Dream On

Carnegie Mellon University’s UDream program is a magnet that draws young minority architects and urban planners from around the country to settle and work in Pittsburgh.




photo by janelle bendycki

 

Mary Taylor’s nerves jangled as she looked around the church basement in Beltzhoover, where 20 skeptical residents gathered around folding tables, watching her expectantly. The 23-year-old had finished her masters degree in architecture and settled in Pittsburgh a few months earlier. Now as an intern with the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, she was bringing the message to Beltzhoover residents that no, really, the URA was committed to helping them and their beleaguered neighborhood — and wanted their ideas. What are the assets and values of the neighborhood, she asked? “What would you like to see happen?”

Taylor’s presence in Beltzhoover was a bit of a surprise, considering that before graduate school she’d never been to western Pennsylvania — raised in Ann Arbor, Mich., she graduated from Hampton University in Virginia. She was drawn to Pittsburgh by UDream, an innovative program at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture and its Remaking Cities Institute.

Founded in 2009 with funding from The Heinz Endowments, UDream seeks to attract the best and brightest of minorities with recent degrees in architecture, landscape architecture and urban planning. After a five-week bootcamp and a one-week program teaching architecture to high-school students, 10 UDreamers intern at top local architecture firms and urban planning groups. The goal: To not just diversify Pittsburgh’s planning community but to help build a critical mass of minority, young urban professionals in the city. “If you put together people from different backgrounds,” says Erica Cochran, UDream director and a CMU assistant professor, “you’re going to come up with interesting solutions.”

Increasing the diversity of architects and builders is not just a good business idea — research shows diverse companies perform better financially — but a moral one. Training such a cadre can help to build bridges to minority neighborhoods, which have suffered through short-sighted urban planning decisions, such as wiping out the Lower Hill District and destroying a thriving commercial core in East Liberty. “If people have been getting the short end of the stick, they’re going to be defensive,” Taylor says. “We won’t ever right the wrongs of the past, but how do you lay a better foundation for moving forward?”

Cochran sells students on Pittsburgh by immersing them in city life; they attend social and networking events with the planning community, watch movies in Schenley Park and take a road trip to Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Fallingwater.

After seven years, around 35 UDreamers are working with private and public organizations such as Desmone Architects, evolveEA, Pfaffman & Associates, Massaro Corporation and the city of Pittsburgh; Taylor now is a Real Estate and Placemaking fellow with Neighborhood Allies, a community development nonprofit. UDream has received national recognition from the American Institute of Architects, while graduates have helped to form a local chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects. CMU and The Heinz Endowments continue to invest in the program and now offer two scholarships to CMU’s architecture graduate school, as well as a fellowship to work at an area nonprofit. 

“By the time they’re done, hopefully we’ve instilled a love for the city, a love for grad school and a love for the work,” Cochran says. “It’s more than just designing and community planning — they’re investing in the people of Pittsburgh.”  
 

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in April

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in April

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.
Take a Hike: 10 of the Best Trails in the Pittsburgh Area

Take a Hike: 10 of the Best Trails in the Pittsburgh Area

Lace up your sneakers or hiking boots and head outdoors for 10 great walks for spring.
412 Food Rescue: Revolutionary Repurposing

412 Food Rescue: Revolutionary Repurposing

Local nonprofit organization 412 Food Rescue is taking food that otherwise would be tossed aside and connecting it with those in need through-of-the-moment technology.
Spring Fashion: The Height of White

Spring Fashion: The Height of White

Fashion is white haute this spring with the best looks from local stores.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Affordable Housing Part of Civic Arena Site Redevelopment

Affordable Housing Part of Civic Arena Site Redevelopment

The Pittsburgh Penguins and a St. Louis developer hope to eventually build 1,000 residential units near PPG Paints Arena.
Watch: Phil Kessel has a Mini-Me – And He's Too Cute

Watch: Phil Kessel has a Mini-Me – And He's Too Cute

Have the Pens have found their new meme for the Stanley Cup Playoffs?
Pittsburgh Will Be Home to 22 NCAA Championship Events

Pittsburgh Will Be Home to 22 NCAA Championship Events

The ’Burgh scored more events than any other U.S. city.
Beginner’s Guide to Pittsburgh Craft Brew Week

Beginner’s Guide to Pittsburgh Craft Brew Week

A guide to PCBW for local-brewery newbies.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in April

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in April

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.
Take a Hike: 10 of the Best Trails in the Pittsburgh Area

Take a Hike: 10 of the Best Trails in the Pittsburgh Area

Lace up your sneakers or hiking boots and head outdoors for 10 great walks for spring.
412 Food Rescue: Revolutionary Repurposing

412 Food Rescue: Revolutionary Repurposing

Local nonprofit organization 412 Food Rescue is taking food that otherwise would be tossed aside and connecting it with those in need through-of-the-moment technology.
Spring Fashion: The Height of White

Spring Fashion: The Height of White

Fashion is white haute this spring with the best looks from local stores.
Restaurant Review: Pork & Beans

Restaurant Review: Pork & Beans

The latest restaurant from the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group brings Texas-style smoked meats and more to Downtown.
Daytripping: Brave the Cave

Daytripping: Brave the Cave

Go subterranean at Laurel Caverns, the largest cave in Pennsylvania.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Affordable Housing Part of Civic Arena Site Redevelopment

Affordable Housing Part of Civic Arena Site Redevelopment

The Pittsburgh Penguins and a St. Louis developer hope to eventually build 1,000 residential units near PPG Paints Arena.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Scratch Food & Beverage Has a New Executive Chef

Scratch Food & Beverage Has a New Executive Chef

Brandon Blumenfeld introduces an American gastropub menu at the Troy Hill bar.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

These spots are tailored for couples who are looking for a simple, chill night out on Valentine’s Day (or any other day). If your significant other isn’t the type to be wooed by expensive wines and chocolates, this is the list for you.

Comments


Dive Bar & Grille Expands to South Side, Remains Charming

Dive Bar & Grille Expands to South Side, Remains Charming

The latest outpost of the small, Wexford-born chain isn't flashy, but offers good beer and grub.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
A Life Well Lived: Dan Rooney's Humility and Humanity

A Life Well Lived: Dan Rooney's Humility and Humanity

Delivering the Homily at Rooney's funeral, Cardinal Donald Wuerl acknowledged a longstanding Rooney philosophical belief: “You can get anything done if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Pittsburgh on a Plate

Pittsburgh on a Plate

The way to a beer lover’s heart is mapped out on notNeutral’s plate, which highlights Pittsburgh breweries (and other points of interest) across the city.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
A Refreshing Action Flick and a Redundant Thriller

A Refreshing Action Flick and a Redundant Thriller

Reviews of "Free Fire," "Unforgettable" and "The Promise," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Planning Proposals: The Element of Surprise

Planning Proposals: The Element of Surprise

This couple’s proposal story really takes the cake.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
PPG Paints Unveils New Store Concept at Bakery Square

PPG Paints Unveils New Store Concept at Bakery Square

The revamped retail store in East Liberty, the first of its kind for PPG in the country, was created with DIYers, architects and interior designers in mind.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
A-Rod to Talk Baseball and Steroids at Slippery Rock

A-Rod to Talk Baseball and Steroids at Slippery Rock

Considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time, Alex Rodriguez also is one of the league's more controversial stars.

Comments