From the earliest times, Market Square has been a central meeting place Downtown, but for years it has also been a tarnished jewel, long on history but short on sparkle. That will soon change.
On Tuesday, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership announced a $5 million makeover for Market Square that will give the people's square largely back to the people.
While traffic won't be completely banned, it will be restricted, making pedestrians and outdoor restaurant diners the big winners. Vehicles will no longer be able to go down Forbes Avenue through the square, although 27 parking spaces will be available on its perimeter. Port Authority buses have been gone since May and won't be coming back.
Merchants seem generally on board with the project and so should other Pittsburghers. The public discussion went on for 18 months and the final plan combines three possible designs presented last spring.
The square will become a level area with trees, tables and a decorative stone surface. The stage will be retained, although it's not yet decided whether it will be permanent or portable. The width of the sidewalks will be doubled and decorative lighting will illuminate the upper facades of buildings.
While Pittsburgh's new piazza promises much improvement, it comes at a relatively inexpensive cost -- about $5 million, and Mr. Ravenstahl said the city had already raised $4.5 million. While the state is chipping in $2 million, local foundations also have been generous, with $1 million coming from both the Richard K. Mellon Foundation and the Heinz Endowments and $500,000 from the Colcom Foundation. The project is scheduled to start in August and be completed next year.
The plan for Market Square is late to the party, given the private developments made in its vicinity recently. While times are tough, this is an investment for the ages. The square should finally look as distinguished as at any time in its long history.
First published on February 23, 2009