The Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio are the reason that Pittsburgh exists, says O'Toole, who looks at efforts over the last two decades to clean up what were until fairly recently terribly polluted industrial dumping grounds, and turn them into the focus of the city's renaissance. "The city has managed to leverage a $124 million investment in publicly accessible riverfront into $4 billion in corporate, public, nonprofit and entertainment development downtown," she notes. "That success has renewed a debate that would have been unthinkable in Pittsburgh’s polluted industrial heyday: how best to expand public access to the shorelines of the three rivers."
Two decades of clearing and cleaning has restored the rivers' luster, and competing interests are now vying to utilize the newly attractive riverfront. "Projects proposed for two of the largest tracts left to be developed on the downtown fringe illustrate the opportunities and limits of public-private partnerships," writes O'Toole, who details the conflicts that arise when the interests of developers, city leaders, and citizens don't align.