By Raymond Arke | The Duquesne Duke
Uptown, the neighborhood in which Duquesne resides, has seen better days. However, city planners, local nonprofits and even some Duquesne faculty members are working on a project to improve Uptown for the more than 10,000 people who live or work there.
Launched in fall 2015, the EcoInnovation District is a redevelopment project intended to make Uptown a safer, more appealing and more eco-friendly neighborhood.
Mary Ellen Solomon, Duquesne’s director of government and community relations, said the University is assisting the city in its project as a member of the EcoInnovation District Steering Committee.
“Duquesne is an anchor institution with a long history of education and outreach in the Uptown neighborhood,” Solomon said. “The University has made significant investments in Uptown to improve the streetscape, enhance pedestrian safety, and expand accessibility to our community-based resources,” Solomon said.
Additions of bike lanes, sidewalks and more public spaces will benefit some Duquesne students, who rent Uptown houses. There will also be better management of storm water to reduce puddles and minor flooding.
The website for the EcoInnovation project describes it as, “an opportunity to identify the ways in which redevelopment can improve the environment, support the needs of existing residents and expand entrepreneurship and job growth.”
Community meetings and surveys will go on until June, when the city will reveal a detailed plan. The actual physical work, which is yet to be determined, will begin in spring 2017.
Justin Miller, a senior planner in the Department of City Planning, described Uptown as a place in need of development.
“Right now the neighborhood bears the brunt of Pittsburgh’s transportation,” Miller said. “Counting all the roads that run through it, Uptown contains 18 lanes of traffic.”
The numerous major roads running through Uptown have created a lot of pollution. This, combined with population loss and the demolition or abandonment of buildings, has led the neighborhood to be described as “decaying” by Miller.
Still, some residents remain.
“Seven hundred to 800 residents still live in the neighborhood currently and they need a strong plan to guide development,” Miller said.
Uptown is also a desirable place to redevelop due to its crucial placement between Downtown and Oakland, two neighborhoods “busting at the seams,” according to Miller. Companies and industry based in those places are expanding and Uptown is the closest available section where they could settle.
Miller said the goal of EcoInnovation is “to change Uptown from a ‘path through’ to a place.”
“Lots of infrastructure needs to be rebuilt and the flooding issues on Fifth Avenue need to be addressed to start,” Miller said.
Miller said anyone can bring suggestions to the EcoInnovation project. The website ecoinnovationdistrict.org offers the ability for any community member to offer suggestions or ideas for what needs to be improved. The city is also fielding online comments through the EcoInnovation Twitter page.