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Progress Continues in Downtown Pittsburgh: Leaders Look Forward to the Future

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As revitalization efforts continue in downtown Pittsburgh, IndexPGH catches up with leaders to reflect on progress and share hope for the future.

20+

downtown partner organizations

2024

a year to continue revitalization efforts

This has been a transformative year for Pittsburgh and IndexPGH is proud to be part of the revitalization efforts happening in our downtown. Through public-private partnerships and the dedication of organizations across downtown, we have slowly but surely made progress on many fronts as we reimagine the future of downtown Pittsburgh. Together, we seek solutions to ongoing challenges and want to take full advantage of the opportunities that arise, to create a downtown for everyone, where all people can thrive.

We are proud of the work accomplished and are hopeful for the future of downtown. We recently caught up with several of our partner organizations to get their take on progress and the path that lies ahead. These are the people doing the work each day, and we’re pleased to share their stories. Here is what they had to say:

Stefani Pashman

CEO, Allegheny Conference on Community Development

At the Allegheny Conference, public-private partnerships are at the core of all that we do. We are excited to play an integral role in the revitalization of downtown Pittsburgh and spent much of 2023 convening organizations to ensure we have the right people at the table. With the support of corporate and philanthropic partners, earlier this year, we committed $2 million to help advance efforts lead by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, which included:

- Enhance on-street maintenance and public safety and health outreach efforts;

- Provide temporary public restrooms;

- Increase programming and maintenance within Mellon and Market Squares; and

- Enhance beautification and lighting within the public realm.

As we finish 2023 and move into 2024, we are working with partners to re-imagine and recreate a downtown Pittsburgh where people want — not have — to be. We are well on our way to laying the groundwork for this to happen. We are working with partners to identify sustainable funding solutions to maintain programmatic investments that have already been made to stabilize downtown in the near term. And we have engaged experts from inside and outside the region to guide us in developing a long-term reinvestment plan that will foster a viable, thriving downtown. We envision a downtown that will not only benefit southwestern Pennsylvania as a robust economic generator for the region but, through its transformation, also provide a model for main streets across our 10-counties.

Jeremy Waldrup

President and CEO, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership

Throughout the year, our efforts have focused on elevating the Downtown experience on all fronts. The introduction of our Golden Triangle Ambassador team, coupled with the significant expansion of our on-street services, has had a noticeable impact on maintaining a cleaner, more inviting environment throughout Downtown. The Pittsburgh Potties, installed in two high traffic locations this September, are helping bridge the gap between the need for public restrooms and the development of more permanent solutions. Our small business ecosystem continues to grow and thrive, with 20 openings this year, along with ongoing efforts to transform vacant storefronts with creative pop-up retail and art. Public realm enhancements, with an emphasis on public art and placemaking, have helped transform the landscape of Downtown, providing more welcoming spaces for our community to gather and connect.

Along with these initiatives, we’ve also increased our impact through expanded programming and events. Market Square and Mellon Square hosted a robust lineup of live music, local vendors, and unique events throughout the summer, breathing new life into these iconic locations. And if this year’s record-breaking attendance at Picklesburgh and enthusiastic turnout at the 62nd Highmark Light Up Night are any indication, people want to be downtown, and they are eager to see what we have in store for the new year and beyond.

Catherine Qureshi

President and CEO, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

The city's diverse landscape and the treasures found within Downtown Pittsburgh, including the beloved Mellon Square Park, have played a pivotal part in bringing the city to life this year. The coming months bring so much promise. All of us at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy are excited to play a role in the continued growth of the downtown area through unique programs and opportunities to unite our community further.

Emily Balawejder

Director of Communications, Riverlife

In 2023, Riverlife achieved remarkable strides in their work to create, activate and celebrate Pittsburgh's Riverfronts looping around downtown Pittsburgh.

- The restoration of Allegheny Riverfront Park is well underway, addressing years of neglect and disinvestment, improving accessibility and providing a world-class experience for park users while honoring the history of the prominent riverfront landscape. Riverlife, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, and the City of Pittsburgh are working with original park designers Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc. and local landscape architecture firm LaQuatra Bonci Associates to restore the upper level.

- A new plan was unveiled with the Sister Bridges Experience, an ambitious vision set to transform the cross river connection from downtown Pittsburgh’s Cultural District to the North Shore's Pop District. In the first phase of this plan, major renovation plans were launched for Allegheny Landing on the North Shore, and funding was secured for on-the-water programming experiences.

- The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), completed an 8-month construction project, linking Point State Park with the Mon Wharf switchback. Riverlife funded and managed the design of this enhancement, which solidified the connection to the Great Allegheny Passage, significantly improving the overall trail conditions.

Looking ahead to 2024, additional projects are being put into motion:

- Riverlife is poised for further progress at Allegheny Riverfront Park, with groundbreaking set to commence in 2024.

- The Sister Bridges Experience is progressing steadily, with a new design for Allegheny Landing, along with initiatives set to revolutionize waterfront and on-the-water events and activities, further linking Pittsburgh to our unique geography.

- Riverlife will be commemorating 25 years of leading this ambitious work to make world-class riverfront destinations in this region. In addition to ambitious new programming opportunities, the 15th anniversary of the beloved Party at the Pier will showcase the enduring connection between downtown Pittsburgh and its rivers.

Jeff Garstka

Director of Economic Development, Sports & Exhibition Authority of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County

The Sports & Exhibition Authority (SEA) of Pittsburgh is pleased to be a part of the revitalization progress taking place in downtown Pittsburgh. Our focus is driving economic impact to Pittsburgh and Allegheny County by increasing the dollars that visitors spend.

We expect even bigger and better things for downtown Pittsburgh in 2024 and the SEA is excited to be a part of the renaissance.

Susheela Nemani-Stanger

Executive Director, Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh

We are encouraged by the current momentum of interest in transforming Downtown into a vibrant neighborhood. We look forward to continuing strategic partnerships in 2024 that enhance a welcoming and safe Downtown community. 

With programming like our Outdoor Dining grants and the new Pilot Pittsburgh Downtown Conversion loans, the URA and City are putting federal investments such as American Rescue Plan Act funding to work. As a result, we look forward to seeing a more equitable Pittsburgh where the landscape suits the needs of a post-pandemic world. These investments will contribute to a Downtown where Pittsburghers can work and live in safe, secure housing and businesses that are able to sustain themselves beyond the recovering economy.

IndexPGH looks forward to sharing more – data, stories, and connections – in 2024.

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