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Vision plan will propel the next phase of downtown Pittsburgh’s revitalization

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Progressing beyond short-term stabilization, a proposed plan – released by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Allegheny County, and the City of Pittsburgh– focuses on a long-term strategic redevelopment and investment strategy

40+

stakeholder groups

6

months of collaborative efforts

(PITTSBURGH – June 5, 2024) – A new vision plan for downtown Pittsburgh proposes a dynamic future for our region's urban core and will guide the next phase of transformation that advances the creation of a true neighborhood at the heart of the Pittsburgh region. The vision plan was jointly released today by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh.

Downtown Pittsburgh, like many other downtowns across the nation, has faltered post-pandemic. While the urban core occupies less than one square mile, it has a substantial economic and social impact on the entire 10-county Pittsburgh region. As the region’s largest main street and its calling card, downtown Pittsburgh and its condition have ripple effects across southwestern Pennsylvania and can impact the ability to attract job-creating business investment and talent.

The vision plan builds on concerted efforts to stabilize downtown over the past six months by representatives of 40+ downtown-focused organizations – alongside the Allegheny Conference, Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh. Short-term initiatives have addressed health and human service needs, cleanliness and beautification, public safety, and economic development and policy needs. Now, the partners are progressing beyond short-term stabilization to propelling transformation with a complementary focus on a long-term strategic redevelopment and investment strategy to reposition real estate, public realm and civic spaces.

“Our goal is not to try to recreate the downtown Pittsburgh of the past – a place where people had their offices and were forced to commute every day – but to completely reimagine it as a place people want to be,” said Bill Demchak, chairman and chief executive officer, The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. and chair of the Allegheny Conference’s downtown task force. “Collaboration and a shared vision across private, public and non-profit sectors will be critical to realizing a new future for our city."

“The success of downtown is important to the success of our entire region. As we work together to reimagine the next chapter of downtown, I’m excited to see the intentional focus on building a community where everyone feels safe and welcomed,” said Allegheny County Executive Sara Innamorato. “This moment is an opportunity for a unified coalition of civic leaders to work together to build something new and great, just as generations before us have done for Pittsburgh. Now it is our time to create a downtown that is different than it was before, more vibrant and welcoming to all, for people who call Pittsburgh home today and people who will call Pittsburgh home in generations to come.”

“Downtown Pittsburgh is the heart and soul of our entire region, and I knew when I came into office that we would need to create a new plan to help downtown recover coming out of the pandemic,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey. “I knew that our path toward a reimagined downtown depended on collaborating with everyone who has a stake in its vibrancy. My team worked to forge new partnerships and we have been successful in bringing a broad coalition of people together so we can make sure that the downtown Pittsburgh of tomorrow is a downtown that is safe, welcoming and thriving for everyone who lives, works or plays here.”

Experts from inside and outside the region have been engaged in developing a strategy for downtown’s future. These include New York-based landscape architecture and urban design firm Field Operations, which has been responsible for projects such as Manhattan’s High Line and Chicago’s Navy Pier.

“By tapping the national expertise of Field Operations, we’re identifying the assets that differentiate Pittsburgh. Our goal is to capitalize on these in novel ways to create a vital neighborhood downtown – not just a corporate and jobs center or an arts and entertainment destination but a magnet for everyone to live, work, and play,” said Allegheny Conference CEO Stefani Pashman.

To achieve this outcome, proposed connective corridors have been developed to provide a new framework for the downtown experience by:

  1. creating thematic connections to successful civic anchors in adjacent neighborhoods;
  2. embracing our rivers and reaching across them;
  3. engaging the iconic bridges and finding ways to cross elevated highways, ramps, and railroads in ways that transform barriers to unifiers and;
  4. leveraging existing assets and amenities, along with new destinations to make a neighborhood that encourages residential growth.

These connective corridors are preliminary recommendations for strategic investment and are intended to be additive – building on or off initiatives and investments already underway; flexible – changing based on community and stakeholder input and needs; and incremental – representing a core minimum project footprint that maximizes impact and can be used as a framework for future projects.

Field Operations, working together with downtown organizations and evaluating current and proposed plans has overlaid existing blueprints with recommended projects to revitalize downtown in key civic spaces. Working hand-in-hand with the Urban Redevelopment Authority, each project has been considered in relation to potential conversions of commercial real estate to housing so that a true neighborhood feeling is the outcome. Three high-impact civic and public realm projects have emerged for further consideration in the first phase of a multi-phased plan and include:

8th Street Block and Allegheny Descent

This proposed civic space could transform acres of surface parking adjacent to Fort Duquesne Boulevard and the Allegheny River to create a dramatic destination downtown, energized by the Cultural District and the river, and nestled among the Three Sister Bridges. With the ability to offer a variety of civic spaces and programs, the 8th Street Block could include a large, flexible lawn, cafe, outdoor amphitheater, water play, a backyard area with outdoor games, food trucks, and moveable furnishings. Another proposed portion of this project could utilize Fort Duquesne Boulevard to create more activated civic space, including a balcony over the river, which could lead to the Allegheny Descent – a lush walkway to the water – creating a strong pedestrian connection to the river.

Point State Park

The eastern portion of Point State Park – the area on the Gateway Center side of the Portal Bridge – could become further enhanced as a welcoming front yard for downtown and a park for the adjacent neighborhood, with strategic upgrades and amenities along its perimeter to attract more residential growth. Thoughtful designs would avoid disturbing native species of plants near the Point. Innovative approaches to traffic patterns on Liberty Avenue, including a rightsizing of the roadway, could be implemented on Liberty Avenue with proposed activations that could allow for amenities like sports courts or dog parks in the medians on Liberty to intentionally connect Point State Park to Market Square, the heart of downtown. Alongside improved infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists, this could strengthen the connection between Point State Park and Market Square – the heart of downtown – for residents and visitors alike.

Market Square

A renovation could include new paving, furnishing and other features that support both everyday use and events such as farmers’ markets and smaller gatherings to reemphasize its historic significance as downtown’s crossroads and civic heart. Restricting vehicular entry and exit points would provide Market Square with more space for people, allowing it to expand from "building face to building face," engaging the restaurant frontages and increasing its use and capacity.

Each of these projects is visionary and conceptually designed in a way that can lead to a more robust future design phase, which will include coordination with the appropriate local, state and federal agencies, as well as a public input process to guide decisions about access and the revitalization of the spaces.

“There is potential to create something extraordinary – a true community at the heart of our region that’s vibrant by day and night,” said Pashman. “In the nearer term and beyond, building a future-focused downtown Pittsburgh for all is going to take innovation, bold actions and hard work involving partners from across our region.

“To meet this moment, coordination, collaboration and a commitment to progress will be critical,” Pashman explains. “We need the region’s public and private sector partners to engage the appropriate local, state, and federal organizations, as well as the broader community, to seize this opportunity to advance what’s next for downtown Pittsburgh – the heart of our region."

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