Is the city striking the right balance?

Construction contractors represented by the Master Builders Association of Western Pennsylvania rely on a steady stream of projects, and Executive Director David Daquelente told PublicSource that he is optimistic about the post-pandemic economy.

Healthcare and higher-ed construction continues, he said. Planned projects at the arena site, U.S. Steel facilities and the Pittsburgh International Airport should pick up the slack when work at the Shell cracker plant in Beaver County tapers off, he said.

And the city? It has “shown the willingness to put the brakes on” when it has concerns about development, he said. “I’ve not seen anybody involved in this, from the city side, who says they’re anti-development,” he added, noting that he just wants “to make sure that [city] expectations are both reasonable and responsible.”

PublicSource

A feathered denizen of one of the Troiani family’s vacant buildings in Downtown Pittsburgh’s Firstside district. Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource.

Back on Firstside, Troiani said it’s not reasonable to expect him to preserve buildings that are no longer safe and sound. “If it falls, it’s not because I haven’t been trying to be responsible,” he said, as he climbed down stairs, past mirrors etched with frogs.

He believes First Avenue could become part of a designated walking route from the South Side through Downtown to the North Shore. He could contribute “a pandemic-resilient building [with] about 200 people living here” plus offices, “which means people coming to the street at lunch time and spending money.”

Now, though? Troiani gestured around the Firstside streetscape. “You have empty storefronts, empty storefronts, empty structure, building for sale, empty building for sale,” he said. “We have no density here. We have no vitality. We have no life.”

Rich Lord is PublicSource’s economic development reporter. He can be reached at rich@publicsource.org or on Twitter @richelord.

This story was fact-checked by Sophie Burkholder.

Develop PGH has been made possible with funding from The Heinz Endowments.