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.


Photo by dave dicello

 

With more residents moving in, more cultural and dining destinations and the redevelopment of communal space, the perception of Downtown Pittsburgh is quickly changing — and with construction and development a constant, the boom is far from over. We update you on its theater and food culture, public spaces, projects in the works and much more.
 


Photos by chuck beard

 

Downtown is Moving on Up.

When Dan Adamski wants to impress out-of-town guests, he shows them his new patio. It’s a nicer patio than most, perching as it does 12 stories above the flourishing café scene of Market Square.

Adamski, who heads the local office of Chicago-based commercial real estate firm JLL, has been selling and leasing corporate office space in Pittsburgh for 17 years. He got his own new office — and that patio — when JLL moved its 500 local employees into Tower Two Sixty on Forbes Avenue in time for the building’s opening in May. “It’s been tremendous to see the evolution of the city,” he says. “It’s very exciting to be part of it.”

Downtown Pittsburgh has seen its share of booms and busts in two centuries. The present upward trend — with its mix of new skyscrapers and landmark restoration, improved parks and public spaces, and an explosion of new culinary and cultural offerings — might be enough to lock in the Golden Triangle’s status for years to come as one of America’s most beloved downtowns.

Stand in recently renovated Mellon Square and turn in a slow circle, and you can see it in microcosm: the ornate Union Trust Building marking its centennial with a $100 million facelift; workers laying the foundation for a new building where Saks Fifth Avenue stood; the once-emptying Oliver Building gutted and fully refurbished, with a hotel occupying its top 10 stories; Alcoa’s aluminum-clad ex-headquarters, now marketed as luxury condos; and in the shadow of the historic Omni William Penn Hotel, the twinkling lights of the rooftop biergarten at the boutique Hotel Monaco.

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s annual “State of Downtown Pittsburgh” report, released in May, reported 196 building permits were filed in 2015 in the Central Business District, the third time in four years the number has approached 200. Last year saw 23 new restaurants debut in the Golden Triangle. Three new hotels have opened Downtown since 2015, and at least five more are under construction or about to be, raising some industry concerns about oversupply. “I think we feel comfortable Downtown about the pace of development,” says Jeremy Waldrup, president and CEO of the partnership. “But with every new hotel announcement, everyone kind of looks at each other and says, ‘All right, are we done?’”

More people are coming to stay long-term too. In the past five years, population in the city’s central business district is up 33 percent, to about 5,000 residents. Rents are rising with more upscale apartments — and so, at times, are tempers. City Councilman Daniel Lavelle, whose district includes Downtown, says he is dealing with a lot more noise complaints from residents. If it isn’t the bars, it’s the jackhammers. “Moving from a workplace center to a 24-hour live-work-play scenario brings challenges the city never had to deal with,” he says.

Not since Pittsburgh’s first Renaissance, anyway. In the city’s postwar transformation into a modern corporate showplace, Mayor David Lawrence brought in bulldozers to demolish his own childhood neighborhood and make room for Point State Park and the stainless steel towers of Gateway Center. Renaissance II in the 1980s added a Downtown subway and more skyscrapers, though that boosterism was tempered by the shuttering of steel mills throughout the region.

So is it Renaissance III now? To some, perhaps. But don’t say that to Mayor Bill Peduto. “The Renaissance era ran its course after the collapse of heavy industry …” he says. “Now we’re in a different era.” Peduto claims two big contrasts between past and present revitalization: Downtown no longer is being planned chiefly for cars, but instead the emphasis is much stronger on the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and mass transit; and historic preservation is preferred today over “the wrecking-ball approach to urban development.”

The latter is vindication for Arthur P. Ziegler Jr., president and co-founder of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation. When he started fighting city hall and big developers 50 years ago, Ziegler says he was inspired by Jane Jacobs, who in her 1961 book, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” singled out Pittsburgh as an urban center being “witlessly murdered” by urban planners and their sterile towers.

Now, by rehabbing old shops on Market and Wood streets for small retailers such as Heinz Healey’s Gentlemen’s Apparel, Market Street Grocery, Boutique La Passerelle and Katie’s Kandy, Ziegler says the foundation is helping to rebuild the varied and busy streetscapes Jacobs championed. “If you walk down Penn, Liberty or Forbes and you arrive at Gateway Center, there’s almost nobody walking in Gateway Center,” he says. “They’re all across the street with the old buildings, the shops and the restaurants.”

