Featured

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.
Featured

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.
Featured

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. 
Featured

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. 

Featured

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.
Featured

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.

Featured

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.
Featured

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. 
Featured

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. 

Featured

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. 
Featured

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.
Featured

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

Featured

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.

Masion & Alkali Flats- One of Sacramento’s Oldest Districts

Alkali Flat is Sacramento’s oldest in-tact neighborhood (outside of Old Sacramento) with plenty of structures built between 1853 and 1869. At that time the most prominent of Sacramento’s elite lived here. By the 1920’s, the neighborhood was home to Irish immigrants and a growing number of Mexicans. The district was named after the white powdery substance that once coated the ground, a result of salt ocean tides that overflowed. Mansion Flats got its name from the Historic California Governors Mansion Located at 16th & H Streets.

By the 1950s both Mansion and Alkali Flats fell into disrepair. Alkali Flat and Mansion Flats was rezoned C-4 heavy commercial and many businesses moved in. The County of Sacramento also built many office buildings and  parking lots. Many Latinos moved here after being displaced by redevelopment efforts in the Capitol Corridor. Revitalization started in the 1970s with a strong concentration of historic preservation. Now the neighborhood is one of Sacramento’s best urban districts with good walkability, mixed-use streets along 12, 16th, and J Streets, convenient access to dwtn, great connectivity & public transit access, quality cultural amenities and retail amenities.

Like neighboring Boulevard Park, Mansion Flats needs more density and housing. Not only would this help meet some of the high demand for inner city housing, it could also be leveraged to create desperately needed affordable housing, and elevate the district’s urbanity. The neighborhood also needs more schools, bike lanes, family households and retail amenities. 

Click here to view my album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

  • Great connectivity and access to public transit.
  • Great access to Dwtn.
  • Excellent racial and economic diversity.
  • Good access to several small and medium sized parks but not convenient access to any larger parks.
  • Overall a safe community.
  • Quality ADA infrastructure and sidewalks.
  • Good # of attractive structures esp. in the more residential portion of the district away from Dwtn.
  • Modern in-fill is generally good but lots of tacky mid-century styles.
  • Pretty good urban form along 16th St, J St., and 12 St.
  • Good cultural amenities including a decent # of restaurants, bars, & cafes, a handful of art galleries, a couple performing arts theaters, a historic movie house, a handful of live music venues & night clubs, a couple museums, and convenient access to all the cultural amenities dwtn.
  • Retail amenities are decent including a Target & Grocery Store, a handful of consignment stores, several banks, a couple dessert joints, a local post office and walkable access to Macy’s, the DOCO Shopping Mall, and lots of other Dwtn retail amenities.”

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

  • Poor generational diversity largely due to limited households with children.
  • Decent but not great bike lane infrastructure
  • Okay walkable access to schools. A public elementary schools within Mansions and some in adjacent districts.
  • For sale hsg is expensive. Only a handful of moderately priced 2 bed condos selling for around 500K. Limited 1-bed condos available. Most 2 & 3 -bed condos and homes selling for anywhere btwn 500K-1M, 4-bed 800K-1.2 M.
  • Rentals are more reasonable with 1-beds leasing in the 1Ks, 2-beds around 1.5K-2.5, and 3-beds anywhere from 2.5K-5Ks.
  • Density is so with about 8,500 people per sq mile.
  • Missing retail amenities include a drug store, few gyms, no walkable hospitals, “

Boulevard Park- Hosting Sacramento’s Best Historic District

In this evaluation I included everywhere north of J Street to B street and btwn 16th Street and Highway 80.

The neighborhood was born out of the subdivision of Boulevard Park in 1905. This district was originally located on the old state fairgrounds and its racetrack. Fortunately the development of the neighborhood was early enough to produce a quality walkable district and Sacramento’s largest historic district. Most of the modern in-fill of Boulevard Park is quality urban development and the district is blessed with an attractive business district along J St and to a lesser extent along 16th Street. For a better district I’d like to see more density and mixed-use development tactfully inserted into the urban fabric as there is much demand to live here. There are also a limited number of walkable schools resulting in few households with children.

