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Design

Renewing Renewal in Pittsburgh

Neither catastrophic nor beloved, the post-war regeneration of Allegheny Center has quietly gone stale in recent years. Today, it’s getting a much needed facelift.
Allegheny Center as seen in 1974.
Allegheny Center as seen in 1974.Lou Kalkin/Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

American urban renewal has produced no lack of flawed and catastrophic projects, while others are regarded as excellent and worthy of preservation themselves. But Pittsburgh’s Allegheny Center is much harder to characterize.

It would be nice to hail a scheme of unsung genius at work here, but there wasn’t one. There are a few reasonably meritorious buildings but most are just midcentury acceptable, arranged in actively inharmonious ways. Yet it isn’t an unambiguous flop—the complex, considerably decayed as recently as three years ago, has experienced a resurgence with numerous renovated office and residential structures. It features a typical dead mall turned successful office park, a forbidding ring road, a deadening pedestrian main artery, and far too many parking lots. But there are proposals afoot to change all of this.