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C. Briem

uh no. When we say 'out of town' that almost always means out of the region. Falbo was certainly not trying to say 60% were living elsewhere in the city proper. Note the context, the 40% comes after the mention of SF and NYC. Sort of like if I say someone is coming to visit from out of town, I dont mean they trekked in from Murraysville.

but the out of the region explanation is my best explanation for the nominal demand downtown. In fact, if you look at who owns a lot of the condo's downtown already they seem to be people who really live elsewhere.. like retirees in FL who want to maintain a place here. These higher end units I bet are like luxury boxes for the successful Pittsburgh diaspora. (apologies to JM).

John Morris

If the 40% from out of town figure holds, that would be a staggeringly high number and would indicate that I am right. So far, Pittsburgh has failed to create any part of the city that would qualify as "cosmopolitan". The downtown might be the first- if it's allowed to become that.

So far we are now behind Detroit in Downtown development.

As far as the-- you could buy a house for that- comment. I think it seals my case that Sam doesn't understand why cities exist in the first place. The first reason is trade/business. Downtown apartments can easily double as business offices for lawyers, consultants, art dealers, designers, investors etc...; which is not something that a home in the suburbs or even in Bloomfield can easily do. Park Ave apartments are so valuable because for tons of people they double as a business address. ( when you figure that some of these people would have to rent separate offices if they lived in suburban houses the math gets better )

The second major benefit of living in a city is convenience. The downtown is one of the few areas-- already in which a person here could live without driving every day. Subtracting the cost of a car and commuting expenses, also starts to make the math look better for downtown apartments.

I can't help feeling like the bias against urban living is rooted in another age. If you were ordained a job for life in an old school company, I guess the normal business purpose that cities serve would not be important. Business districts are prime spots for workaholics and people who work odd hours.

Jonathan Potts

Why do I think that if there was a huge pent-up demand for Downtown housing in Pittsburgh, someone would have met it already? The most plausible explanation, other than that perhaps there isn't such demand, is that the URA and the city have stood in the way of such redevelopment, by hoarding land and waiting for the "right" developer to come along. In that case, city officials should do what I suspect Sam would advocate and have them sell the parcels to the highest bidder and see what happens. And if the market is primarily the people that Chris describes, then I'm not quite sure how much vitality these residents are actually going to bring.

C. Briem

In that the URA still has those holdings I am not sure the evidence can say they are responsible for dampening residential development downtown. I have a feeling the demand, as it exists, is both something new and something feeding upon itself at this point. Dare I say speculation if it continues. I still wonder, why isnt there a run on those Gateway Tower condos?

The mention of Detroit may be apt if not entirely positive. My mother grew up in Greektown in downtown Detroit, now entirely obliterated by the casino there.

Right now, I don't believe the current or new downtown residents are car-less. I think most current downtown residents have cars and there just isnt the infrastructure there yet to really get by without a car. This isn't lower midtown just yet. Down the road.. who knows.

Jonathan Potts

You're the second person I've heard talk about the destruction wrought by the Greektown casino. Hey, well, at least we'll get property tax relief!

Richmond K. Turner

Pittsburgh has about 320,000 residents. Which means that if 1,860 people move out of their current households and into downtown, a full 5.8 percent of the people would be making that shift.

You got the decimal point in the wrong place. It's .058% of the population, not 5.8%. Big difference!

[AntiRust responds: Absolutely correct... and thanks for mentioning the error. Which is embarrasing enough. Worse, I cannot post comments on my own site at the moment. My own blog is accusing me of bombarding myself with spam. So I have attempted to address this with an update in the text of the original post.]

Richmond K. Turner

LOL, right you are. I meant to type 0.58%, and instead... well, at least the two of us have each other for company!

John Morris

I would agree that on a nationwide basis- demand for urban housing is a pretty recent trend. Pittsburgh is about 25 years behind NY, but less than 10 behind a lot of other cities. Urban markets are all about creating a cycle that feeds on itself to drive demand since the value of convenience and shopping goes up with the number of residents. It's also resonable to assume a lot of speculation is built into the demand downtown. People are making speculative bets about the future of the city.

It would be interesting to know how many of the residents downtown work downtown. I would guess it's a high percentage and that a lot of the other folks are retired/ semi retired.

John Morris

I want to make one final point about NY. The issue of Bloomburg's deals to major companies came up. It's important to see who is now a big competitor for NY jobs-- New Jersey- not just suburban NJ, but river front cities like Hoboken and Jersey City. Most of the Jersey waterfront is now becoming fully urban, with huge office towers and high rise apartment buildings as well as upgraded and new transit links. A lot of NY residents now take a fast ferry link to work in offices on the Jersey waterfront.

sean mcdaniel

JM drives me to near madness on the subject...Pittsburgh is not 25 years behind NYC. As much as I love this town it will never be New York. It's time to stop comparing them. Maybe if Pittsburgh were a port city 50 miles up the road from NYC with all the same physical attributes but never capitalized on them you could look at them as equals. But they're not. It's like saying Roberto Clemente wasn't a great baseball player because he didn't hit as many homeruns as Babe Ruth. Truth is, Clemente wasn't as great as Ruth. But, damn, he was still fantastic.

John, how many different ways can people make this point until you get it?

John Morris

Since inner city property markets are hot, you have a very long list of cities that you now have to argue that Pittsburgh is different from.

sean mcdaniel

no my list is not long. my contention is that pittsburgh doesn't belong on any list that includes NYC, SF or Hong Kong. that's always been my sticking point with you.

speaking of NYC, the street pattern you love so much was established in the early to mid 1800s when the city started to move north of washington square. do you really think the city planners of 160 years ago where really that brilliant? Or is it a case of NYC being "successful" even if the streets were 10 feet longer and wider and all the street signs were removed? Sure with wider, longer streets NYC would be less dense, but it would still be the center of everything.

Jonathan Potts

Speaking of Hong Kong...isn't its density partly the result of severe restrictions on development of the agricultural land that surrounds the central city?

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