Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What a difference a century makes (part II)

Just catching up on a weekend headline: PNC plan could be a harbinger of Downtown's revival.

To begin, kudos for quoting the Urbanophile in that story...  and I will be the very first to note that if built without any public funding as is being reported, that it would be a big story for Downtown Pittsburgh. In recent memory virtually all investment Downtown has only come with sizable public $$$, direct or indirect.

It also is an interesting story if as reported the new building is going to be entirely occupied by PNC without an impact on the current real estate market Downtown.  That would imply they are keeping their current space and expanding which would almost have to mean a net employment gain in the City.  If not then their sizable Downtown workforce is getting a significant bump in space per person. 

At the same time, I quibble with the need for a 'revival' Downtown.  From a purely economic perspective, the sheer number of jobs located within the Golden Triangle is about as steady an economic metric as you can find in the entire Pittsburgh region.  There were 100K jobs located within the Golden Triangle in 1960, and there are just about 100K jobs there today. You just don't get more consistent than that.  When you consider all the economic upheaval in the region over that period, the economics of Downtown Pittsburgh may be the single most stable economic story we have... yet the way we talk about it, or report on it, you would think the very opposite was true.  I still don't get it. The story of Downtown Pittsburgh is how it has been able to retain jobs where so many similar Downtowns elsewhere have shrunk and shrunk, losing jobs to the ever growing edge cities that have become ubiquitous.

When you further consider that the concentration of jobs Downtown has not eroded despite the pressure on Downtown's everywhere.  It is something of a myth (or so I teach sometimes) that suburbanization was merely a post-WWII phenomenon in the US.   The 'century' I am refer to is really the timeframe you need to think of when studying what happened to cities in the US.  Here is an almost full page ad that was also in the Pittsburgh Press of May 31, 1901. To me at least it is virtually screaming to readers to move away from, and shift investment from, the center of the city.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So is having the same workforce as 1960 despite so many larger towers built since in the same area mean that the triangle suffers from Urban Sprawl...?


Tuesday, May 31, 2011 12:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps the same number of jobs, but in the Golden Triangle there is far less retail and overall nightlife--outside the Cultural District--and a crumbling streetscape compared to 1960, hence the perception that Downtown needs a revival.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011 9:33:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

Yes, too many old buildings and too few of them were kept up.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I would even quibble with that 2nd comment some. Was there a cultural district Downtown in 1960 on par with today. Were the schools (PP, RM, Duquesne) as much a presence Downtown in 1960 as they are today. To define success as just retail is an awfully narrow criteria. I realize there are probably fewer hat shops down there and all, but is that the criteria for success? Taken as a whole, where is this big failure?

The sprawl point is noted. ha.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011 12:40:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

Taken as a whole, where is this big failure?

This time of day, the answer is likely to be 414 Grant Street.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011 1:41:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

and given said failure, isn't all that more remarkable that Downtown Pittsburgh, and the city of Pittsburgh as a whole, has been able to retain as many jobs as it has over the decades.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011 6:15:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

Within the span of mortal life, we are all prisoners of sunk capital and geography.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011 9:14:00 PM  
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