Instead of recycling a renaissance, Peduto prefers shifting shapes. His aim is to turn the Golden Triangle into a “Golden Quadrangle” by strengthening linkages across the rivers and uptown. The most ambitious effort would heal the Renaissance’s ugliest scar — the razing of the Lower Hill in the late 1950s and early 1960s and its severance from the city (by what now is Interstate 579/Crosstown Boulevard) to build a cultural “acropolis” that wound up being only the Civic Arena.
Councilman Lavelle, a lifelong Hill District resident, is a strong proponent of a plan to build a 3-acre park over I-579, a project expected to cost upwards of $30 million. It’s a formula that worked for Chicago, which stretched its lush Millennium Park over still-functioning railroad tracks, and Madrid, which buried six miles of arterial highway under a new riverfront park.

“When we demolished the Lower Hill, we displaced hundreds of businesses and tore apart the economic core of the community, and it has never recovered,” says Lavelle. But today’s pace of change has him feeling keenly optimistic. 

“A decade from now, I would say the biggest change will be that the Hill District has seamlessly blended into Downtown to the benefit of all.” —Mark Houser
 

 

Culture: A prime-time hub entices new crowds.

Since its opening in February 2013, Arcade Comedy Theater on Liberty Avenue has seen the crowds coming through the doors of its performance space grow.

Many weekend shows at Arcade fill the small, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust-backed room to capacity; when the building opened, however, those audiences were made up mostly of dedicated comedy fans and loyalists. Now, Abby Fudor and Mike Rubino — two of Arcade’s co-owners — report their patrons have diversified. Tourists visiting the city, families and couples from the suburbs and those spending a full evening Downtown all find themselves at Arcade.

As plans for Arcade (arcadecomedytheater.com) evolved through 2012, there never was any question the theater would be located Downtown. “I thought, ‘What if comedy was front-and-center in a prime-time spot in the Cultural District?’“ Fudor says. “That’s where the hub is, and it’s where the recognition is. That was always the idea.”

A few decades ago, such an attitude would have been unthinkable; even 10 years ago, the idea of relying on people to come Downtown for smaller performances would have been met with skepticism. But the success of Arcade and other cultural organizations speaks to a markedly increased desire on the part of Pittsburghers and out-of-towners alike to spend time in the Golden Triangle.

“We wanted a centralized location so that folks in the city could get to us and folks outside of the city could get to us,” Rubino says.

The ascendance of the arts in the Cultural District predates Downtown’s current resurgence, dating back to the concerted effort to turn a once-seedy part of the city into a performance hub in the mid-1980s. The 1984 formation of the Cultural Trust (trustarts.org) led to the restoration of prime venues such as Heinz Hall, the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts and the Byham Theater; the late-’90s addition of the O’Reilly Theater and the subsequent growth of the Theater Square complex dramatically expanded Downtown’s creative footprint.

More recently, though, marquee performances in grand houses have not been the sole draw for audiences and patrons.

The likes of Bricolage Production Company (bricolagepgh.org) and Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company (pghplaywrights.com) have expanded Downtown’s on-stage offerings. Gallery spaces such as Future Tenant (futuretenant.org) and SPACE (spacepittsburgh.org) — key locations in the Cultural Trust’s regular Gallery Crawl events — have brought visual arts beyond the city’s large museums. Next door to Arcade, the Harris Theater (cinema.pfpca.org) — one of three movie houses operating under the Pittsburgh Filmmakers banner and a venue for the annual Three Rivers Film Festival (3rff.com) — shows acclaimed world cinema in what once was an adult-film house. The Pittsburgh CLO Cabaret (pittsburghclo.org/cabaret) presents small-scale musicals to audiences who might not ordinarily attend a touring Broadway performance, and the August Wilson Center (culturaldistrict.org/pages/aacc) continues to offer programming in multiple disciplines.

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s 2016 State of Downtown report cited a Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council study showing approximately 4.2 million people attended arts and cultural events in 2015 in the Greater Downtown area. That number does not merely represent increased attendance but also indicates the variety and type of offerings in the heart of the city is diversifying. And creators are recognizing Downtown as a desirable place to perform.

“I was enamored by the idea of central Pittsburgh,” Fudor says. “I liked the idea of being in the center of the city.” —Sean Collier
 

 

OUTDOORS: Rethinking public spaces.

