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Proud Pittsburgh

What are the neccesary ingredients for a successful Downtown Pittsburgh

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Hello Everyone,

This is my first post here at Urban Planet.

I am, as my screen name suggests, a very proud Pittsburgher. I am convinced that Pittsburgh is going through it's third Renaissance, and that this one has the best chance of sustaining itself into the distant future.

There are two reasons that I feel this way.

1. I believe that we will reclaim our proud tradition of commercializing the technologies coming out of our city. ( In our heyday, we comercialized discoveries coming out of our existing industries. This time I feel that we are poised to capitalize on our university research. )

2. I believe that the current developments being proposed bring together many of the critical ingredients needed for sustainable downtown revitalization.

My question for Urban Planet is : What do you think are the right ingredients for a great Downtown Pittsburgh?

I have many thoughts, but I would be interested in hearing your's.

I look forward to spending alot of time on this site and discussing urban design.

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^^Proud welcome to the forum, reading what your thoughts are I think you'll really like it here, if we have one weakness at this forum it is having an unrelenting pathos for everything Pittsburgh.

As you might come to know I have this theory that it all gets back to consolidation when it comes to making this metro, region and downtown the very best it can be. You might ask how would consolidating Wexford and McKeesport and the rest of the county into one governmental authority help out downtown? Several reasons, AEO would have already been "persuaded" to seek a downtown location decades ago by a city zoning dept. interested in keeping industry at the center and residential and parklands on the extent. Taxes would come DOWN in major ways attracting business and regional centers of major global corporations here, it would eliminate 190 different forms of redtape in the area, the city wouldn't be featured as "bankrupt" because it would have the tax base of the suburban malls, centers and businesses (in fact city metro zoning would "persuade" RossPark and business parks to come closer to downtown). Buying power, less duplication of services, simpler regulations, etc. etc.

If I had one wish it would be to see Pittsburgh consolidate and take its place as the 7th largest city in the nation instead of not even appearing on the "top 50" list.

Anyways I have tons more to say on this subject away from the consolidation issue (as many know) but I'm glad to see someone that matches my passion (obsession? lol) for making Pittsburgh great again!

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Here are some factors I think are important (not that I don't agree with PghUSA about consolidation, but for the purpose of this thread I'll stick to talking about Downtown development)...

1. Housing

2. Improving the look of Dowtown. This means cleaning up litter, fixing up old buildings, and adding some new buildings. It would not only make the area more attractive, but it would also add to the buzz and make people want to check things out. If Downtown looks good then it becomes a destination in and of itself, rather than relying on the stores and restaurants to attract people.

3. A better variety of shopping options. Wig stores and the like all have their purpose, but when it looks like that's all there is, something is wrong. I want to see more clothing stores, more specialty stores (along the lines of Nicholas Coffee Co.), more grocery options.

4. A variety of restaurants for all price ranges. There are lots of good places to eat Downtown right now, but they tend to be expensive. The cheaper places mostly look like holes in the wall. We need more mid-range stuff.

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Hey Proud, I was just looking through some blogs and happened upon one that appears to be yours. I must say I like it a lot!

Here is a link in case anybody else wants to look: http://www.proudpittsburgh.com/blog/index.htm#

(I hope you don't mind me posting it here, but I am operating under the assumption that people who write blogs want them to be read :D )

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Hey Proud, I was just looking through some blogs and happened upon one that appears to be yours. I must say I like it a lot!

Here is a link in case anybody else wants to look: http://www.proudpittsburgh.com/blog/index.htm#

(I hope you don't mind me posting it here, but I am operating under the assumption that people who write blogs want them to be read :D )

Thanks for the plug Gerbil.

That is my blog and I am thrilled that you found it and liked it. I didn't mention it in the post because I didn't want my first post to seem like an advertisement for my website. ( But you are right, I want it to be read! )

I started the website as a grassroots campaign to change the image of Pittsburgh ( at home and across the country). I have been writing about Pittsburgh in the blog for a few months, and I love it. I keep up on Pittsburgh current events alot more now, because I am always looking for subject matter. I started the blog and the website, because I wanted to voice my opinion about what I think is important about Pittsburgh.

My theory is that Pittsburgh is a great American city because our collective character does not just revolve around the physical place, but also around our great achievements.

Our work-ethic is our brand.

Pittsburghers have a love/hate relationship with the city - We are very proud of our accomplishments, but are embarrased of what everyone else thinks of us. (IE: We are proud to have been the industrial capital of world, but we are embarrased that it made us the smoky city )

I believe that our heritage of achievement is the best thing that we have going for us, and we should shout about it!

I trademarked a slogan, and some artwork that plays off of our tendancy to compare ourselves to other places.

Pittsburgh:We're not manhattan...We just built it.

You can see the logo in my signature and all over my website. I plan to introduce similar comparisons to other cities over several months. The next one will have to do with our biomedical industry.

If any of you have thought about subjects for the blog please let me know.

Anyway, sorry to have strayed from the subject. I agree with all of the previous posts so far. I am a strong believer in merging our City and County to a large extent. I wrote about it in depth at: http://proudpittsburgh.com/blog/2006_03_01_archive.html

scroll about 1/2 way down the page and read "Pittsburgh is a major market" and "Pittsburgh is a major market 2"

I also agree that housing downtown is hugely important, but it can not just be expensive penthouse condos. A diverse mix of income levels will allow the retail and office components of the downtown redevelopment to flourish.

