Mobile Parklet

Many Downtown Pittsburgh corridors lack the cohesive street scape of Grant Street or the inviting street trees of Market Square. To test the impact of improved pedestrian environments around Downtown, Envision Downtown created a mobile parklet by retrofitting a construction dumpster with bench seating and a high impact planting program. The parklet can be relocated throughout Downtown just like a regular dumpster and is deployed throughout Downtown to add public seating and greenery to streetscapes that are lacking pedestrian amenities.

Baseline Conditions

In fall of 2015 Envision Downtown conducted a Public Space Public Life (PSPL) survey in partnership with Gehl Studio. The PSPL provided an x-ray of infrastructure Downtown including detailed inventory on sidewalk conditions, pedestrian lighting, street trees and public seating. All four of these elements are important for a cohesive, comfortable and safe pedestrian experience. A number of streets in Downtown were found to have failing infrastructure, some due to lack of maintenance and others due to lack of space or underground conditions that prevented the provision of streetscape amenities such as street trees and public seating. 

Project Proposal

The main goal of the project was to find a way in which to provide missing streetscape elements on a temporary basis. A project from San Francisco in which a construction dumpster was turned into a parklet was used for inspiration. A second project in Seattle in which a dumpster was used for a storm water garden helped provide some of the technical details.

For this project Envision Downtown planned to retrofit a construction dumpster with a bench seat to provide public seating and to plant trees in order to add organic elements to barren stretches of sidewalk. The dumpster would be mobile moving to a variety of locations Downtown and operate using a dumpster permit. 



We began by looking to purchase a used dumpster from a roll-off company however, it quickly became apparent that purchasing a new dumpster was more cost effective for two reasons:

  1. We were unable to locate any local roll-off companies that would allow us to purchase an old dumpster so we would have had to ship in a used dumpster. Many roll-off companies patch and recycle their dumpsters for many years.
  2. Refinishing an old dumpster – sandblasting, patching rust and powder coating – would have been labor intensive and more costly then purchasing a new one

We ordered a new roll-off dumpster from Friesen’s Welding located in Lewisburg, PA. We chose a standard 20 yard dumpster for our base – 22ft long X 8ft wide X 4ft high. Though Downtown Pittsburgh does not have delineated on-street spaces, parking space sizes are usually accepted to be between 9-10ft wide and 20-23ft long so the 20 yard dumpster comfortably fits within a standard parking space.  Lead time on manufacturing was 7-8 weeks and a custom color could be chosen at time of purchase.


Mobile Parklet under construction at Campbell Welding

Mobile Parklet under construction at Campbell Welding

To retrofit the dumpster to become a parklet we worked with a local welding contractor, Zac Campbell. For the bench design we looked at images of the parklet made in San Francisco alongside researching comfortable seat depths and seat heights for the average American. Based on these rough dimensions Zac cut out a portion along the side of the dumpster and used tubing and sheet metal to form a bench. He primed and painted the new portion to match the existing sections and bolted down two stained and treated 2x6s to create a more comfortable seating area. 

For the planted portion of the parklet we looked at the Splash Boxx storm water parklet example from Seattle. Based on this we included drainage holes covered with a metal mesh in the bottom of the dumpster to allow for excess rain water. The door of the dumpster was also welded shut. 

It took approximately 80 hours of labor to finish retrofitting the dumpster into a parklet. 

Planting, Permitting and Moving


Western Pennsylvania Conservancy staff maintain the Mobile Parklet Plantings

Western Pennsylvania Conservancy staff maintain the Mobile Parklet Plantings

We partnered with Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC), a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the region’s exceptional natural places. WPC is responsible for the street planters in Downtown Pittsburgh so they were an ideal candidate for planting and maintenance of the parklet. 

The dumpster was filled with a layer of lava rock first than top soil and mulch in order to keep the weight light enough to still transport (under 18.5 tons), the total weight of the dumpster came to approximately 17.7 tons when planted.

