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Food truck festival. Fitness Trail. And a runnel. Announcing the SiX winners!

Picture a festival of food trucks transforming a vacant lot on Broad Street in East Liberty: lively music, the tantalizing aromas of various dishes, and special lighting, tables and chairs, and decorations to set the stage. Thanks to funding from the Sprout Fund, the group behind the food truck festival—which is to say Kevin Sousa—was just awarded $8550 to make their winning proposal on creative placemaking in the Social innovation exchange (SiX) a reality. SiX is an initiative of the Pittsburgh Foundation in partnership with Pop City and other funders to create change for the public good. This funding is a result of the SiX event on placemaking and civic design held this past winter.

The Sprout Fund, also a partner in SiX ,awarded funding to three groups for their proposals after making a call for Requests for Proposals following the SiX event. The other two are the Fineview Citizens Council for their idea in making the steps part of a fitness trail, and Springboard Design for their idea of a runnel or bike channel next to steps.

The food truck festival garnered the highest scores in the second round competition. The objective? Beyond a fun festival, the goal is to make the vacant lot on Broad Street near Station Street Hot Dog, owned by chef Kevin Sousa, a "zipper" or connector between the two neighborhoods of East Liberty and Larimer. The purpose is threefold: to get people together around food, to make that neighborhood connection, and to get food truck vendors together. Sousa has a vision of helping food trucks become more sustainable businesses. And yes, they would love to see this become a regular thing, both in East Liberty and throughout Pittsburgh.

Fitness Trail step by step
In Round One, announced earlier this Spring, the Fineview Citizens Council was awarded $10,000 for their idea on making the many steps--we're talking in excess of 1600--of Fineview into a formalized network of trails, complete with wayfaring and interpretive signage. The purpose is to  provide runners and walkers with a clearly marked course and to better acquaint them with the views and history of Fineview. Another goal is to encourage exercise so the project would create partnerships with other neighborhood organizations, healthcare institutions and local non-profits that do the same.

"The main thing it's going to accomplish is building a connection between other neighborhoods and our neighborhood and the awarenss of public steps in Pittsbugh," says Melissa Gallagher of the Fineview Citizens Council. "There are so many and they are a lost asset."

Fineview is situated on the bluff behind Allegheny General Hospital on the Northside. For this project, the Fineview Citizens Council will hire a local organization to provide an assessment of the stairs for data to create a plan of action for preservation of the stairs.

Springboard Design: $1000
Springboard Design, in partnership with Bike Pittsburgh, was awarded $1,000 to design a bicycle stair channel, otherwise known as a runnel, as well as new LED lighting to illuminate the walking path, on a network of 165 steps. The steps connect Joncaire Street in Panther Hollow, Lower Oakland with the Frick Fine Arts Building, Schenley Bridge, and Upper Oakland.

The idea is to accommodate bicyclists in challenging terrain with steep grades. "It's an opportunity to enhance the bike connectivity of the various neighborhoods and we hope it's a starter project," says Bill Szustak of Springboard Design. "It's a great, low-cost, high-impact way to make a change to help Pittsburghers improve the access of one bikeway to another."

The runnel, he explains, simply improves the way a bicyclist can walk up the steps while using a bike. Without one, you have to physically push the bike up the incline. While these pieces are common in cycling-heavy cities in Europe, Szustak is not aware of any runnels in Pittsburgh. While the funding will provide for the initial design, Szustak says they hope to find a way to get it implemented.

Look for more SiX events coming soon.Stay tuned to Pop City for details for the event in September and another in November.

Editors' note: This story was updated to reflect changes in the group behind the food truck festival event.

SiX is an initiative of the Pittsburgh Foundation in concert with Pop City and the Sprout Fund and with additional support from the Benedum Foundation, the Buhl Foundation and an anonymous foundation.

Tracy Certo is publisher and editor of Pop City.

Photographs of food truck and city steps copyright Brian Cohen
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