Mayor Peduto conducts tour of Pittsburgh's future



In the coming decade, people will want to move into cities, not out of them. They'll be less concerned about owning cars and where to park them and more concerned about public transit. And they won't want to go to work in far-flung industrial parks miles from urban centers.

That's according to Bruce J. Katz, vice president of the Brookings Institution, who called the coming decade "incredibly disruptive," a time when a nation that has perfected suburban sprawl will have to readjust its priorities and its vision for development. And the good news, he told Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and some 50 developers, philanthropists and mayoral staffers, is Pittsburghers "have the ability to situate yourself ... to be the vanguard of the new economy."

Mr. Katz was the keynote speaker at a summit held Monday in a packed conference room at Carnegie Mellon University. The goal of the summit, which included a variety of speakers, was to develop an action plan for "21st Century Economic Development." The high-profile attendees included representatives from the developers behind some of the city's largest ongoing projects, including Buncher Co., which has been in talks to remake the Strip District produce terminal; Walnut Capital, the firm behind the remade Bakery Square; and Oxford Development, which has several projects Downtown.

Penguins CEO David Morehouse, which is controlling the development at the Lower Hill District site where the Civic Arena once stood, also took a seat at the table, as did several representatives from PNC.

"We're going to become a global model of economic development," Mr. Peduto told the assembled guests. "These next 10 years are going to determine what this city's going to be for the next 100."

The summit began with more than two hours of lectures and presentations that touched on Pittsburgh's industrial and post-industrial history and explored its potential to be a leader in green building and sustainable development.

Robert Rubinstein, acting director of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, walked participants through the four sites they would see later in the day, talking about the challenges and the opportunities of each. In the Lower Hill District, where the construction of the Civic Arena displaced hundreds of families and businesses and choked off the neighborhood from Downtown, he acknowledged widespread mistrust of the community in development.

"Really the heart of the economic center ... was ripped out during [the Civic Arena] project," he said. "There is still widespread community mistrust in the public sector when we go on to propose or advance in an initiative."

In Hazelwood, the former site of the LTV coke works, is now being prepped for a residential and commercial development with the help of the largest tax-increment financing mechanism in the city's history. In Homewood, Mr. Rubinstein said, home values go up thirtyfold when you cross the Martin Luther King Jr. Busway that divides that neighborhood from North Point Breeze. So how can the city work on "bridging the busway"? And in the Strip District, the neighborhood presents the opportunity for one of the city's first riverfront residential developments.

From there, summit attendees boarded two buses that took them to the four sites they heard about -- to the Lower Hill District, the Strip District, Homewood and then the Hazelwood Almono site, debarking at each stop to hear Mr. Peduto speak.

At their stop in the Strip, the group convened in some afternoon sun behind the sprawling produce terminal, where crews were working to install large concrete pipes that will create the infrastructure along the Allegheny River for new development. Amidst the din of busy front-loaders, Mr. Peduto spelled out his vision for the development.

"So we have all the way to the convention center to St. Stan's in this area and then connecting under the Green Boulevard plan so that we can see the development occur all the way to the Highland Park Bridge," he said. "This becomes that linchpin that helps all of that other development occur."

Mr. Katz, too, saw great potential in the site.

"As we've been talking about, you've got really investable propositions here that in a San Francisco or in Boston would be financed off of value capture, which now [in] this market has to be done with that much more creativity," he said.

"I'm blown away. I mean, look at this," he added, gesturing toward an unobstructed view of Downtown and the sail-shaped roof of the David. L. Lawrence Convention Center. "This is gonna happen, and the question is just how fast and how creatively."


Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee.

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