I also think that the city needs to encourage entrepreneurship ( especially companies that commercialize home-grown technologies ) Although these companies seem to incubate in Oakland and at the Technology Center, there should be options for them downtown as they grow larger. These businesses have the potential to become the next fortune 500 companies in the not-so-distant future, We should give them every reason to plant their roots in the city.

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^^Proud very interesting points on consolidation you have on that blog. I also agree we need a MIX of housing downtown, after this emphasis on getting it developed (which we will have to take the developers that are available) we need to focus on affordable housing downtown, on the strip, the lower hill, uptown and even some at Station Square, northshore and Mt. Washington.

I also see the "expansion" of downtown in the next decade to include everything from CMU to the West End Bridge and from Grandview and Carson to the Northshore and Washington's Landing/Strip. The city must think bigger to succeed to its potential in the 21st century.

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^^Proud very interesting points on consolidation you have on that blog. I also agree we need a MIX of housing downtown, after this emphasis on getting it developed (which we will have to take the developers that are available) we need to focus on affordable housing downtown, on the strip, the lower hill, uptown and even some at Station Square, northshore and Mt. Washington.

I also see the "expansion" of downtown in the next decade to include everything from CMU to the West End Bridge and from Grandview and Carson to the Northshore and Washington's Landing/Strip. The city must think bigger to succeed to its potential in the 21st century.

PghUSA-

I agree. We must think big. We have been convinced over the last 2 decades that Pittsburgh is in an inevitable and irreversable decline.

I don't buy it.

We have lost status since the late 70's, however I prefer to think of it as a brief slump in Pittsburgh's economic continuim. Many major cities have gone through extended periods of decline - New York, LA, Miami, etc. The difference is, that some Pittsburghers believe that decline is our destiny. Those cities saw their situation for what it was - temporary setback.

Now that we are starting to surge, we need to recognize that one of the main things keeping us from regaining our former economic power is our attitude. Certainly, the first city that commercializes the technology coming out of our Universities will become an economic powerhouse. (Robotics, Advanced Materials, Nanotechnology, Regenerative Medicine ) We have to work harder than we ever did before to ensure that these technologies stay in Pittsburgh. As I have said to many people, "Before George Westinghouse, electricity was a science experiment"

That is exactly what nanotechnolgy is today- a science experiment waiting to become a light switch.

One way to foster this comercialization is to physically mingle the Universities that are generating the technology with Pittsburgh's existing business community. Get researchers to think like businessmen, and vice versa. For example some University research could take place in the PPG building, for example, while PPG research and development teams could be located in Oakland.?

This is why your idea of spreading "downtown" throughout the city limits is so important.

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^^great take on that Proud,

Although research facilities usually require large expanses of labs and wide open spaces, that is doable closer to downtown then Westinghouse, Alcoa and the old Gulf Oil put there labs, especially with all the vacant property around the hill and parts of the north and south sides.

Not to certain about spreading downtown throughout the city limits but I would like there to be no distinction between Downtown and Oakland, the north and southshores and the Strip for the next generation. I like what Pitt did for awhile in the late 90s and early 00s where they said that their campus WAS the city, tying in corporate and career ops to the city at large and in turn their talent and research expertise to the corporations.

I too believe Pittsburgh is rounding the corner in major major ways. As far as your thought that we need to work harder then ever to make sure technology developed here stays here I could not agree more. I think in some ways we have STOPPED exporting by the barrell load our talent and technology in that Google, Seagate, Microsoft and Rand as well as Guru.com moving their entire HQ here have focused on growing their business from huge Pittsburgh ops centers instead of luring them away to Seattle, Austin and Semi-Valley. You are correct though we are still waiting for a Westinghouse, USSteel, Alcoa, Heinz-like giant to emerge from that critical mass (similar to 1890 or 1900 how those once struggling companies made it huge from Pittsburgh talent).

The ones closest to it in my mind remain Telerama, Vivisimo and Guru.com all actually industry leaders in their fields (the latter two better then Google and Craigslist/Ebay respectively) or have world's firsts under their belts for the city. I only wish we still had a Westinghouse or Gulf in town to provide a channel for all this research to make $$ for the metro percapita income.

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Great points guys, I totally agree.

By the way, another company to keep your eye on is South-side based Maya. I recently had an oportunity to hear about something they are working on and it sounds like it has great potential. I wish I could say more but I don't think I should.

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Its not just Pittsburgh that is waiting for a giant corporation to come save the day. Down here, Greenville is still waiting for a second BMW sized opperation to come into town and pick up the slack from the textile industry pulling out...just wanted to point out that second and third-tier sub belt cities have the same "antiquated" mentality.

The faster we (and they) realize that a 100 smaller companies may be better than 1 giant company, the better.

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^^Oh totally agree Tooluther, we can't have everything run top-down from some corporate VIP suite off Grant Street, in some ways thats exactly why Westinghouse and Gulf met their untimely demise. In some ways it was neccessary for too long Pittsburgh was too much of a one company town (everything got back to Mellon interests) and that is one reason why although this city has maybe the top 10 talent, research and innovation but still have trouble with getting venture capital and angel investors to the degree of a Silicon Valley or Boston would.

Top down may have worked back in the day but that mindset still permeates this region (big sugar daddy Mellon and Mellon/Heinz, Mellon/Alcoa, Mellon/Westinghouse, Mellon/PPG, Mellon/Gulf, Mellon/Koppers etc. isn't gonna get it done anymore), and is probably our biggest handicap in moving forward.

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