ECOINNOVATION DISTRICT

The Plan

Ecoinnovation District Banner

What's an EcoInnovation District?

The EcoInnovation District in Pittsburgh is the first of its kind.  It is a groundbreaking initiative that combines the goals of both EcoDistricts and Innovation Districts that have helped to positively transform communities across the country.  The EcoInnovation District is an opportunity to utilize the ways in which redevelopment can improve the environment, support the needs of existing residents, and expand entrepreneurship and job growth.

  • EcoDistricts emphasizes a bottom-up model of planning and development to create a resilient and sustainable city.  They reflect a new approach to development focused on economic opportunity, universal access, smart and efficient infrastructure, and green building practices. 
  • Innovation Districts are focused on job growth and economic opportunity.  Innovation districts that are walkable, bikeable, and transit-oriented result in healthier, happier lifestyles for local residents, foster greater equity in access, and create a better environment for businesses to succeed.

The creation of the EcoInnovation District Plan (EID) was a two-year process to help support the community and assets within Uptown and West Oakland, and to help spur development and revitalize this major corridor between Downtown and Oakland. With new projects on the horizon in Pittsburgh, such as the bus rapid transit system, Uptown has an opportunity to grow and create a more welcoming environment for residents. Since the adoption of the EID plan by the city's Planning Commission in September 2017. Following adoption, community organizations, institutions, employers, and public agency partners have worked together to implement the plan through projects and programs.

The Neighborhood

Photo of neighborhood.

Uptown extends along the Fifth and Forbes Avenue corridors from I-579 to Robinson Street and is - nestled between 2 of the top 3 largest employment centers in Pennsylvania – Downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland. In 2015, 109,050 jobs were in Greater Downtown including 8,000 jobs in Uptown. Many of Uptown’s jobs are linked to Duquesne University, UPMC’s Mercy Hospital and the district’s growing biomedical and technology startup spaces. Greater Downtown accounts for nearly 40% of all jobs in Pittsburgh. To the east, Oakland is home to the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, Carlow University, world class medicine at UPMC’s Magee and Presbyterian Hospitals, and a growing number of small and established businesses. An investment in Uptown is within a short commute to over 150,000 jobs. To support Pittsburgh’s growing economy, Uptown is uniquely positioned to provide new spaces in a location easily accessible to these job centers.

Today there approximately 1,000 residents that are extremely diverse in terms of income and race. With a large and active population of artists and activists, Uptown has a distinctive character and deep pride about its history and future. Institutions play a prominent role in Uptown as a source of employment, as anchor real estate holders and contributors to the wellbeing of the community. There are over 20 institutions providing a range of services to community members in Uptown and beyond. These institutions, both large and small, form an essential social fabric of the community and support what is an emerging innovation community. Avenu and Duquesne University both actively support research and small business activities and the community is home to vision and hearing research and services, small biotech companies, creative businesses and makers.

Project Staff and Key Partners.

Engagement Summary:

  • Public event attendees: 550
  • Focus group meetings: 20
  • Interviews: 50+
  • Surveys: 700
  • Web users: 3,000
  • Web page views: 8,000
  • Collaborative map comments: 160

What’s in the Plan

The EcoInnovation District Plan is comprised of four main chapters that address strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities to be built upon in order to help reinvest in Uptown and support current and future residents. Each of these chapters – Community, Development, Mobility, and Infrastructure – are broken into actionable items by the City of Pittsburgh, community leaders, and other partners. For more information on each item, see the corresponding chapter within the plan.

More public engagement details can be found starting on page 10 of the EID Plan.

Comunity Meeting Photo

Over the past century, Uptown and West Oakland have faced many significant challenges. What was at one time a diverse community of about 8,500 people in 1910, many of which worked in adjacent factories and mills, declined to 3,220 residents in 1990 of which 58% or 1,860 were students. During this decline, major institutions stepped in to create campuses that today provide thousands of jobs to Pittsburgh residents. The result is not just a loss of population but of the townhomes, small scale warehouses and structures that make Uptown unique. Of the 6,600 residents in the community according to the 2010 Census, about 5,930 of these are either students living on Duquesne’s campus or prisoners in the Allegheny County Jail along the River.

