Pittsburgh is in the midst of rapid change. One-declining neighborhoods are experiencing a period of transformation, as existing properties are being renovated and new housing is being constructed at a renewed pace to accommodate increased demand for city-living. Businesses are responding to the demand, with new restaurants, boutiques, and shops opening their doors in the City’s historic commercial districts. This change has resulted in Pittsburgh being recognized as one of the top cities in the country to live, work, and play, offering housing stock at a variety of price points, strong neighborhood character, and an appealing mix of “grit and shine;’ that is, the gritty authenticity of a city that was built on hard work and heavy industry, and the more polished character of new development fueled by the growth of the City’s education, medical, and technology sectors.
Perhaps nowhere in the City does this interplay between “grit and shine” play out more visibly than along the City’s three rivers. The 35 miles of Ohio, Allegheny, and Monongahela Riverfront include parts of 19 different neighborhoods with distinct characters, economies, and topographies. Fueled by the City’s current zeitgeist, the demand for redevelopment along these 35 miles is increasing; new uses and users are choosing to locate along Pittsburgh’s riverfront in close proximity to existing industrial businesses and residential neighborhoods.
The City’s current industrial zoning does not adequately respond to the nature of the new mixed-use development and redevelopment occurring along the three rivers, in space that had once been used solely for industrial activities. Neither does it adequately protect the existing industrial entities that continue operations in the area and in many cases require river access to thrive. New regulations are needed to effectively balance new and existing uses within the City’s established goals of increased riverfront access, robust and equitable open space and trail systems, bank stabilization, improved public safety, and improved environmental quality.
To temporarily address the lack of a cohesive riverfront zoning approach, and while a permanent solution is being developed, the Department of City Planning created a riverfront Interim Planning Overlay District, unanimously approved by City Council and adopted in June 2016. The Riverfront IPOD provides additional standards for some demolition, new or expanded development, and new or expanded surface parking with the objectives of ensuring riverfront access, improving public safety, providing for public and design review processes, understanding transportation network impacts, reconnecting neighborhoods with their riverfronts, and improving riverfront ecology and environmental health. Additional information is available on the Riverfront IPOD website.
Building on the Riverfront IPOD, as well as work from a number of previous planning efforts, the Riverfront Zoning Amendment will establish an approach to land development that is responsive to the City’s changing economy, and that recognizes and accommodates the diverse uses and characteristics of Pittsburgh’s riverfronts. The process and resulting Riverfront Zoning Amendment will seek to balance industrial, commercial, residential, and recreational uses – addressing potential conflicts with the goal of reinforcing the existing character, the “grit and shine” that define the City of Pittsburgh and its riverfront.