Arnold, PA- a distressed Allegheny River town with good urban bones and neighbor to New Kensington

The land on which Arnold currently stands was purchased in 1781 but it wasn’t developed until the late 1800s. Arnold was originally part of the City of New Kensington from 1891 until 1896 until it incorporated as a separate borough. The portion of Arnold btwn the river and Constitution Blvd is the oldest and most distressed portion of the borough. East of Constitution development ranges between 1900-1940s and generally is more stable. Arnold maxed out at around 11K residents in 1940 and has since fallen to just under 5K.

5th Avenue is the historic business district for Arnold but has fallen on pretty hard times with only a handful of businesses still open and a good number of vacant lots and vacant storefronts. I don’t see much hope for a population reversals in Arnold unless the City embraces immigrants. There is a sliver of hope for this as 4% of the population is Hispanic. A more attainable and likely strategy for Arnold is to spend its efforts revitalizing its 5th Avenue core, removing blight and stabilizing the old part of town, and reinvesting in the newer portion of town between Constitution and Freeport to build on existing market strengths. Arnold has decent density and mixed-use fabric giving me some hope that it could become a decent urban environment once again. There are also some good revitalization efforts occurring along the main street of its neighbor, New Kensington.

Click here to view my Arnold album on Flickr


* Good street connectivity.
* Good racial diversity and decent generational.
* Few 1-beds but good # of 2 & 3 beds that range btwn $800-$1,000.
* While public transit is limited dwtn is only a 25-30 minute drive.
* Decent urban density and good urban bones.


* Sidewalk infrastructure is generally good but very few ADA standard curb cuts.
* Poor public transit access.
* No biking infrastructure to speak of.
* Wide spread poverty and not a lot of income diversity in Arnold.
* A couple of schools in the core of Arnold but poorly rate. Decent elementary school on the eastern edge of town.
* Arnold has a pretty high crime rate and a lot of blight to accompany it.
*Lots of depressed hsg in Arnold selling below 60K but some well maintained product too selling in the 100Ks.  2-beds sell btwn 20K-150K, 3 & 4 beds sell anywhere btwn 35K-185K.
* Okay park amenities including a decent river park, a playground and the cemetery.
* Limited cultural amenities including a handful of restaurants & bars, and a couple cafes. Better cultural amenities in New Kensington which is within 1 mile.
* Retail amenities are also limited including a couple banks, a furniture store, a couple boutiques, a couple gyms & dessert joints, a post office, and lots of churches.

Freeport, PA- an Allegheny Rivertown built on free port access

I included only the cohesive urban portion of Freeport in this evaluation. Freeport was first settled in the 1760s. The town received its name when David Todd declared the town to be a free and open port allowing boats to tie up along the river free of charge. Freeport’s position on the Allegheny river gave it an ideal spot for industry and trade going to Pittsburgh. This lead to the creation of several industrials throughout the 19th century including the Lucesco Oil Refinery and the Freeport Brick Company. Even for a Western PA river towns, freeport is quite small sitting at just 1,700 people. Its seen plenty of decline since its peak likely around 1930 but has done a decent job managing the decline with few vacant homes left standing. There is a 2-block commercial district along 5th street with some stores and food & beverage businesses with a decent sense of space. This is only a couple blocks away from a nice river front park. Surprisingly a decent # of homes selling in the 200Ks in Freeport and the town boasts good park amenities and good sidewalk and ADA curb infrastructure.

I don’t see much hope for a population reversal in Freeport so the most attainable positive urban impact would be revitalizing 5th Street’s many vacant storefronts and building up the popularity of the town. Freeport could encourage more immigration to at least stabilize its population as well.

Click here to view my Freeport album on Flickr


* Decent sidewalks with about half of the curbs up to modern ADA standards.
* Great economic diversity and decent generational.
* While Freeport has some blight it is a very safe community.
* Decent for sale diversity. Really no 1-beds available. 2-beds sell anywhere btwn 60K-120. 3 & 4 bed sell btwn 30K-300K, with a good number of well invested homes selling in the 200Ks.
* Good park amenities including an attractive riverside park, the expansive Freeport Community Park, the Market Street Park.
* Decent urban massing.


