Outside of the safety issues of the Birmingham Bridge (see July 30 post), the surroundings and view from the bridge were interesting. I was particularly interested in the uses along the waterfront around the bridge as there were three distinct types of use.
On the northern shore of the river and western side of the bridge is this gravel/cement? factory. I classify it as an industrial use, but I don’t really know what its purpose is. I watch for a little while as the excavator scooped gravel from the barge and dumped it on the conveyor belt which passed it along and piled with the rest. I think it is easy to forget at times that our rivers are still working rivers–some coal and other materials are still shipped by the rivers. The image above is a reminder of this as the gravel was obviously delivered by river.
On the same shore, but the other side of the bridge, is one of Pittsburgh’s redeveloped brownfields. This area used to be part of the Jones and Laughlin Steel Company, dominated by the Soho Iron Works (see 1923 map). Today it is home to several office buildings along Technology Drive, including Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center. I believe the University of Pittsburgh may also have property on this site. This site is an illustration of Pittsburgh’s Second Renaissance, the “Eds and Meds,” which was implemented in the 1980s to counteract the job loss and deterioration caused by the decline of the steel industry. Here the former steel plant was replaced by buildings housing at least the education part of “Eds and Meds.”
The third use of the waterfront at the Birmingham Bridge is recreation (and green space) on the southern shore. The Three Rivers Heritage Trail travels near the river among the trees and grass. The trail also passes under the Birmingham Bridge on the north shore, but the technology park and gravel site separate the trail from the river and it passes near the freeway, making it not a very pleasant place for recreation. The southern branch of the trail on the other hand is pleasant as it passes among greenery and near the river. The western side of the bridge provides additional opportunities for recreation on the southern shore as there is a boat launch and a parking lot that provides access to the boat launch and some picnic areas nearby.
The area around the Birmingham Bridge captures the various uses which riverfront property has been put in Pittsburgh. First it was an ideal spot for industry and mills. This has been replaced in some areas with new developments such as the offices at the technology center. Now there seems to be an increasing interest in making the river fronts accessible and available for recreational use.