Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Post-Gazette: Destory the Bad Thing.

The P-G Editorial Board makes fun of local architect Rob Pfaffman's idea to creatively re-use the Civic Arena, as well as the car he drives and the way his mother dresses him.

This pie-in-the-sky plan does not rate serious consideration. (P-G, Edit Board)

A few notes:

1) The editorial's most compelling-sounding point is that the arena separates the neighborhood from Downtown. That was certainly true of its genesis, but now there is the enormous matter of the Crosstown Expressway, including its complex intersection with Bigelow Boulevard. Any "reconnection" would take a lot more that extending Wylie Ave. through where the arena presently stands and a simple traffic light. That's the fearsome challenge.

2) I get zero impression that Penguins ownership is interested in undertaking an ambitious infrastructure extension and reconnection over its developable plot of land anyway.

3) The editorial also points out that Pfaffman doesn't have developers and financing lined up; well, the Penguins and the City have only just hired their planners. It's extremely early.

4) And it doesn't give the barest nod in the direction of the merits of creative re-use for significant and unique structures in general, let alone seem to appreciate the full import of the word "creative". It just sacks the idea with maximum authority, in the name of "getting the most money" for the Sports & Exhibition Authority.


  1. Nice to see the PG editorial board come out strongly against this ridiculous idea. Destroy the thing and get back to city-building. Everything about the architectural design of the Civic Arena conflicts with sound urban design and neighborhood principles. This is an extremely precious plot of land and its potential should be maximized.

  2. Please excuse my ignorance on this subject - to what sound urban design and neighborhood principles are you referring? Bearing in mind the Xtown Xpresway problem.

    Wish we had you around 50 years ago.

  3. The Post Gazette ran the idea as a Sunday Forum "Next Page" a couple of years ago, right? Why the change of heart, I wonder.

  4. First thanks for helping me identify (finally) my most serious malady, fear of "complex intersections." Yep it is true. I also believe the illness is actually what prevents many a pittsburgher from crossing bridges. West End Circle, 51/88, many other candidates for nimination to the complex intersection hall of fame.

    For me all decisions come down to asphalt and rock salt. There has always got to be money for asphalt and rock salt. Will any plan for the arena make money to buy asphalt and rock salt? I mean lots of money. I hope everyone gets the asphalt and rock salt symbolism.

  5. What is wrong with the maintenance/creative re-use of a significant Bad Moment in Urban Planning? A memorial of sorts to commemorate that what we hope-to-god won't do again? A designated Protest Area so we don't hafta rent a lot in the Strip from the Buncher Corp next time around?

    Given the sad shape of our city's water infrastructure and the liklihood we'll see another Ivan before it's fixed, I say keep it for emergency housing.

  6. Obscene doesn't come close to it. It's gotta go. Wasn't that the basic condition and proposal when they built the new area?

    As to the expressway-- that's gotta go next.

    This is what I wrote in 2007.

    ".One bunch of people who are likely to want to come to Pittsburgh are urban planners. This isn’t a complement; Pittsburgh is almost a lab experiment in poor government and bad urban design and It’s kind of famous for it. So,it may be that people may want some tips on how too screw up their towns too. These tips are most useful if you are looking to screw up a city with a small land area (by which I mean -in the city limits) and are great for places with lots of hills, rivers or other barriers.

    Here are just a few. I will come back with more.It’s a two part strategy to destroy the value of urban land; quality of life and tax base while at the same time making it easy and cheap live outside the city.It’s proven and has worked great here.

    Tear holes in your city and stick in as many highways as you can. Highways that will divide and cut through existing business districts are the best. You must have major highways cutting into your downtown!! Remember, you don’t want people to live in the city especially wealthy people.

    Raise Taxes in the city to pay for it and your other plans. Well, just raise taxes for any reason really.

    Cut and remove as much mass transit as you can. Transit is needed to have a dense city and you don’t want that.

    Add as much parking as you can. You can build huge garages to help waste tax money but you mainly need huge areas of plain old surface lots.

    Put huge Sports Stadiums in or near the key areas of the city. Since they are usually empty, they are are like putting extra fancy holes in the town. they waste lots of tax money and best of all they need tons of parking!!! (remember you don’t have mass transit.)The key is to put these holes in or just near the downtown and make sure that a sea of parking lots sit on the most useful city land.

    Try to remove as many mixed uses of land as you can. Say that offices should not be near homes or stores etc… This requires more driving, more and wider highways and more and more parking holes in the city. It also will likely cause lots of traffic and pollution which will chase people out of town. Remember to raise taxes or borrow to pay for the roads.

    Use all kinds of anti walking policies. Shoppers usually walk and you don’t want that. Get rid of sidewalks and use highways with walls to cut up areas.

    Basically, It’s a progressive strategy. You set in motion a chain reaction that requires more and more of the same–more holes and lower densities require more driving and more holes in the city and so on. For example, chances are that your downtown retail will start to die off– so you say you need to add more parking or perhaps pay the retailers to stay. Some people might start to feel bad about their town as you destroy it (by now your suicide rate might be up) so they need cheering up with some other new stadium.

    You can do it to!!!