Mellon Square’s $10 million restoration was very personal for Jim Griffin. “It has a special place in my heart,” he says of the 1-acre Mid-Century Modern terrace built atop an underground garage. “I pulled up the concrete there. I scraped the dead pigeons out of the drains.”

For four years he managed the project for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, the nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring and improving city parks. Now as director of Pittsburgh’s Citiparks department, Griffin is determined to protect his work by encouraging the public to come and enjoy it. The park has a full schedule: movies on Monday, games on Tuesday, tai chi and other exercise on Wednesday, lunch concerts on Thursday, and on Friday, a farmer’s market. Pigeon-feeding, smoking and homeless encampments are not welcome. To enforce the rules, park rangers have begun patrolling Mellon Square and other urban park areas.

With more people looking at Downtown as a place to be, rather than just to work, parks and public spaces are reaping the rewards. When the iconic fountain gushed again three years ago after lengthy repairs at Point State Park, it signaled a renewed tempo reclamation — one championed by Riverlife, a public-private initiative that aims to guide the redevelopment of city waterfronts. New plans include landscaping the bank from Heinz Field past the West End Bridge into a naturalistic wetland habitat for birds and fish, and extending the park on the Allegheny shoreline upstream past residential developments planned in the Strip District. Beyond their aesthetic appeal, these parks also act as arteries for pedestrians and cyclists.

Public areas with less scenic pedigrees are getting more attention as well. At narrow Strawberry Way, “The Two Andys” above Wiener World have been joined by a new mural — this on the street itself, now closed to automobiles. Councilman Daniel Lavelle is shepherding plans to build a fenced parklet along Fort Duquesne Boulevard where off-leash dogs can frolic safely. He also is scouting places to put an urban garden, possibly on a rooftop.

Downtown also needs a public playground, dog parks and basketball courts, “the things that make a neighborhood a true neighborhood,” says Jeremy Waldrup, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. “Right now residents of Downtown are going elsewhere for those types of things. That’s something we as a city can do better, and it’s not a huge lift.”

To stake a claim on another underused public outdoor space, Citiparks this year began offering free ping-pong tournaments Thursdays in the massive portico of the City-County Building. “We declared it a park zone with no smoking,” Griffin says. “So you can play 10-minute games to 7 [points], and we pick up the balls.” —Mark Houser
 

 


Photo by Laura Petrilla
 

DINING: DeShantz draws diners Downtown.

Richard DeShantz, executive chef and owner of the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group, sits in the dining room of the nearly finished Pork & Beans, his soon-to-open fourth Downtown restaurant. He also oversees Meat & Potatoes, Butcher and the Rye, and täkō, all located in the Cultural District.

DeShantz fires stream-of-consciousness word association as he runs through his Pork & Beans design process: “Shed atmosphere. Corrugated steel. Pull the whole experience in. Paper towels on pipes. It’s about experience. What kind of shoes are the servers wearing? How does the menu feel? Beers on old cast-iron sinks. Not reclaimed wood, I want barn wood. Write the elements into the place.” 

“I always thought I was going to go to art school. I was never planning on becoming a chef, but it became a real creative outlet for me,” he says.

​DeShantz, 45, grew up in Sheraden and got his first restaurant job at his uncle’s restaurant, an Italian-American joint called the Chase Inn, when he was 14. Instead of art school, he attended the now-closed Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts and worked as a line cook at Hyeholde Restaurant in Moon Township. He was the opening baker and partner at Mediterra Bakehouse before opening his first restaurant, Cafe Richard, in the Strip in 2001. 

There DeShantz met Tolga Sevdik, who worked at the nearby dejAVu Lounge and often came in to Cafe Richard to chat at the end of his late-night shift. Sevdik would become his business partner and now is co-owner/director of operations of the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group. DeShantz also met dejAVu owner Michael Pijanowski; that friendship spurred DeShantz’s journey Downtown when the two opened Nine on Nine in 2006. 

The restaurant received significant acclaim — it received two separate four-star reviews from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — but its fine-dining focus made it a decidedly niche restaurant. After four years, DeShantz moved on. “I wanted to strip away everything and open a place that was raw, about the food and had a fun atmosphere,” he says.

