Esplanade rendering courtesy of Millcraft.

Despite being home to the inventor of the Ferris wheel, George Ferris (who created it for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893), Pittsburgh has a distinct lack of Ferris wheels.

That could change soon if the evolving Esplanade plan from Pittsburgh developer Millcraft comes to fruition. In addition to a gigantic 53-meter Ferris wheel, the plan includes a 45,000-square-foot pavilion with a courtyard/winter garden — including space for restaurants and a fresh food market — a splash park, a 300-unit apartment building (with affordable and market-rate units), a 550-space public parking garage, and a marina.

Rendering of the Esplanade courtesy of Millcraft.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA) Board of Directors is set to vote on Dec. 16 on the sale of URA-owned property to Esplanade Partners, LP (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Millcraft Investments, Inc.) for $1.5 million to advance Phase I of the project. The cost of Phase 1 for the Esplanade development  is approximately $236 million.

The feature that initially got the most attention — a two-acre lagoon and ice rink (in winter) originally pitched as part of the Esplanade project — is gone, replaced by a splash park, which could also be converted into an ice-skating spot during the winter. But it’s still a massive project, which will transform a number of underutilized industrial properties along a bend in the Ohio River.

The riverfront site is close to a number of major regional attractions, including the Rivers Casino, Carnegie Science Center and Heinz Field.

“We are excited to be moving to the next steps of the Esplanade project,” says Lucas Piatt, owner and CEO of Millcraft Investments. “We are especially thankful for our partnership with our neighbors in the Manchester, Chateau and North Side communities as we work together to reconnect the neighborhoods and transform old industrial land into an active riverfront destination for everyone to enjoy.”

Rendering of the Esplanade courtesy of Millcraft.

“Over the last few months, a strong relationship has developed between Millcraft, Manchester Citizens and myself,” says Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle. “This is critical because it helps to ensure that Esplanade is not an isolated development, but rather a development that reconnects Chateau to the larger historic community. The relationship is also critical to ensure the development provides connectivity, wealth building opportunities, affordable housing, business development and sustainability for residents of Manchester, and the region.”

The plan includes relocating the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, and stabilizing and replanting the river’s edge with native flora. The open space is planned to feature a small amphitheater for local music, kiosks for local entrepreneurs and green paving and infrastructure.

Future phases, located outside the boundaries of the URA properties, are planned to include residential condominiums, additional apartments, a 40,000-square-foot aquarium, 300,000 square feet of medical, technical and life sciences space, and a hotel. It’s all dependent on market conditions.

“We are excited to see this mixed-use project, which includes affordable housing, advance forward with the Manchester community in a way that seeks to reconnect the neighborhood to a revitalized riverfront,” says URA Executive Director Greg Flisram.

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.