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Spring groundbreaking eyed for riverfront park in Aspinwall

| Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012

Construction could begin this spring on $100,000 in improvements to an Aspinwall marina that a nonprofit group wants to convert into a public riverfront park.

Aspinwall Riverfront Park Inc. has asked for proposals from landscape architects and designers for transforming the 8-acre Aspinwall Marina along the Allegheny River. A second nonprofit group, Friends of the Riverfront, raised $2.3 million and purchased the property in October.

"Aspinwall Riverfront Park property is a truly rare piece of urban property that has the potential to be a community treasure and a key link in Pittsburgh's spectacular trail system," said Susan Crookston, a principal of Allegheny Development Partners, a consultant to the project.

Crookston led efforts to raise money and buy the marina property upon learning in 2010 that UPMC St. Margaret hospital was interested in buying the land and using it for parking. Former marina owner David Kushon had put the property up for sale for $2.5 million.

Aspinwall Riverfront Park officials have said they want to hire a design team that will develop a master plan for the space in coordination with the public and community groups. Design teams have until Jan. 18 to answer the group's request for proposals. A selection committee will review proposals and identify five finalists to interview. One design team from the group of finalists will be chosen to begin the project.

Officials expect a two-phase development project, with the first phase beginning in May and addressing "immediate needs," such as adding pathways and lighting and making the park more attractive and useful. The estimated budget for the first phase is $100,000.

A second phase could begin in December and, with a budget of $2 million, would include full implementation of the master plan, including renovating existing buildings and constructing new buildings, Aspinwall Riverfront Park officials said.

They want to keep the existing marina operation and add a restaurant, coffee shop and retail space while improving green space and adding trails around the property.

Funds for the improvements would be raised from the public and foundations, said Bob Oltmanns, a spokesman for Aspinwall Riverfront Park.

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