In our Revisiting the Vision series, we are looking back at community members’ visions of East Liberty in 2020, as described at the end of the 2010 East Liberty Community Plan. 12 years later, much of what they said turned out to be prophetically accurate.
Point Three: Connectivity
At the end of East Liberty’s 2010 Community Plan, stakeholders wrote:
Those who remember how hard it used to be to navigate East Liberty appreciate the strategic public investments in parking structures, pedestrian-friendly amenities, and transportation connections that have made the business district easy to get to and to get around. The two bus-way stops have not only seen a doubling of ridership over the last 10 years, but have also become hubs of activity with new transit-oriented developments featuring a variety of retail, commercial, and residential mixed-use structures. These projects have nearly doubled the building density and almost tripled the number of people living within a quarter mile of each station.
From 2010 to 2022, East Liberty has experienced a dramatic transformation in terms of walkability and accessibility. Not only have eight miles of bike lanes been added to the neigbhorhood, but the Eastside Developments that ELDI helped move forward with The Mosites Company have created a walkable, urban commercial core with new connections to surrounding communities.
Part of what we picked up on in East Liberty’s community plans was our mission to create as many connections back into the community as possible. The goal of East Liberty was to take away all the one-way streets and allow the community to function again. So that was part of why we worked to create a pedestrian bridge reconnecting the communities over the busway and train tracks in our first phase of Eastside. Building on that, Eastside II had around six new connections to it. We took a 60s era superblock of property and returned it to the real urban fabric around it with multiple ways to get into it from Center Avenue and Highland and Penn Avenues. It became a great way to diffuse the traffic and make it safer and more human-scaled for pedestrians and bicyclists. In Eastside Bond (Eastside Phase III and IV), we worked with the Port Authority as a partner to move the transit station connection. By doing this, the pedestrian bridge landed right at Shady Avenue at grade and created an easy connection right into the community as well.
– Steve Mosites, The Mosites Company Founder and CEO
Here are a few of the major advancements that have occurred since the 2010 East Liberty Community Plan:
Penn Circle Two-Way Conversion
Penn Circle was the major one-way ring road created during urban renewal that wrapped around East Liberty’s commercial core, causing confusion for drivers and constricting major investment in the neighborhood for more than three decades. In 2002, part of Penn Circle South (by Whole Foods) was reconfigured during construction of the first phases of the Eastside developments. The second section completed was by Target around 2010. The last section of Penn Circle, which begins at the East End Cooperative Ministry and goes past the new Whole Foods (former Penn Plaza site) is now in the process of being converted as well.
Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) is a nationally recognized strategy for organizing mixed-use development around a transit station to encourage transit use. With its close proximity to the commercial district and residential enclaves, the busy East Liberty Station on Pittsburgh’s Bus Rapid Transit was an ideal candidate for TOD. The more than $100 million development, which includes Eastside Bond, is funded in part by the East Liberty TRID and incorporates 50,000 square feet of retail; 350 residential apartments; and a 570-space parking garage, all woven into a completely rebuilt East Liberty Transit Station. Phase one TRID dollars have also funded several other projects in East Liberty and Larimer, including safety improvements at The Obama Academy intersection and the two-way conversion of Penn Circle. Phase two funds have been used to implement infrastructure improvements around Lincoln Elementary School and to fund affordable housing and workforce development projects in Larimer.
The Eastside Developments — creating walkability and urban density
Throughout every iteration of Mosites’ Eastside developments, ELDI used our influence as a co-investor to advocate for pedestrian access and traffic improvements, such as a pedestrian bridge that connects Eastside II to Shadyside and converting Penn Circle back into two-way streets, as mentioned above. This has resulted in significant improvements to pedestrian accessibility and created more entry points to the neighborhood that have diffused traffic significantly.
As we move forward, the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Mobility & Infrastructure has been seeking public input from the community to identify problematic areas for pedestrians and transit users in order to make further improvements to East Liberty’s pedestrian and traffic safety.
On July 30, OpenStreetsPGH will be rolling through the East End. This free community event series temporarily closes roads to car traffic and invites Pittsburghers to reimagine their streets as places for people, not just cars. Learn more.