South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Austin Vaught
Contributing Writer 

McKinley Park concepts and timeline outlined to community for feedback


McKinley Park design concept as viewed from Michigan Street and Haberman Avenue

Initial concepts and a timeline for the redesign of McKinley Park were presented at the first in a series of community feedback meetings last Wednesday at the McKinley Park shelter on Delmont Avenue in Beltzhoover.

Following a $1.2 million to $1.5 million grant secured by the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Kansas City-based architecture firm Phronesis completed the initial concepts of the park design and is hoping to have a significant portion of the project completed by Christmas.

In an effort to reduce stormwater overflow to the Saw Mill Run Boulevard watershed, the new park design will incorporate water management strategies to help capture stormwater as it flows down the hillside.

According to Tim Duggan, founder of Phronesis, the upper perimeter of the park along Michigan Street represents a significant development opportunity for a stormwater capture area. Because a significant amount of hillside water drains to Michigan Street, the idea would be to retain as much water as possible towards the top of the park.

"We're trying to store stormwater in and around the park while making infrastructure improvements and alleviating everything down the hillside," Mr. Duggan said.

Mr. Duggan said by incorporating bump outs and curbside rain gardens along the edge of Michigan Street, they can help to build and promote the area as an entrance and gateway to the park.

A park analysis revealed many areas in the middle of the park represent sensitive areas that need to be replaced. The areas along Michigan Street represent the best development opportunities; however, those areas also contain neglected infrastructure.

Two development opportunities exist in areas with unsafe infrastructure. A significant amount of water drains towards the 20-foot retaining wall along Michigan Street which causes a safety concern. The stairs near the park entrance are also in need of repair.

According to Mr. Duggan, the original plan was to create a rain garden in the park's center; however, there is significant underground piping and infrastructure that caused them to rethink the idea.

"We didn't want to put a bunch of heavy stuff on top of an old active piping system," Mr. Duggan said.

In addition to the stormwater management, improving unsafe primary and secondary park trails that have been neglected will help to "restore baseline circulation through the park."

Feedback from neighbors about the park's history were also considered and the proposed design will include past amenities such as basketball hoops and horseshoe pits.

"We listened about the basketball courts," Mr. Duggan said. "We listened about the activities in the park; the horseshoe pits, the sledding hills. So we wanted to start to incorporate those."

Heather Sage, director of Community Projects at Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, also spoke about the importance this project plays in improving the water quality along Saw Mill Run Boulevard which currently suffers from urban runoff and sediment.

"We, sitting at the top of the hill have a lot to say about those networks that make it into the waterway," Ms. Sage said.

Ms. Sage said the McKinley Park project is a green infrastructure project that has the opportunity to improve the conditions and water quality in the watershed.

The project is funded by the Great Urban Parks Campaign grant secured by the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy from the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) and the American Planning Association (APA).

According to Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Parks Curator Susan Rademacher, the purpose of the grant is to promote green infrastructure as a way to prevent flooding and stormwater runoff.

"The way our city is dealing with rainwater is critical for our future," Ms. Rademacher said.

Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak also addressed the community about the project and mentioned that McKinley Park received one of four grants awarded nationally and was selected from around 200 applications.

"Out of 200 applications nationwide, McKinley Park was at the top of the list," Councilwoman Rudiak said. "That's amazing."

Mr. Duggan said the project is on an "aggressive schedule," as a stipulation of the grant requires a portion of the project to be complete by December 2017. He presented an official project timeline that includes multiple community feedback meetings.

He said he'd like to have the final plans submitted to City Hall by May and select a contractor by August.

Following the presentation, community members had the chance to visit five tables dedicated to multiple project components including green infrastructure, community space, nature and play, workforce development, and a table with the proposed concepts. The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy staffed each booth and collected community feedback.

All feedback will be used to make adjustments to the initial concepts. Revisions will be presented during the next two community feedback meetings currently scheduled to take place in February and April.

The Hilltop Alliance was also on hand to discuss workforce development and collect contact information from landscapers and contractors who might be interested in future job opportunities.

The February meeting will focus mainly on job opportunities and workforce development that will occur as a result of the project.

For more information about the project, residents can contact the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy by visiting


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