The man with the plan
Sam over at Anti-Rust takes aim at Mayor O'Connor for this silliness about changing the name of the Downtown shopping district from Fifth and Forbes. Once again, Pittsburgh officials get hung up on image and perception, rather than the very real and difficult problems we actually face.
And why do I fear that this will end badly? It's nothing against Urban Design Associates. I'm not terribly familiar with their work, but I like Don Carter, who allowed me to interview him two years ago when I was working on a story about Downtown living for the now defunct Pulp. (He lives in the Pennsylvanian.) But planning, as most cities have practiced it, has rarely done much good, and has done much that is bad. Planning gave us Gateway Center and Point State Park. Planning gave us Mellon Arena and the East Liberty pedestrian mall.
Planning too often has sprung from flawed ideas about what makes urban neighborhoods thrive. To wit:
"Everybody agreed we should have a vision, what the streets should look like, what the sidewalks should look like, lighting, where it should be greenspace," the mayor said. "Should we get more greenspace? If the [G.C.] Murphy's building should stay, what should it look like? How does it blend in with the new? ... Also, how does it blend in with the Cultural District?"
Um, why should there be any more greenspace Downtown? We already have Point State Park--useless now but perhaps will serve a purpose when all these alleged residents live Downtown--and plenty of public squares. How much greenspace was there Downtown when twice as many people lived in this city? The notion that a place like Downtown Pittsburgh needs greenspace flows in part from the mistaken assumption that cities fail because they do not look more like suburbs--an idea that I had hoped we had buried when Tom Murphy left office.
We need safe and clean streets. Better schools. Up-to-date infrastructure. The last thing we need in this town are more plans.