City in Transition
9:22 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

Pittsburgh Lands Highly Regarded Candidate for Planning Department

The City of Pittsburgh has landed a highly regarded candidate to head the Department of City Planning.

Ron Gastil formerly served as planning director for Seattle and director of the Manhattan office for the New York City Department of City Planning. He said he is excited about the new administration.

“One that has a combination of real commitment to neighborhoods, and a big picture vision,” Gastil said. “It is also a city that is excited and believes that you can plan your built environment and plan your communities, and address questions of sustainability and equity.”

Gastil has experience with planning and design for arts districts, waterfront redevelopment and public spaces. A release from the mayor’s office says he is the founding director of Van Alen Institute, a program that includes architectural competitions, exhibitions, and publications.

He is also a former design and architecture professor at the University of California at Berkeley and Penn State University. He holds a Master’s Degree in Architecture from Princeton University and a Bachelor’s in Literature from Yale University.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said he especially appreciates one of the ways Gastil views planning in an urban environment.

“It is a bottom up approach of building out community plans neighborhood by neighborhood,” he said.

Peduto said they sweetened the deal by partnering with Carnegie Mellon University which will give Gastil a teaching position. Peduto said Gastil is taking a significant pay cut by coming to Pittsburgh.

“But he sees the same thing we see," Peduto said. "That this city is on the verge of something great, and if we can put together the plan s in order to make sure the growth happens in a positive way. Not just growth for growth’s sake, but growth in a positive way, this city can become a model worldwide."

Gastil said the way the city has reinvented itself through its education, technology and health care sectors, as well as its landscape make it appealing.

“So you combine all those things, plus the physical place of the hills and the rivers and the small but really intense urban environment, I think makes this an exciting place to work,” he said.

Gastil still needs to be confirmed by City Council and the Planning Commission. His starting salary would be $101,000. He was hired through the Talent City job site set up by foundations for positions in the city administration.