Friday, November 15, 2013

East Liberty bohème

PG has a note on the Ace Hotel being planned for East Liberty: Hip hotel sets sights on East Liberty. If you want a bit more the project was also written up a year go in NextCity: Ace in the Allegheny.

If you really think all this East Liberty development is new, note the story earlier in the week on project just a few blocks away: Retail strip Indigo Square brings new shops to East Liberty.  To me the new retail strip looks just like the Friendship Plaza development there on the same exact spot a half century ago. (scroll down to see a photo)

But I take the actual Indigo Hotel is coming (maybe? kind of? next year?).....  over 6 years since the project was first mentioned here.

Still..  no denying it has been a long path for the neighborhood since Sears announced it was closing its East Liberty store 20 years ago this year... and a remarkable 34 years since Mansmanns closed.

For those who might not have read it (I figure most have), the single best long form on the story of East Liberty in the modern era remains Dan Fitzpatrick's series in the PG: The Story of Urban Renewal. (for those who are curious, Dan is now at the WSJ)

It's even been 14 years since Home Depot opened, setting off much of the redevelopment that followed.  If you wonder why there is a pizza shop in the parking lot, its story made the front page of the Wall Street Journal once. Some forget that pushing the Home Depot project came awfully close to getting Murphy unelected at 4 years earlier than he left office, so strong was the opposition to displacing the pizza shop despite its location adjacent to the shuttered Sears building. It may have been the biggest economic development story mentioned (by both sides mind you) in the 2001 election. With Home Depot though, you have real data that retail could be successful and spurred a look from a wider set of eyes nationally.

Someone asked me recently what I thought was catalyst for all of what is continuing to be redeveloped in East Liberty.  There is no one answer of course, but one thing that I think never gets appreciated, but really is awfully important, is the effort  to relocate the Yellow Cab headquarters out of East Liberty.  Big huge space that displaced any if not all of the potential retail that came once it was gone...  I'm pretty sure little of that Baum corridor redevelopment could have happened if the taxi lot was still there.

Now if we can just get the same effort to save Mount Oliver, Hill District, Homewood-Brushton and Hazelwood since it appears that even today the French government is advising its citizens to avoid  those neighborhoods specifically. Per the WashPo:16 American cities foreign governments warn their citizens about.  I swear the inclusion of Pittsburgh in that list is the French way of getting back at us for entertaining Josh Wander for so long.

Non sequitur but required reading is the deep truth in buzzfeed:  10 Questions People From Pittsburgh Are Tired Of Answering


Blogger Vannevar said...

Minor "Liberty" trivia, and I'm not talking Liberty ships. If we have East Liberty, and a West Liberty Ave, where's West Liberty? North Liberty? South Liberty?

Back in the day, the Liberties were outlying grazing fields set out for the public use to encourage them to get their animals out of the city.

The East Liberty is, well, East Liberty. The North Liberty is now the Strip District.

Don't know where the West Liberty was, but the street name persists.

Gleaned from "The Names of Pittsburgh" by Bob Regan, which would make an excellent Christmas gift fwiw. < shameless plug />

Friday, November 15, 2013 7:51:00 AM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

In my view East Liberty's fundamentals have always been about it being a major transportation node--the Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line, streetcars, arterial streets, and/or the Busway depending on the era. We mucked it up pretty badly for a while, but now it is just returning to its rightful place in light of these fundamentals.

Anyway, the Hotel Indigo is actually under construction right now. This is after it got City Planning approval earlier this year then finalized its financing (including a URA contribution). Unfortunately I don't have a handy link for the construction starting--this is based on actually seeing it happening.

Friday, November 15, 2013 8:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Not Ken said...

Hazelwood is dangerous???

Friday, November 15, 2013 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger JRoth said...

Yeah, there's been work (mostly hidden inside the buildings that are being adaptively reused) going on all summer, and just yesterday I saw that the concrete structure for the ground floor of the new portion is in. No stopping now (knock wood).

Friday, November 15, 2013 1:05:00 PM  
Blogger JRoth said...

BTW, the Y project is contingent on historic preservation tax credits, available due to the establishment of the East Liberty Commercial Historic District a few years back; that's about 20% of the budget, and comes with a LOT of strings attached with respect to interior as well as exterior design. Probably a good thing that Ace values it as much as they do, because it's been a lot of work to get it done (I"m not personally involved, but I have direct knowledge).

Friday, November 15, 2013 1:08:00 PM  
Blogger Jimbo640 said...

Nifty post, especially the next-to-last sentence.

Jim Burnham

Friday, November 15, 2013 9:04:00 PM  

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