Keeping an Eye on the CAP: Dec. 2020

The CAP in the News:

Project on schedule despite pandemic (Tribune Review, July 29, 2020)

Project continues on schedule (WESA, October 5, 2020)

Previous Posts in the Series:

Keeping an Eye on the CAP: Jun. 2020

Keeping an Eye on the CAP: Dec. 2019

Keeping an Eye on Uptown: Introduction

Arena Developments

Allentown, PA, had been on my travel list for years because of the awards and acknowledgements it was receiving from the planning community (and because I grew up near there). When I finally visited, the only thing that engaged my interest was the Liberty Bell Museum. There was a stark contrast between the cohesion and vibrancy of Bethlehem’s main street, where I stayed, and the hodge-podge of Allentown’s main street. The proportions in Allentown felt all wrong. In the core, the roads and sidewalks felt too narrow for the density and height of the buildings. At odd moments, this claustrophobic spacing suddenly opened out into large vacant plazas with buildings placed far from the road. After the pleasant surprise of Bethlehem’s tree-lined, historic business district with wide sidewalks for promenading and window shopping (and now social distancing), Allentown was a disappointment.

However, since being home, I find I have a growing appreciation for one of Allentown’s newer developments. The PPL Center gave me a sterile vibe at the time. I only glanced at the façade as I investigated the map out front with recommended lunchbreak walks and the historic building next door. From the outside, the partial attention I gave the center suggested a shopping or office complex. It wasn’t until I accidentally entered the lobby and saw the stadium seating beyond the ticket booth that I realized it was an arena. Perhaps due to my distraction at the time, it was only in the comfort of my home that I registered my shock over finding an arena that managed the rare feat of fitting into its surroundings.

Pittsburgh’s arenas have done the opposite. For decades, there was the Civic Arena that looked like a spaceship plopped down in the middle of a city spewing parking lots out from the landing center. A flagship of Pittsburgh’s Urban Renewal, it has since been demolished with the plan to rebuild the urban fabric on the site to reconnect the Hill District to downtown. The replacement arena made some attempts to fit in more with its neighborhood. It is built up to the sidewalk or, rather, the sidewalk is built up to it creating a large sea of concrete out of proportion with the sidewalks opposite. The principal street façade includes one restaurant open to anyone inside or outside the arena during normal restaurant hours, though I don’t recall ever seeing anyone eating at their sidewalk café (even before quarantine and social distancing). Instead, the restaurant feels like a weird mistake pasted onto the building’s towering blank wall.

In contrast, the street facing restaurants in Allentown’s arena are part of the reason I mistakenly identified the structure as a retail and office building. They felt like places with lives of their own, independent of special events. The plaza in front of the arena is proportional to the plaza on the adjacent corner. The building is built up to the sidewalks with the same building height and sidewalk width as the surrounding urban fabric. As a result, this arena blends into its neighborhood, such as it is.

Keeping an Eye on the Lower Hill: Jun. 2020

Lower Hill in the News:

Mayor’s Press Release (May 5, 2020)

Penguins Stop Development (Public Source, May 14, 2020)

Penguins Pull Out (Trib, May 14, 2020)

Penguins Back Out (WPXI, May 15, 2020)

Penguins Cease Redevelopment (Patch, May 15, 2020)

Penguins Halt Lower Hill Development (WESA, May 18, 2020)

Mayor’s Press Release (May 20, 2020)

Mayor Urges URA to Approve Development (Trib, May 20, 2020)

URA Explanation of Community Benefits

URA Board Votes to Move Lower Hill Development Forward (May 21, 2020)

URA Board Approves Development Project (WPXI, May 21, 2020)

Never Mind, Penguins Back In (WTAE, May 21, 2020)

President Trump Tweets about BRT Grant Award (May 29, 2020)

Previous posts in series:

Keeping an Eye on the Lower Hill: Jan. 2020

Keeping an Eye on Uptown: Introduction

Keeping an Eye on the CAP: Jun. 2020

Previous posts in series:

Keeping an Eye on the CAP: Dec. 2019

Keeping an Eye on Uptown: Introduction

Keeping an Eye on the Lower Hill: Jan. 2020

Lower Hill Redevelopment in the news:

October 8, 2019, Post-Gazette: Lacing the skates: Former Civic Arena redevelopment may be ready to roll

October 9, 2019, Post-Gazette: First wave of ex-Civic Arena site redevelopment would add garage, music and maybe money for Hill projects

October 10, 2019, KDKA: Urban Redevelopment Authority To Vote On Civic Arena Site Plans

October 10, 2019, Tribune-Review: Pittsburgh redevelopment authority postpones vote on construction at Civic Arena site

October 18, 2019, Tribune-Review: Pittsburgh authority gives preliminary OK for development of former Civic Arena site

October 18, 2019, WESA: URA Vote Sets the Stage for Lower Hill Development in Spring 2020

October 18, 2019, WPXI: City board green lights former Civic Arena site redevelopment

October 21, 2019, Arena Digest: Civic Arena Redevelopment Plan Moves Forward

Lower Hill Redevelopment project sites:

Lower Hill Redevelopment

Sports and Exhibition Authority

Urban Redevelopment Authority


Keeping an Eye on Uptown: Introduction

Inspired by my post from this summer, I decided to start a photographic series of Pittsburgh’s Uptown neighborhood. This neighborhood is a hodgepodge of abandoned and renovated townhomes, parking lots, car-oriented businesses, corner stores, industrial uses, and new construction residential buildings. It is predicted to be on a tipping point from being mostly ignored to experiencing intense growth fueled by activities in and around the neighborhood. These activities include:

  • UPMC Mercy hospital is currently building a 410,000 sq ft vision and rehabilitation center in the middle of Uptown.
  • The Penguins hockey team is supposed to be finally getting off the ground with their redevelopment of the Lower Hill neighborhood, which is adjacent to Uptown.
  • June 2019 saw the groundbreaking for the CAP project to reconnect the Lower Hill to Downtown over the freeway that bisected the two in the 1960s.
  • The Bus Rapid Transit system currently in the planning stage will one day connect Downtown and Oakland through Uptown.

As these projects move forward, there will likely be more investment and changes to Uptown. This photographic series is intended to capture these changes by revisiting the same sites at regular intervals over the next several years.

In the coming months, I intend to release two related series to record the progress of the CAP and the Lower Hill redevelopment.