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John Morris

you are trying to be a pain.

If there is a city in America not well geared to do well without a decent inner city it is Pittsburgh. The city is small and the area around the downtown represents a large percent of it's most buildable land. I have itemised these reasons before so i am tired of doing it again.

This is pure self loathing. When writers talk about pittsburgh as one of America's most beautiful cities, they are refering to a large extent to the downtown and the views. To just throw this down the drain is nuts. Please, Please, please, keep the discussion on the topic of regulation, subsidies, transport and taxes. When you go into this you look like a complete moron. Almost all the discussions i hve had about the great prospects for the city center on the potential of the inner areas of town.

Take a look at a map. look at the hills, existing infrastructure, cultural assets, jobs ( yes the triangle still has them )hotels, etc... and tell me what you would do. Perhaps you think that these existing assets should be removed or what and how much do you think that would cost?

John Morris

Ok, I have not been to Savanah, but i just went online and looked at imags of it's skyline. Form what i could see the tallest type of building in town might be 10 stories so right there that gives a clue that the relevance is pretty low. Savanah is a very historic city that i would imagine relies pretty heavily on tourism. There are few tall buildings in town and the city has an interest in keeping it that way. This is not Pittsburghs situation with it's downtown, which is suited to, and historically has had tall buildings. In fact, the thing that stands out in the city as unatural is it's parking garages.

A simple look at the current skyline of the city tells one the most suitable area for tall/high density construction.

I know that in terms of it's history, Pittsburgh is not NY, or San Francisco ( although there are more parallels than you think ) but the resemblence in terms of it's geography is pretty strong.

Mark Stroup

Twenty years ago or more the dean of urbanism (almost hate to use that professional sounding moniker) William Whyte came to Pittsburgh and was asked why no one went downtown at night. Whyte asked, "Why does it have to be?" The verdict is still out on what has to be. Like John -- and I think like Sam -- I think downtown should have more development, more business, more people-connecting possibilities.

I do see that Sam is working towards a very important point. A point that it's worth being patient before we arrive at it. Pittsburgh is not New York and it's not Savannah. What does that mean? Why be obtuse about it? Why risk being thought of as a moron? Because it's hard to define what exactly it is. We've certainly had a lot of armchair commentary. Most everyone, though, has first hand knowledge of what downtown is, or what it was.

What might be interesting is some Whyte-style research along the lines of how people move, how the downtown feels, where does the sun shine (when it shines), how do property managers make spaces inviting. So far the conversation is text-based. Flickr, anyone? YouTube, perhaps? Oh, yeah, and check out "Social Life of Small Urban Spaces," or failing that, "City." (The reason why I was hesitant to call Whyte the dean of anything was that he joyfully worked without portfolio.)

And for any of you who care about cities in general and Pittsburgh in particular I hope to see you tomorrow at Digging Pitt.

sean mcdaniel

hey johnny morris, i'll borrow a line from amos here...if those writers who talk about pittsburgh being a beautiful city ever looked at the place other than from mt. washington, they'd find out it's a gem almost any where you go. i could point out plenty of places, but let's hear what you and others mention some of your favorite pittsburgh places (outside of mt. washington and the point area. those are givens. doesn't have to be natural beauty. it's what appeals to more than the eye.

sean mcdaniel

whatever disagreements i might have with sam, i don't think he's a moron (sam, you can check the old post to make sure.) still, i think most rehabbing of blighted areas misses a major point.

the last sentence of the quoted passage is interesting...the restoration of savannah didn't really solve any problems (the whores,in this case). it just pushed them out of eye sight for those lucky folks returning to a gentrified town. in pittsburgh's case, the city's already shoved the whores and drug dealers out of the golden triangle to the north side and allentown and lawrenceville and near duquesne university (hey, i only know what i read in the papers). back in the 1970s and '80s, penn and liberty avenues looked like the intro to an HBO late night specials due to an unbelievable number of pimps and hos everywhere. maybe it's a start to push them out of a "downtown" area of a place, but the problems are still there — just on a different corner.

just ask j. morris about the prostitute situation in lawrenceville.

John Morris

I really think by this point, what I mean is clear. However facinating the other areas of Pittsburgh are, the vast pent up economic value is primarily in the areas near the downtown. This is for the most part not a zero sum game. A lot of the places,
Sam mentions could really be extensions of the "downtown" in that they are places close enough to closly relate and flow into it. This is similar to the relationship Shadyside, and East Liberty have with Oakland.

What sounds dumb is the obsessive zero sum game assumtions that Sam is making that most of this development will hurt existing neighborhoods when it should reinforce them.

Sam M

"What sounds dumb is the obsessive zero sum game assumtions that Sam is making"

But I am not making them. The people who are in charge of developing the city's future are making them. The Census Bureau is making them.

The fact of the matter is that the people who are guiding downtown development are working under the assumption that their plans will not result in a net gain in population. Or at least not a significant one.

They might be wrong. But in your experience, are these the kind of people who are really careful about what they promise? Are they always sure to present the worst-case scenario of their actions?

Or in you experience, do they more typically use inflated numbers and best-case scenarios in order to secure as much funding as possible?

In your experience, if they felt they could argue that subsidized condos downtown would result in a net gain in population--a real Pittsburgh resurgence--wouldn't they do that?

I am not saying what they do or don't do is a good judge of a plan's value. But I do think that it matters when the people with the most incentive to offer optimistic predictions fail to do so.

Again, these aren't my numbers. They are the ones guiding the current plan. So I think it is hardly "dumb" or "obsessive" to use them in exploring whether those plans make sense.

John Morris

I think that all the assuptions based largely on the relocal and regional market demand. Also, a lot of them are based on government statistics, so I don't count them for much. If it's true that NY is short housing for about 1 million people, that's a hell of a market. As, I have said before, Pittsburghers are likely to be the last people on earth to apreciate thier city as the record shows

NY ended up a million housing units short largely by looking at government statistics.

John Morris

I think that looking at few specific ares of the city helps to show that the zero sum ideas may not be right.

Shadyside seems to be showing a compounding growth pattern of more residents=better shopping/street life and then the demand for more housing near it. That demand is now spilling over into East Liberty. The same effect is happening on the South Side, with more density leading to better shopping and convenience and then to more demand.

This is the normal urban pattern and it is not a zero sum game. As the number of functional neighborhoods goes up, the total attractiveness and energy of the city goes up which helps one suck in more demand. At some point your city becomes a national draw.

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