Two Decades of Community-Driven Transformation

The East Liberty of the 80s and 90s looks vastly different from the East Liberty of today. While home to many good people and businesses, the neighborhood was suffering from vacant buildings, blight, crime, and drugs, in the commercial core and residential enclaves. East Liberty today is a vibrant, diverse, and upwardly mobile model of a revitalized neighborhood for everyone. How did we do it?

This 20-year retrospective impact report will walk you through the amazing journey of East Liberty and its people over the past two decades. Building off the neighborhood’s 1999 and 2010 community plans, it is the final piece of a trilogy—offering an in-depth look at how the vision for the neighborhood, defined by East Liberty’s long-time residents, came to life.

Inside, you’ll discover data and insights, practical information on how successes were achieved, as well as reflections on the many lessons learned along the way.

We hope this report will serve as an example and guide for other communities who also want to realize their visions of community justice.

Happy reading!

The Impact Report

East Liberty’s Community Plans

1999 Community Plan

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2010 Community Plan

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Our Impact on the Community

Nearly 40 years after ELDI’s founding and more than 20 years after A Vision for East Liberty was published, we’re proud to say that with the help of countless partners, we’ve brought East Liberty’s community plans close to full realization.

We have redeveloped and protected more than a third of all the rental housing in the neighborhood as long-term or permanent affordable housing. Low-income homeowners have had their generational wealth restored as we stabilized the housing market and added homeownership opportunities, and the community vision of a vibrant regional commercial district has been achieved.

Since 2002,
ELDI has land banked and put back into active service

738 PROPERTIES.

ELDI currently has 63 properties in process, and more on the way.

The Community’s Vision for East Liberty in 2010

At the end of the 2010 East Liberty Community Plan planning process, participants were asked to imagine what people might write in 2020 about the changes that had taken place in East Liberty over the past two decades. Much of what they said turned out to be prophetically accurate.

(Quotes from 2010 East Liberty Community Plan, pages 48-49)

“In the 1990s, our neighborhood was synonymous with blight and vacancy. Today, as a major destination for Pittsburghers and tourists alike, East Liberty is enjoying a neighborhood vibrancy that has been dormant for over two generations.”

“East Liberty is lauded as the city’s most diverse neighborhood, with nationally recognized supportive housing on the same blocks as $400,000 homes.”

“By the late 1990s, our limited parks were some of the least safe play spaces in the neighborhood, ringed in cyclone fences and barbed wire, surrounded by high-speed traffic, and dominated by pavement. Bike lanes and trail systems now connect all the green space and connect to the larger regional parks.”

Moving Beyond East Liberty

ELDI Spin-Offs

With East Liberty’s community plans almost complete, ELDI has turned its gaze beyond East Liberty. Over the years, we have helped fund two spin-off missions that are now working tirelessly to create vibrant, thriving, and diverse communities throughout Pittsburgh and beyond.

Catapult Greater Pittsburgh

Catapult Greater Pittsburgh is an organization founded by ELDI at the beginning of 2021. Among other things, Catapult provides impactful homeownership training, helping ELDI tenants and community members—particularly low-income and minority individuals—prepare for every aspect of homeownership, from initial budgeting for a down payment to the final home inspection. With their guidance, many long-time renters in East Liberty have achieved a dream of homeownership which they never thought possible.

In addition, together with Catapult, we are creating more minority business opportunities in East Liberty through Catapult’s 12-month Startup to Storefront business incubation program. This program provides tailored business training to minority entrepreneurs and business owners. In addition, entrepreneurs can test their business ideas right in the heart of East Liberty’s business district at the Gallery on Penn, a retail store provided to Catapult at a nominal cost.

Rising Tide Partners

ELDI supported Kendall Pelling, our former director of land recycling, to launch Rising Tide Partners in 2020. This regional land recycling nonprofit employs a unique model of community development, helping other neighborhoods across Pittsburgh take advantage of land recycling tools to realize their community plans while preventing displacement.

When invited by a community, Rising Tide works to create the inventory of properties that make it possible for other non-profit developers to bring new or renovated affordable homes online, along with other projects that achieve a community’s goal.

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