The parklet was planted with some larger shrubs and small trees to fill out the bulk of the back. This created room in the front section for seasonal flower additions that rotate along with other Downtown plantings. The WPC waters and replants the parklet seasonably as needed and Envision has a maintenance contract with them for this project.


Permitting needs are dependent on parklet location. There are two main permit requirements to consider when deploying the dumpster in the public right of way. 

  1. A dumpster permit is needed form the City. In this case we pull a commercial permit for weeds and debris which costs $100 per month
  2. Parking variance from the Pittsburgh Parking Authority if the dumpster is deployed in a paid parking space. As previously noted the dumpster is one parking spot in length so we request an out-of-service parking variance. The cost of the variance will vary based on cost of parking at the chosen location and length of time but for Downtown Pittsburgh can be $280 for 1 week

If the dumpster is placed in a no parking area then we are required to talk to the Department of Public Works, Traffic and Engineering Department for approval and acquire a street obstruction permit. 


The dumpster is relocated via contract with Pittsburgh Roll-Off services using a standard roll-off truck. Moves are scheduled a couple of days before hand and often occur very early in the morning to avoid Downtown traffic. A full parking space is required in front to the dumpster to load and unload so no parking signs need to be hung 24 hours ahead of time or the dumpster needs to be placed next to or in a no parking zone.

Mobile Parklet deployed in the Cultural District

Mobile Parklet deployed in the Cultural District

Penn/11th: Traffic Calming + Graphic Crosswalks

The intersection of Penn Avenue and 11th Street is a high volume, four-way multimodal intersection connecting the Central Business District (Pittsburgh’s “Golden Triangle”) and the Strip District via Penn Avenue. The intersection is a critical entrance into the city for transit riders, cyclists, pedestrians and vehicular traffic. Safety concerns at this intersection are twofold: 1. 11th Street funnels very high speed vehicle traffic into Downtown as a de facto continuation of the 10th Street Bypass and 2. Drivers making turns from Penn Avenue as they enter downtown fail to yield to legally crossing pedestrians and people on bikes.

The main goals of this project were to re-align traffic flow through the intersection to reduce speeds and to install a pilot system of high impact crosswalks and bike crossings in order to significantly increase pedestrian and bicycle visibility. Envision Downtown worked with HDR Engineering and Wall-to-Wall Studios to create a unique and comprehensive design. 

Baseline Conditions

The intersection of Penn Avenue and 11th Street is a critical multimodal intersection in the City of Pittsburgh. High-speed, high volume vehicle traffic enters Downtown via 11th Street by way of the 10th Street bypass. The intersection experiences frequent surges in pedestrian traffic as it is a major pedestrian connection between the Strip District and Downtown’s Cultural District. Bicycle traffic through the intersection has increased dramatically since the installation of a two-way cycle track on Penn Avenue. The intersection is carries significant local, regional and inter-city bus traffic driven, in part, by the adjacent Grant Street Transportation Center.

Before project implementation the intersection acted as an abrupt buffer for inbound vehicles rather than a smooth transition from a highway to urban roadway network causing vehicles to travel into the city at high speeds. High speed inbound traffic combined with an oversized intersection configuration resulted in poor pedestrian and bicycle safety for the following reasons: 

  • Poor pedestrian and bicycle sight lines led to vehicular traffic often failed to yield to bike and pedestrian traffic
  • Large crossing distances increased pedestrian exposure
  • Poor lane alignment caused vehicles to drift while traveling through the intersection
  • Wide lane width encouraged vehicles to maintain higher speeds

The Penn and 11th intersection was highlighted by the Envision Downtown technical committee as a priority for an improvement project due to the combination of the above concerns and the understanding that simple paint treatments could begin to address the issues. 

