Open Streets July 2018 on Homewood Avenue in Homewood. Photo by Martha Rial.

When it comes to community development, Homewood is charting its own path.

On Tuesday evening, community leaders gathered at Bethany Baptist Church to unveil the Homewood Comprehensive Community Plan.

This 10-year development plan is based on a year of research done by professional working groups focused on nine key areas: housing, public health and safety, culture and recreation, education, workforce development, mobility, business and innovation, sustainability, and urban design and development.

It offers short- and long-term goals for the East End neighborhood, some as general as spurring “substantial” population growth by 2040 and others as specific as funding a mobile library that will travel throughout the community.

Many of the goals focus on education and cooperation: To help with food access, the plan recommends forming a group to develop the creation of a food buying club or food cooperative that can sell affordable, healthy groceries. There are also plans to expand skill-share programs to encourage home gardening and build community knowledge around growing food.

“All too often, plans are more about just the bricks and mortar,” says Dr. Sam Ware, chair of the Homewood Community Development Collaborative. “We don’t take into consideration human capital and the quality of human life.”

Another strategy for community-led development: targeting redevelopment efforts south of Frankstown Avenue in Homewood South and near “neighborhood gateways,” in order to improve conditions there and create “tipping points” for growth.

A draft version of the plan is now available online for 30 days of public comment. After that, it will move to a vote in the City Planning Commission, where it is expected to pass with ease.

Ware says he and his fellow community organizations hope to launch recommended programs like creating a farmers market, expanding after-school programs and turning vacant properties into public green space.

“Those are the things that are going to be the most visible, early results of this plan,” Ware tells NEXTpittsburgh.

While Homewood has been one of the more underserved sections of the city for many years, Ware says the community has a rich engaged network of activists, politicians and community groups, which is a key development resource regardless of income levels.

“You have some incredible assets that already exist in Homewood,” Ware says.

Bill O'Toole

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.