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Observatory Hill- Pittsburgh’s Highest Point

Observatory Hill or Perry Hilltop was named both in honor of Commodore Perry and the Historic Allegheny Observatory, the City’s first astronomy building gracing the top of Riverview Park. The district also hosts the highest elevation in the City of Pittsburgh at 1,370 feet at the Brashear Reservoir and WPNT-FM  Radio Tower.

This North Hills district has remained a middle class strong hold in the northside and thus retained much of its historic housing and fabric. Riverview Park was a large factor in the neighborhood’s success. Observatory’s urban business district along Perrysville Ave has not fared as well and is littered with vacancies and limited retail amenities. Cultural amenities are also very limited. Building up the Perrysville Avenue business district should be the # 1 revitalization priority for the neighborhood. Secondary priorities include installing bike infrastructure, permanent affordable housing, opening new high quality schools, and improving pedestrian and ADA infrastructure.
Click here to view the full Observatory Hill Album on Flicker

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Convenient access to downtown especially via the car but decent transit and biking routes.
* This is a very diverse neighborhood among all measures.
* Very diverse for-sale price points starting at around 50K for a modest fixture upper to the 200Ks for a large historic home and everything in-between.
* Riverview Park is accessible to all in the neighborhood and holds almost any recreational amenity one needs.
* Overall pretty safe district, although some blight still remains.
* Lots of high quality historic architecture.
* The urban form of the business district is good but very small.
* Great tree cover.

URBAN WEAKNESSES

* Streets generally connect but are very curvilinear due to the district’s extreme terrain.
* Other than bike lanes in Riverview, Bike infrastructure is non-existent.
 * Not a ton of rental product but generally affordable. 1-bedrroms run between $500-$700, 2-bedrooms btwn $700-$1,100, and 3-bedrooms to the low to mid $1,000s.
* One deli and no restaurants or bars.
* Cultural amenities are basically non-existent. One needs to travel several miles south to the Allegheny Commons district and Downtown.
* Low-Medium density.
* Other than a couple convenience stores there is a bank, hair salon, thrift store, but not much else in the way of retail here.
* Perry High School is located here but rated poorly. No other schools within Observatory Hill.
* Most roads host sidewalks and ramps but ADA infrastructure is often missing.
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Marshall-Shadeland, a Northside Pittsburgh Community with great Urban Potential

Marshall-Shadeland is a largely residential area that was annexed by Allegheny City in 1870. Growth followed and the neighborhood filled in by the early 20th century. Most housing was constructed for workers but some larger homes reside along Brighton and Woodland along with 1920s and 1930s in-fill in the north edge of the district. Decline probably began shortly after WWII and accelerated in the 70s and 80s.

Fortunately much of the urban fabric remains and there is hope that the district will once again become a thriving urban community given its convenient access to downtown and proximity to other stable districts (i.e. Brighton Heights, Mexicantown, West Allegheny, and increasingly Manchester). Recent renovations have occurred resulting in home sales in the 100Ks. Yet much blight remains and there is a lack of neighborhood retail and cultural amenities.

Click here to view the entire Marshal-Shadeland Album on my Flickr Page.

URBAN STRENGTHS

* Good access to downtown vial all modes of transportation.
* While there are no bike stations here dedicated bike lanes run down Brighton Rd and along the river.
* Great generational and ethnic diversity here.
* Fair amount of rental product at moderate prices. 1-bedrooms go for around $600-$800 and 2 & 3-bedrooms between $900-$1,100.
*For sale housing is very affordable with prices ranging anywhere from 30K to 180K depending on size and quality.
* Decent park amenities including two ballfields, a parkette, several cemeteries, and decent access to Riverview Park.
* Because of the hills and ravines there is overall great tree canopy. The neighborhood could use more street trees however.
* What does exist of Marshall-Shadeland’s business district (node at Marshall and Woods Run) is pretty urban. But its rough and there the streetscape is lackluster.

URBAN WEAKNESSES

* Some economic diversity, but pretty low-income area.
* Lots of vacancies throughout district.
* There is still a perception of crime here.
* Some retail amenities including a Kuhn’s Supermarket, Dollar Store, Wine & Spirits, a Café-restaurant, and several low key restaurants and bars.
* Very little nightlife in the district other than a couple restaurants and bars but Marshall-Shadeland does have convenient access to other vibrant areas such in the northside (Mexican War Street, West Allegheny, etc.).
* Even with some recent revitalization successes Marshall-Shadeland still retains a pretty negative perception.
* ADA is a mixed-bag here. The main streets and flat areas are well served by ADA infrastructure. Hilly and more obscure streets often have limited ADA or no sidewalks.
* A couple specialty schools within the district but nothing else. Several schools lie in adjacent districts but generally not well rated.
* Really no cultural amenities within Marshall-Shadeland but convenient access to what lies in West Allegheny and Mexicantown districts.
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Spring Hill- One of Pittsburgh’s Great “View” Neighborhoods

Spring Hill was named for the abundance of springs near the site. Germans immigrated there from 1850 to 1920, giving the neighborhood a very Bavarian atmosphere reflected in its local streets (i.e. Rhine, Woessner, Haslage, Zoller and Goehring). The population of Spring Hill peak in 1940 around 8,000 and has stabilized down to around 2,500. Spring Hill Garden used to host around 4,000 and now is just under 1,000.

This is a very typical hillside Pittsburgh community, which has seem a drastic population loss but has managed to “right size” through losing population often in the most steep terrain and maintaining generations of families. Spring Hill and Spring Garden are beginning to see modest real estate interest given its close proximity to downtown and other revitalizing communities such as Deutchtown and Mexican War Streets. The old warehouses of Spring Garden are beginning to see new life through modern craft outfits, distilleries, and fitness centers. To elevate this district to a viable urban community continued real estate investment, new bike paths, improved public transit connections, and a walkable neighborhood amenities are needed. But this is certainly possible given the neighborhood’s good urban bones, proximity to downtown, and beautiful views and generous yards.
View the full Flick Albums for Spring Hill and Spring Gardens

URBAN STRENGTHS

* Good access to downtown especially by car, but decent public transit access. One could even walk to downtown in 30-45 minutes if they can handle the terrain. Getting to Oakland is much harder by transit by easy by car.
* All around great diversity in Spring Hill.
* For sale housing is very affordable with prices ranging anywhere from 25K to 150K depending on size and quality.
* Great tree cover thanks to all the steep terrain and hillsides.

URBAN WEAKNESSES

* Very low density for an urban district due to the extreme topography and steep population decline.
* No bike infrastructure across the district.
* Not much rental product in the neighborhood and what exist is very modest.
* There are a couple parks hosting ballfields, playgrounds, and the Lutheran cemetery.
* Sidewalks are often missing and very steep terrain, so ADA infrastructure isn’t great.
* Commercial is very limited (a brewery within the Spring Hill district but some neighborhood amenities existing on Spring Garden Road (i.e. pharmacy, family dollar, some light manufacturing, a cider house, and a couple of bars and restaurants.
* Very limited cultural amenities within the district, but the rich cultural of the northside and downtown is only 2 miles away.
* There is a poorly rated elementary school but not much else. 
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Pittsburgh’s Troy- the Plateau that looks over the City

Originally called the village of New Troy, the neighborhood was originally settled by German immigrants who worked in the mills, tanneries, breweries and railroads that lined the Allegheny river (including the Heinz Ketchup factory). Migration up to Troy Hill began when a Catholic church opened a small cemetery in 1842. Gradually the neighborhood filled in by the early 20th century and remained a stable working class community to the present day.

While Troy Hill lost a significant amount of its historic population, dropping from a historic high of 7,000 to around 2,000, it has retained much of its urban fabric due to the removal of many hillside dwellings and smaller families. The neighborhood has stabilized and seen recent investment with many younger families renovating modest rowhouses. Given the districts incredible access to downtown, the Strip District, and Allegheny Commons, it is a surprise the market has not taken off even more here. Hopefully more and more amenities move to Troy Hill without it becoming too expensive for its current population. The neighborhood is one of the most economically diverse in the City of Pittsburgh.

Click here to view my full Troy Hill album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS

* Pretty easy access to downtown especially for cars, but decent public transit access. Due to the hikes, bike commuting is challenging.
* Housing is pretty affordable here. Most homes selling in the $100s but some outdated product selling between 50-100K and larger resent renovations selling in the 200Ks. 1-bedroom rentals going anywhere between $700-$1,200 and 2-3 bedrooms in the low to mid $1,000s.
* Good recreational amenities with several ballfields, a few playgrounds, and a spray park.
* Streetscape and urban form pretty solid in the heart of Troy Hill along Lowrie St, but pretty weak along Spring Garden Rd. (the district’s northern edge).
* Good tree cover due to the many dense groves along the hill sides. 

