Uptown Park Is City's First With Free WiFi, Solar Charging Stations

Jun 28, 2019

At first glance, Tustin Park looks pretty modest. The tiny park – some call it a “tot lot” – sits on a side street in Uptown, and consists mainly of some playground equipment, a water fountain, and a few tall trees.

ProjectConnect block party at Tustin Park, 2028 Tustin St., Uptown. 4-11 p.m. Sat., June 28.

But Tustin Park is unique in Pittsburgh: It’s the city’s only public park with free WiFi and solar-powered charging stations.

That’s the result of ProjectConnect, which grew out of Uptown’s status as part of one of the city’s EcoInnovation Districts. Such districts are dedicated to “equity, identity and connectivity.” In February 2018, the city began seeking proposals for art projects in Uptown that reflected those values.

The winning proposal was submitted by HackPGH, a nonprofit that runs a community maker space – kind of an all-purpose workshop – just around the corner from Tustin Park. The group had surveyed the community and learned that many neighbors lacked home internet access.

“They thought that a really useful thing to have as the crux of this project was an accessible way for anyone to access the internet, and access power to use their devices at any time here in this park,” said Tony Cavalline, the City of Pittsburgh’s arts, culture and history specialist.

HackPGH developed the proposal with partners including public-networks providers Meta Mesh Wireless Communities, and neighborhood activist Daniel Klein.

Signage on one of the park's solar-powered charging stations.
Credit Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

Phase one of the project, the WiFi, went live last fall, said Cavalline. In the past month, the city installed the two solar-powered charging stations – 10-foot-tall towers topped by small photovoltaic panels and sporting four charging stations each. The stations are illuminated at night for round-the-clock use.

The Tustin project also has art components, including a mural and a fence-mounted installation. The installation consists of small, multi-colored acrylic plaques etched with words and pictures contributed by neighbors.

The city put up about $25,000 for ProjectConnect, said Cavalline.

Uptown is part of the Uptown / West Oakland EcoInnovation District Plan. The city plans two more projects in Uptown as part of the new Uptown Public Art Program.

Uptown celebrates the completion of ProjectConnect from 4-11 p.m. Sat., June 29, with a block party. All are welcome.