- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 28, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Responsible hospitality. The night-time economy. A “sociable city” plan.

They’re buzzwords for a basic concept.

Nightlife, and the neighborhoods in which it happens, are resources that need to be planned and managed, from transportation and parking to permitting and policing. And that involves comprehensive coordination between community business owners, an array of city agencies and institutions like universities.

“Like our transit planning, like how we manage special events, these economies will benefit from planning and management,” said Maya Henry, the city’s new night-time economy manager, a $65,249-a-year position created by Mayor Bill Peduto to coordinate those efforts. “My job is to bring the lens of the night-time economy to all of those places that already exist in city planning.”

Henry, 36, was hired in July after five and half years with the Lawrenceville Corporation, a nonprofit community development group, where she worked as a business district manager and director of special initiatives and helped bring responsible alcohol-management workshops to Lawrenceville restaurant and bar owners.

“In Pittsburgh, because it’s such a dense urban area, most of our business districts are right up against dense residential areas,” she said. “That can cause conflict, but it’s also an asset.”

Originally from Palo Alto, Calif., Henry is a graduate of Bard College and has a master’s degree in historic preservation planning from Cornell University. She has lived in Pittsburgh since 2001.

“I was really attracted to the city as a young professional graduating from college,” said Henry, who lives in East Liberty. “The reason I enjoy this work and I’m excited about it is it’s really a new way of looking at our business districts and framing these ideas in new way in our city. … It presents a really interesting way to help neighborhoods grow in a responsible way.”

Henry was center stage last week in a basement room at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, where nearly 50 people celebrated the rolling out of the Pittsburgh Sociable City Plan, the work of the California-based Responsible Hospitality Institute, a nonprofit contracted by the city to develop the plan over the past three years at a cost of about $300,000.

“We are at the starting line here,” said Kevin Acklin, the mayor’s chief of staff. “It’s not about clamping down on the night-time economy.”

Rather, the plan will allow the city, police, business owners and community members to “play offense instead of defense,” Acklin said.

By this spring, Henry said, she hopes to explore the creation of a Sociable City Alliance, an oversight body, and implement “Hospitality Resource Panels” in the four target districts: South Side, Oakland, Lawrenceville and Downtown. The panels will serve as voluntary advisory groups comprised of business and community representatives and forums to address neighborhood problems around nightlife.

Henry also hopes to expand a voluntary hospitality business orientation program for new and existing businesses that provides tips on business best practices, applicable city and state law and navigating the city permitting and licensing process.

City Councilman Bruce Kraus, who has represented District 3, which includes Oakland, the South Side and the South Side Slopes, since 2008, cited Henry’s experience in Lawrenceville and called her new job a “natural progression.”

“She could just hit the ground running,” he said.

Kraus lives in his childhood home on East Carson Street and said a desire to curb the area’s rowdy nightlife and its attendant trash, policing and traffic problems was a major part of his decision to run for council.

He has been pushing the Sociable City Plan initiative for years.

“I’m a big believer that you have to do an inventory of a situation before you can correct it,” Kraus said.

He noted that the unprecedented collaboration between business owners, city and police officials, university leaders and others is already helping manage big events like St. Patrick’s Day and Halloween celebrations with transportation, trash pickup and policing plans.

“I didn’t want this to be a study just to be done and placed on a shelf,” Kraus said.





Information from: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, https://www.post-gazette.com

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