Riverlife Task Force


Riverlife Task Force

The Pittsburgh Riverlife Task Force (Riverlife for short) is a nonprofit public-private partnership established in 2000 to guide and advocate for the redevelopment of the riverfronts of the City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is the largest riverfront regeneration project in the United States. Its most significant capital project is the planning and development of Three Rivers Park.

Riverlife Organization

Riverlife History

Riverlife was established in 2000 as an independent public-private partnership, with its main focus being the creation of Three Rivers Park. Since its founding, Riverlife has been an active proponent of riverfront development focused towards bettering the beauty and recreational aspects of Pittsburgh’s rivers. It has also voiced concerns over projects that it has felt would have an adverse effect on the rivers.

Board members of RL include Carol Brown, former president of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust; Teresa Heinz of the Heinz Endowments; Andy Masich, president and CEO of Heinz History Center; Kevin McClatchey, co-owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates; Paul O’Neill, former United States Secretary of the Treasury; Dan Onorato, Chief Executive of Allegheny County; Art Rooney, Jr., president of the Pittsburgh Steelers; and Bill Strickland, executive director of Manchester Craftsmen's Guild. Lisa Schroeder is RTF's executive director.

Mission and Goals

The core goal of Riverlife is to reclaim, restore and promote Pittsburgh’s riverfronts as an environmental, recreational, cultural, and economic hub for the people of the region and its visitors. This is being accomplished through a combination of the following three approaches:
#Developing core capital projects and acting as the driving force behind them.
#Supporting other capital projects that are sponsored by public and private partners.
#Advocating for high quality design, environmental preservation, and other issues that affect the park’s development.

Three Rivers Park

Project Overview

Composed mainly of three capital projects, the Three Rivers Park is the focal undertaking by the Riverlife Task Force. When completed, Three Rivers Park will be a string of connected destinations that run along Pittsburgh’s three rivers. The project site boundaries are slated to be down the Ohio River to the West End Bridge, up the Allegheny River to the 31st Street Bridge, and up the Monongahela River to the Hot Metal Bridge. This comprises more than ten miles of riverfront property. Contained within the project site boundaries are shorelines, public and private property and developments, and several bridges. Ultimately, Three Rivers Park will be a continuous waterfront park system that will allow an individual to traverse the entire project site without leaving the riverfront park system. This will be accomplished through a continuous line of trails and walkways, highlighted with bridges and green spaces.

Three Rivers Park is composed of several capital projects. The Riverlife Task Force has set a goal for the completion of all these capital projects by 2010. Currently there are three capital projects underway as part of the Three Rivers Park plan.

Point State Park

Point State Park is a 36-acre state park and National Historic Landmark. It is located at the confluence of Pittsburgh’s three rivers and in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh. Each year, it is estimated that approximately 1.8 million people visit Point State Park. Its location allows it to serve as the centerpiece for Three Rivers Park.

As it was originally planned and built, Point State Park was not designed to accommodate major events. Despite this, it has become a primary outdoor event facility for the City of Pittsburgh. As a result of this, the park is subject to wear that it is not suited to handle. Because these uses were unanticipated by the park designers, the park has very few amenities that are considered standard in major parks. This results in the park being mostly empty during times when events are not taking place. What utilities the park currently has are quickly becoming outdated and deteriorated. Several common complaints originate from damaged pavement, lack of handicapped and bicycle access, and poor riverfront access and connections. This all stands to change with the redevelopment associated with Three Rivers Park.

To begin the rehabilitation process for the park, the Point State Park Planning Committee was formed in 2001. A master plan was developed by the Committee over the course of the next two years and over forty public meetings and workshops. This master plan features both infrastructure and aesthetic improvements. The improvements will allow for better and higher capacity access to the water and other park areas, thus making the park more accommodating for major events. Keeping in mind the cost of park maintenance, the master plan was designed to limit the repairs needed, thus reducing this cost burden to the city. Artistic and historical interpretation installations are also planned for the park as part of the aesthetic improvements in the master plan.

