When Fourth Economy opened its office at the Riverside Center for Innovation, one of the benefits we received was access to the revitalized riverfront on the North Shore of the Allegheny. The Riverlife Task Force invested $112 million in trails and restoration along the rivers and we have been able to get a daily reminder of how these investments can invigorate a local economy. The riverfront trails support a wide variety of users, from joggers to bikers to commuters and office workers just out for a stroll. Along the way, you can spot the kayakers exploring the river, mixed with other recreational boaters as well as commercial craft.
It is also interesting that the level activity is constant. Most of my observations are confined to the 9-5 (give or take) work-week, but I have also been there on evenings and weekends and still see a surprising amount of activity. For a real treat, take a walk on the North Shore Trail on a Steelers game day and see the musicians and tailgating boaters.
Riverlife’s investment has been augmented by $2 billion of private and $2 billion in public investment along the riverfront. I haven’t done any in-depth analysis of these numbers but what I can say is that the existence of these trails provides a direct incentive for me and my co-workers to walk more and visit restaurants accessible from the trail. On nice days, even if I brought a lunch from home, I am often tempted to save it for a day so I can walk to one of the North Shore eateries. It will take a lot more than lunches to pay back our investment in the rivers, but this is exactly the effect you want this investment to have.