Pittsburgh Chateau Neighborhood Featured Image

#34 Chateau Neighborhood

Pittsburgh’s Best Neighborhoods

Chateau Neighborhood Map Pittsburgh
Heavy industrial and storage uses gotta’ go somewhere. The Chateau neighborhood is where Pittsburgh places much of that stuff.

Chateau Neighborhood Description

Somebody has to bring up the rear on the list of Pittsburgh’s Best Neighborhoods, and I suspect the Chateau neighborhood will be holding down this spot for a long time. As I was wandering like a lost orphan through the Chateau neighborhood a few days ago wondering why it’s called the Chateau, because there is no housing in the neighborhood, only industrial and storage uses. Then I stumbled upon it – an immense rock wall surrounding an immense rock structure otherwise known as State Corrections Institution, Pittsburgh. Closed in 2017, the pen’s campus encompasses approximately 20 acres. The commonwealth is presently in the process of awarding a demolition contract to clear the site for redevelopment to the tune of about $40 million. Built like a fortified castle and located on Ohio River beachfront property, State Corrections Institution has occupied its present location since the industrial boom times. From a land use perspective, coincidently, its northerly neighbor is a sewer treatment facility. Now that the prison is closed, the Chateau neighborhood provides for zero housing within it. Like it’s predecessor, what developers propose to replace the prison with will equally define the Chateau for generations to come.

Neighborhood Ranking Criteria

A Front Door

There are no purposeful gateways into the Chateau.

An Identifiable Center

Pittsburgh Chateau Neighborhood Mixed Land Uses
CFP Cafe is the top secret neighborhood center in the Chateau.

If the prison was still open, I would argue it is/was the neighborhood center. Even it was open, I may still lose that argument to what is perhaps Pittsburgh’s best kept secret café, CFP Café, located in the heart of the Chateau. Take a hot date there, a good friend, or your mother. They will all appreciate it, as will you. The joint closes at 2:00, so lunch it is.

Boundaries

Pittsburgh Chateau Neighborhood Boundaries
One has to find a way over or under, count ’em, one, two, three, four different bridges to get into or out of the Chateau. The old land uses and buildings on the other side of those bridges are fascinating, as well, and located in the Marshall-Shadeland neighborhood.

Freeways, rivers, railroad tracks, and sewer treatment facilities frame the Chateau. Perhaps the neighborhood’s greatest virtue is the North Shore Riverfront Trail, which runs up the Ohio River back into the heart of Pittsburgh.

Density

Pittsburgh Chateau Neighborhood Housing
The Chateau neighborhood’s housing was built to last and has pretty good architecture.
Pittsburgh Chateau Neighborhood What's This Spooky Place
What’s this spooky place? There are arguments to be made for the historic value of prisons.

Now that the prison is closed, and aside from homeless people residing along the river banks, there is a zero full-time resident population within the Chateau, which places population density at zero. Land use wise, structural density is still sparse with total neighborhood acreage being dominated by large storage yards.

Detached Sidewalks and Street Trees

Pittsburgh Chateau Neighborhood Where the Northside Trail Ends
This is the beginning and the end of the North Shore River Trail, which runs along the Ohio/Allegheny rivers for a span of about 6.5 miles through the heart of Pittsburgh. The trail stubs off here because of a sewage treatment facility, which feels appropriate for the Chateau.

The chateau is filled with sidewalks, which is perhaps the most inviting land use within the neighborhood (aside from the river trail).

Diverse Architecture and Buildings That Address the Street

Pittsburgh Chateau Neighborhood More
Street-facing architecture within the Chateau.

Architectural diversity within the Chateau is limited to whatever a user is storing in their storage yard – coax, copper, or fleet. Several more historic structures do adorn the neighborhood that may have potential for redevelopment. Much is contingent on the future land use of the old prison site, however, which will dictate viability (or not) for traditional neighborhood land uses.  

Mixed Land Uses

Pittsburgh Chateau Neighborhood Warehousing
Warehousing and storage yards are the dominant land use in the Chateau.

The land uses in the Chateau include the following: industrial, storage yards, appurtenant office space, and vacant lots, though there are a few gems that buck the dominate theme.

Street Energy

Pittsburgh Chateau Neighborhood Pittsburgh's Best Awning
Slap a historic designation on that bad-boy because both the sign and the awning need to be preserved forever. To a lesser degree, that old building is pretty cool and appears to have some potential.

There is no street energy in the Chateau.

Streets That Generally Connect

Because it’s located on the river bottoms, the Chateau neighborhood was built on a proper grid with excellent street connectivity.

Transit Access

Just regular old buses serve the neighborhood.

Walkability

The Chateau functions as a suburban industrial park, so walkability isn’t really a thing.

Opportunities for Improvement

Pittsburgh Chateau Neighborhood Potential
This old warehouse is home to a few artsy uses, including a museum, Bicycle Heaven.
Pittsburgh Chateau Neighborhood Potential 2
More artsy land uses within the Chateau.

The Chateau poses all sorts of interesting questions around how best to improve it as a Pittsburgh neighborhood. Gentrification isn’t a thing because nobody lives there. One could argue that going big is the best way to approach redevelopment, such as the proposed 20 acre Esplanade project that has a lot is sizzle and continues the partying good times of the North Shore past River’s Casino and into the Chateau. They even propose a big Ferris Wheel.

Thus, Alternative 1: Transition the Chateau into a destination party neighborhood that feels connected to the North Shore. And let’s not forget the looming prison redevelopment.

Alternative 2 includes improving upon the best darn light industrial neighborhood in the city. Most of the Chateau’s heavier uses are yard storage — not much for pollution and just ugly more than anything else. One could argue that positioning a few more residential uses within the neighborhood may place established industrial uses at risk of NIMBYism. One could also argue that it’s meaningless to provide for residential uses within the neighborhood because there would not be a market for it and, therefore, let’s just make the Chateau the best light industrial neighborhood in the metro.

Alternative 3 is a mixed approach that tenderly nurtures the sprouts of endangered arts and cultural uses in the neighborhood that may transition into a foundation of incubator space and artist co-ops and open, studio living that can co-exist with the industrial uses. I think it’s fair to speculate that high-income housing is not quite a fit for the Chateau. But aspiring artists take vows of poverty, and they may well find inspiration in the industrial wastelands of the neighborhood, who knows? The point is, particularly with the looming redevelopment of the old prison site, now is the time to have an educated debate about the future of the Chateau, just make sure to include the neighborhood business owners, the commonwealth (because they own the old prison), and Pittsburgh Planner because that’s a damn fun conversation that I would love to participate in.