From atop the Lando Building at Penn Avenue and Ninth Street, Todd Palcic can see PNC Park, kayaks on the Allegheny River, construction work on The Tower at PNC Plaza and glimpses of the shimmering glass of PPG Place.
Palcic, who is developing the seven-story structure into 27 apartments and building a deck on its roof, foresees tenants throwing parties, watching fireworks and lounging amid Pittsburgh’s skyline.
“People who live Downtown want to show off, and a deck allows them to show off,” Palcic, a developer at Penn Avenue Renaissance, said as he leaned over the deck railing to look out over the river. “A lot of first kisses will happen up here on this deck. I guarantee it.”
As more people move Downtown — the population jumped 10.5 percent in the past three years, reaching more than 7,500, according to the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership — residents are claiming rooftops as social spaces to dine, drink, relax and take in sights. Restaurants have opened rooftop bars and seating areas. Nearly 10 apartment complexes boast roof patios and lounges, and new developments almost all have rooftop plans.
“It’s just a continuation of the evolution of Downtown,” said Jeremy Waldrup, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, whose members include many of Downtown’s largest property managers, banks, hotels, developers and nonprofits. “You have folks who want to be outside. They want to enjoy views that you’re not going to see sitting in between four walls.”
The partnership, which relies on membership fees, donations and a “business improvement district” tax on commercial properties that brought in $1.5 million in 2013, organized a weeklong celebration of Downtown’s revitalization that continues this weekend.
Passes to peer out over the city from the top of the 64-story U.S. Steel Tower went in the “blink of an eye,” the partnership said. On Sunday, Downtown will close streets between Market Square and the Roberto Clemente Bridge to make way for biking, dancing, yoga, a climbing wall and more.
The Downtown partnership began urging restaurants to offer outdoor dining along the streets in 2007, Waldrup said. Now, Sienna Mercato, Six Penn Kitchen, Blue Line Grille’s Uptown and Tavern 245 have taken dinner off the sidewalks and onto the roof.
At Il Tetto, the rooftop beer garden of Sienna Mercato on Penn Avenue, people in suits and ties, birthday parties and groups of friends toasted with pints and picked at duck confit steak fries and applewood smoked chicken wings. The thick-cut, beer-braised house pastrami came from a pig butchered and cured a floor below, said Il Tetto Manager Chris Clark. Behind it all, the Gulf Tower, Koppers Building and the U.S. Steel Tower soared.
“The overall vibe is awesome,” said Stephanie Novakowski, 24, of the North Shore, who sipped drinks with her friend, Rob Embleton, 35, of Ingram.
“You can go to these places in New York and Chicago,” Embleton said. “It’s nice to see this in Pittsburgh.”
Clark said business has been brisk since the rooftop opened in May. It’s equipped with a fully retractable glass canopy that can cover the beer garden in 2 1⁄2 minutes, Clark said. He has been “caught with his pants down” only once, and guests were soaked by a passing rain shower.
The same can be said of some guests at the Courtyard Marriott hotel across Penn Avenue. Some guests with their pants down, or wearing none at all, have left their curtains open. The beer garden goes crazy, Clark said.
“Like they’ve never seen a naked man before,” he said.
Swimsuits are required at the pool at the 625 Stanwix Tower Apartments. Perched 12 stories up on top of the Stanwix Street parking garage, it’s the only outdoor pool Downtown, said property manager Krystal Jordan.
The pool has been part of the complex since it opened in the late 1970s. There is a lifeguard on duty and space around the pool for grills.
“I think it’s one of the most terrific places in Downtown,” said John Buzzelli, 58, who lived in Scott before moving into the apartment complex and spent Thursday afternoon lounging by the pool. “It’s one of the reasons I moved here.”
Aaron Aupperlee is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7986 or [email protected].