district has a low vacancy rate and several vibrant destination hotspots, but residents weren’t shy about telling the consultant their concerns about the way the central business district functions and looks. The feedback will be considered as new strategic plan for the area takes shape. It should be completed in early 2016.
“This is really going to be a roadmap for someone in my position to take Uptown to what it can become,” said Commercial Districts Manager Eric Milliron.
EPD’s Carolyn Yagle told residents that the preliminary results of a survey, answered by 966 respondents showed people understood that Uptown is a mixed-use corridor with several types of businesses, from services to restaurants to shops. Respondents also emphasized they want to see the avenue continue to house locally based businesses.
But residents who attended the meeting share plenty of ideas for improvement.
“We don’t do the small things well,” said resident Al Frioni. Among his chief issues were overflowing trash cans, garbage along the sidewalks, peeling paint and sad-looking flowerbeds. “It’s the little things that are troubling.”
“You’re right,” said Milliron, who said littering is difficult to enforce. While the municipality could fine business owners, Milliron said it’s often better to walk the fine line between citing them and creating incentives for owners to keep their sidewalks neat. “Our sidewalks are a crazy quilt of patterns,” he said, noting the capital improvement plan for 2017 includes matching funds to repair the whole street’s sidewalks, similar to the way Beverly Road’s were redone this summer.
Frioni asked why public works employees couldn’t just make a sweep to pick up the trash and litter if the owners weren’t. “There’s a finite number of [public works] folks there and they do a lot of things,” Milliron said. After the meeting, he noted that many of the trash cans were missing temporarily over the summer, because they were sent out to be repainted, putting an extra burden on the containers that were left. Uptown’s recycling containers also are relatively new.
Sheryl Cohen, who works in Rep. Dan Miller’s office, said parking needs to be increased in the district, and that it would be useful to have a parking app like the one available for Downtown drivers. Mt. Lebanon currently has an app called Parker, but it is in a trial stage and it reports only availability of street spaces with meters.
“This ‘walkability’ is just overplayed and not really true,” said resident Bill Lewis. People may walk once they get into the business district but the majority of people drive to get there, the residents agreed. Lewis also said the municipality needs to get rid of the Dumpsters on Parse Way. Milliron said the Dumpsters, which belong to businesses on the west side of Washington Road, are there because there is no other place to put them. Solutions such as a trash compactor could make the Dumpsters obsolete, he said.
Barbara Lowenstein, a resident and gardener who volunteers maintaining some of Uptown’s flowerbeds, said the municipality needs to keep the beds clear of trash, perhaps by posting signs asking for respect. She also said the volunteers need help getting water. The beds do not have spigots. To read more detail about the strategic plan, go to: www.lebomag.com/24424/uptown-study/