Release Date: Wednesday, March 16th 2016
Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership Annual Meeting Focuses on Innovative and New Initiatives to Continue Downtown Transform
At the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s Annual Meeting today, at the August Wilson Center, a number of new initiatives were announced, 2015 accomplishments were celebrated, plans for 2016 were shared, and participants were inspired by keynote speaker Gabe Klein, author of Start-up City.
2015 Accomplishments and New PDP Initiatives
At today’s meeting, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership President and CEO, Jeremy Waldrup provided an overview of the successes the organization experienced in 2015. Highlights included:
- PDP Clean Team removed 1.1 million pounds of trash from the Central Business District.
- The PDP Volunteer program welcomed 2,675 participants who provided a combined 9,002 hours of service, a 30% increase from 2014.
- PDP Programming continued to grow and expand, focusing on existing and new events. In 2015, Downtown was turned into Picklesburgh, welcoming more than 75,000 people and resulting in widespread national media coverage.
- Light Up Night® and The Peoples Gas Holiday Market™ continue to be anchor events for the Downtown Pittsburgh Holiday season, welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors. The PDP also worked with several arts-based organizations to ensure the Holiday Window Display tradition was revitalized for the 2015 holiday season, in the wake of Downtown Macy’s departure.
- The Paris to Pittsburgh Sidewalk Activation and Façade Restoration program approved 10 grants in 2015, totaling $326,560, which supported $1,586,316 in total project costs.
- The PDP became one of four pilot neighborhoods to participate in Sustainable Pittsburgh’s Sustainable Restaurant Program, recognizing restaurants leading the way in sustainability.
- The PDP also enhanced outreach and services to the local business community in 2015 through the launch of the Small Business Spotlight program. Downtown merchants were highlighted weekly in the Farmers Market providing them with the opportunity to gain new customers and capitalize on lunchtime sales. Additionally, the PDP produced a holiday shopping guide highlighting the more than 150 Downtown retailers and distributed more than 14,000 copies at locations throughout Downtown.
- Transportation initiatives in 2015, focused on laying groundwork for more detailed planning and implementation in 2016, including a multi-phase wayfinding system, advocating for increased passenger rail trips by the Amtrak Pennsylvanian, and gauging interest in expanding protected bike lanes in Downtown.
According to Waldrup “2015 was a very successful year not only for the PDP but for Downtown Pittsburgh, we saw increased vibrancy, launched new initiatives and events that captured the enthusiasm of Pittsburghers and began work that will ultimately improve mobility for all users of Downtown. 2016 promises to capitalize on much of the work that has already begun and we will continue to activate Downtown in unexpected, transformative ways.”
At the meeting, Waldrup also provided insight into initiatives and plans that will be employed throughout 2016. In addition to BetaBurgh and Re:NEW Festival (more below) work plans involve:
- Working to more effectively engage and support the Homeless Outreach Committee and their efforts to provide services to homeless individuals in Downtown.
- Conducting two research initiatives, including a resident survey and pedestrian count and survey to better understand the trends and needs of Downtown users. As well as releasing the 5th annual edition of the State of Downtown Pittsburgh Research Report in May.
- Launching a new streamlined website, one of the PDP’s most utilized marketing mediums.
- Increasing programming in Market Square, particularly on weekend afternoons with activities that will continue the lunchtime vibrancy.
- Implementing a Downtown safety campaign focusing on dangerous intersections and reducing incidents between pedestrians and cars.
Last year, Mayor Peduto announced the creation of Envision Downtown, a public-private partnership between the Mayor’s Office and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. Envision’s mission is to advance mobility and livability in Pittsburgh’s central neighborhoods by making it safer, more convenient to get to, and more attractive for all users.
At today’s meeting, executive director of Envision Downtown Pittsburgh, Sean Luther, shared highlights of project’s first year. These included:
- Sidewalk expansion and new amenities for transit riders at Downtown’s busiest bus stop located at Smithfield Street and Sixth Avenue. The improvements included widening the sidewalk at the bus stop and the addition of a shelter and lean bar, providing more room for people to navigate the busy sidewalk and queue for their bus.
- The implementation of a Dynamic Parking Garage Wayfinding pilot that will provide drivers with real-time information regarding availability of parking spots in and around the Cultural District.
- Mapping barriers to mobility for individuals with disabilities and testing streetscape improvements to eliminate those challenges.
- Aggregating and developing critical data points to drive decision making.
Envision Downtown’s Plans for 2016 include:
- Following recommendations by Gehl Studio, three recommended Public Realm Action Plan Pilots will be developed. Pilot projects will focus on mobility infrastructure and accessibility improvements, activating parking lot edges, and sidewalk improvements.
