PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — One year ago this month, KDKA-TV indulged me.
The station let me make a case for something I believe would enhance Pittsburgh’s riverfronts. They sent me to Cincinnati to report how that city has embraced the installation of bench swings along a downtown stretch of the Ohio River. People there told us how wildly popular the swings have become. Officials talked about how the swings have proven to be a destination in and of themselves. Instead of just walking/running/bicycling by, people are drawn to the swings and hang out for a while, making the whole scene more inviting.
Watch Ken Rice’s original report —
Vivien Li, then the head of Riverlife, told me I was onto something. She said riverfront swings were too good of an idea not to be implemented here, and she flatly predicted that Pittsburgh would get riverfront swings – if not, at first, at Point State Park (as I was proposing), then at least on a site controlled by a forward-thinking private developer.
Enter Izzy Rudolph. An avid bicyclist, he knows Pittsburgh’s shores well. In fact, a while back a particular stretch of riverfront along the Mon had captured his interest.
“Often, I would pass by it and think, why is this thus? Why is it not a higher and better use,” says Rudolph.
So, he bought the site.
His company, McKnight Realty Partners, is currently redeveloping the Terminal Building complex on the South Side. They’re transforming a century-old former train depot and storage facility into a chic, green office-and-retail complex.
But sitting below the main site, there is a lower, riverfront portion. Rudolph had that area in mind when he saw our report from Cincinnati.
“Having swings here would be great,” he says.
Part of the fun in Cincinnati is swinging while watching the activity on the Ohio River. But Rudolph’s stretch of the Mon might be even more engaging. On a recent weekday afternoon, we spied speedboats, pontoons and canoes sharing the water with Gateway Clipper riverboats and barges. Just offshore, trains rumbled by. A serene – but active – urban scene.
“This is actually one of the few places where you can have that, where you can really come and sit here and enjoy that,” says Rudolph.
As in Cincinnati, Rudolph says he can envision a stretch of waterfront so appealing, people won’t be able to pass by without stopping. That’s the kind of thing advocates for attractive riverfront development love to hear.
“When you’re trying to do something special on the riverfront, the first big step forward is having a property owner that’s willing to consider all options,” says Stephan Bontrager, Vice President, Communications and Outreach for Riverlife. “I think that the swings are an incredible idea.”
Rudolph says he would consider offering up his riverfront land – if funds can be raised to build and maintain swings. Bontrager says there could be corporate funds, partnerships, maybe foundation support.
“You never know who’s watching right now, who might say, ‘I have someone who might be a potential supporter, maybe I’ll do a fundraising online platform to get this done’. It just takes someone who has the drive to see it through,” says Bontrager.
And if it can be done, and swings prove popular on a stretch along the Mon, maybe the idea would spread — to the Point, and beyond.
Says Bontrager: “I see an activity, like putting in some really cool swings, as something that could be replicated all up and down the riverfronts, if it’s successful.”