Here at ELDI, we are fortunate to work with a talented and diverse bunch of people who help us realize our mission of fostering a vibrant, mixed-income community.

In a new feature, we will say hello to some of our beloved ELDI staff members who have flown the coop and see what they’re up to now.

First up is Carolyn Ristau who served as ELDI’s first land recycling coordinator from 2013 to 2014. Dive in below to learn about her experience working at ELDI and the new business she recently launched.

What was your role at ELDI?

I was the first land recycling coordinator.  My role was to help Kendall Pelling (director of land recycling) with the acquisition, maintenance, renovation, and sale of vacant properties.  Some of my contributions were standardizing the filing system and developing a database to track properties through their life-cycle, including ensuring that they had the proper insurance and utilities.

Now you are a freelance editor and zoning analyst specialized in copyediting for RFPs, legislation, and other technical documents. This is quite a specific specialization. Why did you decide to start your own business and who are you aiming to help?

My business, Details Reviewed LLC, provides two main branches of service: editing and zoning analysis.  The editing services include proofreading and copyediting with a focus on government ordinances such as zoning codes, non-profit applications and reports, and applications for zoning review. The zoning analysis services include project feasibility studies, pre-application assistance, and post-application assistance for projects seeking zoning approval.

My goal in starting my own business is to help architects, developers, and governments work together better to build thriving and welcoming cities by sharing my key strengths of “wordsmithing”, understanding zoning regulations, creative problem solving, and customer service.  My experience working as a developer with ELDI and the URA and as a regulator with Pittsburgh’s Zoning Office showed me that one of the challenges in the development review process is the different languages spoken by the development team, the zoning code plan reviewers, and the building code plan reviewers.  These differences create disconnects in communication that can cause delays and headaches for both the development team and the reviewers.  Through the services my company offers, I hope to provide a kind of translation service between development teams and zoning code reviewers early enough in a project’s life-cycle to reduce some of the delays and headaches.

How did your work at ELDI help inform what you’re doing now?

Working at ELDI allowed me to experiment with different projects and activities within real estate development. This helped me begin to identify my strengths in communication and understanding regulations. In addition, my time at ELDI, combined with my time in the zoning office, helped me develop a unique perspective that is a mesh of developer and government regulator.  I can see and appreciate both sides and hopefully help bridge the gaps.

Are you still active within the East Liberty community?

In addition to working at ELDI, I volunteered with Open Hands Ministries for several years.  I enjoyed helping prepare several homes for new owners.  Since moving out of the East End neighborhoods, I return occasionally to East Liberty for special shopping trips.  In a very un-Pittsburgh-like way, I prefer to travel through a tunnel and cross a river for the East Liberty Home Depot, Trader Joes, etc. than to travel to the suburban equivalents.

Do you have any fun memories to share about your time with ELDI? Or maybe a transformation that you’ve been happy to witness in the neighborhood?

I have a lot of powerful memories from my time at ELDI.

Two fun highlights are:

  • Touring Sts. Peter and Paul Church with the Ascend Climbing Gym team and envisioning what it would be like to transform a former church into a climbing gym
  • Touring a vacant house with Kendall where he picked up a piece of wood to move basement cobwebs out of the way, but the piece of wood looked like a stake and made me think maybe we’re also hunting vampires

As for transformations, I was working at ELDI when Larimer received the Choice Neighborhoods award.  I have enjoyed reading about and seeing the projects that have resulted from that grant.

How can people get in touch with you?

Anyone who would like to learn more about my business can contact me at or 412-577-6018.

Thanks, Carolyn!

> Learn more about the ELDI team