By transforming a small plot of vacant land into a lush, urban food forest, the Borland Green Ecovillage is hoping to create an intentional community in East Liberty that aims to strengthen ties between neighbors and the community at large.
A row of seven houses at the corner of Black and North Beatty Streets are undergoing substantial renovations as part of the co-housing project, using sustainable and low-cost building practices where possible.
Bob Metz, a member of the ecovillage, says the goal is to recapture the spirit of neighborhoods from the early 20th century and form a strongly knit community.
"Looking out for one another, helping one another," Metz says. "For a lot of us it's a question of downsizing--to be able to share some of our assets."
The Borland group has been working closely with East Liberty Development, Inc.
for the past several years in their quest for the right co-housing context. When ELDI purchased this row of houses on Black Street through a foreclosure sale, Borland felt it was exactly what they had been looking for.
Kendall Pelling, ELDI project manager, says co-housing is really just about living with neighbors that you actually want to spend time with.
"In other words, to know your neighbors, have meals with them once in a while, do gardening with them, and do the things that we're all interested in," Pelling says.
In the planned green space, which community members will share, they hope to create a fruit and nut orchard, plant vegetable gardens, and build a bio-shelter for winter gardening, among a list of other projects. Metz says the ecovillage will use permaculture practices to create sustainable food systems.
Plans for the garden have been funded by a $5,000 grant from the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh
, and an additional $5,000 grant from the Sprout Fund
will support purchasing plants and infrastructure for the green space.
According to Pelling, there was only one tenant in the Black Street row houses when ELDI purchased them. That tenant was able to stay in her home even through renovations.
And a second tenant, who had left her home when it was foreclosed upon, approached ELDI when she heard they'd been purchased, and would be under better management. Pelling says he is working with both tenants through ELDI's affordable home ownership program.
"They've lived in the neighborhood probably 20 years each," Pelling said. "They like the location, they like the houses. I'm looking forward to working with them to become homeowners there."
Metz says members of the ecovillage are looking forward to the challenges ahead.
"It's a lot of plans and a lot of work, but we're really excited about it," Metz says. "We're really looking forward to every morning, [and just about] every day we're over there moving towards making it more and more of a reality."
Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Kendall Pelling, ELDI; Bob Metz