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Exclusive: Region Identifies Early Action Opportunities for Downtown Revitalization

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In cities around the world, public realm projects are key to shaping a thriving city neighborhood. Identifying those signature pieces will help to define downtown Pittsburgh as it embarks on its next great reinvention.

100

blocks within Central Business District

400+

acres in the Central Business District

68,000

square feet of public space in Market Square

From dog-friendly landscaping and unexpected new parks to barge activations and river-to-river connections, the potential to reshape downtown Pittsburgh is immense, according to Stefani Pashman, CEO of Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

High-traffic areas like the Cultural District and Market Square are ripe for activation, while post-pandemic trends of in-person and hybrid employment demand a reset of how office buildings are used.

Pashman offered an exclusive first look at what the Allegheny Conference, its partners in city and county government and downtown-focused organizations aspire to create in downtown Pittsburgh.

“We know that public realm projects and central gathering spaces and plazas in cities all around the world give people something that they want to be attracted to,” Pashman said. “It draws them in, and it creates something that’s memorable about a city.”

To that end, the collective group of Allegheny Conference, Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh tapped Field Operations, a New York-based landscape architecture and urban design firm, to develop a vision for downtown.

The downtown stakeholders tasked Field Operations with giving downtown’s existing spaces more definition and a unique identity. Beyond creating fun, vibrant, inclusive areas that are accessible year-round, Pashman said the plan from Field Operations will include features designed to attract people of all ages, backgrounds and interests.

“We need to aspire to something not only better but something greater, something more exciting,” Pashman said. "Field Operations will develop an aspirational vision that will drive downtown into the future and to help downtown be the vibrant, thriving gathering place that we want it to be.”

As Pashman noted, today’s downtown can be the downtown of the future if we equip it with the infrastructure and amenities that are functional and relevant to the diverse needs of those using it, including people who work and live here, visitors who come for entertainment on evenings and weekends, and the small, medium and large businesses operating here. By working together, we have the unique opportunity to shape the future of downtown, one that is vibrant, safe, clean and welcoming for all.

For outside companies looking to invest anywhere in southwestern Pennsylvania, their first impression of the region comes from driving through the Fort Pitt Tunnels and experiencing the view of the city, Pashman said. The view is a selling point for the region, and if we improve downtown’s interior, we will improve public opinion and ensure that once people are here, they will keep coming back.

“We have to go from a downtown where people have to be here – whether it’s to change buses or go to work – to a place that people want to come to,” Pashman said. “We have to give it life.”

To learn more about Field Operations and this project, check out this story: Vision for the Future: Transformative Public Realm Revitalization Efforts Underway.

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