Photo courtesy of Dylan Priest

By Erika Fleegle

While gentrification may be source of worry for many long-time business owners in Pittsburgh neighborhoods, several Historic Deutschtown residents are using it to create a more positive frame of mind for the community. Abe Stucky of the Northside Leadership Conference came up with the idea as community leaders Rachel Booth, Randy Strothman and Cody Walters, among others, have been leading an effort to create a short promotional film that will showcase the best of what the neighborhood has to offer in hopes of attracting more businesses and potential residents to the area.

The project began within a group of concerned citizens that would occasionally meet for coffee and discuss what they could do to make their neighborhood a better place. Booth and Strothman were two of those locals.

“We wanted to help change the perception of East Ohio Street as it continues to transition,” Booth said of the group’s community improvement efforts, which began with the art board project along the street.

“We wanted to do something small and manageable that would make an impact,” Strothman continued. “I think it works because (the buildings) don’t look so abandoned.”

The art boards, which feature artwork by the Manchester Craftsman’s Guild and photos from Photo Antiquities, have been well received by the community, providing a “diversity in imagery” that, for Strothman, reflects the personality and history of the neighborhood.

However, for the next project, the group wanted to do something that would build on the momentum of the neighborhood’s current development. Inspiration came from an unlikely place; Wilkinsburg. Several months ago, the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation released a promotional video for the area highlighting the fact that there is “something good around every corner” that most people passing through tend to miss. Something clicked, and Booth and Strothman decided that Historic Deutschtown needed a video of its own.

The East Allegheny Community Council and Northside Leadership Conference proposed the idea of a short video for Historic Deutschtown.

“Now that the project’s begun, our video’s going to tell such a bigger story. Looking back at the video now, I’m realizing how much cooler stuff we have here,” Booth noted, reflecting on the video’s creative process so far.

The short film, which is estimated to run at a maximum of four minutes, will focus on four key themes for the branding of the community; historic, real, surprising, and developing. Montage reels and interviews from local residents and business owners will highlight all of these aspects and show the diversity and developing potential of Historic Deutschtown and the East Ohio Street business district.

Since the project began, Strothman, who has over 30 years of experience in film, has been collecting video footage from local residents and business owners, and cites the film-making experience as one of his favorite parts of the project.

“This is part of a tradition in my career,” he said. “Coming back into it and tapping into what I’ve learned… It was fun to sit around and figure out what this could be. It’s kind of exciting.”

For Booth, the best part has been getting to know everyone in the community and express her own pride for the community she lives in.

“If you go anywhere in Pittsburgh and ask people about their neighborhoods, there’s a lot of neighborhood pride,” Booth said. “One of the things I really like about working with this group is that everyone has good ideas and is open-minded. I’m able to make some sort of impact.”

In terms of funding, the group has received funding in the form of a Neighbor-to-Neighbor grant through the Sprout fund and is currently collecting donations through an Ioby kickstarter online. Though the fundraising goal is close to being met, donations are still being accepted and will be matched dollar-for-dollar (up to $1,000).

Following the video’s production wrap in September, the group plans to host a community screening at Bistro To Go later that month.

Dylan Priest handled all videography for the film.

  • Randy Strothman

    Thank you Erika for this article on our Deutschtown promotional video. I would suggest though that the first sentence is not true: “While gentrification is a source of worry for many long-time business owners in Pittsburgh neighborhoods…” My impression is that a growing middle class is generally very good for most neighborhood business districts due to their greater disposable income.

    Over a period of several decades, Deutschtown has experienced an amazing transformation of residential properties and the residential marketplace. The original impetus and commitment came from the East Allegheny Community Council. This project focuses on our business district with the intent of recruiting a new generation of entrepreneurs and leaders. Perhaps 20- to 40-somethings. We have seen several new businesses open on East Ohio Street in the last year. Our aim and that of the Northside Leadership Conference is to encourage this trend of investment in the street. The theme is “Live, Work, Play, Invest Here.”