Reporting on the positive changes along the city’s riverfronts this year – and the work ahead
It’s that time of year when you look back over the past 12 months and take stock of all the positive things that have happened. You can’t help but feel a sense of gratitude and humility to all those who have helped along the way–and also excitement/nervousness about the challenges ahead in the new year.
If you biked, walked or jogged along Pittsburgh’s downtown riverfronts this year, you know that 2011 saw some significant changes as Riverlife continues our work building Three Rivers Park, Pittsburgh’s 13-mile interconnected riverfront park system. New trail connections were made or improved. Public green spaces were reopened after significant renovations. New amenities popped up in parks. And not even Batman and Tom Cruise could stay away from Pittsburgh’s lovely rivers and bridges this year.
Thanks to the efforts of many people throughout the city, Three Rivers Park moves even closer toward completion, and it’s terrific to see Pittsburgh receive recognition (like this, this and this) for its beautiful transformation and the high quality of life for its residents.
That’s not to say there haven’t been challenges along the way, and there will be plenty in 2012. Funding for infrastructure, trail and park projects is tight, especially in a tough economy. Establishing long-term solutions for the care and maintenance of our riverfront parks is absolutely essential. With more trail users every year, we are working to minimize inconvenience during construction and/or maintenance. And we continue to strive for the very best in environmental practice, whether it’s managing stormwater runoff through landscape design, eliminating combined sewer overflows by creating natural biofilters, or restoring natural riverfront habitats that have been depleted in the past.
Here’s a look back at some of the big changes that happened throughout Three Rivers Park in 2011.
South Shore Riverfront Park takes shape
In March, Riverlife teamed up with Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and the associates of American Eagle Outfitters to host a preview tour of the new South Shore Riverfront Park at SouthSide Works. Though it was chilly enough to warrant hats, coats and gloves for the outdoor event, the sun was shining and one thing was clear: South Shore Riverfront Park will be a very exciting new public park when it opens in 2012. The 3.2 acre park will create an important trail link along the Mon River, connecting South Side residents and visitors to the trail network and riverfront access. It’ll also be a dynamic space for events and concerts.
Oxford Development began construction of a new hotel on the park, joining American Eagle Outfitters and the Hofbrauhaus restaurant in bringing new life to the rivers.
Thanks to American Eagle for their $50,000 contribution to the development of the Park and to the City, the Urban Redevelopment Authority for their ongoing stewardship of the project and to the South Side Local Development Co. and the Soffer Organization for their collaboration on the project.
SEA cuts the ribbon on new Convention Center Riverfront Plaza
May brought the completion and opening of the beautiful new riverfront plaza at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. The Sports and Exhibition Authority welcomed elected officials from throughout the region to cut the ribbon on the Plaza, an important riverfront park that connects the Allegheny Riverfront Park in the Cultural District with the exisiting trail in the Strip District while also creating a new water landing for boats. The project spans 1,300 feet of riverfront and includes a 3,000 sq. ft. public event plaza and an elevated walkway, and a new handicap accessible connection is provided from Fort Duquesne Boulevard.
Another bonus: now when you walk down the winding pathing along the water feature that runs underneath the Convention Center, you have a wonderful destination awaiting instead of a barrier preventing you from reaching the river. Congratulations to the SEA for sheparding this challenging and exciting project to completion.
Point State Park promenades finish reconstruction and open to the public
The top-to-bottom reconstruction of Point State Park reached several significant milestones this year, including the reopoening of the newly refurbished riverfront promenades along the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers in June. With each new improvement, park attendance continues to rise. Take a walk along the river to admire the new water landings, amphitheaters and the hand-laid granite edges restored by skilled masons. Thanks to our friends at the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for their partnership in the project, and Pressley Associates for their beautiful design of the promenades.
Cafe at the Point, a gift from the employees of PNC, opens for business in Point State Park
In September, the employees of PNC partnered with Riverlife and DCNR to open Point State Park’s first-ever cafe on the perimeter of the City Side Lawn. Now not only can hungry visitors order Mediterranean and American fare while enjoying the Park, they can also learn about the history of the site through interpretive elements on the walls and tables of the Cafe. It’s also a green building that will seek LEED certifcation. Image courtesy Pfaffmann + Associates.
Construction begins on the Fountain
After years of constant use, the famous Fountain at Point State Park was deteriorated and broken. In November construction began on a total renovation of this Pittsburgh icon, the final phase of the reconstruction of Point State Park. Along with raising the plaza that surrounds the Fountain basin, a waterfall and a disappearing edge will be added as well as new lighting and improvements for ADA accessibility.
The renovations at Point State Park are overseen by the state, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and Riverlife, and the Fountain construction is expected to be complete by late 2012 or early 2013. A heartfelt thank you goes out to the hundreds of Friends of the Fountain that came together to contribute to the repairs and renovation of this symbol of Pittsburgh strength.
Allegheny Riverfront, full steam ahead
Fresh from receiving $1.5 million in Sustainable Communities federal funding in 2010, the Allegheny Green Boulevard continues to move forward at an exciting pace. Public planning meetings in 2011 brought together neighbors from the Strip District, Lawrenceville and other communities along this six mile stretch of urban riverfront, and residents weighed in on plans to determine Allegheny riverfront park access, environmental components to riverfront planning, open space programming, neighborhood design, and the types of transportation modes that will be options for Pittsburghers for many decades to come.
Do you live, work or play in one of the neighborhoods along the Allegheny Riverfront? Check out this interactive site and give your thoughts about how and where improvements should take place.
Mon Wharf Switchback receives $100K from RAD, moves closer to construction
The year ended with more positive news for trail users: Allegheny Regional Asset District (RAD) approved a 2012 budget that included $100K over two years for construction of the Mon Wharf Switchback, an ADA-accessible bike/pedestrian ramp that will connect the historic Smithfield Street Bridge down to the Mon Wharf Landing linear park. While Riverlife continues to raise the final $1 million to fully fund the project, permitting, structural engineering and design continue to move forward as the Switchback becomes a reality. Thanks to our friends at Allegheny Land Trust for their leadership in advancing this project as a critical link in our regional trail system.
Three Rivers Park trail markers
The year wraps up with the installation of new bronze mile markers along 22 miles of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. Riverlife and Friends of the Riverfront teamed up to provide this system of trail location indentifcation for users traveling along various segments of trail in relation to the Point. Installation of the new markers is expected to be completed by mid December.
Again, thanks to all our partners who have worked with us to make these projects a reality. Tthere are too many of you to name here, but you know who you are, and thanks to everyone who has donated their time, money and resources to Riverlife over the past year. We simply couldn’t continue to advocate for world-class riverfronts without your support.
As for 2012? Next year brings a host of projects: a must-see lagoon located near the headwaters of the Ohio River, a new marina at South Side Works, exciting changes at Station Square that will create new opportunities for sporting, recreation and relaxation, and new urban riverfront landscapes in the Strip District and Lawrenceville. Let’s raise a glass to Pittsburgh’s riverfront transformation, and look forward to a new year full of promise and potential.
The Riverlife team