As the Community and Diversity Affairs manager at the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, Karen Abrams ensures that disaffected residents of Pittsburgh’s historically African-American neighborhoods are actively engaged in real estate and economic development activities that have impact on their lives. She collaborates with residents on urban planning and design projects and helps neighborhood groups build social capital and financial capacity.
Abrams’ work has contributed to investments ranging from thousands of dollars for small scale vacant lot interventions to a $30 million US Department of Housing and Urban Development Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grant.
Abrams has established several initiatives at URA to bring equity and inclusion to Pittsburgh's land use and planning practices. These include the Urban Matters arts and design civic engagement program for youth in low-income communities and the Community Toolkit Project, which connects recent minority graduates of architecture and planning with African-American communities experiencing land use challenges. She also started the African-American Neighborhoods of Choice research group to attract and retain newly arriving African-American residents in Pittsburgh and the Social Equity Working Group. Most recently she has been tasked with transforming URA's Minority and Women Business Enterprise program into a 21st century wealth-building platform inspired by economic justice and inclusion principals.
Abrams is a Harlem native with a Master of Science in Sustainable Systems from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania and a bachelor’s degree in African and African-American Studies from the University of Virginia. During her Loeb year she will explore just and inclusive
development and design practices to mitigate negative impacts of climate change and demographic inversion on vulnerable urban populations.