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RETOOLING DOWNTOWN FOR THE NEXT CENTURY by FOCUSING ON

PUBLIC SPACES Pittsburgh’s core reinvestment strategy


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Downtown Pittsburgh is defined by the confluence of the Allegheny River (top) and the Monongahela River (bottom) to form the Ohio River (left). Pittsburgh public space entrepreneurs understand that the strength of the city and the region is underpinned by the strength of its core. An all-in approach to 21st Century city building requires many authors working on many different kinds of projects at different times, scales, and locations. 


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The story of downtown Pittsburgh’s renaissance is best told through the targeted reinvestments of its downtown’s public space.


Strip District 3%

Infrastructure 20%

South Shore 14%

Downtown 20%

Infrastructure

$792,000,000

North Shore 

$1,724,000,000

Downtown

$783,000,000

Strip District  

$133,000,000

South Shore

$580,000,000

TOTAL

$4,012,000,000

North Shore 43%

Where Money is Spent

These investments have set the stage for over $4 Billion in private and public investment in and directly adjacent to Pittsburgh’s downtown core. Source: Riverlife


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LANDMARK SPACES

SEMI-PRIVATE SPACES

1. Point State Park

4. Gateway Center 5. Urban Gardens 6. PPG Place 7. Steel Plaza 8. Mellon Green

PUBLIC SQUARES 2. Market Square 3. Mellon Square

9. County Courthouse 10. PNC Firstside Park

CONNECTIVE SPACES 11. Three Rivers Heritage Trail

12. Convention Center River Plaza 13. Penn Avenue

FOUND SPACES 14. Katz Plaza

15. Triangle Park 16. Liberty Avenue Park 17. Village Park 18. Pop-Up Spaces


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Landmark Spaces

Landmark Spaces are those that get all the post cards and are shown from the blimp on sports broadcasts. They are also the ones that draw the most people to do the largest range of things.

1. Point State Park


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Point State Park One of the only state parks in the United States within a city’s limits, Point State Park is at the confluence of Pittsburgh’s rivers. It is the city’s front yard. It recently has reopened after a $35 million renovation.

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Point State Park The park is anchored on the west end by a towering fountain that marks the tip of the triangle. This greets televised spectacles and treats visitors on foot or bike. It is Pittsburgh’s iconic view and its reinvestment has spurred the completion of hotels, residential conversions, and the expansion of the ThreeRivers Arts Festival.


Point State Park It is a people magnet, bringing thousands of visitors daily, none of whom are able to park on-site. The commute from other parts of the city creates a positive spin-off effect for surrounding uses, spaces, and street life.


Point State Park The design of the water’s edge realizes Frederick Law Olmsted’s 1910 vision for an active, civic engagement of the city’s riverfront. It connects to the riverfront trail system which provides another conduit of bringing people to arrive at the park.


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Public Squares

Public Squares are the active rooms within a city where people meet markets; food; weekly and seasonal traditions; and spend time with one another.

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2. Market Square 3. Mellon Square


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Market Square

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Market Square has always been the heart of downtown Pittsburgh. It recently underwent a $5 million renovation that is leveraging massive reinvestment in the properties surrounding it.

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Market Square It has brought people back downtown to stay longer than just the work day.


Market Square Restaurants have started moving back to and around the square, taking advantage of the moveable seating and easy-tonavigate shared surface.


Market Square Market Square, once only periodically filled, is regularly used.


Market Square A regular farmer’s market on Thursdays connects a wide-ranging employment base with the best local producers have to offer.


Market Square Connecting food to table connects people to their downtown core.


Market Square

Programming such as a concert series is key to driving activity in the square.


Market Square

Downtown used to empty out at 5 PM. Market Square changed all that, getting people to stay longer and come back more frequently.


Market Square Rather than boarded up, storefronts are now opening up.


Market Square Storefronts have been unlocked, painted, and opened up.


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Mellon Square

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The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy has recently undertaken an $11 million restoration effort to fully realize the park’s original vision of a public square atop a public parking garage. ⨁ CLICK FOR MORE


Mellon Square

The centrally located garden has been a common living room for the western half of downtown but properties surrounding the square had started to languish as the square began to wear and tear.


Mellon Square

Major anchors such as the William Penn Hotel began to advocate for reinvestment in what could be a value-producing public space.


Mellon Square

And since, the first phase of a complete restoration creates a viewing deck over Smithfield Street (left).


Mellon Square

Pittsburgh is looking up. Around the park rises a prominent skyline, including the US Steel Tower (now UPMC) and the original ALCOA building (left). Due in part to the commitment to renovate the park, an investor group has recently purchased the ALCOA building and is renovating it.