Project Proposal

The goal of the project was to emphasize pedestrian safety at this critical connection between the Golden Triangle and the Strip District. In the design phase Envision worked with HDR to come up with solutions in order to improve how the intersection functioned for all users. Project components included:

  • To improve bike lane protection and vehicle-to-cyclist sightlines
    • Install a striped buffer between the Penn Avenue bicycle track and vehicle lanes on the east edge of Penn Ave. to improve site lines and give cyclists a lead time for crossing
    • Install high visibility green bike lane crossing treatment in a unique bridge design. Not only does this visually signal to drivers the presence of the bike lane but it also provides a clear definition to cyclists of how they should be positioned when crossing through the intersection
  • To improved traffic flow safety and emphasize urban roadway design on 11th Street
    • Paint curb extension at the south-western corner of Penn/11th in order to align travels lanes on both sides of the intersection
    • Reduce lane widths on 11th by installing a painted buffer between outbound and inbound traffic from Smallman Street to Penn Avenue. The painted buffer replicates the existing concrete buffer already in place between Penn and Liberty
  • To improved pedestrian safety
    • Repaint all four of the crosswalks at the intersection with a unique, impactful bridge design (more information on the design follows)

Engineering Plans

Envision Downtown contracted with HDR in the last quarter of 2015 to create and document a comprehensive technical design including, reducing the lane widths of inbound traffic from 11th and installing additional buffers and bollards. HDR did a site visit to understand how the intersection was currently functioning and analyzed the impacts of the proposed changes through:

  • Turning radii
  • Pedestrian sightlines
  • Bicycle sightlines

After the completion of the engineering drawings, they were taken to the Envision Downtown Technical Committee for approval on February 24th 2016.
These drawings allowed for a technical review and approval by the City’s Traffic Engineer. The plans also served as the site drawings for the paint contractors, Parking Lot Paint Company (PLP). PLP were chosen as they are an existing City of Pittsburgh contractor and have contracts with the City for ongoing line painting projects. 

Material Selection

For this project, there were three roadway paint options: epoxy, thermoplastic, and standard roadway paint. The cost and durability of epoxy and thermoplastic did not fit with the pilot/temporary nature of the project so a standard roadway paint was chosen in white (for pedestrian crosswalks) and green (for the cycle crossing).

Anti-split paint was not a major consideration in this paint selection due to the existing textured concrete surface in which the paint would be applied. Durability was also not a condition in this selection because it is assumed that after a year pilot of the crosswalk designs, the roadway paint will likely have reached the end of its life span and the design will be upgraded to a more permanent form if deemed successful.  

Design Selection

Envision Downtown was originally inspired to design the crosswalks based off a site in Indianapolis, where uniquely designed crosswalks and bike lane markings are used around the city. Key criteria for the design included: 

  • An iconic/graphic rather than an artistic design
  • Unique to Pittsburgh
  • Not distracting to vehicular traffic or other modes of transportation
  • NACTO standards for color treatments (white paint for pedestrian, green paint for bicycle lanes)
  • Translatable into a stencil

With the criteria and design expectations clear, Envision Downtown commissioned Wall-to-Wall Studios in May 2016 to develop design alternatives for the intersection. Wall-to-Wall created three very different designs alternatives for the project. The designs were vetted and a final design was chosen in June 2016 by a team of stakeholders, including the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of City Planning, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Bike Pittsburgh, and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. The final Design was chosen based on aesthetics and ease of application. 

Following the stakeholder review and final decision, the design was taken before the Pittsburgh Arts Commission on June 22nd, 2016 for a courtesy review where it received approval based on use in a pilot project. Then the design was presented to and approved by the Envision Downtown Advisory Committee on June 23rd, 2016. 


The entirety of this project was managed by Envision Downtown. Traffic management permitting, MPT, was the responsibility of the paint contractor. The installation of this project was completed overnight beginning at 9pm on October 8th, 2016. The intersection was completely closed and requiring coordination with the Port Authority of Allegheny County to reroute busses during installation. Existing paint within the intersection was first removed and then the crosswalks, buffers and bike crossing were applied directly to the concrete surface. Per PennDOT standards, the paint contractor added glass beads to the exterior lines of the crosswalks to improve reflectivity.


