Photo by TH Carlisle.

Tomorrow, Downtown Pittsburgh will lose hundreds of parking spaces when the aged, saggy garage at Ninth Street and Penn Avenue closes for a cycle of destruction and rebirth, just in time for summer.

Pittsburgh Parking Authority Executive Director David Onorato tells NEXTpittsburgh that the garage is due to close on May 31, and will reopen with a new, green design in either mid- or late 2020.

Preliminary designs for the new lot have yet to be released, but Onorato says the new structure will have a capacity of 650 spaces and be built according to the gold standards of the Parksmart building certification, which has established benchmarks for sustainable garages.

According to briefings submitted to the City Planning Commission, the demolition alone will cost $2 million.

Anything Onorato wants to say to the people of Pittsburgh concerning the project? “Be patient.”

The current garage has a capacity of 586 spaces, and construction will also affect roughly one hundred adjacent spaces in the neighborhood, meaning that Downtown Pittsburgh will be missing roughly 700 parking spaces for the next year.

While this would seem like a serious problem as we move into festival season, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust President and CEO Kevin McMahon says he’s not worried.

“Close proximity parking to the theaters may be temporarily busy,” he says. “But the fact is, there’s ample parking Downtown.”

Speaking to NEXTpittsburgh, McMahon says that until very recently, preserving parking was one of the Trust’s main concerns in their role advising and consulting with the City Planning Department.

“Our thinking over the last five years has radically changed,” McMahon says. “We’re seeing much increased usage of Lyft and Uber. We’re, of course, seeing more people living Downtown and walking.”

In Pittsburgh and across the nation, “the need for parking garages is going to continue to decline,” he adds. “We’re rethinking our further development, particularly in and around the 8th Street block.”

While Onorato agrees with McMahon’s assessment, he says the Parking Authority has no plans to revamp their broader development priorities right now.

“That is going to be the trend going forward,” he says. “But I don’t believe that it’s going to change overnight.”

Bill O'Toole

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