11 Ideas Pittsburgh Should Steal From Other Cities

It’s an exciting time to live in Pittsburgh. And sure, we love the change and hype. But every time we travel (or creep on our friend’s Instagram), we daydream about how good they have it in other cities.

How do we make Pittsburgh as walkable as Portland? Wouldn’t it be cool to take a high-speed train to NYC? Could we transform empty storefronts into pop-up shops? How do we make our baseball team win championships?

These are just a few ideas we’d love to steal from other cities that would make life in Pittsburgh even better than it already is.

Encourage Pop-Up Shops

image via appearhere.co.uk
image via appearhere.co.uk

Shoreditch, London is home to an awesome “pop-up mall” called Boxpark. Created from shipping containers, Boxpark sits in an area that was unused and vacant, turning it into a vibrant, neighborhood-oriented spot. For small or first-time businesses, Boxpark offers lowered risk with less expensive rent than a traditional commercial space. Think about how a pop-up mall might further transform Braddock. Or how we could make it easier for entrepreneurs to rent and transform vacant storefronts downtown. Consider this our vote for more pop-up shops.

Make Downtown a Destination

image via klavondesign.com
image via klavondesign.com

In most cities, “Downtown” is a thing. In Pittsburgh? Not so much. Sure, we’ve come a long way. But we have a ways to go. The fact that many businesses and restaurants are only open during the week and close at 6pm doesn’t help. Same goes for the total lack of any and all retail attractions. That’s why places like Tako, Butcher and the Rye, and Sienna Mercato deserve huge props for kickstarting downtown’s food boom. On the flipside, organizations like the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and the Allegheny Conference, who wield massive influence, have yet to crack the code for appealing to young people.

Create “Pink Zones”

image via @steelers3230
image via @steelers3230

Here’s another way Pittsburgh could accelerate development while encouraging local entrepreneurs. Detroit is creating “pink zones” to revitalize neglected areas, making redevelopment easier. In certain neighborhoods, small developers and entrepreneurs encounter less red tape (hence, pink zone), like expensive re-zoning ordinances or minimum-parking requirements. Easing constraints would certainly be beneficial on the North Side, especially on East Ohio Street where spots like  The Farmer’s Daughter are laying the groundwork for revitalization.

More Riverfront Development

image via Aspinwall Riverfront Park Facebook
image via Aspinwall Riverfront Park Facebook

While there’s been a ton of improvement in this area, Pittsburgh still has miles of riverfront property that sits vacant. Sure, the riverfront trails are a huge plus, but what about the empty lots, overgrown brush, and abandoned buildings? As the city continues to grow, the waterfront needs to become a hub for new bars, shops, restaurants, and recreation. Looking for a blueprint? Check out San Antonio’s Riverwalk. This iconic network of walkways offers a combination of nature, shopping, restaurants, public art, and more.

Better and Safer Walking

image via @neevenr
image via @neevenr

We’d give pretty much anything to be able to walk safely from one neighborhood to the other. But, walking is almost impossible (and super dangerous) in more places than not. Bike Pittsburgh has done awesome work making the city more bike-friendly. And they’re working hard on walkability. But for now, know that drivers seldom yield to pedestrians. The walk signals and crosswalks don’t help. Sidewalks will randomly end — or not exist at all. Stay safe out there.

Make Eating Well Easier

image via @snapretail
image via @snapretail

Yes, Pittsburgh’s food scene is solid. We’re pretty spoiled by nationally-recognized spots like Morcilla, The Vandal, Cure, and The Whitfield. But when it comes to health-forward restaurants, there’s room to improve. To be clear, we’re not asking for a vegan or “calorie-conscious” section on the menu. Nope, we want more full-blown, top-to-bottom, healthy eating spots where raw, vegan, farm-to-table, and paleo options are the standard. Who do we have to talk to about getting a sweetgreen or honeygrow around here?

Deliver our Groceries

image via @@amyriehlman
image via @amyriehlman

Oh, the things we wouldn’t give to avoid having to go to Whole Foods or Giant Eagle. Just thinking about the parking situation at either spot on Centre Avenue is anxiety inducing. It would be pretty neat if someone made an app for ordering groceries on your phone. We’re looking at you, Instacart. We’d cough up the fee like our friends in San Francisco, LA, and DC if you’d deliver our groceries. Hint, hint.

Improve Public Transportation

image via bus-history.org
image via bus-history.org

It’s pretty much impossible to live in Pittsburgh without a car. The T is okay if you’re going between the South Hills, downtown, and the North Shore. But if you’re going anywhere else in the city, you’re out of luck. And the bus system is unpredictable at best. Maybe we could take some tips from our friends in Boston where 34% of people commute via public transit or Chicago where monthly passes are about $100.

Eliminate Car Ownership

image via @csprowlsphoto
image via @csprowlsphoto

When it comes to hot-button issues, this one’s near the top. But bear with us. Along with improved public transit, a more walkable and bikeable city is on our wishlist. And because kids these days don’t want to own cars, let’s just get rid of them altogether. Carless streets are a step in the right direction. And consider this: Recently a town in New Jersey decided not to build a parking garage, opting to work with Uber to subsidize rides instead. The move freed up parking spots while saving the city millions. Both Uber and Lyft have inked similar deals in San Francisco, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Dallas, and Cincinnati. While the concept is far from ironclad, we wouldn’t hate having fewer cars (even if they’re self-driving) on Pittsburgh’s narrow streets.

Keep it Affordable

image via Dave Cole
image via Dave Cole

Come on. We’re asking nicely. All the growth, innovation, and redevelopment are cool. But not being able to afford living in this cool, redeveloped city of ours would really put a damper on things. Exhibit A — We’re pretty much priced out of Lawrenceville. And it’s hard not to feel like certain parts of town are being imperialized by folks from DC or San Francisco scooping up property. Let’s take a page from Houston’s playbook. From 2010 to 2014, the city added some 140,000 people, while managing to keep 60% of homes in the greater metro area affordable for median-income families. We mean, we gotta eat!

Build a Bullet Train

image via Wikimedia Commons
image via Wikimedia Commons

Flying from Pittsburgh to NYC direct is too darn expensive. And deciding between driving (boring) or flying ($$) to Philadelphia is a lose-lose situation. Having a bullet train between Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and NYC would be a godsend. Bullet trains are operating in cities throughout Europe and Japan. And Californians are getting one between San Francisco and Los Angeles. A Philadelphia-Pittsburgh-New York train would allow Pittsburghers to travel more easily while bringing visitors (and their monies) to the Burgh.