2016 Award Recipients
2016 Neighborhood Leader Award
Lauren Connelly, Executive Director, Lawrenceville United
From the time she was pulling at the apron strings of her grandmother and community development matriarch, Aggie Brose (Deputy Director at Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation), Lauren Connelly’s professional and personal life has been rooted in growing and nurturing city neighborhoods. Public service is in Lauren’s blood; in addition to her legendary grandmother’s work, Lauren’s commitment to others has undoubtedly been impacted and shaped by both of her parents’ lifetimes spent in service at the City of Pittsburgh.
Today, Lauren sits at the apex of community leadership in Pittsburgh, living and breathing neighborhood stewardship and civic pride. It is safe to say that Lawrenceville would not be “Lawrenceville” without Lauren at the helm. And her impact extends well beyond neighborhood boundaries.
As one of Pittsburgh’s foremost community development professionals, Lauren has gained a reputation as an effective neighborhood advocate with the rare ability to overcome challenges that can limit similarly effective community leaders. Because of this, Lauren has united policy-makers under LU’s vision, often transcending long-held political divisions between officials to work toward Lawrenceville’s success while also balancing multiple interests within the community that she represents.
After graduating from Allegheny College in 2006, Lauren immediately started working in public service, starting her career in the City of Pittsburgh Office of Neighborhood Initiatives from 2006 – 2009. In this role, Lauren quickly demonstrated her capability to build trust and consensus among opposing stakeholders in her work spearheading the Green-Up and Taking Care of Business initiatives.
After honing these skills in city government, Lauren was hired as Executive Director at Lawrenceville United in 2009. Since then, she has played a pivotal role in managing Lawrenceville’s rapid rebirth, utilizing inclusive community engagement to ensure that residents had the ability to curate redevelopment. Despite having an undeniable hand in shaping Lawrenceville’s nationally-recognized transformation, Lauren has leveraged this success to build up those around her, emphasizing the contributions of Lawrenceville United’s board, volunteers, partners, and membership.
Lauren currently serves on the Board of Directors for Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group, Lawrenceville Corporation Board of Directors, City of Pittsburgh’s Disruptive Properties Appeals Board, Pittsburgh’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, and is an active member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (A.O.H) Division 23. These positions within the city and local community allow Lauren to help improve the lives of those around her in unique and powerful ways, making her an asset to the quality of life within the City of Pittsburgh. Given her leadership in the Pittsburgh Irish American community, Lauren was recognized as a national “40 under 40 Irish American” by Irish Times Magazine in 2011. Last year, Lauren was honored with Pittsburgh Magazine’s “Forty Under Forty” designation.
2016 Community Development Award
La’Tasha Mayes, Founder and Executive Director, New Voices Pittsburgh
Integrated Voter Engagement (IVE) is an approach to engage black women (who are the rising vote electorate in the USA) year-round on the issues that affect them. Rather than rolling out a “get out and vote” strategy around election time, New Voices knocks on doors and runs phone banks year round in order to help women learn about the issues they care about the most. This program not only serves to inform black women on upcoming elections, but also helps New Voices to build relationships with black women in order to further engage them on things happening in their neighborhood, city and region. This ongoing engagement that builds trust and positions New Voices as a gateway to speak with black women directly, allowing their constituents to learn about various issues and make informed decisions about elections, policy topics, community meetings, etc.
2016 Community Development Award
Bridgeway Capital, 7800 Susquehanna Street
In 2013, nonprofit Bridgeway Capital expanded its economic revitalization strategy by purchasing 7800 Susquehanna Street with the support of the Richard King Mellon Foundation. The goal was to re-purpose the former industrial building into a platform for economic renewal in the neighborhood of Homewood. Mark Peterson, Bridgeway’s President and CEO, said that “the building represents a major opportunity to improve business conditions in one of the region’s most challenging markets.” 7800 was originally a Westinghouse Electric facility built in the 1920s, but over the last several decades the building has housed a range of commercial tenants. When Bridgeway purchased 7800, most of the building was not being utilized.
Bridgeway selected Ma’at Construction Group as the general contractor for the first stage of the 7800 Susquehanna Street interior renovations. Ma’at emerged from the Community Empowerment Association (CEA) in 1997 in order to assist Homewood residents with training and employment. Co-owner T. Rashad Byrdsong understood that revitalization in Homewood had to include grassroots economic development.
Byrdsong recalled that “Ma’at was a direct response to double-digit unemployment rates, specifically in a lot of disadvantaged communities”. Ma’at Construction Group assembled a contract team with 85% minority contractor participation. The project represents a significant investment in a chronically underinvested area of Pittsburgh. 7800 creates a stable economic core in Homewood to attract additional investment and encourage commercial activity.
Today the project is developing more businesses like Ma’at, which now leases space in 7800 Susquehanna Street to expand operations and provide educational opportunities for minority-owned construction businesses. Other businesses hosted at 7800 include Urban Tree, Bones and All, Radiant Hall, New Precision Technologies, and Impact Audio, as well as emerging visual artists like Peter Johnson, Melissa Lombardo, Elise Adibi, Alexi Morrissy, and Mia Henry, and community development enterprises like the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh, Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh, and the Homewood Business Center.
