Background Information

Situated at the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers, Pittsburgh is the second-largest city in Pennsylvania, after Philadelphia, with a population of 303,625 (2016). Pittsburgh is known as “The Steel City” for its role as the industrial steel hub for the United States. At the height of its steel production, Pittsburgh produced about half of the nation’s steel. The steel industry thrived in Pittsburgh until the 1970s when an increase in foreign competition led to the collapse of the steel industry in the city, spurring steel mill closures and massive layoffs.

Pittsburgh is now reinventing itself as a resilient city, focusing on the finance, technology, education, and healthcare industries. Its landscape is defined by waterways, hills, and a network of bridges, which lends itself to a mix of green and blue space that helps improve air quality, manage stormwater, and lower exposure to urban heat island effects.

Pittsburgh faces significant resilience challenges, such as economic, racial, and social inequities, which have led to unequal access to employment, transportation, and housing. Other stresses are aging infrastructure and poor air and water quality. These challenges disproportionately affect some of the city’s most vulnerable populations. Pittsburgh is advancing efforts to increase citywide resilience and to anticipate and adapt to the effects of climate change. As a 100 Resilient Cities city, Pittsburgh released a resilience strategy in 2017 that details the city’s resilience efforts.

Team Summary

The Pittsburgh team represents an urban watershed systems strategy working to build community resilience in the city’s Larimer and Homewood neighborhoods, as well as generally in the areas within the greater Negley Run drainage area. Team members represent a number of community initiatives, including the Larimer Consensus Group, Operation Better Block, the Department of City Planning, Growth Through Energy and Community Health, and the Homewood Sustainability Action Team. This team has evolved from the project team working on the Living Waters of Larimer project, a community-informed rainwater vision for the Larimer neighborhood at the fork of Negley Run Watershed. The Larimer Consensus Group joined the Institute for Sustainable Communities’ Partnership for Resilient Communities in 2017.

Promising Practices

  • The Living Waters of Larimer project created a community-informed vision plan for a Little Negley Run rainwater conveyance as part of a larger community vision to manage rainwater throughout the watershed system.
  • Task force groups have been successful in engaging the community in green infrastructure decisionmaking processes. The Homewood community’s Water Team, as part of the Negley Run Watershed Task Force, is striving to create a community-wide plan that links the green infrastructure projects; provides local opportunities for jobs, wages, and investment; and can be adopted within the community’s current Comprehensive Plan Update.
  • Larimer Consensus Group hosted a series of artist-led community workshops in Larimer. These workshops resulted in a vision for community water flow and green infrastructure amenities. This process was funded with a grant from the Heinz Endowments and ArtPlace America, and will support a series of community wellness events across the Negley Run watershed.

Key Challenges

  • Scaling up – To date, much of the funding for green infrastructure projects in the city have been for small, one-off projects. There has been little investment in cross-cutting projects at a larger scale, making it difficult to coordinate the fragmented community-level and nonprofit green infrastructure and stormwater management efforts in the city.
  • Coordination and communication – Leaders of neighborhood-level initiatives have had difficulty communicating and coordinating with the City of Pittsburgh and other stakeholders in the greater Negley Run watershed.

For citations, see here.