Smithfield Street #SuperStop

The Smithfield at Sixth Avenue bus stop is the busiest in Port Authority’s system. On an average weekday 6,500 local transit riders (plus hundreds of additional regional transit riders) get on and off at the stop. The Smithfield Street stop serves as the main Downtown stop for the heavily used East Busway routes. Despite the critical role it played in the region’s transit system, the location lacked any amenities for transit riders apart from a standard blue bus stop sign. In addition, the ten foot wide sidewalks often became so crowded with transit passengers that pedestrians could not easily traverse the corridor. 

The pedestrian experience was improved with the installation a concrete sidewalk extension, shelters, lean bars and real time information. This provided comfortable, dedicated waiting space for transit riders while also clearing the sidewalk to allow increased ease of movement for passing pedestrians. 

Baseline Conditions

Pedestrian Traffic

The bus stop at Smithfield and Sixth Street sees an average of nearly 6,500 Port Authority riders boarding and alighting each weekday. There are also three regional transit providers (Mid Mon Valley Transit, Fayette County Transit and Freedom Transit [Washington City/County]) that use the stop.

Pedestrian counts done at the location in October 2015 showed average hourly weekday pedestrian traffic of 800 people an hour peaking at afternoon rush hour with over 2,000 pedestrians. Weekend traffic was much lower with an average of 235 pedestrians per hour and a peak of 440 in the early afternoon.   


The existing sidewalk at Smithfield Street was just under 12’ wide. The only transit amenity was a standard blue bus stop sign. There was no seating and no protection from the elements.

Between 4pm and 6pm the numbers of transit riders waiting for buses often reaches close to 100 at any given moment. Assuming a 3’ pedestrian walkway for those travelling through the stop on the sidewalk the waiting area left for transit riders was approximately 6-7 s.f. per person. The Transit Capacity and Quality of Service Manual rates this a Level of Service D in which “circulation is severely restricted”, forward movement is only possible at a group” and “long term waiting at this density is discomforting”.

Roadway Allocation

The existing road allocation consisted of a 13’ 5” westbound bus lane, an 11’ eastbound travel lane and an 11’ 7” peak travel lane/off-peak parking lane. 

Project Concept

The main goal of the project was to provide additional space for transit passengers waiting at the bus stop and some additional amenities but we also wanted to better delineate the space and create a more “station” like waiting experience. The four major aspects of the project included a sidewalk extension, roadway reallocation, new transit shelters and painted bumpouts with planters.

Sidewalk extension

After exploration of a number of different material options (decking, rubber paving, and asphalt) our partners at Port Authority and DPW felt most comfortable with a full concrete build out. Although this reduces the “temporary” character of the project somewhat, it was the safest and most inexpensive option. 

Roadway Reallocation

Using NACTO standards as a guide we proposed a reduction of the eastbound travel lane down to 10’ and the parking lane down to 8’ while leaving the bus lane at 11’. This allowed us to add an additional 6’ of sidewalk and also created additional full time parking as the curbside eastbound lane would no longer switch to a travel lane on peak hours.

Transit Shelters

Brasco "Aero" Shelter installed

Brasco "Aero" Shelter installed

The shelters selected were an off-the-shelf bike shelter product made by Brasco. The shelters chosen had open sides to allow for better flow of transit riders getting on and off at the stop. A lean bar was added in each shelter to better delineate and organize the station space as well as to provide a place for those waiting to rest. The shelter and lean bars were taken to Art Commission for courtesy review. 



Traffic Transitions, Bumpouts and Planters

Painted bumpouts were proposed either side of the sidewalk extension, these helped to reduce crossing distance at the Sixth Ave crosswalk and improve pedestrian safety as well as allow for transition of traffic into the new road pattern. Planters were also proposed for the painted zones to add greening and additional protection for pedestrians and those using the transit stop.

