Fineview/Perry Hilltop Urban Greenspace Restoration

Scenic Pittsburgh seeks support for developing publicly accessible scenic viewsheds and urban greenspaces in the Fineview neighborhood on the North Side of Pittsburgh. This neighborhood has experienced blight and a population decline, but has emerged as a locus for both regional and foundation funding investment due to its location near the Mexican War Streets and downtown. We are proposing two different options for possible funding by the Buhl Foundation; see Project Budget below.

We would clean and restore either two (Phases I and II) or three (Phases I, II and III) steep-slope greenspaces above Allegheny General Hospital (see map and photos below), near the Sandstone Quarries Apartments and Fineview Fields and adjacent to the Fineview Fitness Trail. All land, with the exception of a portion of the Phase I lots, are owned by the City of Pittsburgh and there are no current plans for developing them. We have permission from the City to work on all lots of Phase I and are in the process of securing that permission for the lots in Phases II and III.

The larger project would be managed by Scenic Pittsburgh, but would be accomplished through the contributions of a broad coalition of non-profits and organizations that do greenspace development, cleanup and long-term stewardship work in North Side neighborhoods. This partnership project could serve as a model for greenspace restoration across the city.

Map of Phases I, II and III

Proposal 1: Phases I and II. This proposal covers two separate but nearby groups of lots in Fineview, most of which offer views of Deutschtown and downtown Pittsburgh. Phase I covers a wedge-shaped area and viewshed comprised of 18 empty lots between Henderson and Fountain Street, which we have been working to restore since 2018. Phase II covers a further 4 lots and scenic viewshed at Henderson and Jay Streets. Scenic Pittsburgh does own a portion of this land outright. These Phases include cleaning up the lots, building access trails, viewing areas and the restoration or creation of entrances into the surrounding neighborhoods.

Proposal 2: Phases I, II and III. This proposal includes all the above, plus a further nine lots and scenic viewshed at Henderson and Jay Streets, as well as the cleanup of those lots, building access trails, a viewing area and the creation of an entrance into the surrounding neighborhoods.

We anticipate further work to target other greenspaces with views that are not suitable for other types of development in the Fineview/Perry Hilltop neighborhood, in accordance with the neighborhoods’ strategic plan.

Partners

All the below partners have agreed to their role(s) in this proposal. Additional details of those roles are in the Phases section.

Scenic Pittsburgh’s goals in bringing together the partners below go beyond these proposals. We aim to lead in greenspace restoration by bringing together and fostering ongoing working relationships among partners that will accelerate the process for restoring greenspace in the North Side, as well as providing a replicable model for similar projects in other Pittsburgh neighborhoods.

  • Fineview/Perry Hilltop Citizens Council. Role: Strategic guidance. We have worked with the Council since the inception of this project so that our goals align closely with their strategic objectives for the communities’ greenspaces
  • Allegheny Cleanways. Role: Major trash removal. We have worked with Allegheny Cleanways for many years and their contribution will be key in the effort to convert these abandoned lots into scenic assets
  • Grounded. Role: Advisor and landscape design support; long-term maintenance resources. Grounded is a key partner for work in the North Side due to their deep knowledge of the area in terms of potential greenspace and community assets, as well as for their expertise in marshalling community support for long-term maintenance plans
  • Pittsburgh Student Conservation Association. Role: Vegetation removal and trimming, path construction, entrance cleanup and rehab. While the SCA has seasonal limits to its work due to using student labor, they can assemble a student workforce that includes young people who are from Fineview and Perry Hilltop neighborhoods
  • Landforce. Role: Vegetation removal and trimming, path construction, entrance cleanup and rehab. Landforce has a history of greenspace restoration projects in the city, including steep-slope Emerald Park. Their season runs May through November, so they would supplement work done by the Pittsburgh SCA.

Other potential partners:

Allegheny Goatscape, local landscaping firms and independent stone construction

Phases of the Project

If funding is granted in June 2021, all Phases will be completed by Fall 2021.

Phase I – Lots and scenic viewshed between Henderson and Fountain

This phase would focus on making the initial 18 lots safe, trash-free and accessible to the public, and would culminate in a public opening ceremony with the participation of all partners. All phases below would be reviewed by and approved by Fineview/Perry Hilltop Citizens Council.

Spring/Summer 2021: Cleanup of 18 lots, removal of invasive brush, and build-out of first set of trails. Possible Partners: Allegheny Cleanways (trash removal), Grounded (landscape design), Groundforce (clearing and restoration) and Pittsburgh Student Conservation Society (clearing and restoration). Refurbishment of three neighborhood entrances and stairways, continued build-out of trails. Partners: Grounded (landscape restoration and maintenance plan), Groundforce (clearing and restoration) and Pittsburgh Student Conservation Society (clearing and restoration)

Fall 2021: Completion of neighborhood entrances and stairways. Installation of information and wayfinding signage. Opening ceremony. Creation of long-term maintenance plan. Partner: Grounded (landscape restoration and maintenance plan)

Phase II – Further improvement of original lots, with addition of restoration work on 4 lots and scenic viewshed at Henderson and Jay Streets

This phase would include work on the four lots and viewshed at Henderson and Jay. As in Phase I, work on the ground would be supported by Fineview/Perry Hilltop Citizens Council, Grounded, Groundforce, and the Pittsburgh Student Conservation Society. As in the schedule for Phase I, work would be completed by Fall 2021.

Phase III – Further improvement of Phase II lots, with addition of restoration work on additional 9 lots and scenic viewshed at Henderson and Jay Streets

As in Phase I and II, work on the ground would be supported by Fineview/Perry Hilltop Citizens Council, Grounded, Groundforce, and the Pittsburgh Student Conservation Society, with a projected Fall 2021 completion.

Future Phases

Further phases would include continued maintenance and installation of amenities such as stone viewing areas and benches for all three greenspaces, as well as greenspace restoration and amenities for the area around Fineview Fields, and would focus on identifying and restoring other potential greenspaces throughout the Fineview/Perry Hilltop area, with guidance from the neighborhood’s plan and through continued consultation with the Citizens Council.  


Outcomes

An emerging neighborhood benefits from a proven economic asset and driver of health and quality of life–clean, publicly accessible greenspace. Fineview/Perry Hilltop are prime neighborhoods for future development, poised just above the popular Mexican War Streets, near downtown, and with many parcels offering stunning views. Over the last few years, these neighborhoods have also seen an increase in community investment through the Fineview/Perry Hilltop Citizens Council and the efforts of the Buhl Foundation’s One Northside effort, and have recently received a housing and economic development grant through the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative. Scenic Pittsburgh’s proposal would introduce new recreational assets into these neighborhoods, directly adjacent to the Sandstone Quarries Apartments. Studies show that communities with good access to quality greenspace have better health outcomes, higher property values and generate further economic investment.  

A model for the development of abandoned and neglected lots into community greenspace assets with relatively low levels of investment and maintenance. We focus on spaces not suitable for other types of development that can be transformed in community assets through an initial investment into cleanup, brush removal and path construction.

Relevant Goals from the Fineview/Perry Hilltop Citizens Council Community Plan

  • Recreate blighted vacant lots as valuable open space assets
  • Create and sustain a trash/dumping removal and maintenance strategy
  • Engage and employ young people to participate in improving open spaces
  • Leverage natural features as an economic asset for neighborhood development
  • Increase access to public open spaces for all residents
  • Use open space to create a welcoming community environment
  • Activate public open spaces with programming and site amenities
  • Increase and diversify children’s play spaces throughout the community