Harrison • Brackenridge • Tarentum

Joint Comprehensive Plan

Table of Contents

Social Enterprise, Community and Economic Development

H-B-T Comprehensive Plan – Key Item #2


As employment patterns changed and population declined in Harrison-Brackenridge-Tarentum since the 1970s, disinvestment created economic stress in the communities’ commercial areas. Commercial property vacancies increased in Tarentum and Brackenridge’s downtowns and in the Heights Plaza shopping center in Harrison Township.

Other external factors, such as the rise (and more recent decline) of The Pittsburgh Mills in Frazer Township and the global transition to online retail have created additional pressure on the three municipalities.

Today, most commercial buildings on the main downtown streets in Brackenridge are unoccupied. A few key tenants have helped Tarentum maintain a small downtown to some degree, but there are also numerous vacancies downtown, and in the highway commercial zone along West Seventh Street. Tarentum has seen some new growth in its commercial corridor on East 10th Street. Harrison’s commercial area, mainly in Natrona Heights along Freeport Road, has experienced challenges at the Heights Plaza shopping center, currently in receivership.  The community has experienced commercial growth farther north.

The Heights Plaza’s future is tied up in legal proceedings at this time, but improvements were made in the appearance of the northern half, and the court-appointed receiver has mentioned that the space is over-built and perhaps should be partially razed.

Elsewhere in Harrison Township, an ambitious development plan called Harrison Point is proposed for 168 acres along Route 28, to include senior independent living, medical office space, a technology park, restaurant space and a township park. In addition, pad-ready sites are awaiting development along Alter Road.  

All three communities are locations for industrial/manufacturing and light manufacturing, including a major presence of ATI, a highly automated steel rolling plant, in Harrison.

The Strengths

  • Historic and “character” buildings
  • Anchor businesses and employers
  • Affordable prices

The Problems

  • Vacancies and disinvestment
  • Lack of compiled data
  • Undeveloped vision and goals
  • Insufficient basis for marketing
  • Some problems are not in official municipal control
  • Lack of human and financial resources
  • Ordinances may not align with contemporary goals
  • Lack of access
  • Non-contiguous area

Looking Ahead

We feel that social enterprise, community and economic development goals can best be met through a coordinated effort among the communities, in collaboration with existing businesses and non-profit organizations. Efforts to create new development opportunities of all types should:

  • Align with community development objectives, goals, strategies, master plans and/or programmatic initiatives that are created and held in common among the three communities.
  • Be developed jointly among the three communities, sharing efforts and services to the greatest degree feasible, and potentially including a joint community/economic development organization to provide leadership.
  • Support the intention of creating and maintaining visually attractive communities.
  • Whenever possible, support local entrepreneurship and small business.
  • Whenever possible, involve, include and support the goals of existing businesses and established community institutions and non-profits, including the Highlands Partnership Network, which serves as an umbrella organization for some community groups.
  • Recognize that redevelopment of deteriorated residential properties can forestall disinvestment in the community by interrupting a vicious cycle.
  • Align with a related multi-municipal plan to address commercial and residential property deterioration and blight.
  • Potentially include updating the communities’ zoning districts and ordinances.
  • Respond to the needs of residents who do not have transportation access to food, goods and services.
  • Capitalize on existing assets of the communities, such as the Allegheny Riverfront, municipal parks, and a sidewalk network and other active transportation infrastructure.