When Lisa Schroeder arrived in Pittsburgh 16 years ago, she remembers the city’s rivers being viewed as little more than a “toxic highway.”
Back then, the riverfronts were a “pretty dreary” lot as well, she recalled. Developers shied away from them. And whatever riverside amenities existed probably occurred more by accident than design.
Ms. Schroeder, former president and CEO of Riverlife, marvels at how things have changed since she first arrived from Portland, Maine. These days, Pittsburgh’s riverfronts have gone from dreary to dynamic. From the North Shore to the South Side to the East End, developers that once spurned the land along the rivers now are clamoring to build on them.
A study done for Riverlife, the organization formed in 1999 to shepherd riverfront development, estimates about $130 million has been invested in trails and other improvements in the last 15 years. That, in turn, has helped to spur nearly $4.1 billion in development.
The numbers include major projects like the Rivers Casino, the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and the North Shore attractions — PNC Park, Heinz Field, the riverfront park, and more than $140 million in investment in office buildings, Stage AE, the Hyatt Place Hotel and restaurants between the stadiums by Continental Real Estate Cos.
And that’s just on the Allegheny and Ohio rivers.
The last 15 years also have seen the rise of SouthSide Works, the redevelopment of the old LTV steel mill on the Monongahela riverfront into an eclectic mix of offices, retail, restaurants and entertainment, and residences.
New office buildings have gone up across the Mon river at the Pittsburgh Technology Center. And Station Square, one of the city’s oldest riverfront retail and entertainment complexes, has added features like a marina to take advantage of its location.
Some of the most ambitious projects are still to come. In all, more than $1.5 billion worth of waterfront development is in the works.
Orphans no more
The biggest is the $1 billion redevelopment of the former LTV Coke Works along the Monongahela in Hazelwood into a mix of offices, housing, and research and development space, all built around cutting-edge environmental standards.
In the Strip District, Oxford Development Co. has completed the first of four office buildings at 3 Crossings, a $160 million mixed-use development that will include 300 apartments and a 575-space multimodal transportation facility.
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