An interview with Salon Member Majestic Lane

Place Lab sat down with Ethical Redevelopment Salon member Majestic Lane to discuss design and Inclusive, equitable community development.

Majestic Lane is the Director of External Affairs & Membership Engagement at Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG), a membership organization for Community Development Corporations, Community-Based Organizations, and related nonprofits that represent low- and moderate- income communities throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania. Lane works with government, philanthropy, neighborhood groups & other stakeholders to advocate for improvements in quality of life for traditionally disadvantaged communities around the issues of land, capital & mobility.  

Prior to his time at PCRG, Lane was the Director of Community Engagement & Strategy at A+ Schools, an education advocacy organization dedicated to improving outcomes for Black & Brown children in Pittsburgh Public Schools.  He also served as a legislative aide to Pennsylvania State Senator Jim Ferlo focusing on community development, education & sustainability issues.  Lane has also served as a member of the planning committee for the Heinz Endowments Transformative Arts Process (TAP), an initiative focused on building the field of those working in and through the arts in African American and “distressed” neighborhoods.

Place Lab: Can you tell us about your current role? 

Majestic Lane: My current role is the Deputy Chief of Neighborhood Empowerment for Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto. In this role, I lead the Peduto administration's neighborhood equity efforts through community-driven development, affordable housing, quality of life improvement efforts, and engaging with community and regional stakeholders.

PL: What role has design played in your work? 

ML: A big part of community driven and equitable development efforts have to do with design aesthetics that honor the current context of the neighborhood while propelling the neighborhood forward as an attractive and beautiful place to live.

PL: How can practitioners and individuals who care about spatial governance achieve collaborative design and avoid designing by committee?

ML: Try to be purposeful as possible on the front end by being inclusive and engaging. Community and stakeholder education is also a huge part of it as well.

PL: How do we tackle legacy design issues—outmoded buildings and infrastructure, arcane development patterns, etc.—in a way that is sensitive to historic preservation and current residents but addresses future needs?

ML: Again, community education plays a big part in doing this. It is possible to honor the past while moving forward, but only when everyone is operating from a similar base of information. When community members have a clear picture of what’s being proposed and why, it becomes a lot easier to begin to move towards consensus.

PL: How much can design do to fight the more intractable forces of inequality? 

ML: Design should act in conjunction with the other issues in communities to create beautiful and relevant places that everyone can be proud of. Design is not an island to itself, but an integral component of what makes place and influences people.

The burgeoning efforts to reduce neighborhood inequality by design are laudable and refreshing, but the powerful legacies of history and the multidimensional reach of inequality present formidable challenges.
— R.J. Sampson, Notes on Neighborhood Inequality and Urban Design