East End communities receive green facility

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At one time words like efficient, eco-friendly, energy conservation and community engagement were not utilized in the same sentence when discussing the Lincoln Larimer community. Today, those words and many more describe a unique and welcome project in the community.

“The residents of Larimer are pleased to have the Environment and Energy Community Outreach Center housed in our neighborhood,” said Carolyn Peeks, a resident and Larimer Consensus Group/Green Team member. Her words were shared during the June 21 Ribbon Cutting Ceremony of the EECO Center.

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READY FOR BUSINESS—Community leaders and residents surround PCSI officials, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and State Sen. Jim Ferlo during the official opening of the EECO Center located at Larimer Avenue and East Liberty Blvd. (Photos by Diane I. Daniels)

After years of planning, the corner of Larimer Avenue and East Liberty Boulevard, what once existed as a vacant gas station and the lot next to it will exist as a state-of-the-art green facility.

In contrast to the inclement weather during the October 2011 groundbreaking ceremony, 90 degree temperatures greeted political officials, project and community partners, residents and guests for the ribbon cutting. “There is an important renaissance going on in this city, renaissance three,” declared State Senator Jim Ferlo. Crediting Mayor Luke Ravenstahl for the resurgence he stated there has to be a redo of the mind and spirit of the citizens within the neighborhoods and the stepping up of leadership is important.

The mayor acknowledged that a lot of activity is taking place in all corners of the city. “It is an exciting renaissance that is in the neighborhoods touching the people and bringing opportunity,” he said. “The city is in the public eye, known for its green facilities,” he said, noting that the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and the Consol Energy Center have been rewarded for their efforts. “The EECO Center just adds to our uniqueness.”

Operated by Pittsburgh Community Services, Inc., the EECO Center, dedicated to the seven East End neighborhoods it serves, as well as all residents of the city of Pittsburgh, the facility will offer training and education to residents looking to lower utility costs, upgrade existing appliances, and training for “green collar” jobs.

PCSI executive director, Cecelia Jenkins identified the EECO Center as a one stop shop indicating that it will be a resource and gathering place for green initiatives in the Larimer Community with programming to consist of utility consumer education and assistance, Green building demonstrations and a base for energy auditors. Meeting the needs of local individuals and families the EECO Center will be a source for Dollar Energy Assistance applications, ECO Water and Energy Kit installation and offer access to utility companies for online payments. “We will also provide access to other PCSI services and programming like our food pantry, nutrition assistance, the Micro Business Institute, counseling and workforce development and short term education and training.” Acknowledging that the EECO Center has never been a one organization project, Jenkins encourages other organizations to get involved by adding programming and activities. “We are loosening the vision of Senator Ferlo and to do that we need the assistance of everybody,” she said.

PCSI, the Community Action Agency for the City of Pittsburgh, serves city residents who are at or below 125 per cent federal poverty guidelines. For more than 25 years the organization has met the needs of its clients.

Developers of the EECO Center were the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the Pittsburgh Economic and Industrial Development Corp., the Paragon Land Development Co. and New Era Building Systems. Architects and engineers are Origin 4 Design, PVE Sheffler and Edge Studio. Community partners are Green Building Alliance, the Kingsley Association, Larimer Consensus Group, Larimer Green Team and TreeVitalize.

Funding sources for the project were obtained from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Commonwealth of PA; State Senator Jim Ferlo, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Urban Redevelopment Authority, Allegheny County Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund, Pittsburgh Community Services, Inc., the Pittsburgh Foundation, and the Roy A. Hunt Foundation.

Others participating in the ribbon cutting ceremony were Austin Davis; executive assistant Allegheny County Executive Office, Dana Wilson, principal of Paragon Land Development Co. and Mike Fiore owner of Mike’s Auto Body. Entertainment was provided by Soundwaves of the Kelly Strayhorn Theater.

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