Zoning and Development Review Division
Specially Planned Districts

What are Specially Planned (SP) Districts?

SP Districts are intended to provide a flexible framework for alternative forms of development on very large sites of City-wide importance.  These create efficient, functional and attractive urban areas that incorporate high quality urban design, a variety of public amenities, and protection of natural resources.    

What is a Preliminary Land Development Plan (PLDP)?

A Preliminary Land Development Plan, or PLDP, is a master plan for specially planned districts and include details for infrastructure, development patterns, landscape design, and architectural details and is accompanied by updated zoning text that is specific to the SP District.    

What are the Minimum Thresholds for the Establishment of a SP District?

The following thresholds are used for the establishment of a SP District: 

  • Development site must comprise a contiguous area of land no less than fifteen (15) acres.

  • One hundred (100) percent of the land in an SP District shall be controlled by the applicant from the time of application through ownership or sales options.

  • SP District shall be in a location that is suitable for the proposed development, evidenced by compliance with plans and policy documents adopted by the Planning Commission and by demonstrating compatibility with development in adjacent areas.

How are Specially Planned Districts Created?

Establishment of an SP District requires extensive site analysis, coordination, and long range visioning.  The following steps are general guidelines for the SP District process:

  1. Thorough analysis and a clear understanding of the SPD site and surrounding neighborhoods is essential to the planning process.  Applicants must examine past uses, existing conditions, as well as evaluate future development potential in order to determine best and highest uses for the site.
    • Included in the analysis phase is a traffic demand analysis which gauges present and future impacts on local infrastructure.
  1. Parallel to the analysis phase, applicants are encouraged to consult with City Planning staff through pre-application and major development advisory meetings.
    •  These preliminary meetings are meant to advise and inform about the City's development review process and to ensure coordination amongst various City departments.
  1. A major component of SPD development is public process.  Applicants are encouraged to engage local citizens, community groups, and stakeholders in the planning process.
    •  This ensures that the proposed plan is transparent and that the new SPD benefits not just the immediate site, but the neighborhood as a whole.
  1. Data from the analysis phase and input from public participation is culminated into a single master plan or PLDP.
    • The PDLP and accompanying Zoning text is submitted to City Planning where it is reviewed and evaluated through the Design Review Process.  
  1. Once the PLDP has gone through Design Review and subsequent revisions, applicants may submit the PLDP and zoning text for Planning Commission approval.
    • The Planning Commission is charged with reviewing and approving the site plan, zone change, as well as the site subdivision plan.  
  1. Once Planning Commission has approved the SP District, City Council adopts the new zoning text and zoning map amendments.   

How are Individual Building Projects Approved in a SP District?

  • Once a PLDP and subsequent zoning changes have been approved, building plans are reviewed in the form of Final Land Development Plans (FLDP).
  • FLDP's must cover at least 5 acres or (1/3) of the area included in the PLDP.  
  • PLDPs are subject to the City's design review process and final approval by Planning Commission.
  •  An FLDP is approved based on its compliance with the previously approved PLDP.
    • Unless an updated PLDP is submitted with the FLDP application.
City of Pittsburgh Department of City Planning
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