Riverview United and GTECH Strategies team-up for New GSI Project in Observatory Hill

A joint-project leads to the creation of two new green spaces that will help remove over 100,000 gallons of stormwater from local sewer system.

The Riverview United Presbyterian Church is getting a makeover.  The congregation will be adding a new outdoor Mediation Labyrinth and a peace garden at the 3505 Perrysville Avenue property.

The additions are a joint effort between the church and GTECH Strategies in part of GTECH’s Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) Project. Construction on the new outdoor spaces began in July and after their completion this Sunday the green spaces will help remove approximately 125,000 gallons of stormwater annually from the O-27 Woods Run sewershed.

An overhead view of the labyrinth at Riverview Presbyterian Church in Observatory Hill. An unveiling ceremony will be held Sunday, November 12 at 1 p.m. Photo credit: Neil Strebig

“A lot of times people think of stormwater management they may think of more typical rain barrels and rain gardens, and I think this is a really neat example of something a little bit different, something a little bit creative,” said GTECH project manager, Rebecca Mizikar. “It is just a just a beautiful solution with multiple benefits.”

The new labyrinth will be located on the east side of the church and according to Riverview United pastor Steve Werth, the green space will be utilized as a “resource for the neighborhood.”

“Everything we want to do should help the community either here or in a global sense,” said Werth. “[We’re] trying to create as much positive space for the neighborhood as possible.”

The storm drain of the newly installed labyrinth at Riverview Presbyterian Church. Photo credit: Neil Strebig.

The dual-purpose labyrinth will serve primarily as a communal outdoor prayer space and will also be the key component of removal from stormwater runoff from both the adjacent parking lot and the church’s roof. According to GTECH project manager, Ariam Ford underneath the labyrinth is a 20-foot-wide reserve trench that is 4-feet deep. The reserve will be used to capture excess water from both the roof and the parking lot, effectively removing it from the city’s sewer system.

“[GSI Project goal] Is to reduce the amount of stormwater entering the combined sewer system in Pittsburgh,” said Ford.  According to Ford, 756 billion gallons of stormwater flood the city’s sewer systems. The Riverview United project cost $7,500 to complete, a price tag that comes out to approximately 6 cents per gallon removed. However, Ford acknowledged the greater goal of the project is developing an “outreach” system that informs communities of the importance of this removal while also offering a green space that residents can utilize.

“We focus on trying to do two things: capture stormwater and [trying to] to deliver some sort of community co-benefits, which is essentially our true main mission,” Ford said. “We want to show people how stormwater features can integrate in their communities for better and can also dually act as a community asset or gathering space for a place to be celebrated in addition to capturing stormwater.”

Laier Smith (left) and Lydia Kramer (right) of GTECH Strategies work to complete the new “Peace Garden” at Riverview Presbyterian Church in Observatory Hill. The garden is one half of a two-part project between the church and GTECH Strategies to help improve storm water infrastructure. Photo credit: Neil Strebig

Along with the labyrinth, the church will also be adding a “Peace Garden” near the front entrance of the church, where a 500-gallon reserve tank will gather excess drainage from the roof and distribute it into the garden below.

Ford explained GTECH selects communities that are labeled as priority zones by the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA). Their GSI projects aim to elevate the pressure on those specific zones (the O-27 sewershed consists of Brighton Heights, Brightwood, Observatory Hill and Perry Hilltop neighborhoods where the runoff flows back into the Ohio River). Werth mentioned that the communication process between the church and GTECH was very “organic” and was very excited to be a part of their GSI Program.

“We really tried to listen to Riverview United and the outcome they wanted, and I think Pastor Werth stressed this idea of creating a welcoming space that is also a haven of sorts,” said Ariam. “I think that is essentially the core of what our mission is – to involve everyone, hear everyone and include everyone. And you can’t do that unless people feel welcomed, so I think it is a really good reflection of GTECH’s mission in general and Riverview United’s as well.”

Riverview United will be holding a celebration this Sunday, November 12 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. to celebrate the completion of the projects. Tango food truck will be site and festivities will include a live performance from Paz and Ukulele Eddie.


GTECH has completed two other GSI Projects within the Northside at Providence Connectionsand Riverview Manor. In 2018, they will be adding five new stormwater infrastructures in the East Hills, East Liberty, Larimer, Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar and Homewood. The Riverview United Project received additional contributions from University of Pittsburgh’s Engineers Without BordersRichard King Mellon FoundationFedEx GroundObservatory Hill Inc.PWSA, Pittsburgh Stormworks and Landforce.