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Art Ecology Design is a boutique business development and ecological design practice that provides design, project management, financial planning, and marketing design to some of the most innovative creatives, projects, and emerging companies addressing Climate Change. Our team has been practicing ecological design and developing climate-positive interventions for over a decade.


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Hilltop Urban Farm Master Plan

Hilltop Urban Farm Master Plan

Hilltop Urban farm

Project Summary: Hilltop Urban Farm is a nonprofit, community-centered farm in Pittsburgh’s Hilltop community. Located on over 100 acres of land this multi-use facility was designed to produce locally-grown crops, provide agriculture-based education, generate entrepreneurial opportunities, and strengthen communities through the following programs - youth-centered education; a workforce training program for new adult urban farmers; and an active, accessible farmers’ market. Hilltop Urban Farm will ultimately become the largest urban farm in the United States setting a precedent for urban farming initiatives across the globe.

Partners: Hilltop Alliance, Sota Construction, Common Ground, InSite Design, Lighthouse Cathedral, Grow Pittsburgh, Penn State Extension Allegheny County, Allegheny Land Trust, City of Pittsburgh Department of Planning, Urban Redevelopment Authority of the City of Pittsburgh, Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh, The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, American Chestnut Foundation

Special Projects: Master Plan (2015), Soil Rebuilding Plan (2015), Operations Plan (2015), Tree Inventory Report (2016), Implementation of the Youth Farm (2018), Nonprofit formation (2018-2019), Implementation of the Farmer Incubation Program (2019)

Fundraising: Henry L. Hillman Foundation ($650,000+), PNC Foundation ($100,000+), Grable Foundation ($35,000), Pittsburgh Foundation ($15,000), Whole Foods Markets Pittsburgh ($17,000), Colcom Foundation ($66,000), Green Mountain Energy Sun Club ($65,000), Allegheny Foundation ($50,000), The Heinz Endowments ($100,000+), EQT Foundation ($15,000), The Forbes Fund ($7,500), American Eagle Outfitters Foundation ($5,000)

Website: https://www.HilltopUrbanFarm.org

Master Plan

In 2015, the Master Plan for Hilltop Urban Farm was completed in just 5 months. This process was led by Project Manager, Sarah Baxendell, and was built upon the findings of the original feasibility study, authored by GROW Pittsburgh and Penn State Center Pittsburgh.

Operations Plan

The Operations Plan for the Hilltop Urban Farm was completed in conjunction with the Master Plan in 2015. This document was authored by Project Manager, Sarah Baxendell.

Soil Rebuilding Plan

The Soil Rebuilding Plan for the Hilltop Urban Farm was completed in conjunction with the Master Plan in 2015. This document guides the rehabilitation of urban soils into healthy, organic, urban farming acreage. The first stage of the Soil Rebuilding Plan was implemented in Summer 2017.

Tree Inventory Report

In May 2016, Sarah Baxendell and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy performed a Tree Inventory of the existing site. This document is authored by Sarah Baxendell, based on the inventory findings.

South Side Park Master Plan

South Side Park Master Plan

South Side Park

South Side Park is a 65-acre Community Park known for its undeveloped forest acres, diverse topography and spectacular views of downtown Pittsburgh.

Role: From December 2015 to October 2018, Sarah Baxendell facilitated the volunteer-based park advocacy group, Friends of South Side Park. She completed the User Survey of South Side Park and authored the Report on the Public Use of South Side Park to understand the demographics and use patterns of the park. Sarah led park improvement projects with Friends of South Side Park, including invasive species removal and forest restoration in the 'Jurassic Valley' portion of South Side Park utilizing the Allegheny Goatscape herd. An annual celebration, known as Goat Fest, attracted 4,000 visitors to the park. Subsequent seasonal workdays activated over 300 park volunteers. Ms. Baxendell also developed the South Side Park Map and Guide and facilitated the installation of maps displays. In 2018 South Side Park underwent a public Master Plan process through the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Planning with support from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Partners: Department of Planning City of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Hilltop Alliance, Friends of South Side Park, Allegheny Goatscape, Studio Bryan Hanes, Brean Associates, Allegheny County Conservation District, Student Conservation Association, Landforce, Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority

Special Projects: User Survey of South Side Park, Report on the Public Use of South Side Park, South Side Park Map and Guide

Fundraising: Allegheny County Conservation District 2017 ($10,000), Laurel Foundation 2017 ($15,000), Allegheny County Conservation District 2018 ($10,000)

Website: https://www.facebook.com/SouthSideParkPGH/

Friends of South Side Park (FOSSP)

FOSSP is a volunteer-based advocacy group representing the diverse set of users in South Side Park. Members include South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association, 4th River Music Collective, Bandi Schaum Community Garden, GTECH Bandi Schaum Trailhead Project, Arlington Civic Association, Landforce, South Side Athletic Association, Student Conservation Association, South Side Bear, Pittsburgh Sports League, Monster Sports, CitiParks, Arlington Recreation Center, Brashear Association Henry Kaufman House, and residents of South Side Flats, South Side Slopes, and Arlington neighborhoods.

