Susheela Nemani-Stanger in the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s office on Feb. 7, 2023. She became the URA’s executive director earlier this year. (Photo by Eric Jankiewicz/PublicSource)
Susheela Nemani-Stanger takes on thorny problems with a mostly inexperienced team at the Urban Redevelopment Authority.
Eric Jankiewicz, PublicSource
The City of Pittsburgh’s economic development arm is dealing with a wave of staff turnover, a flood in federal aid, and a new Hill District development unearthing old wounds. All of this on top of a leadership change.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority board [URA] appointed Susheela Nemani-Stanger as executive director earlier this year. Nemani-Stanger first began working with the URA in 2007 and in her new role she said she plans to focus on the basics of stabilizing and strengthening the organization.
“I’m coming in as a working director,” Nemani-Stanger said. “With any change comes uncertainty but this framework of stabilizing and strengthening is a back-to-basics approach for economic development.”
She will be in charge of allocating $70 million coming to the URA through the American Rescue Plan. “We’ve never had this opportunity,” she said, noting that the funding could help the agency to advance its Avenues of Hope initiative to redevelop business districts in mostly Black neighborhoods and could leverage other state and federal dollars.
Nemani is among dozens of new leaders of top Pittsburgh-area civic institutions, including numerous development-focused organizations.
In an interview with PublicSource, Nemani-Stanger outlined her philosophy on several of the city’s biggest development challenges — and on her largely retooled staff.
‘Laser focused’ on Hill needs
Development projects across the city pose challenges, but few sites spur more sustained debate than a Pittsburgh Penguins-led plan to build a music venue and much more in the Lower Hill District.
The area sits on land that the URA cleared of homes, businesses and churches for the building of the Civic Arena in the 1950s. Because of that, the Penguins’ Lower Hill redevelopment team has been harried by demands for Hill-wide benefits.
Nemani-Stanger said that the URA’s priority in this development will be ensuring that community demands are met.
“We are squarely focused on understanding the multidimensional nature of that project and making sure we understand how we can capture value from any private investment for the Greater Hill,” she said. “Truly, that’s where we’re laser focused on this project.”
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