Blight Bootcamp 2015

Blight Bootcamp 2015

Blight Bootcamp is a day-long event to learn about resources and best practices to increase the impact of community-led blight elimination efforts. The first Blight Bootcamp took place on November 7th, 2015. The event was put together by the City of Pittsburgh, Neighborhood Allies, GTECH, PCRG, and The Design Center Pittsburgh.

The video below showcases several of the sessions from the 2015 Blight Bootcamp. The program for the event can be found here.


2015 Blight Bootcamp Photos

Morning Panel: Community and Government Partnerships to Fight Blight

Moderated by Henry Pyatt, Bureau of Neighborhood Empowerment Office of Mayor William Peduto
 Ian Beniston, Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (YNDC)
     Maura Kennedy, City Of Pittsburgh: Department of Permits, Licenses & Inspections
 Liz Kozub, Turtle Creek Valley Council of Governments
Irene Mclaughlin, J.d., Attorney At Law

Keynote Speaker

Ian Beniston, Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (YNDC)

Ian discussed YNDC’s approach to neighborhood stabilization and blight eradication in neighborhoods throughout the City of Youngstown.

Planning Your Vacant Lot Project

In this session, participants learned the steps to take to implement a vacant lot project. The speakers highlighted resources for technical assistance and guidance and specifically touched on design, zoning requirements, and engagement as important points in the process.

Evaine K. Sing

GTECH Strategies

Evaine introduced Lots to Love as a tool for fighting blight.

Tamara Cartwright

Design Center of Pittsburgh

Tamara discussed the role of design in fighting blight and how to work with designers on vacant lot plans.

Shelly Danko + Day

City of Pittsburgh, Department of City Planning

Shelly explained the 101 of Zoning, and introduced the City’s Vacant Lot Toolkit.

Gavin Deming

Resident of Perry South and member of Ballfield Farm

Gavin used a project example to highlight how to build community through project planning and implementation and how to involve the community.


Building Capacity Through Collaboration

This session focused on how to build community capacity to decrease blight through collaboration. Several scales of collaboration were discussed, such as consolidating multiple community organizations into one umbrella community development corporation, residents partnering with nonprofits to increase capacity, meeting like-minded leaders through professional networking opportunities, and utilizing volunteer services to increase on-the-ground capacity.

PCRGBethany Davidson

Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group

Bethany presented on how embedded capacity in community organizations can help in the fight against blight.

Hilltop Alliance LogoTim Dolan

Hilltop Alliance

Tim discussed how working with multiple CBOs  can help to achieve higher goals.

Sally StadelmanStadelmanSally

City of Pittsburgh: Civic Leadership Academy 

Sally explained the importance of continued professional development.

pittservesMisti McKeehan 

University of Pittsburgh: Pittserves

Misti McKeehan shared her experience with adding capacity to one-time projects through student activation.

Creative Funding and Crowdfunding

In this session, participants learned about diverse ways to fund their projects, such as community empowered crowdfunding and local funders that offer small grants to implement or sustain small projects. Participants also learned how best to tell a compelling story to increase their chances of funding and the free resources that exist to assist in telling that story.

David Weinberger


David introduced a crowdfunding platform, IOBY, and explained the process of using it for a vacant lot project.

Mac Howison

The Sprout Fund

Mac shared his experience on the Sprout Fund’s partnership with the Buhl Foundation in the NS on grantmaking for community projects.

Talia Piazza

Neighborhood Allies

Talia discussed ideas for applying for small grants.

Josh Lucas

Work Hard Pittsburgh

Josh Lucas presented on the importance of storytelling in the fight against blight.

Resident Led Advocacy

In this session participants learned how residents can be powerful advocates for blight reduction in their communities. This session discussed various channels of advocacy, such as managing a blight task force to organize community cleanups, partnering with local nonprofits, joining the board of a community based organization, and how to form a neighborhood association.

Big Jim London

Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation

Big Jim discussed how residents can form a neighborhood association, gain 501c status and apply for diverse funding.


