Friday, September 16, 2005

Candidates seek new Downtown plan. Downtown in their dreams.

If this was baseball, Weinroth hit a triple while O'Connor sat on the bench and sent in a pinch hitter.

Where in the world is Bob O'Connor? I'm not interested in hearing from a spokesperson. Bob is silent on Fifth and Forbes. Bob is silent on the budget. Bob is silent on property taxes. Bob is silent on closing schools. Bob is silent on everything. Furthermore, Skrinjar and Weinroth's statements are with serious holes and don't satisfy my urge to get Pittsburgh to thrive.

At least we heard George W. Bush repeat one of my often used phrases -- we want to thrive and not just survive. He was speaking about New Orleans in a prime time speech.
Candidates seek new Downtown plan - The city needs to stop trying to do real estate development, Weinroth said.

I'd rather hear, "the city needs to stop doing real estate development." One could say, stop trying, just do it. Don't plan again -- just go.
But the headline, "candidates seek new downtown plan" is at odds with what Weinroth said. Weinroth wants a marketplace plan and that is simply no plan at all.

Meanwhile, the twisted logic in Dem's side is horrid. Bob wants downtown as a neighborhood. Neighborhoods have neighbors and residents. So, "If you have a population of residents, the businesses will find their way there," Skrinjar said. Yes, but, downtown is cramed and full of business now. Or, at least it was full of business to the point that downtown living got to be too expensive. The business influences elbowed out the residents, mostly. So I wonder how businesses can follow residents when the landscape is already overwhelmingly that of business.

Or, let's look at the other side of the landscape. A neighborhood -- say Fox Chapel -- has a lot of residents with a lot of spending power too. That does not mean that businesses can go there and follow them just because there are residents.

Even on Rt 28 we had to build with a major TIF (tax break) a suburban mall -- Pittsburgh Mills. Sure, that isn't quite within the limits of Fox Chapel proper, but it is for those shoppers. The county government officials had to bribe the businesses to go there.

So the O'Connor plan is to empty downtown of businesses, make downtown more residential, then hope more businesses are going to move there from say the mall at Pittsburgh Mills.

I don't want to subsidize housing for rich people.


Anonymous said...

Candidates seek new Downtown plan

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By Andrew Conte
Friday, September 16, 2005

Pittsburgh needs a new strategy for bringing life back to Downtown's failed Fifth and Forbes retail area, candidates for mayor and critics of the current administration said Thursday.
Madison Marquette, a national real estate company based in Washington, D.C., is the latest developer to take a crack at creating a master plan for the once-thriving city center, said Herb Burger, chairman of the Pittsburgh Task Force, a private group charged with reinvigorating Fifth and Forbes.

But with Mayor Tom Murphy's third term coming to an end in January, candidates to replace him -- Democrat Bob O'Connor and Republican Joe Weinroth -- say they want to take a new tack.

"Salvation from outside the area for economic development hasn't worked," said Dick Skrinjar, spokesman for the O'Connor campaign. "You've got to grow the companies and people you have here."

The city needs to stop trying to do real estate development, Weinroth said.

"We've tried a master development and we've had plans A, B and C," he said. "They've all failed for one reason or another. My solution is to let the markets do their thing."

O'Connor has consistently said he would look at Downtown as a premier city neighborhood. His administration would open the Fifth and Forbes area for "new ideas" and "new development," Skrinjar said. It would focus on making the area safe and encouraging people to live Downtown, he added.

"If you have a population of residents, the businesses will find their way there," Skrinjar said.

Even if Madison Marquette comes up with a plan for the area, it's not likely they would move forward during the transition from one mayor to the next, said Robert Strauss, a public policy professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

"At the other end of this, who's going to be taking as serious any commitments that are made?" Strauss said. "The reality is nobody is going to sign up for anything that will serve the public's interest until afterwards."

Under the Murphy administration, the city has proposed several sweeping plans for remaking Fifth and Forbes since 1997.

The retail corridor has lagged since Murphy dropped the ambitious Marketplace at Fifth and Forbes, a $522 million redevelopment that hinged on retailer Nordstrom opening a heavily subsidized store. That plan called for leveling more than 60 buildings, relocating small businesses and making room for a multi-screen theater, upscale national stores and restaurants.

Madison Marquette officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The developer could come back to the Pittsburgh Task Force by mid-November with a plan for housing and retail development in the Fifth and Forbes corridor, Burger said.

Task force members have been meeting with Madison Marquette officials the past two months, Burger said. The task force wants to preserve as many of the historic and architecturally desirable buildings as possible "because we believe in keeping as much of the character of the city as we can," he said.

The city's Urban Redevelopment Authority continues to purchase properties in the Fifth and Forbes area, and Murphy has said he wants one developer to lay out a master plan for the entire area. The URA has refused to sell properties to developers who want just one or two buildings.

Instead of trying to remake the entire area, the city should allow smaller builders to work on smaller pieces, said Jake Haulk, president of the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, a think tank based in Castle Shannon.

"You're not going to do it all in one fell swoop," Haulk said. "It's just too much money to put at risk. It would be in the hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars."

Andrew Conte can be reached at or (412) 765-2312.

Anonymous said...

It was a good speech.