Pittsburgh plan to revitalize neighborhoods via a 15-mile loop of waterfront parks and trails wins a national AIA award

As documented in the 2020 book, RECONOMICS: The Path To Resilient Prosperity, two of the most important elements of resilient community revitalization are 1) reconnecting neighborhoods and downtowns via a network of pedestrian and bicycle trails, with one of more loops; and 2) reconnecting the community to its water.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has been growing its trail network steadily for over a decade, and is now ready to expand and connect it in a way that forms a loop. Loops can easily double or triple the value or the trails comprising them.

Even better, the trail network is designed to reconnect the city to its vast array of riverfronts.

On February 9, 2023, the Completing the Loop plan for Pittsburgh’s riverfronts, which was developed by Riverlife and evolve environment :: architecture, received a 2023 National American Institute of Architects (AIA) Regional and Urban Design Award.

The award recognizes the best in urban design, regional and city planning, and community development.

The five-member jury evaluates each submission based on how well the design addresses environmental, social, and economic issues through sustainable strategies, including enhancing quality of life and promoting social equity.

Completing the Loop (2022) outlines a ten-year vision to complete, enhance, and expand the 15-mile, 1050-acre network of riverfront trails and green space centered on Downtown Pittsburgh and adjacent neighborhoods.

Twenty years after creating the first public vision for the redevelopment of the riverfronts, Riverlife has taken stock of what has been done, what needs to be done to address the remaining gaps, and how to improve the experience so that it is enjoyed by all,” says Matthew Galluzzo, President and CEO for Riverlife.

Completing the Loop is a uniquely Pittsburgh approach that hinges on the broad-based partnerships that we cultivate, especially with community members, property owners, and our governmental partners,” he added.

The plan prioritizes access for neighborhoods disconnected from the river by highways and railroads and proposes a system of equitably located facilities, services, and amenities.

As cities are reimagining waterfronts as public spaces, Completing the Loop as a process and a report exemplify inventive, data-driven placemaking concepts centered around environmental and social justice,” says LaShawn Burton-Faulk, Executive Director for Manchester Citizens Corporation and board member for Riverlife.

Completing the Loop’s Technical Assessment outlines key steps for the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Confluence “River Rooms” and identifies projects critical to completion with in-depth analysis of the loop’s Connectivity, Places, Maintenance, Ecology, and Experience across 25 segments.

Completing the Loop was also honored last year with an American Planning Association (APA) Sustainable Communities Award, as well as an APA-Pennsylvania Planning Excellence Award.

While AIA typically focuses on buildings, this prestigious national recognition underscores the design opportunities that infrastructure and green space represent for contemporary US cities.

Completing the Loop is made possible with funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR) and the Henry L. Hillman Foundation.

Images courtesy of RiverLife.

The Plan is publicly available here and here.

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