Local leaders celebrate life of developer, dreamer Schneider

Mark Schneider memorial hails his visions for city

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Mark Schneider was remembered Saturday for having the audacity to think a once rat- and smell-infested island on the Allegheny River could become a luxury residential enclave that today is better known as Washington's Landing.

He was celebrated as a pivotal real estate developer whose strong will, relentless optimism and grand vision helped Pittsburgh, the city he loved, erect new sports stadiums, a convention center and other projects where people live, work and play.

But in a memorial service that drew 400 people to a sweltering PNC Park, the 55-year-old who died a week ago following a bike crash in Maryland also was recalled for attributes less likely to make the newspapers: his spontaneity, an adventurous spirit and love and loyalty for those closest to him in life.

Public figures including former Gov. Ed Rendell, former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald were among those to address family and other mourners as they paid final tribute in the stands behind the Pirates dugout, their sweeping view of the city's Downtown skyline courtesy of an 11-year-old major league ballpark that Mr. Schneider helped bring to fruition.

"It just so happens that the Pirates start to win and play good baseball and dad has to leave," said his son, Max, who served as master of ceremonies. "I just don't think he could fathom that: a winning baseball team at PNC Park."

Mr. Rendell said one of Mr. Schneider's defining traits was that he dreamed big.

"Most developers use the term 'sustainable development' but they don't really mean it," the former governor said. "They say it either because it's required or they think it will strengthen their bid. ... Mark lived and breathed sustainable development. He wanted everything he did not just to make money but to make things more beautiful, to make life better and increase the quality of life."

Mr. Schneider, former chairman of the Sports and Exhibition Authority and the Stadium Authority, proved pivotal in developing Heinz Field, the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and PNC Park. As president of the Rubinoff Co., he advanced Washington's Landing and other riverfront projects and transformation of a slag heap into the residential Summerset at Frick Park.

He was an avid cyclist and strong advocate for bike trail development in the city and beyond. His death came after his bike ran off the road July 28 during a 100-mile charity ride near Frederick, Md.

Mr. Murphy seemed to wrestle with his emotions when he asked the mourners to "help me get through this," noted how much he will miss his longtime friend and told Max and his sister, Ryan, how proud they made their father.

But the former mayor also drew laughter as he alluded to Mr. Schneider's ability to muster dollar support for what might have seemed unlikely development efforts, telling the crowd, "The fundamental lesson he taught me is that you can you build those things and you don't need any money as long as you have Ed Rendell or someone else."

Even if his organizational skills at the office were lax, said business partner John Watson, his colleagues could always count on something more important: Mr. Schneider's loyalty.

"He loved biking, baseball, politics and a good bottle of wine," Mr. Watson said, adding, "We all know, not necessarily in that order."

Erie Mayor Joseph Sinnott lauded Mr. Schneider's role in his city's renaissance, but said many other successes he only learned of after Mr. Schneider's passing because they weren't the things he discussed.

"He talked about his passions. He talked about his family. He talked about bicycling. He talked about the things that he loved," Mr. Sinnott said. "But he never told you how successful he was. He just did it."


Bill Schackner: bschackner@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1977.


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