Seeding Prosperity And Revitalizing Corridors
Seeding Prosperity And Revitalizing Corridors (SPARC) is a corridor-based land use strategy that brings together the technical expertise of Pittsburgh environmental and community organizations to address the issue of land vacancy on a larger scale. The project is designed to “spark” greening efforts and reinvestment within 1-3 years in communities who have shown the interest and capacity for large-scale greening. SPARC project partners include the following:
- GTECH Strategies (managing partner)
- Grow Pittsburgh
- The Kingsley Association
- Penn State Extension of Allegheny County
- Student Conservation Association
- Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
Larimer Avenue Corridor Pilot Project: After evaluating four corridors throughout the city of Pittsburgh, the SPARC partners identified the Larimer Avenue Corridor linking the East Liberty and Larimer neighborhoods, as an ideal location for a SPARC pilot project based on the neighborhood’s high levels of land vacancy, existing land use study, and active community groups.
The Problem: Vacant land is a massive issue in the city of Pittsburgh due to steady population decline since the 1950s. Basic upkeep of these lots serves as a drain on public resources and constrain many communities’ ability to achieve self-sustainability. Most recent calculations indicate over 25,000 vacant parcels of land, and the problem continues to grow as the city increases demolition of condemned properties. Together, these challenges reveal a need for additional resources for the management of these spaces.
The challenge Pittsburgh is facing: How can the city reduce the number of vacant lots while using green strategies to create re-development opportunities in communities?
The Solution: Many Pittsburgh communities, non-profit organizations, public agencies and foundations hoping to overcome these challenges have become motivated by opportunities within the emerging green economy. Some are starting these efforts by partnering with local green organizations to implement productive vacant land strategies. Several neighborhoods in the region have completed or are in the process of completing neighborhood plans that include aspects of greening or a “greenprint,” including the City of Pittsburgh’s open space initiative.
To build on this momentum, the region needs four things:
- An organization will be needed to partner in facilitating the implementation of planning work.
- Increased capacity for direct on-the-ground implementation.
- A collaborative effort to evaluate the impact of the investments provided to each neighborhood.
- A financial mechanism to facilitate investments in an appropriate, relevant and timely manner.
The Opportunity: Starting in January 2009, GTECH convened a brainstorming session with several of Pittsburgh’s most active environmental groups working in several communities throughout the region. This group saw the need to form partnerships in order to have greater impact in alleviating the burden of disjointed land management through corridor wide greening projects.
This effort would allow for a menu of green strategies to be developed and implemented, a sharing of project resources, and a host of technical expertise provided to the community.
- Prove greening as an economic driver
- Act as a service provider and technical assistance partner to community leaders
- Implement green strategies through green job education and entrepreneurial support
- Optimize outcomes and efficiency through collaboration
- Impact environmental and social equity of the communities we serve
SPARC is designed to create a green corridor within multiple urban communities having the need and capacity to maintain green land management strategies. Preferred Characteristics for a SPARC project corridor include:
- A Community Development Corporation (CDC) or Community Organization with a demonstrated capacity of investing in the community’s development and growth,
- Prior history of local activities and interest in green strategies,
- Existing or developing community plans with elements of a green strategy plan,
- Presence of active community groups,
- Potential for economic development impact through enhancing community assets and transferring skills to residents.