What Does A City Do With 2,000 Acres Of Blighted Riverfront Land? If You Are Pittsburgh, You Redevelop The Heck Out Of It!

Lock and Dam Number 2 on the Allegheny River a...

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Always progressive Pittsburgh and its young mayor have come up with an amazing 20-year master plan to redevelop a 2,000 acre section of riverfront property along the Allegheny River.  Egad you say!  How does one go about doing that???

Take an enormous swatch of rust-belt wasteland, add a heapin’ helpin’ of housing, business, industry, transportation and a complete environmental makeover and you have a master plan.  The 77-page document was developed over two years with input from property and business owners, residents, community leaders and nonprofit organizations.  Create a dialogue; build a consensus and a result will emerge (sounds like our newest Planning Commission member’s philosophy).

This plan incorporates affordable family housing, green technology, new industries, walkable communities and the strengthening of transportation to increase a sense of community.  Pittsburgh is already one of America’s greenest cities and most livable cities.  Adding commuter rail, a circulator trolley and a “green boulevard” right down the middle are all part of the plan.

The project will rely mostly on private investment, instead of looking for handouts from the state and federal government.  What this should tell you is that Pittsburgh has progressed beyond the point of being subsidized and can generate enough buzz and interest in projects from their own community, outside investors and banks to finance them.  This is a tremendous sign of health.  I heard this same message from Mayor Chris Doherty when I toured Scranton.

Apartments, office buildings and parking garages, along with more adaptive reuse projects like the conversion of the old Armstrong Cork factory into condos, are all envisioned as part of this redevelopment plan.  Currently much of the land is empty warehouses, parking lots and weeds. In many places the river is obscured from view and/or inaccessible.  The land is mostly considered worthless because of its current blighted state.  Environmental improvements, restoring the riverfront, tree planting, stormwater containment and LEED certified buildings are all included.

This is what Pottstown needs to do.  A long-range plan needs to be formulated and put into place.  There is movement in this direction, but a comprehensive plan, that includes these kinds of features, with input from many stakeholders, needs to be drawn up and executed.

Just to give you an idea of how big 2,000 acres is.  Pottstown is about 5 square miles which converts to 3,200 acres.  The City of Pittsburgh is roughly 55 square miles which converts to 35,200 acres.  This project will redevelop about 5 1/2 percent of the total land area of the City of Pittsburgh.  Mighty impressive!

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