Monday, February 14, 2005

Economic Development

Two articles today one detailing the proposed redevelopment of Anacostia, and a second detailing the proposed redevelopment of the Homewood section of Pittsburgh. Both neighborhoods share a similar history: traditionally white, middle class neighborhoods that became poor black ghettos. Anacostia's transformation to a black enclave occurred much sooner than the transformation of Homewood. Big difference in the magnitude of the blight, however: Anacostia is a war zone compared to Homewood.

Both cases are the opposite sides of the politics/policy/economic development coin. Anacostia is shown as a case where the private market has taken a direct interest in rebuilding the neighborhood. Homewood, by contrast, has seen very little private investment and has to rely on the public/non-profit sector for development growth.

The obvious difference between the areas is in their respective regions: DC is a growing market; Pittsburgh a declining market. Anacostia is able to take advantage of a strong market, while Homewood is hurt by a depressed market.

I don't know what I'm trying to get at here, except that the solutions proposed for growing a region do not necessarily address the immediate problems of a neighborhood in decline. The Homewood Strategy is, in the long run, unsustainable, but in the short run it is a necessity. Pittsburgh will not solve the problems of Homewood by jumping from demolition to demolition, but more could be lost by letting these wounds fester.

Catch-22: We can't do nothing for the neighborhood and divert money to growth of the region lest the neighborhood implode and we can't do everything for the neighborhood at the expense of the region.

Glad I'm not running for mayor of Pittsburgh. [I will, however, throw my name in the ring for "Overlord."]

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