URBAN WEAKNESSES
* No bike lanes through the hard of Troy Hill nor any bike stations, but a dedicated lane along 28.
* Culture amenities are decent but not great in Troy Hill. The neighborhood hosts a couple of restaurants, a café, two breweries, and several bars. This is also the home of St. Anthony (the largest collection of relics.
* Some neighborhood retail including several delis, a drug store, a fitness center, and several banks.
* Three schools within or in adjacent districts, but overall low ratings. 

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Lincoln-Lemington- Pittsburgh’s “forgotten” East End Neighborhood

Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar is a predominantly black neighborhood that was majority Caucasian from the 1920s until the 1970s.Sadly the neighborhood fell into decline after its racial transition. What was once a comfortable early 20th century bedroom community with an intact main street now is a half empty with most of its main street erased.

Yet there still are several assets worth mentioning including its attractive early 20th century architecture, good public transit access, short commute to downtown,  quality park amenities, and thick tree canopy. There is much revitalization work needed to make this a viable urban community once more. Given its high home ownership, and the ability to build African-American wealth, this seems like a worth endeavor. 
Click here to view my Lincoln-Lemington album on Flickr.

URBAN STRENGTHS

* Decent public transit access and easy drive to Downtown.
* Good historic architecture. Just not always well maintained.
* Decent park recreation’s with several playgrounds, ballfields, and a recreational center.

URBAN WEAKNESSES

* Not great racial nor economic diversity. Still a high rate of poverty here.
* For-sale housing is depressed but some quality product selling between 50K-75K. Not a ton of rental product but generally a mix of affordable and moderate rental.
* Retail and stores limited to a couple convenience stores, car repair stores, and churches.
* Mediocre ADA infrastructure.
* Very limited cultural amenities.
* Some assemblance remains of the historic urban streetscape along Lincoln Ave but not much is left.
* No walkable schools in Lincoln-Lemington a couple in adjacent districts but not highly rated.
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Morningside- A tight-knit Pittsburgh Community

Morningside development really took off around 1905 with the creation of the Chislett Street trolley line extended from Stanton Avenue into the neighborhood. The community was fully filled in with houses and a  some small commercial district by the 1930s. Morningside first welcome Irish families and eventually large numbers of Italian families ending Pittsburgh’s last wave of Italian immigration in the 1970s.

Morningside never experienced significant crime and blight issues but has seen a resurgence in interest in the past 5-10 years. Buyers are attracted by Morningside’s front porches, tight knit community, historic homes, convenient access, and modest back yards- a premium in the City. Renovated homes are now selling in the high 200Ks-300Ks. Morningside also has quality recreational spaces within the neighborhood and adjacent districts. What is needed for Morningside to transition from a good urban district to a great one is more dedicated retail and entertainment options, some additional multi-family housing , quality walkable schools, and dedicated bike infrastructure.
Click here to view my full album for Morningside in Flickr
URBAN STRENGTHS

* Good access to downtown via decent public transit access and easy driving.
* Great economic and solid age diversity.
* Good price diversity with home ownership ranging from 150K-400K but prices are certainly on the rise.
* Decent ADA infrastructure with curb cuts at every intersection but not always ADA compliant.
* Great historic architecture .
* Residents have great access to several sport complexes, playgrounds, the morning side greenway, and Highland Park is nearby (although hard to access by foot).

URBAN WEAKNESSES

* No dedicated bike infrastructure.
* Rentals are pretty limited but moderately priced. 1-bedrooms going for $800-$1,000 and 2-bedrooms in the low $1,000s.
* No schools within Morningside but a couple decent ones in adjacent neighborhoods.
* Really no modern in-fill in Morningside.
* Some retail exists in Morningside including a cafe, several restaurants & bars, salons, Rite Aid, a daycare facility, and even a specialty fabric store. Most residents are 1 mile from the Bryant commercial district.

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Pittsburgh’s Homewood Neighborhood

Homewood was annexed into the city of Pittsburgh in 1884.The neighborhood started as an area of estates for the wealthy including  Pittsburgh industrialists Andrew Carnegie. By 1910s, Irish, Italian, German, and upper middle class black families moved to Homewood helping create an ethnically diverse neighborhood. At first relations between the white and black residents of Homewood were good, but things become strained In the 1950s when the Lower Hill Urban Renewal project displaced 8,000 people, many of whom ultimately settled in rental apartments in Homewood. White flight ensued as demographics shifted from 22% black in 1950 to 66% black in 1960. The MLK riots of 68′ severely crippling the business district. This was followed by the proliferation of gangs and drugs in the 1970s and 1980s. So yea, Homewood has been through a lot.

The situation appears to have stabilized with crime plateauing. Some investment, mostly driven by government, non-profits, and philanthropy, has led to some new businesses on N. Homewood, new housing, and the Susquehanna job focused renovation. Flippers are also slowly discovering the district’s quality historic architecture and easy access to the East busway with renovated homes selling in the 100Ks. But Homewood still has a long way to go before becomes a viable urban district, requiring a blight and real estate intervention of scale. 
Click here to see my full Homewood photo album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS

* Good access to public transit.
* Lots of families households here.
* Between the many park lets, sport fields, playgrounds, public pool, and a YMCA Homewood has very good recreational amenities.
* Good ADA infrastructure through Homewood.
* Gorgeous historic architecture of various sizes and typologies. Unfortunately much of it is blighted. Some good in-fill especially along Homewood Ave.
* Good tree cover helped by the hills and elevation change.

URBAN WEAKNESSES

* No bike lanes, but several dedicated bike stations.
* Very high poverty rate (around 35%) and some economic diversity especially in the western portions of Homewood.
* Not great racial diversity either.
* For sale product is generally very in expensive. Vacant and blighted property sell below 30K or so. Decent product between 30-85K. Some renovated SF homes selling now in the 100Ks.
* Rentals are also inexpensive, but limited product officially listed. Nice 2-bedrooms go for around $850.
* Not great cultural amenities but some including a mix of several  barbecue and soul food restaurants, dive bars, and the Afro American Music Center.
* Some retail amenities including a bakery, cafe, hardware store, several beauty salons & Barbers, and convenience stores. The Coop and Construction Junction are just south of Homewood.
* Still pretty high crime and lots of blight.
* Westinghouse HS is the only school in the district and not rated well.
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Pittsburgh’s Larimer- A Legacy Neighborhood Poised for Rejuvenation

The neighborhood takes its name from William Larimer, who after making a fortune in the railroad industry, built a manor house overlooking East Liberty. His daughter married a Mellon who eventually sold off the land for real estate speculation. German immigrants came to Larimer in the later half of the 19th century leaving a mark with the still standing St. Peter and Paul gothic church (featured in the Dogma movie).  By the early 1900s Italians from Abruzzi, Calabria, Campania, Sicily and Northern Italians became the dominant ethnic group. These settlers were slightly better-off than their Bloomfield kinsmen and therefore built somewhat nicer detached brick homes with small yards. Larimer was Pittsburgh’s Little Italy until the 1960s when residents began moving to the suburbs and other Pittsburgh neighborhoods (most notably Stanton Heights and Morningside).  Urban renewal efforts in adjacent East Liberty and new housing projects helped accelerate Larimer’s deterioration.

Larimer used to be a thriving, dense community with distinct commercial districts along Larimer Avenue and Lincoln Avenues supplementing the thriving shopping hub of East Liberty. Frankstown and Hamilton Avenues along Larimer’s southern border hosted numerous industrial and warehousing plants. Sadly much of the fabric was removed with the neighborhood’s decline, especially its commercial districts. Larimer used to have a population of around 10,000, which meant a density of 25K per sq mile. Now it sits at around 2,000 souls.

