On Wednesday, there was a groundbreaking ceremony for a new development adjacent to Station Square. It was for a 5-story development called Glasshouse that will have 319 apartments overlooking the Monongahela River with retail space on the ground floor, scheduled to open in 2019.
It will be in the same location that housed various nightclubs and restaurants over the years, like Woodson’s Grille (run by ex-Steeler Rod Woodson), Hooters, and the nightclub Matrix. The Hooters holds a special place in my memories, as we went there the night of my high school graduation in 1994 via a limo my friends and I rented. It was there that night that we simultaneously watched the Houston Rockets play the New York Knicks in the NBA Finals, while O.J. Simpson went on his freeway chase with the L.A. police.
What some may not realize is that Glasshouse will be on the site of one of Pittsburgh’s many glass factories that used to exist in the region. Pittsburgh was the epicenter for steel production, as evidenced by the name of our football team and the moniker The Steel City, but in the 1920’s, Pittsburgh also produced 80% of all the glass made in the United States.
Pittsburgh-made glass was found on the tables of five U.S. Presidents, the windows of the Statue of Liberty, and tiles within the Lincoln and Holland Tunnel in New York City, as per this article from WESA. The most enduring and well-known company was Pittsburgh Plate Glass, which later streamlined its name to PPG and now resides in the most visually-striking building in downtown Pittsburgh. But there were hundreds of other factories up and down the rivers.
Glasshouse should be a very desirous residential location. Not only is it within walking distance of downtown Pittsburgh via the Smithfield Street bridge, but it will be located directly across the street from the Station Square T stop, in the event that residents will work in either the South Hills or on the North Shore. Residents of Glasshouse could also use the T/Subway to reach the North Shore for Pirates and Steelers games or get moderately closer to Pens games on wintry Pittsburgh nights, instead of walking. The inclines are also present for access to Mount Washington. Hiking and biking trails are right outside the front door of Glasshouse. Theoretically, residents do not even need a car.
Hopefully Glasshouse will spur a re-thinking of the moribund Station Square complex. If you go on a warm summer day, there is plenty of activity around Station Square, as the Ducky Tours and Segway tours are buzzing. There are chain restaurants that attract visitors or locals who are entertaining out-of-town visitors with a beautiful view of the city. But the inside of Station Square is a hollowed-out husk of shops with no appeal and large swathes of unused or underutilized space. With 320 potential young professionals living right next door, you would think that the owner of Station Square, Forest City Enterprises, would attempt to revitalize the Station Square space to something more forward thinking.
The architecture firm for Glasshouse, Hord Coplan Macht (headquartered in downtown Baltimore, with offices in Alexandria and Denver) has conceptually designed a space that will be an aesthetically-pleasing addition to the downtown mix. This development is not just a housing space for 320 people. Rather, it is a connection of people to the riverfront and the transportation network that services Pittsburgh. Without specifically calling it a transit-oriented development, that is in essence what Glasshouse will be.