Strip District Riverfront Park
Vision for 11th Street along the Allegheny River. Photo courtesy of Riverlife.

On Tuesday afternoon, City Council approved a new set of ordinances for developers building on Pittsburgh’s 35 miles of riverfronts.

Advocates of the so-called RIV ordinance say the legislation will protect public access and local stakeholders as new construction moves on to the city’s riverbanks.

“The unique character of Pittsburgh’s riverfront neighborhoods like the Strip and South Side is preserved through [new] contextual standards for new real estate development,” said a statement released by Riverlife, the nonprofit working on Pittsburgh riverfront design, access and amenities. “Community standards for riverfront building setbacks and building lengths will help preserve access to the riverfronts for everyone.”

In addition to setting standards for how close new businesses can build around existing wharves and marinas, the RIV legislation changes the zoning process to include “bonus points” for projects that include affordable housing or amenities like public trails and public art. 

The RIV ordinance has been winding its way through city government for more than two years, with an ongoing community process, and was approved by the City Planning commission in March.

Concerns about building height restrictions and a limit on surface parking were previously expressed by developers such as Oxford Development which is pursuing the second phase of 3 Crossings on seven riverfront acres in the Strip.

Other ambitious riverfront projects likely to be affected by the new ordinance include the Hazelwood Green development, which proposes to turn 178 acres of an abandoned steel mill in Hazelwood into offices with public parks and trails, and the mixed-use Millcraft development in Chateau which includes hotels, offices, homes and possibly a Ferris wheel. 

Bill O'Toole

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.