This week, head to Liberty Avenue to talk about the future of Liberty Avenue

Envision Downtown is hosting a pop-up this week between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Courtesy Envision Downtown
Sarah Anne Hughes

This week, you can talk about the future of Liberty Avenue on Liberty Avenue.

Envision Downtown, a joint venture of the mayor’s office and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, is hosting a pop-up at 813 Liberty Ave. to discuss what changes people want to see on the corridor. Liberty Lab will pop up today through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The pop-up is part of the Life on Liberty plan, which “targets pedestrian, economic development and transit improvements,” per a press release. Sean Luther, executive director of Envision Downtown, said Liberty Lab is being held in part to “really test the public’s interest in those types of projects.”

It proposes to do the following in the 900 block, which Luther said Envision Downtown did “intensive additional research” on as it “functions very differently” than the rest of the street — kind of like a “cool little main street.”

  • Currently, there’s 10 feet of sidewalk space in the 900 block of Liberty. The plan proposes to extend that to 20 or more feet, which Envision Downtown says would improve the experience for pedestrians and open up opportunities for sidewalk cafes. That could be accomplished through something similar to the Smithfield Street bus stop project, which extended the concrete curb.
  • The plan proposes to add separated transit rider zones. Luther said one big reason Envision Downtown is focusing on Liberty Avenue is because most people are there waiting for a bus. (There’s an estimated 15,000 Port Authority riders on the street every day). “We know that there’s a mismatch in the amount of space that’s available for transit riders and pedestrians given the tight sidewalk widths,” he said. The plan would attempt to answer the question, what is the best bus stop for Liberty Avenue?
  • A pedestrian must move 56 feet to cross Liberty Avenue at the 900 block intersections. The proposal would shorten that to 35 feet, possibly though paint and bollard extensions. Luther said Envision Downtown is really interested in looking at Liberty Avenue’s intersections and “dramatically reducing” the distance to cross. He pointed to last weekend’s “major tragedy” at Liberty and Sixth Street, when a cab driver hit two pedestrians, killing one.
  • Yes, the proposal includes parking changes. Currently, there are 10 paid spaces and one loading space between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. in the 900 block; there are 17 unpaid spaces on weeknights and weekends. The proposal would eliminate paid spaces during the day and replace them with 8 loading spaces. The number of unpaid spaces on weeknights and weekends would be reduced to 14. Luther said Envision Downtown is still engaging property owners, some of whom are interested in keeping daytime parking. But, he said, you “can’t really prioritize transit if you keep daytime parking as the status quo.” Envision Downtown has been “cognizant to figure out how we can add that evening and weekend parking back in,” Luther said. “That’s a very deliberate design solution that we’re looking at.”

None of those proposals are set in stone. Luther stressed that Envision Downtown is “continuing to workshop” ideas with stakeholders on the avenue and identify the community’s priorities in the project’s current design and development phase.

Liberty Lab allows anyone who uses the avenue to be a part of that process. All of the exhibits at the lab are designed to be interactive, he said, with people able to place stickers on problem and priority areas. For the transit exhibit, people who drop by can prioritize the kind of “amenities that would be advantageous” like real-time signage at bus stops.

Like other Envision Downtown projects, including the graphic crosswalks at 11th and Penn, the changes would be part of pilot programs or demonstrations. For the sidewalk proposal, Luther said Envision Downtown is “trying to find a balance between a demonstration that is substantial enough that people start to identity really big, robust sidewalks on Liberty Avenue, but also temporary enough that, for some reason if the project doesn’t work, we can take it back out or somewhere in between.”

At the end of this week, Luther said the team will take what it learned and address the design team. Envision Downtown is working with the mayor’s office to hold an additional public meeting in April. Luther said they hope to come back in May with a final design concept and implementation schedule for the rest of the year.

Can’t make it in person? You can fill out a survey online.