Engineering Plans

Technical Drawings

We contracted with Mackin Engineering to design and document the technical aspects of the road allocation changes. Mackin used a number of national engineering standards and NACTO recommendations to identify:
•    Turning radii
•    Stop bar positioning
•    Transition distances buses would need to get in and out of new traffic pattern
•    Crosswalk site lines

These drawings where then reviewed with the City's Traffic Engineer for project approval. They also served as the site drawings for the paint and concrete contractors. Both the paint and concrete contractors were City approved and have contracts with the City for ongoing line painting and sidewalk work.

Sidewalk Extension

Drainage and utility access were the two main concerns of the curb extension. Manholes dictated positioning and length of extension. With these constraints we were still able to increase the sidewalk area by 600 square feet. This would increase personal waiting space to 11-13 s.f. per person or Level of Service B “standing and partially restricted circulation to avoid disturbing others within the queue is possible”.

Note: As indicated, the location of utility access points was a limiting factor the location and length of the platform. Has there been no manhole covers, we would have preferred to begin the sidewalk extension at the corner of Smithfield and Sixth as opposed to the slight setback present in the final design.

The preliminary solution for drainage was to construct a channel between the extension and the existing curb. However, the concrete contractor identified a pre-fabricated plastic channel and grate product that could be installed directly into the concrete as it was poured. Based on the limited drainage requirements and the significant cost savings, the pre-fabricated option was selected. 

Permits, Installation and Project Management

Repaving and Painting

Smithfield Street from Seventh Avenue to Sixth Avenue was repaved by the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Public Works and the road was restriped to reduce the width of its existing travel and parking lanes as per the designs. The repaving was coordinated with the City’s existing repaving schedule.  The City was the project manager for both pieces of work, the resurfacing and the painting of the new traffic pattern, but Envision Downtown was directly responsible for payment to the painting contractor. 

Sidewalk Extension Installation

Once the asphalt was milled our concrete contractor began to pour the platform. The contractor installed a deck curb (that is, no additional excavation was required for the curb) and repaired any spots on the existing curb that were failing. The platform itself was then poured in two halves directly onto the asphalt binder before the new asphalt was laid so that it would adhere. The 18” of the new concrete was reinforced with rebar in preparation for the shelter installation. The contractor was managed by Envision Downtown and the contractor was responsible for the traffic management plan during installation.

Shelter Installation

All independent organization and citizens wishing to install permanent or semi-permanent structures on the city right-of-way must first secure authorization from the City of Pittsburgh. To fulfil this legal requirement, Envision Downtown petitioned the city for an encroachment permit. This process involved an application, approval from adjacent property owners, proof of insurance and approval from City Council. Note: as Envision Downtown is not a formal or independent organization, the encroachment permit and insurance certificate is held by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.

Once the encroachment permit was received we worked with general contractor PJ Dick to install the shelters. We managed this project and the contractors pulled the necessary permits to complete the work – traffic obstruction permits etc. 

Bus Service

New Port Authority signage + Real Time Arrivals information installed

New Port Authority signage + Real Time Arrivals information installed

As required by their individual traffic management plans, Envision Downtown, the contracting parties and the City’s Department of Public Works worked with the Port Authority to reroute service as necessary during construction. This included a complete rerouting of service for three weekdays while the curb and concrete were poured. Once the platform was installed the Port Authority communicated with bus drivers to advise them of the new traffic pattern.

Real Time Information and Signage

During the development of this project the Port Authority also completed a new plan for bus stop signage and real time information at select bus stops in Downtown. As such, Envision Downtown commissioned and installed temporary bus signage (in the form of two large A-Frames) at the Smithfield stop for six weeks until the arrival of Port Authority’s updated signage package and real time bus arrival technology. 

Project Evaluation + Impact

In order to quantify the impact of the changes made at the Smithfield Street bus stop an on the street survey was given before and after the improvements. Overall 74% of those asked believed the stop was better now than before, 25% thought it was the same and 1% thought it was worse. The top three priorities for the stop as attained from the original survey; shelter, seating/leaning, and Real Time information, were all delivered successfully.