Today there are about 1,000 residents in Uptown who face many day-to-day challenges. Concerns about rising housing prices, crime (both real and perceived) and the continued loss of historic buildings are frequently raised. Ensuring that Uptown grows equitably, that job opportunities are accessible to residents and that the community both tackle some long-standing day-today challenges while keeping Uptown…Uptown, represents the core of the EcoInnovation District plan.

Concept Map:

Concpet Map

1.1 INVEST IN EXISTING RESIDENTS & PROTECT THE RESIDENTIAL CORE OF THE COMMUNITY

  • CREATE A HOUSING ADVOCATE FOR UPTOWN
  • EXPLORE TAX POLICIES TO PREVENT DISPLACEMENT
  • WORK WITH THE URA AND CITY TO COORDINATE ACQUISITION OF KEY TAX DELINQUENT PROPERTIES
  • EXPLORE THE POTENTIAL OF A LAND TRUST TO MAINTAIN AFFORDABILITY FOR BOTH RESIDENTIAL AND COMMERCIAL PROPERTIES
  • CREATE PROGRAMS TO SUPPORT EFFICIENCY RETROFITS and BASIC SYSTEMS REPAIR FOR EXISTING BUILDINGS
  • CREATE A HEALTHY HOMES PROGRAM FOR UPTOWN AND THE HILL DISTRICT

1.2   PROMOTE DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION IN THE INNOVATION COMMUNITY

  • BECOME A HUB OF WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS ACCESSIBLE TO AND TARGETING A RANGE OF SKILL SETS AND EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUNDS
  • INVITE DISADVANTAGED YOUTH TO PARTICIPATE IN THE INNOVATION COMMUNITY
  • CREATE AN ANNUAL UPTOWN JOB FAIR WITH LOCAL BUSINESSES

1.3    BUILD ON UPTOWN/WEST OAKLAND’S CHARACTER AND IDENTITY

  • PRESERVE THE COMMUNITY'S HISTORIC CHARACTER
  • INVEST IN MORE PUBLIC ART
  • LAUNCH A TARGETED MARKETING STRATEGY
  • CREATE NEW COMMUNITY PROGRAMMING
  • EXPAND LOCAL FITNESS PROGRAMS

1.4    WORK TOGETHER TO TACKLE VACANCY AND COMMUNITY SAFETY

  • MONITOR and ADDRESS ILLEGAL DUMPING AND NUISANCE PROPERTIES
  • UPGRADE LIGHTING
  • EXPAND COMMUNITY POLICING

1.5    EXPAND INSTITUTIONAL PARTNERSHIPS

  • CONNECT LOCAL INSTITUTIONS
  • WORK WITH MAJOR INSTITUTIONS TO EXPAND THEIR RESEARCH, CURRICULUM AND STUDENT ACTIVITIES INTO THE COMMUNITY WHERE APPROPRIATE 

Details for each of these strategies can be found in the Community Chapter of the EID Plan.

Community photo.

Given Uptown’s unique location, it’s remarkable that investment has, in many ways, bypassed the community. According to the land use survey analysis conducted at the beginning of the EcoInnovation process, 37% of the land in Uptown is underutilized - consisting of surface parking lots or vacant buildings/land. Pittsburgh’s office market is approaching “Full” and Uptown is primed to absorb some of the spillover investment from Downtown and Oakland. As the City’s innovation economy grows, small and growing businesses will need affordable space to succeed. Uptown contains a building types that have historically supported a mix of small scale manufacturing and light industry. These buildings are often well-suited for such start-up businesses through reuse. To maximize the potential of Uptown as a home for small businesses, it is imperative to preserve these buildings and work to fill them with new activity.

