Larimer will shine in a number of ways on May 17 when former residents who have made their names in sports and music return for a free party in Bakery Square. There will be science project demonstrations by local kids, a car show (for which the neighborhood was once well known), a performance stage, food trucks manned by students from Pittsburgh Obama Academy and, of course, lights: both a laser light show and a more permanent archway of lights installed in the neighborhood.
It’s all part of Bright Night: A Larimer Light Festival, by this year’s group of young professionals in Leadership Pittsburgh‘s Leadership Development Initiative (LDI). The event will celebrate the community with family focused events, showing off what LDI leader Aradhna Oliphant terms “Larimer’s storied past, dynamic present, and potential future.”
LDI members began their 10-month program in September, which gives them training in civic engagement and aims to help them become community leaders locally. Each year, the group creates a “PopUp” project as a learning laboratory for its work, choosing one Pittsburgh neighborhood for a project that focuses the rest of the city on its assets and promise.
LDI participants held dinners with Larimer residents and business owners to get to know the neighborhood and together devised ideas for this event. “There are perceptions in the wider community that some parts of Larimer are not safe to go in,” Oliphant acknowledges. But this year’s 21st LDI class “identified it as a neighborhood which is emerging,” she says, “and which had enough going for it that fresh, forward thinking can come in and boost the feeling in the neighborhood that we can turn things around.”
Oliphant says LDI’s efforts are aimed at lasting improvements. Not only will LDI members “know what it means to be an engaged civil citizen … but their focus on Larimer can act as a catalyst” for more Larimer residents to become active in improving their own section of the city. Already, the program has prompted city officials to replace Larimer streetlights with new LED lights to make the nighttime streets safer.
Oliphant believes Larimer residents will get “a renewed sense of excitement about their own community. They’re a great group – they have already got a lot going on.”