Sunday, March 27, 2022

Oakland Plan for (re)development includes proposal for Global District, "an inclusive district on Fifth and Forbes Avenues where there is a strong market for global food and grocery types."

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Pittsburgh's Oakland Plan for the neighborhood surrounding and abutting the University of Pittsburgh, UPMC, Carnegie Mellon, and Carlow University includes a proposal for a Global District that would seek to encourage multicultural businesses, restaurants, and grocers. The Global District would aim to
Support and grow an inclusive district on Fifth and Forbes Avenues where there is a strong market for global food and grocery types. Proactively match spaces with businesses that reinforce and grow the multi-cultural nature of this corridor's business community.
Some of what drives the plan, according to the website: 
  • Need to capture additional economic value for the neighborhood from the growth of the city’s Innovation Economy including the spend of the workers and businesses. A vibrant street level experience typically requires active first floors, although not all of it needs to be commercially oriented to be successful.
  • Given changes in retail, leasing first floors may prove to be difficult.
  • A program is needed that can tie together the neighborhood’s desire for local businesses, create a pipeline of potential leaseholders, and provide the financial support to make this practical for property owners.
  • How the program is developed and managed will influence the outcomes and who it benefits. The planning process has repeatedly identified broad community desires to benefit MWDBE entrepreneurs, particularly from the neighborhood, and immigrants.
  • For Fifth and Forbes Avenues, a multi-cultural district could build on the existing base of immigrant owned businesses, recent minority-focused business incubation, and significant customer base of diverse University faculty, staff, and students.
  • Interviews with Asian and Asian-American business owners showed that there was much higher demand for space than existed. The result was that restaurants and grocery stores that would have preferred to be located in Oakland moved to Squirrel Hill and Shadyside.
  • The Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation also has data that shows Oakland is highly desirable location for Hispanic entrepreneurs and businesses.
  • This confirmed was brokers reported during interviews for the Existing Conditions Report, that many businesses want to move into Oakland but can’t find the right space.
  • Issues identified included the small nature of spaces in Oakland, that many needed significant investments to make them usable, the lack of programs to support façade improvements, and the lack of coordination and strategy between businesses that has often resulted in multiple businesses in the same area providing similar offerings and competing with each other.
  • Interviews suggest that the high up front costs around restaurant and food service businesses resulted in a lack of innovation.
  • Conversations in the Steering Committee noted the lack of African, European, and Latin-American food options in Oakland.
  • Organizing effort under a coherent program with branding and marketing, could help this district become a regional attraction.
 Public comment is sought and available on the website through May 1.