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February 29, 1996

City announces Oakland plans: more open spaces, trees, building code enforcement measures

The City of Pittsburgh has released an Oakland Improvement Strategy that includes the creation of new open spaces and housing, redevelopment plans for the Boulevard of the Allies, zoning, beautification, public safety and new building code enforcement initiatives.

According to city officials, the strategy is not simply another plan to improve Oakland, "but a 'blueprint' designed to get specific projects off the drawing board and into bricks and mortar." The following projects, for which the city has committed resources, have been developed with the help of the University, community groups, Oakland residents, the city administration and the City Planning Commission.

Plans for the projects were announced earlier this month at a special meeting of the Oakland Task Force attended by Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy and Pitt Interim Chancellor Mark Nordenberg.

Schenley Plaza parking garage The city and the University are exploring the feasibility of constructing a 1,000-space parking garage under Schenley Plaza between Hillman Library and the Carnegie Library.

If built, the project would increase open space in central Oakland by restoring the plaza to park use and would provide 750 additional short-term parking spaces.

According to the strategy report, the garage also would provide an alternative to parking on the hilltop, and so reduce traffic in west Oakland.

A total of 865 long-term parking spaces are expected to be lost in Oakland by construction of the proposed Convocation Center next to Pitt Stadium. The Schenley Plaza garage is planned to replace 250 of those spaces.

Test closing of Bigelow Boulevard A test closing of Bigelow Boulevard between Forbes Avenue and Fifth Avenue is included in the Oakland plan, but has been delayed by the objections of City Council. (See story page 1.) The closing is designed to test the feasibility of permanently closing that section of street. It was to start March 5 and continue for 60 days. Pitt has sought such a closing for years because of safety concerns involving pedestrians moving back and forth between the Cathedral of Learning and the William Pitt Union.

Cooperative Housing Code enforcement pilot project Pitt has agreed to jointly fund, with the city, a new housing inspector who will be specifically dedicated to working in Oakland. In addition to hiring a new inspector, city officials also have proposed a pilot building code enforcement project for Oakland.

According to the report, "this program may include such things as an enforcement crackdown on the biggest problem citation areas, a community reporting program, improvements to the Housing Court system, an interdepartmental city code enforcement task force on Oakland, and a joint education program for students and the community." As part of the enforcement effort, the city will schedule a "Clean Sweep" neighborhood clean-up program for Oakland sometime this year.

Housing development for Central Oakland The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) will help to fund at least one central Oakland project in 1997 and will set aside property for additional developments in 1997.

Oakland Planning and Development Corporation (OPDC) also is developing a detailed housing strategy and specific housing project proposals. The URA, the University and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center will work together with OPDC on specific projects. No details, however, were given on the projects.

Redevelopment of the Boulevard of the Allies and reconstruction of the Boulevard of the Allies Bridge The city proposes to undertake a redevelopment plan for the Boulevard of the Allies from the Fifth/Forbes/Craft portal area to Schenley Park. Details on the plan were not made public.

Also, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will begin reconstruction work next year on the Boulevard of the Allies Bridge over Forbes Avenue.

Street trees The Public Corridors Urban Design Study of Oakland recommended that street trees be planted on or near the Fifth Avenue and Forbes Avenue corridors, in median strips on the Boulevard of the Allies and along residential streets.

According to the strategy, the city plans to begin planting trees in those areas during the fall planting season. The number of trees that will be planted is not yet known.

Zoning The public review process for the new Oakland zoning plan will start this spring. City Council is expected to approve the plan in late fall and mapping will begin in 1997.

Community Oriented Police Station Campus police have offered to share their mini-station on Forbes Avenue at Bouquet Street with city police. The city is pursuing a lease agreement.

Although city police will be operating out of the mini-station, the city's Louisa and Semple Station will remain open.

"This [Forbes and Bouquet] is a very busy intersection in Oakland and the increased police presence would be an asset to the business district," according to the report.

–Mike Sajna

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