New Castle's South Side can expect a facelift.
Dennis Davin, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, showed up yesterday at the Gussie Walker Community Outreach Center on Moravia Street to celebrate the inception of the Neighborhood Partnership Program which will make $1.35 million donated by local businesses available to the community.
Davin, who was joined by about 60 local officials, community leaders and South Side residents and business owners, said the public/private partnership "will transform the neighborhood."
"Revitalizing our communities improves the quality of life for local residents," Davin said, adding, "This project demonstrates what can happen when the public and private sectors come together for the common good. It will bring countless benefits to the community."
The area to benefit from the program is bordered by East Division Street to the north, Lyndal Street to the south, Route 18 to the west and Cunningham Avenue to the east.
The program began to evolve about two years ago when Jack Machek, president and CEO of 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania, became involved in the South Side community, developing a strategic plan that imagined a vibrant community and business district. The plan set goals to benefit the 1,540 South Side residents who have seen serious population and business community declines over the years.
"This would not have happened without the donations to the community and to the project," Machek said, thanking Dana Scarpino of UPMC, Nancy Malta of First Commonwealth Bank and Lynda DeJoseph of First National Bank.
Financial partners — First National Bank, First Commonwealth Bank and UPMC Health Plan — have collectively committed $1.35 million to the South Side over the next six years. In exchange, they will receive $180,000 in state tax credits in each year of the program
These funds, Davin said, will be used to transform the community by eliminating blight, rehabilitating houses, promote the business district, enhance nonprofit programs at the local level — specifically the Gussie Walker Community Outreach Center — fix streets, establish a fresh food farmers market and community gardens, and target parks and playgrounds, including the completion of the Earl A. "Muff" Sallie Field project. It will also conduct a land reuse analysis for the UPMC Jameson South property.
New Castle City Council last month applied on behalf of the Gussie Walker Center for a $700,000 grant through the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program to construct a youth center on the South Side.
New Castle Mayor Anthony Mastrangelo, who said he grew up on the South Side, recalls the business community that thrived there.
"(The South Side) had a diverse population that went by the boards," he said. "We want to bring it back." Mastrangelo thanked the donors, volunteers, organizations and 10,000 Friends.
Lawrence County commissioner chairman Dan Vogler also praised the partnership as "a tremendous undertaking" and a "wonderful partnership. I look forward to it bringing a new future for the community."
The Neighborhood Partnership Program is part of DCED's Neighborhood Assistance Program, which develops a community strategic plan and focuses on distressed and low-income areas.
the Neighborhood Revitalization Program is a long-term plan to secure business commitments over a five or six years and provide state tax credits to partners who contribute funds to the project.