Rubber, meet road: Will Avenues of Hope’s millions of dollars intersect with neighborhood needs?

A year after Pittsburgh promised focused investment in Black neighborhood business districts, the ‘delicate dance’ between resources and visions has just begun.

by Rich Lord, PublicSource

James “Dread” Duke and his brothers made it through the bad old days on Larimer Avenue, and now they believe they have every right to hope for better.

One of Duke’s brothers survived being shot outside of their LA Grocery store in the mid-1990s. “Everybody was saying, move the store,” Duke said on an early autumn day as he worked the cluttered, Caribbean-flavored shop. “I didn’t want to move the store.”

Now, as new homes go up across the street, Duke wants to expand: more retail space, sit-down dining, parking. He has a plan, a picture and a price tag – $400,000. “But funds?” he said. “Funds, we don’t have.”

A year ago, and two blocks from the grocery, city officials and neighborhood advocates unveiled an initiative called Avenues of Hope, which they said would revive seven business districts in mostly Black neighborhoods. Tasked to run the program, leadership of the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority admitted to the same problem that Duke has: no money to realize their hopes.

Last month, though, Pittsburgh City Council steered $7 million to the URA, from the city’s American Rescue Plan allocation, for use in the Avenues of Hope. The agency has also made Avenues of Hope a central part of its pitch when applying for state and federal grants.

As a result, seven avenues – Larimer, Centre, Homewood, Chartiers, Warrington, Second and Perrysville – have become the URA’s primary focus at a time when the agency has more resources available than it has had in years.

“It’s exciting, but frankly it’s challenging, too, ” said Tom Link, the URA’s chief strategy officer.

Wilbert “Bim” Moore, one of the brothers who operate LA Grocery on Larimer Avenue, shows plans for the expansion of the 30-year-old store. (Photo by Kaycee Orwig/PublicSource)

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