Climate Action Summit

Uptown/West Oakland and EcoInnovation District

Uptown, an urban neighborhood in transition, with a special focus on its new EcoInnovation district. Uptown holds huge potential as a connector between Downtown and the universities of the Oakland neighborhood.


Pittsburgh’s Uptown neighborhood is located on a 150-foot rise just east of the city’s downtown. The housing stock is mostly rowhomes, with some larger homes and significant church and school buildings to the east. In the 1920s, millworkers rode trolleys and inclines from Uptown to jobs at steel plants downriver. A once-busy commercial district, Uptown declined in the 1950s and 1960s and remained moribund until recent years, when a trickle of urban pioneers rediscovered the charms of its views and location.

Today, a team of civic partners has come together to apply a model developed by the EcoDistricts organization to spur a green-centric renaissance for Uptown. It is Pittsburgh’s first EcoInnovation District.

Quick Facts

  • This neighborhood is variously called Uptown, Bluff, and Soho.
  • Uptown was settled by James Tustin in the early 19th century. He called the area Soho, after his London neighborhood, and lent his name to Tustin Street.
  • Uptown’s major institutions are UPMC Mercy Hospital, Duquesne University, and Consol Energy.
  • 8,800 people are employed within the Uptown neighborhood.
  • Uptown’s homes and apartments contained about 905 households as of the 2010 census.
  • Nearly a third of Uptown’s land is dedicated to institutional uses. More than 16 percent is steep hillside.


  • Develop enhanced strategies for land use, zoning, transit, complete streets, and parking.
  • Engage a diverse stakeholder team.
  • Achieve environmental benchmarks through community- and individual-scale efforts.
  • Drive a neighborhood-wide planning process.
  • Create improved linkages to the adjacent communities of West Oakland and the Lower Hill.
  • Create a master plan that includes infrastructure upgrades and that can adapt to higher density.
  • Demonstrate an equitable model that can be replicated in neighborhoods across the city.

Challenges and Opportunities

  • The housing stock needs restoration and infill.
  • There are many large surface parking lots ready for development.
  • There are many historic buildings, though some have been demolished.
  • The neighborhood’s Fifth-Forbes Corridor is the most traveled public route in the region.
  • Place-making opportunities can help transform Uptown from a pass-through zone to a home and destination.
  • There’s a chance to accommodate a full spectrum of mobility, including Bus Rapid Transit and biking.
  • Uptown can become a 2030 District, including a watershed strategy for stormwater.
  • A high-tech entrepreneurial campus is growing within a Keystone Innovation Zone.
  • There’s potential to create a healthy balance of housing options for diverse incomes.
  • New financing mechanisms can help actualize big ideas.

Current Status

  • An interim planning overlay district (IPOD) is underway.
  • A Bus Rapid Transit planning process is underway.
  • An EcoInnovation consultant team is starting soon.