Steelers donate $ 300,000 to North Side park

Gift expected to aid $17 million upgrade of city's oldest park

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The Allegheny Commons restoration initiative on the North Side has gotten a boost from the Pittsburgh Steelers. The club has committed $300,000 for improvements over the next six years.

Allegheny Commons is Pittsburgh's oldest park, dating to 1867 when the North Side was Allegheny City. The $17 million restoration is set forth in a 10-year master plan that will "probably take longer" and cost much more, said John Francona, chairperson of the steering committee for the initiative. The plan calls for a return of original features such as a formal promenade and fountains, with additional tree plantings.

Mark Fatla, executive director of the Northside Leadership Conference, said the Steelers' commitment is a "tenfold increase" over a previous donation of $5,000 over five years, with the addition of an extra year. The Allegheny Commons initiative operates under the administration of the conference.

"We're a huge part of the North Side and this is a project that needs all the resources it can get," said Jim Sacco, executive director of stadium management for the Steelers. Of the park he said, "It's beautiful, and it's something we need to stay on top of so we continue to have these treasures in Pittsburgh."

The Rooney family, NRG Energy Center and the Mexican War Streets Society committed to donate $5,000 over five years.

The Steelers increased their level of funding as part of the state's Neighborhood Partnership Program, which gives tax credits for their gift.

"We're really grateful to the Steelers for doing this," Mr. Francona said. "It gives us the operating money we need to support the project."

The initiative restored the southeast quadrant in 2007 for about $1 million, he said. The next phase -- the northeast quadrant from East Ohio Street north on Cedar to North Avenue and west to Federal -- will probably begin this year and cost $2.2 million. It will include restoration of the original fountain across from Allegheny General Hospital.

Mr. Francona said the initiative has pieced together several donations of $50,000 "just for the fountain."

Allegheny Commons Park was established from a public grazing land in Allegheny City and became a public park in 1867. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as are its surrounding neighborhoods of Allegheny West, Manchester, the Mexican War Streets and Deutschtown.

Diana Nelson Jones can be reached at or 412-263-1626.


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