The URA is the City of Pittsburgh’s economic development agency, committed to creating jobs, expanding the City’s tax base and improving the vitality of businesses and neighborhoods. Since our founding in 1946, the URA strives to meet these commitments with a wide variety of programs and projects, but the redevelopment of former industrial sites, or brownfield sites, is often cited when talking about Pittsburgh’s transformation.
The URA has been catalytic in the re-use of blighted property since the late 1940’s when we engaged the development of Gateway Center, one of the first projects to use Pennsylvania’s Redevelopment Law.This project would have been classified as a brownfield site if the term had been in use at that time, but the term ‘brownfield’ did not come in to widespread use until the early 1990’s. The decline of Pittsburgh’s steel industry left large tracts of vacant industrial properties during the 80’s and 90’s and the redevelopment of these sites played a key role in the diversification of our economy.
A number of key points should be emphasized in talking about URA’s involvement in the redevelopment of brownfield sites:
- Public/private partnership - local government entities working in conjunction with private parties is key to bringing old industrial sites back to life, e.g., the URA acquires the site, performs environmental clean-up, installs infrastructure and markets the site to private partners, which make the investment and creates jobs.
- Community involvement – At South Side Works and Nine Mile Run (Summerset at Frick Park), meetings with the community resulted in intensive master planning that guided development. As a result, a variety of community groups have long-time relationships with the URA.
- Taking advantage of region’s strengths – when the Urban Land Institute studied the site for the Pittsburgh Technology Center, it was noted that the proximity of the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University was an asset that could contribute to the transfer of technology from the universities to the private sector. Even though industry controlled Pittsburgh’s riverfronts for over a century, the redevelopment of these sites has provided amenities such as parks and trails that take advantage of Pittsburgh’s natural beauty.
- Positive impact of brownfield development - though the decline of the steel industry dealt a severe blow to Pittsburgh’s economy the positive impact of redeveloping forming industrial sites has eased the City’s transition into the 21 st century. In addition to the thousands of jobs created on brownfield sites, other positive impacts include rising property values at sites adjacent to brownfield redevelopment and the amount of private investment that results because of proximity to new, large-scale redevelopment.
Additionally, the URA has also been involved in smaller scale brownfield projects at the neighborhood level. Two outstanding examples of neighborhood sites that required environmental remediation are Centre Avenue and Kirkpatrick Street in the Hill District and Federal Street on the North Side. Coincidentally, each of these sites involved the new construction of a Carnegie Library neighborhood branch.
We hope that you will visit the links to the right for more detailed information on four of our larger brownfield projects, as well as a summary of the current planning process for large portions of the Allegheny Riverfront.