In 2011, he opened Meat & Potatoes, a modern gastropub with an approachable yet slightly forward-thinking menu bolstered by a top-flight cocktail program. It was an instant hit. “Three years open at Nine on Nine, and even people working Downtown didn’t hear of the place. Within weeks of Meat & Potatoes opening, even people in the suburbs knew we were there,” he says. 

The business was in the black within weeks of opening. “Meat showed a lot of people that you can be successful Downtown,” DeShantz says. 

To be sure, there already were locally owned, successful Downtown restaurants. For example, business was strong for the Big Y Group, which operated Seviche and Sonoma Grille and had just opened Nola on the Square; Perle and Poros later would follow. Chef Matthew Porco launched Sienna on the Square (then Sienna Sulla Piazza) in 2012 and later opened a stacked trio of restaurants in Sienna Mercato on Penn Avenue. Bigger restaurant groups from inside and outside Pittsburgh now are following suit. Derek Stevens, celebrated for his long tenure at Eleven Contemporary Kitchen in the Strip District, will open the much-anticipated Union Standard in the Union Trust Building this fall. 

But it’s DeShantz and his team who arguably have left the biggest mark. If Meat & Potatoes was a game-changer, its follow-ups — Butcher and the Rye, which opened in November 2013 and täkō, which opened next door to Butcher in April 2015 — were console upgrades. Both brought high energy to what once was a blighted block of Downtown. 
 


 

Butcher’s menu is a refined version of Meat & Potatoes; the bar is what shines here. The dramatic wall of whiskey, Victorian design elements and upstairs cocktail lounge, along with an impressive bartender team, added a new element to Downtown drinking and garnered the recognition of the James Beard Foundation; Butcher became the first establishment in Pittsburgh to earn a nomination for Outstanding Bar Program.

With täkō, DeShantz and his team hit the trifecta by triangulating cuisine, drink and design into a casual yet considered establishment that quickly became one of the hardest-to-get tables in the city. täkō also illustrates what Deshantz says is one of the primary reasons for his success: “I do everything I can not to lose good people [who] work for me. I want to help them grow.”

At täkō, that meant empowering Dave Racicot, a chef with a reputation for outstanding work in the kitchen but who could not get traction with his own restaurants, to rediscover his swagger. It means knowing that Sevdik, his partner, will handle the operational logistics of the restaurant group while DeShantz handles the culinary and creative sides. It meant finding a high-caliber chef such as Keith Fuller to add his culinary voice to Pork & Beans as chef/partner. 

“He’s changed the way people eat Downtown. This wasn’t someone from out of town coming in with a huge bankroll and opening. It’s a real nothing-to-something story, and that’s impressive,” says Joey Hilty, co-owner of The Vandal in Lawrenceville. 

DeShantz’s next project, located on the site of the now-closed Salt of the Earth in Garfield, will take him out of Downtown  for the first time since he left Cafe Richard. He says he also has plans for several new restaurants Downtown, including one for which he started thinking about a design concept during a trip to Miami two years ago. 

“Are we in a bubble? Are we going to keep going? I’ve never seen anything like this here,” DeShantz says. —Hal B. Klein
 

 

COMMUTING: Beyond the garage.

Downtown commuters have never had it so good — if their wheels are on a bicycle.

Dedicated bike lanes on Penn Avenue averaged 800 rides daily between May 1-Oct. 31 last year, according to counters installed by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. That traffic is increasing this year, says Sean Luther, executive director of Envision Downtown. The cooperative effort between the city and Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership is collecting data and testing pilot projects for public spaces, transportation and traffic.

The news is positive for mass transit, too; surveys show it accounts for almost half of Downtown commuters, Luther says. A February study of census data by SmartAsset ranked Pittsburgh’s mass-transit situation eighth-best out of 136 U.S. cities, with one of the smallest differences in average commute times by bus vs. car. To ease sidewalk congestion at its busiest bus stop, the city this year widened the sidewalk at Smithfield Street and added shelters and lean bars.

With nearly 52,000 garage and lot parking spaces in the Downtown and nearby areas such as the Strip District and North Shore, and another 1,500 planned for projects now under construction, the city is “pretty close” to having enough room for morning commuters, Luther says. The squeeze comes once they’re all settled in. “If you’re coming to visit your attorney at 11 a.m., it is admittedly very difficult to find a place to park in the Golden Triangle,” he says.

