The Freedom Corner monument in Pittsburgh’s Hill District will get a major renovation next year, following a July car crash that damaged part of its nameplate and surrounding sidewalk.
The city Public Works Department is working with elected officials and community organizations on the project, which includes replacing damaged stone blocks; upgrading the information kiosk; and installing a new concrete sidewalk, granite seating and light bollards. The project is expected to cost about $150,000 and be completed next summer.
City spokesperson Maria Montaño said the city is currently paying for the project, adding that the exact source of money is “to be determined.” She added that the city also is looking at potentially bringing in outside money, such as grants, to cover costs.
The landmark, located at the corner of Centre Avenue and Crawford Street, was officially dedicated in 2001 to recognize the rallying point that has launched many of the city’s marches seeking social justice. It is also where Hill District residents halted the advance of urban renewal projects pushed by the city that demolished much of the Lower Hill, now the site of PPG Paints Arena and its surrounding parking lots.
Pittsburgh’s Art Commission approved a conceptual review of the project at its November meeting, with commissioners making several recommendations, such as altering the plaza’s landscaping. A development activities meeting to gather community input remains to be scheduled before the project heads back to the commission for final approval.
City Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle — he represents District 6, which includes the Hill — worked with local organizations such as the Hill Community Development Corp. on the renovation project.
Marimba Milliones, the Hill CDC’s president and CEO, said the Freedom Corner site has needed improvements for some time, and the crash provided an opportunity to think about bigger changes. She said her organization is working on a way for visitors to access information digitally about the monument.
“We really don’t want the background, the history and the context of Freedom Corner to be lost on people who are there,” she said. “It is, in so many ways, sacred ground not just to the Hill District but to our region, as we celebrate the African American cultural legacy and the civil rights legacy of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh region.”