Meeting kicks off first phase in city-wide development plan


About 75 people came to the city’s first PreservePGH meeting on April 19. PreservePGH is the first phase in the 12-phase PlanPGH program. (Photo/Henry Clay Webster)

What would you like to see in Pittsburgh in five or 10 years?

Alan Perry wanted to see overnight camping return to Riverview Park.

“I’d like to see public housing completely dismantled,” said Stanley Lowe.

“I’d like to see the casino gone,” said Tom Murphy.

Viewpoints were varied at the Department of City planning’s first PreservePGH meeting, held on Monday, April 19 at the New Hazlett Theater.

PreservePGH is the first of 12 components in the city’s new comprehensive plan, called PlanPGH, which is the first city-wide plan to fit the legal framework of the Pennsylvania Municipal Planning Code, said City Planning Assistant Director Joy Abbott.

Unlike previous city plans Renaissance I and II, which also tried to modernize and prepare Pittsburgh for the future, PlanPGH is “interested in the social side” of future city development, Abbott said.

“The city is establishing a blueprint that will transcend mayors and members of city council for 25 years,” said consultant Tracy Zinn of T & B Planning, lead consultants on the PreservePGH phase.

The entire comprehensive plan will take five years to finish and will entail many more community meetings to cover all 12 components: cultural heritage, open space, move (representing transportation), art, design, power, facilities, services, work, live, learn and land use.

Zinn led residents in a group discussion of the city’s priorities in preserving and showcasing historic buildings and infrastructure in the city.

“It does not mean that everything will be saved,” Zinn said. “That’s a perception we want to get rid of.”

Northsiders, which made up the majority of those in attendance, voiced differences over development priorities.

David McMunn, vice president of the Mexican War Streets Society, said that business districts should receive the bulk of public attention. “Our business districts are our [neighborhoods’] welcome mats,” he said.

Carole Malakoff, a 27-year resident of Allegheny West, disagreed with the idea of prioritizing different sections of neighborhoods.

“Every building in the neighborhood is important,” said Malakoff, who pointed to the many empty lots in Manchester as a drag on the neighborhood as a whole.

Allegheny Center resident David Holliday said, “Allegheny Center shouldn’t be reconnected to the street grid.”

Another longtime resident of Allegheny Center voiced his concern that demolishing urban renewal projects of the 1960s, such as the closed Allegheny Center grid, would only foster more unnecessary redevelopment. “It’s like demolishing the Eiffel Tower to build the Taj Mahal,” he said.

“I just hope the planning process involves green spaces. Not every building can be saved,” said a woman who identified herself as not living in the historic parts of the Northside flats. “Instead, our neighbors could be learning from gardening.”

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