Tustin Park

Uptown’s Tustin Park is becoming a hotspot in more ways than one.

Working with a grant from Pittsburgh’s Department of City Planning, a coalition of local engineers and artists have spent the past several months designing and installing free community wifi and solar-powered phone charging stations to the longstanding Uptown community resource.

Construction on the park, announced last summer, has now wrapped up at 2028 Tustin St. So the project leads will be showcasing their tech and celebrating the upgraded park with a free community block party on Sat., June 29 from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.

In addition to the new tech resources, the park’s renovation includes new, sustainable landscape design features that will better collect and divert stormwater.

The proposal for the redevelopment, known as ProjectCONNECT, was chosen from dozens submitted in February 2018 to the City Planning Committee and a group of Uptown stakeholders. Engineering collective HackPGH, nonprofit Meta Mesh Wireless Communities and designer Daniel Klein of evolveEA collaborated on the initial concept.

Courtesy of the Department of City Planning.

The park’s new charging stations will be illuminated at night, and are mixed in with artistic elements including new signage and a colorful fence installation. The fence is decorated with multicolored charms displaying etched phrases and drawings by neighbors of the park created during community meetings. The creative goal of all these elements was to represent the history, equality and united community voice of Uptown.

“As members of the Uptown and Tustin Street community, we are optimistic about the future of our neighborhood. Our team of designers, artists and makers have been enthusiastic participants in the EcoInnovation District planning and implementation process,” said the designers in a group statement. “We see ProjectCONNECT as an opportunity to further connect with our neighbors across socioeconomic differences in ways that will contribute to Uptown’s neighborhood identity.”

The Tustin playground is the first of three new developments currently being organized by the Uptown Public Art Program, which seeks to redesign public spaces in ways that incorporate innovative and civic-minded design and technology. Details about the next two projects are expected later in the year.

“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,” said the Department of City Planning in an announcement about the project. The plan “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.”

Bill O'Toole

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