A proposal to rename the four streets that make up Penn Circle was introduced in City Council Monday.
Justin Miller, a senior planner with the Pittsburgh City Planning Department, says the change has been a long time coming.
“Two legs of Penn Circle have already been converted to two-way traffic," he said. "It doesn’t function as a circle anymore. In the near future, we’ve got a project to convert the other two parts of Penn Circle, Penn Circle North and West, also to two-way traffic.”
Miller said new development in East Liberty has led to a stack of applications for new addresses on the Penn Circle streets.
“If this is going to happen, why not now?” Miller said. “It seemed like the right time to do it with all the new development that’s happening. Rather than issue a whole bunch of new addresses for Penn Circle … why not just make a fresh start and bring the historic street names back?”
Miller said the renaming may also help the community shake off the tainted legacy of the project that created the Penn Circle streets: the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s failed attempt to create an outdoor pedestrian mall in the 1960s. He did acknowledge, however, that the renaming is just one small part of East Liberty’s revitalization.
“The neighborhood and all the organizations that have been working there, and the businesses that are working to improve the place, that’s really what’s going to make the difference,” Miller said. “This is just kind of a small step, but we want to be able to put the neighborhood in the best light we can, and the Penn Circle name is not doing it any favors.”
Miller said difficulty navigating the area and the dark cloud of the Penn Circle name are not the only problems caused by having five streets with the root name of Penn.
“Whenever you have two street names that are the same, but kind of have overlapping address ranges and things like that, it creates a huge problem for public safety,” he said.
When a person calls 911 from one of the Penn Circle streets, it can be difficult for emergency personnel to figure out where exactly the person is located.
Penn Circle South and East will be renamed to Centre Avenue, Penn Circle West will become North and South Euclid Street, while Penn Circle North will become Station Street.
Miller said he expects the changes to be in place early in 2014.