Community development master plans are sometimes dismissed as dust-collectors, documents that just sit on shelves. But in the first year of its existence Upper Lawrenceville’s strategic development plan has earned accolades and enabled growth in the neighborhood.

With funding from the Design Center, the Lawrenceville Corporation and its sister organization, Lawrenceville United, hired sustainable architecture and design firm evolveEA to facilitate the creation of the neighborhood’s Targeted Development Strategy. Last week, the firm’s work was recognized with Honors Awards in Regional and Urban Design from the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) as well as AIA Pittsburgh.

The firm helped the community to identify and communicate its major challenges as well as its objectives for the future, says evolveEA’s strategic principal Christine Mondor

“Design doesn’t have to be reserved for big projects and big places. There’s a great design community here and great community, period. Bringing those two together was the satisfaction of this project.”

In the year since completing the strategic planning process, the community has maintained its momentum. Working groups for greening, housing and the riverfront have tackled numerous near-term goals, such as fostering a fresh food initiative and rethinking Duncan Park. Mondor attributes the growth to having a clear, shared vision.

“These plans give something to those who have a vision and the passion to make it happen,” Mondor says. “They can use it to pull others in.”

Matthew Galluzo, executive director of the Lawrenceville Corporation, says the Upper Lawrenceville community is the most civically engaged set of stakeholders he’s ever worked with.

“We had [more than] 200 stakeholders coming out in the middle of winter to be a part of this planning process,” he says. “It’s people pulling major initiatives by the nose to completion.”

The plan created a forum for residents to discuss the spirit of their community, one that’s reflected in the assertion, “We make things.” It’s a mindset that will determine how the neighborhood will grow, says Lauren Byrne, Lawrenceville United’s executive director.

“Residents can say, ‘we don’t want development at any cost. We want to be selective and make sure development aligns with the [plan] we laid out.’”

Margaret J. Krauss is a writer, radio producer, and researcher. If not biking Pittsburgh's streets or swimming its rivers, she is likely geeking out about a really good story.