Pittsburgh weighs riverfront zoning changes
Dominated for more than a century by industrial activity, riverfronts in the Strip District, Lawrenceville, South Side, Hazelwood and the North Shore are now hot spots for residential, commercial and recreational development.
Pittsburgh Planning Commission is considering the creation of temporary zoning rules that reflect the evolving vision for land along the city’s three rivers.
“The existing zoning isn’t sufficient for all the new interest in our riverfronts for a whole variety of uses,” said Andrea Lavin Kossis, riverfront development coordinator for the city’s Planning Department.
City planners began a public hearing two weeks ago on a proposal to create the Riverfront Interim Planning Overlay District, but postponed a vote in response to questions from some riverfront property owners about how the proposed changes might impact future development. The hearing resumes Tuesday.
The district wouldn’t replace current zoning, which is mostly general or urban industrial. And it wouldn’t affect property owners who aren’t making changes to their properties.
Certain work in designated riverfront areas, however, would trigger increased public review and set new standards for would-be projects. The district would remain in effect for 18 to 24 months, while the city developed permanent riverfront zoning rules.
For example, on land within 200 feet of the Allegheny, Monongahela or Ohio river, standards would apply to projects including demolitions, construction of buildings that are 2,400 square feet or larger, additions of at least 2,400 square feet, and the creation of new or enlarged parking areas. The district would apply to slightly larger projects on land farther from the rivers.
The district would restrict buildings that run parallel to the riverfront from being longer than 500 feet, and new parking garages along the rivers would need to use screening that makes them more architecturally attractive.
Shawn Gallagher, a Downtown attorney representing the Steelers, Pirates and Continental Real Estate Cos., raised questions two weeks ago about whether the district requirements would slow development. His clients are developing land between PNC Park and Heinz Field on the North Shore.
He declined comment on Monday, other to say he submitted additional comments on behalf of his clients to city planners but had not received a response.
Vivien Li, president and CEO of nonprofit Riverlife Pittsburgh, which worked with city planners and business on development of the district, said, “We are not trying to hamper development. In areas where there has been a lot of increased activity and interest in the riverfront, as the public has gotten to see the improvements along the riverfront, it made the areas more desirable places to live and helped to increase property values and quality of life. … That’s a good thing.”
Li added that the riverfronts will continue to have “different uses and users. It’s not one size fits all.”
Tom Fontaine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7847 or [email protected].