Saturday, June 19, 2010

What is the next Pittsburgh neighborhood to be redeveloped?

Next time you go to the Southside Works to catch a movie, go to Claddagh's Irish pub, pick up some (overpriced) stuff at Sur la Table for the kitchen, or shop at Steve Madden....stop and think that you are standing in the midst of what used to be a massive steel mill.

When you're walking through Lawrenceville, admiring all of the funky art galleries or dining at some of the city's best new restaurants like Piccolo Forno, Tamari, or Round Corner Cantina, think about how 10-15 years ago that neighborhood was completely run down and there were only grass root sprouts of community interest in cleaning it up.

East Liberty, starting with Home Depot and the Eastside complex in the early 2000's, is revitalizing itself, too. It also has some travel-worthy restaurants that it is using to fuel its redevelopment growth, such as Abay, Dinette, and two new restaurants to open in the fall (Spoon and BRGR) among others.

Neighborhoods are like fire, in some regards. They need fuel to not only survive, but thrive. The initial kindling must come from the residents of the neighborhoods themselves. They must take pride in their area and want to make it better. That means cleaning it up, keeping undesirables out, and presenting a good image for potential residents or businesses.

But that only goes so far. At some point, there needs to be an infusion of cash from first the government (county, state, federal) in order to attract private-side developers.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) of Pittsburgh and the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County have, for the most part, done a decent job of directing monies to highlighted neighborhoods in order for them to grow. This has been by demolishing blighted properties, rebuilding sub-surface infrastructure, re-doing streets and sidewalks, and offering tax breaks to private development. Without these things, our city neighborhoods may wither and die on the vine. And then we would be Detroit.

So what's the next neighborhood that should be targeted? Obviously, no city neighborhood is perfect (and there are a ton of them, some of which I have never heard of ---Fairywood?), but some need more help than others.

Lawrenceville, between its own neighborhood groups, city involvement, and the presence of the new Children's Hospital, is still on the way up in terms of promise. East Liberty, mentioned above, has a ways to go but is definitely off the mat in terms of where it was 10 years ago. And wedged right in between them?

Garfield. Not the one-term president assassinated in 1881 after only 6 months in office (the neighborhood took on his name the day he was shot). And not the beloved, way-past-its-prime cartoon starring a lasagna-loving cat. I'm talking about one of the meanest, roughest neighborhood in the city of Pittsburgh.

The signs are already starting....Mayor Ravenstahl has been focusing attention on demolishing many vacant and blighted houses. Nuisance bars are being shuttered. This is step one -- eliminating the undesirable element. Step two is to attract the artist community. Because rent is cheap, artists are drawn to these gritty places. It will be only a matter of time before you start to see a revitalization of the housing stock here, as a way to help provide affordable quality housing to an area that desperately needs it.

It only makes sense to connect the chain from Lawrenceville to East Liberty together with one more link...Garfield. It will be a way to rectify the terrible "sledgehammer-style" of urban redevelopment done in the 60's and 70's...construct high-rise housing to contain minorities in a concrete vertical filing cabinet, all the while destroying the very things that made the community great.

People who work in the city need good places to live in the city. I believe this decade will see the rebirth of Garfield. And we can all share a piece of lasagna when it happens.

No comments:

Post a Comment