Pittsburgh Parking Authority Executive Director David Onorato takes issue with those who bemoan a Downtown parking shortage. “There’s a perception of that because they can’t find a place right in front of their building,” he says. “That’s not just Pittsburgh, that’s industry-wide.” As for short-term spaces, he points to automation that has made on-street parking more convenient. Pittsburgh is the first major U.S. city to switch to license plate-based metering, which means no more painted lines, the freedom to move to a different spot Downtown while keeping your remaining time, and the ability to top up your meter via phone app. (It also means easier collection and ticketing.) This year the authority eliminated two-hour limits Downtown, though Onorato says recent counts show four out of five street-parked vehicles still are staying for less than two hours.

Envision Downtown hired an intern from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs to collect, map and analyze parking data; it posts the findings frequently on its website. It also plans to unveil automated signs along Fort Duquesne Boulevard that are wired into the ParkPGH app. As each Cultural District garage fills up, the signs direct drivers to the next one with free space, reducing traffic snarls.

Ride-hailing services such as Lyft, Uber and zTrip and short-term self-rental Zipcar have substantially altered the dynamics of getting around Downtown. Self-driving automobiles, like the ones Uber’s Strip District research hub began road-testing this spring, could have an even more dramatic effect — especially if they can park themselves in the city’s outskirts during the day. For now, daily drivers might try this cheaper and healthier garage alternative: Pay $6 or $7 to park in a Strip District lot, and use a Healthy Ride bike share, at $12 a month for unlimited 30-minute rides, to pedal the rest of the way to Downtown. —Mark Houser
 

 

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
 

 

Evolving Attractions

The Grand at Fifth Avenue.  The former Kaufmann’s flagship store that even Macy’s couldn’t save is being converted into 300 apartments and a hotel with a restaurant, tennis court and pool on the roof, plus 600 new parking spaces. A mix of retail, restaurants and entertainment is planned for street level and the floor above, with expected opening by early 2018.

Pittsburgh Playhouse.  By building a performance venue with a 560-seat main stage on Forbes Avenue, Point Park University will bring its theater and dance students to the Downtown campus from Oakland. Opening in fall 2018, the theater will decorate its outdoor courtyard with facades of three historic buildings that were razed to make way for it.

350 Oliver.  In the footprint of the former Saks Fifth Avenue, builders are putting up a Brazilian steakhouse chain topped with a six-story parking garage slated to open early next year. Developers plan another seven or more floors of apartments atop the garage.

Eighth and Penn.  The restored historic facades of the McNally and Bonn buildings on Penn Avenue will be incorporated into a 135-unit apartment complex with a rooftop garden terrace and a colorfully lit public passageway to Katz Plaza. Construction is expected to begin next spring, and more developments could be coming soon for the adjacent block between Eighth and Ninth streets, now mostly parking lots on Pittsburgh Cultural Trust-owned land. 

Union Trust Building.  Henry Clay Frick’s shopping arcade and office complex (above), with its elaborate Flemish Gothic roofline, emerged this summer from major renovations that included putting a parking garage under it. New restaurants opening later this year include Union Standard and Eddie V’s. Downtown’s most dramatic interior may be this building’s atrium, with the stained-glass dome high overhead.

Lower Hill District.  City officials continue to push the Pittsburgh Penguins to develop the former Civic Arena site, which they agreed to do in 2008. Last year U.S. Steel scrapped plans to build a new headquarters to anchor a mixed-use development. A proposed park capping I-579 could make the site more attractive and accessible.

350 Fifth Avenue.  Oxford Development, which sold its Renaissance II landmark skyscraper this year, has announced plans to erect a glass-walled office tower of possibly 29 stories, but a construction date has not been set. —Mark Houser
 

 

HIDDEN GEMS

The Bethel A.M.E. Church, according to its historical marker, was founded in 1808 as the African Church on Front Street, now First Avenue. Chartered in 1818, it was the site of the region’s first school for African-American children and the setting for a statewide civil rights convention in 1841. Its congregation later moved to the Hill District in 1872.

The 25-foot bronze fountain in Agnes R. Katz Plaza is the largest public art commission by famed French-American artist Louise Bourgeois.

Fort Lafayette, constructed to protect Pittsburgh against Indian attacks, was completed at the site of Ninth Street and Penn Avenue in 1792.
 

