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As far as I know, the concept in Youngstown is to shrink back the sparsly populated areas. I think they are taking a hard look at the cost of providing services in the semi abandoned parts of the city and want to shrink to the core.

Logically, If Pittsburgh is shrinking -- It should be shrinking to the core areas that already have jobs and infrastructure like the downtown, North side and the strip.


Here are some quotes from the story on governing.com about Youngstown

"Then, in the late ’90s, many cities began seeing an urban renaissance, fueled by immigration, dropping crime rates and favorable demographics. Population losses in New York and Chicago turned into gains. (New York, currently at 8.1 million people, has never been larger than it is now.) Other cities began experiencing a population paradox. Boston and San Francisco count fewer people than they did five years ago, yet they seem to be in better economic health. What they’re essentially doing is losing families with school-age children and gaining singles, childless couples and empty nesters — smaller households with ample incomes that demand much less in the way of city services."

"But now comes the hard part: figuring out what it actually means to rightsize a city’s neighborhoods and infrastructure. Unlike the industrialists who bolted from Youngstown 30 years ago, the mayor can’t simply shut off sewers or stop plowing snow just because those services aren’t economical. What he can do is target city investments where they will pay the greatest return to Youngstown’s quality of life. Williams hopes to entice residents to relocate out of neighborhoods that are too far gone to save. At the same time, he wants to focus on stabilizing transitional neighborhoods and keeping healthy middle-class neighborhoods from wilting. “What it means is in many instances you have to start saying no,” Williams says. “That’s not easy as a public official, when it comes to people with all sorts of ideas that are well intended but not necessarily realistic.”


Sam M

Those are interesting quotes. And your comments are worth discussing.

First, if you count housing as part of Pittsburgh's "infrastructure," there is very little of it downtown. Moreover, that is not a historical abberation. Pittsburgh has never had an extremely stong residential component in the Fifth-Forbes corridor. The housing has always been and remains, focused in the existing neighborhoods.

But let's go back to what Youngstown is doing. As you mention, the city is trying to shift people out of certain neighborhoods and into other neighborhoods. Is that what Pittsburgh is doing? No one really knows. I occasionally say that it looks that way, as no one is really suggesting that the population is going to grow. And that if you add a new neighborhood downtown while the population stays stagnant, other neighborhoods are going to have to shrink. I am not sure who you are, but if you are familiar with this blog at all, you will recall that when I do suggest that, most people say that I am nuts. But I am sticking to my guns. That is, the people have to come from somewhere.

One idea seems to be that if you add fancy housing, people will move here from elsewhere, be it Cranberry or Chicago.

But is that the plan? Like I said, no one knows. They know in Youngstwon, because the guy in charge is saying, "This is my plan, and this is what I expect to have happen."

No one is being clear like that here. Or if they are, I have not seen the plan. If you know of one, please pass it along.

Sam M

Another question: Who is Youngstown for? Is the city attempting to draw people in from afar? From the suburbs? One of the disconcerting (to me at least) characteristics of Pittsburgh's growth strategy is that government officials appear to be subsidizing housing for the richest people in the city/region. The mayor recently said that he cannot afford a downtown condo. Despite the fact that his wife works and he has no children.

That is, there is no residential infrastructure suitable for the mayor in the CBD. There is an immense quantity of residential infrastructure elsewhere in the city, however.

So would a reasonable strategy of "shrinkage to core areas" steer people into housing that already exists? Or does it make sense to build more housing? And in Pittsburgh's case, which neighborhoods might make good candidates for shrinkage?

Mark Rauterkus

Thin. They are trying to thin. They may want less density.

Case in point: Some of the wonderful city steps along the South Side Slopes and other sections of the city were ignored for years. These are public walkways. The steps and walks were taken down. To tear them down costs a lot more than to fix them up even.

Some houses were only able to be reached by these stairs. So, they are gone.

Case in point 2: There are zoning regulations that prohibit a house that is like mine, without a side yard, from being able to be re-built. If we, for example, had a fire, we'd not be able to rebuild. There is not enough space on the side of our house next to the side of another house. So, when this happens, there is no hope of "in-fill" with the present zoning laws.

Case 3: The County is trying to thin, however. The head of the county's redevelopment agency said at a meeting about 2 weeks ago that the central business district in McKeesport is about 20 blocks long. It should be 5 blocks long. So, they are looking to knock out 15 blocks, some way.

That is a reduction by design in an urban center -- from the head of the agency that reports to the County Executive.

I agree, the city's plan is NO PLAN. Say little. Do less. Hope for the best. Mingle with redd up. Get votes and a power base from the LDCs (Local Development Corporations). Then pit the LDCs against each other and call it a fight against blight.

Not enough time to rehash all of this again.

1) Built in is the assumption that people choosing to live downtown would have chosen another neighborhood in Pittsburgh. I think it's likely that this is a crowd more likely to choose another city than the inconvenient lifestyle offered by most of Pittsburgh. That is very true for the older buyers.

I think it's important to see that a city can shrink and grow at the same time in places. Once again NY is the city to look at. Through the 70's and 80's NY, was shrinking. For the most part, what happened was a process of the core reviving and becoming more popular at the same time as some of the worst neighborhoods -- like the South Bronx emptied out. From what I can see, that is what is going on in Philly now.

Sam M

"I think it's important to see that a city can shrink and grow at the same time in places."

OK. Great. That is what I have been saying all along. And I really cfan;t see why it is controversial. If one section of the city grows and the population as a whole stays the same or falls, some other "places" shrink. And all I have been doing is asking which neighborhoods those might be.

"I think it's likely that this is a crowd more likely to choose another city than the inconvenient lifestyle offered by most of Pittsburgh. That is very true for the older buyers."

Is Shadyside really all that "inconvenient"? Bloomfield? Squirrel Hill? The North Side? South Side? Inconvenient compared to what?

Sam M

"I think it's important to see that a city can shrink and grow at the same time in places."

OK. Great. That is what I have been saying all along. And I really cfan;t see why it is controversial. If one section of the city grows and the population as a whole stays the same or falls, some other "places" shrink. And all I have been doing is asking which neighborhoods those might be.

"I think it's likely that this is a crowd more likely to choose another city than the inconvenient lifestyle offered by most of Pittsburgh. That is very true for the older buyers."

Is Shadyside really all that "inconvenient"? Bloomfield? Squirrel Hill? The North Side? South Side? Inconvenient compared to what?

Relative to a lot of cities -- Pittsburgh has few convenient areas, and none that would come close to a NY, Chicago level ( the - I never have to live this area type ) Shadyside, The South Side and Squirel hill could be called convenient and Bloomfield and a few other areas come a little close. ( and they are popular ) Because of it's large job base and tall buildings/ potential for tall buildings-- the downtown could offer a lifestyle currently not offered here-- the kind that people live in small apartments to be in. The North Side and the Strip also have that kind of potential-- but thanks to current policies they are mostly dead zones.

A lot of goofy assumptions are built in to your case. ( like a condo buyer wants to live in a house )

1) Is that everyone wants to have the hastle/ responsibility of home ownership. Singles, students, very busy people and empty nesters often don't want to own a house.

One has to try to make apples to apples comparisons among property types and neighborhood types to have an idea of demand.

From what, I can tell-- Your argument is that people should fix up existing buildings/ areas before adding anything new. What this pre supposes is that-- the existing housing stock fits current demands/ lifestyles and that the cost of rehabing/ reviving houses and neighborhoods is -- in all cases; less than building new. I guess one could wish that the buyer of an expensive condo, would rehab a place in Homewood instead, but that's delusional.

Jonathan Potts

If there is a market for this kind of housing, and if that market is unique, not interested in any other housing currently available in the city, then why does it need to be subsidized, either by the city or the state?