Angela Williams

GTECH Strategies

Angela discussed her experience with transforming a vacant lot adjacent to her home into a garden, as well as the importance of letting your voice be heard.

Stabilizing Vacant Properties

In this session participants learned actions to stabilize vacant properties, from organizing a community litter clean up to large-scale removal of illegal dumping. Participants first learned how Youngstown, OH, is recruiting volunteers and sourcing materials to secure vacant homes, and then how a Pittsburgh community development corporation is attacking blight by ensuring code is enforced and owners of blighted properties are held accountable.

Myrna Newman

Allegheny Cleanways

Myrna shared tips on organizing a clean-up event.

Jack Daugherty

Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (YNDC)

Jack detailed strategies to clean up and secure vacant homes including: volunteer recruitment, partnerships, sourcing of materials and supplies, logistical preparation and organization, work execution, and celebration.

Aggie Brose

Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation

Aggie discussed the importance of coordinated enforcement.

Community Arts to Fight Blight

In this session participants learned how community art projects that engage residents have increased consciousness of blight as well as decreased occurrences of blight. Participants learned how these projects were formed and sustained and how to implement community art in their neighborhoods to fight blight.

Oreen Cohen

Neu Kirche Contemporary Art Center

Oreen shared her experience with activating a lot with art through an artist fellowship program.

Morton Brown

City of Pittsburgh: Department of City Planning

Morton discussed how art impacts the public realm – and what the challenges are.

Jason Sauer

Most Wanted Fine Art

Jason discussed his experience with the Eco Designers Guild and Green + Screen.

Marlee Gallagher

Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation

Marlee presented on ways of using storytelling to raise awareness of the issue of blight.

Who You Gonna Call (City Resources)

In this session participants learned what City of Pittsburgh (and Allegheny County) resources exist to assist residents and organizations to fight blight. Participants also learned at which stage of their projects it is most helpful to reach out for these services.

Brian Ralston

City of Pittsburgh: Department of Permits, Licenses, and Inspection

Brian explained how the Department of Permits, Licenses, and Inspection can help in dealing with vacancy and blight.

Marcelle Newman

Department of Public Works

Marcelle Newman presented on what the Department of Public Works is doing to fight blight.

Joe Divack

Allegheny Cleanways

Joe Divack shared on the Dump Buster program of Allegheny Cleanways.

Naomi Johnson


Naomi discussed ways of using 311 to fight blight.

Data Driven Decision Making

In this session participants learned how to create and analyze accessible data. Participants learned how data and data platforms can be used to survey and map their communities to make more informed community plans and investments to combat blight.

Bob Gradeck

University Center for Social and Urban Research (UCSUR)

Bob discussed the role of data in fighting blight, as well as some data collecting tools.

 Demi Kolke

Operation Better Block

Demi explained the process of using data to inform a community plan.

 Chris Koch

Design Center Pittsburgh

Chris shared how to use data collection to work with local designers and partners.

LaShawna Russ

Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group

LaShawna presented on how data is being used for strategic improvements.

Green Space Solutions

In this session participants learned about programs undertaken by local nonprofits that offer green solutions for blighted land, such as food, rain, and gateway gardens, and outdoor play spaces. Participants learned what green solutions are most fitting for community needs and how to partner with organizations to execute a green space project.

Rayden Sorock

Grow Pittsburgh

Rayden Sorock discussed how Pittsburghers are using Food Gardens to fill blighted spaces.

Sara Madden

Nine Mile Run

Sara Madden shared examples of how stormwater projects and community engagement can be used to reclaim vacant lots.

Lydia Kramer

GTECH Strategies

Lydia Kramer discussed types of projects that can be used to fill in vacant lots.

Art Demeo

Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

Art discussed WPC’s process of using flower gardens to deal with blight.

The Pittsburgh Blight Bootcamp was made possible by the members of the Pittsburgh Blight Working Group: