30 Years: Pittsburgh's riverfront property now a hot commodity

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Newcomers to the region who eat or shop at riverfront destinations like the Waterfront in Homestead or the SouthSide Works in the city might not know the sites once helped to drive Pittsburgh industry.

Those properties and others, like the Pittsburgh Technology Center in South Oakland, are reclaimed brownfields that decades ago housed steel mills, coke works or other industrial plants.

The collapse of the steel industry in the early 1980s changed that. The dormant mills became rusting eyesores -- prompting hundreds of millions of dollars in public spending to clean up and repurpose them.

One of the first was the 48-acre Pittsburgh Technology Center on Second Avenue. A former Jones & Laughlin strip mill, the Monongahela riverfront site is now an office park and research and development center, whose tenants include the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, with its world famous Entertainment Technology Center.

Across the river, SouthSide Works, once a J&L and LTV Steel finishing mill, has become a top retail, dining and entertainment venue. The 123-acre site is home to American Eagle Outfitters' national headquarters, restaurants such as the Cheesecake Factory and Hofbrauhaus, apartments and offices, along with training facilities for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Pitt football team.

The U.S. Steel Homestead Works now hosts another mixed-use development, the Waterfront. Opened about 13 years ago, the $305.7 million development on the Mon features retail, restaurants, a movie theater, offices, apartments and hotel space.

Perhaps the most dramatic changes occurred over the past 25 years on Herr's Island, once the province of cattle stockyards and meatpacking and rendering plants, generating odors in keeping with such uses.

Now known as Washington's Landing, the 42-acre site on the Allegheny River is a haven for upscale housing, a full-service marina, a rowing center, offices, research and development space, a park, and trails, only minutes from Downtown.

-- Mark Belko

It can be tough to pin down the exact date of the beginning of UPMC, the now internationally known, healthcare giant with $10 billion in revenue and 55,000 employees that make it the region's largest employer.

But 1983 was the year that the man given the lion's share of credit for creating UPMC, the late Thomas Detre, began using his power as the University of Pittsburgh's new associate senior vice chancellor for health sciences to craft his vision of an integrated health provider/teaching hospital/research engine.

At the time, it consisted solely of the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC) in Oakland. The region's other hospitals were separately run and Detre realized consolidation was in all of their futures.

In 1983, Detre enlisted his protégé, Jeffrey Romoff, now UPMC's CEO, and two doctors, Gerald Levey and Bernard Fisher, to craft a plan for what became the Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, now part of the Hillman Cancer Center.

From there, over the next 30 years, UPMC would create, buy or expand -- starting in 1986 by combining WPIC, Eye & Ear Hospital, and Presbyterian University Hospital under unified management. It would go on to absorb Magee-Womens Hospital, Children's Hospital, Shadyside Hospital, Mercy Hospital and, most recently, Altoona Regional Health System. Last year it opened the region's first new hospital in Monroeville, the $250 million UPMC East.

In all, UPMC --which in 2002 adopted the acronym in place of the longer University of Pittsburgh Medical Center -- now controls 16 hospitals in Western Pennsylvania, as well as a hospital in Ireland, a transplant center in Italy, 13 senior communities and hundreds of cancer treatment centers, rehabilitation and outpatient clinics and doctors' offices.

region

Sean D. Hamill: shamill@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2579. First Published October 12, 2013 8:00 PM


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