Even with all this deterioration, Larimer has great urban bones. Its sits next to the revitalizing East Liberty complete with new apartments, shopping, and convenient access to the Bus Way. Google has set up shop on Larimer’s southern border creating the Bakery Square development (a mixed of office, apartments, and retail), and entrepreneurs are slowly filling empty warehouses along Hamilton and Frankstown (i.e. Eastend Brewing Company, Absolute Ballroom,  KLVN Coffee Lab, and Red Star Kombucha.) Thus Larimer remains a very walkable and transit rich community. With a robust revitalization strategy, Larimer could easily become a viable urban community.
Click here to view my full Larimer Album on Flickr
URBAN STRENGTHS

* Great public transit and good access to major jobs centers (i.e. downtown, Oakland, and esp. Bakery Square, which resides in Larimer).
* Several bike stations site on Larimer’s southern edge (i.e. Bakery Square) and two dedicated bike lanes run along the district’s edges on Negley Run and E. Liberty Blvds.
* Decent amount of families here and generational diversity.
* Good recreational amenities including the Kingsley Center, several community gardens, playgrounds, and pocket parks.
* Neighborhood amenities are concentrated in Bakery Square and adjacent shopping areas in East Liberty. This includes a target, several grocery stores, several restaurants & cafes, Staples, and several retail stores. This is all within a mile for most residents. Some amenities also opening along Hamilton and Frankstown Rd as warehoused get repurposed (i.e. dance studio, cross training, East End Brewery, auto parts and contracting supply stores).
* Other than a couple art galleries cultural amenities are concentrated in Bakery Square and adjacent East Liberty. 

URBAN WEAKNESSES

* High poverty rate including 1/3 of the population with a AHI of around 35K.
* Listed for-sale product is limited. Generally lower end product but an increasing about of renovated product selling in the 100Ks. Most homes still selling below 100K.
* Significant amount of blight and abandonment remain in the neighborhood. Rental product is very limited. High end units however, are now available across the street from Larimer on Penn Ave.
* Limited racial and economic diversity.
* 2 public schools located within Larimer but not highly rated. Several other schools nearby in adjacent East Liberty, Homewood, and Shadyside with mixed ratings. 
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Edgewood- Pittsburgh’s Illusive, but Exclusive Historic Suburb

This high-end inner ring suburb was incorporated in 1888. The borough slowly grew reaching just over 1,000 souls in 1900 and peaking around 5,000 in 1950. Since then the population has nearly halved sitting at 3,000 residents. Even with loosing this much population you wouldn’t notice it. Edgewood has maintained its historic housing stock, with some of the nicest mansions in the Pittsburgh region. It has convenient access to the Regent Square commercial district, on its western edge, and easy access to Oakland and Downtown via the East Busway.

Even though it sits next to one of the poorest African American Borough’s in the region, Edgewood is mostly wealthy and well off. Diversity is certainly an area for improvement. There are also several mixed-use buildings in the heart of the Borough on Maple Ave that with several new businesses could significantly improve the neighborhood’s walkability. Bike lanes is also something sorely missing here. 

Click here to view my full Edgewood album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS

* Generally pretty good ADA infrastructure but inconsistent.
* Solid public transit and good access to major Pitt job centers.
* Very safe community with low vacancy.
* Great generational diversity, lots of young adults and young families.
* Nice diversity of for-sale product with small homes starting in the mid $100Ks, medium sized homes in the 200Ks& 300Ks and mansions above 400K. Some rentals that are moderately priced… 1 bedrooms lease for $700-$900 and larger house rentals generally in the mid $1,000s.
* Amenity wise Edgewood is served by both Regent Square (historic commercial node with many restaurants, bars, and some nice boutique stores) and Edgewood Town center, which is a auto centric strip mall with a supermarket, pharmacy, banks, and lots of retail. Also a public library and rec center in the heart of Edgewood.

URBAN WEAKNESSES

* Bike infrastructure limited with some lanes on the edge of the borough and no dedicated bike stations.
* Limited racial and economic diversity. Generally well off community with a fair amount of middle class households.
* Only the Koeing Field complex sites within the Borough but convenient access to adjacent 9 mile run, Frick Park, and Whitney Park.
* One solid elementary schools within the Borough, but no other walkable schools.
* Some cultural amenities in Regent square (restaurants, bars, cafes) but not much else.
* 10 minutes from closest hospital but lots of doctor office in Regent Square.
* Other than Edgewood Town Center and some in-fill in Regent Square, not much new construction. 

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Braddock, PA- Pittsburgh’s Rustbelt Poster Child

Braddock is named after General Edward Braddock who led am Expedition in Western PA at this place. The area surrounding Braddock’s Field was originally inhabited by the Lenape, ruled by Queen Aliquippa (a  friend of George Washington). Nearby in Turtle Creek, the first permanent English settlement was established west of the Allegheny Mountains In 1742.  Braddock’s first industrial facility, a barrel plant, opened in 1850 and the borough incorporated in 1867. The town’s industrial economy began in 1873, when Andrew Carnegie built the Edgar Thomson Steel Works on the historic site of Braddock’s Field. Braddock is also the location of Carnegie’s first public library. Braddock lost its importance with the collapse of the steel industry in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s and was brought to its knees by the crack cocaine epidemic of the early 1980s.

Braddock is the most extreme case of industrial decline in Pittsburgh, which is probably why it’s the poster child for the rust-belt in Pittsburgh. The town reached a population high of 21,000 in 1920s and  now hosts  just over 2,000 souls. Population decline significantly picked up after WWII. Yet Braddock still has good bones with a comfortable street grid, high quality public transit, and good access to downtown. The recent Braddock “resurgence” shepherded by former mayor John Fetterman and restaurateur Kevin Sousa have returned Braddock to the spotlight and helped spur a mini resurgence with new restaurants, bars, cafes, vintage shops and interest for local non-profits. But Braddock really needs people to return, and in the thousands, for this to once again be a viable urban district.
Click here to view my Braddock album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS

* Great generational diversity.
* Solid public transit access and very connected street grid. Braddock has the bones of a highly walk-able community.
* Braddock’s resurgence is being led by several new restaurants, bars, cafes, and breweries. Braddock has gained regional attention by several well know restaurateurs, local foundations, and community groups. But still a very long way to go. This resurgence is also attracting hip clothing, and vintage antique and restoration stores augmenting the remaining wholesaling stores, dollar store, beautiful Carnegie library, and post office.
* Good amount of tree canopy.

URBAN WEAKNESSES

* Very high poverty (30%) and some racial diversity.
* Very depressed for-sale market. Very little sells above 50K. Not a ton of rental product but very affordable. 2-bedrooms generally go for between $700-$800.
* Very limited parks space with Braddock, the only “official park” is the Verona Street Park.
* No supermarket or drug stores. The nearest hospital is a 10 min drive in McKeesport.
* Only two schools within Braddock and poorly rated.
* Sidewalks and curb cuts are common but in rough shape. Very few ADA compliant curbs. 
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Munhall, PA a Middle-Class Haven with Convenient Access to Downtown Pittsburgh

A large portion of the Homestead Works existed in Munhall. The borough was in 1901, out of a part of Mifflin Township. Its most noted landmark is the  Homestead Library  donated by Andrew Carnegie in 1896. Development picked up in Munhall in the late 1800s to early 1900s with the building of the northern half of Munhall closest to the Monongahela River and Homestead. The southern half of Munhall was developed between 1910s to the 1950s. Munhall’s population peaked at around 17,000 in 1960 and has slowly declined to its current population of 11,000 souls.

Munhall is an inner ring suburb attractive to middle income families desiring to purchase an affordable house with some walkability, convenient “driving” access to the expansive Waterfront Lifestyle shopping center and close proximity to Downtown Pittsburgh. Main Street is the north to south spine that runs along the Ridge and provides a moderate level of neighborhood retail and amenities. Not much in the way of cultural amenities within Munhall, but easy access to adjacent Homestead where recent reinvestment to its historic Downtown along 8th Street is bringing many new restaurants bars, art galleries, and nightlife options.

Additional medium density mixed-use  in-fill along Main Street would go a long way to increasing vibrancy in Munhall and helping to stabilize its population. Not much else can be done to increase urbanity here unless the borough completely rewrites its zoning codes and the Port Authority brought better transit service to the community.

Click here to view my full Munhall album on Flickr.

URBAN STRENGTHS

* Good access to downtown via driving and even decent commute biking (using the Allegheny Passage Trail).
* Very low crime rate.
* Recreation in Munhall consists of several sport field clusters around Munhall schools and several more traditional parks near the Homestead Carnegie Library.
* Great Tree Cover.
* Munhall hosts some “light” retail along its traditional Main Street (drug store, banks, restaurants, bars, liquor store, flower shop, barbershops, nail salons, and a post office). The bulk of its retail are located in the brownfield redevelopment, the Waterfront straddling the border of Munhall and Homestead. While a very auto oriented shopping center it includes several supermarkets, Target, Lowes, Dicks, and many retail chain stores.
* Several medium to well rated schools within Munhall that are pretty walkable. 

