A cascade of renovations set for Point fountain

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A $9.6 million renovation project to return the city's Point State Park fountain to its spouting spout glory and up its attraction factor is expected to begin this month.

The project, which will add a waterfall and a disappearing edge to the fountain, is the last phase of a $35 million renovation to Point State Park orchestrated by the state, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and Riverlife.

Plans for the largest park project in commonwealth history began over a decade ago with the aim to overhaul the landscape, reconstruct wharfs and add a cafe, among other renovations. Construction started in 2007.

The fountain, which sits at the point where the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers join to form the Ohio River, has become a staple of the city since its inception in 1974.

"It is the view that Pittsburgh has become famous for," said Lisa Schroeder, president of Riverlife, a public-private partnership that guides and advocates for the redevelopment of Pittsburgh's riverfronts.

Ms. Schroeder said the fountain has also become a cultural symbol.

"It's not only a beautiful element, but it's a wonderful symbol of that drive that Pittsburghers have to reclaim their environment and make the city a great place to live," she said.

But over the years, the fountain has deteriorated.

The main spray, which shoots water up to 120 feet in the air, has been shut off since 2008, with the city citing various mechanical and electrical problems. The smaller "peacock" sprays stopped operating in 2009.

The fountain underwent temporary fixes to reappear for the G-20 Summit and the kickoff to the NFL season in September 2009 but has since remained inactive.

When the fountain renovations conclude in the late spring or early summer of 2013, the plaza surrounding it will be resurfaced, and the fountain will have a 2-foot-high second ring inside the pool that will incorporate the disappearing edge waterfall. The pump equipment will be replaced and the fountain will feature new LED lighting, according to Christina Novak, a spokeswoman for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

The adjacent wharf area also will get a face-lift, and renovations will be made to the pump house building and public restrooms.

Funding to the tune of $5 million came through private donations over the past 21/2 years, and the state contributed the additional funds.

Craig Davis, vice president of sales and marketing for the Greater Pittsburgh Convention & Visitors Bureau, said he loves the new redesign of the fountain.

"Once this is renovated, we should celebrate it," he said. "The city is missing something without the fountain running."

Richard Beynon, chairman of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership board of directors, said the fact that Pittsburgh has a 36-acre park in the center of Downtown is "tremendous."

The return of the fountain, he said, will draw more residents back to the park to enjoy the new amenities.

"When that fountain shoots up three, four stories high, it's a whole lot different than what they had in recent years," he said. "It's as iconic to me as what the St. Louis arch would be or the Golden Gate Bridge."

Taryn Luna: 412-263-1985 or tluna@post-gazette.com .


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