South Shore Riverfront Park gets big boost [1]

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl along with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and the Soffer Organization last week announced the receipt of a $1.35 million grant from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for the construction of recreational docks at the planned South Shore Riverfront Park at SouthSide Works.

Citizens can now access the SouthSide Works by foot or bike across the newly renovated Hot Metal Pedestrian Bridge, and will soon be able to access the mixed-use development by boat.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made the award through its Boating Infrastructure Grant program. The grant is the largest of its kind to be received in Pennsylvania, becoming a new source of funding for the city and the region.

"We are pleased to have received support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission," Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said. "With boat access to one of Pittsburgh�s most unique riverfront developments, the SouthSide Works will become even more of a recreational destination."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service�s Boating Infrastructure Grant program helps fund design and construction of docks, boat slips and other facilities to support recreational boating.

"The Boating Infrastructure Grant program expands opportunities for recreational boating while strengthening a community�s ties to the water," Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne said. "Although it is funded by boaters, this program benefits the entire community by helping local economies, helping people connect with nature and improving public safety."

The award will allow for the design and construction of a permanent tie-up facility to accommodate 17 transient recreational vessels and enable boaters to access the $400 million SouthSide Works development and the South Side neighborhood along the Monongahela River. The project will also provide community access to the river and other outdoor activities. Without the tie-up facility, the park would have no river access.

The tie-up facility is part of the larger South Shore Riverfront Park development, with an estimated price tag of $10.5 million. Phase one design is complete and construction will begin this summer. The entire project is expected to take three to four years for completion.

The park will include interpretive signage and historic trail markers, continuing the Three Rivers Heritage Trail system and Great Allegheny Passage. The signage has been developed and funded in part by Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area. Friends of the Riverfront will maintain the signage.

"Construction of the tie-up facility will complete a true multi-modal hub," Rob Stephany, URA acting executive director said. "This unique development will now be accessible by boat, bus, bike, car, and foot."

At completion, the park will connect to the Hot Metal Pedestrian Bridge and bike trail, and will allow for the future expansion of waterfront activities.

The South Shore Riverfront Park differs from other Pittsburgh waterfront parks with an amphitheatre, trail access, and proximity to the SouthSide Works retail complex. The park development is an example of a successful public � private partnership that has enabled dramatic transformation.

Development partners include: the URA, the Soffer Organization, South Side Local Development Company, Riverlife Task Force, and City of Pittsburgh Department of Planning. The Soffer Organization serves as the project and construction manager for the first phase of this public park. The URA will manage subsequent phases.

Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato and Councilman Bruce Kraus have also lent their support to the project.

"We are extremely grateful for the Fish and Wildlife Service who, in their understanding of the Soffer Organization�s vision, have generously aided the effort to fulfill what has been a dream for most of the community. This park has been created for the enjoyment of the entire Pittsburgh community and will now showcase our city�s most valuable asset," Damian Soffer, president and CEO, Soffer Organization said.

Commitments for funding have been made by the Heinz Endowments, R.K. Mellon Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), NiSource, Soffer Organization, PennDOT, U.S. Congressman Mike Doyle, U.S. Senators Bob Casey and Arlen Spector, PA State Senator Jay Costa and State Representative Jake Wheatley. The project still has a $2.5 million gap that will need to be raised for completion.

Today on the completed 34-acre SouthSide Works site developed by Soffer Organization, more than 2,000 jobs have been created, and many retailers new to the Pittsburgh market have been attracted, as well as several technology companies, and the America Eagle Outfitters World Headquarters. At full build-out, SouthSide Works will provide 2,500 jobs and more than 400 housing units.