A Village in the Woods

August 10, 2010 by Parks Conservancy Staff

For the past several years, the Parks Conservancy has been working with the Find the Rivers! consortium and the Hill District community to develop a "greenprint" for the Hill. This new way of seeing the Hill District was widely celebrated with the release of the completed Greenprint plan in mid-June. The Greenprint’s goal is to establish the Hill as a healthy place where ecology and development can work hand-in-hand, creating “the Village in the Woods.”

Village in the WoodsThe plan’s June 15 rollout was a daylong demonstration of key ideas. The project team, residents, and interns moved through the Hill, leaving traces behind to stimulate people’s awareness. They tied yellow cloths to trees to mark the future Coal Seam Trail, cleared overgrowth from the Chauncey Street Steps, and stenciled historic business names along Centre Avenue. The day closed with a sidewalk gallery of Greenprint drawings and plans.

What is the Greenprint?
The Greenprint project re-connects both the Hill District to its specific landscape and community members to the greater Pittsburgh area. It also strengthens social ties through linkages to adjacent neighborhoods. Fulfilling the plan is expected to attract outside visitors, encourage outdoor activity, provide new venues for public visual and performing arts, increase property value, and attract economic development.

The Greenprint has three core goals:

  • Establish a healthy place with urban development that works in concert with the natural ecology;
  • Identify projects and opportunities for leadership and innovation in a local economy; and
  • Reframe the identity of the Hill District as A Village in the Woods – an example of urban beauty.
Coal Seam TrailThe term “greenprint” adapts “blueprint” to denote the plan’s focus – land use and the identification of a network of public green spaces, overlooks, parks, streets, and trails that connect to key locations in the overall neighborhood and to sites in surrounding neighborhoods. It has been produced by analyzing green assets and engaging residents in planning ecologically sound development that will promote economic and public health benefits.

As an ecological framework to guide future development, the Greenprint defines three distinct regions:

  • The Woods, the Hill’s outer edge, wraps the community with dense vegetation.
  • The Village is a collection of diverse neighborhoods at the geographic center of the Hill.
  • Conveyance is the system that moves people, water, and wildlife through the Hill, highlighting historic stream paths.

A set of project initiatives have been designed to:

  • Expand the web of trees and green space that encircles the Hill District and extend it into the Village core;
  • Construct and improve strategically located steps and nearby pathways that are vital links for walking routes in the Hill; and
  • Recognize and enliven five blocks of Centre Avenue as the Hill’s core public space, to attract and support community use.

The Greenprint builds upon the Hill’s existing landscape resources to provide a framework for the Hill to retain its identity and capitalize on its geography. Historically, the community has been plagued by disinvestment and abandonment. That situation raises the question: “If the value of middle-to upper-class communities is directly related to their landscape context, why can’t urban neighborhoods take advantage of their unique landscapes?” That question is particularly relevant now that densities are reduced and industries have been removed from these natural settings.

Currently there is great interest in the Hill because of its proximity to downtown, Oakland, and the University. City government owns large parcels of land. Gentrification is real threat. How can urban communities, like the Hill, retain their identity and capitalize on their geography? The Greenprint builds upon the Hill’s existing landscape resources to provide a framework for wrestling with these huge challenges.

Read the Greenprint!
The Greenprint conceptual plan is now online. You can download a PDF here. (Please save to your desktop--it's a large file!)

Cliffside Park
Cliffside Park One of the first priorities in the Hill District Greenprint is the renovation of Cliffside Park, a playground on Cliff Street. Planning for the project has already begun, with a goal of re-establishing the playground as a gathering place with a stunning view of the Allegheny River. The project will add vegetation to the surrounding streets to reinforce the connection to the Woods, and will improve recreational and programmed space within the park.

You can help get this project off the ground! The Parks Conservancy has been awarded $500,000 in state funding through the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP). To access these funds, we must raise an additional $500,000. So when you donate to Cliffside Park, your gift will be matched 100%. Visit www.pittsburghparks.org/donate and choose Cliffside Park as your designation to take advantage of this great opportunity to double your gift.

August Wilson Park, Kids and Families