Click here to view my Boulevard Park Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Excellent access to dwtn and great connectivity.
* Great array of dedicated bike lanes and there appears to be sharable scooters and bikes in the Dwtn area.
* Overall quality walkable environment.
* Decent racial diversity.
* Nice array of small/medium parks in the evaluation area. Decent access to the expansive Sutter’s Landing but its not terribly walkable from the neighborhoods.
* Very good tree canopy here.
* Some bland bldgs and autocentric infill along 16th St. but generally quality architecture with good urban form; both historic and modern in-fill.
* Overall a very safe community.
* Great ADA infrastructure and sidewalks overall.
* Good cultural amenities including several restaurants, bars, & cafes, several theater venues, several theaters, a good # of live music and night club options, and pretty good access to the museums and sport arenas in Dwtn Sacramento.
* Retail options are good as well including many boutiques, several consignment stores, a couple home good stores, a Target w/ a grocery store, several fancy grocerias, a couple drug stores, a public library, a handful of dessert shops and gyms. Macy’s and large shopping center are only 1.5 miles away.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

“* Ok economic diversity and poor generational diversity. Few family households here and mostly students and young professionals.

  • Okay walkable access to schools. A couple of public elementary schools within Boulevard Park/New Park and some in adjacent districts.
  • For sale hsg is expensive. Only a handful of moderately priced 1 & 2 bed condos selling for around 500K. Limited 1-bed condos available. Most 2 & 3 -bed condos and homes selling for anywhere btwn 500K-1M, 4=bed 800K-1.5 M.
  • Rentals are more reasonable with 1-beds leasing in the 1Ks, 2-beds around 2K, and 3-beds in the 2Ks. Good abound of 1 & 2 bed product.
  • Only a handful of banks, no post office in the neighborhood”

Downtown South- A Decent Las Vegas District South and East of Downtown

For the Downtown South Boundaries I included everything between Maryland and Eastern Avenues and between Sahara and Charleston Blvd.

Huntridge makes up the better known mid -century district within Downtown South centered at Maryland Parkway and Charleston where the old vintage Huntridge theater was constructed around 1945. The surrounding residential streets were built up starting in the 1940s and filling in by the 1970s. Downtown South is the extension of that neighborhood eastern wards to Eastern Avenue,

After the Arts Districts and John S Park neighborhoods to the west, Downtown South is considered one of Las Vegas’ best urban neighborhoods. It has generally gridded streets, decent public transit and good access among all modes to Dwtn and the Strip District, decent walkable schools, safety, reasonably priced housing, okay density, and some walkable cultural and retail amenities. But due to its auto centric business districts, a lack of place, limited bike amenities, and tacky commercial in-fill, I don’t quite consider this a quality urban neighborhood. For that to happen Sahara and Charleston Avenues need some walkable cohesion or Maryland Parkway needs to truly become a mixed-use street and center of the neighborhood.

Click here to view my Downtown South Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Decent public transit and very good access to Dwtn and the Strip.
* Good diversity across all categories.
* A decent # of walkable schools with decent ratings.
* For sale options are pretty affordability priced. Really no studio or 1-bed options for sale. 2-beds sell anywhere btwn 200K-350K, 3 & 4 beds anywhere btwn 230K-700K.
* Overall a pretty safe community.
* Some interesting mid-century architecture but much of it is pretty bland.
* Decent retail amenities including a supermarket, a couple Mexican markets, several drug store, lots of dollar stores, plenty of banks, a bike store, plenty of thrift and consignment stores, lots of antique stores, several dessert joints, and a major hospital is less than 1 mile south of the neighborhood. These are mostly auto centric oriented.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Decent ADA and sidewalk infrastructure. But plenty of residential streets with limited sidewalks and ADA curbs are often not up to date.
* One east to west bike lane running along St. Louis St. No other bike infrastructure in Downtown South.
* Rentals are very limited. 1-beds that do exist lease btwn 700K-1.5K. 2 & 3 beds lease for anywhere btwn 1.5K-2K.
* Park Amenities are pretty limited but there is Maryland Park in the middle of the Blvd and the larger and multi-faceted Jaycee Park.
* Modern in-fill is generally pretty awful autocentric buildings.
* No much redeeming about the urban form of the biz districts. Some ok mixed-use urban form along Maryland Pkwy.
* Cultural amenities are so . They include a decent # of ethnic restaurants, a handful of bars & cafes, a historic mid-century theater. Downtown cultural amenities are only 1 mile away.
* Limited sense of place as there is not walkable commercial district nor any heart to the community.

