Friday, May 3, 2013

Chevron and US. Steel; A Continuation of the Vertical vs. Horizontal Development Debate.

In my most recent post, I introduced the idea of improving both the urban core high-rise as well as the more suburban low-rise sprawling office complex.  Over the last few days, the local press out of Pittsburgh has confirmed that US Steel will remain close to Downtown Pittsburgh should they move out of US Steel Tower, and Chevron is completing their acquisition of 61 acres of land in Robinson Township, near the Pittsburgh International Airport.

While both will be considered huge wins for the greater Pittsburgh area (a net-gain of one regional headquarters for a major corporation while maintaining and expanding the global headquarters of another one), both will likely exhibit two different types of development.  Chevron will likely have a sprawling complex, but US Steel has informed the press that they are interested in remaining downtown.

How Chevron could develop more of a bike/pedestrian-friendly, less auto centric development

Considering that the Montour Trail is almost directly adjacent to the likely future site of Chevron's regional headquarters, their layout should incorporate some bicycle and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure.  Considering this location is adjacent to an interchange with I-376, providing direct access to the airport, Downtown Pittsburgh, and other areas of particular interest north and south of the city, heavy origin and destination auto traffic will heavily influence this development.  The following is a list of best use practices Chevron can incorporate into their new regional headquarters:

  • Construct bike/pedestrian trail parallel to the main entrance.  Consider the placement of bike storage racks near the main entrances of each building.  With a bike and pedestrian-friendly design, Chevron could encourage their employees to either walk or ride to work.
  • Incorporate a parking structure to minimize surface parking.  Any saved space should be considered for either open space or recreational use.
How US Steel could develop a Downtown headquarters that encourages the public to pass through.

As stated in the previous post, Class A office buildings usually do not favor public use.  While some do have plazas adjacent to them, they are not the type that the general public can access and use freely.  While it is still uncertain whether they will consider one tall structure or a campus of medium-rise buildings (15-to-25 story range), this development will likely be something very dense.  Given the surge in Downtown's population with the latest residential developments, Downtown developments should promote and encourage public use.  Whether US Steel considers a single building or a group of buildings, they should consider at least two of the following:
  • a lobby that is very accessible to the general public.
  • a pedestrian friendly streetscape.
  • Ground-level restaurants or retail
  • Public artwork in the lobby or lobbies of buildings)
  • An open plaza to enhance green space in the city
Examples of existing best uses of both Class A high-rise office towers and corporate business parks
  • Liberty Place (Philadelphia): office tower complex contains numerous restaurant and retail uses in an adjacent complex.  Plus, there is a Westin Hotel within the complex.
  • Comcast Center (Philadelphia): Philadelphia's tallest building contains a pedestrian-friendly out-door plaza with fountain as well as a large television screen in the lobby to entice the public
  • One Oxford Center and Fifth Avenue Place (Pittsburgh): office towers contain a retail complex within each building.
  • PPG Place (Pittsburgh): tower complex contains an outdoor plaza with a fountain in the warmer months and an ice rink in the winter.  One PPG Place, the complex's signature 40-story glass tower, contains an indoor winter garden where a proposed high-end restaurant will likely be located.
  • Former FORE Systems headquarters (Pittsburgh, North Hills): Although the development is auto centric, the complex does incorporate a large central green space into its design.
  • Parkway Center complex (Pittsburgh, western suburbs): complex exhibits structured parking as well as some recreational green space.
  • Valley Creek Corporate Center (Philadelphia western suburbs): Currently comprised of three buildings partially enclosing and outdoor recreational space, provides direct access to a hiking and biking trail