Sunday, November 19, 2006


Driving by I noticed that the new Borders in East Liberty appears to be open. I didn't have time to stop and verify that, but the Borders there on the corner of Highland and Penn Circle has been a long time coming. I would have to go check the history, but I swear the first mention of a Borders there predates any talk of Whole Foods coming to town.

The Borders is just another piece of development along the Shadyside-East Liberty border. I was at a lunch last week when someone posed a question starting with this premise: 'the most significant development for the city in the last decade has been the rejuvenation of East Liberty'. That is quite a statement. I was reminded of Mike Madison's musings some months ago about the meaning of the pseudo neighborhood of Eastside. I have some simple questions of my own. Mostly I wonder if it is fair to say East Liberty is being redeveloped at all. Seems to me that Shadyside is expanding more than anything else. Other than displacement, what is the impact on the long term businesses and residents of East Liberty? There have been a lot of residents displaced by the demolition of the high rises for example. Most had little choice but to move to other sections of town. And while I admit to being overly nostalgic for the now closed Bolans' that was in East Liberty, I am not sure how many of the other businesses in the central corridor are benefiting from the new businesses popping up. Are many people wandering out of Whole foods over to Penn and Highland for any collateral shopping? Maybe it is too early to judge.

This is always a question in urban redevelopment. I would call it the gentrification debate, but I have been disabused from using that term a bit. I recently heard from a noted urban scholar said he had just come from an entire confrence devoted to the topic and that no defintion for gentrification could be agreed upon. That and it has befome such a loaded term as to be dysfunctional in academic debate. So let's not call in gentrification, but it sure is change whatever it is labeled. One big difference between Pittsburgh and other regions is that many other regions are seeing minority migration to suburban areas. In Washington DC for example, Prince Georges County became the first majority black suburban county in a metro area back in 1990. There was news recently how Queens in NYC now has median black income above that of median white income which I bet is the result of migration flows out of Manhattan. I am not so sure there is a similar pattern here though.

PS. Anyone remember Mansmann’s?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny you should ask. I went to the high end liquor store next to Borders Saturday night. (Borders is open, but I didn't go in.) There was a wine and WHISKEY tasting at the door. Mmmmmm. I noted that some customers who appeared to be locals--they were wearing "Kiss Me I'm From East Liberty" buttons--were partaking. Sure beats the State Store across from the the Rusty Angular People Holding Hands fountain. The shoppe also has a special glass enclosed expensive stuff section in the back corner. Probably environmentally controlled although the price tags on the bottles created a force field that prevented me from entering. Plus, I was underdressed. They didn't have what I was looking for anyway, but I did get get six of them at the pizza shop on Highland.

If You Go: Check out the thought-provoking quotes along the tops of the walls. An eclectic bunch weigh in, from Thomas Jefferson to Ernest Gallo.

Monday, November 20, 2006 11:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Redevelopment in concentrated poor neighborhoods has a number of challenges. When the goal is a mixed income community - neither all poor nor all wealthy - retaining people as their income increases, or attacting people with higher incomes leads the the first challenge: There is often nothing initially present that caters to their market. The second challenge is that once housing or commercial products are offered in the interest of economic and social diversity, while the poor may initially benefit from the improved social contacts and commercial and public amenities, later they may suffer if they are priced out of the market or otherwise marginalized.
If wealth inequality and marginalized populations are regional issues, it's doubtful that they are going to be overcome on the neighborhood level unless there is a deliberate strategy of sharing and inclusion. This has never been a very apparent part of the East Liberty strategy, where the poor and their supporting institutions are cited as the problem. If inclusion is a goal, than it should be relatively easy to identify the strategies and their successes, and the leadership holding everyone accountable.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006 9:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did I mention the ample free parking?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006 10:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

East Liberty was ripe for reinvention. Much of the land was already under public control, especialy in parking lots and affordable housing. Plus it sat in the middle of the biggest concentration of wealth and education in the region. What it became was not pre-determined, though.
Is it more like Shadyside extended? The choice of retailers seems telling. Whole Food's business model is based upon customers paying higher prices for higher quality. Borders has never been an urban pioneer. The letter writing campaign that brought in Trader Joes came from those more familiar with shopping in Shadyside than East Liberty. And surprisingly there didn't seem to be much effort to keep manufacturing jobs at the former Nabisco plant.
East Liberty is being branded as "the crossroads of cool". But with local businesses closing under pressure from locally subsidized national retailers, with public and philanthropic subsidies being wasted, and the poor being marginalized while college students celebrate the destruction of their former homes, you have to ask "How cool is that?"

Tuesday, November 21, 2006 12:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To me, it's like a slice of NW D.C.'s Wisconsin Avenue dropped on East Liberty. My only experiences with Trader Joe's and Whole Foods have been on Wisconsin Ave. Like so much in Pgh., we're 10 years behind the big boys in urban retail development. I don't think the lag time is such a bad thing, actually, but I do wonder when we're finally going to get personalized home marijuana delivery. They've been doing it in New York forever, and there was an article about it this month on the PG business front page. Truly, an entrepreneurial opportunity ripe for exploitation, especially given East Liberty's specialized infrastructure and trained workforce.

BTW, What's the plan for the indoor tennis place and adjacent parking lot? A boutique slots parlor perhaps?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006 2:41:00 PM  
Blogger Jesse said...

The rapid success of "gentrified" neighborhoods in cities around the country did not accompany development of additional housing. In order to truly support diverse, interesting, and self-sustaining neighborhoods, cities must build upwards and fast. Demand must be met.

The correction in the housing market in many coastal cities indicates that this is what is happening to them. Pittsburgh is only beginning to see rapid development of dense, mixed-use urban spaces. Unfortunately, I'm not as familiar with it as other cities. It seems that progress in PGH is slow and occurring mostly downtown.

Saturday, February 03, 2007 2:03:00 PM  

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