The Arts District- Las Vegas’ best urban neighborhood

I consider the Arts district to be between roughly Wyoming and Gass Street and the railroad tracks and Las Vegas Blvd.

This funky district has become a Vegas “counter cultural” enclave known for its distinct “non-Vegas” vibe striving to be an authentic arts and entertainment district where people have a heart, and locals striving for some semblance of authenticity flock. The Arts Districts has been in active development for several decades taking advantage of the decent urban form and walkability along Main St. To their credit the City has made a point of investing in the neighborhood’s public transit, and streetscaping, opened up zoning to allow for dense mixed-use apartments, and allowing murals and art installations to thrive. The district is also know for its watering holes, breweries, cafes, theaters, live music, and tons of antiques and vintage shops. But when compared to urban districts outside of Las Vegas, from an urban perspective, there are still many “urban needs”. That starts with a lack of density and population. There are also plenty of dead space and parking lots screaming for in-fill development, a lack of park amenities and trees, missing retail amenities (i.e. supermarket, post office, and churches). The Arts district could also use several walkable schools as well.

Click here to view my Arts District Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Great access to both Dwtn and the Strip and also high quality public transit.
* Good bike infrastructure with several dedicated bike lanes and bike stations.
* Great racial diversity and good economic diversity (although a high poverty rate remains.
* Pretty good array of rental options at moderate rents. 1-beds rent anywhere from 700K-2.5K, 2 & 3 beds options are pretty limited and generally lease for around 3K.
* Generally good sidewalks and ADA curbs.
* Great cultural amenities hear including lots of restaurants, bars, & cafes, lots of breweries, plenty of art galleries, lots of outdoor murals & sculptures, a couple museums, several local theaters, a boutique movie theater, a magic show venue, several night clubs & live music venues.
* Decent retail amenities including a drug store, plenty of boutiques, antiques & thrift stores, home goods & stores, several dessert stores, and a couple gyms.
* Generally a safe district but can get seedy at night and lots of deep spaces/underutilized spaces.
* Some nice branding around the Arts District and esp. a sense of place along Main St. But also plenty of dead and underutilized spaces. Lots of efforts have been made to improve the streetscape along Main St and other parts of the Arts District.
* Overall a very mixed-use district coming retail, warehouses, industrial, cultural amenities, art galleries, and some housing.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Very low Density for am urban district
* Few families with children in the Arts District.
* No schools within the Arts District boundaries, but a couple good walkable options in adjacent districts.
* Limited for sale product. Some condos for sale with 1-beds selling anywhere btwn 250K-500K, 2-beds 350-600K, but really not 3-bed product.
* The only park within the Arts District is the small Healing Parkette. A couple other small parks within walking distance to the neighborhood,
* Tree canopy is pretty limited to the main roads.
* Missing some important retail amenities (i.e. supermarket, banks, a local post office, only a couple churches.
* Not much historic architecture here, although some interesting mid-century architecture.
* More and more quality urban in-fill is being built but still tons of auto centric uses and ugly 1-story warehouses.
* Pretty good urban form along Main Street. Ok orientation along Las Vegas Blvd, Casino Center Blvd & Charles Blvd. Plenty of dead spaces, surface parking lots, and industrial areas however.

Downtown Riverside, CA- the Cultural and Urban Hub of the Inland Emphire

I evaluated Downtown Riverside as a neighborhood because it’s really not a major job center with only about 10K jobs here. Dwtn Riverside is also a large area of about 2 square miles with about 65% of its use as traditional early 20th century residential streets.

