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October 25, 2012

Technology coming to Forbes-Bouquet plaza

Improvements are coming to the Forbes-Bouquet Plaza as part of an effort to use technology and art to promote the Oakland community.

Digital screens and “smart” light poles equipped with WiFi and sound capability soon will be installed on the University-owned property at the corner of Forbes Avenue and South Bouquet Street in a plaza renovation plan that is part of Innovation Oakland. The Innovation Oakland initiative is a technology-based strategy with the goal of providing direction, distributing information and creating a sense of place in Oakland.

John Wilds, assistant vice chancellor for community relations, said, “We’re trying to make it a showpiece to position Oakland as a center for technology.”

Parklet at the corner of Forbes and Bouquet

Parklet at the corner of Forbes and Bouquet

The plaza renovation project will include two freestanding screens on which artwork and information will be projected. One screen measuring 24 feet high by 65 feet long and 10 feet wide will be mounted on a bridge-like structure. Another digital screen encased in metal panels would measure 12 feet high by 12 feet long.

The renovated plaza also will feature new benches, pavers and sustainable landscape features including a rain garden.

Georgia Petropoulos Muir, executive director of the Oakland Business Improvement District (OBID), said the system will be managed remotely and will be updatable in real time with a content manager and a curator overseeing the digital wall’s artistic imagery, information and events.

Local, national and perhaps internationally created works will be featured, Muir said, adding that no commercial advertising will be permitted.

The plaza renovation is expected to cost an estimated $650,000 and construction is to be complete by mid-April, according to documents filed with the city planning commission. City planners earlier this month approved the plaza renovation project.

Wilds said, “Everything looks like it’s a go,” although an agreement between the University and OBID still must be finalized. He said it is anticipated that the agreement will be complete by Nov. 1.

Completion of the project by mid-April is an “aggressive goal,” Muir acknowledged, noting that construction could commence in spring when weather permits and an unveiling by May or June is likely.

Construction will begin after all funds are raised, Muir said.

She said approximately $100,000 remains to be secured, although grants that are expected to be finalized in the next few weeks likely will fill the gap.

Funding has come through support from institutions including Pitt, UPMC and Carlow University, as well as through grants from the Richard King Mellon Foundation and Duquesne Light, she said.

Pitt’s contributions have included financial support, use of the University-owned site and construction management services, Wilds said.

The Oakland Task Force, a partnership of Oakland institutions, businesses, community groups, public agencies and city government, is sponsoring the Innovation Oakland initiative. OBID, one of 25 task force members, is taking the lead in its implementation.

Information on Innovation Oakland is posted on the OBID web site at

Artist’s rendering of technology-equipped plaza

Artist’s rendering of technology-equipped plaza

In conjunction with the project, the Oakland Scene mobile app has been launched to showcase places, events, offers and news in the Oakland neighborhood. Currently available for Android devices, the app soon will be available for the iPhone.

Oakland is the first neighborhood to be showcased via the Scenable mobile app, which will feature other neighborhoods as well, Muir said. Details are available at The Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development provided funding for the Oakland Scene.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature,Volume 45 Issue 5

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