Uptown also has the potential to meet growing demand for housing. In order to meet this demand and help prevent a rise in housing costs, new development should be encouraged. Through a mix of new construction as well as rehabilitation of existing vacant buildings, there is ample opportunity to meet the demand while preserving Uptown’s existing character, and ultimately re-establish the vibrant mix of uses that once characterized the Fifth and Forbes corridors. To encourage investment but also retain Uptown’s character, the existing zoning needs to be replaced. Using the City’s p4 initiative as inspiration, the proposed Uptown Public Realm District seeks to simplify the existing code but also incentivize new development in ways that help to address some major issues in the community including affordability, stormwater, energy and preservation.

Concept Map:

Concept Map

2.1 DIVERSIFY HOUSING OPTIONS

  • MAKE HOUSING OPTIONS AVAILABLE AND AFFORDABLE TO A DIVERSE INCOME RANGE
  • LOOK FOR OPPORTUNITIES TO CREATE NEW SENIOR HOUSING
  • CREATE STUDENT HOUSING TO RELIEVE PRESSURE ON EXISTING HOUSING

2.2 CREATE SPACE FOR INNOVATION

  • CONNECT START UPS WITH FLEXIBLE SPACES TO FIT THEIR NEEDS
  • WORK WITH DEVELOPERS TO PROVIDE WORKSPACE
  • SUPPORT HOUSING TYPOLOGIES THAT SUPPORT COLLABORATIVE CREATIVE PRODUCTION AND INNOVATION

REVIVE COMMERCIAL CORRIDORS

  • OVERSEE CORRIDOR MANAGEMENT EFFORTS AS A PART OF EID DISTRICT MANAGEMENT
  • RETAIN EXISTING BUSINESSES
  • ENCOURAGE EXISTING AND NEW BUSINESSES TO IMPROVE CURB APPEAL
  • ATTRACT NEW RETAIL & COMMERCIAL TENANTS

IMPLEMENT POLICIES TO PROMOTE SUSTAINABLE & AFFORDABLE DEVELOPMENT

  • ENCOURAGE DENSITY AND MIXED USES IN TARGETED AREAS
  • MANAGE PARKING DISTRICT WIDE and CREATE COMMUNITY INFRASTRUCTURE HUBS
  • REWRITE ZONING FOR THE EID BASED ON PERFORMANCE

Details for each of these strategies can be found in the Community Chapter of the EID Plan.

Mobilty photo.

Uptown and West Oakland’s transportation system is one of the community’s biggest assets, with some of Pittsburgh’s most robust transit, bridge, and highway connections. On the other hand, this same infrastructure – and its associated traffic – often serve to overwhelm the neighborhood, encouraging trips through Uptown and West Oakland rather than to them. This generates a significant amount of vehicular traffic, traffic crashes, and air and noise pollution.

After housing, transportation is typically the second highest factor in a household’s cost of living, and residents of Uptown have many opportunities to reduce these costs. Operating, insuring, and maintaining a car costs an average of $9,000 per year. Because of its walkable scale (if not walkable streets) and frequent buses along Fifth and Forbes Avenues, it’s possible to live without a car in Uptown – and some people do. But walking, bicycling and taking transit is not always easy in Uptown. Some steep hills, poor sidewalks and fast moving traffic makes walking unpleasant and at times unsafe. There are no bike lanes that protect bicyclers from traffic, buses often get stuck in traffic due to large commuter use, and often residents must leave the neighborhood to acquire basic household goods. While the study area’s modest size may preclude changes at the regional or citywide scale, the EcoInnovation District is the perfect size to test and refine the most innovative emerging concepts in sustainable and equitable urban mobility, serving as a proof-of-concept well beyond the borders of Uptown and West Oakland.

