Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Thomas Kessner

Subject Categories

History | United States History


History, Pittsburgh, Planning, Renaissance, Urban


Pittsburgh was able to gradually ease its transition into a post-industrial economy in the second half of the twentieth century because of an elite-driven planning movement known as the Pittsburgh Renaissance. The Renaissance first addressed the physical failings of the city and sought state legislation that would support further urban redevelopment immediately following World War II. While the physical improvements were underway, Renaissance organizers began working with the University of Pittsburgh to upgrade Pitt's educational and recreational facilities so that it would become an engine for the city's future economic growth. City support for improved facilities, especially those pertaining to the growing medical center and scientific research programs, laid the foundation for the city's post-industrial economy.

Evolving plans for a new municipal amphitheater also began in the mid-1940s, but merged with the federal urban renewal program in the mid-1950s. The intention was to turn Pittsburgh into a business tourism destination that would highlight the city's cultural assets with an adjacent Center for the Arts, but the finished facility failed to meet the expectations planners set for it and constituted a transformative experience for the Renaissance movement. When Renaissance planning resumed in the late 1970s, it returned without centralized control, but it shared the goals of promoting Downtown Pittsburgh as a business center, diversifying the city's economy away from steel, and emphasizing the city's cultural institutions. As Renaissance continued through the next two decades, these core values continued to motivate projects and link it to past accomplishments solidifying the importance of planning to the city's operations.

By responding to the threat of capital flight in the 1940s, the Renaissance created a movement that could outlast any individual participants, suspend and resume operations as needed, and adapt to meet different crises that emerged over time.