More than 50 years after its dedication, Mellon Square was named one of America’s Ten Great Public Spaces by the American Planning Association. The Square is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. At the same time, this iconic landmark's luster was showing significant wear and tear because of a lack of resources for maintenance. Corrosion, broken systems, failed drainage infrastructure, and absent or dying trees and shrubs all contributed to Mellon Square's deterioration over time.
In 2009, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, with a team led by Patricia O’Donnell of Heritage Landscapes, crafted a plan based on historic research and restoration planning to begin a restoration project to return Mellon Square to its intended design. This multi-year plan looked to significantly increase Mellon Square's economic impact to the surrounding area, and restore its vibrancy as a public space.
In 2011, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy hosted groundbreaking ceremonies that launched the $10 million restoration of Mellon Square. Included were a new terrace above Smithfield Street that increases usable space by 15%; thousands of new plantings and specially constructed soils to capture rainwater and minimize runoff; and new high-efficiency pumps for the fountains that drastically reduce the park’s consumption of water and electricity. But perhaps most important is the vision to create a long-term maintenance fund, guaranteeing that Mellon Square will never again suffer from a lack of ongoing care.