Pittsburgh moving to change zoning, make more residential spaces downtown

·2 min read

Standing on a city street at lunchtime, it feels like business is back, but if you look a little closer, it might not be the case.

“We’ve lost a lot of restaurants, a lot of retail it’s not the same,” said Sharon Phelps, who works downtown.

In fact, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership is tracking it all. When it comes to city activities and visitors, it’s 67% recovered when compared to January 2020.

But when it comes to workday business employees reporting to the office, the end of summer numbers show building occupancy is only at 21% downtown.

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“When you look at some of our beautiful historic buildings with their architecture built 125 years ago, they no longer work for commercial office,” said Jeremy Waldrup with PDP.

That’s why the city is moving forward to change the zoning for these buildings to make them into new residential spaces.

“The city really feels this can improve the vitality of downtown, further invest in the vibrancy we have downtown, drive economic prosperity and ensure we have equitable housing in all of our neighborhoods,” said Andrew Dash, the deputy director of City Planning.

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This program will use American Rescue Plan funds including $2.1 million from the city and $3 million from the state, but the key is this housing must include affordability.

“We are talking about workforce housing. Individuals that are likely employed here in downtown but could not afford to live in downtown. Currently, only about 4% of our housing market is considered affordable,” Waldrup said.

The hope is that with these changes, residents will diversify to include families, ultimately bringing more business to downtown.

“The more people that move in, the more commercial we will get back into the inner city and I think that’s good,” Phelps said.

The Planning Commission will make that final vote to get this ball rolling at its next meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 20.

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