Feb 19, 2008

Of growth and gangs in PGH

Ø In today's Post-Gazette biz section, David Murdoch writes about a possible joint venture between PGH and the cities of Cologne and Wuppertal in North Rhine Westphalia, Germany. A lot of cautionary hypotheticals and "what-ifs" are offered up in the article. The impression I was left with was what a slow process it will be for PGH to pull itself up to becoming a city with the reputation of, say, Austin or Seattle.
Innovative business, creative culture, hard work, excellent marketing and personal relationships are indispensable elements in Pittsburgh's quest for post-Renaissance development and growth. The dual economic objectives of direct foreign investment and greater exports require the additional involvement of Pittsburgh's cultural and educational community. Neither of these elements is sufficient of themselves; they also require long-term fortitude, major investments of time and energy, and frequent follow-up.
While Murdoch mentioned the role of cultural life in PGH, he stressed the business development angle as key. What struck me is that it's hard to know if the momentum of economic deterioration here is even being slowed, let alone reversed. The next few years are crucial in this regard.

Ø I'm curious to see the effects of the new Children's Hospital once it is open. Will the surrounding area see real estate values rise as professionals seek nearby housing? Will new retail businesses open nearby to cater to them? What about businesses like movie theaters, restaurants and newer life-style type shops-- things that provide "livability" to those with ample disposable income? Will local businesses be pushed out in favor of those who can pay higher rents? How would all of this affect long time residents if it came to pass?

Ø A sobering counterpoint to all of this is evident in another article in today's P-G about gang violence throughout the city. While it points out that it is small compared to major cities like NYC or LA,
Pittsburgh Police have been dealing with gangs for decades, with gang activity peaking in the '90s, and Sgt. Mona Wallace, head of the Pittsburgh Police Intelligence and Crime Analysis Unit, predicts a lengthy struggle.

"They're not going to go away anytime soon," she said. "It's something we're going to have to deal with far into the future."