Grounded GSI: Observatory Hill

Community Context

Riverview United Presbyterian Church is a community-oriented congregation adjacent to Riverview Park. Along with being a sacramental congregation, the church houses a weekly food bank, thrift store, and non-profit office space. As Grounded Strategies’ partners in the Observatory Hill neighborhood, Riverview United is a highly visible symbol of community sandwiched between Riverview Park and highly utilized Perrysville Avenue.

Project Overview

A major stormwater issue at Riverview United was ill-suited and misdirected downspouts that pull rainwater from the large roof. Many of these downspouts were broken and the water was not properly channeled away from the building. Over time, this has caused flooding and moisture problems in the basement of the church. To address this, Grounded Strategies worked with University of Pittsburgh Engineers Without Borders to install a large cistern along the street facing side of the building. The cistern connects to existing downspouts, stores the runoff, and channels
the overflow into a planted and mulched area surrounding Riverview United’s peace pole feature.

The second and most prominent green stormwater infrastructure feature on the site is an engaging labyrinth feature sited just behind the church’s parking lot. Before, all runoff from the parking lot was channeled directly into a storm drain on the site. Grounded worked to re-direct this flow of water out of the sewer system and into an underground gravel basin beneath the surface of the labyrinth. The gravel basing allows the slow release of stormwater into the ground. The labyrinth feature includes a depressed center meant to fill with water during rain events. This source of water will flow from an additional disconnected downspout on the side of the garage channeled through a dry stream to the central feature. Thanks to all of the work done by Riverview United patrons and volunteers, the labyrinth will act as a community gathering space and a symbol of refuge and serenity for years to come.