Sasaki Completes Economic Impact Analysis of Pittsburgh Riverfront
Sasaki recently completed an economic impact analysis of Three Rivers Park, Pittsburgh's 13-mile interconnected downtown riverfront park system. Commissioned by Riverlife, the study specifically focused on the correlation between public realm investments and private development. The results show that upwards of $4.1 billion in development can be tied to the $130 million worth of the riverfront investments over the last 15 years—turning the area into what an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette describes as an "economic powerhouse." Furthermore, property values within the areas examined reported a handsome 60 percent increase over the last 15 years, compared to 32 percent for the rest of the city. Even more impressive was that property values in the South Side neighborhood increased 117 percent, attributed in large part to redevelopment of the former LTV South Side Works Steel site, which has transformed a brownfield area into new public access points to the riverfront.
This study puts forth a quantifiable argument for viewing outdoor public spaces as not just aesthetically-pleasing urban amenities, but as drivers of economic development. The planning team used a two-pronged metholodogy to ensure quality of data. First, they placed Pittsburgh's climate of development in a national context; collecting data from several cities of similar size, such as Boston, Cincinnati, and Atlanta. Second, the team analyzed the past 15 years of development in Pittsburgh—both public and private—and assessed the tax-related income for the city. The data shows a clear trend: waterfront parks often times "pay their own way" due to increased tax revenue from increased development (representing an impressive return on investment for cities), and properties near high quality parks and waterfronts have consistently higher property values.
Based on the findings from the study, Sasaki is now starting work with Riverlife and property owners along the Allegheny River on improvements in the Strip District neighborhood to explore new park and open space opportunities.