It is with deep sadness and sincere gratitude that we join our colleagues, friends, and neighbors in mourning the loss of Lawrenceville’s former State Senator, Councilperson, and community champion, Jim Ferlo. Senator Ferlo, Jim, or Jimmy as many in Lawrenceville knew him, was a fierce and tireless advocate for the constituents in each of the communities that he served and represented. Lawrenceville’s revitalization would not have been possible without his leadership, advocacy, and vision.
As a City Councilperson in the ’90s, Jim worked alongside Lawrenceville residents and community leaders for a decade to bring much-needed resources into the community to support park investments, public safety programs, the restoration of Lawrenceville’s iconic Doughboy statue, and the redevelopment of Doughboy Square and Lower Lawrenceville, as well as countless other community development projects. It wasn’t all about big and splashy projects for him, though. Jim understood that genuine and authentic relationships are important in building a strong community and he supported many events and programs that brought the community together: Lawrenceville Football Program, Ninth and Tenth Ward Baseball, Halloween parades and haunted houses at the old Boys and Girls Club, Lawrenceville Independence Day Celebration, the development of the new Boys and Girls Club Center, the Memorial Day Parade, Pittsburgh marathon watch parties, and more. Residents recount stories of times he gave lifts home from the grocery store, sent food over after the loss of a loved one, and sentimental notes that were sent to families celebrating milestones.
As State Senator, and as a member of the Urban Redevelopment Authority Board, Jim continued to bring much-needed investment to Butler Street and beyond. State Elm Street and Main Street Program investments stewarded by Jim enabled our organizations to reclaim and redevelop vacant properties as homes, community gardens, and new storefronts. Grants facilitated by Jim supported sidewalk restoration programs, park master plan projects, affordable housing, infrastructure improvements, and more. He worked closely with the development community and with our organizations to build a vibrant mainstreet corridor and to set a standard for thoughtful design and development. Even in retirement, Jim was first in line to stand with neighborhood advocates working to advance policies and projects to protect the quality of life of Lawrenceville’s most vulnerable residents, and he was the first to call us out when he felt we were straying from that mission.
Our thoughts are with Jim’s family, friends, and an entire generation of community development practitioners, developers, and leaders who he has mentored and inspired. May his memory and legacy be a blessing to all who knew him and to the communities that he fought so hard for.