Rendering of Enright Park's new play area courtesy of the City of Pittsburgh Department of Public Works.

More than seven years after the fight over Enright Park began, the final plan for the redesign of the park is moving forward.

A 2.2-acre park in East Liberty at the border to Friendship, Enright Park had been the subject of epic meetings over the years, where more than 100 neighbors would turn out to angrily complain that their green space was being turned over to a developer who was tearing down affordable housing to build (as has been planned at the time) luxury apartments. The space ultimately became known as Liberty East, which houses a Whole Foods and an office tower.

Back then it was called Enright Parklet and was part of the Penn Plaza green space tucked in between the two modernist multi-level Penn Plaza apartment towers built by Pittsburgh architect Tasso Katselas. The evictions of Penn Plaza’s residents and the demolition of the buildings were also the subject of protests and packed community meetings.

Then-Mayor Bill Peduto and the developer, LG Realty Advisors, agreed to a land swap that would allow the developer an unfettered site for building. In return, the developer would complete Eva Street as a connection between South Euclid and South Negley avenues. LG Realty also agreed to pay $1.4 million toward the reconstruction of the 2.2-acre park that was to run from South Negley Avenue across Amber Street along the end of Eva Street to South Euclid Avenue.

That land swap was completed in 2019. Today, the city-owned property, which will someday be a play area and a lawn, is fenced off as a staging area for the construction, with piles of gravel, trucks, pipes and debris.

What was once the play area has been demolished and sits as vacant land that is inaccessible behind construction fencing.

The deteriorated basketball court is the only remaining piece of Enright Park that is currently open to the public. Photo by Ann Belser.

The only remaining piece of the park that is open to public use is a cracked basketball court with just the remnants of nets and two benches.

The master plan for the new park was developed in 2018, and the final plan was presented to the community on Nov. 1, 2019, with the anticipated construction ending in 2023.

This May, after delays to the plan that included a global pandemic, the Pittsburgh Planning Commission was presented with the final drawings for the park’s approval. It passed without any objections.

Andrea Ketzel, the city’s senior landscape architect, said the construction of the park can go out to bid and will start after a contractor is chosen. She has stopped providing dates for the much-delayed opening of the park.

The new park will run from South Euclid to Negley with the area between Amber Street and South Negley just wide enough for a line of trees and a strip of lawn.

At the new Enright Park, the basketball court will remain in its current location. A play area, picnic areas and a spray park will be added. Map courtesy of the City of Pittsburgh Department of Public Works.

Ketzel said three trees will be taken down for the new park, but new trees will be planted that will provide a large shade canopy.

The basketball court, which was important to the community, will be rebuilt where it is now. Next to the basketball court, the city will install a bankshot court, which is played like a game of HORSE, but with players moving from one basket to the next and banking baskets into the hoop off of angled and curved backboards.

The playground will include one play area for children ages 2 to 5 and another for kids ages 5 to 12. Ketzel said the swingset will include a bucket swing, a molded swing that is Americans with Disabilities Act compliant, a friendship swing in which children or an adult and a child can swing facing each other, and standard strap swings.

The spray portion of the park will include the whale that was saved when the rest of the park was demolished.

The park design also calls for a lawn along South Euclid Avenue with a pavilion between it and the playground. The city is planning to install a grill next to the pavilion.

Ann Belser is the owner of Print, a newspaper covering Pittsburgh's East End communities. After receiving a master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, she moved to Squirrel Hill and was a staff writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for 20 years where she covered local communities, county government, courts and business.