Pittsburgh ioby hears Uptown neighbors’ concerns

Sydney Bauer | Staff Photographer
Business sit on Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh’s Uptown, where ioby will begin operating.
Sydney Bauer | Staff Photographer  Business sit on Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh’s Uptown, where ioby will begin operating.
Sydney Bauer | Staff Photographer

Business sit on Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh’s Uptown, where ioby will begin operating.

Raymond Arke | Asst. News Editor

Change might be coming to Uptown, the Pittsburgh neighborhood where Duquesne and many university students reside. Ioby: In Our Backyards (stylized as ioby), now has an office in Pittsburgh, which opened Nov. 15.

The Brooklyn-based nonprofit works to encourage and fund neighborhood improvements.
Ioby will be based out of the NeighborWorks office on Fifth Avenue. One of the neighborhoods the group is looking at sparking revitalization in is Uptown.

Matt Sherman, a junior pharmacy major at Duquesne, lives in a house in Uptown. One of the perks Sherman enjoys is how close the neighborhood is to everything.

“I like the convenience of Uptown. It’s close to PPG [Paints Arena], school, Downtown and South Side,” he added.

The relative peace and quiet is also a plus, according to Sherman.

“It is kind of like a big residential area without all the noise of the city,” he said.

However, there are some drawbacks to the neighborhood that Sherman would like changed in the near future.

“I dislike how [the neighborhood] is kept … The Uptown area could use a good cleaning. I also think incorporating a few nice restaurants or places to enjoy would increase interest,” he said.

Miriam Parson became the Action Strategist of the Pittsburgh ioby office in early November. She described ioby’s purpose as “neighbor-driven projects that build the future that residents want for their neighborhood.”

According to Parson, her job is to be a guide for city residents with good ideas.

“We believe that neighbors know what’s best for their neighborhood,” Parson said. “My role is to listen to residents’ ideas, connect them with resources to solve questions, and then support them through ioby’s one-on-one coaching to crowdsource funding and materials to make the project a reality.”

Before launching the office this year, ioby had worked with Pittsburgh city officials and nonprofits on almost twenty projects.

Ideas so far for the Uptown neighborhood have been environmentally-oriented. Parson said suggestions like community gardens, more trees and better sidewalks have been brought up in neighborhood meetings.

The City of Pittsburgh has also been focused on improving Uptown. Grant Ervin, chief resilience officer for the City of Pittsburgh, said the city is “working alongside a host of partners including Duquesne University,” on the EcoInnovation District plan. This project is looking at redeveloping Uptown and parts of West Oakland into a more environmentally sustainable area with a focus on creating better economic opportunities in the neighborhood.

Ervin said ioby will help them with projects throughout the city.

“Ioby is a partner of ours … We recently announced the creation of our Love Your Resilient Block funding program and are actively encouraging communities and students too to develop collaborative funding opportunities to foster community change,” he said.

Nationally, ioby has had a large presence. Its website touted that it has funded 756 different projects across the U.S. and had fundraised and given over $2.5 million to the neighborhood ideas.

Parson explained that ioby has done better than similar groups.

“Ioby’s projects have an 87 percent funding success rate, compared to a 33 percent peak in the crowdfunding industry, and ioby projects still get the funds that they do raise even if below their original goal,” she said.

Parson wanted to encourage Duquesne campus groups to join in their volunteer efforts.

“Ioby is of course interested in offering our coaching to students who want to do projects for public benefit,” she said.

Ideas can also be submitted through their website at ioby.org/idea.