The Gateway Center is a high-rise building complex with 1,500,000 square feet of office space in four buildings, numbered One, Two, Three and Four Gateway Center. The Gateway Center office towers are home to the corporate headquarters of Dollar Bank and Industrial Appraisal Company (Gateway Three); BodyMedia Inc. and KDKA (Gateway One).
The Gateway Center complex is part of a larger series of towering new skyscrapers constructed during the 1950s and 1960s that stretched from the Monongahela riverfront, across the Golden Triangle, to the Allegheny Riverfront. Gateway Center and the other buildings were the centerpiece of Mayor David L. Lawrence's renewal project commonly known as Renaissance I.
For many years, beginning in the 1930s, leaders in Pittsburgh had been planning an urban renewal project that would bring both much-needed transportation improvements and give the city center a new look. After World War II, Pittsburgh was suffering from an image problem. Smoke clogged the air, sewage dirtied the waters and rats combed the fringes of Downtown. Homes were crowded, poorly built and ill-maintained.
In the Golden Triangle floods were a constant hazard, and urban property values were dropping by millions each year. Forty percent of downtown office space was empty. As a result, several large corporations, including Alcoa, Westinghouse and U.S. Steel, were considering relocation of their Pittsburgh-based operations to New York.
In 1939, the "Moses Plan" was introduced, containing proposals for a series of bridges and highways to ease the transportation problems that plagued motorists. During the 1940s, men like Mayor Lawrence and banking magnate Richard Mellon persuaded the Urban Renewal Authority to sign on to an ambitious plan to completely rebuild the landscape near the Point, east of Stanwix Street.
For David Lawrence, the plan was to become his defining legacy as Mayor, and the catalyst that propelled him to the governorship of the state. For Richard Mellon, the project was a move to protect his interests in the Mellon Banking Empire and, on a more personal level, an effort to revitalize the hometown that he had come to love, Pittsburgh. Gateway Center was often refered to as "Mellon's Miracle."
The area near the Point was cluttered with abandoned railroad yards, warehouses and seedy saloons. It would be transformed into a 36-acre state park and a 23-acre complex of gleaming new office towers. Additional improvements would take place throughout the city. The keystone of this plan was the Gateway Center complex, which would border the proposed Point State Park and form the forefront of the new Pittsburgh skyline.
New York insurer Equitable Life Assurance Society agreed to buy the 23-acres east of the park, provide the URA with annual fees of $50,000, and build a series of stainless-steel office buildings known as Gateway Center. Equitable was guaranteed a clean piece of land on which they originally proposed constructing eleven office towers.
The first step towards the creation of Gateway Center began on May 18, 1950, when a 103-year old warehouse on Penn Avenue came crashing to the ground. It was the first of 133 buildings that were demolished to clear the land near the Point. Construction of the Gateway Center buildings began immediately.
The first three Gateway Center towers, all sheathed in stainless steel, were completed in 1952, along with a decorative outdoor greenspace, known as Equitable Plaze. By 1960, the fourth Gateway Center building, along with the Hilton Hotel (now the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh) were completed. The complex included an underground parking garage adjacent to Gateway Four that was topped by a continuation of the pedestrian plaza at ground level, similar in design to Mellon Square Plaza.
Due to lower than expected occupancy in the Gateway Center towers, the original eleven building plan introduced by Equitable ended after the construction of Gateway Four. The remaining acreage was, however, populated by other buildings, including the residential Gateway Towers, the IBM Building, the Bell-Telephone Building, the Westinghouse Building and the State Office Building. All together, these nine skyscrapers, the underground parking lot and the open plazas completed the Gateway Center project.
In the end, the Gateway Center project turned out to be a financial success and spurred corporate investment in the Golden Triangle. Of the $118 million in costs, only $600,000 came from public coffers. By 1967, over 22,000 people worked in the area, an increase of more than 18,000 since 1950. Downtown Pittsburgh was once again a desirable place for major corporations to settle and prosper.
The Gateway Center and Point State Park projects may have been the highlights of Renaissance I, but they were just one part of that urban construction phase. Other projects completed during this time were the Alcoa Building (1953), U.S. Steel/Mellon Building (1951), Mellon Square Plaza (1955), the Penn-Lincoln Parkway (1958), Crosstown Boulevard (1963), the Fort Pitt Tunnels (1961), the Civic Arena (1961), the Fort Pitt Bridge (1959), the Fort Duquesne Bridge (1963), the USX Tower (1970) and Three Rivers Stadium (1971).
Along with environmental controls that helped to clear the air of the lingering smog from the steel mills, Pittsburgh's image had changed from the "Smokey City" to one of the most picturesque urban centers in America.
Over the years, Gateway Center has remained basically the same. The names of some of the outlying buildings has changed as ownership passed from one corporation to another, but the look and feel of the complex, with it's tall buildings and open plazas hasn't changed at all. In 2011, the Port Authority constructed a new subway terminal, Gateway Station, at the corner of Stanwix Street and Penn Avenue.
Construction photos of the
Gateway Center Complex
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