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Boston example touted as form of urban utopia

By Elizabeth Barczak


As the two-year tug-of-war over the future of Fifth and Forbes continues, champions of change are pointing north to Boston as an example of urban utopia.

Boston is being touted as a model for Pittsburgh to follow. Although Beantown’s population is nearly twice that of the Steel City, some local business leaders say Pittsburgh officials can learn from Boston’s recent revitalization.

Boston’s Main Streets program has been a topic of conversation at recent Plan C task force meetings.

The 15-member task force is charged with coming up with a recommendation to replace the mayor’s defeated Market Place plan.

“We need to look at Boston. There are lessons to be learned there that can be brought back to Pittsburgh,” said director of operations at the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.

In the past six years, Boston’s Main Streets program has restored or renovated 120 storefronts. The program helped to create more than 300 new businesses and almost 2,500 jobs.

Boston officials have defined 19 local business districts.

“We know what works,” McCollom said. “We need a sense of district, destination, cleanliness and marketing. … We need a sense of place realized by the retention of historic buildings.”

McCollom said she would welcome large retailers Downtown if they agreed to move into existing buildings.

The concept is one that could be an easier sell to local business owners who balked at Mayor Tom Murphy’s $522 million plan to raze 62 buildings. The plan would have displaced 125 businesses to make way for national retailers.

Murphy’s proposal died in November after upscale retailer Nordstrom Inc. pulled out as the anchor of the project.

The Plan C task force is expected to make its recommendation to Murphy by the end of the month.

This article appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. © Tribune Review

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