Fresh ideas about design
Larimer is a neighborhood in Pittsburgh’s East End. As a plateau framed by two valleys, Negley Run and Two-Mile Run, it is hydrologically interesting. As a once-thriving community that has faced hard times since the 1960s, but is seeing sparks of renewal, it is also politically and socially interesting. The news around this storied neighborhood has held our attention ever since working with the Larimer Consensus Group on a Vision Plan back in 2010.
In September, Alexis Madrigal wrote about Pittsburgh in the Atlantic, capping a road trip that hit the hotspots of Rust Belt start-up culture. Noting the proximity of newly-happening enclaves to blighted neighborhoods, the conclusion of his article raised questions. Can the positive momentum of new businesses and tech firms in Pittsburgh seep into adjacent areas? Or will their focus on internal efficiency keep the positive energy from spreading? His observations struck a chord here at Strada, as his article included a picture Google’s Pittsburgh office (also a Strada project) followed by a picture of one of Larimer’s more desolate intersections.
Madrigal’s questions might be answered fairly soon. Rich Lord wrote in the Post-Gazette in November of the growing pains in Larimer as stakeholders wrangle to fill in the neighborhood’s blanks. A developer, tapped by the URA, is working on a plan for building new low-income housing on as many as 53 parcels, including one that is currently an active neighborhood garden. The firm’s plans, however, do not fully align with the vision that has been established by years of community planning and activism. A vocal group of residents is holding out for a more environmentally-friendly, mixed-income community, even as the lack of consensus threatens funding deadlines.
The residents seem to have pillars to stand on in this discussion. Local to Larimer, the nearby East Liberty commercial district boasts new stores, and Bakery Square’s commercial district will soon be leapfrogging across Penn Avenue. Environmental organizations are also strong in the area, with Grow Pittsburgh and GTECH Strategies both headquartered in Larimer. Couple these factors with Pittsburgh’s once-again growing population, and their vision has potential whether or not this particular development plan moves forward.
Finally, locating a more abstract view of the neighborhood, Diana Nelson Jones’ Walkabout blog describes an artwork now on view at the Mattress Factory that refers the people and the hydrology of Larimer. Created by New York artist Betsy Damon, the installation involves a pool of water, sandbags, and a short video, among other objects. Damon has been collaborating with Larimer residents through the Larimer Green Team, the Kingsley Association and the Larimer Consensus Group. From a museum a few miles across the city, her work points out the importance of looking at the neighborhood as a part of larger systems.
Here’s hoping that the time and perspiration spent re-envisioning Larimer as a diverse, green community will not simply wash away down Negley Run.
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