Riverside was founded in the early 1870s and a traditional street grid was quickly laid out setting the foundation for a well connected and walkable neighborhood. Downtown Riverside is also the birthplace of the California citrus industry and home of the Mission Inn, the largest Mission Revival Style building in the United States. It also fills the roll of cultural and urban hub of the Inland Empire; a title that San Bernardino unfortunately cannot claim given how disinvested its become.  Downtown Riverside hosts a great concentration of cultural amenities, decent retail amenities, an interesting pedestrian street along a couple blocks of Main St., good public transit, quality schools, great parks, and attractive historic architecture representing well the main historic styles common in California. What Downtown Riverside primarily needs to become a great urban district is more people. Its density is only 4,500 per square mile. I was shocked at how few apartment bldgs there are dwtn. Outside of the business core, the historic residential areas are primarily single family homes. Additional density would go a long way to attract additional retail amenities and expanding the mixed-use footprint of Downtown.

Click here to view my Downtown Riverside album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Generally consistant sidewalks and curbs (except for western edge going up to the mountains) but curbs generally not ADA compliant.
* Great location for if you have a job in Dwtn Riverside, but only about 10K jobs there.
* Public transit is generally good Dwtn but some transit deserts in the western and northern sections.
* Several dedicated bike lanes Dwtn, including recreational trails along the river. No dedicated bike stations however.
* Great economic and racial diversity. Some households with children but nice mix of college students and young professionals.
* Several excellent parks Dwtn including the expansive Mt. Rubidoux Park and Fairmount Park on the western edge of the district, the gorgeous White Park located near the center and the pedestrian street/plaza covering several blocks of Main St.
* Decent # of schools dwtn and generally rated pretty well.
* Decent retail amenities including a couple medium sized Mexican grocery stores, several drug stores, a bookstore, plenty of quirky boutiques, antiques, home goods and gift shops, several banks, plenty of dessert stores, a dwtn post office & public library, plenty of churches, and large hospital on Dwtn’s southern border.
* Dwtn Riverside is generally considered safe but some areas are best to avoid at night.
* Overall quality historic architecture both in the Business districts (Esp. with all the Spanish based mission architecture) and in the residential neighborhoods.
* Pedestrian traffic good in the core of dwtn. Pretty sparse in the res. areas.
* Good culturally amenities Dwtn including a plethora of restaurants, bars, & cafes, lots of art galleries, several live music venues & night clubs, a convention center, a couple performing arts theaters, and several museums and historic sites.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Density is rather low.
* Hsg is pretty expensive but similar to other stable inner city neighborhoods. Limited 1-bed product. Surprisingly there are few condos dwtn. What does exist sells around 400-500K, 2-beds sell btwn 300K-650K, 3 & 4 beds 400K-1 M.
* Rentals are surprisingly limited. What is available seems to lease in the 2-3Ks.
* Urban form is a mixed-bag in Dwtn Riverside. Mission  Inn Avenue has the best form, Market Street is a mixed bag, the smaller streets btwn 14th and 5th Streets are more “dwtn” in feel and a mix of surface parking lots, office towners, and areas of decent urban form. Main St in the northern half of dwtn is awful. 

Magnolia Center- an amenity rich mid-century neighborhood several miles from Dwtn Riverside, CA

Magnolia Center has long been an important commercial hub for Riverside since its foundation in 1883. This is thanks to the convergence of major streets  at Magnolia Center (i.e. Magnolia, Central, Arlington, Jurupa and Brockton Avenues) making it a natural location for commercial activities.  The neighborhood was developed with small farms and orange groves interspersed with single-family residences. Residential development began in the northern edges of the district in the 1920s but really picked up with the post WWII boom. While retaining some walkability with sidewalks and some orientation to the street, most of Magnolia Center’s commercial development is rather auto centric. Thankfully good urbanism is beginning to win out with the renovation of Riverside Plaza into a walkable lifestyle center and a new mixed-use urban overlay implemented along Brockton and Magnolia Avenues.

Magnolia Center also is a very safe community, hosts several quality schools, has decent park amenities, and good cultural and retail amenities. As long as the neighborhood continues to densify and built more mixed-use, urban orientated development along its commercial corridors, it could become a quality urban neighborhood. 

