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Our opinion: We can wait on riverfront

Warren has some interesting plans to redevelop its waterfront.

City officials are trying to increase the development potential for the area and is trying to parlay $1 million in state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program funding into a $12 million federal BUILD grant.

Part of the money would be used to reconfigure roads in the riverfront area to form a parcel large enough for a hotel with parking. In addition to creating a big enough parcel, city officials say making it easier to get into and out of the riverfront area is would help entice private developers. In addition to street reconfiguration and streetscape projects, the project would include a watercraft ramp to connect to the Allegheny River and a new trail along the northern bank of the river.

Riverfront redevelopment is a laudable project that has a lot of support locally. We want to see Warren redevelop itself, and the plans for the riverfront would likely help downtown businesses cater to more tourists.

Yet, it’s amazing to us that governments asking for emergency money are also asking for shiny new development toys all at the same time. Congress has already appropriated $1 billion through the BUILD program for national infrastructure investments, but doesn’t it stand to reason that this billion dollars would be better used right now on more pressing matters like paying police officers or firefighters?

It’s amazing that Congress is twiddling its thumbs on an emergency stimulus package but had no qualms about a $1 billion redevelopment program. So here’s a suggestion — reappropriate the BUILD program’s 2020 funding into an emergency stimulus package. Then, when COVID-19 is a speck in our rear-view mirror, let the BUILD program go back to rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure.

When that time comes, we hope Warren’s riverfront is at the head of the line.

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