Standing empty and abandoned since 1993, the once grand Regency Apartments were a dark spot in Hamnett Place, with its collapsing porches and falling bricks posing a danger to neighborhood kids who played around it. Even as the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks foundation began to restore houses elsewhere on Jeanette, the Regency was a hulking ruin at the end of the block, turning Hamnett Way into a sunless and foreboding alley.
In 2006, PHLF acquired the Regency along with several other properties along Jeanette, Holland and Rebecca which are now completely restored. In 2009, the Regency, which was beyond repair, was demolished, bringing light back to the block and leaving a large empty lot. After polling the locals in a series of planning meetings, PHLF found that what the community wanted on the lot was a green space. For two years, local biofuels nonprofit GTECH Strategies planted sunflowers on the lot to be harvested for fuel, but the flowers never really took in the dense clay soil.
Meanwhile, Hamnett Place community members were organizing on their own to create a community garden. Interest in the project was strong, but the group was unable to find a suitable lot for the garden.
In late 2010, PHLF connected with the Hamnett Place Community Garden group and along with GTECH, the two organizations applied for an Allegheny Grows Grant. A collaboration of Allegheny County, Grow Pittsburgh and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the grant provided materials, plants and technical support for the new garden for two years. After years of planning and foiled plans, ground was broken on the garden in the spring of 2011. 16 plots were quickly leased to Hamnett Place residents and plants were supplied by Allegheny Grows as well as local nursery Garden Dreams.
In the 2012 growing season, the garden increased in size to 20 beds, added community beds for berry bushes and herbs, and PHLF and the garden group are currently working on a landscaping plan called Piano Place (link to piano place page on our site) for the remainder of the lot. Once the site is completed, it will be a quiet corner for community members to gather, dotted with berry bushes and fruit trees for neighbors to enjoy, with the community garden at its center.