At its peak, 14,000 residents lived in the Larimer neighborhood of Pittsburgh. According to the 2010 census, the neighborhood is down to just 1,700 people.
Malik Bankston, the president and CEO of the Kinglsey Association, has been harnessing neighborhood input on the construction of a new public park and 355 new affordable and mixed income housing units.
Bankston spoke with 90.5 WESA contributor Elaine Effort about the group's work and Larimer's evolution.
Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
ELAINE EFFORT: Who's moving into these new housing units?
MALIK BANKSTON: Well, there's a mixture of people who are moving into the new housing units; the ones that have been completed and the ones still under construction and the ones that'll be completed in the future. There are 155 housing units that'll be built that'll represent a direct one-for-one replacement of substandard housing that existed in the neighborhood. The families who lived in those units, they are the ones with an unqualified right of return, provided they complied with all the requirements to come back into a newly built unit. The remainder of the units are a mixture of people who may have some level of affordability based on household income. And then there's roughly a third that'll be market rate. So it is a mixed income housing development.
EFFORT: What impact has this three-phase housing development project had on the residents and Larimer neighborhood?
BANKSTON: So, it's not just the families living in the new housing. It's also long-time residents who are provided with the opportunity and the challenges of living in a neighborhood that is changing. You know, we as a neighborhood probably bottomed out in terms of overall population 6, 7, or 8 years go, but we're now a neighborhood that is actually increasing in population.
EFFORT: Is Larimer now a sustainable neighborhood?
BANKSTON: Well, we're working towards becoming a sustainable neighborhood. We'll obviously see it reflected in things that happened in the environment. So it's not just that new housing is being built. It's what kind of housing that is being built. What kind of practices are being employed and design of the housing? What kinds of changes and improvements in our infrastructure, related to storm water management, the creation of a desirable neighborhood? What are the things that characterize a neighborhood and make it a neighborhood of choice? Well, the establishment of a park system and green spaces, issues related to work force, workforce development, physical health that people enjoy or not. These are all aspects of the work that comprise the overall sustainable approach to thinking about our neighborhood. We like to talk at Kingsley Association about, 'How do we build a neighborhood that's built to last versus a neighborhood that will, you know, essentially be out of date in 20 or 30 years? What would be the things that characterize a neighborhood that was built to last? What would it look like?'