With the sale of 214 South Saint Clair Street, otherwise known as Enright Community Garden, to Allegheny Land Trust (ALT) on October 29, East Liberty Development, Inc. (ELDI) is pleased to help safeguard another green space in Pittsburgh’s East End.
For more than ten years, a committed group of community members and teachers from Kentucky Avenue School (KAS) in Shadyside have worked tirelessly to maintain the garden, seeking support from Grow Pittsburgh, a non-profit which serves as a resource and guide for community gardens in the Greater Pittsburgh Region, and ELDI along the way. That hard work has paid off.
“We believe that it is time for us to pass this parcel on to someone with the same vision and more expertise than us,” said Shivam Mathur, project and real estate development manager for ELDI. “Therefore, Allegheny Land Trust, a nonprofit which helps protect green space in and around the Pittsburgh region, will purchase the lot from us and collaborate with the gardeners and Grow Pittsburgh to keep this community asset in great shape for years to come.”
Enright Community Garden now falls under ALT and Grow Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Agricultural Land Initiative, which aims to protect existing community gardens and urban farms throughout the Pittsburgh region. ALT will own the land and Grow Pittsburgh will support the garden with mentorship and resources as it always has.
The sale is the culmination of a long and not-always-rosy story for the site. Before 214 South Saint Clair was a garden, it was an abandoned lot which neighbors hoped to improve.
“When I moved to East Liberty in 2002, the lot was vacant and overgrown. There was a high volume of drug trafficking happening, and it really contributed to the feeling that the end of the street, right up next to Enright Park, was unsafe and neglected,” explained Sallyann Kluz, a former ELDI board member and East Liberty resident who led the process of converting the land into a community garden.
In the early 2000s, Kluz proposed the idea of the City taking ownership of the lot and eventually transferring the title to ELDI. At the same time, Kim Wynnyckyj—store manager at the Whole Foods in East Liberty who had previously worked with ELDI and other community members—approached ELDI about the idea of a community garden as an outreach program of the store.
Wynnyckyj eventually brought Whole Foods, a group of neighbors, and the nearby KAS together in 2008 to make it happen. Whole Foods provided the resources, including staff, supplies, and funding to get it off the ground. Meanwhile, KAS began offering lessons for their students in the garden in the fall and spring, using produce from the garden in their “Living Lunch” program.
Ever since, Enright Community Garden has served as a gathering place for neighbors as well as students, parents, and teachers, with around 20 people volunteering and maintaining beds at the garden each year. In the spring and summer, those beds are filled with tomatoes, zucchini, lettuce, raspberries and an array of other fruits and vegetables. This, in addition to its location in the heart of East Liberty, made it particularly attractive to ALT.
“The garden’s history and continuous presence in the neighborhood underscores its value to the community,” said ALT senior director of community conservation & resiliency Alyson Fearon. “In addition, the garden’s adjacency to the rapid redevelopment happening on the former Penn Plaza site in East Liberty raises its priority level in TRALI’s criteria, as the program seeks to protect vibrant-but-threatened gardens.”
Now that the future of the garden is secure, volunteers can dedicate their energy to long-term improvements. Scott Kowalski has served as a volunteer garden manager for Enright Community Garden since 2017, working closely with ELDI to manage the space, assign plots to neighbors, and guide the garden’s future direction. He says that next spring he hopes to turn the northern corner of the space into a perennial fruit garden with pear trees, blueberry bushes, and a strawberry patch.
“Now that the space is protected, we aren’t just going year by year, waiting to see if development pressure is going to trigger a sale of the property,” Kluz said. “I love how land and place can reflect storytelling and collective memories, and seeing the garden become a part of the long-term fabric of East Liberty is important.”