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The promise and potential of Mon Valley river towns

By September 16, 2016December 5th, 2016Blog
Three people huddle over a map near the river

Riverlife talking with planners, residents to activate Western PA waterfronts, share Pittsburgh successes

Mon River town photo

September, 2016–Riverlife Vice President Jay Sukernek and Senior Project Manager Nina Chase have seen plenty of potential while touring riverfront towns throughout the Mon Valley in Western Pennsylvania. So much potential, in fact, that it’s difficult to pin down which project could have the biggest impact in transforming a town’s waterfront from blighted to vibrant.

Riverlife is helping community leaders in those towns learn more about how the new Pennsylvania Waterfront Development Tax Credit can kick start waterfront revitalization projects throughout the Commonwealth. Endorsed by Riverlife and a number of waterfront redevelopment nonprofits throughout Pennsylvania, the legislation was included in the state budget approval process in July and co-sponsored by Senators Randy Vulakovich  (R-Allegheny), Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) and Tom Killion (R-Delaware). The legislation received substantial bipartisan support.

The tax credit will take effect in Fiscal Year 2017-18 and encourages private investment in properties that create public access to the waterfront.  Pittsburgh’s riverfront redevelopment success story has been at the center of the legislation, showing how waterfront redevelopment can have a significant positive economic, recreational and environmental impact on the surrounding region.

Riverlife’s Jay Sukernek and Nina Chase have been traveling over the summer to Pennsylvania river towns throughout the Mon River Valley, including California, Fredericktown, Brownsville, West Brownsville, and Monongahela, Pa. The Riverlife team has been working with the River Town Program and the Mon River Valley Coalition and has been meeting with town and regional urban planners, community groups and economic development organizations to tour waterfront sites, review existing plans for redevelopment and provide case studies from Pittsburgh’s waterfront revitalization.
This week Mr. Sukernek testified about the potential of the Waterfront Development Tax Credit at the Pennsylvania Senate Majority Policy Committee Hearing in Chester, Pa.

Riverlife’s outreach program to provide riverfront planning tools to Monongahela River towns is funded through a grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.  The investment from the foundation is being used to share successful riverfront improvement models that can be replicated in Mon River communities in both southwestern Pennsylvania and West Virginia looking to organize, plan and implement their own improvement strategies. In addition to its outreach in Pennsylvania, Riverlife is currently working with Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center and has visited riverfront sites in Chester, Weirton, Morgantown, and Fairmont, W. Va.

Photos by Nina Chase.

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