I’d meet Dad in Downtown Pittsburgh for lunch and he’d be standing there under the portico formed by the ground floor girders of the U.S. Steel Tower, framed by the beautiful rusty patina of that CorTen Steel. He’d be grinning and dapper in his suit, the U.S Steel civil engineer meeting one of his many kids, and he’d throw an arm around my shoulder for a bit as we walked across Grant Street and down the brick alley called Cherry Way, to Weiner World (“Home of the Cheese Dog”) or somewhere nicer. Didn’t matter.
I bring it up because High Point Pittsburgh, a visitor’s center/entertainment complex envisioned for the rooftop of the U.S. Steel Tower, is near to my heart, I confess. But if constructed, HPP would allow public access to the top of the iconic 64-story Tower, offering sweeping views of the region to the Laurel Ridge and beyond, while bringing new honor and revenues to a landmark building that represents a large and imposing chunk of Pittsburgh history. HPP’s rooftop observation deck alone could generate millions annually for the building.
Like many Pittsburghers I have personal connections to the Tower (known as the U.S Steel Building back when), but I also think HPP makes sense for the unused, 1+ acre roof of the building. It was built exceptionally sturdy to be a helipad for vertical takeoff jets, and organizers of the proposed $70 million project want to see a grand use of that structural integrity by adding two glass-enclosed floors and a rooftop observation deck.
As planned, HPP would house a large presentation space, a restaurant, café, bar, art gallery/gift shop, two theaters and three “Viewseums,” and a rooftop observation deck. Green and sustainable, the destination point could cost $70 million to create, but supporters say it will pay for itself and add value to a famous landmark.
Developed by Carnegie Mellon University ‘s Studio for Creative Inquiry, under the direction of Studio Fellow and former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette travel editor David Bear, with help from CMU students, faculty and others, the concept is moving forward with creation of Friends of High Point Pittsburgh, a nonprofit being formed for the effort.
The tallest building between New York and Chicago when it was built, U.S. Steel Tower remains one of the best addresses for Class A office space Downtown. HPP supporters must first convince the building’s owners of the public-private concept, though. But Bear says it’s a matter of changing some peoples’ minds; sort of the way visitors' minds will be changed as they catch their breath and take in the 360-degree view from the rooftop of the Tower.
The Tower’s designer, world-famous engineer Leslie Robertson, says he thinks creating a public top for the building will be a popular addition. After reviewing the feasibility study and other High Point Pittsburgh materials, Robertson says that while further evaluations of the concept are needed, it seems structurally possible and economically practical. “It should generate significant attention from visitors and citizens alike,” he says.
For more on High Point Pittsburgh, visit www.highpointpittsburgh.org.