URBAN WEAKNESSES

* Sub par public transit for an inner ring suburb, although the north half of Munhall is served well.
* Because of the very hilly terrain, about 1/4 of residential streets don’t have sidewalks. Even the traditional business district running along Main St. generally doesn’t have ADA compliant ramps.
* Bike infrastructure limited to the Allegheny Passage Trail running along the Mon River.
* Not a ton of rental product, but generally in the lower moderate range. The limited 1-bedroom product rents between $500-$800. 2-bedrooms around $850. And whole houses anywhere from $1,000 to $1,600. Higher prices in south Munhall.
* For sale prices are very moderate ranging anywhere from 50K to 200K.
* Cultural amenities consist of only a handful of American restaurants and bars. But Munhall has convenient access to Homestead which hosts more diverse cultural amenities including a cineplex.
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Brentwood- A Pleasant Pittsburgh Suburb close to Downtown

Brentwood is an inner ring suburb located on the southern border of Pittsburgh. Development began around 1910 and the Borough grew to about 8,000 residents by WWII. The Borough continued to grow after the war reaching a peak of 14,000 in 1970. Since then Brentwood has lost about a quarter of its peak population and now sits just above 9,000 souls. Even so, this is a relatively health community for Pittsburgh standards with limited blight and vacancy.

Brentwood’s moderate density, transit connectivity, and urban main street along Brownsville road have created a fairly desirable urban community for individuals desiring some walkability, convenient access to downtown, while still retaining a good sized yard. Other positives are its solid schools and low crime rates. For Pittsburgh standards, Brentwood is also seeing a growing Nepalese population evident by several Nepalese run restaurants emerging along Saw Mill Road.

The largest areas to improve the urbanity of Brentwood includes new mixed-use infill along Brownsville Road, additional recreational amenities, and dedicated bike lanes running along Brownsville Road. Not much else that can be done given the borough’s hilly terrain and auto centric commercial thoroughfare running along Saw Mill Road. 
Click here to view all Brentwood photos on my Flicker page

URBAN STRENGTHS

* Very safe community.
* Decent public transit access, and good access to downtown.
* For sale housing is pretty affordable but decent price and size variety. Most product sells in the $100Ks but a fair amount below 100K and in the 200Ks.
* Pretty good neighborhood amenities (although most of located on Saw Mill or in the Brentwood Towne Square shopping center). Brentwood hosts a supermarket, several banks, several pharmacies, plenty of salons, cafes, and a good amount of boutiques

URBAN WEAKNESSES

* Because of the very hilly terrain, about 1/3 of residential streets don’t have sidewalks. ADA compliant curbs are reserved for Brownsville (the main traditional business district).
* Saw Mill Run is completely auto centric and hosts many of Brentwood’s businesses.
* Not a ton of rental product, but generally in the lower moderate range. The limited 1-bedroom product rents between $500-$750. 2-bedrooms for $800-$1,000. And whole houses generally in the low to mid $1,000s.
* Only one park in the Brentwood (Brentwood) park. It is a large park with lots of amenities (including a rec center) and fortunately is pretty centrally located in the borough.
* Cultural amenities limited to restaurants and bars. Some diversity added with several Nepalese restaurants.
* Solid school options for K-12 and generally walkable. 

Swissvale, Pennsylvania- part of the Pittsburgh Region

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Swissvale is named after the Swisshelm family, who owned a farm where the town is located. Jane Swisshelm became a noted abolitionist and political activist. The family settled here in the late 1700s. Widespread development did not come to Swissvale until the early 1900s with the industrialization of the Borough. The Population peaked at 16,500 in 1950 and rapidly declined. There are now approximately 8,500 residents here, but signs are positive that the population is stabilizing.

Swissvale has a lot of good things going for it from an urban perspective. It’s located at the end of the Pittsburgh East Busway, providing convenient access to downtown. Regent Square and Frick Park are nearby as well. Swissvale still retains much of its housing stock and traditional main street, which is centered around a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) stop.

There are signs that investment is picking up in Swissvalle, especially in the western and more stabilized western half of the borough. Increased targeted investment in the urban commercial district would go a long way towards making this a quality urban district.

Click here to view my Swisshelm Flickr Album
URBAN STRENGTHS

* Solid public transit access throughout most of Swissvale. And good access to Downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland.
* Excellent economic and generational diversity and decent racial and diversity.
* Great range of for sale housing starting at around 40K for the rougher product to 300K for the best housing in the most stable streets. Rentals are on the cheap side with 1-bedrooms ranging from $500-$800 and 2-bedrooms anywhere from $800-$1,300. Lots of rental product.
* While set in a strip mark, the Edgewood Shopping Center provides residents lots of important neighborhood amenities (i.e. Liquor store, Supermarket, clothing stores, banks, etc.). In the traditional main streets along  Monongahela and Noble St there are some neighborhood shops, cafes, restaurants, some boutiques, churches, and the public library.  

URBAN WEAKNESSES

* Recreational amenities can be limited depending on where you live. Residents in Swisshelm and the western edge of Swissvale have great access to 9 mile run and Frick Park but only 3 other small parks throughout.
* Cultural amenities pretty limited. There are some restaurants, bars, and cafes but not theaters or museums. One is about a mile though from Regent Square, which hosts many restaurants, bars, and cafes.
* A fair amount of blight and vacancy still exists throughout.
* Several walkable schools within Swisshelm but generally poor ratings.
* ADA infrastructure is a mixed bag. Generally there are curb cuts, but often not ADA compliant infrastructure.
* Not much modern architecture, and what does exist is pretty suburban.
Featured

Pittsburgh’s Bloomfield-Friendship Neighborhood

Bloomfield is referred by many locals as Pittsburgh’s Little Italy as it was settled by Italians from the Abruzzi region of Italy and has been a center of Italian-American population for many decades. Friendship is small adjacent district of large Victorian houses in the East End.

In 1868 Bloomfield and Friendship were annexed by the City of Pittsburgh. Development started more or less from west to east with narrow lot row-houses between the 1870s and 1890s. By the 1890s, the trolley extended to Friendship via Baum Boulevard and large square homes designed for professional-class families were constructed in Edwardian and Victorian styles. 

By the 1960s, many prominent families in Friendship moved to the suburbs repulsed by the construction of massive housing projects in nearby Garfield and misguided urban renewal in East Liberty. Zoning changes in the 1950s allowed landlords to subdivide these massive Victorian houses beauties into multi-unit apartments, and by the 1980s, over 70% of the housing stock were rentals. Bloomfield remained a solid working class neighborhood holding on to its Italian heritage.

Recently, the neighborhood has become an attractive place to buy or rent bolstered by the general gentrification of the East End and housing prices continue to steadily climb with more diverse residents. With great access to downtown, public transportation, neighborhood amenities, restaurants/bars, attractive historic homes, and proximity to other great East End neighborhoods like Oakland, East Liberty, Lawrenceville, and Shadyside; its no wonder that Bloomfield-Friendship has become such an in-demand location.

The Bloomfield-Friendship neighborhood is bordered by Penn Avenue to the north, Negley to the east, Baum to the south, and the Bloomfield Bridge/40th Street to the West. Friendship is a smaller sub-neighborhood that became an official City designated neighborhood in recent history. This is the area between Aiken-Negley and Penn-Liberty-Baum. 

Click here to view my Bloomfield photo album & here for my Friendship Albums on Flicker
URBAN STRENGHTHS

* Very good bike infrastructure, public
 transportation, and access to Pittsburgh’s 2 largest employment centers: Downtown and Oakland.
* For sale prices heating up in neighborhood but still plentiful housing options available for 200-350K and still slightly below national median levels. 350K-500K large homes available in Friendship. Rental prices also very reasonable. 1-bedrooms can be found for 600-1,300. 2-bedrooms in the 1,000s.
* Great access to many smaller parks, playgrounds, City pool, and Historic Allegheny Cemetery.
* Culturally, good access to diverse restaurants, bars, many art galleries along Penn Avenue. Also within walking distance to several other solid commercial districts… East Liberty and Ellsworth, Highland, and Walnut in Shadyside.
* Very good access to retail, restaurants/bars, grocery stores, etc. at 3 businesses districts (Liberty, Penn, and Baum/Center). 