HISTORICAL POINTS

Union milestones: The founding convention of the AFL was held on Nov. 15, 1881, at the northwest corner of Mellon Square Park. The Ironworkers Union was founded on Feb. 4, 1896, at Firstside Park on Grant Street, between Boulevard of the Allies and  First Avenue.

The Pittsburgh Nickelodeon, the first moving picture theater in the United States, opened in 1905 in the 400 block of Smithfield Street. 

Downtown’s oldest business? The J.R. Weldin Company stationery store, located since 2014 in the Gulf Tower on Grant Street. The business has operated in several spots Downtown since its founding in 1852.

​Firstside Park was built using 2,500 tons of recycled concrete from the demolished Pittsburgh Public Safety Building, which previously stood on the site. 

Freelance writer and frequent contributor Mark Houser is the university editor and an adjunct professor at Robert Morris University. Sean CollierLauren Davidson and Hal B. Klein are Pittsburgh Magazine Associate Editors. Alexa Mavrogianis, Katerina Procyk and Neil Strebig also contributed.
 

 

PEOPLE ARE SAYING …

“Signs and easier navigating systems need to be developed so non-city travelers can move through the city.” 
John Valentine, executive director, Pittsburgh Downtown Community Development Corporation

I have three kids, and I don’t think Downtown is ready for us. There’s no kids down here. … We have some work to do to make it feel like a place where families would be welcome.” 
Jeremy Waldrup, president and CEO, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership

Now [we] need to connect [Market Square] with other busy Downtown hubs, like the Cultural District, Point State Park, Grant Street and Mellon Square. It can’t just be that one area is an 18-hour area. All of Downtown needs to be an 18-hour area.” 
Mayor Bill Peduto

A deepening infrastructure for public  transit, particularly from Oakland and the suburbs … would be transformative immediately.” 
Craig Davis, president and CEO, VisitPITTSBURGH

Without a doubt, one of the biggest trends the millennials are driving is urbanization, which is resulting in all  of the development you’re seeing.” 
Dan Adamski, managing director, JLL commercial real estate

Parks are a great democratic space, and everyone’s welcome there. But we can’t allow a park to be degraded to a point where it can’t fulfill its mission.” 
Jim Griffin, director, Citiparks

There’s an overall concern about the affordability of Pittsburgh as it continues to grow and flourish. … We want to ensure young individuals coming out of college can also afford to live Downtown, and as we build amenities, a young family can live Downtown — not just empty-nesters who have saved for it.” 
— Pittsburgh Councilman Daniel Lavelle

Our Downtown is our living room. It’s where we gather. Downtown should showcase the best our region has to offer in retail, not simply bringing in others. Otherwise we become Anywhere, U.S.A.” 
Mayor Bill Peduto

If you pick up any travel PR piece about any city, what they always show is their historic buildings. How many people go to a city to look at new construction or to visit their sprawl?” 
Arthur P. Ziegler Jr., president and co-founder, Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation 

A shopping district needs to be developed with clothing boutiques and other stores.” 
John Valentine, executive director, Pittsburgh Downtown Community Development Corporation.

Some wrinkles that still need to be ironed out as far as bringing people into Market Square who may have that hesitation — once you move out to the suburbs, there are people who think, ‘Oh my gosh, Downtown, where do I park?’ That [perception] will always be a battle.” 
— Jen Grippo, Market Square Merchants Association

[The Cultural District] is where the hub is, and it’s where the recognition is … I was enamored by the idea of central Pittsburgh.” 
Abby Fudor, co-owner, Arcade Comedy Theater

Are we in a bubble? Are we going to keep going? I’ve never seen anything like this here.” 
Richard DeShantz, Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group
 

Report Card

Living Downtown

 More residents with more units to choose from.
 Rents and condo prices also rising with demand.
 

Tourism & Conventions

 Three new hotels since 2015, five more on the way.
 Not enough hotels near convention center to attract biggest draws.
 

Retail

 Small shops opening, including grocery in Market Square.
 Since Macy’s closed, nowhere to buy upscale cosmetics.
 

Crime 

Burglary and vandalism down sharply since 2010.
Crime up more than 10 percent this year over 2015. Simple assault, public intoxication up sharply since 2010.

Transportation

 New bike lanes getting heavy traffic.
 Parking spots still hard to find, especially at midday.
 

Aesthetics

 Mix of old storefronts, new skyscrapers, and improved parks.
 More work needed in transition zones between bustling areas
 

 

 

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