Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Public Merits a Cozy Spot among Private Properties

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Public Merits a Cozy Spot among Private Properties

Article excerpt

A cherished leafy oasis in the Golden Triangle, Mellon Green, has been fenced off all summer. It's on the disabled list after damage from the Occupy Pittsburgh protests last winter.

Jerry Kennedy, owner-operator of Red Hot Pittsburgh, the Grant Street hot dog stand at the curb, said he'd like to send the bill for the park's restoration to whatever lawyer defended the Occupy protesters.

It's hard to sell hot dogs when people don't have a place to sit down, and right now Mellon Green ain't. Green, I mean. Flower beds bloom at its edges, but they're a tease, bordering the sloped, grassless expanse within cyclone fencing. Restoration work is supposed to begin later this month, but this will be a lost summer for one of the city's finest outdoor rooms.

If great cities are a collection of small jewels, and enjoyable days are a collection of small moments, we need to make sure we don't lose places that ease the stress of workaday life. The Occupy protesters damaged the park, and BNY Mellon says it will spend close to $500,000 on the restoration.

That seems awfully high for grass seed, but engineers were called in to repair the irrigation system and architects spawned a new, city-approved design that includes gates and chains to take the "occupy" out of any future protests.

Don Carter, director of the Remaking Cities Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, spends a lot of his time worrying about places like Mellon Green. He's been seeing partial take-backs in privately owned public spaces, known in his architectural trade as "POPS." He pointed me to a national group that is trying to catalog and nurture these places.

I can't brown-bag in Boston or nosh in New York, so I'm concerned only about Pittsburgh POPS. We have some great ones, such as PPG Plaza and its seasonal fountain/skating rink centerpiece that lures so many laughing young faces. The flip side of that addition a decade ago was a more recent fencing in Gateway Plaza by a now- defunct restaurant, an amputation that blocks a Liberty Avenue entrance and interrupts traditional pedestrian flow. …

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