Lawrenceville makes best of street tree denials

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .



Almost 200 property owners in Lawrenceville have applied for street trees through TreeVitalize but have been denied because of utility conflicts, inadequate sidewalk width and other logistical reasons.

A group of resident Tree Tenders came up with a “greenscape” initiative and sought funding to get the residents flower boxes instead. Not quite the same as shade but any addition of greenery is cooling while making a place feel warmer.

They applied for a grant from the Garden Club of Allegheny County to get boxes for 200 homes. An over-reach, but it's good to think big. They got $5,000, enough for 60 boxes, two per 30 homes. They are scattered throughout, from Lower to Upper Lawrenceville. The photo of Rebekkah Ranallo and Nathan Liddell, members of the greenscape initiative, was taken on 48th Street in Central Lawrenceville.

The boxes have vertical metal strips that contain a burlap planting pouch and each pouch holds several species of flowers and, in some boxes, herbs. One of the Tree Tenders, Jesse Perkins, works for a company that gave "a severe discount” for installation, Rebekkah said.

Molly Dimond-Stephany reached out to the garden club and got the wheels turning. Nathan did much of the work at street level.

They said they didn’t allot the boxes based on ability to pay. Some people who got them could easily afford to invest in flower boxes on their own. The hardware is $100. Installation, flowers and soil are would bring the cost up to about $500 for two boxes per home.

“We still have a lot of working class people, and I’m one of them,” said Nathan, who works at the 52nd Street market and manages the Lawrenceville Farmers’ Market. “It’s a misconception that everyone here is a young professional who can afford” inflated housing prices.

“Besides, this just encourages greenscape,” he said. “I walked down Davison Street and saw that people have replanted the boxes they had gotten two years ago [in a similar, smaller project], so it’s a cumulative thing.”

Thanks to custom design advice provided by a neighborhood nursery, each box has flowers suited to the sun that hits it through the day.

“We have a dozen residents already who asked to be on a wait list for next year,” Rebekkah said. “So we hope to continue this and find more support.”


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