Obituary: Mark Schneider / Visionary dedicated to public, private community projects
Mark Schneider's influence is visible all over the City of Pittsburgh.
As chairman of the Sports & Exhibition Authority and the Stadium Authority, he was instrumental in the development of Heinz Field, PNC Park and the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. As president of the Rubinoff Co., he spearheaded riverfront redevelopment with the creation of Washington's Landing and repurposed a slag heap into the residential Summerset at Frick Park.
On top of that, business partners and politicians say he was generous with his time. He volunteered countless hours to state and local community organizations and served as the president of the fund to build a World War II memorial on the North Shore.
Mr. Schneider, an avid cyclist and a longtime proponent of bike trail development in the city, died Sunday after being injured in a bicycle accident in Maryland the day before. The Point Breeze resident was 55.
His son, Maxwell Schneider, was with him on the bike ride, a 100-mile charity ride called the Catoctin Challenge. He said about 15 miles into the bike ride, "for reasons unknown," Mr. Schneider lost control of his bike and struck a mailbox at around 30 mph.
He suffered severe head trauma and was taken by helicopter to the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, but by the time they got him to the trauma unit "there was nothing they could do," his son said. Mr. Schneider was an experienced rider and was wearing a helmet.
His son said Mr. Schneider was a food and wine enthusiast and he'd had a wonderful meal Friday night.
"He went happy," he said. "He was cycling, probably his favorite thing to do."
"Mark was like a son to me," said former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy, who worked with Mr. Schneider on the stadium developments. "He was one of the best people I know, both in terms of his business sense of how to do public-private partnerships and his commitment to wanting to do the right thing."
"Mark was a visionary in Allegheny County," county Executive Rich Fitzgerald said. "He led the efforts to develop Washington's Landing and Summerset at Frick Park, two undertakings that many others could not see as the opportunities Mark knew them to be. He saw a brighter Pittsburgh and Allegheny County and was intimately involved in the leadership for the region as an Allegheny County appointee to the Southwestern PA Commission and a board member of the PA Economic Development Finance Agency."
Scott Bricker, executive director of Bike Pittsburgh, served on Mr. Fitzgerald's transportation committee with Mr. Schneider. Mr. Bricker said Mr. Schneider was a "hugely passionate bicyclist."
"He truly believed that our regional transportation priorities need to be reformed," Mr. Bricker said, noting that he got to know Mr. Schneider well only in the past six months.
John Watson, with whom Mr. Schneider and Sally Flinn founded Fourth River Development in 2006, said revitalizing communities was also very important to Mr. Schneider; Fourth River currently has two residential projects planned in Erie and one in Pittsburgh's Manchester neighborhood. Mr. Watson said Fourth River plans to continue redevelopment in southwestern Pennsylvania.
Mr. Schneider served as the chairman for the board of directors for 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania, a statewide organization that advocates for community redevelopment and the conservation of green space. Jack Machek, president and CEO of 10,000 Friends, said Mr. Schneider would volunteer his time and money to help the organization achieve its goals.
Stephen Leeper, who was the executive director of the Stadium Authority and SEA when Mr. Schneider was the board chairman of those organizations, said Mr. Schneider was "very serious about improving Pittsburgh."
"Obviously, in that position, he spent thousands of hours of volunteer time to help with the planning and development of the new stadiums and the convention center," he said.
Mr. Schneider was one of the first civic leaders to take the time to meet with Pittsburgh Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak after she took office in January 2010, she said, agreeing to go to Beechview to talk about developing the southern city neighborhoods.
"I never really encountered that kind of creative optimism," Ms. Rudiak said. "He was someone who saw the potential early on."
Steelers President Art Rooney II said Mr. Schneider was a "tireless worker for the improvement of the city" who dedicated himself not only to large development projects but to everything from expanding Pittsburgh bike trails to volunteering for civic organizations on the North Side.
During the radio broadcast of the Pirates game versus the Houston Astros on Sunday, Pirates play-by-play announcer Greg Brown mentioned Mr. Schneider's death and called Mr. Schneider "a great friend" of the Pirates.
In addition to his son, Mr. Schneider is survived by a daughter, Ryan Schneider, both of Point Breeze, and his father, Clement Schneider, of Toledo, Ohio. Funeral arrangements were not complete Sunday evening.
Correction/Clarification: (Published July 31, 2012) Real estate developer Mark Schneider was involved in a bicycle accident on Saturday and died on Sunday. A news obituary published Monday incorrectly stated the date of the accident.
First Published July 30, 2012 12:33 am