What Pittsburgh can learn from other cities, and where we’re leading: lessons from a waterfront summit

By March 30, 2017Blog

Pittsburgh is a city shaped by water. We’re not just talking geographically, even though the city’s downtown Golden Triangle is carved by three rivers that form the Pittsburgh peninsula. River-oriented industry, transit and settlement have all had a role in forming the city’s economy and identity. Simply put, water is the reason why we are where we are.

You may have heard about the City of Pittsburgh’s recent Riverfront Zoning project. Pittsburgh’s industrial-oriented riverfront zoning code was shaped many years ago when the waterfronts were mainly used by factories, mills and barges. Anyone who has taken a recent walk, bike ride or boat trip along the city’s modern rivers can tell you that’s no longer the case. Pittsburgh’s riverfronts now include trails, parks, marinas, housing and commercial buildings and bustling entertainment districts right next to those industrial elements.

The new zoning initiative, being undertaken by the Department of City Planning with support from Riverlife, takes a look at those zoning laws to determine if they can be updated to better reflect and serve today’s diverse mix of uses along the riverbanks. Related: Read about the temporary riverfront overlay district that was unanimously approved by City Council last year, and the timeline for permanent riverfront zoning updates.

City of Pittsburgh Director of Planning Ray Gastil welcomes the audience at the “Waterfronts That Work” summit on March 16 before introducing the guest panelists.

As you might imagine, public feedback about the use and future of the city’s riverfronts is crucial. Pittsburgh City Planning hosted a “Waterfronts That Work” Summit on March 16, 2017 at the Carnegie Science Center. Free and open to the public, the summit featured guest panelists from five U.S. cities to share the lessons they’ve learned while creating waterfronts that serve a wide variety of people and uses. The room was packed with 170 community members, property owners and students who came to learn how other cities have used zoning to create vibrant, active waterfronts.

We’re featuring some of those lessons from the summit right here on Riverlife’s website and social media channels. We’ll update this page with each new city case study as it’s created; consider it your first-class tour of some of the most dynamic waterfront cities in the United States. Then get updates on Pittsburgh’s riverfronts by signing up for our e-newsletter.

Top image by Ehren Zaun, used with permission.