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 green building materials and designs which consider the longer-term impact and use of a single project.


Projects Reviewed by CDAP

Projects that CDAP may review range from building additions and high wall signs, to multi-parcel developments and master plans. 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
  • Preliminary Land Development Plans
  • Final Land Development Plans
  • Master Plans
  • High Wall Signs
  • Larger projects undergoing Site Plan Review



  • Eric Booth, AIA
  • Anne Chen, AIA, LEED AP
  • Greg LaForest, AIA, LEED AP
  • John Robinson
  • Page Thomas
  • Claudia Saladin, ASLA, LEED AP
  • Ryan Indovina, RA, LEED AP
  • Bruce Chan


CDAP Handouts


How does CDAP review projects?

Design review is a collaborative process between City Planning and the project representative. The City Planning design staff and the appropriate neighborhood planner make an initial evaluation of the project using information submitted by the applicant.

  • During this initial design review, City Planning design 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 continuously with the applicant to address the Urban Design Targets and to satisfy design-related zoning requirements. 

Projects that are identified by staff as those recommended for review by the CDAP meeting, will first be reviewed by staff and have Urban Design Targets assigned, as described above. 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.

  • The design goals developed during the initial staff review guide the review at CDAP meetings.
  • Discussion will focus on these broad targets, which will provide consistency to the process and benchmarks to evaluate progress.

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.

After the CDAP meeting, staff sends a summary of the comments to the applicant. The applicant then 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 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, up to 2 projects are reviewed at each meeting.

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