Scenic Pittsburgh’s Greenspace Partnership
Over the 12 years since our founding, we have consistently sought to address the sources of visual blight in the Pittsburgh area. Two of the largest sources of that blight have always been billboards and abandoned property. Pittsburgh has hundreds of acres of vacant land, with a significant portion in neighborhoods that have long experienced disinvestment. Despite the city’s ongoing efforts, this land continues to accumulate trash and host illegal dumps, and is overgrown with invasive weeds such as honeysuckle and knotweed. While some of this land will eventually host housing or business developments, much of the rest is not suitable for such development because of various factors, including being located on steep slope property or in areas that have other, more desirable vacant property nearby.
As it stands, this land is not contributing positively to the communities that surround it; instead, it constitutes a health and safety hazard, and exists as a form of visual blight that acts as a drag on economic growth and on the mental and physical health of residents.
Scenic Pittsburgh saw clearly that it was crucial to our mission to address this huge source of blight, and that we could not do it by ourselves. Due to our years of effort at the Fountain Street Overlook, we already knew of some potential partners for this work: Allegheny Cleanways, Grounded and Landforce. Since our first two projects (Fountain Street Overlook and Lanark Street) are in the Fineview neighborhood, we have been working closely with the Fineview and Perry Hilltop Citizens Councils. We plan to add additional members as the partnership develops, with other potential partners including neighborhood planning, economic development, conservation, art and interest groups.
- Allegheny Cleanways. Mission: To engage and empower people to eliminate illegal dumping and littering in Allegheny County.
- Grounded. Mission: Working to improve the social, economic, and environmental health of distressed and transitional communities by building capacity to reclaim vacant and underutilized land
- Landforce. Mission: Nourish a culture of self-empowerment for people aspiring towards meaningful and stable employment, as we protect and improve the environment. Landforce recruits, trains, educates, employs and supports adults who have faced structural barriers to stable, family sustaining, employment based upon race or personal histories.
The partnership is distinct from other greenspace restoration efforts in that the focus will be on quickly, efficiently returning blighted land to the community as greenspace assets. Our focus is not on amenities and design, but transforming land from visual blight to a space that serves the surrounding community. A bonus is that once the space has been transformed, the community will be better able to visualize the uses and amenities that space might support.
Our Current Projects
The partnership will be debuting its first project June 21, 2022 with the Fountain Street Overlook in the Northside, on a wedge of steep-slope land behind Allegheny General Hospital. The 2.2 acres of land is owned by Scenic Pittsburgh and the city of Pittsburgh, and city land is leased by Scenic Pittsburgh. This site has been in development for some time and has been supported by funding from Colcom and Laurel Foundation as well as a joint grant from Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and Allegheny Health Network.
Funded by the Buhl Foundation, our second site is slated to open fall 2022 on an 1,800 sq ft site owned by the Fineview and Perry Hilltop Citizens Council on Lanark Street. This site will act as a convenient connector to the newly reinvigorated Fineview Park from surrounding streets and will provide a clearer connection between Allegheny Dwellings and the Park.
A third project is in development in the Hill District with funding by the Hunt Foundation. With the help of Grounded, we are working with residents to pinpoint vacant lots that could best serve the neighborhood as greenspace assets.
We have pledged that on partnership projects, work not done directly by us or our partners will be contracted to local, minority-owned contractors.