- Pedestrian safety and intersection improvement projects, including implementation of recommendations at Liberty/Stanwix/Forbes developed by a community focused design charrette sponsored by AARP.
- Additional amenity investments for transit riders.
- Improving the experience and safety of pedestrians on Strawberry Way
- Expanding efforts to demonstrate new technology partnerships and “smart city” innovations in Downtown, especially related to congestions reduction.
Also announced today, the PDP will undertake an ambitious, new month-long festival in the fall that will be a celebration of creative reuse, transformation and sustainability. Produced with a host of partner organizations, programming will include art, music, performances, workshops, films, expos, talks, tours and markets centered in Downtown with extensions throughout the city. The festival will also include the U.S premiere of Drap-Art, the international festival of recycled art from Barcelona. More information can be found at: http://www.renewfestival.com/
BetaBurgh (see BetaBurgh press release for complete details)
Four recipients of BetaBurgh grants were announced at the meeting. BetaBurgh is a new initiative that invests in innovative ideas from the startup, entrepreneur, non-profit, and small business communities in Pittsburgh. The program is designed to create an opportunity to test and launch products and services within the Downtown marketplace. BetaBurgh is funded by the BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
The four projects chosen to be implemented are:
The Aquaponics Project will install a renovated 20’ shipping container that will house a sustainable aquaponics eco-system designed by a local group. The produce and fish produced through this system will be available for purchase. Digital Dream Labs will create a life-size replica of their hand-held children’s game called Puzzlets, testing new market data while providing opportunities for children and adults to play in Downtown during the lunch hour or at major events.
Fine Art Miracles, partnering with Collaborative Experiential Electronic Musical Instruments (CEEMI) will use a hardware device that can turn any Wi-Fi compatible device into a musical instrument. “CEEMI for Lunch: A Musical Luncheon” will create a symphony of strangers throughout Downtown.
LA Kids, an initiative that provides experiential education in renewable energy, sustainability, and art will build a solar powered art installation made of reusable materials that provides the public with free charging for mobile devices.
2015 Annual Report
Additional information regarding the PDP’s and Envision Downtown’s 2015 accomplishments and the approaches to be employed in 2016 may be found in the Annual Report, released today. A PDF of the report is available on the PDP’s website.
Gabe Klein Keynote Address
Keynote speaker Gabe Klein, author, entrepreneur and transportation expert shared his experiences on how to affect big, directional change in cities and how to do it quickly. Klein encouraged Pittsburgh to cultivate what he calls “public entrepreneurship,” a start-up-pace energy within the public sector which can be developed by leveraging the immense resources at its disposal. Klein also challenged the city of Pittsburgh to utilize Downtown as a proving ground for interesting projects that can be replicated throughout the city, and to develop a roadmap for getting real, meaningful projects done quickly.
Election of New PDP Board Members and Officers
As part of the order of business for the day, the organization elected two new Board Members to serve three-year terms. New members are Kenneth Lyle, Superintendent of Construction Operations for Peoples Gas and Apple White, Vice President, Workplace Transformation Program Manager at BNY Mellon.
The PDP also elected new officers to a two year term. The new officers are:
Chair: Gerry Dudley, CBRE
Vice Chair: Lucas Piatt, Millcraft Investments
Secretary: Matthew Sterne, Fairmont Hotel, Pittsburgh
Treasurer: Bill Clarkson, Strategic Investment Fund
Golden Triangle Awards & Presentations
The Golden Triangle Awards, established in 2012 acknowledge exceptional efforts of individuals and organizations that benefit Downtown Pittsburgh and the mission of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. Two Golden Triangle Awards were presented today.
- The Chairman’s Award is presented to a Board member whose dedication to the PDP goes above and beyond the duties of serving the organization. The awardee dedicates significant time to ensure that Downtown Pittsburgh continues to be a great place to live, work, and play through furthering the efforts and impact of the PDP. This year’s recipient was Richard L. Beynon, a founding and active member of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership Board of Directors.
- The Downtown Champion Award is presented to an individual, company, or organization that truly embraces the vision of the PDP. The 2016 recipient is the Bureau of Police, City of Pittsburgh, for their support and assistance in assuring Downtown remains among the safest neighborhoods in our region.
Throughout the 2015 Peoples Gas Holiday Market™, volunteers collected financial donations in return for the opportunity to receive a complimentary photo with Santa in his Downtown Pittsburgh home. At today’s meeting representatives from Peoples Gas presented a check to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank $51,640.
In 2015, Market Square was selected as a Great Place in the category of Great Public Spaces by the Great Places in Pennsylvania Program. At today’s meeting, Katie Stringent, Secretary of the American Planning Association, PA Southwest Section presented the award to Dina Klavon, of Klavon Design, the firm responsible for the new design of the square and to Jeremy Waldrup of the PDP, for leading the renovation efforts.