The Oakland Task Force (OTF) is a partnership of institutions, community organizations, businesses, and public agencies working together to improve the Oakland neighborhood in the City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Oakland is the third-largest employment center in the state. The OTF meets at 8:00 a.m. the second Tuesday of each month, except August. OTF members host the meetings according to a rotating schedule posted on the OTF website.
At each meeting, OTF members share timely information with each other about development projects, events, policy changes, and other topics of general interest to all. It is common for invited guests to present development proposals or plans for new initiatives relevant to Oakland. As OTF members hear the information collectively, there is opportunity for discussion and making connections to other related topics, projects, and/or policies. OTF provides leadership as necessary to steward responsible planning, urban design, and program implementaion.
The OTF is truly unique. It has existed for nearly 30 years without bylaws, a budget, an office, or staff. There are few entities in the eds/meds districts with similar membership composition -- institutions, public agaencies, community groups, and businesses. This loosely organized, diverse group finds the common denominator in projects and builds strong relationships along the way.
The Oakland Task Force was formed at the behest of former Mayor Richard Caliguiri to provide a forum for Oakland institutions to exchange information concerning their current and future development plans. The invitation extended to the heads of all Oakland institutions to participate was a result of a two-year citizen's planning effort which ultimately culminated in the publication of The Oakland Plan in 1980. The Allegheny Conference on Community Development, a primary stakeholder, was selected as the convener of these meetings and their representative became the first chairperson. The senior staff of the institutions and the City, along with community representatives, met and exchanged information and subsequently acted as a clearinghouse of information and a collective advocate for Oakland projects in keeping with The Oakland Plan published in 1980.
In its earliest days, the Oakland Task Force was used as a forum that advanced policy and projects in Oakland. In collaboration with community organizations such as Peoples Oakland and later with Oakland Directions, Inc., the Oakland Task Force discussed, reviewed and commented on proposed development projects in Oakland. Public approval bodies such as the Pittsburgh City Planning Commission and Pittsburgh City Council requested the opinion of the Oakland Task Force when acting on Oakland projects or legislation.
Over time, as stakeholders changed and agendas evolved, the focus of the Oakland Task Force shifted and more emphasis was placed on the discussion of facilities. When the City of Pittsburgh adopted zoning requirements for education and medical institutions to submit long-range master plans, the OTF provided an opportunity for reveiw and discussion of plans prior to City Planning Commission and City Council hearings. Additionally, the OTF remained active in Oakland planning initiatives.
In the mid-1990's, OTF members participated in planning focused on several of Oakland's pressing topics: housing, code enforcement, public corridors/gateways, and zoning. The Oakland Improvement Strategy was published in 1998 and was facilitated by City of Pittsburgh Department of City Planning. Many of recommendations were implemented: new zoning districts and a revised zoning map, additional on campus university housing units, streetscape and pedestrian safety enhancements in the commercial core, the creation of business improvement districts, gateway improvements, and code enforcement advocacy.
OTF members created a vision for Schenley Plaza and Oakland's civic district core. The Oakland Civic District Loop: Creating Oakland's Talent Magnet was published in 2001. This process and document started the ball rolling for the transformation of Schenley Plaza from a parking lot to the vibrant, green public space we enjoy today.
Given the wealth of planning for the neighborhood, the next planning initiative did not invlove a comprehensive vision document, but rather a strategy for investment priorities consistent with current plans. The OTF helped to develop a coordinated strategy, or road map, for funders and implementers, both public and private, to use in order to focus investments in the near term while understanding how all projects fit within the overall strategy. The intent was to maximize the impact of each individual project through its synergy with other projects. The Future of Oakland: A Community Investment Strategy was published in 2003 and was facilitated by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. The investment strategy was a valuable tool guiding significant neighborhood improvements: Schenley Plaza, "Hometown Streets" streetscape and pedestrian safey enhancements along the Fifth/Forbes corridor, and the Boulevard of the Allies Bridge reconstruction.
Transportation is always a priority topic in Oakland. OTF members focused specifically on transit improvements with the next policy initiative. The Oakland Transit Whitepaper was published in 2004 and was facilitated by Oakland Transportation Management Association. The document provided a great deal of information about strategies to improve public transportation service to reduce traffic congestion in Oakland.
In 2010 OTF member, Oakland Planning and Development Corporation (OPDC), embarked upon a planning effort to create a comprehensive long-term vision through extensive public participation from all sectors of the neighborhod. The Oakland 2025 Master Plan: a vision for sustainable living and mobility was published in 2012 by OPDC. The goal of Oakland 2025 was twofold: to guide and support Oakland's continued growth as the region's center of innovation and tehnology and support the quality of life in Oakland's four major residential neighborhoods. Oakland 2025 built upon the plans that precede it and has recommendations for housing, transportation, business/development, open space, public art and community building.
The Oakland Task Force is a forum for Oakland institutions, businesses, community groups, public agencies, and city government focused on improving Oakland.
To support the continuing growth of Oakland as:
- an international center for research, education, healthcare, and culture;
- a magnet for technology-based entrepreneurial activity;
- an outstanding mixed-income urban residential neighborhood;
- a cosmopolitan commercial district with local character;
- a place that nurtures and celebrates creativity and diversity; and,
- a destination for local, national, and international visitors.