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South Side park's economic impact touted

| Tuesday, April 24, 2012, 12:36 p.m.
Tribune-Review
The construction area for the new Riverfront Park at South Side Works on Tuesday, April 24, 2012. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review

A $13 million park dedicated to Pittsburgh's industrial past will open next week almost a year behind schedule.

South Shore Riverfront Park at SouthSide Works will open on May 2, said Gigi Saladna, spokeswoman for the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority. The 3.2-acre park along the Monongahela River was to open on Memorial Day last year, but heavy spring rains, project changes and a previously undiscovered underground tunnel delayed construction, Saladna said. The changes increased project costs by about $336,000, she said.

"This park completes the connection of the LTV (Steel) site to the Mon River," said Joanna Doven, spokeswoman for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. "The economic potential of the SouthSide Works will be realized with this park. It will give thousands of boaters on our rivers access to the SouthSide Works. There really isn't anywhere else in the city that provides that kind of access to a major retail area."

Funded with at least $10.5 million in local, state and federal money plus donations from charitable foundations, the park is on the former site of J&L Steel, which became LTV Steel. The park will recognize the history of steelmaking at the plant -- which was demolished in the early 1990s -- with exhibits that include a 160,000-pound ladle, large ingots and the restoration of an old pumphouse that sent water from the Monongahela to the mill.

It includes a 2,000-seat amphitheater and hiking and bicycle trails that run from the Birmingham Bridge to the Hot Metal Bridge and provide key links for the Three Rivers Park and Three Rivers Heritage trail systems, said Stephan Bontrager, communications director for Riverlife. Plans call for a public marina.

"When the park officially opens to the public, not only is it going to create another link in our trail system, but it's also creating a very significant space for relaxation and recreation," Bontrager said.

Saladna said project changes included a 400-foot trail extension on the west end of the park and design revisions for the former pumphouse. She said contractors had to remove a pipe tunnel and fix concrete surfaces where water was pooling.

The Fish and Wildlife Service granted Pittsburgh about $1.35 million for construction of public docks at the park. This year, the URA announced that David Maxwell, owner of the Fox Chapel Yacht Club and Max Construction of Saltsburg, would operate the SouthSide Works marina, which is adjacent to the park.

Mabon Lichtenfels, Maxwell's project manager, said the marina would be built in phases and could include as many as 300 slips, depending on demand, and a store for boat supplies.

"We'd like to have some of the slips ready for use next summer, but it's all going to determine on how far along we get on the permitting process," he said.

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