URBAN WEAKNESSES

* Tree cover great between Gross and Negley, but pretty sparse west of
Gross St.
* Some sections of Liberty and Baum are pretty auto centric. Sections of Penn Avenue and Liberty can feel pretty dead at night. 
* Racial diversity is ok but over 65% of residents are white. Also percentage of family households are much lower than the average in Pittsburgh.

Johnston Square- An East Baltimore Neighborhood on the Rise

In the early 1800’s affluent city leaders located their country houses on the rising hills surrounding the port of Baltimore in currently day neighborhoods like Johnston Square.  Green Mount Cemetery (now located on Johnston Square’s northern border) was established in the 1830s as a rural oasis for the deceased and visiting. Mills and industries harnessed the power of the water along the Jones Falls Valley were developed in the early 1800s and followed by railroads, which transformed the valley into an industrial artery.  After the Civil War, the country estates were sold to developers  and modern day Johnston Square started to take shape. Like many Baltimore neighborhoods it was developed around a central elevated square (Johnston Square Park) with a larger 3-story townhouses lined the wider boulevards and smaller 2-story worked housing lining the alley ways and secondary streets. This created a very natural mixed-income community. The late 19 century also brought waves of immigrants settled to Johnston Square with the  Catholic Church playing a dominant role in supporting the community and its development

During the late 1940s rural African-Americans arrived in East Baltimore seeking work in the war-related industries and often replaced abandoned churches and homes by white families During the second half of the 20th Century like so many other urban African American neighborhoods, Johnston Square became a victim to discriminatory lending practices which resulted in disinvestment, concentrated poverty, population loss and abandonment. Fortunately momentum seems to be turning as the  neighborhood is embarking on an ambitious Johnston Square Vision Plan, supported by Rebuild Metro and the Baltimore Square Neighborhood Organization to rebuild the community as a Mixed-income and multi-racial neighborhood. Johnston Square is simply to well positioned between employment centers and major institutions and a high level of walkability and community character to remain disinvested. 

Click here to view my Johnston Square album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Sidewalk infrastructure is pretty consistent although some are neglected here there is widespread abandonment. Modern ADA curbs existing in 50% of curb cuts.
* Excellent public transit access.
* Decent bike infrastructure access with a pair of west-east bike lanes and lots of rentable scooters. Far fewer rental dockless bikes here.
* Great access to employment centers being 2 miles from Dwtn and less than 1 mile from John Hopkins Hospital and University. Access across all modes.
* Good racial diversity with about 40% of the population being non Black.
* Several dedicated affordable rentals have been built recently.
* Three solid medium sized parks including playground, basketball court, and outdoor pool amenities.
* Mix of worker and more regal late 19th century rowhouses. The fixed up rowhouses are very attractive here.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Decent Urban Density.
* 40% of residents are living in poverty but increasing wealth is entering the neighborhood.
* Only St. Francis High School is located in the neighborhood. Several mixed-rated schools located north in Greenmount West. Schools to the east of Johnston Square are rated rather poorly.
* Some rentals but mostly 2 & 3 beds leasing anywhere in the1Ks. Rentals seem in good condition.
* For sale housing market is still pretty depressed with 2-beds selling around 100K. 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 50K-225K with renovated product being on the higher end.
* Cultural amenities are limited to a handful of restaurants & bars, a cafe, a cider house. Just across the highway from good amenities in Mt. Vernon and some good amenities in Greenmount West to the north.
* Retail amenities are limited to a only drug store, several convenience stores, a couple salons, several churches, and community clinic. Good retail amenities adjacent Mt. Vernon.
* Johnston Square has a long history of crime and blight issues but there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel as the community embarks on an ambitious stabilization plan renovating nearly 1,000 units of housing.
* A couple recent residential in-fill projects that have been pretty well done. ^0s & 70s infill is a mixed bag. Some stuff is actually decent for the era.
* Not much urban form left on the historic biz district (Greenmount) and mix of cohesive, bombed out blocks, and urban renew residential blocks.

Greektown- Historic Center of Baltimore’s Greek Population

The history of Greeks in Baltimore dates back to the turn of the 20th century. Baltimore is in fact home to one of the largest Greek American communities in US.  By the 1920s, a small but vibrant Greek community had been firmly established centered around the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church located in the Greektown neighborhood. The neighborhood officially became know as “Greektown” when in the 1980s residents petitioned the City to change the name from “the Hill”. By the 1980s Baltimore’s Greek community had 25,000 strong but the concentration of Greeks in Greektown and Highlandtown was starting to decline as they moved on to other neighborhoods. Latino populations are now increasing in both Highlandtown and Greektown.

From an urban perspective Greektown is isolated from the rest of East Baltimore by railroads and an industrial zone on its western border and  I-95 on its eastern border. This probably helped keep the Greek identity strong in the district and keep out crime and blight issues that afflicted many other East Baltimore neighborhoods. But this makes traveling to the rest of East Baltimore a bit challenging. The commercial district along Eastern Ave is generally still in tact and the housing market is quite strong, bolstered recently by the construction of hundreds of new townhouses.

For Greektown to be a great urban neighborhood it could use a full service supermarket, more 1-bed rentals, more walkable schools, and more park amenities. But overall a solid in tact urban district.

Click here to view my Greektown Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Decent density.
* Good proximity to Dwtn and solid public transit connections
* Lots of moderately priced homes for sale and plenty of new townhouses available. 2-beds sell anywhere from 175K-400K. 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 125K-425.
* Decent cultural amenities with several restaurants (many still Greek and now Hispanic) & bars, a Starbucks, and a couple night clubs. There is also a dinner mystery venue and a couple event venues.
* Overall a very safety community.
* Lots of infill urban townhouse. Design and form are so  but certainly could be a lot worse.
* Urban form along Easter Avenue is generally cohesive but certainly some surface parking and autocentric uses along it.
* Greektown seems to have a pretty high impression among Baltimoreans. Perhaps this is why so much new housing was built here.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* ADA and sidewalk infrastructure is generally good in Greektown but spots of Eastern have sidewalks on only one side and modern ADA curbs existing in about 1/2 of all intersections.
* Greektown is pretty isolated from the rest of East Baltimore. One needs to past through very industrial areas without good pedestrian or bike connections to get to Highlandtown.
* One smally dedicated bike lanes runs north to south through the district but not good connections to surrounding districts.
* Poor access to schools other than a couple schools in the adjacent Joseph Lee district. But not really walkable.
* Very few 1-beds for sale.
* Rentals are pretty limited especially 1-beds. Some 2-beds lease for around 2K. Plenty of 3-beds rentals leasing btwn the high 1Ks-3K.
* Parks are limited to a playground and community garden in Greektown. There is a large cemetery bordering Greektown but its seperated by a highway.
* Ok retail venues including several ethnic grocerias (esp. Hispanic), a drug store, a couple banks, a couple boutiques, several bakeries, a gym, and several churches. There’s also a Home Depot in the adjacent neighborhood that’s semi walkable from Greektown.
* Pedestrian activity is a bit limited.

Highlandtown- Baltimore’s Hispanic Heart

The area currently known as Highlandtown was established in 1866 and named because of the views it offered over the City. Highlandtown also historically hosted a large Polish, Czech, Italian, Irish, Greek, and Ukrainian populations as the neighborhood has a long history of being a very working class community. The community got the nickname of “Little Appalachia” around the World War II era as many Appalachian migrants settled in Baltimore. More recently Highlandtown has seen a large increase from the Latino community and has also become an increasingly popular neighborhood for young professional families. The Latino immigration in particular helped keep the neighborhood afloat after it suffered a period of decline during the 1970s when manufacturing declined and department stores  closed on Eastern Avenue. Now Eastern Avenue’s retail is largely Hispanic oriented.

Highlandtown is yet another solid Baltimore rowhouse neighborhood with good walkability, high density, and quality public transit access. For sale housing options are relatively affordable compared to neighboring areas like Canton and hosts solid retail and cultural amenities. For Highlandtown to become a great urban district it needs more retail and cultural amenities, much better tree canopy, infill in the abandonded industrial areas along its eastern edge, and more affordable rental options.

