Jess and I have now lived in downtown for over three years and have loved every second of it.
We’ve seen friends come and go.
We’ve seen businesses come and go.
We’ve seen large civic events get bigger every year.
We’ve remained mostly carless (we borrow cars from time to time).
We started riding bicycles as much as we can.
We’ve considered expanding our family…and will officially (maybe, probably) start trying (note to our families…TRYING lol) to have a baby this year.
So our needs have changed.
When we initially moved into the “Golden Triangle” it was with an eye solely towards the growing “new urbanist” life and being a part of the scene: restaurants, culture, events and the like. We weren’t sure we were ever going to have a child. We now are fairly certain we want to and believe that living in downtown can be great experience for a child.
I’ve grown convinced that the current environment in downtown will leave families like ours behind (the need for affordable housing is a whole different topic that the community must continue to address). We are a young, growing family that makes enough money to live well in downtown without a car or children. There is little to no infrastructure that makes us expanding our family while living in downtown a reality.
There have been many different discussions on how this could become a reality. I constantly hear that Pittsburgh is/will be/needs to be a walkable city. Short of the bicycling movement in the city (of which I am quickly becoming a member) I see no realistic movement towards Pittsburgh truly becoming a city that can be carless. I see no movement on a T expansion (and the government funds that would make it a reality) or any more talk on making the open streets initiative a more permanent in some parts of the city. Each of these possibilities could expand access to necessities.
I recently had someone tell me – and this is a close paraphrase – “let downtown have their 300 restaurants and nowhere to buy necessities…they’ll eventually wonder what happened and realize they did it wrong.” There needs to be a balance…
There should be some kind of control on high-end housing in downtown with no retail to balance it. Per the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and their 2015 report on the State of Downtown, there were 4,752 residential units during the reporting year. The only mention of anything resembling a grocery store was the Market Street Grocery. Frankly…we’ll shop at Wholey’s, the Shop n Save in the hill and the Giant Eagle in the North Side before we go to the Market Street Grocery. There needs to be a concerted effort in place to expand business hours for retail and the offerings for downtown residents. If we’re not going out to eat or going to an event, there is very little for us if we need daily necessities.
I’ve been talking with someone that currently has a successful store in a neighborhood slightly outside the downtown business corridor. He tells me he has tried to expand into downtown to expand the offerings for residents…but has been shut out. With no other information, that is highly disconcerting. Are there any buildings that can possibly expand on the arcade type format that Fifth Avenue place has…but have it stay open later?
We are looking for more room for our soon-to-be potentially expanding family. We will own outside somewhere outside of downtown…but not yet. I’ve talked to the members of one family that has recently expanded and they intend to stay in downtown as long as they can. We do too but need to see the city’s urban core turning into more than a just a large college campus. The baby will need more than theater, offices and restaurants.
More thoughts on this later…