Executive Director of InnovatePGH — a public/private partnership focused on developing Pittsburgh as a global innovation city — Sean Luther is passionate about urban places. He’s been at the helm of Pittsburgh’s Envision Downtown and the Green Building Alliance’s Pittsburgh 2030 District, and previously worked as president and CEO of Downtown Roanoke, Inc. Originally from the South Hills, Sean lives in Uptown.

What upcoming events are you excited to attend?

I cut my economic/place development teeth in Downtown’s Market Square, so every spring I look forward to my favorite events returning there. At the top of my list is the Farmers Market for lunch on Thursdays and the Saturday Night Market. These are great events that activate Downtown in different ways. They provide a strong example of programming that we hope to help replicate with our partners in Uptown and Oakland.

I’m also excited to check out Summer of Scoops at Bakery Square. Because Millie’s is delicious, and I always love an excuse to be outside! And since ice cream is at the top of my list for the summer, I am also getting back on my bike as much as possible. That means I should be in shape for Pedal Pittsburgh in August.

Sean Luther with the Green Building Alliance-led delegation to the UNECE in Geneva, Switzerland.

What’s the best part of your job?

Every time I come into the office, I am reminded that my team and I have an opportunity to substantively impact Pittsburgh for the better. Most of our work relies heavily on strong partnerships with the universities, the Mayor and County Executive’s offices, and outstanding organizations who share our vision and mission. It is incredibly rewarding to spend my “work” hours with so many driven people who are passionate about ensuring a successful future for all Pittsburghers.

What is your big idea for Pittsburgh?

I am all-in on InnovatePGH’s attack plan for Pittsburgh. We have a tremendous opportunity to position Pittsburgh as a global innovation hub thanks to the unique partnerships between Pitt, CMU and UPMC in Oakland. Major technology companies are looking to cities like Pittsburgh to expand their operations because they can no longer effectively recruit top talent to the Bay Area and it is too expensive to do so in New York and Boston. Building the Pittsburgh Innovation District in Oakland maximizes that opportunity because firms want to locate within walking distance to outstanding research institutions. Connecting Downtown, Uptown, Oakland and East Liberty via the BRT unites these established and emerging innovation hubs into a single system that is competitive with any innovation hub in the world!

My personal idea is more basic: Pittsburgh should be a high-speed rail hub uniting a Columbus-Philadelphia-NYC and Cleveland-Washington, D.C. network. To do so, we need to purchase as much Norfolk Southern stock as possible.

Podcast you’re addicted to?

Revolutions is a podcast I’ve been hooked on for years. So much of my podcast feed is current events (or “Game of Thrones” recaps!) that I find it refreshing to have an engrossing, historical escape. The new season on the Russian Revolution just hit, and it’s a great bus ride distraction.

Sean and Michael’s dog Clark relaxing at their Conneaut Lake cottage.

Who should be the unofficial Mayor of Pittsburgh?

Kenny Chen! The world (and Pittsburgh) needs more Kennys. He just launched a new initiative, PATH, but Kenny has been a preeminent advocate for Pittsburgh and a connector of people looking to make a positive impact for years. Most importantly to me, Kenny is a network builder; something that many Pittsburghers take for granted since we have deep roots here. Kenny is always plugging in different combinations of new Pittsburghers with old ones to make sure we are as genuinely welcoming as advertised.

It’s time to unwind. Where do you head?

One of the great benefits we pitch to companies looking to locate/expand in the Pittsburgh Innovation District and Oakland is Schenley Park. It’s probably the amenity that I personally take advantage of most frequently to relax. My husband, Michael, often meets me after work with our dog, Clark, for a stroll to the park and a hike around the lake.

We also just bought a cottage at Conneaut Lake after years of visiting friends there. Pittsburghers are re-embracing the fact that we can spend our weeks in this spectacular, dense, urban city and then in 90 minutes (or less) be rafting on the Yough, hiking at Coopers Rock or hanging out on a boat in Conneaut Lake for the weekend. As a result, Conneaut is seeing a lot of new investment (including the critical trifecta of food, beer and coffee) even as it maintains its unique heritage and character as “Pittsburgh’s Hudson Valley” destination for decades.

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About The Author

Arts + Events editor

Former arts & culture editor of Pop City; worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art. Co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania and co-coordinator of Handmade Arcade. In a band called The Garment District; founding member of Brooklyn's The Ladybug Transistor.

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