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Then and now: the vision for a riverfront loop in Pittsburgh

By October 23, 2018Blog, Uncategorized
Three Rivers Park vision plan drawing

2019 marks Riverlife’s 20th anniversary and we have a lot to celebrate.

That’s 20 years of working with the community to make Pittsburgh’s riverfronts the green face of the city. 20 years of implementing a vision for a continuous loop of public riverfront parks, trails and¬†development in downtown Pittsburgh.

In 1999, a group of energized citizens, business leaders, environmentalists and philanthropists took a boat ride on the Gateway Clipper to survey the opportunity along the riverbanks. Back then, there was no North Shore; Three Rivers Stadium stood surrounded by acres of concrete and minimal river access. There was no riverfront connection at the Convention Center. No South Shore Riverfront Park, Mon Wharf Landing or renovated Point State Park. Unlike today, very little river-oriented real estate development was happening in the Strip District along the Allegheny or the South Side along the Mon.

Pittsburgh’s riverfronts were ready for a new chapter.

After that inspiring but somewhat daunting boat ride, Riverlife went out into the neighborhoods and met with thousands of Pittsburghers to hear their hopes and dreams for reconnecting the riverfronts to their daily lives.

Riverlife public meetings on land and water over 20 years. Images by Riverlife.

Riverlife public meetings on land and water over 20 years. Images by Riverlife.


In 2001, Riverlife presented our Vision Plan for Pittsburgh’s Riverfronts to the City of Pittsburgh and got to work. The community-created vision was simple but also grand in scale: work with multiple partners, land owners and advocates to create a loop of riverfront destinations Downtown, and invest in good design and amenities for trail users to elevate the riverbanks for everyone.

Through a combination of hard work, fundraising, positive peer pressure and a non-stop focus on fulfilling that original vision, Riverlife today joins Pittsburghers to celebrate a 15-mile loop of riverfront destinations that is nearly 85% complete. Every day we’re working on new improvements, addressing maintenance solutions, and creating new access points and environmental restoration.

Image by Dave DiCello, used with permission.

Downtown Pittsburgh riverfronts today. Image by Dave DiCello, used with permission.


Curious to see what was in the original vision plan, and how it compares to today? You can download a PDF of the Vision Plan for Pittsburgh’s Riverfronts on our Resources page. Then visit our Riverfront Guide to see individual projects that have shaped that riverfront loop over the past 20 years. If what you see inspires you, don’t forget to donate to Riverlife’s work today.