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Local crowd-funding website helps ‘Hatch’ ideas

By Akasha Chamberlain, Point Park News Service:

Kiersten Lewis | Point Park News Service.
Pittsburgh Downtown Community Development Corp. creates crowd-funding website to kickstart community projects. Kiersten Lewis | Point Park News Service.

Street performers playing at busy city thoroughfares, doggie waste bag receptacles installed around Downtown, local restaurants relocated: Any community projects that Pittsburghers dream up can now move one step closer to reality.

Local residents can take a more active stance in community projects through the first Pittsburgh-exclusive crowd-funding website created by the Pittsburgh Downtown Community Development Corp.

“The goal is to provide people who have good ideas with a way to implement them,” said spokeswoman Hadley Pratt.

She cited a lack of resources as the killer of many potentially great city projects.

Crowd-funding gives the community a chance to choose what it wants to see in its own neighborhoods. The concept is almost like investing, except instead of reaping a  return on investment, project funders receive incentives based on how much they donate to a cause – as well as the reward of seeing the project come to fruition, Pratt said.

Incentives are bracketed by the amount of the donation — with the more money spent, the greater the prize. Projects with better incentives will have a stronger potential to become fully funded. The prizes can be anything from actual parts of the creative process, such as sketches or original drafts, to gift certificates to a local business.

“You might be pushed to spend a little bit more money because the reward at the $50 level is better than the one at the $25 level,” Pratt said.

Once the website goes live, anyone can enter an idea for a project, pending approval by the development corporation. Projects that are not community-oriented — such as someone wanting to raise money for their college tuition — will not be approved.

Pratt said the majority of potential project creators who have reached out so far are small business owners, nonprofits or people in the art world.

Small business owners are exactly who Executive Director John Valentine said he wants to attract.

“Not only will we be bringing more businesses, hopefully, Downtown,” he said, “(but) with every business comes so many jobs.”

Pratt said she hopes Hatch will not become Downtown-exclusive. Since the idea for the website was revealed, Pratt said she has received requests from all over Allegheny County.

The  development corporation will use Hatch to launch its own ideas as well, including installing receptacles around the city with plastic bags to dispose of dog waste, a local co-operative artists’ boutique and Busk PGH, a program to schedule street performers at highly trafficked areas throughout the city.

While international websites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo are already well-established online, Pratt said she believes the local specificity of Hatch will give it an edge. Kickstarter has 15 projects in Pittsburgh now, while Indiegogo has 16.

“The thing that makes Hatch different is that it exists within Pittsburgh. It’s for Pittsburgers,” Pratt said. “We want Pittsburghers to engage with this to see what fellow Pittsburghers want to do.”

The community development corporation’s ties to the city will benefit project creators, Valentine said.

“We have our pulse on Downtown, and we have our pulse on the city,” Valentine said. “We can give them guidance and direction that a large crowd funding source maybe can’t. We know the neighborhood.”

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