Larimer, a small neighborhood in the East End of Pittsburgh, was once home to a thriving residential and commercial district, as well as a sustainable, working class urban community. As was the case in many urban areas throughout the 1960s and 70s, Larimer suffered population loss and decline, exacerbated by ill-conceived urban planning efforts.
|From Larimer, 2008
By 1980, it had become one of the most economically challenged communities in Pittsburgh. Population loss, limited investment dollars, and no long-term strategy for growth or development led to the flight of many long-time Larimer residents, and the commercial businesses, once the cornerstones of the neighborhood, soon followed.
In the early 1990s, over 50% of Larimer was vacant. Many abandoned brick houses, empty streets, and vacant schools, churches, and hospitals remained. What was once a proud, working class community had become a model of urban blight and decay.
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In the spring of 2008, Penn State Cooperative Extension and the Urban Redevelopment Authority engaged GTECH to implement its Vacant Land Reclamation model in the community of Larimer, targeting a three-quarter acre site in the center of the neighborhood in an effort to catalyze positive change and future investment.
The GTECH Model
Reclaiming Vacant Land
GTECH began transition of the vacant site by planting a sunflower crop in early May. As community interest in the project heightened, over 60 community members of all ages volunteered to work on the site. By mid-summer, GTECH’s sunflower crop and a Penn State parklet changed the landscape of Larimer’s former business corridor into a clean, safe community green space geared for future investment and development.
Educating and Training for Green Jobs
Now with more than 60 volunteers, the ‘Larimer Green Team,’ helped maintain the site while learning about the new green economy. Green Jobs Now: A National Day of Action to Build the New Economy, a project of Green for All, hosted an on-site education seminar where community members were introduced to green jobs and job training opportunities locally, regionally, and nationally.
Partnering with community churches, community-based organizations, the Larimer Green Team, The Kingsley Association, ELCCC, the Student Conservation Association, Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, Penn State University, Steel City Biofuels, and a local Boy Scout troop, GTECH provided the platform to connect and engage individuals, communities, and ideas.:
GTECH’s success in managing andimplementing the Larimer Avenue BiofuelGarden project resulted in the community of Larimer securing additional investment to complete a corridor wide master plan using green strategies to combat vacant land and its reuse.
|From Larimer, 2010