Kids In Allentown Making an Impact

Our Green Playces Initiative has completed two sites to date (Northside and Homewood) and will complete four sites this calendar year (Hilltop, McKeesport, Wilkinsburg, and the Hill District).  We selected The Brashear Association’s Allentown Learning and Engagement Center as the primary partner for the Hilltop Site.  We couldn’t be more excited about this relationship and are excited to debut the site at our annual Two Wheels Lots of Green event on August 20th.


Our annual bike tour will highlight projects we have completed over the past 3 years in the Hilltop neighborhoods, including a stop at our new Green Playce site.

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Allentown Map,

Allentown is composed of approximately 3,500 residents and has a large portion of vacant parcels. According to Pittsburgh Neighborhood Profiles, published in partnership with USCUR, 16.37% of Allentown is vacant.  According to a study published in 2015 by the Brandeis University Child Opportunity Index, Allentown is one of the city’s lowest opportunity areas.

According to the index, 48% of Pittsburgh’s black children and 20% of Hispanic children live in the city’s lowest opportunity areas, compared to only 12% of white children.

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The Brashear Association’s Allentown Learning and Engagement Center (ALEC) primarily focuses on youth education based programs through after-school, summer, and weekend youth programs, as well as family- and community-centered offerings and adult computer hours throughout the year. ALEC provides a fun and safe space to learn and play through STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), culture lessons, healthy food/cooking, outdoor recreation and exploration, arts, and environmental education through gardening and learning about the world around us. Students are regularly given healthy snacks and participate in weekly garden duties; through these routines students have a great appetite for new foods and they have discovered more about nature and where our food comes from. ALEC works with several community partners and friends such as Venture Outdoors and Hilltop YMCA.

In addition to all these reasons, The Brashear Association was selected to be a primary partner in the Hilltop due to location, built-in youth programming, and an ideal outdoor space to transform for the kids.  Our first youth design charrette pulled ideas about roller coasters, space for gardens, and community space.  I am always amazed at the insights of children. While their ideas are often over the top and unworkable, at least from a programmatic or adult level, the concepts they describe are vitally important to how they want to use the space.  Roller coasters may not be able to be implemented in the space; however, we did intentionally leave the asphalt space alone so the kids would have a space to run, play, and exercise, and we are incorporating a slide in the hillside.  Many kids drew pictures of community spaces to ensure that no one would be excluded. While these kids are not design experts, ideas such as this are more rational and thoughtful than those of some adults who design spaces.

Based on these suggestions and others garnered from community charrettes, our design team determined that building a “bird’s nest” would be an ideal element which would create a private nook that allows kids to explore nature while being removed from the sports and activities on the asphalt.  Our designs also include maximizing the space with garden beds, including movable planters which can serve as a barrier to block off portions of the site. To utilize the slope of the site, a rain garden will be installed at the base of the hill to help alleviate stormwater run-off, as well as create a demonstration learning garden for the community.

We hope this Green Playce gives kids in Allentown and the South Hilltop a safe place to play, learn and discover their natural settings.  For more information on volunteer opportunities and information about the site, check out our website.


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