Summerset at Frick Park was one of many development projects Mark Schneider had his hand in, but "it was the one that was closest to his heart," said state Rep. Dan Frankel at a ceremony Saturday to dedicate a small park in his memory at the Squirrel Hill site.
Mr. Schneider died three months ago at age 55 in a bicycle accident during a charity race in Maryland.
About 100 people, some with dogs and some in Halloween costumes, turned out to listen to remembrances of the Toledo native who, after graduating from Miami University in Ohio, came to Pittsburgh in 1979 with Volunteers in Services to America (now AmeriCorps). He settled into the North Side and became a community activist. He went on to a career in real estate development that took off in the early 1990s.
"I met him sometime in the '90s when he was pitching the idea that one day people would want to live on a slag heap," said city Councilman Bill Peduto, referring to the Summerset development. He said Mr. Schneider was an early proponent of "smart growth."
"He would come to Harrisburg and talk about green and sustainable development," said Mr. Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill. "It's hard to remember how tough it was politically to get some of these things done, but he was able to bridge the differences."
The plaque in the park at Summerset -- about a third of an acre of grass, walkways and plantings surrounded by new housing starts -- reads: "In memory of Mark C. Schneider, whose belief in community enriches life at Summerset at Frick Park."
"Mark typified how you get things done and get players to the table," said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, citing many of his developments around which there was initial opposition. "He leaves behind a great legacy, throughout the region. We're lucky to have had him."
Mr. Schneider's father, Clement, and two children, Max and Ryan, stood in a clutch of family and friends near the speakers, whose words prompted Clem Schneider to occasionally dab his eyes with a handkerchief.
Peg McCormick Barron, a longtime friend of Mr. Schneider's, shared a description her daughter had of the new houses going up with their Pepto-Bismol-colored insulation material. "She said 'Those are big, tall Marky's pink houses.'
"Mark's middle initial, C, might as well have stood for community." She smiled at his father and said, "No offense, Clem," prompting his laughter.
"Many people couldn't see the vision," said Mr. Schneider's cousin Colleen Manganello. "They called it 'from slags to riches.' "
The Summerset Land Development Associates includes Murray Rust of Montgomery & Rust, who said he "first met Mark 20 years ago when he was doing Washington's Landing and the trails." He noted Mr. Schneider's knack for seeing possibilities in very degraded places. "Mark had that vision."
As a vice president, then president, of the Rubinoff Co., Mr. Schneider proposed housing on Herrs Island, a longtime livestock slaughtering site, and led a development project that transformed the island, now Washington's Landing. Later, as managing partner of Fourth River Development, his direction transformed another brownfield in Manchester into what is now the Columbus Square housing community.
In addition, his positions with the Sports & Exhibition Authority and Stadium Authority positioned him to advocate for and guide the development of Heinz Field, PNC Park and the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
Mr. Rust said the Mark Schneider Memorial Park was planned all along as a green space along Biltmore Lane.
The naming, Mr. Fitzgerald said, "is so appropriate." The timing is too, said his daughter, Ryan: "Halloween was his favorite holiday."