EcoInnovation District focuses on new approaches for resilient neighborhood
March 6, 2018
A plan two years in the making, the EcoInnovation District (EID) Plan establishes a community vision for equitable and sustainable development in one of Pittsburgh’s oldest neighborhoods.
The planning process led by the Department of City Planning included monthly community steering committee meetings that helped guide the development of the plan, 70+ interviews and focus groups, block parties and open house events attended by over 600 residents and stakeholders, and a robust online presence that drew over 10,000 visitors.
When Mayor Peduto released the draft plan at a community meeting on July 11, 2017 he made it clear that the plan is the city’s attempt to answer a simple question: “How do we develop a community for all that makes sure that the people who have gone through the bad times will be there for the good times?”
An indicator of the plan’s success was the presence of leadership from Uptown Partners, Avenu, Duquesne University and UPMC Mercy who followed the mayor’s comments by expressing their excitement at getting to work making the plan a reality.
The EcoInnovation District Plan is the first time in many decades the city has led a community planning process and created a plan that will guide the activities of both community and public partners.
“The EcoInnovation District Plan represents not only the vision and hard work of the community and staff, but a collaborative model in how we determine our future,” said Ray Gastil, director of the Department of City Planning.
The final plan adopted by the City’s Planning Commission can be found on the project website, http://www.EcoInnovationDistrict.org along with news about projects that implement the plan and ways to stay involved. Printed copies of the plan are also available to review at public offices and libraries in Downtown, the Hill District and Oakland.
Through focus groups and community meetings it became clear land use regulations were limiting development and part of the plan’s vision for a green and equitable neighborhood could be realized if innovative new tools were introduced into the City’s Zoning Code.
Planners at the Department of City Planning looked to national best practices and the p4 Collaboration between the city and the Heinz Foundation to craft a new Uptown Public Realm District and Performance Points System.
Derek Dauphin, the project manager for the EcoInnovation District Plan and lead author on the zoning proposal explained the city’s strategy: “The neighborhood has always been mixed-use with offices and workshops next to grocers and rowhouses – we aren’t changing that. We’re focusing on how new buildings contribute to the neighborhood’s goals. If a new building is taller than the historic structures in the district, it’s because it’s implementing the community’s plan.”
The Performance Points System, created in alignment with the p4 metrics, allows developers to take advantage of height bonuses if they provide affordable housing, build energy efficient structures, generate power renewably, manage stormwater with Green Infrastructure, rehabilitate older buildings, or build new buildings that match the district’s historic character – all goals of the EcoInnovation District Plan. City Council adopted the zoning in November and it was signed into law in December.
Through a new development guide website and collaboration with the Green Building Alliance, the Department of City Planning is working hard to make it clear that the new regulations provide many opportunities to those thinking about developing in Uptown. This will include free green building reviews for larger projects in Uptown to provide information about green building and educate developers about the new height bonus opportunities available to them in Uptown.
One of the first major projects to take advantage of Uptown’s new zoning will be development on land owned by the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the City of Pittsburgh at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Dinwiddie Street. Input from a public design process currently being rolled into a development request for proposals (RFP) that will be issued this year.
Implementing the plan is about much more than the creation of new buildings. DCP’s Division of Public Art and Civic Design is finalizing a request for proposals for the first of three public art projects it will carry out over the next two years using public funds. Matching funds are being sought to increase the scale of the second and third projects.
In addition to art, over the next year Uptown will see new public art, transportation safety improvements, green infrastructure planning, and other projects that begin to realize the vision in the plan. Leading these efforts is another recommendation from the plan – the Uptown Task Force. This group, convened by Duquesne University, creates a platform for district governance and plan implementation. Subcommittees have already formed around each of the EcoInnovation District’s chapters and are creating work plans to execute the strategies in the plan. Learn more about the Task Force at its website: http://www.UptownTaskForce.org.
A key element of the planning work, the proposal for a citywide Bus Rapid Transit system is also moving forward with a funding proposal submitted to the Federal Transportation Authority in September.