Six Pittsburgh Projects Receive Commonwealth Awards for Sustainable Development

October 24, 2011


Six Pittsburgh Projects Receive Commonwealth Awards for Sustainable Development 

Contact: Jack Machek,, 717-234-6070 

Pittsburgh – Six development projects that are revitalizing Pittsburgh communities, spurring economic development, catalyzing private investment, and serving as models of sustainable development received Commonwealth Awards at 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania’s recent annual awards event. 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania, the state’s leading Smart Growth advocacy organization, honored these six projects in the region, as well as 16 others from across the state, with it prestigious annual awards this year. 

The Commonwealth Awards is a juried statewide program honoring Smart Growth projects from across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 10,000 Friends invited submissions from companies and organizations that produced a wide range of project types—urban infill, historic preservation and rehabilitation, adaptive reuse, Brownfield redevelopment, traditional neighborhood development, farmland preservation, and revitalization plans. 

Smart Growth strategies build suburban, urban, and rural communities that have more transportation options; have more housing and recreational choices; are closer to job opportunities, shops, and schools; support the local economy; are more energy efficient and independent; and help protect green space, clean air, and clean water.

“The Commonwealth Awards honor outstanding examples of smart growth projects here in Pennsylvania,” said Jack Machek, President and CEO of 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania.  “We received a record number of submissions this year, and it’s very encouraging to see so many smart growth projects succeeding as many sectors of the construction industry are struggling to rebound. 10,000 Friends is proud to showcase the companies and organizations working to build stronger towns and communities across the state.” 

The awardees include: 

Bakery Square received a Gold Award -- best of class in its category -- in the Mixed Use Development (large projects) category. This building, formerly a Nabisco Bakery plant, has been an icon in the dense urban Larimer neighborhood since the early 1900s. But when Nabisco abandoned the property in the 1990s, the property sat vacant for years. Now this mixed use development is home to offices of Google, Inc. and the University of Pittsburgh, among others, and houses 185,000 square feet of retail. 

“This project saved the 400,000 square foot bakery building, at a total project cost of $125 million, a huge and critically important historical building,” the jury said. “If this project had not been executed, the historic old Nabisco building would have been torn down or would have sat dilapidated and vacant for many more years.” 

The Eastside Project, Phase V, received a Gold Award in the Commercial Projects category.  The project transformed a patchwork of 14.3 acres of distressed land, including the transit hub, according to a coordinated strategy to fuel the redevelopment of a formerly core commercial center that has been experiencing a decline for 40 year. Phase V of the project is an anchor Target store on 5 acres previously occupied by a distressed high rise apartment building and a parole office. 

“The site plan, building footprint, and building design of this project is innovative and fits with the urban character of the community -- compact site reuse with the store on the 2nd floor,” the jury said. “It’s a unique design in Target’s system, and unique in contrast to the other big box retailer (Home Depot) in area which has a more traditional suburban footprint.” 

Market Square Place received a Gold Award in the Mixed Use Development (large projects) category. The historic renovation of the GC Murphy Building, located in the Central Business District (CBD) of Pittsburgh Pa., marked the completion of a project that had languished for 15 years, until Millcraft Industries took over the project. It’s now a mixed use development consisting of 46 loft apartments, a 44,000 square foot YMCA, and 27,000 square feet of storefront retail. 

“This project successfully shows that the housing market demand in downtown Pittsburgh is high, with loft apartments and retail space 100% leased,” the jury said. “It generates 24/7 street activity to energize a key location downtown, further synergizing with Market Square renovation.” 

The reconstruction of Market Square project received a Gold Award in the Public Infrastructure Projects category. Market Square has been the traditional retail and civic center of Pittsburgh since the 1700s, but had been in a slow cycle of decay for the last 50 years. It’s a 1.1 acre public open space and designated free speech zone that’s surrounded by retail and sidewalk cafes. The renovation included removing bus traffic from the square, limiting vehicular traffic by removing the central street and keeping cars on the perimeter road. And the project has been a huge economic catalyst. Within a two-block radius of the square there is over $1 billion of investment committed to various projects, and usage counts of people using the square have doubled. 

“This is a public square renovation in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh that has spurred greater use and more flexible use of the space,” the jury said. “The square was made more pedestrian friendly, and in addition to use by individuals, the renovation has catalyzed new restaurants to open facing the square.” 

The Beneficial Building received a Commonwealth Award in the Mixed Use Development (small projects) category. Over the years, neglect and inappropriate renovation decisions destroyed or impaired many historic and architectural details. The 2nd story of the building sat vacant for years at a time. But in 2004, South Side Local Development Company secured an option to purchase the building for $500,000. After TREK Development Group was selected to partner on the project, and a joint public/private partnership was established. Restoration began in 2005 and occupancy of the retail, residential and office components began in 2008. Final occupancy of the last tenant space occurred in 2010. 

“This is a true mixed use building—renovated to create lab space, two retail storefronts (restaurants), office space, and 6 affordable apartments leased to City Theatre for performing artists,” the jury said. “The project has helped catalyze additional private investment in the area and adjacent projects have now been completed without subordinate financing or a public subsidy.” 

Columbus Square received a “Building a More Perfect Commonwealth” Award – for projects that are still under construction. Columbus Square is a traditional neighborhood development located on a Brownfield site formerly referred to as the American Electric Facility. It consists of 4 acres of land remediated to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection Act 2 Standards. The full development will include 31 market rate homes. Columbus Square reflects the density of adjacent properties in the neighborhood. The homes’ architectural vocabulary is consistent with Manchester’s historic theme and will include sustainable construction methodologies. 

“Among the noteworthy features of the project is the approximately $1.3 million dollars that were assembled and spent by the development team to construct project-related new public infrastructure and renovate substandard existing infrastructure,” the jury said. “This new infrastructure work included new utility services, sidewalk construction, completion of a city street connecting the local street grid, and creation of park spaces for residents of the whole neighborhood.” 

10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania is the leading advocate in Pennsylvania for responsible and efficient land use. Our vision is to have a positive impact on the built and natural environment through efficient land use. Founded in Southeastern Pennsylvania in 1998, 10,000 Friends has aligned and supported organizations and individuals from across the state committed to land use policies and actions that enable Pennsylvania to strengthen its diverse urban, suburban, and rural communities and reduce wasteful and inefficient land consumption. For more information visit:                   

2011Commonwealth Awards Press Release -Pittsburgh82.5 KB