Thursday, April 13, 2006

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.


Blogger Sean McDaniel said...


I would not disagree with you one bit with any of this. Except that you forgot to the disasters on the N. Side at Allegheny Center and the Ohio River Blvd. reconstruction that split Manchester in half.

9:31 AM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:24 AM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

The list was by no means all-inclusive but it is very important to single out the North Side. What an unmitigated disaster.

10:32 AM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

Yeah, and the best that can be done is to try to salvage something from the ruins. Honestly, other than the housing stock, nothing much else is left. That's one reason why I'm not totally opposed to the redevelopment there now.
Hey, was the removed post something I said?

5:41 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

No, it was something I said. Basically, it was the same as the comment I made, but with a grammatical error that I couldn't tolerate.

9:59 AM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

Ah, the grammatical error. you should check out my blog. It's completely devoted to such things. Hey, are you surpised that the Sopranos is on tomorrow? Usually, they skip holidays.

10:43 AM

Blogger Maria said...

I was happily surprised.

7:36 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

It hadn't occurred to me that they usually skip holidays.

I watched last week's episode again today. The wedding, and the portrayal of Johnny Sack's family, was priceless. The writers are having a lot of fun this season, what with Tony playing Clarence Darrow ("You mean like the Flinstones?"), Vito auditioning for the village people, and Tony deciding it was either kick someone's ass or become someone's bitch.

7:40 PM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

Here's my very favorite past of last week's the very end...just before he throws up...Tony looks in the mirror...and smiles.

11:04 PM


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