Those waiting for transit were also asked on a scale from 1 – 5, where 1 was disagree and 5 was completely agree about the ease of getting on and off at the stop, the space at the stop and their perception of safety at the stop and we saw an improvement in all three areas. We saw an increase in those who felt the stop had enough space with a weighted average of 4.20 up from 2.86. Only 3% of people now said they disagreed the stop had enough space whereas in the original survey 37% disagreed the stop had enough space. Additionally more than 79% of people surveyed now completely or somewhat agreed that the stop now has enough space compared to 43% beforehand.

The weighted average for the ease of getting on and off the bus went up to 4.46 from 4.25. In addition perception of safety both during the day and at night increased with, 78% of respondents completely agreeing they felt safe there during the day, compared to 66% beforehand, and 34% saying they completely agreed they would feel safe there at night, compared to 25%. 

Funding and Budget

Envision Downtown is a partnership between City of Pittsburgh Mayor, Bill Peduto and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. Transit improvements on Smithfield Street were supported by the City of Pittsburgh's Department of Public Works and the Port Authority of Allegheny County.

The "Super Stop", and the adjacent pedestrian improvements on Strawberry Way, were made possible with support from the Colcom Foundation and PPG Paints.

Strawberry Way

Envision Downtown’s Strawberry Way project is a demonstration of the future of public space priority in Downtown Pittsburgh. Pedestrian safety, the downtown experience and public life are prioritized through a package of creative and high profile urban innovations. In doing so, this critical section of downtown has been reoriented to serve its most prolific users, pedestrians, while maintaining access for limited car traffic and deliveries (currently) required for a robust street level economic ecosystem. Moreover, the project demonstrated the ability to rapidly and cost effectively install mobility and public life infrastructure in a new model public/private partnership. 

Long thought of as just an alley, Strawberry Way is a key pedestrian corridor for Downtown Pittsburgh, connecting large employment centers on Grant Street to the Cultural District. In April 2016 pedestrian counts showed close to 700 people an hour were walking through the alley during the hours of 11am to 1pm, while only 3 cars were counted. Strawberry Way also intersects Smithfield Street just as the later turns into a major regional transit hub.

Pedestrian counts and stationary activity counts (such as number of people sitting, standing, or undertaking commercial activity - buying a coffee) were performed before (April 2016) and after (August 2016) the installation of the mural and street furniture. This was done to understand how successfully the alley was functioning as a public space. Results of these counts showed the average number of pedestrians per hour between 8am and 6pm recorded on Strawberry Way increased from 243 to 347 (43% increase). While stationary activity rose exponentially with an average hourly increase (also between 8am & 6pm) of 462% from 13 to 73 people.

Strawberry Way, like all Envision Downtown projects, is an opportunity for iterative design and public engagement. Simultaneously, Strawberry Way is designed to inspire action in underutilized urban spaces throughout the City of Pittsburgh (and beyond). Here’s how we did it…

Baseline Conditions

Top most portion of Strawberry Way before project installation. Note predominance of pedestrians despite no dedicated infrastructure

Top most portion of Strawberry Way before project installation. Note predominance of pedestrians despite no dedicated infrastructure


Strawberry Way is a key pedestrian corridor for Downtown Pittsburgh, connecting large employment centers on Grant Street to the Cultural District. In April 2016 pedestrian counts showed close to 700 people an hour walking through the alley during the hours of 11am to 1pm, while only 3 cars were counted. Strawberry Way also intersects Smithfield Street just as the later turns into a major regional transit hub.

Need for seating

This area of Downtown has a number of high density office buildings and in proportion little available open space/public seating. All the tables and seating across the street at Steel Plaza are regularly full during lunch. In 2014 the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP) managed a very successful lunch time pop-up patio at the bottom of Strawberry Way. Tables and chairs were added on the lunch break next to Weiner World and Villa Reale and they were highly utilized throughout the program showing that a demand for seating was present.