Because what we are talking about here is public policy. Should the government be in the business of real estate speculation?

the government will be in the speculation business because companies like the piatts (lower case intentional) will perpetuate this activity. It is how they make their living. Look back at how much Oconner was wined and dined in washington county before becoming mayor. was it any wonder that this outsider "developer" ("term is used very loosely coz I think they are a joke") was given the go ahead to refurb your 5th and forbes. You wanna stop it all? force the books to be opened for public scrutiny. make sure that what the piatts say something costs is what it really costs. In my opinion the public would find a way to stop this flagrant use of public funds to further line an already wealthy mans pocket............then again as law makers and politicians are also in that same pocket maybe Joe Public has nothing to say in the matter..

Sam M

"From what, I can tell-- Your argument is that people should fix up existing buildings/ areas before adding anything new."

No. No. No. A thousand times no. And a thousand times more.

How many times can i say it? I AM ALL FOR THE PIATTS BUILDING CONDOS. AND ANYONE ELSE.

I just don;t think they should use public money to build them. Look, even our mayor cannot afford to live in these condos. So they are for very rich people. Why would we subsidize housing for them?

But fine. Let's say we are going to do that. Is it too much to ask how adding 2,000 residential units will affect the overall residential market in a city that is shrinking?

I don;t think you have to answer that if you are building them with your own money. But when you are taking money from public officials who represent all the other landlords who are NOT receiving subsidies, is it really too much to ask?

Tell me. Why is it too much to ask? Why does it seem like such an onerous requirement to you? I just don't understand that. If the government were going to susidize the addition of 100 pizza places in town, I thinik it might be natural for the owners of current pizza places to ask, "Who is going to order all this pizza?" Wouldn't it?

Maybe the answer would be that all that pizza would raise the the public;s interest in oizza and get them to buy more. Or maybe it would be a different kind of pizza, not an exact substitute. Or maybe the "buzz" would be so great that young pizza eaters the workd over would move here. It DOESN'T MATTER WHAT THE ANSWER WOULD BE. What matter--and what raises my suspicion--is that no one will ask.

Really, I am flabbergasted. Someone is subsidizing the addition of thousands of residential units in a shrinking city, and you think i am some kind of ass for asking where the people will come from.

It seems like a really obvious question to me. No grand conspiracy. no ulterior motives. I just wnat o know where the 3,000 people are going to come from. And I want real answers. Real projections. So 10 years from now we can ask around and see if the plan worked.

Really, why is that so obnoxious?

Moreover, aren't you curious even in the least?

I am back. Sam, i am not arguing with you about the subsidy issue. I think what bothers me is the total lack of any context.

All of the roads are state funded and all of the bridges etc. To my knowledge, a lot of the parking garages downtown and all over the town are government funded/ subsidised. This doesn't even get at all the ways the tax code and government zoning laws mandate sprawl. It seems like the only time that the word subsidy is used is in relation to inner urban development and mass transit.

I have said before, that i don't believe that the way that most Americans live today is the product of anything close to a free market. what is very interesting is that the period in which we had the closest thing to a free market, dense urban development and ( often privatly funded ) mass transit was the norm.

A rational discusion of the issue would place this in the context of the total amount of government money spent. It would also try to take a hard look at the numbers that people are using. One vital question is why does it cost so much per unit to build downtown.

I want to go on the record as predicting that the downtown development will be pretty disapointing and will not produce a lively area. The fact that now, the north side will be a dead zone of parking, stadiums, sports bars, casinos etc.., reduces the chances of putting anything close to enough people in the downtown full time to make it work.
The end result of this is likely to be an endless parade of one shot attempts to "attract" people into the area. These are going to be far more expensive than creating dense housing.

I also predict, that it will take ever increasing amounts of tax breaks and subsidies to keep just the current job base downtown.

From what i can see, Pittsburgh is copying Baltimore; which seems to have done almost nothing to make the city better for it's residents; while trying to support itself as a day trip tourist town. If this hasn't worked for Baltimore which is surrounded by a lot more people. The chances of it working here are below zero.

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