Among Pennsylvania’s many “firsts” is Pittsburgh’s Mellon Square – the first modern garden plaza built over a parking garage and a forerunner of green roofs. The Benter Foundation provided a grant in 2009 to increase public awareness and education of the importance of this landscape and the need for restoration.
Mellon Square was originally designed by the distinguished landscape architecture firm Simonds & Simonds and architects Mitchell & Ritchey, has brought liveliness and beauty to downtown Pittsburgh for 50 years. The Square is located within the Pittsburgh Central Downtown Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, and is eligible for individual listing as a resource of national importance.
Mellon Square remains an active space but shows serious signs of deterioration. In 2009, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy completed a restoration and management plan for the Square. With the support from the Benter Foundation, the Parks Conservancy has launched an informative Audio Tour in the Square and a timeline on their website located at pittsburghparks.org. The Foundation is also supporting a book about the historic importance of Mellon Square, which is currently in development.
Mellon Square’s revitalization will be carried out in several phases. With a goal to restore the design intent of landscape architect John O. Simonds and architect Dahlen K. Ritchey in their 1955 original masterwork, the restoration plan incorporates modern construction techniques to solve problems that the Square faced for decades. It will also create a new terrace on the current roof overlooking Smithfield Street, based on early design sketches by Simonds and Ritchey. Phase 1 of the Parks Conservancy’s restoration project will focus improvements in the area from the top of the two staircases down to Smithfield Street, including the fountain cascade. Fundraising and construction will continue into 2012.
The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to improve quality of life for the people of Pittsburgh by restoring the park system to excellence in partnership with the City. Formed in 1996, the Conservancy has worked with the City to complete eleven capital projects and raise nearly $50 million, with the goal of balancing respect for historic design with the needs of modern users. More than 8,000 individuals, corporations, foundations, and government agencies champion this work via financial support and over 3,500 volunteer hours annually. The Conservancy completes all projects with the supervision and support of the Board of Directors.