Benjamin Frazier is a construction crew leader for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh.
Editor's note: Braddock, Pa. is in the midst of a long-term revitalization effort led by its mayor, John Fetterman. Like many communities in Colorado and elsewhere, Braddock is trying to improve the health and overall viability of the community and its residents by building a better environment.
Locally, the Colorado Health Foundation promotes healthy communities by ensuring access to healthy food and safe options for exercise, as evidenced in this article and video about Commerce City's Derby neighborhood.
We asked Benjamin Frazier to share his view of the changing face of Braddock in a blog posting. Here is the result:
Riding my bike down pothole-riddled South Braddock Ave., I nearly lose my balance as the bike picks up speed. My gaze is drawn left to an expanse of empty lots. A large mural stretches across the concrete blocks remaining. I spot remnants of homes and businesses, distant remnants from a prosperous era.
As I approach Pittsburgh's bustling Squirrel Hill District, I know I am getting closer to Braddock, Pa. Braddock is a dilapidated town in need of fresh ideas – making it a haven for artists and dreamers. Speeding under the Rankin Bridge, a shiny mosaic greets me: "Welcome to Braddock."
The sidewalk, which juts out like crooked teeth, is overrun with grass and litter. As I ride, I can begin to appreciate the strange beauty of Braddock.
Just as a forest begins to show new life after a fire, Braddock shows signs of growing back.
Case in point: A beautiful organic farm is sprouting fresh vegetables next to the old steel mill. The partially renovated Braddock Carnegie Library offers ceramics and silk-screening classes for children and adults.
Recently, Transformasium, a local arts organization, joined forces with the library and Dipcraft Manufacturing to launch a neighborhood print screening shop. Another local nonprofit makes water filters from clay to ship to countries like Haiti – where clean water isn't accessible. Comprised of a small group of teens and volunteers, the organization hopes to build a filter production center that could create new jobs.
Other signs of life: Plays are now being performed in an ornate auditorium built in the 1920's; Braddock's Community Center hosts weddings and festivals; the UnSmoke Artspace Gallery, a repurposed Catholic school building, now showcases local artists and rents out studio spaces.
People are beginning to reinvest in here. It is a good time to experience the potential for rebirth in Braddock, Pa.