Sunday, August 17, 2008

Not your parents Bloomfield

No policy discussion here. Only one number mentioned in passing. Just feeling old I suppose........

A few months ago there was a column in the Trib by Joe Mistick waxing poetically on Bloomfield and all things neighborhoody in Pittsburgh. So lest we forget that the city is not defined by the goings-on down on Grant Street, I think I will pile on.

I am a bit flabbergasted by another headline in the Trib last week that has the number '$300 million' and 'Bloomfield' in the same sentence. The story was just about the development being planned at the former Don Allen site at the corner of Baum and Liberty. See: Zoning board postpones ruling in $300 million project

I'm flabbergasted because $300 million represents a lot of change concetrated in one small section of the city. I guess its visceral to me because it still is true that I can pick a spot on Liberty Ave. and with a swivel of my head look around and see the places where I was born, baptized, and went to grade school among other things. There are an awful lot of visual cues that look identical to the day I was born. Granted, Autenreiths is long gone, there was no Thai food in Bloomfield long ago, Gordons Shoes has moved out to the Waterfront and the apostasy of a Dominoes Pizza in the heart of Little Italy is over.. but things ‘look’ the same. Thus for years when people would say to me Bloomfield was changing I would quibble and say that only on the margin that might be true, but at its core its still the same place. That many I grew up with had moved away was not news to me, but I realized about a decade after the fact that even most of their parents were gone as well.

How big an impact will $300 million have? Urbanidesdev on the Pittsburgh Rundown thread on the Skyscraper page posted that full plan for the former Don Allen site. Ambitious would be an understatment. See.

Developments like this are always unique and it may not make sense to compare this plan to things like Bakery Square or 'Eastside'. In fact the difference here is just how close in to residental neighbood this is compared to either of those. Bakery Square is taking advantage of the defunct old Nabisco plant on a stretch of Penn Ave that is mostly institutional. Eastside as it were is mostly on top of what was the parking lot for Yellow Cab for decades. On one side is mostly commerical/institutional development in East Liberty. As the crow flies it is close in to residential parts of Shadyside, but parts that are seperated pretty cleanly by rail and bus lines. Even the Children's Hospital development is really a massive infill of what was a large hospital. So from a sheer neighborhood transformation perspective, this one project is pretty different.

Add to that the planned expansion of the Hillman Cancer Center, let alone the nearby construcion of Childrens Hospital and it really adds up to a lot of development. Actually I was shocked a couple months ago when I saw a listing for a house nearby. When I bought my house in the mid 1990’s there were several houses for sale on a single block at the border of Friendship and Bloomfield (let's not even get started on neighborhood definitions around here). At the time the price for each of them was close to $50K. I saw one listed recently for over $300K.

Even the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern is documenting the change in its own way, and I suppose nothing will bring Winky's back?

Have not had a contest here in some time... who knows where Autenreiths was?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think of the Don Allen site as being more a part of Friendship/Shadyside than Bloomfield. To me, Bloomfield ends on Liberty at just a little beyond West Penn Hospital, perhaps at that little bar, Lou's, I think it is. So this project is really just a continuation of the Baum-Centre initiative, with a focus on UPMC (Cancer Center and Shadyside Hosp.).

Monday, August 18, 2008 9:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

getting started, your syllogism is false. Friendship is part of Bloomfield, not Shadyside.

Monday, August 18, 2008 4:40:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

methinks I am being baited. But man, I have seen folks mad over this. Almost as many as I have seen mad over permit parking. Truth is I once edited the local Friendship newsletter and got caught in some of the crossfire over the whole semantic issue. Trust me, there are as many people who think one way as the other over the whole identity of Friendship. I may have to have a post on the long history of it all at some point, I have some really funny stories about how emotional people get over it.

Monday, August 18, 2008 9:41:00 PM  
Blogger Cowboy Neal Cassady said...

Autenreiths was located in the building which is now occupied by Citizens bank at liberty and pearl. and by the way "friendship" is a myth (other than friendship park) of course.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008 12:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Friendship" == "south streets of Garfield". When I used to live in Garfield I would threaten my friends in Friendship that I was going to be the leader of a guerilla war against them to reclaim our land.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger John Morris said...

Car dealers occupying central city land like that was really weird. This looks like a very, very, positive development. As a whole, I might have prefered a a bit less retail space and more residential, hotel or office space. with the goal of making the area more pedestrian and transit oriented.

The developers are making a big investment in underground parking which is very expensive.This general area would be a good test case for restrictions on above ground parking space.

Thursday, August 21, 2008 2:06:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I am willing to take their word on that. But it is a long long list of high profile local projects that get approval with promises of underground parking only to 'discover' some unknown technical reason that makes it impractical. We'll see.

Thursday, August 21, 2008 2:24:00 PM  
Blogger smallstreams said...

I just noticed how truly awful this "plan" looks. Is there any way that they could blend the nhd fabric into the project?

Also, I can believe that Jerry would want to take the South Streets. I always took him to be an imperialist.

Sunday, August 24, 2008 10:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Overall, this is great news for the neighborhood, so long as it's done tastefully and with community support).

I've seen similar projects when I lived in Washington, DC over the past several years and they really bring new life to a community. Rockville Town Center, in Rockville, MD was also a $300mm project and turned out great. Reston, VA and Columbia Heights and the U-Street Corridor in DC are also great examples.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008 9:59:00 AM  

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