Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy announces finished $2 million rehabilitation project

Courtesy of Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy | 15 new dark sky compliant light posts now make Pittsburgh's oldest park accessible after sunset.

Emily Ambery | Layout Editor

The City of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy announced, its completion of its over 5-year, two phase renovation to the oldest park in Pittsburgh, Allegheny Commons.

From the North Promenade to Federal Street toward the George Washington Monument the revitalization builds upon its nearly $1 million first phase which was completed in 2021.

The entire project cost over $2 million.

Improvements include pathway resurfacing, canopy tree plantings, bench installations, new trash receptacles, along with mobility and pedestrian upgrades.

The park now also has 15 brand new light posts. Each of them are energy-efficient and dark sky-compliant, which means they help to minimize glare, only illuminate desired areas and reduce light pollution.

Safety was also enhanced with a new planted traffic-calming median.

“What people wanted were improvements to some basic amenities,” said Brandon Riley, the Capital Projects Manager at Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. “Everyone can use this park whether you’re a person who uses a wheelchair, whether you’re a person who can’t use the park during the daylight hours or you’re a person who likes to hang and have that passive recreation of the park during the day.”

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy did a year of outreach in the communities that touch the Allegheny Commons. Between the schools, hospitals, small businesses and residential areas, their survey received over 700 responses detailing exactly what the neighborhoods wanted.

“The survey was the main thing that helped us learn that the number one priority to people was pathways and lighting. So, this project might not feel sexy. It’s not a big grandiose project where there’s a building to visit or a statue,” said Erin Tobin, the Assistant Director of Community Engagement at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. “However, it is exactly what people want.”

In order to reach all the residents in the North Shore, which includes many community outlets like the Salvation Army and Light of Life, Tobin did a lot of in-person outreach. To be sure she heard all voices, she handed out fliers and held community meetings where people could come express what they were looking for in the space.

“There were also non-traditional ways to reach out to people that aren’t as connected into those civic spaces which was really critical for such a diverse population [on the North Shore],” Tobin said. “A lot of people traverse through that park on their way to and from work or to school, so catching people at those times was critical.”

Not only do the renovations help accessibility for the diverse human population on the North Shore, but it also proves helpful for urban wildlife.

“One of the most effective ways to support wildlife in urban settings is to add green space. These spaces can be used to connect wildlife populations that would otherwise be disrupted,” Abigail Powell, the vice president of the ecology club at Duquesne, said in a message.

“Green spaces in urban settings add habitat space which attracts a wide range of wildlife, especially birds. Overall, green space put aside in city planning is a wonderful way to support wildlife.”

A master plan for the park was outlined in 2002 and then updated in 2018 where phases 1 and 2 of the project were determined. Phase 1 restored the park’s fountain and dedicated it to North Side parks advocate Patricia Regan Rooney in 2021.

The renovations were made possible by a partnership between the City of Pittsburgh and private companies across the community. One of the first of its kind, the partnership made up for lacking funds in the Parks Conservancy’s budget, according to Riley.

“The city really stepped up in terms of helping get this work done,” Riley said. “One thing they did was allocate $800,000 to the projects [which] actually allowed us to get all the way to the George Washington Monument.”

With memorials to George Washington, the Civil War, World Wars I and II, labor leader Thomas Armstrong, the Spanish American War, the North Shore greenspace has a strong sense of history.

Officially established in 1784, its original 100 acres is now 84 acres with new walkways, large tree canopies and lighting.

“This is such a unique space because it is at the intersection of so many different stakeholder groups,” Tobin said. “The people that are walking through this park are from all different walks of life.”