« Gentrification, Control and the Fate of Pigtown: What's In a Name? | Main | The Move: Slow Posting »


sean mcdaniel

JM: Downtown has long been an urban office park...it's where everyone worked when I was a kid...and was like that when my parents were kids...and when their parents were kids...and when..well, you know.

i've pointed this out before...walk around downtown and you won't find too many buildings that house businesses that look as though they were homes at one time ...because they never were. again, do you see anything in downtown that looks like a nyc type apt. building? you'll find apartment buildings, but they once were hotels and office buildings.

as for the parking issue...that's always been a big part of downtown. check some old photos and you'll find thousands of cars parked on the sloped banks of the mon...before the parkway went through...as soon as people here, and elsewhere could afford a car, they wanted to drive to work. can't say it's human nature, but we are drawn as a group to driving. trust me, once most average chinese families can afford a set of wheels, those bikes will start to rust on the sidewalks.

by the way...are you ever going to answer whether you deserve to ride the buses here since you don't pay county taxes? and if you go to a county park, is that okay? is it fine for city residents to enjoy the outlying regions, but not for people from those same place to engage in what the city offers?

or isn't that answer found in jacobs or rand? funny how many new yorkers find no contradiction in beliefs by owning a weekend home in connecticut. or how bostonians travel to cape cod with a clear conscience. wish my morals and ethics meshed so well.

sean mcdaniel

by the way, lawrenceville, like every other pittsburgh neighborhood was a separate town at one time (up to 1868)...something you might call a suburb. maybe it should have stayed that way. or is that a solution that might still be workable today with the pittsburbs...hey there's the solution...the portmanteau town...part city, part suburbs, totally integrated. and it almost sounds like pittsburgh. how cool.pittsburbs!


maybe the solution is to annex all of the suburbs, then everyone would be living in the city... This is what a lot of cities have done btw.

Amos the Poker Cat

OK, a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, sean said:
pittsburgh, the city, has lost a tremendous amount of people over the last 45 years. the decline started even before the demise of big steel. unless we discover gold and diamonds in the allegheny river during the north shore connector construction, the population's never going to reach the 600,000 again. but overall, the metropolitan population hasn't dropped much during the same period.


From 1960 to 2000, the PIT metro area has lost 330K people, most mainly from 1970 to 1990.


Even with the last decade not being that bad, with only a lose of 1.51%, this put the PIT MSA at #304 of 318 MSAs ranked by rate of pop growth.


I don't have City of PIT numbers handy, but again, just for the last decade, which was not that bad, by PIT standards, using Allegheny County as a proxy for the city, as opposed to the 7 (?) county MSA. (Of course, JM, thinks most of Allegheny County is suburban.) In the last decade, just out of the county in our fair state, PA, Allegheny County was #65 out of 67. Almost at the bottom for rate of population growth, -4.10%. Much worst than the MSA.

Amos the Poker Cat

Oh, I forgot the percent drop that 330K is from the 2000 level of 2.36M. 14% drop. To me, that is alot.

Amos the Poker Cat

Maybe that should be 12.2% from the 1960 level of 2.69M. Still, alot.

Amos the Poker Cat

JM said:
Pittsburgh, could be a nice integrated and functional city but I guess it would rather be a parking lot. I think that having this conversation in America today shows is that the memory of what cities were and how they functioned has been lost. To my knowledge this is largely an American problem.

This is why, I think that the emerging centers for emerging American artist's will be in Europe. It's pretty common to hear about artists moving to Germany now. I think that Philly has a good shot at becoming a great city, but after that there just isn't much left.

Really? NO cars or suburbs in Europe? When I worked in Munich, a little bit after the wall came down, in 1992, I saw a ton of cars, and a bunch of suburbs. Same sort of doughnut, only the very rich and very poor were in cities, if they had a choice.

How would Philly have a good shot at being a great city?

Eric  E

First of all, as a native of DC, I want to second JM's point. DC's dalliance with stadiums has been nothing but a drain for actual city residents, and is a prime example of urban residents being held captive to the interests of the suburbs around it. However, I also have to second sean's point about snobbery against suburbanites - recall that about 60% of America lives in the suburbs.

The fixation with downtown is largely trendy - Pittsburgh downtown has basically always been a railyard with some office buildings thrown in, while within a mile are fabulous old neighborhoods, both urban and old-suburban in nature. And if you really want chic-urban (not to mention a good representation of the city's character), build condos in factories and warehouses. But at least downtown condos are a fair sight better than building more office buildings for companies that won't come here until we fix our government and tax structure. And there's at least some hope that those downtown efforts might lead people to look again at all the old, charming and sadly neglected neighborhoods around downtown like Uptown, the North Side (where I work and just bought a house), parts of the Strip District, and the West End. In a perfect world we'd see the Port Authority working on bridging the "moat" on the North Side rather than getting more South Hills residents to the ballparks, but at least the city's talking a little bit about those old neighborhoods. I went to see Onorato speak about the N. Shore connector and came away frankly impressed at the way the guy gets it about these neighborhoods.

Pittsburgh does indeed have a chance to be a well-integrated city. The parking lot mentality is not intrinsic to Pittsburgh, it's just that the city's mentality consistently lags the country by some 10-15 years. The renaissance of the American city made the pages of the architectural magazines in the early 90s, and Pittsburgh is just getting around to talking in earnest about its downtown. C'est la vie. And aside from a fear of black folk, which was a driving factor 30-50 years ago but has faded in importance since, what generally motivates people to look to the burbs is space and privacy. Many or most of Pittsburgh has neighborhoods that feel like older suburbs in DC and Boston - free-standing houses with plenty of room, and small yards for a bit of privacy, but compact enough to allow walking, and generally on a grid, which allows the emergent complexity that Andres Duany likes to go on about. And these houses go for chump change plus a few renovation dollars, even for residents of Plum and Ross. That's potential.

I understand the gripes with the city's day late and a dollar short attempts downtown, but let's not make the perfect the enemy of the good.

John Morris

Well, at least the conversation is a bit more balanced now. whatever, the city's history bringing a large amount of residential into and around the downtown is pretty critical. Take a nieghborhood, like the Mexican War Steets which can barely support a coffee shop. If more people lived in the area close to the downtown a solid amount of shopping could be supported. Also a discussion of taxes in the city needs to include a discussion of potential taxable property.

In NY, the tax base is balanced ( perhaps a bit unfairly ) on the big buildings in Manhattan. Single family homes don't bear that much of the load. It just seems kind of logical that putting more big buildings into the city would help to boost the tax base.

Does anyone seriously want to argue that D.C. has a good and beneficial relationship with it's suburbs?

sean mcdaniel

well, is the agrument about DC or PGH?

and again and again...JM...since you don't pay city or suburban taxes should you not be permitted to partake of any opportunities those areas offer you?

do you only sell art to people who appreciate it? do you say no to people who say they just want a piece to hang above the sofa? or do you take the money regardless of who offers it to you? after all, the don't appreciate the artist or his work, they just like the shape, size and color.

sean mcdaniel

the mex war streets could support more than a coffee shop...but too many people are waiting for the garden theater to close...and the historic preseravation police are tough to work with...just ask the guys who own the inn on the mexican war streets...they tried to open a restaurant but found the restrictions on how they could renovate to be overwhelming...talk all you want about silly development rules in the suburbs...but try putting a kool vent awning on a mex war st. house...or sliding windows...you can't do it. as for the business development there...it will happen when someone get tired of waiting for someone else to take a chance.

The comments to this entry are closed.