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Compost Bins And Stormwater Runoff Solutions: Students Reimagine A More Sustainable Monroeville Mall 

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

Compost bins, local farmers’ stands, and creating a park are just a few of the winning ideas to emerge from a contest by Reimagine Turtle Creek Watershed and Airshed Communities Plus (TCWAC), which asked high school students to imagine a more sustainable future for the Monroeville Mall. The competition was part of TCWAC's Monroeville Ecomall Project, which seeks to turn the Monroeville Mall into a community hub for sustainability.

First-place winner Keara Finnigan proposed putting compost bins in the food court, incorporating environmental education into children's play areas and encouraging local farmers to rent out space to sell their produce in the mall. Brendan Ash, who took second, suggested turning the mall into a recreational park. And third-place winner Nick Markovina focused on changing the design of the mall to reduce storm runoff and produce solar energy. All three attend Norwin High School.

The mall,whose owners filed for bankruptcy protection in November 2020, has been in economic decline for over a decade.

Annie Deely, a community organizer for TCWAC, said they wanted the contestants to come up with ideas to economically rejuvenate the mall in a way that would also make it more environmentally friendly.

"We wanted to see it thrive and include things like local businesses, green infrastructure and solar panels — all those fun things," Deely said. "The essay contest came out of our interest in spreading awareness of this project that we're working on with the community, but also getting more people involved whose voices weren't being represented already — we landed on youth."

Markovina said he decided to enter the contest because he grew up going to the mall and is disappointed in the direction it's heading.

"When it came to taking on this project, it meant just a little bit more to me and gave me the motivation to put in a little bit more time and effort than I would have if it was any other mall," he said.

The winners will be recognized at a showcase in the Monroeville Mall parking lot on July 21 at 5 p.m.