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Neighborhoods: Tougher Times for Development Groups

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"We didn't even know we weren't going to get funded until we read about it in the newspaper," says Judith Ginyard, executive director of the Lincoln-Larimer Community Development Corporation.

 

Ginyard's group, which facilitates development in the Lincoln-Larimer neighborhood between Homewood and East Liberty, has received between $20,000 and $25,000 in previous years via the Office of City Planning. It was used to leverage money from other sources both private and public. Ginyard would not say how much of the group's budget this reduction represented.

 

The letter that the city sent to Ginyard's office did not say why her group was not funded this year, blaming "the reduction in available funding, the high number of applicant organizations, and the exceptionally high level of competition ..." City officials did not return calls requesting comment.

In August, the city announced that eight neighborhood-improvement organizations would not be funded, including the Garfield Jubilee Association, Glen Hazel Citizens Association CDC, Lower Bloomfield UNITY Council and North Point Breeze Planning and Development Corporation. Others, like the Hill District CDC, weren't completely cut out, but did suffer a decrease in funding, which coincides with the loss of their executive director, Andrea Wright Banks

Marimba Milliones, on the Hill CDC's board of directors, says they've had to make some "staffing and structural adjustments but we're still open, we're still holding community meetings and we still have our properties," which they're raising money to develop, "including the New Granada Theater, which is without question still our most treasured property." She would not specify the amount of the group's funding decrease.

 

Ginyard, meanwhile, can't say for certain how much longer the Lincoln-Larimer CDC can remain open.

 

"We need to look at if we can secure funding from other sources," says Ginyard.

 

The Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development, which underwrites loans and grants to CDCs, held a town hall meeting in October to gather feedback from people from various communities and their neighborhood organizations. Some CDC workers are skeptical of the Partnership's involvement in CDC financing, saying that it is setting itself up to award money to bigger-budget CDCs at the expense of smaller, grassroots groups.

 

"There are many groups looking for support and the city's budget problems leave few dollars for implementation," says Partnership President Dorothy Lengyel. "Yes, some CDCs may not be able to work through the financial climate. All the more reason to focus what resources we have so we don't lose more groups."

 

Ginyard, who wasn't able to secure money through the city or the Partnership, says organizations like hers are in a losing situation, which is detrimental to the neighborhood. Her small office on Frankstown Avenue has been trying to develop a plot of land at the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Deary Street for at least the last three years. The CDC has only two paid staff members and a slightly larger volunteer base. Her organization can't pull off the same amount of work as bigger neighborhood groups, she says, because Lincoln-Larimer is largely low- or no-income. Residents can't afford to volunteer hours like staff at larger, higher-income neighborhood CDCs.

If Ginyard's group and others were cut for "underperforming," she speculates, "there's nothing to replace us. So you have to wonder what kind of development now can happen in these communities."

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