Downtown Pittsburgh Greening

Downtown Pittsburgh’s resurgence has been aided by the natural beauty of trees and colorful gardens, planters and hanging baskets, thanks to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and its downtown partners.

Since the 1970s, the Conservancy has worked to green and beautify downtown Pittsburgh to help revitalize our region’s urban core. Our work includes providing 1,000 hanging floral baskets and large street planters in key corridors, refurbishing the Gateway Center Islands, installing flower gardens, bioswale and rain garden in Point State Park, and planting more than 500 trees.

In addition to beautification, greening along the hard surfaces of the city provides shading from trees to help reduce cooling needs. Trees also reduce and stormwater runoff and improve air quality.

Downtown Hanging Flower Baskets

We grow, hang and care for more than 400 flower baskets that beautifying our city in the Spring and Summer.

Downtown Flower Planters

Over 600 large planters accent main pedestrian corridors downtown Pittsburgh all year long.

Downtown Trees

Since 2010, we've worked with TreeVitalize Pittsburgh and downtown stakeholders to plant more than 750 trees.

Downtown Gardens

The downtown garden beds are located in small areas of green space that enliven the landscape and welcome visitors.

Downtown Pittsburgh Greening Projects

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy partners with other organizations to implement additional greening projects in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Green wall in Downtown Pittsburgh

Green Wall and Greener Parking Lot

In 2012, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy installed the city’s first trellis-style green wall at 7th Street and Ft. Duquesne Boulevard. In the heart of Pittsburgh’s Cultural District, this 40-foot by 54-foot permanent wall trellis was designed with native vines, including Dutchman’s pipe, American bittersweet, Virgin’s bower clematis and two types of native honeysuckle. WPC staff and Duquesne Light volunteers planted these vines at the bottom of the trellis with the expectation that they could reach a height of up to 50 feet. This new green wall was meant not only to enhance the urban landscape by providing long-lasting greenery and blooms, but also to save energy by protecting the building from wind and sun.

Following the success of the green wall, and in partnership with ALCO Parking, WPC added an abundance of greenery to the parking lot below the wall. Perennial garden beds and mature trees were added along the perimeter and center of the lot to add diverse vegetation and to create a greener and far more attractive parking site without removing any parking spots.

Katz Plaza greening in Downtown Pittsburgh

Katz Plaza and Theater Square

WPC partners with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust to maintain the natural elements of the Agnes R. Katz Plaza, a popular Downtown parklet at the corner of 7th Street and Penn Avenue as well as the adjacent Theater Square. Katz Plaza is well known for the 25-foot bronze fountain and public art installation created by sculptor Louise Bourgeois.


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WPC Gardens Water Cube Parklet

The Water Cube Parklet

Also in partnership with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, WPC helped to facilitate the installation of the “Water Cube” Parklet on the 8th Street block of Penn Avenue. WPC planted and maintains a contoured perennial bed to complement the fountain, a vertical bike corral and “Fix It” station for bicyclists, and benches for the general public.
Designed through a collaboration with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and GBBN Architects with generous support by Colcom Foundation, the Water Cube addresses the environmental concern of non-recyclable drinking containers. The Water Cube also offers residents and visitors still and sparkling water, while reducing the consumption of bottled water and beautifying the streetscape. 
The mobile parklet in Downtown Pittsburgh is filled with flowers.

The Mobile Parklet

In partnership with the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, WPC helped to convert an ordinary roll-off dumpster into a mobile garden. The 21-foot-long dumpster became a city park bench enhanced with native perennials, grasses and trees offering fall, holiday and winter displays. It instantly became known as a unique downtown destination that receives a lot of attention by visitors.


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Greening on Strawberry Way in Downtown Pittsburgh

Strawberry Way & Smithfield Street Bus Stop

Thanks to the foresight of Envision Downtown and a strong collaborative effort between the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Public Works, the Office of Public Art, PPG Paints, Colcom Foundation and WPC, Strawberry Way became a work of art. During the summer of 2016, a section of the Strawberry Way alley, stretching between Grant and Smithfield Streets, became a revitalized pedestrian path.

The transformation began with local artist Deanna Mance, who painted colorful designs across the asphalt surface. Decorative bollard posts, café tables and WPC flower planters were added to create a comfortable pedestrian walkway. This space received Streetsblog USA’s People’s Choice Award for “Best Street Transformation” of the summer. Envision Downtown also worked with WPC to provide street planters at the newly renovated Smithfield Street Bus Stop creating a link of green to the transformed alley across the way.
Planters and hanging flower baskets in Market Square, Pittsburgh

Market Square

In 2007, WPC partnered with the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership to add green accents to Market Square. As part of its strategy to enliven downtown Pittsburgh and make Market Square a key to the revitalization of the Golden Triangle, the Partnership asked WPC to add flower planters and special spring and summer plantings in the Square. Along with hanging flower baskets, large planters were used to delineate experimental outdoor seating for the Square’s restaurants. The Partnership found that the greening of Market Square helped to increase the function of its outdoor space. Local businesses mentioned the planters and greenery when they thanked the Partnership for its efforts downtown. WPC continues to work with the Partnership to enhance Market Square with greening for all to enjoy.


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Planters at the Convention Center in Downtown Pittsburgh

Convention Center

With the announcement that Pittsburgh would be the site of the September 2009 G-20 Summit, the opportunity arose to improve the facade and landscape of Pittsburgh’s David L. Lawrence Convention Center. During our Downtown Greening Survey conducted as part of the 2007 Downtown Greening Report, this site was identified as the most visited point in the Golden Triangle; the Convention center itself is one of the world’s largest green buildings—yet its handsome and efficient design lacked a complementary green landscape.

With the support of Colcom Foundation and Astorino Architects, the downtown side of the Convention Center was transformed from almost entirely concrete and asphalt paving to a welcoming “green carpet” entrance. The plantings included 24 mature Zelkova trees, 180 shrubs and hundreds of perennials. In addition, 50 large planters were added to complete the setting. The plantings can provide the following benefits:
  • shade
  • air temperature reduction
  • traffic noise reduction
  • air quality improvement by intercepting dust, ash and exhaust
  • prevention of approximately 7,400 gallons of water from entering the municipal water treatment system each year
  • approximately 3,400 pounds of carbon offset annually
PARK(ing) Day in Downtown Pittsburgh

PARK(ing) Day

Each year WPC participates in PARK(ing) Day—an international event meant to re-envision public spaces for natural and pedestrian use in the urban environment. Since 2010, WPC has partnered with organizations such as the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, BikePittsburgh and others to transform asphalt into public spaces to be enjoyed by all. WPC believes that showcasing creative examples of different urban greening techniques can provide funders and practitioners the impetus to make densely built downtown landscapes more green and environmental.


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For More Information:

Art DeMeo
Director of Community Greenspace Services
Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
800 Waterfront Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15222