Lots to Love (About Neighborhoods)
By: Gavin White
Pittsburgh is a city of neighborhoods.
There are 90 of them, after all. Each one has its own charms, and problems, and groups of people working to solve them. But, like individuals, these neighborhoods often focus on their own challenges, and sometimes forget that other neighborhoods are working on very similar problems. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. At GTECH we champion these neighborhood heroes. We call them Ambassadors. They are Ambassadors to their community, and they work hard to make them better one step, or one lot, at a time. But these Ambassadors and other community leaders can also play the role of neighborhood Ambassador, sharing their challenges and successes with other communities in the same position, benefitting not just their own, but two or more neighborhoods!
When a grant from People’s Gas presented us with the opportunity to share energy efficiency resources with the Hazelwood community, we were thrilled, but wanted to up the value by talking to folks already committed to going green and sharing a plethora of online resources that might help them take their work to the next level. Like our Ambassadors, these community leaders are people that others in the community look to for advice, and we were confident they would spread any valuable information we shared with them to an even wider audience. The Hazelwood Urban Ag Group and other interested residents were an easy first step, but we thought, why stop there? Other groups could certainly benefit from such a workshop, and more than that, these groups might benefit each other, simply by talking to one another.
In Hazelwood, I revel in the company of the Hazelwood Urban Agriculture Group, working to reclaim their neighborhood one garden at a time.
In Larimer I’ve had the privilege of working with the Larimer Green Team, the arm of the Consensus Group committed to all things green.
We knew that Larimer and Hazelwood were facing similar challenges: each has lots and lots of vacant land, with big development moving in (for Larimer, a Choice Neighborhood grant to the tune of $30 million; in Hazelwood, groundbreaking at the Almono site and concurrent community development). But they also both have dedicated teams of fantastic individuals working to improve their communities lot by lot. And so we thought, let’s bring them together to show them Lots to Love.
Lots to Love is a guide for community organizations and residents who are interested in transforming vacant lots into well-loved spaces. It was built precisely with groups like these in mind.
So last week I picked up Larimer Green Team members to commandeer (with their blessing) the Hazelwood Urban Ag meeting. We spoke about how they all might save on energy at home by following some simple tips and using online tools to track energy usage, and then dove into a Lots to Love training session, registering each group and their projects on the site. Throughout the meeting, we learned about projects that each group is working on, from the planters that Elaine Price of Floriated Interpretations hopes to install in Hazelwood, to the revamping of the Larimer Community Green. By bringing these groups together, we got to share resources with each, and more importantly, they got to share lessons with each other.
Pittsburgh may be a city of neighborhoods, but it’s also the City of Bridges. Maybe we ought to put Mr. Rogers’ famous question in the context of neighborhoods (and the bridges between them) and ask all 90:
“Won’t you be my neighbor?”