Equitable Development is Possible! The Lower Hill Story.
Panelists from The Lower Hill Development Team spoke about the history of The Lower Hill project and The Buccini/Pollin Group's innovative reinvestment plan to channel at least $50 million to the Historic Hill District at the Netroots Nation conference August 18-20th. Longtime organizers and activists, who are now working in development and education to realize the full potential of their communities, Dr. Kimberly C. Ellis, Director of Community, Arts and Culture, Bomani M. Howze, Vice President of Development, R. Daniel Lavelle, City Councilman, District 6, Tracey McCants-Lewis, General Counsel and HR, The Pittsburgh Penguins and Dr. Diamonte Walker, Historic Hill resident were in attendance.
Background: In the 1950s, the City of Pittsburgh was chosen to be the recipient of federal funds to address post-World War II urban renewal. Hence, the first Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in the nation was created and, in 1957, they cut the ribbon for what was to be a brand new cultural district. Urban planning began but was not finished. Promises were made but were not kept. Protests and resistance ensued and in the end, at least 8,000 African Americans, in particular, were displaced.
Today, the second chance at development of the Lower Hill site is afoot. With an organized community, government accountability and corporate citizenship resulting in a "CCIP," The Buccini/Pollin Group discusses how they have the best reinvestment plan in America for the Historic Hill District. Watch the presentation here
The weekend of August 12-14 was a BIG DEAL for the Historic Hill District, City of Pittsburgh, America and the international community, due to the heavily anticipated Grand Opening of the August Wilson House at 1727 Bedford Avenue. Friday August 12th kicked off celebrations with the premiere of August Wilson’s, “Jitney” in the Backyard Theater of the newly renovated boyhood home of August Wilson, which received standing ovations and rave reviews throughout its entire run. On Saturday, Founding Executive Director, Attorney Paul Ellis, along with his sister and original Digital Director, Dr. Kimberly C. Ellis, stood alongside architect Rob Pfaffman, August Wilson House Board members, and Hollywood stars Russell Hornsby and Denzel Washington, alongside Mayor Ed Gainey and others, for the ribbon cutting.
Just prior to the cutting of the ribbon, the crowd cheered with elation when Paul A. Ellis received a Commemoration from the City of Pittsburgh from Councilman Danielle Lavelle and Mayor Ed Gainey noting it was “Paul Anthony Ellis, Jr. Day” in the City of Pittsburgh! The large crowd that swept around the August Wilson House heard speeches from Denzel Washington, Wilson’s widow, Constanza Romero, his niece, Dr. Kimberly C. Ellis (who is also Lower Hill Team Director of Community, Arts and Culture) and his daughter, Sakina Ansari-Wilson. At one point, there was not a dry eye in sight. The entire Grand Opening was a phased day of twelve hours of activities that began with taking a jitney shuttle to 1727 Bedford Avenue, hitting the red carpet, the celebrity ribbon cutting ceremony, the private tours of the August Wilson House, the catered lunch by Roxanne’s Catering, the African drumming to DJ Blakk Steel, August Wilson Monologue Competition performances and dancing all night long under the tent. The Lower Hill District Team was proud to sponsor this event and we look forward to continuing to support the August Wilson House. The news coverage of this event was seen in national and international news, including the New York Times!