Showing off good design is always the reason for the annual "Pedal Pittsburgh" event of the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh. But this year, the staff has chosen 10 examples of good design wrought from neighborhood input and consensus.
A fine built environment is good, but a fine built environment that attracts lots of input from people in the neighborhood is much better, even if people get bruised and torn in the process. (Just kidding.)
Bicyclists can choose from several courses between six and 60 miles. The points of interest will include stories about how the scuffling and hair-pulling it took to wrestle these design into place. (Not really. Most consensus building is pretty peaceful.)
Pedal Pittsburgh is May 17, a fund-raising event in its 16th year. It begins and ends at the SouthSide Works. Registration opens at 6:30 a.m., but there are different departure times for different tour lengths. It costs $25 if you register before May 8, $30 afterward.
Visit http://www.pedalpittsburgh.org/For_Riders.htm for more information, the stories about the tour sites and to register.
The tour sites include Point State Park Downtown, Morningside's business district, the Federal Hill townhouses in the Central Northside and East Liberty's row of new, "100-year" houses.
Most of these projects took a lot of planning and a lot of time.
Ken Doyno, the principal architect on the Federal Hill townhouses, said the first neighborhood meeting was in 1997, with lots of stagnant stretches before counstruction started last year.
"When we first started, we wanted the [Allegheny General] hospital side and the Mexican War Streets side to connect across Federal Street, and because the commercial properties were struggling, there needed to be the residential link," he said. "The question was: What is an appropriate link?"
The neighborhood came to consensus on the design because they knew the neighborhood's built character - "an amazingly consistent 20-foot wide housing stock," said Mr. Doyno. "The design challenge was to get a range of housing types within that same width." There are four housing types - from 1,400 square feet to 3,000 square-feet.
The residents insisted on trees and a planted median. The city originally balked. "But the city stuck its neck out and said ‘We understand the neighborhood wants this,'" said Mr. Doyno. "If enough people stand up for the quality of a design and believe in the reasons for it, they can make it happen."
Point State Park's restoration involved 75-100 people at four community meetings, said Lisa Schroeder, executive director of the Riverlife Task Force.
"We reached out to a host of experts on critical issues of historical interpretation and restoring the landscape" which had been compacted by heavy vehicles and denuded in places, she said.
"What was controversial was the need to change our community habits when hosting big events and festivals."
More than 2,000 people have been taking part in Pedal Pittsburgh each year. Those who participate will support the design center's ability to make grants to projects when the projects are new, giving them the jump start they need to prove themselves to other investors.
In fact, many of the sites you will see en route started with CDCP grants.