Pittsburgh replaces unsafe city parking garage


Van Alarcon

The parking garage at the corner of Penn and Ninth in the Cultural District is being replaced with a new, more innovative parking structure

Rebekah Waldron, North Campus Editor

Pittsburgh parking is infamous for quirky local trademarks like the “Pittsburgh chair;” When the locals want to save a parking spot they place a lawn chair in the desired area to reserve it. This may become even more common in the near future, while the old and structurally questionable parking garage on Ninth and Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh’s downtown area is demolished and rebuilt.

The duration of the construction has not been clear. The closing of the garage began in May and the process is expected to carry into mid-2020.

According to briefings submitted to the City Planning Commission, demolition is expected to cost $2 million. 586 spaces will be lost when the demolition is final. As construction carries out, nearly 100 spaces in the neighborhood area of the lot will be affected as well. It seems parking within the Cultural District will become harder as the year goes on.

Parksmart awards points to structures for sustainable and forward-thinking designs. At the gold certification level for new parking structures, this racks up an impressive 160+ points, according to the Parksmart certification website. Pittsburgh Parking Authority Executive Director David Onorato explains that the new garage will feature a “green” design, with 650 spaces available and following the guidelines of the Parksmart building certification at the gold level.

Pittsburgh Cultural Trust President and CEO Kevin McMahon expresses no worry towards the loss of parking availability with the lot destruction. “Close proximity parking to the theaters may be temporarily busy,” he says. “But the fact is, there’s ample parking Downtown.”

He explains that preserving parking was one of the Trust’s main concerns in their role with the City Planning Department until recently due to changes in the dynamics of the city’s locals and their parking habits. “Our thinking over the last five years has radically changed,” McMahon says. “We’re seeing much increased usage of Lyft and Uber. We’re, of course, seeing more people living Downtown and walking… The need for parking garages is going to continue to decline,” he adds. “We’re rethinking our further development, particularly in and around the 8th Street block.”

Ornato’s comments towards McMahon are simply, “That is going to be the trend going forward,” he says. “But I don’t believe that it’s going to change overnight.”

Christine Silkad, a Pittsburgh local who chooses a bike as her city transportation, is not surprised by the lot’s closure. “That building’s been old and bowing in the middle like that for ages.” She bikes past it almost daily on her commute to and from work. “I’m honestly surprised it’s taken them this long to get rid of the thing. It has to be a safety concern at this point.”

While many locals agree with Silkad, Mark Wright says, “I think it’s a pain more than anything.” A frequent within the cultural district, Wright is concerned about the already-too-difficult parking situation downtown. “I’m glad they’re coming out with a more sustainable design for it, but downtown is already impossible to park in. Have you ever tried finding a space when there’s multiple sports seasons in play and there’s a popular show or artist in town?” Most Pittsburghers can relate to the crazy sports traffic on game nights. “Losing all that parking is only going to make the situation worse.”

Onorato asks the city to be patient. As it goes, good things come to those who wait.