Senator Yudichak and Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee hold hearing on updates to Neighborhood Improvement District Act.

PITTSBURGH – Chaired by State Senator John Yudichak (I-14), the Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee held a hearing today on proposed updates to the Neighborhood Improvement District Act.

State Senator Devlin Robinson (R-37), whose district includes parts of Allegheny and Washington counties, recently introduced Senate Bill 797, which would modernize and streamline components of the program.

“As our state reopens for business and rebounds from pandemic-related restrictions, we need forward-thinking and visionary concepts that will rejuvenate our economy, and produce family-sustaining jobs,” said Yudichak.

“A comprehensive look at modernizing our existing Neighborhood Improvement District Act, and associated changes, will go a long way toward helping our local communities bounce back,” continued Yudichak. “Two decades have passed since lawmakers approved the original Neighborhood Improvement District Act – much has changed over those 20 years, especially with economic development in Pennsylvania. I look forward to continuing these conversations with Senator Robinson, and stakeholders, to help move our state forward.”

The legislation would include Allegheny County as a jurisdiction that is eligible to participate in the program.

Testimony was received from economic development experts, tourism officials and local business leaders. Visit Pittsburgh President & CEO Jerad Bachar noted that the Pittsburgh hospitality and tourism industries were “gravely impacted” by the COVID-19 global pandemic.

“Visit Pittsburgh supports the amendments to the existing Neighborhood Improvement District legislation, as presented today to the Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee, as they allow for the development of an Allegheny County Tourism Improvement District, which would assist in the generation of much-needed marketing funds,” said Bachar.

“Now, more than ever, it is critical that we find a stable source of funding for tourism marketing and development,” continued Bachar. “Addressing the need for destination promotion is for the benefit and wellbeing of visitors and residents alike.”

Similarly, Robinson noted that the pandemic has resulted in devastating consequences for the tourism and hospitality industries throughout Pennsylvania, especially in areas which rely heavily on attracting tourists, groups and organizations through promotion of available amenities and attractions.

Originally adopted in 2000, speakers pointed out that local economic dynamics and policy needs have changed significantly over the years. Robinson’s legislation would provide “much of the simplified process and flexibility” afforded to Neighborhood Improvement District authorization in Philadelphia County, and it is “critical that we provide counties and municipalities all the necessary policy tools to promote and enhance economic growth.”

“So much has changed during the more than 20 years since Neighborhood Improvement Districts were created,” said Senator Robinson. “I sponsored Senate Bill 797 with the hope that expanding this opportunity to additional communities such as Allegheny County will provide the much-needed tools to promote and enhance economic growth.”

“Mitigation efforts for COVID-19 had a devastating effect on the tourism and hospitality industries and the Greater Pittsburgh region has not been spared,” continued Senator Robinson. “Modernizing the system, simplifying the process and allowing other communities to participate will provide the momentum needed for reviving our economy. I am grateful that Senator Yudichak brought the committee here so local employers and community leaders can share directly with the decision-makers the importance of a program such as this.”

Panelists suggested that by modernizing the act with industry-driven standards, the state would benefit from a maximum return on investment. Providing a flexible policy option for municipalities to help jumpstart local economies will enable Pennsylvania to market itself as a leading destination for travel and business within the United States.

Other speakers included Tiffany Gallagher, of Civitas Advisors; Alisa Faulk, President of the Greater Pittsburgh Hotel Association and General manager of the AC Hotel Pittsburgh Downtown; and Mike Mitcham, Director of Operations for Pimanti Brothers, and President of the SW Chapter of the PA Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Westin Hotel General Manager Tom Martini joined as a panelist.

The hearing was held at the Omni William Penn Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh. It was streamed live at https://community.pasenategop.com/.

CONTACT: Scot Pitzer – Executive Director; spitzer@pasen.gov