Friday, November 27, 2009

G20 echo: Newsweek on the Declining Burgh

This one is a little different.  Newsweek on the web peers at the Burgh: Cutting Down to Size, Postindustrial cities, even relatively successful ones such as Pittsburgh, are trying to manage, rather than just reverse, population loss.

It seems to focus on the city more than the region and is a little odd.  It refers to the management consultant euphemism of "right-sizing" for cities like Pittsburgh.   I think the message is really reflective of what more academically would be called the debate over "managed decline" which has been a topic for some here and elsewhere for decades if not longer.  I can't believe Youngstown escapes mention in the piece however short it had to be.  There is the nexus of folks really coming to grips with what managed decline means economically, politically and practically. 

It also references the misunderstood article once in the UK's Daily Telegraph on the state of Urban America and the quote that parts of our cities 'need to be bulldozed'.  Lest anyone doubt it, we have as many of those new urban prairies as anywhere else in America.  What may be different about Pittsburgh is both good and bad.  The bad is that we just hide our abandoned neighborhoods better than most other places, a reflection of our general insularity aided by topography.  The good that does not get mentioned much is that for the city, while it is the case that the resident population has gone down as precipitously as anywhere, the jobs have been stable. People still don't believe me when I mentionthat.  I have posted before that the jobs loated in the city of Pittsburgh have not gone down at all over that period.Of course now a lot of those jobs are filled by people who commute in from elsewhere. 

Seriously, there are today roughly 300K jobs located within the city limits of Pittsburgh, which is roughly the exact number of jobs that were located in the city in 1960.  Few cities like Pittsburgh can claim any such comparison.  When you realize that a lot of those jobs in 1960 were retail and service jobs supporting the much larger population, then the ability of Pittsburgh to retain jobs is a remarkable story.

Of course, if the story is one of places left behind to be de facto abandoned, you have to look beyond the city proper here more than most other regions.  That is just because the City of Pittsburgh stopped expanding so long before other major cities thus leaving much of what would be the urban core elsewhere to exist as their own municipal entites.  Thus the pockets of emptiness are as likely to be just outside the city's borders.  No need to really say it... but Braddock?

So worth reading, but like all such looks too short to go beyond what we have talked about ad infinitum.  I suspect what most will take from this one is a new description of LR as the "the city's lantern-jawed young mayor".


Anonymous MH said...

The bad is that we just hide our abandoned neighborhoods better than most other places, a reflection of our general insularity aided by topography.

On that topic, I recently had occasion to drive through Lincoln-Lemington. I had no idea there was such a big empty up that way.

Saturday, November 28, 2009 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...


Saturday, November 28, 2009 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger JRoth said...

The City is officially working on plans for "right-sizing" Lincoln-Larimer, including the possibility of actually enlarging Highland Park, the technical boundary of which stops just below the L-L plateau. Demolish about a dozen blocks of the neighborhood, and now you've got a real recreational amenity (with capacity, not just another greenlot) adjacent to a less-empty neighborhood.

That said, it's nothing on the scale of what you see in the rest of the Rust Belt - largely thanks to our hillsides, which once housed probably 1/4-1/3 of the people who have left the City.

Monday, November 30, 2009 2:02:00 PM  
Blogger JRoth said...

On city boundaries, though, I don't think it says much to mention Braddock without mentioning Mt. Lebo. If the City were coextensive with the County, or even incorporated everyplace that was developed by, say, 1975, you'd see a healthier City and flatter (in terms of economic stratification) County. What's astonishing about the region is that it's done as well as it has despite the municipal fragmentation.

Monday, November 30, 2009 2:06:00 PM  
Anonymous MH (Moby Hick) said...

If they do that, they should build a funicular from the top to the river. Be a nice project for the juvenile delinquents.

Monday, November 30, 2009 10:35:00 PM  

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