A new gym in Fineview’s Allegheny Dwellings is providing a safe space for the community’s young people, and helping to curb violence in local neighborhoods.
The facility, the North Side Fitness Center, provides both mental and physical resources for youth in public housing communities, and creates a positive outlet for frustration and energy. These resources are drawing young people away from conflict and the streets and into a positive environment where they can enjoy recreation at no cost.
The project is the brainchild of the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police and the Western Pennsylvania Police Athletic League. The organizations looked for a location for many years before settling on Allegheny Dwellings, a community managed by the Housing Authority.
Despite the gym’s location in Allegheny Dwellings, it is open to all Housing Authority residents as well as Pittsburgh police officers. While youth are a primary target, families and older adults are also encouraged to visit, in the hopes of cultivating a family-oriented atmosphere.
Before the gym opened its doors, the area offered few recreational opportunities for young people. So far, its introduction to the community seems to have had the positive effect its founders were hoping for.
According to Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh Chief Community Affairs Officer Michelle Jackson, the area has seen only one violent incident since the facility opened. Her hope is that the North Side Fitness Center is chipping away at some of the area’s former negative energy and showing that despite its many different neighborhoods, all residents share the common bond of living on the Northside.
“The thought process is to try to bring Northside residents together in a peaceful environment so you don’t get those territorial thoughts and fighting with young people,” she said.
The facility opened its doors on July 2 in conjunction with Allegheny Dwellings Community Day, and featured guests such as Chief of Police Nathan Harper, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and several local boxers. A boxing exhibition was featured to celebrate the success of the project and to provide entertainment for families.
Inside the North Side Fitness Center, visitors find a fully stocked array of equipment, including bikes, weight equipment, punching bags and a boxing ring. Lionsgate Films donated the boxing ring from a previous movie set, while the Housing Authority took care of the space and renovation.
Along with a good physical workout, the facility also offers mentoring services for Northside youth, providing outlets that appeal to any visitor.
“You can work out, whether you box or not. You can get your mind and your body shape,” Jackson said.
With the success of the North Side Fitness Center, Jackson hopes to accomplish something equally beneficial in the East End community next year, providing more neighborhoods with non-violent alternatives to keeping kids engaged and off the streets.
Tracy Patinski is a full-time graduate student in Carnegie Mellon’s professional writing program and currently interns with The Northside Chronicle.