CEO Note: May 2024

CEO Note


Stefani Pashman, CEO

The Allegheny Conference was born out of a need to transform downtown. Nearly eight decades ago public and private partners came together to revitalize our urban core. They worked to create Point State Park, develop Gateway Center, and clear the smoke that obscured the view. 

It was no small task.

The work that underpinned these signature projects was complex, requiring a sustained effort over time. Leaders had to create the nation’s first urban redevelopment authority to develop Gateway Center. They had to convince the commonwealth to build the first and still the only urban state park. And they had to ask county government to impose clean air regulations, a request that was pretty much unheard of at the time. 

The transformation of the 1940s is not dissimilar from the transformation we need to catalyze today to overcome downtown’s stagnation and to create a value proposition for investment. Like the leaders before us, it’s our job to work together to make downtown attractive to the investment and people it needs to thrive.

We need to create a downtown that is relevant every day, to everyone in our region — not just for big events. To do this, we need to right-size commercial assets and ensure the daytime amenities to support them. We need to create a true neighborhood – a place people fall in love with and want to be a part of and that supports their lifestyle. We must continue to nurture our thriving arts and cultural communities, ensuring a diverse and vibrant mix of experiences.

Over the past several months, this is exactly what a committed group of downtown partners including business, academia, labor, non-profits, philanthropy, and elected officials have been coming together to do. These partners have identified near-term stabilization efforts; established goals for the future of downtown; and are working to find sustainable funding solutions and strategies to support this work. 

While many downtowns across the U.S. teeter on collapse, we have recognized the assets and attributes on which we can capitalize our efforts. Our iconic rivers frame the neighborhood, providing significant natural beauty. The triangle itself is manageable by foot, and its scale — less than one square mile — makes reinvention more achievable. Its adjacent neighborhoods are thriving and connections to these civic anchors are critical to extending the downtown experience.

Engaging expertise from inside and outside the region, the collective has envisioned a series of frameworks to connect and expand downtown and identified catalytic projects to reshape downtown by creating vibrant, inclusive year-round areas that create the value proposition we now lack.

The task at hand is significant. Reinventing downtown is a complicated process that will require time, resources, and tough decisions to accomplish. This is not the kind of undertaking that happens overnight. Although short-term wins can be achieved, full revitalization will take years, and we need to stay focused on the outcome and resolute in our commitment to see it through. Only through this kind of hard work can we achieve the vibrancy that we all want for our core and, more broadly, for our region.

Next month, at our Regional Investors Council meeting, we will unveil more details on the vision, including three proposed catalytic projects for the public realm. Moving forward, as these projects enter more robust design phases, input from all regional stakeholders, as well as the broader community, to forge these projects forward will be vital to their success.

As we dive into this work, I thank all of our partners, most especially Allegheny County Executive Sara Innamorato and Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey for their unwavering partnership.  While the road is long, and the work substantial, I am certain that we are up to the task.