March 29, 2022 — A new $32 million urban green space has reconnected Pittsburgh’s historic Hill District with the city’s downtown business and cultural center, providing residents of the Hill direct access to the city’s economic and cultural resources and amenities for the first time in more than 60 years.
The three-acre park functions as a “cap” over Interstate 579/Crosstown Boulevard, providing an accessible, safe, walkable link to a neighborhood that lost its linkage to the city’s urban center with the construction of Crosstown Boulevard and the former Civic Arena in the 1960s. The park is named in honor of Frankie Pace, a longtime community activist from the Hill District. Born in 1905, Pace was head of the Hill District Community Council and owner of the Pace Music Store. She died in 1989.
Landscape architecture firm LaQuatra Bonci Associates created the park design for the deck project.
The open space features ADA-accessible pathways for pedestrians and bicyclists and includes improvements to adjoining intersections; space for recreation, educational and performance areas; rain gardens for storm water management; design elements developed by artists from the neighborhood; and other public amenities.
New and improved links to the public transit system include improved pedestrian and bicycle access to the nearby Steel Plaza subway station (located 650 feet from project site), and a location for a new bus stop on Centre Avenue at the project site. The site is also located nearby to the proposed bus rapid transit (BRT) system which will connect Downtown with Oakland.
Frankie Pace Park’s integrated enhancements also include:
- Story walls celebrating the life of Hill District figures Martin Delany (1812-1885, abolitionist, journalist, educator) and Frankie Pace (1905-1989, community organizer);
- Wayfinding signage system highlighting the park’s amenities;
- Art pylons;
- A colored paving pattern depicting the Sankofa Bird, a figure representing the African word “Sankofa,” which can be translated to mean, “go back to the past and bring forward that which is useful.” The bird is rendered as twisting its beak behind itself, in order to bring forth an egg from its back;
- An outdoor classroom garden;
- A water course that is part of the park’s storm water management system.
In the 1950s and 1960s, construction of the former Civic Arena, together with other development activities, led to the demolition of dozens of blocks of homes and businesses the Lower Hill neighborhood, essentially separating the Hill from the Downtown area. During that same time, Crosstown Boulevard was built, creating an additional barrier.
Photo: LaQuatra Bonci Associates