The Larimer/East Liberty neighborhood exemplifies the transition that many urban neighborhoods in older industrial cities underwent in the second half of the twentieth century. Pittsburgh experienced a transformation from industrial to post-industrial city, which brought a dramatic decline in population and major shift in employment opportunities. In Larimer/East Liberty, which was traditionally inhabited by steel workers and masons, the problems of a shifting economy were exacerbated by urban renewal efforts that concentrated poverty and isolated residents into a large public housing site and several subsidized housing developments.
For over fifteen years, residents of the community joined with the City of Pittsburgh, the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (HACP), the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), professional experts and community stakeholders to develop a long term plan for the transformation of the Larimer/East Liberty community into a “21st Century Green Neighborhood that Works.”
The effort resulted in the “Larimer/East Liberty Vision to Action Plan.” The collaborative Vision to Action Plan built on the tremendous private investment taking place along the edges of the neighborhood in East Liberty while focusing on enhancing the positive aspects of the Larimer community. With the Vision to Action plan serving as a blueprint, the City, the URA and HACP, together with McCormack Baron Salazar, the non-profit Urban Strategies, Inc., and the public school district, submitted a FY 2013 Choice Neighborhoods Initiative Implementation grant application for Larimer/East Liberty. The CNI grant was awarded in June 2014.
Cornerstone Village, the Housing Component of the Larimer/East Liberty Choice Neighborhood is helping to create a new, broader paradigm for how low-income and mixed-income housing development can change the trajectory of an entire neighborhood. What was once an isolated, disinvested, impoverished community is becoming a stable, sustainable, desirable community of Choice for diverse families from all income levels. Cornerstone has helped to knit back the community, connecting it to larger areas of opportunity around the disinvested core. It also presents a new model for how to build mixed-income communities at a financeable per-unit cost through high-level design values, significant sustainable technologies (the first phase achieved Enterprise Green Communities, Energy Star and LEED for Homes Platinum certifications), and using myriad public/private financial sources. The development also includes green storm water design, tot lots and outdoor community gathering spaces, a community room, a health and fitness center, a computer lab and a management office. Abundant retail and social services, religious institutions, educational facilities, amenities and public transportation are available within walking distance of the site.
The Choice Neighborhood effort also integrates impactful social services for low-income residents. The People Partner, Urban Strategies, Inc., developed a supportive service program to address employment and training for adults, early childhood education, recreation, family support, and community building. Urban Strategies works in partnership with a number of service providers located in the neighborhood to provide these quality programs to assist the residents. The PHFA Indenture of Restrictive Covenants requires that supportive services be provided during the 30 year term of the Indenture.
The Neighborhood Plan centers on three core goals to improve the trajectory of the broader community: green space and green stormwater infrastructure, homeownership, and blight removal.
Today, the Larimer/East Liberty neighborhood is poised on the edge of change. What was once an isolated, disinvested, impoverished community is becoming a stable, sustainable, desirable community of Choice for diverse families from all income levels.