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Hill May Face Mountain of Development with New Group 

Feeling sidelined by the many proposed developments in the Hill District -- not least of which are a casino and new hockey arena -- Hill leaders are pushing to create a unified group they hope will exert some control over their community's development.

On Oct. 13, members of the 15-year-old Hill District Consensus Group, made up of residents and volunteer representatives of Hill agencies, endorsed the idea of forming the Greater Hill Development League with other Hill groups. Six Hill groups have been discussing the move since December.

While specifics of this new community development corporation (CDC) have yet to be hammered out, members envision the League as a unifying voice for Hill residents on housing and economic development. "We have too many entities on the Hill doing too many little things," says George Moses, a Hill District activist and Consensus Group member.

In fact, the Hill District counts at least half a dozen small CDCs, most of them church affiliates. But the long-dominant Hill District CDC nearly lost its funding and staff this year. Since June, representatives of the CDCs and the Consensus Group have been discussing plans to either revive the Hill District CDC or begin anew.

Creating a new League would allow residents "to create a consensus around the principles and values important to people on the Hill," says Shakura Sabur, a consultant who has been surveying local foundations, banks, Hill District churches and others on what should be done with the existing CDCs. But in order to make the League work, the existing groups may have to share funding and other resources, says Sabur.

The drive to form the League is fueled both by age-old frustration and a newfound sense of urgency. While East Liberty has seen commercial development in recent years, and the Federal North district of the North Side will soon see ground broken for new housing, Hill residents bemoan the arrival of a pair of dollar stores while there is still no sign of a sorely needed grocery store.

Despite -- or because of -- the fact that the League is only a hazily defined concept, many backers have high hopes for it.

"We're missing opportunities. We need a CDC to get it going," says Lloyd Wright, a Hill District resident and aide to state Sen. Jim Ferlo, (D-Highland Park). "A single entity has more clout and is more visible."

Eloise McDonald, representing residents of Oak Hill, a half-finished housing development in the Upper Hill District, hopes that the new league will help in her fight to get the city to complete the project.

"Our idea is to get the Hill built out," says McDonald. The new League, she adds, "puts the Hill in a more powerful position."

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