Click here to view my Highlandtown Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Solid urban density.
* Great access to Dwtn and highly connected streets.
* Highly racially diverse neighborhood with large white, Hispanic and Black populations.
* Solid economic diversity as well.
* For sale host more moderate options than rentals. A few 1-beds in the community selling in the low-mid 200Ks, 2-beds sell btwn 150K-400K, 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 175K-550K.
* Good park access with the expansive Highland Park on the Western border. Really no other parks here.
* Good cultural amenities including a decent # of restaurants, bars, & cafes, a couple night clubs, several art galleries, and a local arts center.
* Good retail amenities with a supermarket, several Hispanic grocerias, a couple drug stores, a couple banks, plenty of local boutiques, consignment, and gift stores, several jewelry stores, a book store, several dessert joints, a couple gyms, lots of salons and barber shops, several furniture stores, a local post office & public library, lots of churches, and a couple medical offices.
* Highlandtown overall is a pretty safe community. Some grittiness and vacancy remain but strong community.
* Good architecture. Rowhouses are more working hsg style but still nice. Better historic commercial along Eastern. Not much in-fill but what does exist is generally good except for a couple strip malls.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Consistent sidewalks but modern ADA curb are generally only present on the Commercial districts.
* Ok bike infrastructure with a couple dedicated bike lanes and some dockless scooters. I don’t see many dockless bikes however.
* Several elementary schools but mixed ratings.
* Good # of rentals but most are on the expansive side and newer. 1-beds lease in the mid 1Ks, 2-beds has some moderately priced units starting in the mid 1Ks going to 3Ks, 3-beds lease btwn 2K-4K.
* Dedicated affordable hsg appears limited.
* Some dead industrial space along the eastern edge of Highlandtown.

Canton- a Rapidly Gentrified Neighborhood and one of Baltimore’s most Popular

Canton’s development goes back to the early 19th century as mostly Welsh immigrants, followed by the Irish in the 1840s began settling in Baltimore in large numbers. Subsequent groups of immigrants included Germans, Poles and Ukrainians. Most houses in Canton are turn-of-the-20th-century rowhouses bit many  homes closer to the waterfront date from before the Civil War. With the de-industrialization of the neighborhood in the 1990s the neighborhood’s waterfront was redeveloped into new housing and marinas and the revitalization process worked its way gradually northward. Some metrics hold that between 2000 and 2016 Canton was the 16th most gentrified American neighborhood and now is considered  one of Baltimore’s trendiest and vibrant neighborhoods.

Brewer’s Hill development came later. First with the development of breweries in the 1880s, the most famous being the National Bohemian brand, known affectionately by locals as Natty Bo with the massive Mr. Boh sign hanging high above the old brewery. Most of the district’s rowhouses were built in the 1910s. Brewer’s Hill  also has seen significant revitalization since 2000.

I like both Canton and Brewer’s Hill but the neighborhood seems a bit over hyped by the locals. Yes there is good walkability here with quality public transit & bike access, great parks, decent schools, lots of brand name retail options, and tons of food and beverage businesses, but the neighborhood has some major holes, which elevate other Baltimore districts to a higher urban status in my mind. Canton/Brewer’s Hill lack locally run boutiques and creative stores, is very white and high income, often lacks good tree canopy and modern ADA curbs and is missing some major cultural amenities (i.e. art galleries, museums, and theaters). With more of these missing amenities I would feel more comfortable listing Canton/Brewer’s Hill as one of Baltimore’s top urban districts.

Click here to view my Canton and Brewer’s Hill Neighborhood on my Flickr Page

URBAN STRENGTHS:

*Solid urban density.
* Great access to Dwtn via all modes of transit.
* Good bike infrastructure with a decent # of dockless scooters and bikes.
* Pretty good generational and age diversity with a fair number of families with kids.
* Decent schools here with a well rated elementary school, a couple Catholic grade schools and two Catholic high schools.
* For sale housing leans higher end but good variety of times and prices. 1-beds are a mix of condos and rowhouses and sell anywhere btwn 150K-325K, 2-beds sell btwn 175K-600K, 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 225K-850K but a handful of more expensive homes.
* Good # of apartments especially in the large MF bldgs of Brewers Hill. Def on the pricey side but some moderately priced. 1 beds lease anywhere in the 1Ks, 2-beds 1.5K- the high 2Ks, 3-beds btwn 2K and the high 3Ks.
* Solid parks with the expansive Patterson Park sitting on the north park, several good waterfront parks, and a couple parkette’s spread throughout Canton.
* Solid cultural amenities includes lots of food & beverages biz, plenty of live music venues, and a couple bars host live music,
* Solid retail amenities including several supermarkets & drug stores, a target, several brand named stores clothing stores @Shops at Canton Crossing, hardware store, plenty of banks,  a couple of florists, public library, a game store, several dessert stores & gyms, and many churches.
* Attractive Historic rowhouses throughout, a bit more ornate in Canton than Brewer’s Hill. Urban Infill projects a generally good but some auto centric strip malls like Shops at Canton Crossing and a couple others.
* Streetscape is good but not spectacular and the commercial districts haven’t been redone in awhile.
* Very popular neighborhood in Baltimore.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Consistent sidewalks but modern ADA curb cuts only make apt 1/3 of intersections.
* This is a high income largely white neighborhood so diversity is not Canton’s strong suite.
* So so tree cover. Better in Canton than Brewer’s Hill.
* Really no art galleries, museums, or theaters in the neighborhood.
* Few locally owned boutiques or gift shops. Also no book stores and no post offices but there are a couple nearby.
* A couple strip mall developments break up the generally good urban massing in the neighborhood.

Charles Village- Baltimore’s Historic Bohemian College Neighborhood

I included John Hopkins University as well in this Charles Village evaluation as its so integrated into the neighborhood.

Charles Village is a diverse, eclectic, international, and largely middle-class area mixing a large student and homeownership population  The neighborhood traces its roots back to 1869 when 50 acres were purchased for the development as “Peabody Heights. The area was first developed as a streetcar suburb in the late 19th to early  20th century.  Most homes are exemplary Baltimore brick and stone row houses. Because of its proximity to the University, Charles Village has attracted a large population of artists and bohemians and is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Baltimore. Charles Village largely escaped the disinvestment and blight of many surrounding neighborhoods and has seen a real estate prices boom since the 2000s. Fortunately there is still a lot of moderately priced housing in the neighborhood and a fair amount of dedicated affordable housing. Charles Village is also known for hosting the Baltimore Painted ladies when a residents were challenged to take up a paint brush and choose vividly uncommon colors for the facades and front porches of their Victorian rowhouses. Within five years, residents had enlivened more than 100 homes.

Charles has most of the urban components of a top notch urban neighborhood including great density, diversity, convenient access to jobs, great public transit and bike infrastructure, diversity of housing prices and types, solid park, cultural, and retail amenities, gorgeous historic architecture, and some modern infill with quality urban form. For Charles Village to be a truly top tier American urban district it needs to address some challenges around crime (or at least perceptions of crime) , bolster more households with kids, which is likely a directly result of sub par neighborhood schools, and attract important retail amenities like a post office and larger retailers. The 25th Commercial District could also use some urban infill in some dead spots and surface parking areas.

Click here to view my Charles Village Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Solid urban density at around 20K residents per square mile
* Convenient access to Dwtn across all modes being only 2 miles away but also lots of jobs in the Neighborhood with John Hopkins University.
* Great connectivity in the district.
* Great system of bike lanes with 3 dedicates north-south lanes and one of them is protected. Not dedicated bike stations in Baltimore but dockless bike and scooters operating pretty well here.
* Sidewalk infrastructure is great and modern ADA curb cuts is more hit or miss. About 60% of curb cuts are to modern standards.
* Lots of rentals available with rentals generally leasing a moderate priced.  1-bed renting btwn $900-1.5K, 2-beds mostly btwn 1K-2K but some product in the mid to high 2Ks. A handful of 3-beds as well. Decent amount of dedicated affordable units.
* Good for sale diversity with 1-bed condos sell anywhere btwn 100K-400K, 2-beds generally btwn 150K-350K but some higher end product selling in the 500Ks. 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 175K-600K.
* Good park amenities with the expansive Wyman Park and John Hopkins campus (with its numerous quads) sitting to the NW of the neighborhood. Within Charles Village only a couple small parkettes.
* Solid cultural amenities with a good number of food & beverage bizs (although a bit underwhelming for a college neighborhood), a couple live music venues & night clubs (Lots of these in the Goucher district to the south), a couple art galleries, several museums including the Balt. Art Museum and several others on John Hopkins Campus, and the performing arts at the University.
* Good retail amenities including a several supermarkets and drug stores, several boutiques/clothing stores, a couple book stores, a hardware store, bike shop, several banks, a couple home goods stores, a major hospital and lots of medical offices, and several churches.
* Gorgeous historic architecture throughout, especially the painted Baltimore Ladies and solid urban infill, albeit limited.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Some generational diversity but very high numbers of students living here and limited households with children.
* Some crime issues in Charles Village but generally pretty safe also thanks to the local John Hopkins Police Force.
* Decent # of walkable schools but the public schools are generally not rated well. Some smaller better private schools in the area.
* Missing retail including a post office, more clothing stores, and this neighborhood could really use a target given the student population.
* Some surface parking lots on 25th street break up the urban fabric. Could be better streetscaping there too.
* Neighborhood Buzz could be better here. Still some concerns over safety in Charles Village.

