Sunday, December 5, 2010

Market Square renovations designed for ‘desirable use’

Published in: The Globe
Originally published: September 14, 2010
By Kalea Hall 
Senior elementary education major Sarah Homyk likes the newly renovated Market Square, and said it "seems more friendly."
Adam Steinsdoerfer, a junior cinema and digital arts major, disagrees with Homyk. He feels the new Market Square is very bland. He pointed out that the square's landscaping was much better before the renovation.
David Montanez, owner of Las Velas, said his 430 Market Street business has improved since the opening of the renovated square and he is hoping it will continue to get better.
"If you come in the morning and just sit in one of those tables in the center, there's a lot of people passing through all the time. It became a place for people instead of a place for cars," says Geof Comings, Economic Development Manager for the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PPD).
These are the responses after the completion of the over a year long, nearly $5 million remake of Market Square. The new Market Square has allowed vendors to receive more business, and also promotes a friendlier environment for Pittsburgh residents to enjoy.

The plans to remake Market Square began in 2000, after Projects for Public Spaces came to Downtown Pittsburgh and observed that the square was "used by a population that was doing more harm than good, for the businesses and for the perception of the city," according to Comings. The Pittsburgh population revealed in a study, that they too believed the square was a negative place.  Four out of five of the top replies regarding Market Square were negative, with bum and drug ridden stated as the main reasons. 
"For what is the heart of downtown Pittsburgh, that's horrible for that to be the common perception," Comings said.
 According to Comings, the City of Pittsburgh and the PDP acting as a "liaison between the city and the businesses." They assessed how the square could be put to a more "desirable use."  Comings revealed, the main way of doing this was to develop wider sidewalks and create a "clear vision line, so one could see all the way through."
"Because the sidewalks were so much narrower at that point, the idea was that if they were put to a more desirable use, that would hopefully discourage the negatives that were taking place in Market Square and then encourage the behavior people wanted to see," Comings said. "Sidewalks are now, I think, an average of 22 feet wide, with the goal of having a lot of outdoor dining.
Some Point Park University students, like Homyk, agree that they like the new square.
"It's nice that they don't have any through traffic anymore," said Tess Montoya, junior, dance major. "It's nice to have places to sit and hang out."
Sophomore, sports, art, and entertainment major, Kelsey Robertson, agrees with Montoya, by saying that new square is "not busy with cars like downtown," so one is able to sit and relax.
Like Steinsdoerfer, some Pittsburgh residents do not care for the new square. Comings said the biggest complaint is about the trees and the non-existent fountain. The square was never supposed to have a fountain and it will take some time for the transplanted trees to fill in the ones that were there for 20 or 30 years, according to Comings.  
Property owners in Market Square like the renovations. Montanez revealed that business during construction was bad, but now, he says that business has improved.
"I think it's great. I love the renovations. I love everything that they've been doing," Montanez said.
Jordan Nicholas, co-owner of Nicholas Coffee and Tea Co., agrees that business has improved with the renovations.
"It's given us exposure to people who haven't come to the square," Nicholas said.
1902 Landmark Tavern and Costanzo's did fold during the construction process, Comings said. Although, the space where the tavern was may soon be holding a "trendy restaurant," Nicholas said, whose family owns the property.
Comings revealed that all the businesses took a hit during the construction process, but if you ask them now they will say it was worth it.  According to Comings, Primanti Bros. is thriving and there are more businesses than there were before the construction took place, reported Comings.
"It's been a process of getting more desirable businesses and making it more attractive to a broader group of people," Comings said.
According to Comings, merchants in the square are "excited about the potential" for future events that may be held. He said, the new Market Square was established as a place for people to sit, cross through and the wide space available makes it great for events. Comings said they will be adding more seating to the square and are hoping to work with universities around the area to create some sort of student dining program.
Robertson, as a Point Park student, said she thinks the idea of a student program would be perfect.
"Give credit to the students somehow," she said.
With the grand opening of the square set for October 2010, Comings feels the mission of remaking Market Square into a more desirable area has been accomplished.
"It's 3:30 on a Wednesday afternoon and I don't see anyone with a brown paper bag and a 40 ounce, and that's who would have been there a few years ago," Comings said.

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