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TROY McGHEE shows the evolution of Pittsburgh’s lower Hill District. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

Though only about 35 people attended a meeting at the Jeron X. Grayson Center recently to give their input to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ development team about what the former Civic Arena site should feel like, look like and offer in terms of housing, amenities, entertainment and restaurant venues, the people’s voices were heard loud and clear.

“I think they are listening,” said Hill District resident Mary Evans. “I’m not going to say how it will influence their final decision, but they are listening.”

The meeting brought Hill District stakeholders together with architects, designers and developers in several focus groups, so they could bounce ideas off each other, and then pool the common ideas together into a comprehensive list.

MARY EVANS and Sharon M. Moore look at plans for the Lower Hill development. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

Among those present to listen and organize the input were developer Keith B. Key, architect Howard Graves and Troy McGhee of the Washington D.C.-based architects Torti Gallas & Partners.

Among the ideas they heard were a desire for balancing the reverence and history of the Hill history with moving toward a new bright future, making sure residents can afford to live there, in energy efficient homes with storm water management, and an open feel.

As for how the first two buildings should look, groups suggested drawing design inspiration from old school building designs with tall, arching windows.

Denise Johnson, who is also a New Pittsburgh Courier freelance writer, said her group recommended buildings that looked like they could accommodate both singles and families, also like the arch windows, brick facades, solid partition walls, community space, exercise facilities, and enclosed play space for kids. “We’d also like to see an outdoor space similar to PPG Place, that can be used for family-friendly events, and some kind of water feature,” she said.

Going forward, the designers will take what they heard and, in a month, return and ask if they have it right, then refine it from there.


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