BLOG – A Case Study: Washington Landing
With the first residents moving into the freshly completed houses of a new neighborhood in 1995, the 42-acre island community has since been the thriving home to 190,000 square feet of Class A office space, research and development, a full service marina and 88 units of townhomes. Residents enjoy rowing, kayaking, a health club, public tennis courts, and trails for walking, running or bicycling. The riverfront development features tasteful streetscaping and well-defined access points to the river encouraging pedestrian traffic.
Considering the neighborhood’s charm, it may be surprising that this premier mixed-use development was once a contaminated brownfield.
In 1903, the Pennsylvania Railroad bought a portion of the island in Pittsburgh, called Washington Landing, to be used as a stop-over for its route from Chicago to New York. By law, livestock was required to have rest, food, and water after every 36 hours of travel. The island was used as a midden to bury garbage, animal parts and remnants. There were no regulations on disposal of animals or any other products at that time, so many companies disposed all types of waste by burying it or simply dumping the waste into the rivers, emanating a foul smell which drifted for miles. The island was also used for meatpacking until it’s closing in 1966.
Similar to the Baylands site, contaminants from its historical use as a railyard include petroleum, heavy metals, organic waste and total petroleum hydrocarbos (TPHs). The scrap yard did not have to follow any regulations at that time to monitor or manage the disposal of hazardous chemicals or waste disposal. Examples of types of soil contamination could possibly come from chemical tank leakage, metals and products such as a transformers that leaked PCBs and other chemicals into the ground while scrapping or burying the waste.
After the Pittsburgh City Council adopted the brownfield redevelopment plan, the city and developer leveraged different financing mechanisms, including various grants and bond funds, to overhaul the contaminated soil, install new infrastructure and utilities, and constructed the project throughout the late 80s and 90s.
When a traffic study in May 1987 demonstrated that the road system could not support the traffic associated with commercial buildings, the developers revised their focus on residential housing.
Washington’s Landing was named a Phoenix Award finalist in 1997. The Phoenix Award is a national honor for outstanding innovation and achievement in brownfield development. This project was completed in the early days of brownfield redevelopment, and UPC looks forward to taking advantage of the innovations and resources developed since then.
Learn more about the project here.
To learn more about other case studies, click here to review the RFI packet provided to Planning Commission earlier this year.