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Semi-Private Spaces

Semi-Private Spaces create figural rooms off of busier thoroughfares and are associated with a private entity that controls the space.

4. Gateway Center 5. Urban Gardens 6. PPG Place 7. US Steel Plaza 8. Mellon Green

9. County Courthouse 10. PNC Firstside Park


Gateway Center IX

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The Gateway Center was built shortly after World War II as part of the “cleanup” at the mouth of the Ohio River.

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Gateway Center It’s gardens host part of the Three River’s Arts Festival and have become a popular migration route with the opening of the new Light Rail Station immediately adjacent to the space in Liberty Avenue Park.


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Urban Gardens

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Pittsburgh’s downtown core is starting to see an influx of housing options. The most established residential addresses are built around urban gardens. ⨁ CLICK FOR MORE


Urban Gardens

The gardens form a threshold between downtown as a work place and something that is distinctly home.


Urban Gardens

Secondary addresses such as these are ideal for residential buildings. The one on the left is a recent conversion from office to residential and, due in part to the garden, has attracted a charter school to locate on its lower floors.


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PPG Place

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PPG Place is Phillip Johnson’s contribution to the Pittsburgh Skyline. But, more critically, it offers a public space that plays a supporting role to nearby Market Square.

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PPG Place The space is anchored by an obelisk and spray park in the summer and transforms into an ice rink around the obelisk (covered by a tree) in the winter. With the overflowing success of Market Square, PPG Place has seen a resurgence in lunchtime traffic. Its programming is supportive of getting family traffic to come often to downtown and stay longer.


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US Steel Plaza

The US Steel Plaza was built off of Grant Street as the forecourt to the US Steel building.

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US Steel Plaza

The plaza is packed with people throughout the day, coming and going from a light rail station, office spaces, and a YMCA that are accessed off it.


US Steel Plaza

It hosts a full slate of festivals and events throughout the year.


US Steel Plaza

It is great for a sun-soaked lunch and has been critical to driving office rents and occupancy in the western half of downtown.


US Steel Plaza

A number of seating surfaces form a variety of places to sit and watch the concert series or just watch people. A number of food vendors have begun operating a plaza location to take advantage of these lunchtime crowds.


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Mellon Green

Mellon Green was home to Pittsburgh’s “Occupy” camp. While the site is largely held as a future building site, the green has been rebuilt (after “Occupy”) and maintained as a quiet space. ⨁ CLICK FOR MORE


Mellon Green

The center of Mellon Green offers a common space for nearby office tenants.


Mellon Green

Several corporate office buildings and a light rail station all spill out into Mellon Green. The space functions not only as part of BNY Mellon’s branding but allows borrowed value for other office and hotel buildings that look out over it and whose employees and guests use it.


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County Courthouse

The Richardsonian Allegheny Courthouse features a courtyard space that delivers an intimate public space. ⨁ CLICK FOR MORE


County Courthouse

Not only a great lunch spot and secluded waiting room, the courtyard also provides a valuable connection through the large block which ties together non-government properties that are peppered around government buildings.


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PNC Firstside Park

Firstside Park is the downtown landing point for The Boulevard of the Allies, providing 1.5 acres of green at the intersection of two major corridors. It is a gateway into downtown. ⨁ CLICK FOR MORE


PNC Firstside Park

The meandering design offers a quiet series of outdoor rooms separated from busier thoroughfares.


PNC Firstside Park

The space functions also as a grand address for the southeastern corner of downtown, including the PNC office building.


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Connective Spaces

Connective Spaces serve to move people throughout a block, a neighborhood or the city. They are typically linear and meant for moving through but make no mistake, they must be treated as great public spaces. 

11. Three Rivers Heritage Trail 12. Convention Center Riverfront Plaza 13. Penn Avenue


Three Rivers Heritage Trail

The riverfront trail system, connected to a broader network that connects Pittsburgh to Washington, DC, has reshaped circulation patterns within the city and opened up new infill development frontiers. ⨁ CLICK FOR MORE


Three Rivers Heritage Trail

They are the launching point to the river.


Three Rivers Heritage Trail

They access stepping pools that provide a wet amphitheater from which to view the city. These perpendicular connections pull the riverfront value deep into the development blocks that face the trail system.


Three Rivers Heritage Trail

The trails have changed the value proposition for riverside development, providing a new front door opportunity on which to address development parcels.


Three Rivers Heritage Trail

Fort Duquesne Boulevard (higher street) and the 10th Street Bypass (lower street) move a lot of cars while still providing a high-value frontage for downtown development and a safe access route to the river’s edge. This has been key to providing a high-value address amidst an otherwise complicated traffic pattern.


