Free cabs and a light rail criss-crossing town. Spruced up neighborhood bus stops, complete with WiFi-enabled shelters. Bridge trusses converted into climbing walls.
At the Idea Round Up, held by the local nonprofit grantmaker The Sprout Fund on Sept. 9, the ideas were as varied as the more than 300 participants. But almost all shared the same desire: only to connect.
"There is a strong desire in Pittsburgh for connecting with one another," says participant Bob Neu, executive director of the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty. "I may have sensed it before; this reaffirms it."
One of the ideas generated by Neu's group, which also included a travel agent, architecture and advertising students, a community organizer and a hospital administrator, was the light rail that would link all city neighborhoods to Downtown, somehow connecting riders socially as well. Of course, when Neu's group announced their dream light rail, Pittsburgh Pretzel, a few guffaws broke out from the audience.
They couldn't agree on whether the rail lines would go underground or use the existing busways. But the marching orders of the day were to dream big and bold.
Most groups put marketing into the mix, such as the proposal for MixBurgh, a festival showcasing the city's ethnic diversity. This drive to market the ideas may have been motivated by the promise of $100,000 in grants. Sprout Fund organizers say they will put all the best ideas on an interactive Web site in an effort to continue the brainstorming and issue a request for proposals in a few months.