High Point Feasibility Study
A. History, Regulatory Framework and Operations
Ø High Point can serve as a symbol of Pittsburgh’s recent transformation as an economic success story.
Ø High Point fits into the current zoning guidelines for Golden Triangle subdistrict B.
Ø While additional security measures will need to be implemented, many similar structures made adjustments after September 11th to ensure the safety of patrons and staff.
Ø Given the construction of the U.S. Steel Tower, any significant structure added to the roof would need to be primarily supported by the building’s exoskeleton.
B. Stakeholder Analysis
Ø Although not able to meet with the building owners or management, the team speculates that their primary interest is to increase the value of the building.
Ø Secondary and tertiary stakeholders, as well as survey respondents, indicated that there are many possible programming options for High Point. The most common included: a restaurant, green space, cultural space and meeting/convention space.
Ø According to the survey, over 40% of respondents would pay between $11 and $20 for admission to an attraction like High Point.
Ø High Point is the type of project the Allegheny Regional Asset District (RAD) would fund.
C. Green Technology
Ø By harvesting wind and solar energy, High Point might generate from 50%-70% of the electricity it needs on an annual basis.
Ø Thin-film solar panels are a low cost and innovative technology that can potentially generate 13,000 kWh annually for High Point.
Ø The Windspire® vertical axis wind turbine is a low-cost technology that requires a small physical footprint and is appropriate for the wind speeds present at High Point. The team estimates that each Windspire® can produce at least 3,660 kWh per year and that as many as 20 turbines might be installed on High Point.
Ø In addition to generating energy, High Point can be a showcase to educate and inform the public about cutting edge alternative technologies.
D. Economic Considerations
Ø Pittsburgh and the surrounding 11 counties host 10 million leisure visitors per year.
Ø Comparable Pittsburgh attractions receive an average of 268,000 visitors per year.
Ø If High Point reaches the iconic status of other rooftop attractions (Empire State Building, Willis Tower, Space Needle) it has the potential to attract 675,500 visitors per year.
Ø A triple-net ground lease with the building owner is a likely arrangement for operating High Point.
Ø Construction is a significant cost for High Point and (for purposes of this analysis) is estimated to be about $61 Million.
Ø Those construction costs notwithstanding, High Point could become operationally profitable within 4 to 6 years, assuming even conservatively increasing attendance rates.
E. Other Factors to Consider
Ø The U. S. Steel Tower is a privately-owned, working office building. As such, the rights and convenience of its owners and tenants cannot be impinged upon. Similarly, any proposed economic plan must also include financial incentives to compensate the landlords for use of their space.
Ø None of the building’s 64 passenger elevators can be used to transport people to the roof. The roof is however presently accessible by an escalator from the 64th floor, which is served by a dedicated elevator that serves only the top four floors. Those floors in turn can be reached from the lower lobby via the bank of four service elevators.
Ø Weather is a significant factor 860 feet in the air. It can be cold up there, winds can be significant, and lightning can be an issue. Rainwater must be considered, while access to potable water also presents challenges.
Ø We suggest that groups pick project leaders – one for design/architecture; one for business – who can coordinate meetings, contact the competition leaders with questions, etc.
E. Summary of Section Conclusions
2.5 While creating a popular tourist destination on the top of a structure might complicate security risks to the building and surrounding area, it does not prohibit the creation of High Point. Providing access while maintaining high security standards has been done for many tourist destinations across the country after September 11th. While security is a crucial and complex component of High Point, it has precedent and has been successfully accomplished by many top destinations across the country.
3.4 There were no surprises when putting the matrix together, as the influence and power were inherent in the analysis done during the interviews and research portion of our report. To reiterate, the project must first rally support from the ground up to attain approval by elected officials and funders. With that support, they will then be able to lobby the ownership and management for approval to begin development of the High Point project.
4.6. High Point has the potential to be a showcase for cutting edge alternative energy technologies that will not only educate and inform the public, but also generate a substantial amount of energy that can provide power to the rooftop. The team calculated a total energy demand of approximately 294,600 kWh per year for High Point. Based on the average commercial energy price of $0.10 per kWh, this would cost $29,460 per year in energy usage. Using wind and solar energy, we estimate that High Point can generate from 50%-70% of the energy needs for high point, if our basic assumptions hold true.
Recommended Next Steps
High Point began as an idea, and the purpose for conducting this feasibility study was to provide an unbiased prognosis for the possibility of constructing and operating such an attraction on the roof of Pittsburgh’s most iconic building. During this study, significant challenges were uncovered that will need to be addressed in order for that to happen.
Based on our research, it is clear that overcoming these challenges will require extraordinary effort by many dedicated individuals. Therefore, our primary recommendation is for a not-for-profit organization to be established to organize these efforts and serve as the official voice for High Point. In order to be effective, this organization will need to include individuals with expertise in many fields and with close connections to Pittsburgh businesses, not-for-profit and foundations.
Once such an organization is established, the project team recommends that the organization undertake a number of short and long-term actions.
Ø Continue to engage primary stakeholders, especially the building owners and large tenants, in order to have an open dialogue and understand their priorities and interests.
Ø Continue analyzing the market for attractions in Pittsburgh using new data as it becomes available.
Ø Identify the core programming features for High Point (restaurant, meeting space, etc) and conduct a formal business plan to better understand their revenue generation potential.
Ø Finalize the name for High Point.
Ø Engage architects to begin an actual design of the rooftop structure.
Ø Work with Pittsburgh’s tourism experts and stakeholders to create a local tourism plan that would include High Point as a driver in the continued revitalization of downtown Pittsburgh/ or the Central Business District.
Ø Cultivate relationships with alternative energy equipment producers and suppliers like Westinghouse and First Solar.
Ø Hire fundraising and marketing professionals to promote the idea of High Point.
Ø Identify funding sources, including public and private partnerships, at the local, state, and federal level that may facilitate the construction of High Point.
Ø Once extensive access to the roof of the building has been secured:
Ø Commission a third-party site assessment completed by a team of structural engineers.
Ø Convene a team of mechanical and structural engineers to serve on a preliminary advisory board for design and site specifications.
Ø Conduct a comprehensive study of floor logistics and crowd management to determine how the new structure will affect parking lots, public transit, and sidewalk traffic.
Ø Conduct a site assessment for wind and solar, and other renewable energies to determine the most appropriate angle and placement of solar panels and wind turbines and to determine a precise amount of power generation.
Ø Measure wind speeds at the top of the U.S. Steel Tower using an anemometer for a minimum of eight months to accurately determine air speed.
Ø Engage the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct an aeronautical study to determine the potential of electromagnetic interference from wind turbines installed on High Point.
Ø File a permit application with the Pittsburgh City Planning Department.
Ø Update the U.S. Steel Tower’s All Hazard Plan and submit it for approval.
Ø Continue to monitor green technology developments that may be applicable to High Point.
In the final analysis, High Point’s feasibility will be determined by the dedicated group of individuals who will find innovative solutions to the many challenges identified in this report and countless others that were unforeseen.
This project team sincerely hopes to someday join future research teams and High Point champions for a toast at its grand opening.