Ravenna, OH- Historic Satellite Suburb of Akron, OH

This evaluation includes just the pre WWII urban fabric of Ravenna. That is more or less the entire with of the Town between the north and south railroad tracks.

Ravenna was founded in 1799 and is named after Ravenna, Italy. Ravenna grew pretty quickly in the 1800s reaching almost 2K residents by the Civic War. Historically it was know for producing some of the highest quality hearses in the Country, hired to escort Presidents McKinley and Garfield to their final resting place. Rail service arrived in Ravena via the Cleveland and Pittsburgh Railroad in 1851. In 1877, the Quaker Oats Company was established in Ravenna with the familiar Quaker Oats logo patented in in the City. The City reached 4K residents in 1900. Thanks to this decent sized population in the 1800s Ravenna hosts an Italianate styled heavy Commercial District. The City’s population continued to modestly climb in the 1900s reaching 7K in 1920 and 8.5K in 1940. Population peaked at 12K in 1990 and has since slowly declined to 11,300 souls. Ravenna is also well know for its Balloon Festival that occurs around mid- September.

Ravenna is a mixed-bag when it comes to quality urbanism. There is a good compact Downtown core along Main St and a couple blocks off, but the quality of Main Street quickly becomes auto centric outside the Dwtn core. Quality historic residential is also pretty limited and population density is very low. Ravenna does have solid retail and cultural amenities and a decent # of good walkable schools. The City, however, lacks quality public transit, bike amenities, housing diversity (esp. rentals), and is a very homogenous White community. 

Click here to view my Ravenna Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Decent grided and connected streets. Better in the core of Dwtn.
* Great economic diversity and decent generational diversity.
* Good # of schools and generally pretty well rated. High Schools is located a bit outside of Town and really isn’t very walkable.
* Some dedicated affordable housing in Ravenna.
* Good tree canopy.
* Lovely historic commercial bldgs. Residential is a bit uninspiring.
* Good urban massing in the Dwtn core but falls a part outside of the core along OH-59.
* Good cultural amenities including solid # and variety of food & beverage bizs, a major cineplex, a local dance and music school, a small conference center, and a couple local museums.
* Solid retail amenities including several supermarkets & drug stores, a couple dollar stores, lots of banks, plenty of boutiques, lots of gift shops, a couple antique stores, a toy store, a local hardware store, plenty of dessert shops, a couple gyms, a local library & post office, several churches, and a local hospital and lots of doctor’s offices sits just north of the Dwtn area. 

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Very low density for an urban area.
* So so sidewalk and ADA curb cuts.
* Pretty poor public transit.
* Some bus service to dwtn Akron but pretty  limited. Only a 20 min drive.
* Some nice regional recreational bike paths on the edges of Dwtn but nothing penetrates its.
* Poor racial diversity as this is over 90% White.
* For sale housing is pretty limited to affordable and moderately priced hsg. 2-beds sell btwn 50K-200K, 3 & 4 Beds btwn 85K-300K.
* Rentals are pretty limited but affordable.
* Limited modern infill and what does exist is very auto centric.

Grove City, OH- A Booming Columbus Suburban with an Attractive Historic Dwtn Core

This evaluation only includes the more walkable/historic part of Grove City. My boundaries broadly included Haughlin Rd/Orchard Ln to the East, Ross Ave to the North, Curtis & the Railroad tracks to the west and Kingston/Woodlawn Ave to the south.

By 1853, the newly formed village of Grove City had only 50 residents. The town founders named the village for the remaining groves of trees left standing after their initial clearing.  The City remained small in the 1800s reaching only 650 residents by 1900 and slowly growing in the early 20th century and hitting 1,800 souls in 1940. Like other Columbus satellite suburbs, the town exploded in the post War Era. Grove City officially become a City in 1958 on its path to reaching 14K residents in 1970, 27K in 2000 and 41K in 2020.

Fortunately the historic core, as small as it is has been pretty well preserved with an attractive main street (Broad Ave) with lots of locally owned shops, retailers, and food & beverage businesses. Dwtn Grove City also excels at a high level of safety, quality schools, good for sale housing diversity, quality park amenities, and pretty good ADA and sidewalk infrastructure. For Dwtn Grove City to become a great urban area it needs a lot more population and in-fill development, much better public transit and bike infrastructure, more rental options, better economic and racial diversity, and crucial retail amenities like a full service walkable supermarket.

Click here to view my Grove City album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Only 15-20 minute drive to Dwtn Columbus.
* Generally good sidewalk and ADA infrastructure but about 25 of roads are missing sidewalks. ADA modern curbs are pretty consistant when there are sidewalks.
* Lots of family households with children here.
* High levels of safety here in line with most exclusive suburbs.
* Several well rated walkable public elementary and middle schools. High school is more on the outskirts of Grove City.
* Pretty good for sale diversity with a handful of 1-beds available selling in the 100Ks and low 200Ks. Plenty of 2-beds that sell btwn 150K-the low 300Ks, 3 and 4  beds sell btwn 200K- 500K.
* Solid parks and recreational in Dwtn Grove City leading with the expansive Windsor Park with all its ball fields. A couple of small/medium sized parks.
* Solid tree canopy.
* Good cultural amenities with a good # of good & beverage biz, a brewery, a couple night clubs and live music venues, a local performing arts theater, and a couple local museums.
* Decent retail amenities including a drug store, lots of boutiques/gift stores,  several locally owned businesses, dwtn public library, a couple antiques and home good stores.
* Solid architecture with quality historic homes and commercial and a decent amount of good urban in-fill.
* Pretty good urban form and streetscaping along Broadway Ave (the main street).

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Very low density for an urban area.
* Bike transit is pretty poor, although decent direct connection to Dwtn.
* Dwtn connectivity is so so.
* Some bike lanes in Grove City and the Dwtn area but none go through the heart of Dwtn nor connect it to the rest of Grive City. No dedicated bike stations.
* Poor economic and racial diversity.
* Some rentals Dwtn but more 2-beds than 1 beds. Moderately priced.
* Missing retail amenities include churches, doctor’s offices, post office, a supermarket, a hardware store, and larger retails.

Newport, KY- Wonderful Historic Urban Suburban Across the Ohio River from Cincinnati

For this evaluation I included just the northern half of Newport north of the railroad. While much of the southern half was development before WW II its often blight, disconnected, and the Monmouth St (the commercial district) becomes very auto centric.

Newport was established as a town in the late 18th and incorporated as a City in 1834 with a population of only about 1,000. The first bridge spanning the Ohio River to Cincinnati opened here in the mid 19th century and the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge (the precursor to the Brooklyn Bridge). By that time Newport’s population was exploding reaching 10K residential in 1860, 20K in 1880 and 28K in 1900. The late 19th century also brought a large influx of German immigration. Population growth significantly slowed by the early 20th century and Newport reached its peak of 31K residents in 1950. The 20th century also brought  waves of “vice” to the City with liquor smuggling in the 1920s, gambling and racketeering in the 30s-1950s and sex clubs in the 60s-80s. In response the City demolished a significant part of the Downtown/waterfront area to create Newport on the Levee, a family friendly new urbanist development with a cineplex and a mall. This opened in 1999 but has lost much of its luster going into the 2020s.

South of the Newport on the Levee is a the Dwtn area, anchored along 4th & 5th Streets that have been ravaged by urban renewal and autocentric development. Fortunately the perpendicular street running up from the south (Monmouth St) is a fairly intact historic biz district with a good array of retail and cultural amenities. The eastern half of Historic Newport is Mansion Hill, filled with tree lined mid-late 19th century residential streets and a mix of grand and more modest homes. The western half is very working class historic stock. Newport also has solid public transit, great housing diversity, decent levels of safety, and solid walkable schools. For Newport to be a great urban district it needs more urban infill Downtown, along York and Monmouth, and other dead spots. There is a funny juxtaposition of great historic urban form and awful senseless post WW II development.

