PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — On Friday, Gov. Tom Wolf and 96-year-old Margaret Watson, of the Hill District, symbolically reconnected the Lower Hill District — once the site of the Civic Arena — to the rest of the Hill.
It’s a federal, state and local partnership with the Penguins to rebuild part of Pittsburgh destroyed more than 60 years ago during so-called urban renewal.
“Urban renewal was actually urban destruction,” said Wolf. “Business leaders and residents were displaced here and in so many other places; 1,300 buildings were demolished back in the 1950s.”
The goal: restore these 28 acres for housing, office buildings, retail stores and even a park.
“A development that is respectful of the neighborhood by having housing up where the housing is in the Hill,” Mayor Bill Peduto told KDKA money editor Jon Delano, “And then, sort of like a wedding cake, it comes down into a more retail mix, and then as it starts to get closer to downtown it becomes an office mix. Then, as it gets right to the front door it becomes a park.”
Workers opened up the first reclaimed streets, Wylie and Fullerton, reminding Ms. Watson of where she worked in the 1940s.
“It’s beginning to look better because I’ve been here,” said Watson. “We had stores and everything on Center Avenue. We didn’t have to go downtown for nothing, and now it’s getting better.”
The new streets are state of the art with energy efficient lighting, trees, and storm water planters.
As this project continues to rebuild the historic Lower Hill and reconnect it to downtown Pittsburgh, the question is — who’s going to live here?
The urban poor, or young professionals and retired couples who are moving into downtown Pittsburgh at record levels?
The answer is all of the above, says U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, who wants 30 percent to be affordable housing.
“We want a mix. We don’t want gentrification. We want a mix of affordable housing with market rate housing. That’s the success story. That’s how communities thrive,” noted Doyle.
The next phase of street construction should be completed by next summer.