Ben Soltesz is one resident that is doing amazing work for his neighbors and all of the residents of the Northside. Ben, a software developer, has lived in Spring Hill for 18 years. But, he is best known around town as co-founder of the Deutschtown Music Festival, which just finished its seventh annual festival.
Why did you move to the Northside?
“We got married and were looking for a house… we found a house with a view of the city in Spring Hill.” Less than a week later, the house was theirs. Now, 18 years later, they have moved into their second house in Spring Hill and love to call the Northside their home. “We fell in love with the place. We know all of our neighbors.”
How are you investing in your neighborhood?
Ben spends much of his time serving in the Northside, working to make his neighborhood a better place for all people. He is the vice president of the Spring Hill Civic League where he helps to run many of their events throughout the year including a Halloween parade. He also serves on the board of the Northside Leadership Council and is on several different committees including the recent Allegheny Commons Initiative Committee. “When no one else raises their hand for something, I figure, I can take on one more meeting, so I volunteer to do it. It has been great.”
But, to most, Ben is known for being the co-founder of the Deutschtown Music Festival. After seeing a music festival in the Lawrenceville area, Ben thought “why can’t we do a music festival here on the Northside?” So, he started talking about it with everyone. He soon got connected with Cody Walters and a few others and they set up a meeting. “We had about 15 people at the first meeting to talk about [the music festival].” Cody and Ben were the two that stuck around for the long-haul and have planned the festival together ever since. The seventh annual completely free festival took place on July 12-14. Over the past seven years, they have seen a lot of growth. This year, they were able to extend the free weekend festival into Sunday morning with a Gospel Brunch hosted by Allegheny Center Alliance Church. The festival included over 400 performances in locations all over Deutschtown and the central Northside region.
How are you involved in One Northside?
Ben has been involved with One Northside since the beginning. “When I heard about it I wanted to be involved so I started to go to all of the meetings.” When it was brought up that One Northside was hoping to plan a few events to create a greater sense of place for Northside residents, Ben immediately jumped on board. With Renee from the New Hazlett Theater, they planned a series of block parties to take place around the Northside for residents and neighbors to come out and spend time together.
Since then, Ben has continued to be involved in the One Northside community and loves to keep up to date on the work happening in all areas of his Northside community.
What makes you love the Northside and what is your hope for the future?
Ben has seen a lot of life happen on the Northside. “The Northside has changed a lot. I remember one time a while ago that I was riding my bike. At the time my kids were pretty little and I remember thinking, ‘this place is pretty rough. Maybe we could do better…’ But I always knew it was going to get better and I am glad we stuck around.
“The Northside is so diverse and we live together and we get along with each other. We are a pretty mixed neighborhood. For example, right across the street from me are three generations that live right next door to each other. I don’t even know how long they have been there. That is what we don’t want to lose. That is what keeps this place interesting. I like my neighborhood the way it is and we want to keep it that way.”
One Northside is all about highlighting and spotlighting our residents. Northside residents are doing amazing things in their neighborhoods every day. If you or someone you know is doing great work to make the Northside a better place let us know! You can contact us here or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
One Northside is a resident-driven initiative that catalyzes and supports long-term sustainable change for Pittsburgh’s eighteen Northside neighborhoods. Begun in 2014, One Northside is a long-term commitment to invest in the lives and futures of Northside residents with particular emphasis on resourcing community members, young and old, to lead from within.