Concept Map:

Concept Map

3.1 INCREASE TRANSPORTATION CHOICE TO DECREASE CONGESTION

  • ENCOURAGE WALKING, BIKING, AND TAKING TRANSIT FOR TRIPS TO, FROM, AND WITHIN THE ECOINNOVATION DISTRICT
  • ENSURE TRANSIT MEETS THE NEEDS OF LOCAL USERS
  • GET MORE PEOPLE RIDING TOGETHER
  • EXPAND A TRANSPORTATION MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATION (TMA) TO INCLUDE UPTOWN
  • EXPAND MOBILITY ACROSS ALL INCOME LEVELS

3.2 CREATE A SAFE AND LIVABLE STREET NETWORK

  • ACHIEVE ZERO TRAFFIC FATALITIES AND ZERO SERIOUS INJURIES WITHIN UPTOWN
  • IDENTIFY "SLOW STREETS" COORDINATED WITH TRANSIT EMPHASIS ON FIFTH/FORBES
  • IMPROVE SAFETY OF CROSS STREET CONNECTIONS WITH BOULEVARD OF THE ALLIES FOR ALL MODES
  • PRIORITIZE SIDEWALK IMPROVEMENTS BASED ON NEED AND CRITICAL PATHWAYS
  • IMPROVE SAFETY AND QUALITY OF PEDESTRIAN EXPERIENCE CROSSING UNDER BRIDGE AND OVERPASS INFRASTRUCTURE

3.3 IMPLEMENT BUS RAPID TRANSIT ON FIFTH AND FORBES AVENUES

  • PROVIDE A TRANSIT ONLY LANE ON BOTH FIFTH AND FORBES AND INTEGRATE PEDESTRIAN IMPROVEMENTS INTO BRT DESIGN
  • USE BRT CONSTRUCTION TO BEGIN THE SHIFT AWAY FROM SINGLE OCCUPANCY VEHICLES (SOVS)

3.4 BUILD A SMARTER UPTOWN

  • ENCOURAGE IMPLEMENTATION OF SMARTPGH SENSOR NETWORK IN UPTOWN; SMART SPINES ON FIFTH AND FORBES
  • MAKE REAL-TIME TRANSPORTATION DATA AVAILABLE IN THE PUBLIC REALM
  • ENCOURAGE AUTOMATED VEHICLE (AV) PILOT PROJECTS IN UPTOWN
  • BRING ELECTRIC VEHICLE (EV) CHARGING STATIONS TO UPTOWN

3.5 ESTABLISH A DISTRICT PARKING STRATEGY

  • MAKE PARKING POLICY “WORK” FOR UPTOWN RESIDENTS
  • IMPLEMENT DYNAMIC PARKING MANAGEMENT STRATEGY FOR UPTOWN / WEST OAKLAND
  • PARTNER WITH INSTITUTIONS AND MAJOR EMPLOYERS TO DEVELOP TRANSPORTATION DEMAND MANAGEMENT (TDM) PROGRAMS
  • ESTABLISH A MAJOR-EVENT MANAGEMENT STRATEGY IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE PPG PAINTS ARENA

3.6 INVEST IN BICYCLE INFRASTRUCTURE & CULTURE

  • INFILL EXISTING BIKE NETWORK WITH SAFE, ALL-AGES FACILITIES
  • MAKE THE BIKE COMMUNITY MORE VISIBLE
  • EXPAND BIKE SHARE IN UPTOWN AND WEST OAKLAND
  • GROW REGIONAL BIKE TRAIL NETWORK AND CONNECTIONS TO / FROM UPTOWN

Details for each of these strategies can be found in the Community Chapter of the EID Plan.

Infranstruture photo.

Uptown is blessed with some potentially amazing natural assets: an incredible wooded hillside to the northeast that could serve in both an open space and ecological capacity; and a stunning 180-degree view down to the Monongahela River — if one could safely connect to the hillside bluff overlooking the river. It also boasts an emerging urban agriculture movement, experiments in public art and landscape throughout the neighborhood, small but socially important gathering spaces like the Tustin Street Playground and community garden, and an incredibly energetic set of residents at work in these spaces and efforts.

Unfortunately, many of these assets are yet untapped or mostly unrealized. They lack physical and visual access to them, connections between and among them, and have limited resources to support major upgrades or expansion except for the time and efforts and personal contributions of those active in their founding, installation, and upkeep. The opportunity is to improve these open spaces, connect them, create new ones that help to manage the stormwater that negatively impacts the community.

