Debate Heats Up Over Plans To Improve Liberty Avenue Downtown

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — There’s some disagreement over a plan to improve Liberty Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh.

While some think a new proposal is exactly how to transform the street, others fear taking away parking will hurt businesses.

The current discussion includes widening sidewalks on Liberty, but eliminating some street parking in the 900 block, at least during the day.

That has David Abrams fired up.

“Big sidewalks might be nice in Paris, but Pittsburgh is still a driving city. People still drive in Pittsburgh,” he said.

Abrams owns the Army Navy store that’s been in business for 73 years. It’s survived a lot, but he wonders if it can survive less street parking.

“It’s definitely going to affect my business because there’s no place to park on Liberty Avenue. Not everyone comes in on a bus,” said Abrams.

He says a nearby parking lot and a garage are filled up during the day.

But not everyone shares his concerns. Eve Picker owns buildings on Liberty and sees a different problem.

“The street is not working,” said Picker. “That block is not working. I have a store front I’d really love to fill with a café, and I think people are really turned off by the congestion and the bus noise.”

The plan to widen the sidewalks and perhaps even allow outdoor café seating is an effort by a group called Envision Downtown to duplicate what’s happened in Market Square.

But Executive Director Sean Luther says the idea is to adjust the plan for businesses and people who use Liberty. He also says street parking would not disappear entirely.

“The plan that we’re work-shopping tonight preserves most of the parking spaces for night and weekends, and then we’re looking at the space during the day and saying, ‘What’s the maximum benefit to the business owners and people who are trying to enjoy Liberty?'”

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Envision Downtown met with building and business owners Thursday night, and plans to reach out to others for their input, including bus riders who wait at stops along Liberty Avenue.

John Norton lives in the 900 block of Liberty and is excited by the prospect of a new plan: “I think it’s great. I think we’re really lucky that we’ve got really great designers paying attention to our block.”

Envision Downtown wants to point out that this is a process. The plan is to release more details to the public next week.

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