What is this?
A graphical representation of current sidewalk conditions and sidewalk construction materials in the Central Business District. This data is one example of the analysis conducted as part of Gehl Studio’s “Public Space” survey in October 2015. Assessments of quality and documentation of materials were gather through field observations conducted by Envision Downtown staff and the Gehl Studio team.
What can we learn?
The Public Space survey provides an intensive x-ray of the public realm in Downtown Pittsburgh. Under Gehl Studio’s direction, the quality of the urban tree canopy was updated (leveraging existing efforts of the City of Pittsburgh and many non-profit urban tree allies), lighting assessments and façade activation surveys were completed and an inventory of café and public seating was undertaken.
In looking at the results of sidewalk quality and materials assessment, a number of patterns are readily observable. In addition to the work of the City of Pittsburgh on Grant Street, the efforts of groups like the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership in investing in high quality, consistent sidewalks are apparent in the Cultural District (brick) and Market Square (brick exterior + terrazzo interior). These efforts are mirrored by more recent investments by Point Park University on Wood Street (exposed aggregate sidewalks used instead of terrazzo).
In general however, the sidewalk infrastructure in Downtown is inconsistent and in some place neglected. A number of important gateways and highly trafficked areas have not been maintained, nor has a standard design been applied. Smithfield Street in particular is a prime opportunity to invest in the public realm to meet its current demands as a key pedestrian connector and to catalyze future investments.
Moving Forward: Sidewalks in the Public Realm Action Plan
Prioritizing investments in Downtown’s sidewalk infrastructure is a critical framing element of the Public Realm Action Plan. The plan, which is based heavily on data like this sidewalk assessment and other information collected during the Public Space Public Life survey, will begin with three exciting pilot projects currently in final design. Stay tuned for more information on the Public Realm Action Plan in the next few weeks.