Though Riverlife President Vivien Li will be leaving Pittsburgh and returning to her home in Boston, she will leave behind a record of accomplishments that successors would be happy to match. She highlighted some of those accomplishments at the African American Chamber of Commerce’s April PowerBreakfast meeting at the Rivers Club.
The one she seemed to take the most delight in is the one that will finally be completed when the weather stays warm enough to pour concrete: the last mile of the Allegheny Trail, stretching from Point State Park to just past the Smithfield Street Bridge.
“The Mon Wharf is the bane of our existence,” she said. “Once this last mile link is completed, you’ll be able to ride from the Point all the way to Washington, D.C.”
Li thanked all the partners, public and private, who helped restore the Point—the fountain, the signage paths and plantings—as well as those who’ve funded and assisted with Riverlife’s work to create new standards for public activity and access on the riverfronts, which extends well beyond the Point.
She singled out Paul O’Neill, who, as then-president of ALCOA, made sure its headquarters building on the Allegheny River was not just architecturally in tune with the river, but integrated to it with an extended park. She praised the city, its authorities, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pittsburgh Steelers for taking a similar approach to the riverfront amenities they incorporated into their stadium designs—which were utterly lacking at Three Rivers Stadium.
The riverfronts are changing along the Monongahela also, as evidenced by the South Shore Riverside Park and bike trail at Southside Works. Riverlife is continuing to work with partners to extend access along both shores of the Mon all the way to the Hazelwood Green development site.
And back on the Allegheny, the next big thing will be the Strip District Riverfront Park, which would stretch from the David L. Lawrence Convention Center to the 31st Street Bridge, with multiple access points and specialized amenities such as the 11th Street Plaza, 15th Street Landing and the 21st Street Overlook.
“We have also arranged for zoning stipulations that require not just mixed use, but mixed income accessibility,” she said. “Any residential developer who wants to build higher than 120 feet, is required to include affordable housing units. Our biggest challenge, though is, how do we connect neighborhoods like the Hill District and Polish Hill to the riverfronts. We have to make sure our urban areas are accessible to all.”
Riverlife board member Abass Kamara thanked Li for her more than three years as president and CEO, and joined Chamber President and CEO Doris Carson Williams in presenting her with some parting gifts.
“I can’t thank Vivien enough for all she’s done,” said Kamara. “She’s set us up to take Pittsburgh into the 21st Century.”
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