The Victorian-era Allegheny Center Plaza, across from where the Children's Museum is now.
The Victorian-era Allegheny Center Plaza, across from where the Children's Museum is now.

During the redevelopment craze of the 1960s and ‘70s, East Ohio and Federal streets were broken up, the Commons was paved over and historic structures demolished for the construction of Allegheny Center Mall, apartment buildings and office suites and Commons Drive.

Many think the Allegheny Center redevelopment was misguided, and that the city should have found ways to re-use historic buildings like the Market House, rather than destroying them.

Now, a half-century later, various groups hope to re-re-develop the historic center of Allegheny City. As we’ve reported, the Northside Leadership Conference is spearheading a plan to reconnect East Ohio and Federal streets. The Children’s Museum, through its Charm Bracelet Project, is hoping to demolish Allegheny Center Plaza and build a new, meadow-like park with a fog sculpture.

At community meetings in which the redevelopment plans have been presented, some community members have come forward and said they feel that destroying Allegheny Center—in whole or in part—is making the same mistake the URA made in destroying the original Commons. They feel we should maintain what we have and treasure it for what it is and for its historic value.

Others feel that the current design is detrimental to the neighborhood and that we should correct the mistakes the URA made in building Allegheny Center. They feel that the original is best, that the streets should be reconnected, and that Allegheny Center Plaza be returned to a green public space.

A similar issue with the Hill District and the Civic Arena was recently addressed and decided upon. Historic preservationists wanted to keep the Civic Arena and find a re-use for it, but most people in the Hill District, along with the Penguins, wanted to demolish it and reconnect the Hill District to Downtown.

The Sports and Exhibition Authority voted unanimously to demo the arena. If all goes according to plan, the Hill will eventually be reconnected to Downtown. And if all goes according to the Conference’s and Children’s Museum’s plans, the same thing will happen in Allegheny Center.

Of course, Allegheny Center Mall will not be entirely demolished, but in order to reconnect Federal Street, part of it has to go, or at the very least, be reconfigured, according to the Leadership Conference’s street grid reconnection proposal.

Now, the question is, do we find ways to re-use what we have, or do we redevelop again?

If we tear down parts of Allegheny Center and rebuild, are we dooming ourselves to a continuous cycle of redevelopment? Or, have we found ways to build sustainable parks and sustainable neighborhoods that will be used and appreciated for generations?

Check back with www.thenorthsidechronicle.com for continuing coverage on the street grid reconnection and the new park.

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