On Wednesday, November 29th, the Pittsburgh Department of City Planning (DCP) hosted a design charrette to gather input from community partners to reimagine the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Dinwiddie Street in Uptown. The event, held at Avenu’s Paramount Building in Uptown, brought together community members, nonprofit leaders, design and architecture professionals, and staff from the City of Pittsburgh, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority. DCP has been working with Uptown for the last two years to create the EcoInnovation District Plan, which was adopted earlier this year. This event was the first to begin to implement the vision and goals detailed in the plan.
What is a design charrette? A charrette is a hands on planning session focused on problem solving and creative solutions. The November event centered on the Fifth and Dinwiddie intersection, an important link between Uptown and the Hill District. Two key properties are owned by the City and by the URA – the Department of Public Works building, and the opposing parking lot. This design charrette was a first opportunity to create a vision for how those sites can be redesigned and reimagined to better serve the community. Some of these ideas will later be incorporated into a Request for Proposals for development issued by the URA.
Linda Metropulos from ACTION Housing explains a concept to community members, architects and agency staff. On the table are Lego blocks depicting the group’s proposed buildings, as well as maps and drawings showing the grade change of the site.
After a brief introduction from DCP Director Ray Gastil and Senior Planner Derek Dauphin, almost sixty attendees divided among five tables to discuss development opportunities. Equipped with maps, data, scratch paper, Legos to represent buildings, and information on area zoning, groups worked together to explore possibilities. Some of the questions included: will there be green infrastructure? How much parking should there be? Will office space or housing be prioritized? Should there be a park? How does the planned bus rapid transit station work with potential retail or residential space? And how will new buildings integrate with surrounding buildings and the hillside? From the brainstorming, drawing, and building came five different proposals that addressed those questions.
Nina Chase from Riverlife walks through the uses of the table’s proposed building. Each Lego equals 15 ft. of building height and colors represent different uses. Also on the table are cutouts for trees, green spaces and other features of the open space.
So what now? DCP and the URA will be reviewing all of the plans and documents drafted by the five teams. In January, DCP will be holding an open house to present the drawings and ideas from the charrette, as well as receive more feedback from community members on which designs work best for Uptown and why. Key themes both from the charrette and the open house will be used in the creation of the Request for Proposals that the URA plans to release in early 2018. Want to learn more about the plan and how the community and City will implement its bold vision? Read the plan here and sign up for future updates here.
DCP staff Andrea Lavin-Kossis and charrette attendees walk the rest of the group through the final proposal for the site from their table. Following two hours of work, each table created a final set of materials and presented it to the rest of the attendees.