What Keeps Me Grounded



The one thing that keeps me grounded is the opportunity not only to revitalize vacant land but more importantly the chance to revive the sense of comradery within the communities where we work. In the fall of 2016, GTECH recruited a dozen Hill District residents, called Ambassadors, to lead the movement for reclaiming vacant lots. For six months, the Ambassadors participated in classes and workshops to learn about the process of reclaiming vacant land. Throughout the classes, the Ambassadors designed vacant lot projects with the intention of rallying their community members to bring the projects to life. In the spring of 2017, the Ambassadors will begin to go to work on vacant lots within the Middle Hill, transitioning forgotten spaces into vibrant community assets. Much of the work we do in the community evolves around placemaking: a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design, and management of public spaces.

    The Hill district perhaps has had the richest history of any neighborhood in Pittsburgh. This can be attributed to the influx of various immigrant populations over time, including African-Americans arriving from the south attracted by jobs in the industrial north. The history of development and of course the long history of cultural icons produced in the neighborhood, like Charles Teenie Harris, Baba Amir & August Wilson just to name a few, have all come to characterize the Hill as we know it today. By taking a casual glance at the Hill, it’s apparent much has changed since then. Much of this change is due to the era of deindustrialization which led to a decline in population. As a result of people leaving the Hill, the buildings began to fall into disrepair, and the only eventual option was demolition. This resulted in large numbers of empty lots which once were thriving, dense centers of population. The loss of many of the residents decreased the physical value as well as the sense of community. “ Sense of Community is a feeling that members have of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and the group, and a shared faith that members’ needs will be met through their commitment to be together. “McMillan & Chavis,1986.”

    Placemaking capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential, with the intention of creating public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness, and well-being. Despite this, unfortunately, placemaking is rarely seen as an integral part of the overall processes and systems that shape revitalization plans, whether at the lot, block, neighborhood, or city levels. When placemaking isn’t integrated into the planning process in a meaningful and genuine way, decisions may be made that don’t reflect the culture, priorities, or needs of community residents.Throughout the past six months, I’ve had the pleasure to get to know all of the Ambassadors. Needless to say, I’m very excited about the future of the Hill and the role these five projects will play in inspiring positive change.

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