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Officials throw pickleball, parks and housing for Downtown’s rebound

This story was originally published by NEXTpittsburgh, a news partner of PublicSource. NEXTpittsburgh showcases the people, projects and places that are moving the region forward and the innovative and cool things happening here. Sign up to receive their free newsletter.

Local leaders want to make Downtown Pittsburgh its own walkable neighborhood, chock-full of sports fields and green spaces. Three proposed revitalization projects would ensure this goal is achieved over the next two years.

The Allegheny Conference on Community Development envisions Pittsburgh’s old business district becoming a place to work, live and play — somewhere “where people want to be, not where they need to be,” according to CEO Stefani Pashman.

The proposed developments would eliminate vehicular access to Market Square, equip Point State Park and the wide medians on Liberty Avenue with exercise facilities and create a pedestrian destination where 8th Street and the 10th Street Bypass meet along Fort Duquesne Boulevard.

From left: Allegheny County Executive Sara Innamorato, Allegheny Conference CEO Stefani Pashman and Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey.
From left: Allegheny County Executive Sara Innamorato, Allegheny Conference CEO Stefani Pashman and Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey speak with members of the press about new downtown revitalization projects along Penn Avenue and 8th Street. (Photo by Roman Hladio)

Although plans are not yet finalized, preliminary images show pickleball and basketball courts connecting Market Square and Point State Park, and bench swings and water features between the Rachel Carson and Andy Warhol bridges.

Field Operations, a New York-based design firm responsible for Manhattan’s High Line and Chicago’s Navy Pier, is a consultant on the project.

Pashman led a press tour of all three proposed sites on June 5 with Allegheny County Executive Sara Innamorato and Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey. Pashman said the project has 45 community partner organizations.

The State of Pennsylvania is also a partner, especially in the context of the Conference’s vision for Point State Park.

Conceptualization of Point State Park following completion of the proposed Allegheny Conference revitalization project. (Illustration courtesy of the Allegheny Conference)

“The state is excited to work with us and already has ideas on how they want to see this move,” Pashman said.

So far, local businesses – like those in Market Square – have had little involvement, other than some being aware of the preliminary designs. Pashman said their participation will increase as the conference begins its public engagement process this summer.

During the press event, Pashman reiterated that the project is still in the ‘vision phase’. She said the project will take about two years, but was hesitant to put a price tag on it. Other details such as traffic flow, road closures affecting nearby parking garages and unhoused populations in the affected areas have not been determined.

“Today we’re going to talk about the ‘What’ and later the ‘How,’” Pashman said. “The facts are that we have built a real partnership with a variety of entities, from corporate to public sector, at the state level, at the local level… and we are all going to come together and deliver on this vision that we want to make a reality. have achieved together.”

The projects come as Downtown struggles with declining demand for office rentals and increasing demand for residential space.

A May 30 story from IndexPGH — a dashboard of city data managed by the Allegheny Conference — noted that two upcoming developments would spend $54 million to bring 108 new housing units to Downtown. In December 2023, the May Building and the former GNC headquarters separately received funds that, combined, totaled $11 million to create nearly 350 additional housing units.

Mock-ups of tables, chairs and artists on the market square.
Conceptualization for the Market Square. (Illustration courtesy of the Allegheny Conference)

“We know housing is a demand downtown,” Gainey said. “The reality is about creating the right formula to ensure we can execute the transformation needed to make Downtown a neighborhood.”

Pittsburgh is expected to host visitors from across the country when the NFL draft comes to town in 2026. Pashman said the timing was not planned – that this project has been in the works for a year and a half – but that the key partners are. “I am very aware of how this can put the city in the spotlight.”

Innamorato added that the redevelopment is for the residents of Pittsburgh.

“It will be great as we sell the region to new businesses, new tourists, and we can certainly use it as an economic engine,” Innamorato said, “but it is an investment in the people, businesses, arts and organizations that want it. here.”

Roman Hladio is a reporter for NEXTpittsburgh. He wants to hear the stories created in Pittsburgh. When he’s not reporting, he plays difficult video games that upset him and tries to cook delicious meals from mismatched leftovers.

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