Friday, July 19, 2013

Vision for Station Square

Station Square once used to serve Pittsburgh as a transportation hub along the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, handling through-trains on a route between Washington, DC, and Chicago. Train travel declined, and eventually all through-trains were shifted over to Penn Station in Downtown courtesy of the Penn-Central Railroad and eventually Amtrak after the Penn-Central's demise. The former B & O station and surrounding railroad buildings sat vacant, but in 1976 the station and freight buildings were converted into the retail and entertainment destination that is Station Square.

The original station building still stands and is currently used as offices for the Pittsburgh Historic and Landmarks Foundation as well as an upscale restaurant. Behind it are the original freight house structures which house over 60 shops and restaurants. A 14 story Sheraton Hotel was also constructed nearby and expanded to contain over 396 guest rooms as well as conference space.

Directly east of this lot is a large surface lot and a night club. The owner of Station Square, Forest City Enterprises, once submitted a proposal for a casino license and intended to develop this part of Station Square into a mixed use development which would include residential units as well as office and retail space. Even though Forest City was not awarded the license, they did state that they still wanted to develop this site. However, the site still remains as a parking lot and night club, and they recently announced that they would sell Station Square to another owner. Below is what I envision for Station Square to transform this popular tourist destination into a true live-work-play neighborhood.

This is something that has been discussed in the Pittsburgh Development thread over at the skyscraperpage forum. We have been discussing the One Grandview project and how it would benefit the Mount Washington neighborhood as well as the city as a whole. We also discussed how Forest City basically just occupied this parcel of land without doing much with it.

Having a dense development in this part of Station Square would essentially extend the popular tourist destination to Southside, another popular Pittsburgh neighborhood, allowing for an improved transition between these neighborhoods. Immediately next to this part of the neighborhood is the former 7-story Standard Machinists Supply Company which is in the middle of a conversion to apartments. For this particular parcel of land, I would like to see a strip of green or recreational space along the railroad tracks where the Great Allegheny Passage trail system is located. I could also see residential uses straddling some restaurant/retail uses and a possible hotel at the northeast corner of Carson St. and the Smithfield Street Bridge. The residential buildings would contain ground-level retail, with the Carson Street buildings rising some 10-to-14 floors. The residential buildings closer to the river would only rise some three to four stories.

For the street grid, I suggest extending (and re-routing) Station Square East to a new intersection at an extended North 1st Street, an extension of Arlington Avenue to Station Square East, and extending McKean Street westward to terminate at Station Square East. Parking would be on-street with maybe below-grade parking or a parking structure providing additional spaces.

Goals of this project would include:
  • Adding to the amount of recreational park space in or near Downtown.
  • Adding more supply to the ever increasing demand for housing, especially in or near Downtown.
  • Extending Station Square to transition better with the adjoining Southside neighborhood.
  • Improve and increase pedestrian activity in this part of Station Square.
  • Transforming Station Square into a true live-work-and-play neighborhood.
Some indirect benefits of this development include:
  • Increased ridership on Port Authority's light rail system as well as the Monongahela Incline.
  • Increased interest in completing One Grandview, a development adjacent to the Monongahela Incline on Mount Washington currently on hold due to lack of funding or interest.
  • Increases in businesses (sales, more customers, etc) already established in Station Square.