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Editorial -- Renaissance III

Pittsburghers are ready to take Downtown into the future

Friday, March 27, 1998

If you read your Sunday Post-Gazette hastily, you may have missed it. There, in the middle of the first section, was a two-page update on an ambitious range of building projects that could transform the face, if not the pace, of the Golden Triangle.

We are hesitant to call it an unprecedented period of construction -- this being a city that has undergone not one but two urban "renaissances." But no one should be surprised if the name Renaissance III surfaces more frequently in connection with all the digging, erecting and eventual ribbon-cutting that's about to go on around here.

Pittsburgh is rebuilding again.

From the bullish attitude of an Alcoa that keeps its new corporate headquarters here, to the commitments of PNC and Mellon banks to put operations centers in Downtown instead of in the suburbs, some of the new construction is fueled by corporate success and a desire to continue in the city where the business was grown.

From the new home of Pittsburgh Public Theater (The O'Reilly on Penn Avenue) to the new fields for the Pirates and Steelers, some of it is borne on Pittsburghers' zest for major-league entertainment and the kind of modern performance venues that will keep those assets vital.

From office quarters like Penn Liberty Plaza in the lower Strip District to residential developments on First Avenue, Liberty Avenue and the North Shore, Downtown is becoming a magnet for more small companies and urban homesteaders who find it a safe and inviting place to work and live.

These are only a few of the projects about to alter the cityscape in the next several years. They will join others -- like the new Lazarus department store (set to open by year's end), the waterside park along the Allegheny River and the dramatic expansion of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center -- in creating jobs, commerce and a more attractive urban hub.

Even grander designs could unfold, including a new tourist destination between the two new stadiums and a major retail-nightlife makeover along Fifth Avenue. But they will emerge only if the local political and economic environment continues to foster such progress.

Mayor Murphy, for instance, has been a major catalyst in remaking the Downtown and, despite city government's financial limits, has not been deterred from setting new ideas in motion.

Allegheny County Commissioners Bob Cranmer and Mike Dawida understand the importance of a strong urban core and, through their partnership, have helped the mayor find ways to do what lesser leadership would considerable unthinkable.

Business and labor are more interested in collaborating on local work -- and benefiting from those projects -- than in reaping gains from petty and fleeting advantages over one another.

And taxpayers, whose dollars in varying degrees help jump-start these changes, realize the value and necessity of public investment, particularly in an old and population-stagnant region like this one.

It is a meeting of such focused minds and willing spirits that stands to take Pittsburgh into a new era. Call it Renaissance III or call it just a better place to live, this is the blueprint of a renewable city that more people will be proud to call home.

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