Click here to view my Magnolia Center album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Several dedicated bike lanes running through Magnolia Center, but no dedicated bike stations.
* Excellent diversity across the board, especially economic diversity.
* Overall a very safe community.
* Decent park amenities with several small/medium parks spread throughout. Magnolia Center also hosts a public pool too.
* Pretty good tree canopy throughout.
* Good array of walkable schools (both public & private) with good ratings.
* There appears to be a decent amount of aff. hsg in Magnolia Center.
* Some very nice 1920s-1940s residential homes, especially in the northern half of the district.
* Cultural amenities include a good array of ethnic restaurants, several bars & cafes, a performing arts center, a cineplex, and a night club.
* Retail amenities include several supermarkets & drug stores, several boutiques, a Nordstrom Rack, Marshall’s & several other brand name clothing stores, several antique stores, a staples, a bookstore, plenty banks, a hardware store, several gyms & dessert joints, and a community post office/public library. Many of these amenities however, are set in auto centric developments.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Density is pretty low .
* Okay public transit but pretty good access to Downtown.
* Some rental product available, generally on the expensive side. 1-beds lease btwn 1.5K-2.5K, 2-beds 2K-3K, and not much 3 & 4 bed product available.
* For sale Hsg is pretty expensive but some moderately priced smaller units available. A handful of 1-beds sell around 400K. 2-beds 400K-650K, 3 & 4 beds anywhere btwn 300K-1M depending on size and condition.
* Sidewalks exist on about 70% of all streets in the neighborhood. Up to date ADA infrastructure is hit or miss.
* Most of Magnolia Center’s commercial streets are auto centric but always have sidewalks. Once one enters the Riverside Plaza, it becomes pretty walkable like a lifestyle center.
* Modern in-fill ins a mix of decent mid-century architecture, crappy autocentric commercial, and some more recent urban in-fill.
* Imageability isn’t great due to a lack of defined boundaries, mediocre connectivity, a lack of iconic landmarks, and semi-autocentric business districts. But the newly renovated Riverside Plaza is helping create a heart to Magnolia Center.
* Pedestrian traffic isn’t great.

Wood Streets- an attractive early 20th inner-city neighborhood in Riverside CA

Riverside’s Wood Streets neighborhood was devoted to orange groves until about 1913 when fill was introduced to the Tequesquite Arroyo River, allowing Magnolia Avenue to connect with Downtown. Wood Streets was then built out as a typical early 20th century streetcar suburb with residential design reflecting a traditional aesthetic. This is likely Riverside’s most cohesive and urban neighborhood outside of Dwtn.

Other positive urban aspects to Wood Streets include good public transit, excellent racial, economic, and generational diversity, a decent # of walkable schools, good parks, and good retail amenities on its northern and southern edges. But in order for Wood Streets to become a truly quality urban district it needs to densify and modify its zoning to permit multi-family construction at least along its arterials. With a lack of density Wood Streets is missing quality mixed-use fabric, walkable cultural amenities, and vibrancy. There is also need for better bike infrastructure here and more affordable housing in this single family dominated neighborhood.

Click here to view my Wood Streets album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Consistant curbs and sidewalks just outdated ADA ramps.
* Good public transit and convenient access to Dwtn Riverside. Unfortunately Dwtn Riverside doesn’t host very many jobs.
* Excellent diversity across the board, especially economic diversity.
* Retail Amenities include a decent number of amenities on the northern and southern edges of the neighborhood. This includes a supermarket, several drug stores, a couple salons, Major Hospital, several banks, a couple boutiques & dessert shops, and a staples. Lots of retail amenities, bars, and restaurants at Riverside Plaza (a quasi-urban outdoor mall) located 2 blocks from Woods Street.
* Good park amenities including the expansive Ryan Bonaminio Park and recreational Evans Park to the North. The mountainside park of Mt Rubidoux, is only 1/2 mile to the north of the district.
* A decent # of walkable schools but of mixed ratings.
* Overall a very safe community.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Density is pretty low.
* A couple dedicated bike lanes but not dedicated bike stations.
* Cultural amenities are very limited as there is a mostly residential only neighborhood. The only cultural amenities in the neighborhood that I see are at Riverside City College (College Art Gallery & Performing Arts Center). Decent access to cultural amenities in Dwtn to the North and Magnolia Center to the south. Score
* Hsg is pretty expensive but some moderately priced smaller units available. A handful of 1-beds sell around 400K. 2-beds 400K-700K, 3 & 4 beds anywhere btwn 500K-800K.
* Rentals are very limited. What does existin are SF homes for rent and there are few apt. bldgs here.
* Where commercial does exist its pretty auto centric (i.e. Jurupa Ave).
* Pedestrian traffic is pretty sparse here.

