Photo by Justin Criado

A group of Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) officials visited Northside Wednesday, Sept. 17 to tour the area and view development projects that have benefited from DCED support. The group took the hour-long tour on a ducky boat. 

By Justin Criado

Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) officials toured various development projects in Northside Wednesday, Sept. 17, as part of a larger Pittsburgh tour.

The Northside tour, which started at Troy Hill’s Penn Brewery, took the Harrisburg group through several neighborhoods on a duck boat, courtesy of Just Ducky tours.

Northside Leadership Conference (NSLC) executive director Mark Fatla served as the tour’s unofficial guide through Troy Hill, East Deutschtown, Historic Deutschtown, Central Northside, Manchester and North Shore.

“I got to tell you it’s extremely impressive,” Michael Cortez said of the Northside. “It’s one of the most entertaining tours I’ve had.”

Cortez is the DCED senior advisor to the secretary and acting deputy of community affairs & development. Housing and business development projects were highlighted in each neighborhood along with a brief history and background of each.

“It’s nice to see the communities being revitalized,” DCED executive director Peter Zug said.

Different DCED funds and tax credits have helped support numerous Northside projects, including the retaining wall renovations and future expansion plans of Penn Brewery, new housing developments in Manchester, and the renovation of the Garden Theatre and Masonic building in Central Northside.

“Sometimes we sit back and projects are, as I call them, 8×11 projects. They’re whatever’s on that piece of paper,” Cortez said. “That’s an unfair way to take a look at a project.

“Get out here and take a look at the passion that these guys have, whether it’s the Penn Brewery project or the elimination of blight or whatever it is.”

Other than showcasing developments, Fatla spoke about the Northside’s vast and diverse history, particularly the German heritage and working class culture.

After a brief float in the Ohio and Allegheny Rivers, the hour-long tour ended at the brewery where lunch was served.

The unique tour and hospitality left an indelible mark on the group, a reminder of why community groups are so crucial to the DCED’s efforts.

“That’s why these groups are so critical to the administration, DCED because we rely on them to help identify issues and help implement programs,” Cortez said of the NSLC. “Those boots on the ground are what make it work.”

For more information about the DCED visit the official website.