The EcoInnovation District also carefully studied the opportunity to reduce waste and reuse more and, creating district energy for all in the community. These activities can provide more resilient infrastructure for residents but also reduce costs and provide valuable materials like clean soil through composting that supports the efforts of local gardeners and farmers.

Concept Map:

Concept Map

4.1 CREATE AND EXPAND OPEN SPACE AMENITIES FOR RESIDENTS

  • CREATE A NEW CIVIC PLAZA AT FIFTH AND DINWIDDIE
  • EXPAND THE TUSTIN STREET GARDENS / TOT LOT INTO A COMMUNITY PARK
  • TRANSFORM THE HILLSIDE INTO AN OPEN SPACE AMENITY AND STORMWATER PARK
  • DEVELOP A NEW BLUE ALLEY ON WATSON STREET ON THE WESTERN END
  • INTEGRATE NEW GREEN SPACE AT FORBES AND STEVENSON TO CAPTURE STORMWATER AND SUPPORT NEW LOCAL USES

4.2 CREATE NEW GREEN CONNECTIONS

  • CREATE CLEAR CONNECTIONS TO THE HERITAGE TRAIL
  • IMPROVE COLWELL AS A GREEN CONNECTOR
  • TRANSFORM BOULEVARD OF THE ALLIES INTO UPTOWN'S RIVERFRONT

4.3 USE LANDSCAPE TO ENHANCE LOCAL QUALITY OF LIFE

  • ENCOURAGE ALTERNATIVE APPROACHES TO MANAGING VACANT LAND
  • MAXIMIZE AND CONNECT LOCAL FOOD PRODUCTION OPPORTUNITIES
  • INTEGRATE STREET TREES
  • MANAGE DISTRICT VEGETATION
  • MONITOR AND IMPROVE ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH

4.4 UPDATE UNDERGROUND INFRASTRUCTURE

  • FOCUS ON STORMWATER RETENTION STRATEGIES AT THE SURFACE TO EASE THE BURDEN ON SEWER SYSTEMS
  • UPDATE SEWER / WATER LATERALS WHERE POSSIBLE

4.5 PURSUE DISTRICT ENERGY

  • REDUCE ENERGY BURDEN
  • COORDINATE INFRASTRUCTURE INSTALLATION WITH BRT
  • ESTABLISH MULTI-USER MICRO GRIDS
  • ROMOTE USE OF COMBINED HEAT & POWER
  • ENCOURAGE INSTALLATION OF SOLAR PV IN UNDERUTILIZED AIR SPACE
  • ENCOURAGE RECYCLING WASTE FOOD AS AN ALTERNATIVE ENERGY SOURCE
  • EXTEND THE 2030 DISTRICT INTO UPTOWN

4.6 BECOME A MODEL FOR INNOVATIVE WASTE MANAGEMENT

  • STRIVE TO BECOME A ZERO WASTE COMMUNITY
  • ENFORCE RECYCLING MANDATE
  • PROVIDE PUBLIC TRASH AND RECYCLING RECEPTACLES WHERE NEEDED
  • ESTABLISH A DISTRICT COMPOSTING PROGRAM

Details for each of these strategies can be found in the Community Chapter of the EID Plan.

Summary of Adoption Process

  • July 2017: Following two years of planning and community input, the Public Review Draft of the EcoInnovation District Plan and Zoning are released at a celebration event in Uptown. Members of the public provide over 150 comments during a 30 day period. The Planning Commission is briefed on the Plan and Zoning. Declarations of Cooperation and support letters were provided by seven partner organizations detailing their interest in implementing parts of the plan.
  • August 2017: Staff incorporate public comments into final draft of the Plan for Planning Commission hearing. Property owners receive notices about the Zoning and attend a public meeting held in Uptown where more comments are received.
  • September 2017: Planning Commission holds public hearing and unanimously votes to adopt the Plan and to recommend the Zoning on to City Council for adoption. Small amendments are added to each document based on Commissioner comments.
  • November 2017: City Council holds readings and hearing on Zoning package before adopting the Uptown Public Realm District and the Performance Points System with a small number of amendments
  • December 2017: Mayor Peduto signs the ordinance into law.

Background Materials