Essential Pittsburgh
4:16 pm
Wed May 28, 2014

60-Year-Old Mellon Square Returns As A Downtown Refuge

Credit Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

When it opened in 1955, Mellon Square was the first garden plaza to be built on top of a parking garage, and the public flocked in to use it.

But despite efforts to renew the space over the decades, it started to fall into disrepair. Three years ago an effort to fully overhaul the one square block park was launched, and the ribbon will be cut once again Thursday morning.

"When we began the restoration here, literally hundreds of rats were running around the park,” said Phil Gruszka, parks manager of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.

Along with sprucing up the surfaces and refurbishing the water falls on the Smithfield Street side of the park, crews have also replaced the large raised planter that ran along one side of the park. Instead, architects returned to the original drawings, which called for a terrace.  

“We saw that early concept and brought that forward,” Gruszka said. “Today we have that terrace open to the public to give people a perspective of the cascade fountain they never had before.”

The $10 million project also added green roofs to the awnings protecting the shops below and a new decorative railing that allows people to look up and down Smithfield. But it is the water feature that Gruszka thinks makes the park a refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city.

"That (city) noise in the background goes away you are really out in a forest experience here where the hubbub of the city environment disappears," Gruszka said.

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy tried to use local materials and suppliers whenever possible, and Gruszka said with a few exceptions they have been successful.

The public re-dedication begins at noon Thursday.