Millvale Ecodistrict Pivot Plan Selected for Pennsylvania Planning Excellence Award

The product of a four-year community effort, Millvale's Ecodistrict Plan integrates placemaking and sustainability priorities for a town striving to make its Ecodistrict status part of its identity and culture, not just its infrastructure.

2 minute read

October 29, 2016, 9:00 AM PDT

By evolveEA

Allentown, PA — The annual conference of the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Planing Association (APA) took place in Allentown this week and included an awards ceremony to honor the best planning projects in the state. One of five projects to receive a Planning Excellence Award this year was the Ecodistrict Pivot Plan for the Borough of Millvale, located just across the Allegheny River from Pittsburgh. 

evolveEA led the planning team in partnership with the Millvale Community Development Corporation, Millvale Community Library, Millvale Borough, New Sun Rising, Sisters of Saint Francis at Mt. Alvernia and other Millvale based community organizations. The Pivot Plan has been a continuing, multi-year effort to improve quality of life for Millvale’s existing community while attracting new residents and businesses by building a unique Ecodistrict identity for the town. The Plan emphasizes placemaking in addition to environmental sustainability and raising the community’s capacity to steward sustainable redevelopment initiatives.

Results include the construction of green rainwater infrastructure and $1.7 million in funding for the recently renovated Town Center and Food Hub for Millvale’s business district. The town’s community garden is also expanding with the hope of providing up to 95% of the fresh produce needed for Millvale’s restaurants, and the community is working to expand local production of solar energy beyond the 100% solar powered library.

Millvale Sustainability Coordinator, Zaheen Hussain, remarked:

The growth of our partnership with evolveEA and the Pivot plan have been key in helping to advance the community’s sustainable development goals. Like many small towns, our projects rely on bootstrapped efforts driven by community leadership. Having a plan that ties together our work not only empowers our residents, but ensures efficiency and coordination of efforts between the Millvale Community Library, Millvale Community Development Corporation, New Sun Rising, and the Borough of Millvale. 

Community members have been active in the planning process and determined to see their vision to completion. Millvale has been challenged by a history of flooding and other issues that threaten the well being of residents, such as poor air quality. These issues are countered by the community’s sense of self-determination, driving them to strategize around key issue areas—Water, Food, Energy, Mobility, Air and Equity. 

Residents were inspired to imagine solutions for mobility chokepoints that reflect their unconventional culture, such as a Kayak Commuter Hub and Kayak Crossing Intersection near Millvale's riverfrontThe Town Center Food Hub was identified as a focus project by the community during the first round of Ecodistrict planning (2013) in order to address the town’s “food desert” status. The Food Hub is opening in a reused building this year to house offices, a food-based business incubator and a café at street level.

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