Barnestormin – Nov 1.2013

A visitor’s center/entertainment complex imagined for the rooftop of the U.S. Steel Tower will be higher than the “Top of the Rock” crowning Rockefeller Center, but quite different. At a full acre, it will be the highest, largest space atop any building in the world.
The Big Apple has the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center observation decks just 15 blocks apart, illustrating the appeal of such sites. And thinking of those world-famous spots could be the best way to describe the experience that will be available in High Point Pittsburgh; a 2-story, glass-enclosed structure planned for the U.S. Steel Tower.
Led by Carnegie Mellon’s Studio for Creative Inquiry fellow David Bear, with the help of CMU students and faculty and other volunteers, the concept has been years in development. Now it’s moving forward with the creation of Friends of High Point Pittsburgh, an organization working towards a public-private partnership for the concept.

As envisioned, the spot would house a large presentation space, a restaurant, café, bar, art gallery/gift shop, two theaters and three “Viewseums,” capped by a rooftop observation deck. Green and sustainable, the site will honor the history and dreams of Western Pennsylvanians.
It could cost $70 million to create, but supporters say it will pay for itself and add value to an iconic landmark, bringing in millions in admissions each year, as does the Empire State Building’s observatory deck. The impact HPP will have on visitors able to see for many miles in any direction from high above the heart of Pittsburgh will be of incalculable value: they’ll catch their breath at the Steel Cityscape.
When built, High Point Pittsburgh will be an attraction bringing tourists onto Downtown’s sidewalks, as well as high above them to admire views as far out as Laurel Ridge.
Louise King Sturgess, Executive Director of Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, wrote recently in Pittsburgh Quarterly that she’d like to see High Point Pittsburgh built and explained her reeasons. “Perhaps [ visitors] would be able to listen to a recording of David McCullough saying: ‘To understand the American experience, to understand American history and how American history changed the world, there is no better place to put a spotlight on than Pittsburgh.'”
The tallest building between New York and Chicago when it was built, U.S. Steel Tower remains one of the best addresses for Class A office Downtown. HPP volunteers say adding the attraction to its sturdy rooftop—built to accommodate helicopters and vertical takeoff jets—would be a fitting tribute to the industrial might that built the region and the workers who created our local economy.
HPP supporters must convince players like the building’s owners of the concept, but they’re undaunted.

High Point Pittsburgh is a way of changing people’s perceptions, Bear said. “It would be a place where we all can interact and find enjoyment, pleasure and culture, while learning about Pittsburgh. We see it as the area’s highest common denominator,” he said.
The building’s designer, world-famous engineer Leslie Robertson, likes the idea of adding a public top to the building. He’s reviewed the feasibility study and other High Point Pittsburgh materials and said further evaluations of the concept are needed, but it seems structurally possible and economically practical. “It should generate significant attention from visitors and citizens alike,” he said.
Those in the tourism business agree. Craig Davis, executive director of Visit Pittsburgh, likes the idea because it fits with his group’s goals. “We sell unique experiences… This would be a first day attraction, very unique, and a signature piece of Pittsburgh tourism,” he said.
To learn more about High Point Pittsburgh, visit
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