Mon Wharf Landing

The second major capital project to be completed as part of the Three Rivers Park is the transformation of the Mon Wharf from a river edge parking deck into a sustainable greenway. Riverlife’s goal is to create a promenade with a floating park mounted on barges. This will serve to connect Point State Park to other destinations along the Monongahela River.

Currently the Mon Wharf is a five-acre parking lot on the Monongahela River. It is located at the base of the First Side area of downtown, below one highway and parallel to another. This presents annual flooding problems due to poor drainage, harsh lighting from the roadway and parking areas, very high noise levels, and high volumes of water runoff. Despite being a difficult area to work in, it is a vital part of the Three Rivers Park plan, as its completion will serve as the only connection between Point State Park and destinations up the river. The demand for this has increased greatly over the last few years as several major residential developments have been completed alongside the design area.

Riverlife states that the benefits of the completed Mon Wharf Landing will be as follows:
*A pedestrian and bicycle thruway linking Point State Park to the Eliza Furnace Trail, the Great Allegheny Passage and Downtown.
*Seamless and safe access for city residents, workers, boaters, families and outdoors enthusiasts to the rivers, trails, parking and numerous destinations in downtown Pittsburgh.
*A water landing providing transient dockage and a harbor area for small, motorized boats and non-motorized craft.
*Enhanced scenic views of Pittsburgh’s Mon River edge from the Fort Pitt Bridge, Station Square and Mount Washington, Pittsburgh.
*Landscaping that will begin to address the overhead highway storm water and clean air issues.
*A unique venue for activities and events.

This major undertaking is being made possible through generous support from The Heinz Endowments, The Grable Foundation and the Richard King Mellon Foundation, as well as through a partnership between the City of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Parking Authority, and the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

West End Pedestrian Bridge

A major goal of Riverlife is to connect the shores of the Ohio River via a pedestrian bridge and trail system connected to the West End Bridge. To get ideas for the project design, an international design competition was conducted that fielded more than one hundred designs for the project. A team led by Endres Ware, an architectural and engineering firm based in Berkeley, CA, was selected as the winner by a panel of judges.

The Endres Ware design respects and enhances the existing West End Bridge, a stated requirement of the design. It enhances the non-motor vehicle experiences by creating places for pedestrians and bikers to ride, walk, sit and linger. “Viewed from the city, the West End Bridge will appear unchanged,” said Paul Endres, “but as you approach the new pedestrian bridge and pass through it, the bridge will take on new life and a new meaning. The views from the bridge are going to be spectacular to the east and to the west.”

Riverlife sees the West End Bridge as a key gateway in the American landscape. It is also a prominent historic landmark in the Pittsburgh region and one of the highlights of the Three Rivers Park.

In addition to the pedestrian and bike pathway, water landings will be added to the area. This will serve to welcome boaters and give park users opportunities to access the river in a way similar to that of Point State Park. The ultimate goal is to incorporate the bridge and pathway design into the existing neighborhood and make it a daily feature of its residents.

Voiced Opinions

Riverlife has often been a distinct voice in the areas of Pittsburgh development projects. It has a history of both supporting or criticizing projects that it feels would have a positive or adverse effect on the rivers of Pittsburgh. Its most recent opinion has been in regards to the Majestic Star Casino that is being built along the Ohio River. Riverlife has voiced its opposition to a ten story parking garage that is part of the proposed casino site. In its opinion, the height of the garage would exceed that of surrounding structures by enough to mar the view of the Pittsburgh skyline from various vantage points. They have also raised issue with the design of the exterior of the garage itself.

External links

* [http://www.riverlifetaskforce.org/ Riverlife Task Force website]

References

*Patricia Lowry (2007). [http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07133/785438-28.stm Riverlife Task Force profile: story by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette] . Retrieved May 14, 2007.
*Patricia Lowry (2006). [http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06164/697775-53.stm Firm’s Winning Design for West End Bridge Uses Suspended Walkways: story by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette] . Retrieved April 1, 2008.
*Rick Lord (2008). [http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08049/858309-53.stm City becomes battleground over what makes good design: story by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette] . Retrieved April 1, 2008.
*Riverlife Task Force (2007). [http://www.riverlifetaskforce.org. Riverlife] . Retrieved April 3, 2008.


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