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Old 02-09-2012, 05:52 AM
 
Location: City of McKeesport
3,920 posts, read 3,852,384 times
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Default Urban and first-ring suburb decline / revitalization

Here are some of Pittsburgh's first-ring suburbs and urban suburbs. Some have seen decline, others are stagnant or stable.

What are your thoughts on the future of these suburbs? Which will continue to be stable, which will decline, and which of those that have declined might see revitalization? What are the factors causing decline in some, and stability in others? Why is it seemingly more fashionable to live in a newer, sprawl-type suburb, than in an older, urban suburb, or is that perception untrue? What are your favorite urban suburbs around Pittsburgh?

Here is my list, and my thoughts:

Millvale / Sharpsburg / Etna: These seem generally stable, although all have probably seen better days. They do not seem to be in decline.

Bellevue: Seems stagnant or maybe in slight decline, but still a very nice neighborhood.

McKees Rocks / Stowe Township: Having lived here since 2009, I can say that both neighborhoods are in steep decline. However, there is tremendous potential, and both are in better shape than many city neighborhoods.

Brentwood: Seems to be a beautiful, well-kept and stable neighborhood. Does not appear to be in decline.

Dormont: Seems to be a stable and nice neighborhood.

Wilkinsburg: From what I have heard, it depends on the neighborhood, but many seem to be in decline.

Crafton / Ingram: Appear to be stable, well-kept neighborhoods.

Turtle Creek / East Pittsburgh / Wilmerding / Wall: Declining, but still decent, if that makes sense.

Swissvale: I've heard that it's in decline and has dangerous areas, but it always seemed fine to me.

Penn Hills: Not quite "urban" but still a first-ring suburb. I always hear how "bad" Penn Hills is, but to me it always seemed okay. Again, it depends on what part of Penn Hills you are in, I guess. The parts near Lincoln-Lemington and Homewood truly are rough. I've heard time and time again that the area is in steep decline.

Homestead: Rough, but seems to have plenty of potential. Seems to still be in decline.


I just want to add one more thing. While many of the inner suburbs are in decline, also many of them have convenient amenities and less abandonment and blight than many city neighborhoods that are supposedly on the upswing. So while it may seem that the urban suburban decline makes these places undesirable places to live, often they represent decent alternatives to city living on a tight budget.

Also, I have noticed that in other cities, the inner suburbs are not always the "declining" areas. In Cleveland, for example, once you cross the city line into the first-ring suburbs, that is actually the "nice" area that everyone wants to move to!

Last edited by PreservationPioneer; 02-09-2012 at 06:03 AM..
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Old 02-09-2012, 06:32 AM
 
20,274 posts, read 18,198,809 times
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As an aside, if the City of Pittsburgh was a more typical size, most or all of its inner ring suburbs would actually be in the City limits. That is useful to keep in mind when comparing to other cities.

Anyway, I think there is clearly a shift going on with more people, younger people in particular, wanting to live closer into the core area, preferably with good public transit and/or walking/biking commutes. That's for a lot of reasons--changes in lifestyle trends, car-commuting costs (including time-value, fuel, and parking) going up, even just the explosion of wireless Internet devices.

The upshot is that I think the core areas with easy commutes, and particularly good public transit commutes and/or good bike paths, to the core employment centers are going to continue to see rising demand. It will be a bit patchwork at first as demand expands out from more established areas, but over time the redevelopment zones will spread all over.

Assuming that is right, you could look to things like the East Busway to anchor redevelopment--which in fact I believe is already happening (e.g., despite what some people say about Swissvale, it is actually starting to redevelop). The same could be true of places with riverfront bike trails (which we should be trying to complete ASAP). The last areas to really take off might be the places up in the hills away from the rivers without any rapid transit, but even just short car commutes should help those areas (and maybe in the future we can do something about the transit too).
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Old 02-09-2012, 06:33 AM
 
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I think the Millvale/Sharpsburg/Etna areas have a strong potential for revitalization. I'm thinking of buying in Etna when I move to Pittsburgh.

Bellevue has a similar potential for land values to rise.

Dormont? I grew up in Dormont, love the place, but I wouldn't live there. Their police department has basically taken over the government there, with relatives of officers capturing the borough council and the 80-year old mayor somehow completely captured too. The PD is doing the same thing to Dormont that PAT management and unions already did to the transit system. The people in Dormont will be paying for the OT abuse for years to come via inflated pensions. I predict a financial death spiral for Dormont over the next 10-15 years.
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Old 02-09-2012, 06:54 AM
 
Location: ɥbɹnqsʇʇıd
4,380 posts, read 3,007,535 times
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Swissvale is an odd ball. The nice parts are separated by large road ways from the ghetto parts. I worked there for years and where I worked had homes that were literally falling down, section 8 housing, and cops patrolling on a regular basis. Yet there are some areas that are perfectly fine.

I'd say that it's in decline overall.
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Old 02-09-2012, 07:02 AM
 
Location: Virginia
18,717 posts, read 14,870,398 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alleghenyangel View Post
Also, I have noticed that in other cities, the inner suburbs are not always the "declining" areas. In Cleveland, for example, once you cross the city line into the first-ring suburbs, that is actually the "nice" area that everyone wants to move to!
Very true. I visit Cleveland from time to time and my favorite parts are Shaker Heights and Cleveland Heights. Those are both inner ring burbs.

I've never been to Brentwood, but it sounds like it's a nice part of Pittsburgh. A shame to hear it has problems with racism, though. Have you ever done a photo tour of it?
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Old 02-09-2012, 07:05 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh area
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I think Bellevue is pretty stable at this point and may have already improved in recent years. Maybe it was never really that bad, but it seems like 10-20 years ago we wouldn't have been recommending people live there. That said, I'm willing to accept that this could be more a change in my knowledge than an actual change in the town, if that is what someone wants to assert.
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Old 02-09-2012, 07:19 AM
 
4,690 posts, read 1,895,519 times
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My mental geography notes:



Millvale/Sharpsburg/Etna/
Swissvale/McKees Rocks/Stowe: Industro-Ugly. Need more white picket fences or more neon strip-bar signs, but more of something.

Brentwood:
Um - Vojtas?

Dormont:
Banana republic waiting for the next coup d'etat.

Penn Hills: Ralph Kramden dreamed of living here.

Homestead: The thought occasionally strikes me.

Bellevue/Crafton/Ingram: Where's that again?

Turtle Creek/East Pittsburgh/Wilmerding/Wall: Oh, right. Those.
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Old 02-09-2012, 07:33 AM
 
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I'd say parts of Swissvale are stable or experiencing revitalization. The Regent Square section appears to be especially nice and the near-Swisshelm Park section appears to be stable. It is affordable, walkable, has excellent transit service (for now) and is in close proximity to Frick Park. Homeowners generally maintain their houses and some have greatly improved their homes.
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Old 02-09-2012, 08:08 AM
 
Location: City of McKeesport
3,920 posts, read 3,852,384 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Caladium View Post
I've never been to Brentwood, but it sounds like it's a nice part of Pittsburgh. A shame to hear it has problems with racism, though. Have you ever done a photo tour of it?
I've never done a photo tour of Brentwood, but I've walked around the neighborhood many times.
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Old 02-09-2012, 08:53 AM
 
20,274 posts, read 18,198,809 times
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A lot more of Swissvale is in the improving or stable parts than people seem to realize. If you mentally separate out the parts in Regent Square, near Swisshelm Park, and near Edgewood, maybe the declining parts are more than half of what is left, but if you include everything, I think the declining parts are well less than half (particularly if you look by population/households and not just at geographic size on a map).
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