Three Rivers Heritage Trail

The system forms a continuous wharf to provide even more access options which allows for greater permeability into the city.


Three Rivers Heritage Trail

Recreational and commuter bicycle traffic finds easy access to much of the city’s downtown, north shore, and south shore via the continuous ribbon of trails. Bicycle commuting has increased steadily as a result of these valuable connections.


Three Rivers Heritage Trail

Much of the magic of PNC Park has been made possible by the access and activity afforded to it by the trails.


Three Rivers Heritage Trail

Even the orientation of the ballpark focused on connecting people back to their downtown and kept downtown connected to its team.


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Convention Center Riverfront Plaza

The Convention Center was built spanning a critical river access point at 10th Street.

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Convention Center Riverfront Plaza

The $9.5 million project slides under the Convention Center toward the Allegheny River.


Convention Center Riverfront Plaza

Upon landing at the river’s edge, one is greeted by a wharf that is an excellent spot to catch a river cruise or just to catch up on the news.


Convention Center Riverfront Plaza

From here, conventioneers and residents are connected to the entire Three Rivers Heritage Trail system.


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Penn Avenue

Pittsburgh realized early on that the success and vitality of its downtown core relied, in part, on a healthy cultural amenity package that would attract and retain patrons and talent in the evenings and weekends. ⨠CLICK FOR MORE


Penn Avenue

Using Penn Avenue as its primary public space, the Cultural District has grown to include numerous theaters, ancillary public spaces, schools, hotels, and restaurants. Recently, loft apartments and condos have been opening, attracted by the quality of experience and activity.


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Found Spaces

Found Spaces are where public space entrepreneurs are most active in reclaiming, repurposing, and reprogramming what a space should or could be. 

14. Katz Plaza 15. Triangle Park 16. Liberty Avenue Park 17. Village Park 18. Pop-Up Spaces


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Katz Plaza Katz Plaza is located at the heart of the city's Cultural District.

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Katz Plaza

The plaza is a flexible festival space that hosts community events, concerts, lunch goers and bus riders.


Katz Plaza When less active, the artwork and landscape allows for less formal animation. The building just beyond the fountain recently underwent a residential conversion due, in part, to its proximity to the plaza. This forms a symbiotic relationship as residents keep look out over the space.


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Triangle Park was the first public space to be built in the wake of the investments taking place in and around nearby Market Square. It was built as part of the PNC 3 / Fairmont Hotel project.

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Triangle Park The park serves many functions: it is the front yard for the PNC 3 Tower; it has a multi-purpose plaza with a trellis that is home to readers, musicians, and wedding receptions; and it is a busy bus stop for routes that serve the entire city.


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Liberty Avenue Park has seen new life as part of the Light Rail extension. It is the receiving space into downtown from the Gateway Station. ⨁ CLICK FOR MORE


Liberty Avenue Park

The paving points to history. The historic core is depicted here in an etching.


Liberty Avenue Park

The LRT station connects the transportation below with the city above. This connection has unlocked the latent parking supply of the north shore to which it connects, keeping unneeded car traffic from ever needing to enter the core.


Village Park

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Village Green was developed by Point Park University to serve as the core public space on its downtown campus.

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Village Park Village Park has become an active meeting ground for students, faculty, downtown residents, and office works. Point Park University has leveraged this investment to renovate surrounding buildings into office space, classrooms, living space, and retail.


Village Park

Point Park’s commitment to downtown means that young people are populating and animating downtown spaces and streets throughout the day, night, week, and year. This has had a profound effect on downtown.


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Pop-Up Spaces

Pittsburgh has always thrived on the quick prototyping of ideas and ventures. It is now using this DNA to invigorate the creative reuse of small spaces throughout downtown. ⨁ CLICK FOR MORE

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Pop-Up Spaces

The Cultural District has been developing Project PupUp to coordinate pop up ventures throughout the downtown core.


Pop-Up Spaces

A parking lot between Penn Avenue (the uplit building) and Liberty Avenue is transformed into Night Market.


Pop-Up Spaces

Strawberry Way is one of Pittsburgh’s most human-scaled streets. Every day at lunch it is taken over as a dining patio open to all.


Pop-Up Spaces

Bridges make great public space. Pittsburgh has more bridges per capita than any other city in the world. Pittsburgh uses them to great effect in connecting downtown with the neighborhoods that surround it.


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www.street-sense.org 2013


STRENGTHENING A DOWNTOWN by FOCUSING ON PUBLIC SPACES