The pilot project was funded by a $50,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) allocated by Mayor Ravenstahl to identify sites throughout the City and engage community stewards to create community gardens, urban farms and passive greenspace. With the success of transforming 40 city-owned vacant lots across the City, engaging hundreds of volunteers in community plantings and maintenance of the lots, Mayor Ravenstahl worked to expand the program. The Mayor saw the expansion and improvement of green space within the City of Pittsburgh as an economic development strategy and an important neighborhood revitalization strategy.
In 2008, Ravenstahl doubled the demolition budget making the City responsible for stewardship of an increasing inventory of vacant land. The numerous vacant lots that the City owns present opportunities for safe and productive reuse and neighborhood revitalization if viewed comprehensively and strategically. The Green Up Program also received a $500,000 grant from the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), indicating a momentous transformation in the Commonwealth's approach to revitalization, with greening as a legitimate development strategy. The Mayor then hired five new employees, the "Green Team," to transform demolished and vacant lots into green community assets and expand the work of Green Up.
The program now physically prepares vacant lots for reuse, including future development, greenways, parks and storm-water management. To date, with the help of hundreds of volunteers, more than 120 vacant lots have been transformed into stable, functioning green spaces. These greens paces serve as community and memorial gardens, urban farms, tree parks, gateway greening and passive greenspace.