When Jim Rohr, chairman and CEO of PNC, moved to Pittsburgh 40 years ago, downtown was "truly frumpy," he said. As the keynote speaker at the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnerships annual breakfast, Rohr told the sold out crowd of 450 about about the huge sign for Bizarre Arts Theater on Liberty Avenue and a store with Doc Johnson's Marital Aids nearby (which he never went into, he swears).
Today downtown is a whole different scene, of course, and experiencing unprecedented investment with over $4 billion in recent and planned development, thanks in part to Rohr and PNC.
"Can you imagine what Pittsburgh would be like without PNC?" asked Cultural Trust president Kevin McMahon in his introduction to Rohr. PNC employs 8000 here in Pittsburgh, he noted, and recently completed construction of the LEED-certified PNC 3 (where the event was held, at the Fairmont). The bank is also breaking ground soon on the 33-story Tower of PNC on Fifth and Wood scheduled for completion in 2015. For those reasons and more, McMahon referred to Rohr as "our number one citizen." (Rohr's response? "You can tell who hired Kevin.")
In his address, Rohr talked about Pittsburgh's remarkable transformation, now a national success story, and announced the latest phase in the PNC Legacy Project, an interactive multimedia exhibit to showcase that transformation and "reflect PNC's commitment to the region's continued revitalization." The project will be housed in 800 feet of exhibit space in the Lantern building next to PNC Three on Liberty, currently undergoing renovation and scheduled for completion in May.
Welcome to Pittsburgh
In his first annual meeting as the head of PDP, Jeremy Waldrup was joined by other speakers including Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, all touting the continuing progress of downtown. After a summary of PDP accomplishments the past year, included in the just released 2012 annual report, Waldrup announced PDP's new website
and the first ever European-style holiday market planned for this year where "local, national and international vendors will transform Market Square into a beautiful holiday destination." The market, based on the one in Nuremberg, Germany, will run from November 24th through December 23rd and feature wooden chalets decked with holly and lights.
If there was a theme to the meeting, it was celebrating what downtown has become over the years, including having the lowest vacancy rate--7%-- in the nation, and what it could become in the future. As Rohr pointed out, Pittsburgh is making all kinds of lists these days such as the most recent list of Forbes Top 10 Comeback Cities
"Millenials want to work in town," said Rohr who talked about PNC's intern program and how it brings to the city hundreds of college students who live in downtown hotels and get to know Pittsburgh. "To recruit people, we have to deal with quality of life issues more than ever," he said, outlining several challenges the region faces to maintain the quality of life.
One is the highest cost healthcare system in the U.S. "and then there's the question of access," he said. "We have to fix it or people won't come."
Two is the airport which was once #1 in the world but not today. "We've got to add flights, and international flights," Rohr emphasized.
Three is the public transportation piece. "Youth want to live in town. We've got to figure out the transportation piece."
Last but not least, he added, is the need to continue to invest in downtown.
PNC bought and gutted the "eyesore" of a building soon to be known as the Lantern Building for its latest PNC Legacy Project. With themes of culture, commerce and community, the PNC Legacy Project will be free to the public and feature the following: personal oral histories; an innovation wall that recognizes achievements of 230 community organizations that PNC invests in; Pittsburgh Now and Then using image projection; a Timeline of Pittsburgh's transformation; and Into the Future where visitors can offer their opinion on where PNC should invest in Pittsburgh in the future.
David O’Neil, an oral historian and the founder of Story Trust, produced the stories that reflect Pittsburgh's transformation while Mary Beth Corrigan, an archivist and curator who has curated all PNC Legacy Projects in various other cities, has overseen the development of the exhibit.
Quatrefoil Associates, an exhibition, design and technology firm based outside of Washington, D.C, designed the exhibit. Pittsburgh-based EDGE studio is the project architect, Turner Construction Company is the project construction manager and Cenkner Engineering Associates is the project engineer. Click here to learn more about the PNC Legacy Project