Riverlife wants artists to design a big, bold installation beneath the Fort Duquesne Bridge along the Allegheny River. Photo by Nina Chase.

Along the Allegheny River, beneath the Fort Duquesne Bridge, a section of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail between Point State Park and the Cultural District is, well, “kind of a dead zone,” says Stephan Bontrager of Riverlife.

As part of Riverlife’s “to be determined” initiative for Pittsburgh’s riverfronts, the nonprofit organization is seeking its next artistic installation to enliven the vaulted space that is lined with massive concrete columns that support the bridge.

The area gets foot traffic, Bontrager says, but can make people feel like it’s neglected and unsafe, especially at night, because it lacks the landscaping and improvements of the trail across the river on the North Shore.

“It’s a well-used portion of trail — tons of people go through there — but it always feels like, ‘Am I supposed to be here?’” he says. “So, we’re targeting it with this program to get a sense of ownership.”

Riverlife has put out a call for artists, designers, landscape architects and other creative professionals to answer its request for qualifications, with a Dec. 1 deadline, for an installation to replace artist Kim Beck’s existing black, grey and white mural.

“We’re not necessarily looking for someone who has a master’s degree in urban planning,” Bontrager says. “We’re looking for people who can demonstrate that they can create a great project for the public, work with multiple stakeholders or groups, and then actually implement it. We’re hoping there will be lots of individuals or teams submitting profiles of their past work.”

Three semi-finalists will receive a stipend to develop bold ideas for the space — “It could be anything from graffiti art to a big 3D installation or site furniture” — and the finalist will come up with a plan for installing his or her idea by summer of 2018.

After Riverlife began looking at the space in 2015, Beck and volunteers painted the mural “Adjutant” on an 800-foot wall. The mural was meant to be temporary, says Bontrager, like the rotating artwork accompanying it: Maranie Staab’s “Displaced” pop-up exhibit of Syrian refugee photography (2017); art and poetry by students from Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts High School (2016); and designs from the American Institute of Architects Pittsburgh’s Young Architects Studio Competition (2015).

Bright green paint will guide cyclists and pedestrians across Grant Street. Photo by Nina Chase/Riverlife/LaQuatra Bonci Associates.

The space beneath the bridge is one of two riverfront trail projects underway Downtown. Along the Monongahela, at Grant Street and Fort Pitt Boulevard, Riverlife recently began construction on its Grant Street Crossing project to make the Three Rivers Heritage/Eliza Furnace Trail less confusing for cyclists and pedestrians.

A crosswalk painted bright green, in a design by LaQuatra Bonci Associates, is intended to help Great Allegheny Passage riders navigate city streets to complete their journey to the trail terminus at Point State Park, Bontrager says. In addition to the paint, Riverlife will install vertical pylons, new crossing signals and upgraded signage to mark a clear route across Grant Street.

This first phase of the project will take people to an existing pedestrian flyway leading to the Smithfield Street Bridge, where they’ll follow the Mon Wharf Switchback ramp (phase two, under construction) to the riverfront and then continue westward along the waterfront to the Point State Park Connector (phase three, in planning by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources).

“This has been a collaborative project, based on feedback from multiple stakeholders,” says Bontrager. “We want to make a functional, safe, but also fun and welcoming gateway for people entering the Downtown riverfront trail system.”

Sandra Tolliver

Sandra Tolliver is a freelance writer, editor and public relations professional in Upper St. Clair.