Homewood and Beltzhoover will soon be home to about 250 shrubs that have been in the landscaping around Mellon Arena for years. Instead of going to a landfill as the site is redeveloped, community groups are transporting the plants to winter storage. In the spring, some of the plants will be used to beautify the neighborhoods, and some may be sold, with the proceeds going to benefit the communities.
Osiris Bey said the non-profit Creative Visions in Beltzhoover has been training misguided youth in skills like stone masonry, carpentry, and landscaping so that they can get jobs. The plants from the arena will help the for-profit company Bey Brothers Landscaping Development get started, which may employ some of the youth and contribute economically to Beltzhoover. Bey said the URA has contracted with the landscaping firm to maintain 15 lots it owns in the neighborhood. Bey said the neighborhood needs help from both within and without to overcome the destitution caused by the population shrinking from 25,000 to less than 2,500 over the past 25 years.
Bey says that his mentor is Dianne Swan, Executive Director of Rosedale Block Cluster, Inc. in Homewood, which has been working for twenty-two years to create opportunities for young people who have few. Swan says that her group will take about 59 plants and use them for training youth and neighborhood beautification.
Dino DeCiantis, Director of the Penn State Center-Pittsburgh, said his organization has worked with both communities for years on green space, sustainability, and storm water issues. The Penn State Center has coordinated the project to re-use plants while benefiting neighborhoods with the Sports & Exhibition Authority, which owns the property and will re-develop the site.