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University of Pittsburgh

November 8, 2012

Oakland 2025 master plan unveiled

masterPlanGreener spaces, better transportation and sustainable mixtures of residential and business uses are envisioned for the Oakland neighborhood of the not-too-distant future.

More than a year in the making, the Oakland 2025 master plan was unveiled at a Nov. 1 celebration in Alumni Hall.

The plan aims to support quality of life for Oakland residents while aiding in growing the neighborhood as a center for innovation and technology. It addresses housing, transportation, business and development, open space and art and community building as components in making Oakland a desirable place.

The Oakland Planning and Development Corp. (OPDC) is coordinating the Oakland 2025 project in conjunction with community partners and institutions including Pitt. Design and planning firms Pfaffmann + Associates, Studio for Spatial Practice, Fitzgerald & Halliday and 4ward Planning consulted on the master plan.

Community dialogue sessions, public meetings, design workshops and individual interviews were part of the planning process launched in March 2011.

“It’s a tool for moving forward,” said OPDC executive director Wanda Wilson. “We’re not going to see everything change overnight.”

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From the process emerged a “top 10” list of ideas:

• Increase the number of people who both live and work in Oakland.

• Increase the average age of Oakland residents to support a diverse, sustainable neighborhood.

• Establish model multi-modal “complete streets” linked to enhanced transit systems.

• Foster unique, diverse neighborhoods and businesses.

• Create a sustainable mix of residential living options (new, rehab and infill) for a variety of users.

• Build up social networks and community social capital.

• Increase access to parks, open space and trails.

• Promote a strong Oakland residential brand to attract new residents.

• Create strong leadership capacity to implement components of the 2025 plan.

• Develop an effective and proactive design and development review process.

Among other recommendations, the Oakland 2025 plan also proposes strategic priorities for four specific areas:

• In the North Oakland business district, which connects Oakland with the Baum Boulevard/Centre Avenue corridor, planners recommend mixed-use high-density development and new transit systems that would circulate through Panther Hollow, Boundary Street and Neville Avenue to connect with the East Busway.

The plan recommends a multimodal transportation hub in the Craig Street/Centre Avenue area and attention to providing services for dense residential populations.

• Planners predict that the Western Portal area near Craft Avenue and the Boulevard of the Allies bridge will be an important connection between Uptown and the South Side by 2025. A recently developed apartment building at the gateway to Oakland could be joined by additional residential, office and hotel space. The plan suggests improving transportation, in part by including a rapid bus station.

• The plan recognizes traffic congestion in the Bates Street/Boulevard of the Allies/Zulema Park area as a barrier to redevelopment. It suggests intersection improvements including a roundabout at the intersection of Zulema and Bates streets as part of a long-term plan to revitalize the area.

Planners acknowledged that a more detailed traffic engineering analysis would be necessary to determine the feasibility of the concept, which aims to beautify the intersection and improve access for pedestrians and bicyclists.

• The Fifth and Forbes corridor would be transformed into a pair of multimodal streets designed to be pedestrian-, bike- and transit-friendly while accommodating (but de-emphasizing) automobile traffic.

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Transportation figures prominently in the Oakland 2025 recommendations. Its recommendations aim to create a multimodal network that would serve pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers and transit users with better parking, bike lanes, bus rapid transit (BRT) and shuttles.

BRT would speed travel time between Downtown and Oakland through special buses with limited stops and off-board payment. (See May 3 University Times.)

Oakland 2025 also proposes creating multimodal “mobility hubs” that would include car sharing, bicycle and commuter parking at some BRT stations.

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OPDC is proceeding in conjunction with partners in the community to ramp up initiatives that already are underway, Wilson said.

She said OPDC hopes to expand its residential development. A project to build five homes in South Oakland is progressing with two presale agreements already in place.

The organization also will continue its Oakland code enforcement project, which seeks to improve quality of life in the neighborhood by seeking action against owners of disruptive or dilapidated properties.

A multiphase beautification project in partnership with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and other partners is underway to restore the “hillside gateway” above the Parkway East and Second Avenue. Wilson said invasive plants and vines will be removed from the hillside and replaced with more attractive plantings.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us but it’s really essential to have a plan in place,” Wilson said.

The plan is posted at www.opdc.org/programs-services/2011-community-plan/ and space is available for comments. “We love to hear people’s thoughts,” said Wilson.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature, Volume 45 Issue 6

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