Schenley Plaza in Pittsburgh continues to garner national and now international praise. The parking lot-to-park project of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy won a 2009 International Award for Livable Communities (the “LivCom” Awards) this past week in the Czech Republic and last month won the Pinnacle Award from the International Downtown Association.
“It has been wonderful to see Schenley Plaza grow and develop over the past four years, and we are thrilled that it has received international recognition,” said Meg Cheever, President and CEO of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.
The project has greatly improved the quality of life in the area, says Cheever. A model in terms of reorienting urban space from cars to people, the $12 million initiative was the product of a community wide effort between the city, nearby universities, businesses and residents. Completed in 2006, the five-acre parcel of Schenley Park is located in the Oakland area of Pittsburgh between the Carnegie and Hillman libraries, and is the busiest entrance to the larger 450-acre green space.
Once home to an unreceptive asphalt parking lot, the site was was transformed into a vibrant, public space and restored to its original purpose as a grand and welcoming gateway to Schenley Park. The Parks Conservancy operates the Plaza in partnership with the City of Pittsburgh and provides public programming. The site includes a lush open lawn, food kiosks and performance area.
Looking at the success of Schenley Plaza, other cities might be looking at the acres and acres of parking lots gracing their downtowns and commercial districts and asking, “how about a new park?”
(A case study on the plaza’s conversion can be found here.)