The Gateway Center is a high-rise office complex consisting of four buildings in downtown Pittsburgh. The development of the site was part of the Point State Project, an effort by the city of Pittsburgh to redevelop a 59-acre section of its downtown following World War II. The plan also called for the creation of a state park adjacent to the Gateway site at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, known as Pittsburgh’s “point.”
Before the project could begin, the existing businesses and residences at the site had to be demolished. Like other cities at the time, Pittsburgh sought to use eminent domain as a method to reshape its downtown. Through the use of this power, the state is able to claim private land and repurpose it, typically for public use. The use of eminent domain for the Gateway Center was disputed, however, since the land was intended for commercial development.
In 1945, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) was formed to manage the negotiations between property owners and the Gateway Center’s primary investor, the Equitable Life Assurance Company. Although most citizens agreed that the park would be beneficial for the city, the business owners who were being forced to move for the construction of the Gateway Center disagreed, not surprisingly, that their buildings should be demolished. Arguing that their buildings were similar to other buildings in the city, and that they should be given the option of improving the structures themselves, more than 100 business owners organized the Property Owners & Tenants Protective Committee and brought their case to the State Supreme Court. In January 1950, the Court ruled in favor of the URA, and demolition began. The business owners, still not satisfied, appealed their case to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the case was dismissed in October of 1950. With the ruling, the Gateway Center Project was well on its way, and several acres were cleared for the new buildings and the national park.
In 1993, the Library and Archives received a collection consisting of photographs, blueprints, reports and notes that document the property negotiations and ensuing demolition that preceded the construction of the Gateway Center. Click here to view the finding aids for the Gateway Center records and photographs.
More information about the project can also learned by reading “Gaining Gateway Center: Eminent Domain, Redevelopment, and Resistance” by Rachel Balliet Colker in the Fall 1995 issue of Pittsburgh History (also available online).