After five years and $10 million, Pittsburgh’s Mellon Square has been returned to its mid-century splendor. Dedicated in 1955, the Square served as a modern, green oasis in a city choked by pollution. But only a few decades after opening, the modern masterpiece had fallen into disrepair, its former glory hidden by cracked pavement, broken fountains, pigeons, and empty planters. As Pittsburgh has transformed itself in recent years, so to has Mellon Square. Now, the reborn space is yet another example of the Steel City’s promising future.
From its streets to its rivers to its skyline, Pittsburgh is a city in transformation. The Steel City is diversifying its economy, improving its streetscape and becoming a new hub for the creative class. Business Insider has even declared Pittsburgh to be “The Next Hipster Haven.” But the transformation has meant more than coffee shops, bike-share, and startups—even though that’s certainly playing a part. As the city changes, though, it’s too easy to ask if Pittsburgh is the “Next [Enter City Here].” Because the “Next Pittsburgh” will not be the “Next Austin,” or even the “Next Portland.” It’s shaping up to be something entirely it’s own. Simply put, “The Next Pittsburgh” will be just that.
Pittsburgh’s new mayor took office this week, and with him comes a cabinet division dedicated to neighborhood development. The Steel City has largely scrubbed its image as an ailing post-industrial town in recent years, drawing in new artists and young professionals, but the revival has not touched all parts of the city equally.
Fourth and fifth-year landscape architecture students at Penn State’s College of Art and Architecture recently presented their proposals for reshaping a Pittsburgh neighborhood. The twelve participants in the school’s Pittsburgh Studio spent most of the semester focusing on Hazelwood, a neighborhood set to host a new site for a historic branch of the city’s Carnegie Library.
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[ Editor's Note: Peter Murray, of the New London Architecture Center, together with a dozen architects and planners, is biking from Portland, Oregon to Portland Place in London, studying how cities are responding to the demand for better cycling infrastructure. He reports from the start of his ride. The Architect’s Newspaper is USA media sponsor of the trip and will post periodic updates of these architects on bicycles. As the P2P team gears up for its triumphant arrival in Manhattan on Sunday (June 30th) having completed the U.S. leg of the trip, Peter Murray looks back at some of the highlights of the last week’s riding. ]
One of the delights of cycling across the States has been to experience cities whose names were familiar to me but whose contemporary characteristics and qualities were a void. I am ashamed to admit that when first researching our route through Pittsburgh my main ideas of the city were influenced by scenes of Pennsylvania’s shrinking steel industry from Michael Cimino’s 1978 film The Deerhunter. Instead, I found that Pittsburgh is “the regeneration capital of the U.S.,” eds and meds have replaced steel and it has a fast-improving bicycle infrastructure. Much of the credit for this last piece of progress must go to the energy of Scott Bricker and Lou Fineberg who founded Bike Pittsburgh just over a decade ago. The city still has a long way to go but it has bike lanes and riverside trails and it is highly probable that the next Mayor will be the Democrat Bill Peduto, who is a strong supporter of better biking. Of buildings in the city, we much enjoyed H. H. Richardson’s powerful Allegheny Courthouse and Jail with its rough stone masonry and Romanesque detailing.
Is Anthony Weiner two-timing New York City? If you looked at the mayoral candidate’s website in late May, you might wonder whether he wants to lead parades in the Big Apple or the City of Steel. Perspicacious political reporter Michael Barbaro of the New York Post discovered that a backdrop image on Weiner’s website was not a view from Brooklyn across the East River, as it may seem on first glance, but rather a shot from the Robert Clemente Bridge leading into downtown Pittsburgh. Oops.
The Rockefeller Foundation has announced that four cities will receive a combined $1.2 million in grants to foster research, communications, and community outreach efforts in an endeavor to educate local stakeholders about the advantages of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems. The Foundation’s solution to “Transform Cities” and promote fiscal growth and quality of life proposes better mass transit investments. Boston, Chicago, Nashville, and Pittsburgh will participate in the project.
As part of the city’s first ever 25-year development plan, PLANPGH, Pittsburgh is taking a cue from Boston and rolling out a mobile talk show truck to hear what residents of each of the city’s 90 neighborhoods have to say about public art and urban design. TALKPGH will be cruising throughout the city on the glass-walled back of a box truck through April 20th as a public outreach effort from ARTPGH and DESIGNPGH, the public art and urban design branches of PLANPGH. The concerns and opinions voiced on the talk show will be taken into consideration during the creation of Pittsburgh’s first design manual, which will guide the city’s growth over the next 25 years.
Pittsburgh is the latest in a long line of cities preparing to launch a bike share system. According to the Bike PGH blog, Mayor Ravenstahl announced the 500-bike, 50-station program earlier this month. Similar to systems in other cities, bikes will be available for short-term rides for a small fee. Portland, OR-based Alta Planning and Design will partner with the city to launch the system, the same company involved with New York, Washington DC, and other major bike share systems. More information will be available at two community meetings scheduled for April 2nd and 3rd. The city hopes to roll out the new bikes in 2014.