Violation of pedestrianized section

The Grant Street adjacent section of Strawberry Way has long been restricted to pedestrian traffic. Despite this car traffic consistently violated that condition often turning off Grant Street onto the alley. The church tried a number of different interventions to prevent this from happening including placing a large Road Closed sign at the top, even then the sign was often moved or knocked down. There was a general lack of signage showing that the pedestrian nature of that stretch of road leading to confusion among all road users.

Previous Public Art

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership has undertaken a number of public art and pop-up initiatives in Strawberry for the past 10 years.  They commissioned several public art pieces for the alleyway including sound and light installations. 

Material Selection


In making a paint selection for the project there were two major considerations to be made. First that the paint would be durable enough to stand up to the traffic volumes on Strawberry Way and second that it had sufficient anti-slip quality to it. An MMAX product (used for bike lanes in Pittsburgh) was considered but deemed too expensive. A PPG Marine Paint product was also considered but, although it met the durability and anti-slip requirements, it did not provide enough flexibility for the artist.

After consultation with the Oval Mural Project in Philadelphia, the final paint solution consisted of three parts:

The Manor Hall and Perma-Crete products were donated by Downtown Pittsburgh based PPG Paints.

Street Furnishings

There were a number of criteria considered in the selection of tables and chairs. We wanted chairs that contributed to brightening the alley and added a sense of fun. They needed to be durable and heavy enough that they were not easily blown away or moved too far. We wanted the chairs to be comfortable but not so comfortable that they invited loitering. For the tables the main concern was that they not pool water in the event of rain.

The planters were to serve a dual purpose of adding greenery and beauty to the alley as well as an additional barrier between pedestrians and traffic. They along with the bollards needed to provide protection but at the same time be moveable by emergency vehicles. The planters and bollards for the project were repurposed from other sites and given a fresh coat of paint.

Permitting Process and Artist Selection

Art Commission 1 – June 2015

The initial design for Strawberry Way was taken before the City of Pittsburgh’s Art Commission as a single project for courtesy review. As the project was deemed temporary (under 18 months) only courtesy approval was required.

Art Commission in general liked the design of both aspects of the project but commented on the “dull” paint color choice for Strawberry Way. After conversations with local stakeholders and the City of Pittsburgh Art Commission it was clear there was an appetite to take a more innovative approach and the project moved ahead to commission a local artist to design and paint a street mural. 

Artist Selection – April 2016

The Office of Public Art (OPA) organized an artist invitational, inviting select artists on the Pittsburgh Artists registry to submit samples of their work. Local stakeholders (that included retailers, property managers as well as Church and hotel management) reviewed the submissions and short-listed three artists who were then invited to interview.

From this short list Deanna Mance was selected to create 3 designs and the final design (chosen by stakeholders) was brought before the Art Commission for full review. This meant the design went up for both Preliminary Review (April 2016) and Final Review (May 2016). In its agreement with the City of Pittsburgh (see below), the PDP was granted a 3 year temporary license for the establishment of a street mural painting on the surface of the road. No longer a temporary project in the eyes of the Art Commission we were required to go through the full review process (preliminary and final).

The designed was approved on the condition that we met all requirements put forward by DPW. 

Memorandum with City of Pittsburgh – May 2016

DPW Requirements for Project

  • Artwork not to be painted inside crosswalks but allowed between crosswalks in middle of the intersection – no reflective paint allowed
  • Outreach to adjacent owners/businesses (including timeline) 
  • No paint on manhole covers
  • Traffic management plan (MPT) for installation and permit for traffic obstruction required
  • Sidewalks must stay open during installation
  • In order to pedestrianize the block between Montour Way and William Penn Place outreach and letters of support needed form the following: 
    • Service providers and utilities 
    • Adjacent property managers/owner/businesses/residents 
    • City Councilman Lavelle

Based on these requirements we submitted a MPT and applied for a 1 month traffic obstruction permit for Strawberry Way between Smithfield Street and Grant Street. 

