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November 22, 2000

What Pitt sees as Oakland's most pressing needs

As one of the participants on the task force trying to improve the Oakland Civic District Loop, the University has its own ideas about the area's needs.

Pitt's Eli Shorak, Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor, said, "The Oakland Task Force is the communication tool to develop a shared vision for Oakland and the future. The civic district is a key area. The task force will continue to be the driving force behind the district's improvements."

Shorak represents the University on the task force, which is a group of Oakland residents and landowners and representatives from institutions and businesses.

Last month, Shorak and representatives of more than 20 other groups and institutions in Oakland voiced their opinions on a questionnaire about Oakland improvement strategies designed by the Pittsburgh Department of City Planning.

According to city planner Wanda Wilson, the questionnaire was divided into four general categories: amenities/identity; urban design; open space, and access issues. Access was subdivided into pedestrian, parking, transit, vehicular access, bicycles and miscellaneous, she said.

In response to the questionnaire, Pitt's suggestions included:

* encouraging activities that address specific needs of diverse populations (visitors, residents, students, employees, children);

* adding vendors, restaurants, casual reading areas, exhibits, recreation areas, concert areas;

* marketing and utilizing more aggressively Oakland's existing resources and attractions (for example, Soldiers and Sailors Memorial, Carnegie Music Hall, Stephen Foster Memorial, Frick Fine Arts, Cathedral of Learning Commons Room);

* improving pedestrian connections and pedestrian corridors, with sidewalks designed to handle a large volume of pedestrians, and with better delineation between pedestrian and vehicular areas.

Regarding the civic district's open spaces, Pitt recommended:

* improving connections between the green space surrounding the proposed Petersen Center and the community;

* providing better connections between the upper and lower campus and between the campus generally and neighboring parks;

* developing and maintaining a design standard for architectural consistency in improving open space, while retaining the neighborhood's distinguishing districts within the loop — retail, educational, cultural, medical, athletics.

Shorak said the University would like to encourage better access by:

* controlling safe bicycle flow;

* enforcing separate traffic patterns for vehicles that are passing through, but not stopping in, Oakland;

* improving access to, and visibility of, existing facilities;

* improving mass transit to Oakland from outside the area;

* introducing an "amenity loop" that serves all civic district institutions, including improved signage and transportation;

* developing a north/south transit connection through Oakland. (While Pitt supports rapid transit development, it recommends decreasing mass transit that uses Oakland as a pass-through to the East End.)

* identifying convenient short-term parking.

* addressing the perception that Oakland needs additional parking; Pitt says current parking is adequate.

–Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 33 Issue 7

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