Across Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, vacant land sits throughout neighborhoods. Grounded Pittsburgh is helping residents reimagine what that land could be. Its mission is to improve the social, economic, and environmental health of distressed and transitional communities by building capacity to reclaim vacant and underutilized land.
In addition to reclaiming vacant areas, Grounded Pittsburgh is also a champion for sustained community engagement with the updated space.
“We think it’s important to have the sustaining support because I think oftentimes groups will come into a place, create something really cool, and don’t think about the maintenance of that cool thing,” said Director of Operations Shequaya Bailey. “It takes time, money, and investment to have nice beautiful neighborhoods. We can’t expect making it pretty one day, and then walking away would be the fix.”
Bailey says the key to long-term stewardship of reclaimed land is asking what people in the community want to see rather than dictating an organization’s preferences.
“I like the approach Grounded has of engaging community stakeholders first before even thinking about trying to do something in the community. Everything we do is a collaboration.”
Bailey credited the passionate and dedicated staff at Grounded for honoring the organization’s collaborative values by respecting the opinions of residents. Grounded recognizes neighborhoods were established long before they got there and do their best to empower people who care about the community.
“One thing I like about Grounded is the Community Care Program. It really supports the people who are in the community doing the work,” said Bailey. “A lot of times people who end up being Community Care Stewards look like my grandma, my auntie…not everyone is a woman, but I think it’s great that this program is able to support them in some small way for the work they have been doing for years, even before we came along.”
Over the years, Bailey has noticed how turning vacant land into a community project has strengthened bonds between residents. She hopes those bonds are sustained in years to come.
“I definitely feel like it creates more interaction among the community. We noticed doing the cleanups helped, but what it’s really about is once the space is cleaned up, having continuous engagement.”
6401 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15206