Pittsburgh’s Cultural Trust

Submitted by Martha Eakin on Sat, 03/18/2006 - 19:42.

Is there any organization in Cleveland that would be the equivalent of the Cultural Trust in Pittsburgh?  I note that one project of Pittsburgh’s Cultural Trust is to “create a residential riverfront neighborhood that is integrated with the Allegheny riverbank. The main goal is to create a place so animated by restaurants, a park, public art and shopping areas that locals and out-of-town visitors will consider it a must-see destination.” To this end the Trust has selected four architectural planning/development teams from around the US and beyond to submit plans. I happened to recognize the name of the Dutch architectural firm, MVRDV, that is the proposal designer for Team B.


In ’04 MVRDV published a book, titled Regionmaker, that describes the possibilities offered by virtual planning techniques to the realization of regional concepts By initiating this design contest for an area in downtown Pittsburgh, the Cultural Trust has upped the intellectual/aesthetic ante for development in their city.  Peter B. Lewis had this idea when he engaged Gehry to design the Weatherhead building.  Whether or not one likes the PBL building at Case, it can’t be denied that it contributes to Cleveland’s overall architectural interest.  There are people who will travel here just to see that building.  When local developers give us another shopping destination or condo development or industrial park, we would all benefit if the chief design criteria didn’t seem to be “the bottom line”.  In fact developers might be filling more buildings if Cleveland were recognized as a place that not only had a stock of grand old buildings but also was home to new cutting edge developments.

Read more about the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust: http://www.pgharts.org/about/

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Too bad we don't work that way here

Thanks for pointing this out, Martha. I wish we had done something like this to develop the East Bank of the Flats, instead of allowing it to be demolished by neglect and abuse, and then rewarding the most neglectful landlord with corporate charity, resulting in what looks to be the most boring, lame misuse of a city's primary asset in recent world history... other communties have developed greater collective wisdom.

Martha, be sure to join us for the Excellence Roundtable at CUDC as we'll discuss better approaches to planning, such as you point out in Pittsburgh... see http://realneo.us/events/2006-03-21-excellence-roundtable-steven-fong-dean-kent-college-of-architecture-mar-2006

Reading more about the Cultural Trust...

Reading more about the Cultural Turst, it seems what Pittsburgh had in the mid-1980's that Cleveland did not was Jack Heinz - a globally significant super rich, super-powerful mega-business leader (of the scale Cleveland had in the early 1900s w/ Rockefeller and his ilk) who was committed to culture, and downtown Pittsburgh.

The only way we can replicate that is for masses of us to be of equal collective scale... and collectively pursuing good outcomes like:

Real Estate Development

The late H.J. "Jack" Heinz had a vision for a dynamic downtown, flourishing year round with activity and millions of theatergoers, arts enthusiasts, employees, tourists, students and residents. Over the past two decades, The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has steadily changed the face of downtown by building and restoring historic properties with a high standard of aesthetic design and quality. Among the 1.2 million square feet of property the Trust manages are now close to two dozen, and counting, world-class theaters and small, unique spaces. These venues are integral to the economic and cultural growth of Pittsburgh's Cultural District.

With the infrastructure firmly in place, the spotlight now shines on residential living in the Cultural District. Currently, the Encore by Lincoln Property at the corner of Seventh Street and Fort Duquesne Boulevard, the first new high rise residential project in the last thirty five years in Downtown Pittsburgh, is scheduled to be complete by summer 2006. The building will provide spectacular riverfront and city views and is a significant precursor of great new residential projects and public realm improvements.

In June 2005, delegates of Shaping the Vision, a forum hosted by The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, gathered to brainstorm the initial steps for the Trust's next major project-the Cultural District Riverfront Development. Dozens of leaders in the fields of architecture, urban planning and redevelopment from around the globe explored potential concepts for the prime real estate bordered by Penn Avenue and Fort Duquesne Boulevard, between Seventh and Ninth Streets.

The Real Estate Development Department in collaboration with the Education and Community Engagement Department, Theater Operations, and Institutional Development is also working towards the completion of a new Education Center and multiuse space at 805-809 Liberty Avenue.

  • Collaboration on construction of the Creative and Performing Arts High School of the City of Pittsburgh
  • Initializing residential developments throughout the Cultural District
  • Supporting new hotel developments, including the Renaissance Hotel and the Courtyard by Marriott
  • Constructing and maintaining important public realm improvements
  • Supporting several new storefront arts projects
  • Constructing and supporting new parking facilities
  • Supporting new retail efforts, including numerous new restaurants

For more information on any of the projects please contact Rebecca J. White, Director of Real Estate Development at 412-471-5198 or rwhite [at] pgharts [dot] org?Subject=re%3aReal%20Estate%20homepage%20on%20Website.

A History of the Pittsburgh and the Cultural Trust

Pittsburgh In The Nineteenth Century Established in the eighteenth century at the confluence of three rivers, Pittsburgh in the nineteenth century became the industrial giant of the world, producing steel, iron, aluminum, and glass. This industry, however, created the image of a "smoky city," or what writer James Parton once described as "Hell with the lid off."

But by the 1960s, Pittsburgh earned a special place in the history of urban development by remaking itself through public-private partnerships into a city with clean air, clean water, grand public spaces and architecturally significant office buildings - what our city proudly calls Renaissance I and II.

Today, Pittsburgh's downtown Cultural District is a fourteen square block area in the forefront of the City's third Renaissance effort.

Pittsburgh In The 1980s Despite Renaissance I and II, Pittsburgh, by the 1980s - like so many American cities in the so-called rust-belt - had suffered a significant downturn: industry declined, mills were closed, corporations downsized and relocated or were acquired. Downtown storefronts were vacant and the streets virtually empty at night.

During this difficult time a group of leaders - motivated by the vision of one man, the late Jack Heinz - banded together to pursue a dream - a dream to keep the city and its quality of life alive by transforming a derelict area of downtown, that was once considered the theater district of Pittsburgh, into an arts district once again.

Jack Heinz and Senator John Heinz As an arts lover himself and chairman of the H.J. Heinz Company, Jack Heinz gathered his band of dreamers - soon to include his son, Senator John Heinz - to create an urban cultural district that could contribute to the vitality of downtown.

Jack Heinz began with Heinz Hall, a new home for the Pittsburgh Symphony, and as Heinz Hall breathed new life into downtown, The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust was formed in 1984 as both an arts agency and a real estate and economic development catalyst - to realize Jack Heinz' fuller vision of a cultural district.

The Benedum Center The Trust's first project was the restoration of the former Stanley Theater into the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts. This $43 million project was completed in 1987, and at that time the Trust's Board of Trustees began to focus on the creation of a downtown Cultural District Development Plan.

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's plan for development was a holistic approach that has included streetscaping programs, facade restorations, new cultural facilities, and public open spaces and art projects.

Agnes R. Ktz Plaza The end result encompasses a complete transformation of Pittsburgh's Downtown; from a "red light" district with only two cultural facilities - Heinz Hall and the Convention Center - to a vibrant animated area with over fourteen cultural facilities, public parks and plazas, and new and proposed commercial development.