Monday, October 14, 2013

Riverfronts and the region formerly known for steel

PG on Sunday highlighted the upcoming Remaking Cities conference, and just as was the case a quarter century ago, everyone is agog over the participation of HRH The Prince of Wales.  Prince Charles made big headlines here for pointing out how our communities had been blocked from our riverfronts by the mills that were still shutting down. An important message then, and now for that matter, but one not completely unheard before he mentioned it.

But the 1988 conference had other big impact pieces.  Just one was the focused report on the Mon Valley.  You can read the AIA's R/UDAP  (Regional/Urban Design Assistance Team) report online here: Remaking the Mon Valley. Worth a read in itself. No time to truly decompile it here, but one hard to ignore truth is that a lot of the communities that report focused on: Braddock, Rankin, Homestead (if you look past the Waterfront of course) just to begin, are far worse off now than they were 25 years ago. They are all certainly much smaller having suffered nearly continuous population loss since then.

Truth is that the report was not super well received by the community it was supposed to be helping. Where the communities of the Mon Valley were still looking for a path to bring back manufacturing to the region, the message the AIA team provided was just a bit different.  When responding to questions at a public meeting in the Mon Valley, one of the report's authors had this to say:

"If you wait for the steel industry to come back, you'll wait forever"*

No matter the truth to it, didn't go over well for sure.  and btw... the lead up to the 1988 conference was seriously all Prince all the time. The mere thought that anyone important would come to Pittsburgh had everyone all a tizzy. See the Pittsburgh Mag version of the story highlighting the Prince's upcoming visit to Pittsburgh.

Finally for the transit wonks out there.  Check out page 43 of the R/UDAT report linked above for a look at "transit improvements needed to support Mon Valley redevelopment."  Big progress there with the exception of the EBA's extension to Swissvale.  Wikipedia will tell you what PatTrain was:

Tony McGann, Regional/Urban Design Assistance Team (RDAT), Speaking in Homestead, PA,  February 27, 1988


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