Full Streets, Clean Data, Can’t Lose!

We have an interesting opportunity where the Golden Triangle meets the Hill District…

Dwarves of Erebor. First, we have to be clear in what we discuss. Second, we have to remain clear in what we discuss. Third we should focus on City obligations, and fourth we should pursue conservative approaches to enhancing livability and inclusion.

1. Do not even bother discussing housing units branded as “affordable.” Describe how much rents would be in sums of U.S. dollars. Blahbitty-blah affordable units does not mean anything if Susan thinks “affordable” means $600 monthly whereas Roger thinks it means “Eggs Benedict.”

Tell us the rent, any time the topic happens to be whether it is too damn high.

2. The Penguins will often claim that one thing or another will make it impossible for them to turn a profit, or to reap profits less lucrative than the surface parking.

Fact-check these assertions, or at least provide some context.

3. If we are building a gateway bestriding two very different districts — servicing the needs of residents, commuters and visitors alike — we really need focus on streets and roads.

Google Maps

Google Maps

You can see here Washington & Centre is destined to be a featured intersection. So might Centre & Crawford, Crawford & Wylie, or Wylie & Lemieux. The east-to-west and south-to-north uphill grade adds special dimensions. Whole new worlds.

It gets suggested that the Lower Hill cannot participate fully in a complete streets vision for one reason or another — not the right mix of uses, not the right receptivity, not the right business climate. But if we are already massively investing in a wholly new connective enclave, from the bedrock up, this is an opportunity to lay those very foundations.

We could build the next great urban crossroads. Or, we can munch low-hanging leaves.

A good plan is neither a money farm nor a Promised Land. It’s an arrangement of lots, streets and other public infrastructure in a manner aiding our objectives, no matter who occupies them. And our objectives here are to live, work, play and reconnect.

4. In terms of housing, sometimes playing around with density does the trick. A greater number of smaller units might allow the Pens to decrease some individual rents.

The mechanism is unimportant. It’s just not outrageous to think of “affordable housing” as a serious need and this public parcel as a place to engineer a share of it. We’re a big-boy city, we can handle it. There are other market-friendly solutions; for example, vouchers exist and might be applied.

5. Once we do a good job facilitating this development project and/or rehabilitating this lost neighborhood segment, we can certainly reward ourselves by entertaining a multi-billion* dollar suspended field of green dreams spanning historic calamities. In the meanwhile, however, let us evaluate all plans on their own merits. [*-perhaps not.]

Sometimes it takes true complexity to reveal simplicity.

Clear public information, useful infrastructure, and steady action to further dignified housing: that’s how the lower Hill will be reclaimed.

Soon, it will be one such redoubt.


4 thoughts on “Full Streets, Clean Data, Can’t Lose!

  1. MH

    or to reap profits less lucrative than the surface parking.

    I’ve had similar thoughts when I wonder how the Oakland Arby’s stays open.

  2. Brian Tucker-Hill

    Not to re-fight old battles, but the philosophy of “Complete Streets” is an explicitly contextual one, and it certainly does not require that every stretch of every street have every element associated with the approach. In that sense, this site certainly could “participate fully in a complete streets vision,” with the understanding that would still mean tailoring such a vision, including incorporating only those elements that would actually make sense, to this context.

    By the way, was “a multi-billion dollar suspended field of green dreams spanning historic calamities” supposed to be a reference to the notion of a deck-park between the bridges over Crosstown? Because a reasonable estimate for the cost of such a project would be in the tens of millions, not billions. For example, Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, a recent (2012) and bigger example of the same sort of thing, cost $106.7M, which works out to about $471 per sqft. The area between the bridges in Pittsburgh appears to be right around 100,000 sqft, so that would work out to about $47M at the same rate. Obviously inflation would likely increase the costs a bit, but conversely I believe that square-footage comparison is a bit overinflated because Klyde Warren Park is aligned with, and therefore pretty much entirely over, the freeway, whereas this park would actually be at around a 45-degree angle to the freeway and therefore the “ends” would be over non-freeway land (including the triangular parking lot next to Washington Place and the triangular park area next to Chatham Square).

    Anyway, I am fine with the notion we should not be relying on the deck-park to be showing up anytime soon as we develop a near-term plan for the site, since there is currently no funding for it that I am aware of, but conversely we should not be overestimating the cost or difficulty of this sort of project. And it is in fact a very good idea.

    1. Bram Reichbaumbramr101 Post author

      Okay. Nice work, Tucker-Hill. I’ll volunteer that within the scope and demands of the development, formal bike lanes make enormous sense at least along Centre Ave. and possibly elsewhere. A glaring omission, considering where we are. The City is already planning bike share stations towards the foot and the crest of the Hill, so how about safety is the #1 reason. Then transit and livability.
      Things would be different if we were cramped in by the built environment, but wrecking balls and bulldozers gave us the luxury of space for once.

      1. Brian Tucker-Hill

        I think bike lanes on Centre could make sense, but not if they are limited to just the portion of Centre on the periphery of this site–I’d argue you would really want to take them all way to North Oakland.

        And in fact if you look at the Bike Pgh proposed Bikeways Map:


        What actually could make the most sense would be to turn such a Centre Bikeway down Crawford to connect to the proposed Fifth & Forbes BIkeway, which would in turn maximize your options for going to any of Downtown, Uptown, Oakland, or the South Side from there.

        Ironically, though, such a proposed “spine line” Bikeway for the Hill would not actually use the portion of Centre next to this development site!

        Anyway, the point of all this is whatever street planning we do for this site, it needs to be thoughtfully integrated into an overall plan for that entire part of the City. That includes with respect to bikes, transit, walking, and so on.

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