Ribbon-cutting ceremony marks the opening of Frankie Pace Park (formerly I-579 CAP Park) connecting downtown and Hill District
November 22, 2021 - The Frankie Mae Pace Park ribbon cutting was a beautiful, long-awaited event in the Lower Hill District, which sits between Bedford Avenue, Washington Plaza and Centre Avenue, and reconnects the Historic Hill District. A significant cross section of Pittsburgh was in attendance, as well as ten elected officials, including Congressman Mike Doyle and Governor Tom Wolfe, State Representative Jake Wheatley, Mayor Bill Peduto, and City Councilman, Daniel Lavelle.
The park is an important articulation of the wish to rebuild the link destroyed in the 1950s with the interstate and Civic Arena, which resulted in the destruction and uprooting of one of Pittsburgh's largest predominantly Black neighborhoods. The park is named after a beloved Leader, Community Organizer, Educator and Entrepreneur in the Historic Hill District. As the only lay person who worked on the Model Cities plan and attended workshops in Chicago, Ms. Pace is, perhaps, best known for having organized the billboard that announced to the URA to cease development above Crawford Street until jobs and housing were provided. It marked the beginning of the end of a development process that heavily lacked community input and support and invited protests. She is also known as a very loving and kind woman who often let University of Pitt students stay in her home.
At the time, our Director of Community, Arts and Culture, Dr. Kimberly C. Ellis, served as a consultant artist and historian on the project and chose to highlight Ms. Pace, as a part of the History Wall and to have the park named after her. “I am inspired by Ms. Pace and while I did not know her or get a chance to meet her, she is amazing and more than deserves to be highlighted and to have a permanent place in the Historic Hill District that honors her contributions,” Ellis stated. Another important and national figure honored in the park is Martin Delaney, an entrepreneur, doctor, abolitionist, and Union Major in the Civil War.
In addition to Ms. Pace, Dr. Ellis created “Keisha,” the African American girl who serves as a tour guide throughout the park. Working with illustrator, Vanessa Newton-Brantley, she directed the creation of the images, wrote the script for each sign and collaborated on where they should be placed. Keisha had quickly become a beloved figure in the park!
Throughout the park community-focused installations can be viewed, including designs by BPG's Director of Community, Arts and Culture, Dr. Kimberly C. Ellis. Lower Hill District redevelopment consultants LaQuatra Bonci Associates and Lakeisha Byrd also made significant design contributions to the formerly vacant land. See the final design plans here.
The park itself is named after former head of the Hill District Community Council, Frankie Pace and serves to pay tribute to influential community activists of the past while also serving as a bridge to to the Hill District's future.
"This is an investment in infrastructure that is also an investment in the community," Gov. Tom Wolf said. "This park has been a community-focused project from start to finish, which is exactly the way it should be. The project has turned a space of division into a space of connection, providing safe pathways from the Hill District down to the downtown, creating recreation opportunities and doing it with environmentally conscious, community-centric design. That's why I am so proud to support this project."
The project officially broke ground in June 2019 and is estimated to have cost $32 million. Falling adjacent to the Lower Hill District redevelopment, Frankie Pace Park serves as a cap over the Crosstown Boulevard between the Lincoln Highway and Centre Avenue. Many of the same design team will be working on the urban open space in the redevelopment project.
Other important aspects of the park include:
Integration of the art work by three locally recognized artists (Amir Rashidd, Darrell Kinsel, Dr. Kimberly C. Ellis), one nationally recognized artist (Jan Rosen) and the architectural design consultant, LaKeisha Byrd. The community engagement process that help set a program for the park (event lawn, stage, etc.) was inspiring and fruitful. The park is set up for a Phase 2 with the addition of an interactive water feature at the ellipse, future stage canopy and two pavilions that will house cafes and restrooms.