Upper Garfield. Landsat photo via Google Earth.

The Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation (BGC), along with the city government, wants to grow Fort Pitt Park on Hillcrest Street into a multifaceted community resource. And they’re giving the public a voice in the process.

Starting on Aug. 8, residents will have a chance to help steer the ambitious green development project.

Located on the hills above Penn Avenue, Fort Pitt Park includes a 3.8-acre playground along with several adjacent vacant lots that were, until recently, owned by the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh. The playground was built to serve Fort Pitt Elementary School, which closed in 1986.

Speaking to NEXTpittsburgh, Josh Inklovich, a coordinator with the BGC, says the project will serve as the epicenter of the Garfield Green Zone, a broader neighborhood development plan based around turning several of the (unfortunately numerous) vacant lots around the Garfield slopes into public parks and hiking trails.

Inklovich explains that the vision for the Green Zone, which has been in development since 2016, is to create new community resources and protect affordability by making sure the community’s many vacant properties don’t all get snapped up by private development.

“Our goal,” he says, “is to not have the property values in our community become the same as maybe Lawrenceville or East Liberty.”

Garfield Green Zone. Courtesy of evolveEA.

After gathering feedback at the first community meeting on Aug. 8 at the BGC Community Activity Center at 113 N. Pacific Avenue, Inklovich and his team will draft a request for proposals to find a consultant to guide the planning process.

The Department of City Planning will provide funding for the park’s master plan, which is budgeted between $25,000 and $30,000.

While Inklovich emphasized that specific amenities would be decided by the community, he says BGC is already in discussions with several local partners on a number of  innovative initiatives, including a partnership with the court system to allow residents to work off fines by maintaining the park and a mobile sculpture and welding workshop led by local artist Tim Kaulen.

“There is a large space in the upper part of Garfield that could accommodate passive recreation,” says Rick Swartz, executive director of the BGC.

Developing that space, “would allow people to get out and walk the neighborhood more so than they do today, get kids connected back to nature and provide opportunities for gardens and orchards to overlook the neighborhood,” Swartz says, “and really spark something very different for Garfield than it has ever had.”

Bill O'Toole

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.