The Beat Report

On the Waterfront: Pittsburgh's new driver? Pittsburgh's move to rejuvenate the city with high-tech may be helped along by The Waterfront, a 2.4 million sq. ft., $300 million mixed-use project in the city's suburbs. The project is being built on the former U.S. Steel (USX Corp.) Homestead site.

Being a native Pittsburgher, I hope you will indulge me as I share some personal reflections regarding the "Homestead works," as we called this site, and The Waterfront.

As a little girl (and that was a long time ago), I remember driving past this steel mill late at night and watching the smoke and flames billowing out of the stacks. Knowing the mill was in full production gave me and the people of Pittsburgh a feeling of satisfaction and safety. I think it is fitting that the mill's smoke stacks have been preserved as part of The Waterfront project's design.

The first time I saw the empty lot where the Homestead works used to stand, a great sadness came over me. Pittsburghers looked to this mill to gauge how well the city was doing, and in turn, how well its citizens were doing. If the mill was running at full capacity and fully staffed, then the city and its people were doing well. Since the closing of this mill, and many other steel mills in the Pittsburgh area, things have not been the same.

That said, it is a new era for Pittsburgh. In recent years, political and business leaders have tried to bring more high-tech companies into the area. High-tech could fill the void the steel mills' exodus left and provide jobs and prosperity for the city - a switch from blue-collar industry that for so long fueled the city to a white-collar environment bringing new life.

And The Waterfront development could be part of that new life. Located near downtown and encouraging business and high-tech development, The Waterfront could be a catalyst that entices new companies into the metro-Pittsburgh area and brings back companies that left a diminished city.

Columbus, Ohio-based developer Continental Real Estate Cos. could attract businesses with the planned high-tech area but also with entertainment, dining and lifestyle tenants.

There is also room on the site for a hotel and convention center. The complex's first phase, including retail and entertainment components, is scheduled to open this fall while complete buildout is expected to take six years. Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Carian Wills & Associates is the marketing agent and The Foy Bradford Co., Chicago, is the leasing agent.

This city should be considered more than just part of the "Rustbelt." I hope new businesses, through The Waterfront development, will see the city's potential and be encouraged to settle there. It would be good to see those smoke stacks, again, a sign that Pittsburgh is doing well.

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