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Invest in Downtown Pittsburgh, Here + Now

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The Downtown Retail Task Force released its recommendations Wednesday to attract and retain retailers in the Golden Triangle.  A year in the making, the task force, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) created 5 strategies to encourage retail investment downtown. 

The first step is enhancing street infrastructure.  Ravenstahl said the focus of the plan is on creating a welcoming environment with additional streetlights and trees as well as more pedestrian pathways. 

“Right now some of our primary corridors downtown do not provide the atmosphere that encourage people to walk around and to enjoy the quality of shopping and dining that’s available,” Ravenstahl said.  “They’re just not living up to the potential that we think they can realize.”

The second strategy is finding ways to connect retailers downtown through group incentives, sidewalk sales, and a downtown retailers association.  Ravenstahl said the association will encourage communication and joint marketing among retailers downtown.

“When retailers work together to create new shoppers the impact is evident,” Ravenstahl said.

The next tactic involves creating a database for the status of leases or vacancies.  Ravenstahl said this would help the city with informing potential retailers about which locations are, or are not available for rent.

“It’s important for us to create that database and have that centralized location where folks and potential investors can go to identify space,” Ravenstahl said.

For the fourth step, the plan targets locally owned businesses and encourages them to invest in a downtown venue.  In the past, Ravenstahl said the goal was to bring in large, commercial retailers.  He admitted that approach did not work well for development.

The last strategy deals with marketing and branding.

“Unless we sell downtown, nobody will buy it,” Ravenstahl said.  The goal is to reintroduce the city’s retail experience in a creative way.   

Robert Rubinstein, Director of Economic Development for the URA, said the theme of the marking and branding of downtown Pittsburgh will be “Pittsburgh Here + Now.”

“Because this is the time for Pittsburgh,” Rubenstein said.  “Here and now.”

The plan includes three “key corridors” on its priority list: Smithfield Street, Forbes Avenue, and Wood Street.  The plan for Smithfield Street is to fill the vacant Saks Fifth Avenue Building with new retailers and retain stores already on the street like Macy’s and Brooks Brothers. Wood Street’s overhaul seems to focus on aesthetics.  The figures illustrate new forestry, signage, windows and awnings.  Forbes Avenue development will have a focus east of Wood Street.  The plan indicates opportunities for more connectivity to the rest of downtown from Forbes through bike lanes and T stops.

The timeline for the Downtown Action Strategy plan is three years.  As for the cost, Ravenstahl didn’t give specifics, but said funding will come through public-private partnerships.

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