August 1, 2022 – Riverlife has been awarded a national grant from The Funders Network Partners for Places initiative to build community leadership as significant near-term waterfront planning efforts get underway in the city’s West End. Riverlife, the City of Pittsburgh, H.O.P.E. for Tomorrow, and the West End Community Group will engage young leaders and community members in the West End to lead a holistic, coordinated planning process that will bring people together through activities such as on-the-water tours, community meetings and workshops.
“We are excited to join the other selected cities in this round of funding to bring equitable and sustainable development to Pittsburgh,” says Matthew Galluzzo, President and CEO for Riverlife, “Exciting things are coming to the West End, and with this support from The Funders Network, changes will be rooted in deep community engagement that centers youth-leaders in building and creating access to a network of riverfront parks, trails, and public spaces that are vital to the neighborhood, the city, and the region.”
Creating meaningful and accessible neighborhood connections to the rivers is central to Riverlife’s recently-released “Completing the Loop” vision plan for Pittsburgh’s 15-mile, 1,055-acre riverfront system of trails, parks and public open space. While 85% of the “Loop” is complete, many neighborhoods still lack accessible connections to the rivers. The West End Bridge connection is the largest remaining gap in Pittsburgh’s downtown network and a major missing link in a number of regional and national trail systems. PennDOT and ALCOSAN have significant infrastructure investments planned for the Bridge and surrounding areas in the coming years.
This project builds on existing relationship building efforts between these partners through a mini-grant The Funders Network awarded last fall. The mini-grant supported an ongoing equity analysis, education sessions with West End youth, and a workshop to draft a partnership agreement. This next phase will include youth-led projects such as walking design workshops, boat and kayak tours, tactical interventions in vacant spaces, and other community events, all with the goal of bringing together youth leaders and other stakeholders to lead a holistic planning process and build a thriving, resilient future for the West End.
“The Partner for Places initiative has been a benefit to the youth in our organization in that it has provided a space for them to observe and envision what their community can become,” says Keysha Gomez, Executive Director for H.O.P.E. for Tomorrow, “One of the highlights of the past year has been the community walk-through. Most youth commented that they hadn’t realized all of the hidden gems and spaces for opportunity in the community. They appreciated the respect shown by the partners during the follow up sessions.”
Pittsburgh joins seven other cities who are building equitable and sustainable communities across the United States. Other cities include Baltimore County, MD; Cook County, IL; Duluth, MN; Hackensack, NJ; Kua’I County, HI; Multnomah County, OR; and San Diego, CA. “The City of Pittsburgh is grateful to be a leading partner in such a worthwhile effort impacting the City’s western neighborhoods,” said Council President Theresa Kail Smith.
The project is supported locally by The Heinz Endowments. “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the individual, social, and economic value of outdoor public space and their benefits to quality of life,” says Andrew McElwaine, Vice President, Sustainability for The Heinz Endowments, “However, for us, it has also highlighted the inequities that exist in access to these spaces. The region’s riverfronts have provided respite throughout the crisis. Enhancing riverfront open spaces and amenities for all is a critical part of a resilient recovery and a healthy community moving forward.”
Since 1999, Riverlife has worked to create, activate, and celebrate Pittsburgh’s riverfronts. A nonprofit leader in building a community vision for Pittsburgh’s riverfronts, Riverlife has overseen a $132 million investment in the city’s waterfront transformation, catalyzing $4.2 billion in related economic development, arts and culture, and ecological sustainability on or adjacent to the city’s riverbanks. We center our work on the belief that the riverfronts belong to everyone, and world-class riverfront experiences can be created for all using community-driven, equitable development and high-quality, regenerative design. For more information, visit riverlifepgh.org.
About Partners for Places
A joint project of The Funders Network and the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, Partners for Places is a successful matching grant program that improves U.S. and Canadian communities by building partnerships between local government sustainability leaders, place-based funders and frontline community groups. National funders invest in local projects developed through these partnerships to advance efforts to create communities that are sustainable, prosperous and just. Through these investments, Partners for Places fosters long-term relationships that make our communities more sustainable, prosperous, and equitable. For more information on Partners for Places, visit fundersnetwork.org/partners-for-places/
About The Funders Network
The Funders Network (TFN) is a mission-driven network of grantmakers across North America that seeks to create impact at the intersection of environment, economy and equity. TFN works to inspire, strengthen and expand funding and philanthropic leadership that yields sustainable, prosperous and just regions and communities.
About H.O.P.E. for Tomorrow, Inc. (HOPE)
H.O.P.E for Tomorrow‘s mission is to develop youth, in partnership with their families, to succeed in the global community by addressing academic, socio economic and relational risk factors. Since its founding, HOPE has been operated by West End community members. Beyond a strong commitment to community ownership, youth involved in HOPE are heavily involved in program development and expansion.
About the West End Community Group (WECG)
West End Community Group is open to people who currently live and work in the West End Village, where neighbors can connect with neighbors and build a community identity.
About The Heinz Endowments
The Heinz Endowments seeks to help our region thrive as a whole and just community and, through that work, to model solutions to major national and global challenges. The Endowments are devoted to advancing their vision of southwestern Pennsylvania as a vibrant center of creativity, learning, and social, economic, and environmental sustainability. Their work is supported by reliable data based on equitable, results-focused goals to cultivate a world where all are treated with fairness and respect and have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential.