Saturday, March 14, 2015

All things Larryville - long past inflection

I'm kind of fascinated by the media's newfound interest in the changes taking place in the City of Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville Neighborhood.   One is this on some micro-development in this story last week: How much should this building worth?.   But also the piece last week: When did Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville become Larryville.  You might thing there is a new story somewhere.  But are any of these new stories?  Not really.  Just to begin, here is the Financial Times of all papers from a few years ago (2009):  Diamond in the Rust.

But the answer to the Larryville question goes back much further if you don't want to be superficial about it.  If you have any doubt see the map of real estate assessment changes that had already taken place between 2002 and 2012. I'd argue that the property appreciation represented in this map is most concentrated across a wide areas throughout Lawrenceville and emanating into its environs. Parsing that is a long long post, so hold that thought.  But that map looks like this which probably only captures a fraction of the appreciation that has been accelerating in the neighborhood since the assessment (making future current affordability in the neighborhood another topic altogether):


Source


But that is only the beginning of the answer.  The most dramatic change in Lawrenceville has been its demographics.  I will tell you that as late as 2000, folks who think about these things would find me to ask me what was up with the census tracts in Lawrenceville because they were so old.  Many, many local elders lived in Lawrenceville, and not elders institutionalized into  Nursing Homes or similar locations that might alter the demographics exogenously.   Lawrenceville has one of the highest concentrations of elders living in their homes compared to most anywhere in the entire nation, thus giving rise to the concept of Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs).

How and when then the demographics of the census tracts in Lawrenceville changed:



So again, the answer is not recently, or really not recently.   The inflection point (i.e. when the 2nd derivative, not the first = zero) in the time series for each of those trend lines is not even in the last decade, but well into the 1990s I would argue.   So then who and what is responsible?  You might want to go back into the 1990s to see some of the very focused and grassroots efforts. Try this from the PG in 1993: Sprucing up the neighborhood. Those efforts are what folks ought to be writing more on now if you want to give credit where due.

Those efforts probably aided in large part, by the lack of a large empty hospital in the neighborhood. I think I myself once wrote on Lawrenceville that "the real estate speculation must have already begun" as far back as 2002 in Goodbye, St. Francis.  The current story of Lawrenceville may have as much to do with just how low real estate prices were until very recently.  That distorts all these stories (and that map for the record) in the percentage change in real estate values.

Sort of a Pittsburgh story writ large in that even solid price appreciation has not really raised a lot of local real estate to levels that might be considered normal elsewhere.  Thus the stories of late (long after the real estate price collapses elsewhere) that Pittsburgh is still one of the most affordable real estate markets anywhere.  Lawrenceville prices were going unsold even to the "We Buy Homes" folks not long ago. As unbelievable that may seem at the moment, it fostered a wave of rehab, some truly stunning in what was done, but also some truly depressing in how quickly folks flipped homes after doing only basic work, often destroying more than improving.  Look up the modern use of the term "remuddling" which really must have been a term re-coined to describe some of what has been happening here.

But all that only touches the surface of a big topic, but nobody should think for a second that the Lawrenceville story, whatever that story is, is a story of now. It has been a long time coming.  If you want a more recent qualitative look at the changes going on within Lawrenceville, which is not just one universal answer, see the report and survey:  Who moves to Lawrenceville and Why?


If you are still reading this post, or even the blog I probably owe you a beer.   The lack of daily posts appears to have dropped the number daily unique readers from something like 500 to under 50.  Probably better that way.






13 Comments:

Anonymous Jerry said...

I'm shocked that the peak readership was only around 500.

Saturday, March 14, 2015 10:36:00 PM  
Blogger Vannevar said...

May I ask, would you please expand on "Those efforts probably aided in large part, by the lack of a large empty hospital in the neighborhood." because I don't have the backstory or else I don't get it. thanks!

Saturday, March 14, 2015 11:17:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

If it seemed higher.. probably an echo chamber effect, but I don't think it was routinely much higher than that except for the occasional post with election maps. Those peaked much higher in readership for sure. Why not a large audience? Takes a bit of endurance to wade through my prose and pontification for sure.

On Lawrenceville.. St. Francis Hospital was itself on an end of life spiral for several years and if it had shuttered outright it would have been a nearly impossible redevelopment project to do something with the site if it close... and given its size, that prospect clearly impacted large swaths of Lawrenceville real estate.. holding down prices and investment.

Realize that the UPMC plan to move Children's Hospital to the site was unexpected. In fact, UPMC was on the verge of signing agreements to put the new hospital down on 2nd Ave, but the timing of St. Francis' end make for a target of opportunity. But if that had not happened, and it really almost didn't, then I dunno how it all would have played out for Lawrenceville.

Sunday, March 15, 2015 1:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lawrenceville is also a story of sub-markets (below and above Butler Street, east and west of 40th Street, etc.). It would be interesting to analyze/speculate on whether if Children's Hospital had not happened, whether the "boom" on Butler would have been impacted. Just a thought, but I don't see anything slowing down because the old Pittsburgh Brewery site is vacant. (P.S., you owe me a beer!)

Sunday, March 15, 2015 4:33:00 PM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

As an aside, I often reference and link material here in places which purportedly have a much higher daily readership. Apparently not a lot of those people actually click through, but I would think that expands the effective impact of that material.

Monday, March 16, 2015 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Does the scale of the brewery really compare to the hospital? And the location is pretty different and isolated in it's own way from residential density. To put it all a different way, I would speculate strongly that residential investment in Lawrenceville was inhibited through the years where St. Francis' future was in doubt.


But I'll leave a voucher at Nooner's for the beer.

Monday, March 16, 2015 11:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll take you up on the beer, and just FYI, I quit reading for a long time because I thought you quit posting.

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