Pittsburgh’s Newest “Neighborhood” Isn’t a Neighborhood at All

By John Marino - Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18083070

Residents of Pittsburgh are likely familiar with the Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT).  Built in 1952, the airport has served as a hub to many major airlines and a gateway to international destinations.   However, the airport’s newest project is not related to travel at all.  Instead, it focuses on production and provides a unique opportunity for businesses to be part of an innovative community.

Over the past year and a half, the University of Pittsburgh has been partnering with the Pittsburgh International Airport to turn 195 acres west of the midfield terminal into a new innovation campus.  Known as the “Pittsburgh Airport Innovation Campus,” or more colloquially as “Neighborhood 91,” this new campus will focus on providing space to companies focusing on additive manufacturing.   Additive manufacturing is a term that refers to computer-aided 3-D printing technology processes.

The innovative campus is set to house a wide range of additive manufacturing companies on its 195 acres, with 16 pad-ready sites available by 2023.  Presently, Neighborhood 91 houses several tenants, including Pittsburgh-based Fortune 500 railroad technology firm Wabtec and Arencibia, a Lehigh County-based business focused on supplying and recycling argon and other gasses used in the additive manufacturing process.  

The campus boasts a microgrid that will power the factories located in Pittsburgh’s 91st neighborhood.  The microgrid provides existing tenants with cheap power, as it is powered by natural gas drilled directly on the airport property.  The land is located above the Marcellus Shale, which allows PIT to drill for natural gas on the property as an additional source of revenue as well as to power Pittsburgh’s newest neighborhood’s microgrid.  It is one of only a handful of airports to do so in North America.  

A study conducted by The Barnes Group Advisors (TBGA), Pittsburgh’s largest independent manufacturing engineering firm, revealed that this new campus will create over 6,000 new jobs in the next decade, as well as generating around $2.2 billion in wages.  And in addition to providing more jobs for Pittsburgh residents, the neighborhood will also significantly drop the cost of production for the 3D printing process by providing a “one-stop shop” for all parts of the 3D-printing supply chain.  It is expected that there will be a 25 percent drop in costs for parts and powder used in production, as well as an 80 percent drop in manufacturing time and transportation costs.

In December 2018, airport authority officials broke ground on the innovation campus, envisioning a site that could house offices, research and development labs, and industrial manufacturing facilities built around a town center with retail and restaurants.  Although there has been much progress in the past years, there is still time to go before the full plan is realized. It is expected that the project should be complete within the next 10 years, creating a neighborhood unlike one Pittsburgh has ever seen before. 

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