PITTSBURGH - The wrecking ball and a fleet of
bulldozers have battered and scraped away the essence of the Steel
City's past to sow the seeds of what some feel is its future.
A new high-technology park specializing in computer software,
robotics and artificial intelligence will be built on a 50-acre site
that had housed heavy industry since before the Civil War.
``Pittsburgh is known throughout the world as the epitome of the
industrial city, the epoch that has passed. We are in the midst of
a fundamental transformation,'' said Tim Parks, executive director
of the Pittsburgh High-Technology Council.
The mention of Pittsburgh, once the steel capital of the world,
used to evoke images of smoke-filled skies what he would do as an
architect to improve the city's grimy appearance, said: ``Abandon
Then the steel industry collapsed, undermined by slack demand
caused by overcapacity and foreign imports.
Instead of economic death, Pittsburgh has begun to experience a
rebirth as a center of research and technology. Years of urban
renewal efforts paid off in 1985, when Rand McNally's ``Places Rated
Almanac'' rated Pittsburgh America's ``most livable city.''
The local growth in high technology is mirrored in the growth of
the High-Technology Council, a trade group of modern companies, from
38 to 447 members in less than three years.
About 500 to 800 companies in the Pittsburgh area are making
computer software or using high-tech in their operations. At least
40,000 people have jobs in the high-tech industry, according to the
By contrast, steel jobs in the four-county Pittsburgh area have
plummeted 247 percent from 71,300 to 28,900 in the past decade,
according to the state Bureau of Employment Security.
Physically, the most dramatic metamorphosis has taken place on
Second Avenue along the Monongahela River, where the high-tech
center is rising in place of the former Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp.
The plant, which began with two blast furnaces and a battery of
beehive coke ovens in 1859, was the only mill inside the city that
made coke, iron and steel.
A peak workforce of 2,800 tended the giant ovens and operated
its strip mill, making flat rolled sheets, coils and steel plate.
But the plant was shuttered in 1981, and its last two blast furnaces
were blown up for scrap two years later.
The city's Urban Redevelopment Authority, which paid $3.5
million for the site in 1983, has been clearing it for two years.
On Oct. 10, groundbreaking was held for a new roadway and water and
``This is the most important economic development project the
city has undertaken in the last 40 years. We must work together to
create a new identity for our city,'' said Mayor Dick Caliguiri.
The high-tech park will take about seven years to develop,
officials said. It will have a campus-like look with about 12
buildings and create an estimated 1,600 new jobs.
One of the site's biggest boosters is Richard Cyert, president
of Carnegie-Mellon University, a national leader in robotics,
software development and artificial intelligence. CMU experts
define artificial intelligence as the ability of a computer to
behave autonomously, to solve problems that it's not specifically
programmed to solve.
``We want to make that a beautiful place that becomes a
statement of the new Pittsburgh. …