Each August for the past three years, GTECH Strategies has hosted a fundraiser—Two Wheels Lots of Green—that is not your typical high-priced schmooze fest. Their take on fundraiser begins with a guided bike tour through a community that is seeing a spate of resident-driven development—and ends with a party at a former vacant lot, now the Wigle Whiskey Barrelhouse and Whiskey Garden.

In its previous years, Two Wheels Lots of Green has taken riders through the communities of Larimer, Homewood, East Liberty, Millvale and Sharpsburg.

This year, the event is August 22 and focused on the Northside, which has seen “a lot of good resident-driven activity,” says Sara Innamorato, marketing and communications manager of GTECH. The 18 neighborhoods that make up the Northside have nearly 5,405 vacant lots—and for the past three years, GTECH has been working with residents to turn these blighted spots into gardens, parks and play spaces.

“We want to connect people with the grassroots efforts that are happening on vacant land,” says Innamorato. Also, they will highlight “the cool things that the Northside has to offer that aren’t so popularized.”

And what better way connect with a community and see the sites than on a bike?

Two bike tours are offered: a seven-mile, family-friendly ride and a 14-mile ride with “a nice hill climb or two.”

The tours begin and end at Wigle Whiskey’s new Spring Garden location, which houses 800 whiskey barrels. Wigle “took over a vacant lot,” says Innamorato, “and opened it up to the people by hosting programs and a lot of free, public events.”

Photo courtesy GTECH.

Riders will visit a green space with a pop-up biergarten, check out the permaculture community garden at the Children’s Museum and stop for food breaks with goodies prepared by neighborhood restaurants.

Since this fundraiser is from GTECH, the bike tour will highlight some of their recent projects on the Northside, such as:

ReClaim Northside, a program that mentored 14 Northside residents to transform vacant lots into public green spaces. These “ambassadors” attended classes on volunteer coordination, green infrastructure and site access. The bike tour will visit 10 green spaces.

Green Playces. This past spring, GTECH started a program that designs and build play spaces in five city neighborhoods. One of the first Green Playces to be built is at the Propel School on the Northside. When the students were asked what they wanted to see in this lot, they requested a stage, a place to do math outside and an outdoor classroom area with a chalkboard.

Asset Inventory Mapping sent 11 grad students to “walk the streets of the Northside and map different positive things the neighborhood has to offer, such as pathways, stairs, gardens, vistas and views—things not as obvious as a storefront,” says Innamorato. The goal? Create a trail system of Northside highlights—some of which the bike tour will visit.

The after-event—from 6 to 9 p.m. at Wigle Whiskey’s Barrelhouse—will be a party for the riders with food trucks, such as Berlin Street Food, 2nd Breakfast and Millie’s Ice Cream. The local indie-rock band White Like Fire will play—and of course, whiskey will be served.

The bike rides run from 3 to 6 p.m. Cost for the event is $15. Register here.

In case you are already inspired to transform a vacant lot—Allegheny County’s got 45,000 of them—in April, GTECH launched lotstolove.org, a resource for those who “have an interest in small, resident-driven greening projects on vacant lots.” Read about it here.

Lauri Gravina

Woods wanderer who was an an editor at New England’s regional magazine, the research director of a Colorado newspaper and a farm hand in Vermont before returning to Pittsburgh to write about and explore...