The URA has a new chairman of the board and a new role in venture capital

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Mayor Ed Gainey’s team has tightened its control over the Urban Redevelopment Authority, and the agency has embarked on a new role: providing venture capital to entrepreneurs traditionally excluded from investment funds.

The URA board voted to appoint Kyle Chintalapalli, the economic development director for the Gainey administration, as chair. He replaces Sam Williamson, the district manager of Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, who chaired the council for three years.

Williamson said he was proud to be part of the URA’s evolution into a tool “that can intervene in our local economy to produce results that the economy itself, the free market itself, cannot. will not happen,” such as affordable housing, reviving minority business districts and better opportunities for service workers.

Williamson remains on the board.

Chintalapalli is a throwback to the pre-Williamson era when top mayoral aides often chaired the board.

The new president said he will continue to move the URA – which previously focused on funding large renewal projects – forward in its recent role as an equity and opportunity champion. “We have much more to gain by working together to advance a platform of inclusive growth and realizing a Pittsburgh for All,” he said.

The board approved an operating budget of $15.1 million, which is a big jump from last year’s $12.6 million spending plan. Money from the Federal American Rescue Plan Act should cover the increase.

The board’s first major action was to commit about $5 million to a quartet of investment programs.

  • Main Street Ventures plans to invest $1.3 million in minority and women-owned businesses [MWBEs]including in particular those of the seven business districts of the Avenues of Hope.
  • The Pittsburgh Entrepreneur Fund will invest up to $1 million, also in MWBEs, in deals that will also include funds from traditional venture capitalists.
  • The venture capital program will place up to $750,0000 in URA funding into existing private venture capital funds whose missions are aligned with the URAs.
  • The MWBE Developer Equity Fund pilot program intends to invest up to $2 million in several projects led by various developers.

Several board members noted that Pittsburgh has a poor track record of building minority-owned businesses.

“A lot of it has to do with the lack of access to capital,” said Daniel Lavelle, a Pittsburgh City Council member chosen to serve as vice chairman of the URA board. “So for us to put that to use is very, very, very critical.”

Pittsburgh City Councilman Daniel Lavelle, now Vice Chairman of the Urban Redevelopment Council, speaks as URA staff show a slide outlining three new URA Ventures programs, during a Zoom meeting. (Screenshot)

“We’re getting into a kind of place where we shouldn’t necessarily have to,” Lavelle added, noting that he hoped banks, business groups and other private sector investors would follow the example of the URA or add their own funds to the agency. pots.

The URA also hopes to recoup the investment, officials said.

The five-member council approved the programs unanimously.

The board also agreed to:

  • A $620,000 grant to help the City of Bridges Community Land Trust build four homes for sale on Chatsworth Avenue in Hazelwood. It will cost a total of about $2.1 million to build the houses, which will be reserved for low-income households for 99 years.
  • A $1.25 million loan to owners of Prestigious Hills, a public housing community in East Hills, as part of a $24 million financing package for the renovation of 117 units in 29 buildings.
  • A $690,000 loan for the $4.85 million renovation of 23 units at the Stanton Highland Apartments in East Liberty.
An Urban Redevelopment Authority staff member outlines to the URA board his plans to build four new homes on Chatsworth Avenue in Hazelwood, for sale to low-income households, during a Zoom meeting . (Screenshot)

Rich Lord is PublicSource’s economic development reporter. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @richlord.

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