Bedford Dwellings is the oldest public housing community in Pennsylvania and the last of the World War II era public housing communities in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. In 2016, the City of Pittsburgh, Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (HACP), and the Bedford Dwellings community were awarded a $500,000 Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant to assist in transitioning the Hill District into a viable, mixed-income community. As a result of this development, many of the neighborhood’s approximately 1650 existing residents will be displaced. It is important that members of this community have a space for discussing these changes and understanding the options for housing available to them.
Occupying an under-utilized parking lot in the heart of Bedford Dwellings, the Bedford POP-UP is designed as a flexible, portable community engagement space for facilitating critical discussions between residents, developers, and civic and community leaders about the future of housing in the Hill District and throughout the city of Pittsburgh. The POP-UP will be operated in conjunction with programming affiliated with the Bedford Hope Center, a community and social services center located directly adjacent to the site.
Given the project’s modest budget and the indeterminacy of the site, the design is predicated on low-cost, minimally invasive, and flexible strategies for meeting programmatic requirements while aspiring to create an atmosphere that instills pride of place. Brightly-colored steel folding chairs offer durable, affordable, and flexible outdoor seating to accommodate large or small gatherings. A painted asphalt map of Pittsburgh activates the site, creating learning and play opportunities children, while also serving as an educational tool for counseling adults about housing alternatives. Tree saplings are proposed to provide much-needed shade on the site while also acting as an investment in the neighborhood’s future, as they could be replanted as landscaping features in the new housing development.
The total budget for implementation of the POP-UP is $30,000, which amounts to approximately $18.22 developer investment per Bedford Dwellings resident. In August 2018, the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh voted to commit millions in funding, contingent on the receipt of a federal grant, for investment in the redevelopment of Bedford Dwellings. If the development moves forward, the Bedford POP-UP will serve as an important space for ensuring that residents have a voice in their housing futures.
John Folan, UDBS Director
Community Design Center of Pittsburgh
Alise Kuwahara Day, UDBS Fellow