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Lots of Flowers

Lots of Flowers in the Hilltop neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, is a project in which fifteen vacant lots were chosen for a naturalization project which was achieved by seeding and planting of perennial wildflower fields. The goal was to diminish long term lot maintenance and maximize the overall beauty of the neighborhoods. These wildflower fields create connected ecology in an urban ecosystem, provide critical habitat for pollinators to flourish, reduce soil erosion, and increase stormwater infiltration.

Role: Ecological design, project implementation, fundraising, and community steward coordination

Fundraising: Colcom Foundation ($42,000)

Haberman Corridor Master Plan

Haberman Corridor Master Plan

McKinley Park + Haberman Corridor

Role: Coordinated outreach and community engagement for two park master plans.

Partners: Pfaffman + Associates, Hilltop Alliance, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority, Department of City Planning City of Pittsburgh, ALCOSAN, Saw Mill Run Watershed Association

The Haberman Avenue Corridor Master Plan

The Haberman Avenue Corridor Master Plan leverages a public greenway to revitalize neighborhood housing and connect public park assets with a transportation hub. 

The McKinley Park Master Plan

The McKinley Park Master Plan integrates sustainable stormwater management into open space improvements in McKinley Park. This historic site is a 79-acre Community Park in Pittsburgh that borders Bon Air, Beltzhoover, and Knoxville neighborhoods in south Pittsburgh’s Hilltop.


North American Permaculture Convergence (NAPC)

The North American Permaculture Convergence (NAPC) was the first continent-wide convergence of Permaculture designers, practitioners, and teachers. Over 400 participants from the North American continent gathered to discuss the future of the permaculture movement. Sarah Baxendell was a member of the events planning committee and was the Work Trade Coordinator and Infrastructure Project Manager for this historical event, managing over 85 work trade volunteers.

Members of the Planning Committee, NAPC 2014: Koreen Brennan, Mario Yanez, Adam Brock, Monica Ibacache, 'Skeeter' Michael Pilarski, Sarah Baxendell


Seedball the Coastline

Seedball the Coastline was a campaign to restore lost dune habitat in New York City that occurred as a result of Hurricane Sandy. With the help of the Lower East Side Girls Club and the Museum of Modern Art, Seedball the Coastline planted over 20,000 seed-balls to restore the coastal dunes of the Rockaways and Staten Island. These perennial sea-grass seed-balls were designed to stabilized the dunes badly eroded during the storm. In addition to this effort, a group of Brooklyn residents helped to restore lost honey bee habitats throughout New York City by planting over 5,000 seed-balls. With red clovers, wildflowers and field peas, these seed-balls were designed to cleanse soils and re-establish the habitat in Brooklyn's Zone A Flood Zone.

Partners: Lower East Side Girls Club, Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)


You Are Not Alone

You Are Not Alone (YANA) is a worker training facility in the New Your City neighborhood of Rockaway Park. Their mission was to bring jobs, education, and environmentally sustainable practices to a region suffering from economic marginalization. Just one week after opening their doors, the neighborhood was devastated by flooding and fire in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. YANA reopened its doors with the support of volunteers and solar power provided by Greenpeace. It became a hub of community recovery, mutual aid and solidarity. YANA fulfilled its intended purpose of building community through its storm relief efforts, distributing donations, serving hot meals, providing free medical care, and dispatching volunteers throughout the Rockaways. 

The YANA Rebuild process is a living example of sustainable and ethical design. A team of permaculture designers worked with community member and volunteers to design both passive and active solar energy solutions, a green roof, a rainwater collection system and the helped facilitate the use of re-purposed building materials.

Partners: YANA Services, Permatecture Design, Seismologik, Localflux, Occupy Sandy, and Greenpeace, Permaculture Center for BioRegional Living, Yestermorrow, Naomi Klein and Bill McKibbin