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Report: Pittsburgh Riverfronts Yield Significant Economic Development

  A $130 million investment by the city and its partners over 15 years has resulted in $4.1 billion in riverfront and adjacent development in Pittsburgh.

That’s according to Riverlife, a task force created in 1999 to encourage riverfront development in Pittsburgh, which released its economic impact report Friday.

Jay Sukernek – the acting director, vice president and chief financial officer – said they looked at the impact of the public amenities and the value of property since 2001.

“What the data showed us is that there’s approximately been a 60 percent property value increase within the vicinity of riverfront projects as compared to a 32 percent property value increase city-wide outside of the riverfront zone of influence,” Sukernek said.

He said the $4.1 billion in development includes corporate investments such as American Eagle Outfitters deciding to come to the city.  The 15-year investment has also resulted in nearly $2.6 billion in riverfront development activity, according to Sukernek.

The investment includes the revitalization of Point State Park, the conversion of the Monongahela Wharf Landing and the Convention Center Riverfront Plaza.

He said the area with the highest property value increase was Southside Works – with a 117 percent growth.

“Fifteen years ago, Carson St. really stopped at the Birmingham Bridge, and now it goes all the way to the Hot Metal Bridge,” Sukernek said. “Looking at the area from Birmingham to Hot Metal from the riverfront back past Carson St., it really has become a new riverfront neighborhood.”

Sukernek said the report aimed to gauge Pittsburgh’s growth in riverfront development compared to other areas of the country.

“What we were able to do is compare the benefits that have happened here in Pittsburgh with some other selected cities throughout the country, and they were selected based on their comparable size and scale of the projects to Pittsburgh and be able to prove that what has happened here is able to be replicated in other locations,” Sukernek said.

He said these comparable parks include Smale Riverfront Park in Cincinnati, the Atlanta Beltline in Georgia and the 21st Century Waterfront Park in Chattanooga in Tennessee.

According to Sukernek, this report helps support a piece of legislation in the senate calling for $10 million tax credits to create a vehicle for corporations to invest in waterfront projects throughout the commonwealth.

“The Waterfront Development tax credit would make it possible for towns and cities all over Pennsylvania to replicate the type of job creation and improve quality of life increased economic development that we’ve seen here in Pittsburgh over the past decade and a half,” Sukernek said.

The Senate Finance Committee held a public hearing on the legislation Thursday.

Jess is from Elizabeth Borough, PA and is a junior at Duquesne University with a double major in journalism and public relations. She was named as a fellow in the WESA newsroom in May 2013.