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP) entered into Temporary License and Maintenance Agreement with the City of Pittsburgh for the approval, installation and maintenance public artwork on Strawberry Way. The agreement outlines responsibilities of The City of Pittsburgh and the PDP as co-sponsors of the Strawberry Way project:

  • The City of Pittsburgh owns the right of way on Strawberry Way and has agreed to permit the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership to establish and maintain a street mural painting on the surface of the road, and patio areas including tables, chairs, and plants extending from the intersection of Strawberry Way and Grant Street to the intersection of Strawberry Way and Smithfield Street
  • The PDP will be responsible for 100% of maintenance of the jointly-sponsored Project at a proper condition.  Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership will maintain the jointly-sponsored project with necessary paint touchups and other needed repairs.  Any proposed changes in maintenance must be approved in writing by the Director of Public Works
  • Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership agrees that at the conclusion of the three (3) year term or upon earlier termination of this Temporary License and Maintenance Agreement, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership will at its sole cost remove the jointly-sponsored Project and restore the roadway to City standards
  • A maintenance fund (including the amount needed to repave) has been created from the remaining grant funds to cover all the costs listed above


The design was installed as a 3 block mural painted directly onto the road bed using paint and materials donated by PPG Paint. Installation was broken into 3 phases. 

Strawberry Way artist, Deanna Mance, designed and coordinated installation of the roadway mural.

First the design was painted on all blocks in white paint by the artist with the help of her assistant. They began at Smithfield Street, completing one block at a time and keeping that block fully closed to traffic during the painting process. Then color was added to the design using the same installment process. Finally the Perma-Crete clear sealer was combined with the Skid-Tex anti-skid additive and painted over all the paint markings. This layer, sealed in the paint and provided some texture to prevent slipping. 

Three full weeks were scheduled, to allow for delay in case of wet weather. The base paint could not be painted onto wet asphalt and if the clear sealer got wet once applied then it may have turned cloudy. The weather however, remained dry so the timeline was accelerated and all painting was complete in under 2 weeks. 

Tables, chairs, and planters were then added into the previously pedestrianized half block from Garland Way to Grant Street. In addition, we pedestrianize the block from Montour Way to William Penn Place adding tables, chairs and planters. The additional public seating and planters solidified that Strawberry Way is a place to stay and not just pass through. Strawberry Way now functions effectively as a spill over space as well as a destination in its own right.

The PDP has an ongoing maintenance agreement with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy for watering and replanting of the planters, to be paid for with remaining funds from the grant budget. The PDP Clean Team will be responsible for monitoring the cleanliness and organization of the table and chairs. As we approach the winter months we will assess the need to move tables and chairs into storage, to then be placed outside again in the spring.


Pedestrian counts and stationary activity counts were performed on Strawberry Way before and after the installation of the mural and street furniture. This was done to understand how successfully the alley was functioning as a public space. The alley was functioning as a high trafficked through corridor for pedestrians with very little stationary activity other than those taking smoke breaks. Post evaluation we saw an increase in pedestrian traffic as well as a dramatic increase in staying activities demonstrating Strawberry Way’s new role as a destination space as well as place to pass through.

The number of average pedestrians per hour between 8:00am and 6:00pm recorded on Strawberry Way increased from 243 to 347 (43% increase). Stationary activity rose exponentially with an average hourly increase of 462% from 13 to 73 people.

Funding and Budget

Envision Downtown is a partnership between City of Pittsburgh Mayor, Bill Peduto and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. Pedestrian improvements on Strawberry Way were supported bythe City of Pittsburgh's Department of Public Works.

Strawberry Way improvements, and the adjacent transit improvements on Smithfield Street, were made possible with support from the Colcom Foundation and PPG Paints.

Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership