"Protecting Wildlife Habitat"

WPC Helps Pittsburgh Project a Green Image During G-20 Summit

The G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh September 24 and 25 was preceded by a whirlwind of activity to prepare the city for what would be the largest gathering of world leaders in the region’s history. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy played a lead role in the beautification of the city prior to the event — creating a new, green entrance to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center; adding shrub-filled planters to Downtown Pittsburgh’s Cultural District; helping to transform a large lot that welcomed visiting dignitaries along the Parkway West; and sprucing up community gardens with the help of volunteers.

WPC staff and volunteers worked quickly to replace concrete in front of the convention center with trees, shrubs and flowers; swap out chain-link or metal-rail parking lot borders with enormous shrub planters; and tend to flower gardens so they looked beautiful at the end of the season.

Trees arrive at the convention center site.
Trees arrive at the convention center site.

It was a scramble, but the results made the extraordinary efforts more than worthwhile. “The whole experience was a positive one,” said WPC’s director of greenspace services, Art DeMeo, who led the convention center and Cultural Trust projects. “It was a pleasure working with the convention center and Cultural Trust and I believe we made a dramatic difference to downtown for visitors and residents to enjoy.”

The convention center project, made possible with generous support from the Colcom Foundation, transformed the entrance to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center at 10th Street and Penn Avenue with the addition of 39 trees, 277 shrubs and hundreds of plants and flowers. Begun just two-and-a-half months prior to the G-20 Summit, the project had been on WPC’s wish list since 2007, when a Downtown Greening report prepared by staff members recommended replacing concrete and asphalt at the convention center’s main entrance with greenery.

The high-profile G-20 Summit finally provided the opportunity to act on this recommendation. Aided by designs from Astorino, the WPC crew installed large trees at this location for instant impact. “Our standard TreeVitalize tree-plantings use twoand- a-half to three-inch caliper trees,” said DeMeo. “We used four-and-ahalf to five-inch caliper trees to get a full-grown look. When you do this, you run a greater risk that trees will go into shock. We did have several trees do that, and we had to replace them. But overall, we were very happy with how things went.

“The nail-biter was during the three days when we weren’t allowed onsite,” as a high-security lockdown went into effect prior to the summit, said DeMeo. “We didn’t get back in until Saturday afternoon following the G-20, but fortunately, everything was fine.”

Landscaping services coordinator Angela Masters tends to mums at the convention center.
Landscaping services coordinator Angela Masters tends to mums at the convention center.

The Cultural District project added a “green perimeter” to this section of downtown with the addition of 60 five-foot planters, weighing 500 pounds each, to parking lots. These planters replaced chain-link or metal parking barriers, helping to make the area more attractive and welcoming.

In addition, WPC partnered with Allegheny County and Home Depot to bring greenery and flowers to a large lot with a welcome sign on the inbound side of the Parkway West. WPC staff members provided technical advice, oversight and tools for the project, which was carried out by a large group of Home Depot volunteers.

WPC’s volunteers also made a tremendous difference, helping to beautify WPC community gardens in high-visibility locations, particularly along the airport corridor to downtown. This extra attention to end-of-season gardens made all the difference in their appearance. These activities were led by Lynn McGuire-Olzak, WPC’s volunteer coordinator.

Visiting world leaders and dignitaries noticed the effect of all of these efforts, making numerous remarks to members of the media about the beauty of the city. Some visiting French television journalists used images of WPC’s greenery to capture that charm: Just before the summit began, they filmed WPC staff members as they tended to flowers downtown. “We couldn’t speak French, and they couldn’t speak English, so no words were exchanged,” said DeMeo, “but there were a lot of smiles.”