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Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Downtown Pittsburgh is booming. The Golden Triangle has grown in ways that previous generations may never have envisioned, and the perception of the neighborhood at the heart of Pittsburgh is changing rapidly –– for the better.



(page 6 of 9)

MARKET SQUARE: Downtown’s new diamond.

Jen Grippo, a member of the Market Square Merchants Association and the daughter of a long-time restauranteur in the square, says she remembers not being allowed to go Downtown after dark alone when she was a child.

My dad, who’s still the owner here at [The Original] Oyster House, just did not feel comfortable having his family down here,” says Grippo, 26.
And now?

“Market Square — 100 percent — has improved,” she says. “We’re seeing a lot of new faces; we’re seeing a lot of activation in the square,” she says. “We as an association are looking to do more as far as entertainment and other activities that we can provide … I think we’re really happy with where it’s going. I think we’re certainly going in a right direction.”

Originally known as the “The Diamond,” Market Square was conceived at the end of the 18th century to serve as a public marketplace in the heart of Downtown. Since then, the square has survived a devastating fire in the mid-1800s and, in more recent decades, a sliding decline that emptied storefronts and made it increasingly attractive to loiterers. Reversing that decline began in the late 2000s, when the city authorized a $5 million renovation project to convert the square into a European-style “piazza.”
That concept restricted traffic flow and added brick sidewalks, aesthetic lighting and more space for outdoor dining, making the square more pedestrian-friendly and once again attractive to businesses. As activity has rebounded, city officials say they are responding to concerns about drug activity to ensure the square remains safe.

In the last six years, Market Square has become the site of some of the city’s notable restaurants and nightspots, the annual Peoples Gas Holiday Market, a popular summer farmers market, frequent live music, dancing, yoga, art installations and more.

Mayor Bill Peduto now says Market Square is the most significant development Downtown in the past decade.

“Market Square has become a place that is a destination spot,” he says. “It has really gravitated a lot of the pedestrian flow to that area and has become an area that is a destination point for 18 hours during the day. Where people would once leave Downtown at 5 [p.m.], people are driving into Downtown now to be in Market Square.”

​Grippo says friends who live in the suburbs finally are getting used to the idea that they should spend their evenings in the city as well as their workdays. She says ride-sharing services and other transportation options such as the Port Authority light-rail “T” make it easier for people to shed worries about traffic or parking.
“And we’re really making it worth their while,” she says. —Lauren Davidson
 

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