Downtown San Bernardino- A struggling Downtown in the heart of the Inland Empire

I used smaller boundaries than what is typically considered Dwtn Bernardino. I feel this better captures what should be considered a “downtown”. I decided to evaluate this as a neighborhood as Dwtn Bernardino is not a major job center and lacks many of the qualifications of a typical major city Dwtn. The boundaries I used include I-215, Sierra Way, 5th St., and Rialto Ave.

San Bernardino really came to form starting in the late 19th century as the City proved to be an important  commercial hub at the crossroads between Southern California and the American Southwest. This helps explain why San Bernardino has such a large historic railroad station. The City reached 13K residents in 1910 and 43K by 40K. Since then San Bernardino has continued to sprawl and now hosts around 220K residents. Sadly, the City, especially the urban core has fallen on hard times. The City filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in 2012 after having more than 1 Billion in debt.  Even through these challenges San Bernardino remains an important regional hub for the Inland Empire and hosts multiple consulates for Hispanic countries, due it is large Latino immigrant population.

While once a thriving and well built urban environment, Dwtn San Bernardino is a former shadow of itself. Only chunks of the original historic fabric remain. Most of historic San Bernardino was removed for parking, government office towers, or the failed Carousel Mall. Dwtn currently feels like a drivable Dwtn that permits pedestrians to exist if they choose. But there are still some positives not to overlook. Downtown has good ADA infrastructure, excellent public transit access, several walkable schools, decent cultural and retail amenities, and good parks. There are major plans underway to redevelop the former Carousel mall into a lively mixed-use hub. Hopefully this can succeed and pave the wave to an attractive Downtown San Bernardino again. There is just too much development pressure in Southern California for this dwtn to languish.

Click here to view my Dwtn San Bernardino album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGHTHS:

* Pretty good ADA infrastructure.
* Excellent public transit access.
* Walkable access to some jobs in Dwtn San Bernardino. Convenient 15 mins drive to Riverside and 45 bus ride.
* Very Hispanic population but good racial diversity overall. Also a surprisingly high number of households with Children Dwtn.
* Several walkable schools in the Dwtn area with decent ratings.
* Several Housing Authority Sites in the Dwtn area.
* Ok Cultural amenities. Only a handful of restaurants & bars, a couple cafes a cineplex, historic performing arts theater, a couple art galleries, and a couple night clubs/live music venues.
* Decent Retail Amenities as well including a budget supermarket, a drug store, a suburban power center on the southern edge of dwtn includes many retail stores, handful of boutiques & consignment stores, lots of gov’t offices and court houses, several banks, dwtn post office & public library.
* Not much hsg dwtn but a decent mix of retail, governmental bldgs, and entertainment venues.
* Several good park amenities most notably the large Seccome Lake Recreation Area. Meadowbrook Park is another decent sized park and there are several plaza spaces spread throughout dwtn.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Very low density. This is partially attributable to this being rather Dwtn in character with limited residential bldgs.
* Poor bike infrastructure Dwtn with few dedicated bike lanes and not bike stations.
* While there is good public transit dwtn I can’t say this is a very walkable neighborhood given how auto oriented it is with half the land dedicated to parking lots.
* Very impoverished area with 35% living below the poverty line.
* Rental housing is fairly inexpensive for CA standards but very little of it Dwtn.
* Some for sale product in the Dwtn area. 1-bed condos sell btwn 60K-200K, 2-beds sell btwn 100K-400K, 3 & 4 beds btwn 300K-500K.
* San Bernardino is pretty notorious for high crime rate. This certainly pours into dwtn, but a bit more activity here so doesn’t feel terribly unsafe.
* Some blocks of historic fabric but much of dwtn is surface parking and lots of auto centric fabric.
 * Lots of auto centric crap but some interesting 70s & 80s in fill.
* What remains of Dwtn’s historic architecture is decent, but so much has been demolished.
* No real heart to Dwtn Bernardino. Imageability is pretty poor.
* Not great vibrancy dwtn as most people drive
* Tree canopy is so 

