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Allegheny

Tropical lagoon, ice rink proposed for North Shore development

Patrick Varine
| Friday, Sept. 14, 2018, 11:15 a.m.
Above, renderings of the proposed two-acre lagoon that is planned for the Esplanade development on Pittsburgh’s North Shore.
Above, renderings of the proposed two-acre lagoon that is planned for the Esplanade development on Pittsburgh’s North Shore.
Above, renderings of the proposed two-acre lagoon that is planned for the Esplanade development on Pittsburgh’s North Shore.
Above, renderings of the proposed two-acre lagoon that is planned for the Esplanade development on Pittsburgh’s North Shore.

Brazil. Argentina. Mexico. Vegas… Pittsburgh?

The notion of building a tropical-style lagoon on the city’s North Shore might seem like fantasy, but a Dallas-based company is working with a Pittsburgh developer to make it a reality.

Millcraft Investments is partnering with the Crystal Lagoons company to include a two-acre man-made lagoon in Millcraft’s 15-acre Esplanade project, a mixed-use development proposed for the 800 block of Beaver Avenue, along the Ohio River.

It will be Crystal Lagoons’ first project in a cold-weather location as well as its first in an urban setting. The company typically builds the amenities in warm-weather areas.

“We are thrilled to open our very first lagoon in the world that will bring beach life in the summer months and transform into a skating rink during the winter months, all right in the heart of Pittsburgh,” said Christopher Souza, regional director of Crystal Lagoons.

In warm months, visitors will be able to swim, kayak or paddleboard. When the weather cools, the plan is to convert part of the lagoon into a skating rink, but the project will also include thermal baths as part of the recreational, health and wellness components of the development.

“It’s very important to us, as we plan the Esplanade project, to add features that are functional year-round, welcoming to all ages, to all of those within the community, to all of those visiting our city and to the future residents of Esplanade,” said Lucas Piatt, president and chief operating officer of Millcraft Investments.

Millcraft spokeswoman Chelsea Peluso said funding details for the project — which also includes plans for housing, offices, retail and a full-sized Ferris wheel — are still being worked out, and that it is possible public funding will play a role.

“We’re actively and vigorously working through these details with all appropriate parties,” Peluso said. “Once we announce the entirety of the project, these details will be fleshed out.”

The two-acre public-access lagoon will employ a patented process which uses 100 times fewer chemicals and 50 times less energy than a traditional swimming pool, Crystal Lagoons officials said.

Chris Souza, regional director for Crystal Lagoons, said he is excited for the project.

“When we met with Lucas and his team over the past two years, we knew it was a slam dunk,” Souza said. “We think it’s a great project to bring us up into the Northeast.”

As the design process continues, Souza said project officials are bringing in design consultants who specialize in ice rinks, “who can bring some innovative options to this frozen concept for the lagoon.”

Crystal Lagoons has 23 deals for man-made, crystalline lagoons in place across the nation, plus over 60 more that are in active negotiations. To date, the company has planned, started or completed 600 man-made lagoon projects.

“Partnering with Crystal Lagoons gives us the ability to activate our city’s riverfront while creating a unique environment that will engage the community and bring another first to the City of Pittsburgh,” Piatt said.

Peluso said a timeline for breaking ground and beginning construction will be set once the project is a bit farther through the development process.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, pvarine@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

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