Contextual Design Advisory Panel

What is the Contextual Design Advisory Panel?

The Contextual Design Advisory Panel (CDAP) is comprised of eight members with expertise in the physical development of the City. The panel's mission is to promote quality of life in the City of Pittsburgh. CDAP achieves its mission through professional, voluntary design assistance to maximize the economic, civic, contextual, and aesthetic value of new development projects impacting the public realm. To fulfill this mission, CDAP advises the Department of City Planning by reviewing and providing design guidance on selected, higher profile projects throughout the City.

CDAP is an advisory panel, not a commission. Together with staff design review, the panel works to resolve design issues through professional peer critique before the Planning Commission conducts its review. This frees the Planning Commission to focus on its responsibility of assuring that new developments are consistent with the overall planning objectives of the City. Some examples of these core considerations are:

  • The extent to which each development proposal addresses successful design, public space enhancement, context sensitivity and sustainable urbanism.
  • Ensuring that projects feature well designed buildings and landscapes that engage both users and the streetscape. Buildings should also make appropriate connections to adjacent sites and to the larger neighborhood.
  • The use of sustainable building materials and designs which consider the longer-term impact and use of a single project.



  • Eric Booth, AIA
  • Bruce Chan
  • Ryan Indovina, RA, LEED AP
  • Greg LaForest, AIA, LEED AP
  • Cassandra Osterman, AIA
  • Peter Quintanilla
  • Bob Reppe
  • Claudia Saladin, ASLA, LEED AP


Projects Reviewed by CDAP

Projects that CDAP may review range from building additions to multi-parcel developments. Staff evaluates each project and its surrounding context and determines whether CDAP review would be beneficial. This determination will be made early in the review process. The criteria considered include the size of the project, complexity of the design context, and impact on the public realm. Generally, CDAP reviews: 

  • Project Development Plans
  • Final Land Development Plans
  • Larger projects undergoing Site Plan Review


CDAP's role in City Planning Design Review Process

Design review is a collaborative process between City Planning and project's design team. Staff Design Review is the initial design review phase using information submitted by the applicant. City Planning staff develop a set of Urban Design Targets, which are tailored to the development proposal, the unique site conditions, and the neighborhood and context of the development. Staff work with the applicant to address the Urban Design Targets and to satisfy design-related zoning requirements. 

During the initial Staff Design Review phase, City Planning staff will recommend projects for review by CDAP. CDAP review is voluntary, but highly recommended for some projects. The applicant will update the design to address the Urban Design Targets and incorporate the staff’s comments, in preparation for the CDAP meeting. At the meeting, the project representative presents and discusses the project, surrounding context, and design concepts. CDAP members ask questions and make recommendations to the project representative.


What material is needed for a CDAP meeting?

  • Revisions to any items previoudly submitted for Design Review
  • Site plan showing proposed project and surrounding context
  • Landscape plan showing surroundng context and proposed planting list
  • Building elevations showing surrounding context and proposed materials
  • When applicable, building sections showing site context
  • Perspective views and renderings showing project in surrounding context
  • Perspective views and renderings showing pedestrian context and sidewalk-level views
  • Items that address Staff Design Review comments and Urban Design Targets


Meeting Format

The most common format used for CDAP meetings follows the below outline. City Planning staff will intoduce the Panel, provide a brief project introduction, and then refer to the project team for a presentation. The presetation should include a project outline and discuss context and design-related concepts and goals. The presentation should focus on design review and does not need to discuss Zoning or DOMI related reviews unless related to the overall design goals.

  • Project introduction by City Planning staff (5 minutes)
  • Project presentation by project representative (10-15 minutes)
  • General Panel discussion (30-40 minutes)

After the CDAP meeting, City Planning staff sends a summary of the comments to the applicant. The applicant follows up with staff to reply and respond to the comments by updating the design accordingly. City Planning staff will summarize the Design Review, including comments from CDAP and subsequent revisions, to convey design feedback and guidance to the Zoning Administrator or Planning Commission, as the final approval determines.

In some situations, projects will be reviewed twice by CDAP. At the second meeting, the project representative presents changes since the last meeting and provides additional visuals on the project as the design has developed.

  • The purpose of this meeting is to resolve any of the outstanding urban design goals.
  • The second meeting may not be necessary for projects that meet the design objectives in the first full CDAP meeting.


In addition to the regularly scheduled CDAP meetings, CDAP also holds workshops. Less like a formal review, a workshop is a collaborative meeting. The project representative brings their project goals and current design to the panel members who provide design guidance. CDAP can help the project representative meet their objectives while helping to create successful urban spaces.


Meeting Schedule

Regular CDAP meetings are held virtually every other Tuesday from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Typically, two projects are reviewed at each meeting.


CDAP Handouts