Heinz Endowments awards nearly $10 million to community development projects

PITTSBURGH—Almost $10 million in grants to support key Pittsburgh community development initiatives was approved by the Heinz Endowments Board, the New Pittsburgh Courier has learned according to a May 25 news release.

Funding includes more than $1.75 million to upgrade the historic New Granada Theater in the Hill District, another $1.7 million in continued support of the Hazelwood Green development and $750,000 to Bike Share Pittsburgh to assist its transition to electric-assist bicycles.

Additionally, among the nearly $30 million in total grants approved by the Endowments Board was COVID-relief support that includes a special $3 million fund to help the reopening of arts venues across the Pittsburgh region following closures and depleted revenues during the pandemic.

The community development funding is part of the Endowments’ ongoing efforts to improve the quality of life for all residents in the Pittsburgh region by supporting opportunities to address the health, safety and economic wellbeing of local communities, regardless of zip code.

In the Hill District, the $1.75 million grant to the Hill Community Development Corporation will support the renovation and expansion of the New Granada Theater, which has been vacant for decades. The money will help leverage funding from other sources that will total $35 million to restore the structure and build an addition, anchoring the corner of Centre Avenue and Dinwiddie Street in the heart of the neighborhood.

The New Granada Theater was designed by noted Black architect Louis A.S. Bellinger and built by Black laborers in the 1920s. During the community’s heyday from the 1920s through the 1950s, the Art Deco theater was a nationally recognized jazz center, hosting legendary performers such as Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie and Cab Calloway. The building’s renovation together with construction of affordable artist housing nearby by another developer is expected to reclaim an entire block of Centre Avenue and strengthen current revitalization efforts in the community.

As part of its role as one of three foundation owners of the Hazelwood Green development in the Hazelwood neighborhood, the Endowments is making a commitment of more than $1.7 million towards its continued funding of initiatives at the site.

Among them are improvements required by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to develop future access to the site, renovation of the former locomotive roundhouse, and development of public space known as Mill Plaza.

“Strengthening community development is core to building healthy neighborhoods, and improving quality of life for all, now and for future generations,” said Grant Oliphant, President of the Endowments, in a release.

“This is a pivotal time that has further exposed areas of need and inequities in our communities that must be addressed if we are to move forward together in sharing in our region’s economic, social and cultural wellbeing.”

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