Photo by Maranie Rae, Riverlife.

Pittsburgh’s riverfronts have changed immensely from the industrial zones of decades past and are becoming real attractions. But there’s still work to be done and a $246.8 million plan outlines the steps.

The proposal by Riverlife, the nonprofit dedicated to Pittsburgh’s riverfront development, would “close the loop” by creating trails, parks and attractions along a 15-mile stretch from the 31st Street Bridge on the Allegheny River to the West End Bridge on the Ohio River over to the Hot Metal Bridge on the Monongahela River. The plan encompasses 1,000-plus acres divided between 49 property owners.

“We don’t do this work because it’s easy,” says Riverlife CEO Matt Galluzzo. “And we don’t have a magic wand to make it all happen.”

Rendering of City Landing Park on 31st Street in the Strip District courtesy of Riverlife.

The 248-page report was compiled after an extensive, multi-year process of public engagement.

Highlights include City Landing Park, a new public space in the Strip District at the 31st Street Bridge, replacing the city’s tow pound. It would include a former river barge turned into a swimming pool, anchored to a spot in the Allegheny River. A floating pool has been created in Brooklyn and other places and got the most positive responses from the Pittsburgh public.

Another major project will be focused on the 100-year-old West End Bridge, which is scheduled to get a $66 million refurbishment by PennDOT in the next few years. There are plans to make the area more pedestrian-friendly, adding distinctive lighting as well as switchback ramps leading to new parks in the West End and Manchester.

The Manchester Gateway Park is crucial because it’s directly between the development around the casino and the planned Esplanade mega-project.

“Our belief is that that open space can really be a connector to the Manchester community,” says Galluzzo. “So we worked very hard to try to figure out how we can make a meaningful connection there.”

Rendering of Manchester Gateway Park courtesy of Riverlife.

Other projects include:

Saw Mill Run Gateway Park, which will provide trail connections between Station Square and the West End Bridge, with elements like an “ecopark and seasonal event space” and “incubator office space for artists/nonprofits;” Allegheny Riverfront Park between the Point and the Clemente Bridge; renovating Allegheny Landing on the North Shore; trail improvements along River Avenue on the North Side; and adding amenities to Washington’s Landing.

Rendering of Saw Mill Run Gateway Park courtesy of Riverlife.

Piecing together the land is one challenge. Piecing together funding will be another.

“Fundraising will be necessary across all levels: state, local, private, philanthropic, individual corporate support,” says Galluzzo. “Those are all going to be critical parts of the capital improvements, and that’s really where Riverlife excels, in bringing people together. Part of creating this vision was creating a community-driven plan — and then we work again, across partnerships, to gather the resources needed to make this project possible.”

Michael Machosky

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.