Redlands, CA- Historic Citrus Growing Center of Southern California

Its difficult to pick out precisely the urban core of Redlands but I did my best using San Mateo and Center St. as the western border, Highland Ave as the southern, Brookside and Lugonia as the northern, and University and Redlands as the eastern.

Development of Redlands started in the 1880s with the arrival of the Southern Pacific and Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroads, connecting Southern California to San Francisco and Salt Lake. Immigrants quickly discovered the area with its hot, dry climate and ready access to water was the ideal center for citrus production. The City was named “Redlands” after the color of the adobe soil. The Pacific Electric Railway completed an interurban connection between Los Angeles and San Bernardino in 1914, providing a convenient, speedy connection to the fast-growing city of Los Angeles. Redlands reached 2,000 people by 1890 and 10,500 by 1910, 14K in 1940 and population steadily grew as it continued to sprawl. Redlands now hosts just over 71K souls.

Downtown is pretty spreadout centered along State Street, a very intact main street. Orange St also has some nice Dwtn fabric. The rest of Dtwn is a hodgepodge of urban and auto centric blocks. Also included in this rather large evaluation area is the gorgeous residential Smiley Park Historic District with especially beautiful Victorians along Highland Avenue. North of  I-10 is a more modest district with a mix of attractive 1920s-1940s homes and gritty areas. This is also where Redland University is located. Really no urban biz district of note in this sub-district. Redland does very well, from an urban perspective, with racial and economic diversity, a decent amount of dedicated affordable hsg, good parks and schools, good cultural and retail amenities. The main areas for Dwtn Redlands to improve is more density, better public transit access, more affordable housing, better tree cover in areas outside of the Smiley Park Historic District, and better urban in-fill in the Dwtn area.

Click here to view my Redlands Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Several decent bike trails but no dedicated bike stations here.
* Great racial and economic diversity and good generational diversity as well.
* Good array of walkable schools in central Redlands with generally good ratings.
* A couple sections of Central Redlands are a bit rough north of the highway but generally a safe community.
* A decent amount of dedicated affordable hsg sites in Redlands.
* Several solid parks in Central Redlands and pretty well distributed.
* Cultural amenities include a good # of restaurants, bars, and cafes, several art galleries, several performing arts theaters (including Redland University), a local cinema, a couple local museums, several live music venues & night clubs. Most of these amenities are concentrated Dwtn.
* Retail amenities include several supermarkets & drug stores, plenty of boutiques/consignment stores, several antique stores, banks, a couple bookstores, plenty of gyms & dessert joints. Also within Dwtn is a post office, office depot, public library. The Mountain Grove Shopping Center (a healthy power center complete with several dept. store and lots of retail) is just NW of the evaluation area. Much of this retail is auto oriented.
* State Street hosts the best urban form, followed by Orange St. Redlands Blvd is very auto centric.
* Excellent pockets of historic architecture in central Redlands, esp. in the Smiley Park Historic District. Other areas are so .

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Density isn’t that great.
* Sidewalks are generally there. Up to date ADA infrastructure is hit or miss.
* Public transit is so .
* Decent access to Dwtn Riverside as its only a 20 min drive but only ~10-15KK work in Dwtn Riverside. Also terrible public transit connection. A drive to Dwtn LA is 1 Hr. + and 2 HR+ by transit.
* Not a ton of rental product but what exist is pretty expensive, although not too bad for California standards. 1-beds lease btwn 1.5K-2K, 2-beds anywhere btwn 1.5K-2.5K, 3-beds in the 2Ks & 3KS.
* For sale is also expensive but some moderately priced options. 1-bed condos/small homes sell anywhere btwn 200K-500K, 2-beds anywhere btwn 300K-800K, 3 & 4 beds btwn 400K-1 M with some higher end product reaching the mid 1 Ms.
* Modern in-fill is mostly unattractive in-fill architecture.
* Tree cover is good in the Smiley Park Historic District. Not so good Dwtn or north of Dwtn. 

