The downtown Pittsburgh cultural district project that was once called one of the linchpins of the revitalization of the City of Pittsburgh and a project without equal in the United States was indefinitely suspended last month by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust blamed the poor economy and credit markets as the cause of the suspension, but the lead developer on RiverParc, Concord Eastridge, blamed mismanagement and a loss of nerve by the Cultural Trust – and is reportedly considering its legal options.
Although Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said that the majority of Pittsburgh projects are going forward, I’ve wondered for a few months when Pittsburgh would start to see the suspension or cancellation of projects that other cities have seen. Although the credit crunch is the stated reason, it seems likely that flat to declining real estate prices and sales – the loss of easy revenue from the development of housing – is also to blame.
I’m curious regarding the practical effect of the suspension of the project on the surrounding area. It may have been preferable to cancel the project altogether and put in place an alternative plan for use or development of the area. Now, with an indefinite suspension, the area may be waiting for a long time for the return to normalization of the credit markets and the rebuilding of support for the project. With the choice words spoken by the current developer about the management of the project, I suspect that the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust would have to smooth some serious concerns about its leadership before another developer would step forward. And in the meantime, a section of the city is frozen awaiting the development or announcement of new plans for the area.