2016 Community Banking Award
PNC Bank, LMI Lending Category
PCRG acknowledges PNC Bank for the largest number and dollar amount of mortgage loans granted to low- and moderate-income borrowers by a large bank in 2014.
2016 Community Banking Award
Dollar Bank, African American Lending Category
PCRG acknowledges Dollar Bank for the largest number and dollar amount of mortgage loans granted to African American borrowers by a large bank in 2014.
2016 Community Banking Award
Allegheny Valley Bank, African American Lending Category, LMI Lending Category
PCRG acknowledges Allegheny Valley Bank for the largest number and dollar amount of mortgage loans granted to African American borrowers, and for the largest number and dollar amount of mortgage loans granted to low- and moderate-income borrowers by an intermediate or small bank in 2014.
2016 Community Reinvestment Act Awards
Joseph Foster, Large Bank Category
PCRG awarded Joseph Foster with the 2016 Community Reinvestment Act Award in recognition of his dedication to the Community Reinvestment Act, and for having significantly impacted the quality of life for low- and moderate-income individuals and communities.
2016 Community Reinvestment Act Awards
Chris Oravetz, Small Bank Category
PCRG awarded Chris Oravetz with the 2016 Community Reinvestment Act Award in recognition of her dedication to the Community Reinvestment Act, and for having significantly impacted the quality of life for low- and moderate-income individuals and communities.
2016 Founders Award
Don Reed often told people that he got into community development by being held hostage. When he worked for a Cleveland bank, he was the highest-ranking executive in the office on the day a group of activists jammed the lobby, refusing to leave until they were given a meeting with someone in management. Don sat down with the protest leaders and began a dialogue that led to a fruitful relationship between the bank and the community.
Don was the first modern CRA Officer in Pittsburgh. In 1988, when PCRG protested the merger application that would create Integra Bank, one of the community demands was that the bank hire a full-time CRA Officer. When the neighborhoods and the bank struck a deal on the substantive terms, Mayor Sophie Masloff hurriedly scheduled a press conference to announce the agreement. The bank’s newly hired CRA Officer jumped in his pick-up truck and drove in from Cleveland, not even stopping to change clothes. When Don was introduced to everyone for the first time, he stood there in jeans and a t-shirt because he said that being in the room for this moment was more important than what he was wearing.
If that didn’t tip us off that Don was not your average banker, our first real working meeting with him opened all of our eyes. In an era when bankers traveled to community meetings in packs as a sort of defense mechanism, Don to our astonishment came alone. Don wasted no time. He said, “I have 6 months to make change in this bank. After that I begin to lose leverage. What can we do NOW to change this institution for the better?” That did not sound like any banker we knew, or any banker we would EVER know. Don wanted to create positive change that would serve both the bank and the community.
The pace of change was rapid. By marketing to previously red-lined neighborhoods for mortgages, Integra built a profitable mortgage business from scratch in less than 2 years. The conversations broadened into small business lending, community focused grant-making and diversity in the bank’s staff and vendors. Don was integral to all of these varied conversations, across all departments of the bank, challenging long held assumptions within the institution and finding ways to make positive change. Often he cited a basic principle: “Don’t ask for permission. Beg for forgiveness.” That six month window stretched into years of creative change.
Integra and Don Reed set a high bar that every other bank had to stretch to meet. Institutions that had been comfortable with their role in the community were suddenly confronted by a bank that had reached another level. The competition fueled innovation in a dozen different aspects. As one example, to improve direct outreach to residents, Integra at Don’s urging created the first homeownership workshops and presented them in two dozen different low-income communities. They were highly successful and within a year, seemingly every bank was running workshops on homeownership, credit repair and home repair loans!
Many in Pittsburgh owe their careers to Don’s guidance and gentle mentoring, and not just in banking or community development. He could help people see the opportunity in taking a chance, trying a new venture, or shifting the focus of one’s career. And his instincts were uncannily accurate. He mentored many before “mentoring” became a buzzword.
Don surprised us again by buying a home in Lawrenceville, long before that was the fashionable part of town. He wasn’t interested in the suburbs or a “safe” established city neighborhood. He wanted to be part of the communities he was working with. And he didn’t just live there. He became active in neighborhood groups and projects. After leaving banking, he partnered with Garth Jones to create the Slaughterhouse Gallery, establishing one of the first new ventures in that sometimes forgotten end of Butler St. This new phase of life mirrored his banking phase – he was quietly out in front, finding new opportunities in a place that others had rejected, and finding ways for others to be part of that community growth.
Don’s interests were incredibly varied: woodworking, Aikido martial arts, boatbuilding, bicycling and model trains as a few examples. In every case, Don had a knack for organizing a community around his interest, bringing people together to share their interest and enthusiasm, creating more from it than any one of them could individually. At heart, he was a community organizer.
Don Reed is remembered by those of us who worked with him as a man of genuine good humor, of creativity that folks could buy into, and of understated but reliable sincerity. He was comfortable in a meeting of bankers at the Duquesne Club, but he was equally at ease with a beer at a neighborhood tavern.
Don Reed was a rare man. He saw opportunities to change things for the better. He had the courage to seize those opportunities. He succeeded, and we are all profoundly better.