The Pittsburgh Blight Working Group hosted another successful Blight Bootcamp! Blight Bootcamp is a conference designed to engage and empower City of Pittsburgh residents to fight against blight in their communities. Last year’s inaugural event had overwhelmingly positive feedback. This year’s conference took place over two days, and intentionally incorporated the host neighborhood, Hazelwood, into the event though sessions, community service, and vendor selection. According to James Snow, Project Manager at GTECH Strategies and one of the lead organizers of the event, the goal of Blight Bootcamp is to “make sure residents have the opportunity to learn how they can lead block-by-block efforts in their own neighborhoods in making positive change happen.”
On the first day of the conference, volunteers engaged with the community to clean up a property in Hazelwood. The property is being renovated through a partnership between the Hazelwood Initiative and Rebuilding Together’s Rehab to Resale Program. During her keynote address, Hazelwood Initiative’s Executive Director Sonya Tilghman commented that this was the second group of volunteers to clean up the house, and though progress had been made there was still much to do.
Attendees ranged from city officials to community residents interested in accessing tools to fight blight in their own neighborhoods. During sessions, attendees had the opportunity to hear from speakers with experience in revitalization and reclamation at all levels. PCRG staff represented at the event included Sarah Slater, who spoke on the CARL Program and PCRG’s conservatorship pilot cases, and Shawna Russ, who spoke about the community revitalization efforts taking place in Beltzhoover through the Reimagining Communities Initiative.
Attendees loved the passion and insight displayed by the speakers at the sessions and keynotes they attended. One commented about keynote speaker Lisa Freeman from Manchester Growing Together Community Farm, “She is an incredible visionary who has been able to put that vision into practice.” Attendees also had high praise for the diversity of perspectives and the intentional inclusion of community residents on many of the panels.
Blight Bootcamp received news coverage from 90.5 WESA and South Pittsburgh Reporter, both of which highlighted the partnership between government groups, nonprofits, and foundations that made Blight Bootcamp possible. For more on the Blight Working Group, visit the Blight Bootcamp website. The Pittsburgh Blight Working Group is a partnership between Neighborhood Allies, Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group, the Design Center, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the Office of the Mayor, and GTECH Strategies.