Reviving the Hill, One of the Oldest Residential Neighborhoods in the Steel City

by Udday Shankur Datta, Student ASLA

Aerial perspective. The project explores the opportunities to connect the Hill District with downtown Pittsburgh to restore the once vibrant neighborhood that was uprooted and forced to move due to urban redevelopment projects. / image: Udday Shankur Datta

This post is based on a class project for the fall 2019 course “Land Development Principles” at West Virginia University; it received the third place prize (course project category: landscape architecture) at the 11th Yuanye Award International Competition. The story of Pittsburgh’s Hill District and the struggles of the people living there have mostly remained untold. Through my design, I want to give them a voice and raise awareness about the existing problems of this historic African-American neighborhood.

Click here to view project graphics at a larger scale.

The Hill District is one of Pittsburgh’s oldest residential neighborhoods. It is a significant African-American neighborhood in the country, famous for its contributions to music (jazz in particular), literature, and sports. During the late 1950s, the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh declared the historic Lower Hill blighted and cleared 95 acres of the Hill District neighborhood as part of Pittsburgh’s urban renewal efforts. An entire neighborhood of the lower Hill District was uprooted and forced to move. The remaining Hill District is still cut off from the downtown by enormous expanses of parking lots and an old highway.

The primary goal of this project is to connect the Hill District to the surrounding areas. To align with the target of making Pittsburgh a biophilic city, an urban food forest and community parks are proposed to create a green network. The project addresses the existing problems faced by the people living in the Hill District and proposes an integrated planning and design strategy that includes housing proposals, improved transportation networks, and street design to revive this once-thriving neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

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