Originally published by Pittsburgh Business Times.

Riverfront 47 LP, which is preparing to redevelop a mile-and-a-half stretch of land along the Allegheny River, has hired Texas-based Overland Partners as the design firm to establish a master plan for the former Azcon Metals property.

Overland, named by Architect Magazine as one of the Top 50 Design firms for 2015, has developed a practice that has resulted in projects and planning work that has included everything from university buildings (including one at Penn State University), a resort in Mexico, churches and cultural centers as well as the Texas headquarters of Clear Channel.

Beyond the breadth of the firm’s work, the joint venture partners of Riverfront 47, which includes The Mosites Company and Allegheny Development Partners lead by Aspinwall residents Susan and Currie Crookston, are eager to work with a firm they say has strong experience with sustainable approaches and planning.

Steve Mosites, principal of The Mosites Co., said he first became familiar with Overland because of work the firm did on the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden in Oakdale.

“They do awesome work,” said Mosites. “From a master planning standpoint, I just thought they would be great. They’ve been doing sustainable architecture since the early 1990s. Some of the stuff they brought to the table is really ingenious.”

Overland Partners joins downtown-based Environmental Planning & Design, a firm that designed the Aspinwall riverfront park spearheaded by Susan Crookston that helped to first motivate her and her husband to buy the neighboring 47 acres that operated for generations as a scrapyard.
Crookston said Environmental Planning & Design, which also has done design and urban planning work that includes the South Shore Riverfront Park at the South Side Works along with many others in the region, will also work with Overland. She said the two firms will work toward the goal of having “the green space seamlessly flow together” through the 47-acre site, which extends from Sharpsburg, through Aspinwall and into parts of O’Hara Township.

She described Overland’s interest in the project as a key recruiting gain given the reach of its work.

“It was almost that they chose us in a way,” she said. “We want to design something that couldn’t be built anywhere else. They’re well known for collaborating with communities. And that’s exactly what we want. We’d really like to do something exceptional here and this is the first step.”

Both Crookston and Mosites both were quick to reference Overland’s Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin as an award-winning and influential project that featured a sustainable approach that worked in concert with the site.

Overland’s website reveals relevant waterfront experience as well on three major projects in China, one involving a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Vivian Loftness, a professor in the School of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon University, sees the site as offering a major opportunity to extend the riverfront revitalization efforts spearheaded by Riverlife further up the Allegheny.

She said she has followed Overland’s projects and that the firm was a strong choice for the site given the body of the firm’s work as well as its track record of pursuing integrated approaches.

“Overland is a fantastic firm,” she said. “I think it’s a real asset for us to have them on this project.”

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