Design Review

Design review is an important part of the permitting process in the Department of City Planning. Architects and developers work with staff to help ensure high-quality development in Pittsburgh. Successful design improves quality of life, enhances neighborhood character, and provides economic and environmental benefits.

Projects that Require Design Review

Pittsburgh's Zoning Code requires design review for many types of projects, based on size and zoning district. All projects requiring Site Plan Review and a Development Review Application must undergo design review. Specifically, these projects include:

  • New commercial construction
  • Commercial renovations/ additions
  • New residential construction of 3 or more units
  • Master plans
  • High wall signs
  • Projects located Downtown or in other select neighborhoods
  • Projects required by the Zoning Code or the Zoning Administrator

For information about setting up a pre-application meeting with zoning staff please see the "pre-application meeting" tab above.

Design Review Process

Applicants should begin the design review process at an early stage of project development when changes in the project can still be made. To begin, applicants complete a Development Review Application, available online here or at the Zoning Counter at 200 Ross Street, 3rd Floor. Applicants can also set up a preliminary meeting with zoning and design staff to discuss the project and approval process. Please see the 'pre-application meeting' tab above for more information on how to schedule this preliminary meeting. .

The extent of the design review process can vary depending on the scale and scope of the project, necessary review, and what urban design issues or criteria are present in the project.

Submission Requirements

Please see the supplemental handout Design Review Submission Requirements for a list of what drawings and renderings are required, based on the type of submission and the stage of review.

Staff Design Review Process

All Design Reivew starts at the staff level. After a Development Review Application is filed, 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 review, City Planning design staff develops a list of Urban Design Targets for the project. The goals are specific to the project but are broad, not prescriptive, and serve as a checklist for the applicant. These Urban Design Targetsguide the project throughout the review process, although a project may meet some of the goals on initial submission. In developing each set of targets, staff draws from relevant master plans and design guidelines.

At this stage, City Planning design staff determines what type of further design review is necessary, either staff design review or the Contextual Design Advisory Panel (CDAP) review. 

If a project continues with staff review, the project representative meets with staff and works to address the project's urban design targets. The process is complete when the applicant has met all the design-related zoning requirements and addressed the design targets to the fullest extent possible.

Design Review Handouts