Tustin Park

Last week, Pittsburgh’s Department of City Planning announced a $25,000 redesign of Tustin Park in Uptown. In addition to new playground facilities for children to enjoy, the park will also include a series of Wi-Fi hotspots and solar-powered charging stations.

The ambitious new design was chosen from dozens of proposals submitted this past February to the City Planning Committee and a group of Uptown stakeholders. Known as ProjectCONNECT, the new design for the park was created by the engineering collective HackPGH, the nonprofit Meta Mesh Wireless Communities and the Hill District-based artist Chiaka Zulu Howze. The existing park is located near the corner of Seneca St. and Tustin Ave.

“By infusing beauty and technology into Tustin Park, all of us can contribute to a place that will engage not only small children but their parents and older siblings too,” says their winning proposal.

Becky Zajdel, director of outreach at Meta Mesh and a board member of HackPGH, tells NEXTpittsburgh that the project will be an excellent opportunity for the HackPGH team to give back to the community where they’ve been based for the past 10 years.  

“We’ve got double PhDs, and engineers, and all these types of amazing people at HackPGH who are just coming together to make this park proposal perfect,” she said.

In the spirit of keeping the community engaged, HackPGH will be holding a block party on September 16. In addition to enjoying food and festivities, Uptown locals will get a chance to meet the design team and discuss the kind of park they’d like to see.

Zajdel cautioned that the full construction may carry on for much of 2019. But she and her team are ready to start installing hotspot and solar charging stations this September. She said the art and recreation equipment included in the park may well change once they meet with and gain input from the surrounding community.

The Tustin playground is the first of three new developments being organized by the Uptown Public Art Program, which is seeking to redesign public spaces in ways that incorporate cutting-edge design and technology.

The Public Art Plan provides a vision for how public art will be created, maintained and displayed in the City of Pittsburgh for the next decade and calls for the integration of art in the ‘built environment’ as an element of urban and building design and as a means of reinforcing public gathering places, infrastructure, neighborhoods and communities,” said the Department of City Planning in an announcement about the project. 

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