Palm Springs- California’s Desert Resort

Palm Springs became a fashionable resort town starting in the early 1900s when health tourists arrived here. It received another boast in popularity when movie stars began to buy second homes here in the 1930s helping to create the ultra exclusive Movie Colony, Tahquitz River Estates, and Las Palmas neighborhoods sitting just outside of Downtown. Palm Spring also built California’s first self-contained shopping center “La Plaza”, which still stands today. The 1950s brought architectural modernists and the blossoming of the arts and cultural.  Many argue that Palm Springs became the model for mass-produced suburban housing, especially in the Southwest. The 1970s brought more and more year round residents to Palm Springs as many retirees began to live here fulltime. Since the 2000s much effort has gone into building up and urbanizing Dwtn especially along the main drag (S Palm Canyon Dr.) and surrounding blocks.

Not surprisingly Dwtn Palm Springs hosts great cultural and shopping amenities, very interesting architecture from the 1920s-1950s, and several very walkable blocks. But the eastern half of Dwtn has many dead spaces and plenty of vacant lots or self-enclosed apartments and subdivisions. These areas need to urbanized for Dwtn Palm Springs to be a quality urban area. There is also need for more affordable housing, better connectivity, bike  infrastructure, and better walkable schools.

Click here to view my Dwtn Palm Dessert Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Other than some outdated curb cuts the ADA infrastructure is very good in Palm Springs.
* Poor access to Job centers and Dwtn. Residents are a 1 hr. drive to Dwtn Riverside and 2.5 hrs. by bus. Dwtn LA and Anaheim and even further.
* Surprisingly very good racial and economic diversity.
* Park amenities just got a lot better with the construction of the expansive and multi-faceted Downtown Park. Frances Stevens Park is another nice one with a couple other pocket parks. Dwtn Palm Springs also has access to get hiking and trails with the mountain practically hoping right up to it.
* Great culturally assets including many restaurants, bars, and cafes, tons of art galleries, several performing art galleries, several museums, and many night clubs.
* Retail amenities are also great and include a discount supermarket, a couple gourmet grocerias, a couple drug store, tons of boutiques and clothing store with a good mix of name brands and locally owned, many gift shops, a couple bookstores, a couple gyms, many dessert joints, and a dwtn public library.
* Vey safe dwtn.
* Interesting 1920s/1930s and mid century architecture especially along the core of Dwtn. The eastern edge is mostly modern in-fill and pretty bland. Good urban in-fill in the core as well.
* Great urban massing and streetscaping along S Palm Canyon Dr., decent massing along Indian Canyon Dr. and the western half of Tahquitz Canyon Way.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Density is more similar to a suburb.
* A couple dedicated bike lanes but no bike stations dwtn.
* Not surprisingly the medium age is about 60 and few children households here.
* Only a couple schools within walking distance to Dwtn Palm Springs.
* For sale hsg is on the expensive side but a decent # of moderately 1-bed condos in older bldgs selling btwn 200K-500K. A good # of 2-bed condos sell btwn 300K-500K. Also plenty selling btwn 500K-1M. 3 & 4 beds go for anywhere btwn 500K-1.5 M. Multi-Million $ hsg exists just outside of Dwtn.
* Not a ton of rentals available. They are also expensive with 1-beds renting btwn high 1Ks-3K, 2-beds 2K-4K, and 3-beds a very rare.
* Dwtn is missing a dwtn post office, only has a handful of churches, and a major hospital is about 1 mile north of Dwtn.
* A couple dead/gritty parts of Dwtn on the eastern edge.
* Connectivity is good in the western half of Dwtn (the core) but not so great in the eastern half. Lots of private developments. Lots of open vacant lots here too and urban massing is very good.