Pittsburgh’s riverfronts — for so long an afterthought, crammed with industrial uses — have become quite a destination in recent years. The newest point of interest is on the South Side, next to the Liberty Bridge, with the quietly opened public spaces of The Highline.

The Highline is McKnight Realty Partners’ redevelopment of the cluster of gigantic 19th-century brick warehouses into creative office space. The  500-foot elevated road connecting the buildings has been transformed into a pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare, replete with benches and industrial steel planters full of native plants and flowers, with panoramic views of the Monongahela River and the Downtown skyline.

To think it was mostly used for parking.

“The elevated walkway with river views is a really unique feature, and McKnight and Indovina drew inspiration from the industrial surroundings and history of the building to create a project campus that feels uniquely Pittsburgh,” says Stephan Bontrager of Riverlife, the nonprofit working to plan redevelopment along Pittsburgh’s riverfronts.

“Most of our riverfront is actually train tracks, and this is one project that actually goes over the train tracks,” says Izzzy Rudolph, president of development and acquisitions for McKnight Realty Partners.

Below it, level with the river, is another public plaza, over two acres of space featuring a classic passenger railcar, tables with solar-powered umbrellas and greenery. There’s a mural currently in progress by artist Jeremy Raymer depicting the site’s railroad history. The bike trail is nearby, accessible via a new protected bike lane.

“Obviously, biking is super popular right now,” says Rudolph. “And this project sits on the bike path. Even before we properly opened, people discovered it on their own by biking through it. ”

The Highline. Photo by Stephan Bontrager of Riverlife.

The Highline name is a direct nod to New York City’s famous High Line, built on a former elevated railway. McKnight began the South Side redevelopment in 2016, with architectural and landscape design by Indovina Associates Architects.

“The Terminal Building has been at this site since the late 1800s, and this section has always been a working riverfront with barges, trains, transit and industry,” says Bontrager. “Even today, this riverfront accommodates so many different uses.”

“There’s never really been publicly accessible green space at this part of the South Side until now. The Highline feels like a natural extension of the green riverfront areas that you find upriver on the Mon at South Side Riverfront Park and South Shore Riverfront Park. It’s exciting when new projects and destinations add to Pittsburgh’s growing riverfront system,” Bontrager adds.

If you’ve noticed that the city’s riverfronts have been busier lately, you’re not alone.

“During the COVID-19 crisis, there’s been a huge increase in people using Pittsburgh’s riverfronts,” says Bontrager. “The Highline adds plenty of well designed, much-desired outdoor space. I hope we see a continuation of this movement of real estate projects investing in high-quality outdoor experiences on the rivers.”

The Highline. Photo by Stephan Bontrager of Riverlife.

More amenities are coming soon.

“Golden Triangle is opening a bike shop on site right off the bike trail,” says Rudolph. “Sly Fox is scheduled to open sometime in fall. It’s a brewpub that’s Philly-based.”

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife, Shaunna, and 10-year old son.