In a recent post, I complained about the lack of engaging outdoor spaces in Pittsburgh. I recently realized that I was perhaps a little harsh in that assessment. One of the things that attracted me to Pittsburgh in the first place was the abundance of parks and welcoming open spaces. Now, as a naturalized Pittsburgher, I may take these places too much for granted.
Pittsburgh is home to five large city parks: Emerald View Park, Frick Park, Highland Park, Riverview Park, and Schenley Park. In addition, there are Point State Park, neighborhood parks and playgrounds, and parklets and green spaces.
Downtown has a welcoming outdoor space within a 5 minute walk of almost every office building. Come noon, the most popular ones are out of seats. Some have programming on different days. Market Square and Mellon Square regularly host farmers’ markets, live music, interactive art, and activities.
Yet, these oases are not spread out evenly across the Pittsburgh. East Liberty used to be considered Pittsburgh’s second downtown and was the third largest economic engine in the state. After decades of suburban flight and decay, this neighborhood is experiencing a resurgence that is recapturing much of its former dominance. Yet, when I worked in East Liberty, there were no welcoming outdoor places for me to reasonably get to in my lunch hour. I ended up eating everyday in the office, which meant the only time I left the office between starting and quitting times was when there was an off-site meeting.
It’s not just East Liberty that is missing out on these outdoor pockets and treasures. Much of the city’s riverfronts are still dominated by industry or freeways. Many neighborhood don’t have parks or the ones that are they have not been maintained.
Pittsburgh does have good outdoor spaces, but it could have better. The riverfront is a visible place to expand upon the earlier successes such as Point State Park and the Watersteps. The adult-friendly, public swings which spurred my previous post Engaging Riverfronts is one way to expand upon that. I look forward to more ideas and implementations across the city.