Click here to view my Newport, KY album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Decent urban density
* Good sidewalk infrastructure. Modern ADA curb cuts are hit or miss. Most curb cuts in the business districts have been updated but less than 50% of residential areas.
* Excellent historic architecture especially in Mansion Hill and the Monmouth Biz district. The western half is more working class.
* Modern in fill is mixed bag. Decent urban infill at Newport on the Levee and Dwtn but a good amount of auto centric crab as well.
* Solid public transit and great access to Dwtn Cincinnati being just across the river.
* Good connectivity.
* Good number of walkable schools but public schools were generally rated poor to fair. Several Catholic schools also mixed in.
* Good diversity of for-sale hsg options with 1-beds selling anywhere btwn 85K-400K, 2-beds btwn 100K-500K with some riverfront condos selling for more. 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 150K-800K with some newer product selling for more.
* Good amount of rentals available and nice mix of new and old. 1-beds lease btwn 800K-1.5K, 2-beds anywhere in the 1Ks, 3-beds 1.5K-2.5K. Good amount of afford. hsg here.
* Generally a safe place but good amount of grit, some vacancy, and medium levels of crime.
* Decent parks including the riverfront levee park, excel public plaza at Newport on the Levee, the expansive Ralph Mussman Recreational Complex, and a handful of smaller pocket parks.
* Excellent cultural amenities including many food & beverage bizs, a major cineplex,  a performing arts center, several live music venues, a couple art galleries, the Aquarium & a couple other local museums, and several historic sites.
* Good retail amenities including a couple grocerias, several drug stores, lots of boutiques, lots of antiques and gift stores, plenty of consignment/clothing stores, the Newport Levee shopping mall (no name brands clothing currently), a couple book stores, many banks, plenty of gyms & dessert stores, local post office & public library, lots of churches. Kroger’s and Target sit just outside urban Newport and other stores in the Newport Pavilion.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Bike  infrastructure including a dedicated bike lane along the levee and a few bike rentals at Newport on the Levee. But much improvement needed.
* Decent economic and generational diversity. Racial diversity is pretty limited.
* Tree canopy was pretty sparse in parts, esp. the more working class western half and dwtn area. Mansion Hill has good tree canopy.
* Some bad urban massing along 4th and 5th Ave but otherwise pretty good.

Reading, OH- Historic Cincinnati Surbub rebranding its Downtown as “The Bridal District”

This evaluation only reviews the walkable pre WW II portion of Reading in the western half of the town.

Between 1830 and 1880, Reading grew rapidly to become the largest village in Hamilton County. It was incorporated as a village in 1851 and reached 1K in 1860. The village’s major industry in the mid 19th century was clothing manufacturing. By the turn of the 20th century like other communities in the Mill Creek Valley, Reading’s economy centered around industry suppliers for nearby aerospace and automotive plants. Sadly Reading has some very ugly segregationist history as it was a sundown town, meaning that African Americans were prohibited from living within the city or remaining there after dark. The law led to few Blacks living in Reading until the 60s. On a more positive note, Reading has reinvested itself as The Bridal District along Benson Street bosting the claim of the highest concentration of wedding-related businesses in the United States.

Reading has fair pretty good for an older Cincinnati urban suburb losing only about 4K of its peak population of 14K and keeping much of its historic fabric and commercial district in tact. This is thanks to newer suburban growth in its easter half (not part of this evaluation), solid schools, decent parks, high level of safety, and reinvesting its Dwtn. For reading to become a solid urban district it needs more housing diversity, mixed-use development especially along the run down parts of Reading Rd., much better bike infrastructure, more trees, and some key missing retail amenities.

Click here to view my Reading, OH album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Solid ADA infrastructure with consistent sidewalks and generally ADA curbs.
* Good economic and generational diversity and there are lots of families with children living here.
* Good ratings for the Reading schools. A elementary  &  middle school are located right in the Dwtn area. Catholic & public schools are in the more suburban eastern half of reading.
* Reading is overall a safe place.
* For sale housing is a mix of affordable and moderately priced housing with ok diversity. 1-bed homes available selling btwn 50K-100K, 2-beds sell btwn 85K-250K, 3 & 4 beds btwn 100K-300K.
* Decent park amenities with several ball fields, cemeteries and pocket parks.
* Good cultural amenities including lots of food & bev businesses, a couple art galleries and local museums, a couple night clubs and live music spots.
* Good retail amenities too including a drug store, a grocerias, a family dollar, an amazing concentration of bridal shops with supporting boutiques & salons, a couple banks & furniture/antique shops, several dessert joints, a couple doctor offices, a public library, and several churches.
* Attractive historic architecture esp. in the commercial district.
* Good urban massing along Benson Ave. Hit or miss along Reading and esp. auto centric south of Benson. Similar story with streetscaping.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Pretty low density for an urban district.
* So so public transit access.
* Bike infrastructure is basically non-existent.
* Rental is pretty limited. Some 1-beds listed at moderate prices.
* Reading could use a full service supermarket, a hardware store, local post office, more creative (non wedding) stores, a book store, etc.
* Modern in-fill is non-existent except for some crummy auto centric bldgs.
* Tree canopy is so so.

Bellevue, PA- Pittsburgh Ohio River town with a Bright Future

The land on which the borough currently sits was once part of the Depreciation Lands reserved for Revolutionary War veterans. Bellevue was incorporated as a borough independent of Ross in 1867 after a dispute with the Township over developing along the Venango Rail line (now route 19). Development came slow at first to Bellevue with only 300 residents around the Civil War, but quickly accelerated in the late 19th century jumping to 3,500 in 1900, 8K in 1920 and peaking around 11,500 in 1950.  Bellevue’s population started to drop in the 1970s along with the rest of the Pittsburgh region and only recently has showed signs of bottoming out with only a small population drop between 2010 and 2020. The Borough now sits just above 8,000 residents, which for Pittsburgh standards is pretty good!

From an urban perspective Bellevue is a fairly compact inner ring suburb with good transit access, a pretty well maintained main street (Lincoln Ave) with a good number of retail still open, good housing diversity, and the typical suburban amenities of good schools and safety. For Bellevue to reached its urban potential it needs more population, a complete urban rehaul of I-65 (an auto centric disaster) better park & bike amenities, some improved sidewalk and ADA curb infrastructure, and key missing retail like gyms, clothing stores, and more higher end retail. But buzz is certainly building for Bellevue as trendy new businesses have recently opened up along Lincoln Avenue and homes starting to sell over 300K. Hopefully this positive trend can continue without significant displacement.

Click here to view my Bellevue Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Solid urban density.
* Convenient access to Dwtn. Only 10 min drive and 30 min bus ride. Not great bike connection.
* Solid diversity esp. generational and economic.
* Several walkable schools in Bellevue, generally rated well, and good mix of private and public.
* Good mix of affordable and moderately priced for-sale housing. Very limited 1-beds but lots of 2-beds ranging btwn 100K-300K, 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 85K-350K.
* Decent # of rentals and pretty affordable. 1-beds lease btwn $800-1K, 2-beds btwn 1K-1.5K, 3-beds in the 1Ks. Also a good amount of dedicated affordable housing.
* Thanks to generally leafy streets and lots of hillsides, Bellevue has a solid tree canopy.
* Good cultural amenities including lots of restaurants, bars, a brewery a couple cafes, an art gallery, a couple local theaters & live music venues, a couple historic sites.
* Solid retail amenities including a couple supermarkets & drug stores, a hardware store, a couple of consignment stores, several gift stores/creative shops including a Hallmark, a couple family dollars, lots of salons/barber shops, several dessert joints, a historic library, and several churches, a major hospital, and several doctor’s offices.
* Overall a safe community.
* Most of Lincoln has seen a streetscaping refresh and is good urban form.
* Solid historic architecture both residential and commercial. Some homes date to the early-mid 1800s.
* Buzz in Bellevue is certainly bldg although I won’t consider it trendy yet.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Most streets have sidewalks but about 10% are missing them. Modern ADA curb cuts existing in about 65% of all intersections. Hills in spots make walking more challenging.
* Really no bike infrastructure here.
* Bayne Park is a nice centralized medium size park but only a handful of other smaller parks in the Borough limits. Several larger park sit outside of the Borough but not very walkable to most Bellevue residents.
* Missing retail amenities include a gym, clothing stores, post office, other high end retail.
* Very auto centric road along 65 but at least it has sidewalks in most spots.
* In-fill is limited to most auto centric crud on 65.