Convention center area could use 'spiffing up'

Pittsburgh has two months to get its house in order

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With two months until the world visits Pittsburgh for the G-20 economic summit, we're not exactly ready for company.

A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette walking tour of the blocks surrounding the David L. Lawrence Convention Center revealed a multitude of blemishes that the city might want to correct to avoid tarnishing its international image, including litter, broken sidewalks and curbs, dead and dying trees and graffiti.

"It really could use some spiffing up," remarked developer Eve Picker, whose office and home are on Liberty Avenue near the G-20 venue.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said he plans his own walking tour tomorrow, "looking at streets to be paved, looking at sidewalk repairs, infrastructure repairs, and areas that need addressed in and around the Downtown community."

He said he plans a monthlong event in September focused on cleaning and sprucing up throughout the city.

"We're really excited about Thursday and really rolling up our sleeves in city government and county government and making sure we put our best face forward and Pittsburgh shines in September," Mr. Ravenstahl said.

In the convention center area yesterday, several eyesores detracted from what Ms. Picker described as an otherwise "stunning" and "gorgeous" city.

One is Exchange Way, an alley that starts directly across from the Westin Convention Center hotel. The road surface is rutted, some buildings are defaced with graffiti and trash bins are scattered about helter-skelter.

Just steps from Ninth Street sat a Dumpster that evidently was invisible to whomever deposited beer bottles, pizza boxes, wrappers and other miscellaneous trash on the ground around it.

Tree grates along Liberty and Penn avenues were choked with cigarette butts and other litter. While most of the trees lining both streets were lush and healthy, some were dead, dying or in need of pruning.

Much of the area is adorned with brick sidewalks, but they are stained and spotted from discarded gum. In other places, concrete sidewalks and curbs are cracked or broken. A stretch of Smithfield Street near Liberty Avenue has a motley assortment of concrete, brick and composite walkways in varying states of repair, including a stretch in front of the Smithfield Cafe that is paved in asphalt.

Ubiquitous in the area are temporary road construction signs anchored to (and blocking) sidewalks with sandbags, some of which are torn and leaking.

Most of the fire hydrants are coated with what looks like years of grime, and other street furniture, including light and sign posts, yearns for a fresh coat of paint.

"We have thousands of [G-20] volunteers. Part of our efforts Thursday will be figuring out how to get those volunteers plugged in and get our plan for Downtown ready to go," Mr. Ravenstahl said.

"In addition, we are going to be proclaiming the month of September ... Pittsburgh G-20 Month. It will be a monthlong event that will involve community cleanups [and] sprucing up around town.

"Not only will we be cleaning up, but throughout the month of September we'll be greening up. ... We will be focusing on areas such as Mount Washington, Oakland and the South Side, and of course be working very hard to make sure that America's finest view is protected and that the world gets to experience that in September."

Mr. Ravenstahl said the city will plant trees throughout Downtown, and Public Works Director Guy Costa said sections of streets including 10th Street, Oliver Avenue, William Penn Place, Sixth Avenue, Forbes Avenue and Market Street will be repaved. Railroad underpasses on Penn and Liberty avenues will also be cleaned.

Another major improvement will come with removal of construction fences and equipment blocking sidewalks around the August Wilson Center for African American Culture on Liberty Avenue.

Its grand opening is set for Sept. 17, a week before the summit, in what spokeswoman Pam Quatchak described as a "happy coincidence."


Jon Schmitz can be reached at or 412-263-1868. Timothy McNulty can be reached at or 412-263-1581.


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