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Newly built Real Urbanism in Pittsburgh is a showstopper!


For several years, I've tried to get excited about the future of Pittsburgh, since I grew up nearby.  I've visited, intentionally searching for paradigm-changing development. Sure, there's a "Green" convention center and two new stadiums, but nothing to appeal to "Creative Class" folks like myself.  (a term coined by Pittsburgher Richard Florida) For the last calendar year, I've been reading Dr. Florida's book, which also maligns Pittsburgh, pointing out how creative-types evacuate the city upon graduation.

This week, I saw not a glimmer of hope, but a radiant rising star!  The new "South Side Works" changes the urban equation for Pittsburgh.  In addition to charming-but-dingy historic neighborhoods, Pittsburgh now has a spectacular example of new mixed-use development, replete with world-class retailers, good urban form, and handsome architecture.

I believe that this is the finest "new urban" or "lifestyle center" example I have seen, though by no means the largest.  Perhaps it is best because it is the most genuinely old-urban.  The project is fully integrated in the street grid of Pittsburgh's South Side.  A rich variety of local clubs, restaurants, and shops in historic buildings line Carson Street for several miles to the east of this development.  A rich mix of urban housing ("ready for renovation") fills the blocks to the south, and ascends the hill-town slope of Mt. Washington.


Also, the project is good in its own right.  The streets are gridded, but not perfectly aligned, resulting in everchanging views and revealing surprises.  The Cheesecake Factory, with its enchanting (if boilerplate) architecture anchors a beautiful public square.  A handsome movie cinema also opens to this plaza.  Offices and residences occupy the upper levels of the buildings.  Local and regional merchants are included along with national chains.  A regional bookseller anchors one prominent corner. The only real disappointment is that the parking garages hold a bit too much street frontage, as they are lined on only one side with retail.

I would argue that the South Side Works will have a greater and more lasting economic impact on the City than either of the two new stadiums.  Now, there's a top notch local example of new, mixed-use development.  It should only accelerate the renovations on the South Side. And once its economic success is fully realized, others will race to copy it.

Built like a real city, in a real city, but managed and developed in 21st-century fashion, the South Side Works is real, new, urbanism.  I've heard Pittsburgh called "The San Francisco of the East," with its hillsides, neighborhoods, ethnic heritage, and waterfront views.   Perhaps this project will begin to help the city realize that potential by making it more attractive to urbanites.

Now if we could just straighten out that tangled web of riverfront interstates...

(I'd welcome comments by full-time Pittsburghers)


From Benjamin Weaver:

South Side Works, I think, is pretty good.

I've been there a couple time since moving here 6 months ago. The

design is a little imposing, but better than much else out there.

Also, the retail is very "commercial" if that makes sense, with higher-end stores... I guess I like the smaller scale neighborhood feel on Carson St. better. The apartments were a bit out of my range, as much as I'd have liked to move there, so I'm up in Shadyside with the college kids, but they weren't too disastrous. On the whole, it's pretty good. We show it off to clients (I'm working at Urban Design Associates at present) as a good example of a new town center type space, although hopefully with something more civic than a Cheesecake Factory. Glad to hear you liked it, Pittsburgh is a great city that has thoroughly impressed me in the half a year I've been here, and South Side Works helps with that.


Click here for more pictures of South Side Works.

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