Monday, August 01, 2005

Strip Show

Impinging on my Economic Development fetishism, Furrow is commenting on why he's leaving the Strip District:

It's simply because you can't get sh*t done. Most of the food businesses close by 5PM, except for the restaurants. There's no traditional grocery store, drug store, convenience store, gas station, or dry cleaners in the Strip.
He goes on to muse about whether there is a tipping point of population which would drive development of these basic necessities.

The Strip, in my experience, is suffering from a problem unlike anywhere else in the City: a nascent neighborhood without a business district. This is the exact opposite problem you find nearly everywhere else in the City. Mostly you'll find desiccated business districts with declining homeownership.

The traditional City of Pittsburgh model is this: tiny mainstreets surrounded by neighborhoods. Think Squirrel Hill, Lawrenceville, Southside, Bloomfield, and East Liberty & the Hill before "redevelopment." [I would wager that, in the case of the last two, it was the destruction of this model that led these neighborhoods to decline.] This model makes sense when you have people that generally work in the same neighborhood in which they live, or have no access to personal transportation. Still, setting aside the trendier neighborhoods, this model is also replicated throughout the city: Elliot, Sheraden, Allentown, Hazelwood, Homewood, even, to some extent, Larimer. In those neighborhoods, however, you now see a shift away from the mainstreet and a continuing slide in the surrounding housing market.

With the advent of the automobile, you see this shift away from the development of these walkable neighborhoods and towards a more auto-centric design. This auto-centricism [if that is a word] then manifests itself as the prevailing idiom of design (wide streets, no sidewalks, front entry garages, small porches, etc.), further alienating the residents from their neighborhood as they now have to go to Pittsburgh Mills Mall (or whatever the fuck they want to call it) to buy a loaf of bread! Unless you want to live in any of the above functional neighborhoods, you're going to have to get into your car and drive.

Anyway, hyperbole aside, the Strip has this exact problem, it seems: neighbors without a neighborhood, more suburban than urban. The Strip does not fit with the traditional Pittsburgh model, as it has not been, at least for a long time, a place for people to LIVE, but rather a place for people to work and play. The model is out of whack. This dichotomy creates, as Furrow says, an inability to get sh*t done... and it seems to be a suburban model.

So, to raise Mr. F's question: is there a policy decision that needs to be made in this instance to provide a more "livable" neighborhood, or should market forces be left to their own devises?

My answer is Yes.

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