Pittsburgh’s Next Opportunity

Pittsburghs-Next-OpportunityComeback City. Best Place to Live. Best to Visit…It’s a good feeling when your hometown receives so much attention. Living in Pittsburgh inspires a sense of pride and as I travel around the country, I am always happy to tell people about the highlights of our region’s transformation. That travel though has also opened my eyes to the fact that we are not doing enough to retain those titles. There are issues in our community, our economy and our civic and social infrastructure that must be addressed if we want to wear the badge of pride into the next decade. Continue reading “Pittsburgh’s Next Opportunity”

Back to School: The Institution of Town

Although our calendars tell us that the official end of summer is still a few weeks away, for many of us, the symbolic end of summer comes when the school bells ring.  The days get shorter…bedtimes come earlier…and social media users go into overdrive posting mobile uploads of children waiting for yellow busses.  As a community planner, I’m always fascinated by the changes that occur in our communities when schools go back in session. Empty street corners become social hot spots at 7:15 a.m.  Sidewalks connecting homes to classrooms get more use.  Community parks empty in the daytime and football fields fill on Friday nights. Continue reading “Back to School: The Institution of Town”

Tale of Two Cities

With much attention given recently to many great American cities losing population since the 2000 census, a recent posting in StreetsBlog by Angie Schmitt calls attention to the other tale of this story.  While overall population in numbers look like this for the following cities since 2000:

  • Baltimore: -4.6%
  • Chicago: -6.9%
  • Cincinnati: -10.4%
  • Cleveland: -17.1%
  • Pittsburgh: -8.6%
  • St. Louis: -8.3%

…signs within these city’s give reason for optimism.  “While many cities got kicked in the shins if you look at their overall populations, downtowns and their surrounding neighborhoods enjoyed a resurgence,” notes Schmitt.

  • Baltimore‘s downtown residential population has grown by 11.6% since 2006 and now provides living space for more than 40,000 people.
  • Chicago‘s Loop saw a 76% increase in inhabitants since 2000 and the Near South Side more than doubled in population over the same period (even as the number of jobs downtown declined by 60,000).
  • Cleveland‘s most central census tracks each gained 20% or more in population between 2000 and 2010.
  • St. Louis‘ central neighborhoods gained several thousand people in total.

And here in Pittsburgh, while an aging residency continues to contribute to an overall population loss, redevelopment efforts in many neighborhoods such as the East End, Lawrenceville, Southside and Financial District are seeing the arrival of younger professionals often employed in Pittsburgh’s growing health care, energy and education sectors.  Most of these projects are offering higher density living with easy access to transit systems, pedestrian and bike routes.  Rising cost of gas will likely continue to fuel interest in these type of living options.

Pittsburgh’s home values have also been steadily increasing between 3% and 4% annually, even during the financial crisis.  Forbes projects homes to continue to appreciate for Pittsburgh in 2011.  Slow and steady wins the race.

“Rightsizing” is also a growing strategy for cities.  Rather than filling every old building site with another building, planners are incorporating parklets, community gardens and other passive recreation options on an urban scale.  Cleveland is pushing this thinking to the next level with its “Re-Imagining A More Sustainable Cleveland” project.  Convened by the Neighborhood Progress in collaboration with the City of Cleveland and Ken State University’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, the City is aggressively rethinking what comes next for its vacant land.

It is clear that much is happening that is part of a complex and exciting story for our nation’s great cities.  Changes in overall population are only part of that story.  Those of us witnessing the positive changes at the neighborhood level would agree that an urban renaissance is continuing with most believing the best is still yet to come.