* Pretty low density for an urban area.
* Public transit is extremely limited in Freeport.
* While no transit exist, Freeport is only 30 min drive to downtown Pittsburgh.
* No bike infrastructure to speak of.
* Limited racial diversity as 95% of the population is white.
* Only the public middle school is open and in town.
* Very limited rentals, at least listed on Zillow. Very affordable however.
* Some cultural amenities including a decent amount of food & beverage bizs, a brewery, and a community theater.
* Retail amenities are limited to a family dollar, a couple boutiques & gift shops, a couple dessert joints, a gym, an antiques store, a couple banks, a doctor’s office, a local library and post office, and  several churches.
* Really no infill architecture to speak of.

Ford City, PA- a Company Town Originally built by PPG Industries

Ford City was founded in 1887 as a company town by the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company (now PPG Industries) as the site for its Works No. 3 glass factory. The town was named in honor of the company founder, John Baptiste Ford. In its heyday the factory employed as many as 5,000 workers. The PPG plant shut down 1990s and another large employer, Eljer Plumbing, shut down in 2008. Like most Western PA towns, Ford City’s population peaked in 1930 at 6,000 residents and has been in a steady decline ever since and now stands at just under 3,000 residents. Ford City has done a good job managing its decline quickly demolishing abandoned homes and allowing neighborhoods to purchase them for expanded yards. Most of the vacancies are empty storefronts.

From an urban perspective Ford City does well with well maintained sidewalks and updated ADA curb cuts, quality walkable schools, a wonderful street grid, good distribution of parks, high levels of safety, and decent retail amenities. I don’t see much hope for a population reversal, so the most biggest positive urban impact would be revitalizing Dwtn’s many vacant storefronts and building up the vibe in the town.

Click here to view my Ford City album on Flickr


* Good sidewalk infrastructure and most intersections have up to date ADA curbs.
* Highly connected and efficient street grid.
* Nice recreational trail running along the river.
* Decent generational diversity.
* Well rated middle/high school along with a Catholic grade school within Ford City. Elementary school is just outside of Ford City.
* A couple buildings dedicated to affordable rentals.
* Several small-medium sized parks well distributed throughout Ford City.
* Decent retail amenities including a supermarket, a couple drug store, a couple dollar generals, several banks, lots of salons, a Hallmark store, a couple dessert/bakeries, a gym, several medical offices and churches, and a public library & post office.
* Pretty safe community and not a lot of blight here other than vacant store fronts.
* Some nice historic architecture, esp. in the business district, but homes are generally rather plain.
* Good streetscaping done on Ford St maybe 30 years ago. Other commercial streets are pretty dated.


* Density is so so and pretty low for a urban area.
* Very limited public transit access.
* 45 minute drive to Dwtn Pittsburgh. No feasible public transit options.
* Largely a White City with a small Black and likely growing Hispanic population.
* Not much for sale diversity as housing stock is generally very affordable. 1 beds very limited. 2-beds sell btwn 50K-90K,3 & 4 beds sell btwn 50K-150K.
* Rentals are very limited but affordable.
* Cultural amenities are limited to some restaurants, bars & cafes.
* In-fill is limited to a couple decent mixed-use and apt bldgs in the center of town.
* Pedestrian traffic is pretty limited.

Kittanning, PA- Historic Native American Village and Home to the Armstrong County Seat

I included most of urban Kittanning except the portion east of Victory St as this part of Kittanning felt pretty disconnected from the center of town.  Kittanning was founded on the site of the eighteenth-century Lenape village of Kittanning at the western end of the Kittanning Path, an ancient Native American path. Sadly during the French and Indian War the village was destroyed at the Battle of Kittanning. The borough was settled by European Americans mostly  after the American Revolutionary War. By the early 20th century, the City had developed considerable industry similar to manufacturing across the Pittsburgh region. Kittanning reached its peak on 1930 at 7,800 and has been on a slow decline since hosting around 4,000 residents. Its important to note that Kittanning was one of the largest cities along the Allegheny River east of Pittsburgh through the 19th century reaching 1,700 souls during the Civil War and 4,000 in 1900.

Thanks to its designation as the County seat of Armstrong County, Kittanning has a historically expansive business district focused on Market Street but stretching several blocks to the south and a couple blocks to the north. Market street connects the riverfront and County Court House and jail creating a pretty striking visual. To the north of Market street are several blocks of attractive mid-late 19th century architecture and along the river is an expensive well designed riverfront park. Market street still retains most of its form but vacancies are quite prolific. The business district south of Market St is mixed-bag hosting many parking lots, auto centric uses, and underutilized buildings. Many walkable business and a solid public middle and high school still remain in the center city. While I’d love to see the borough’s population increase a more realistic goal for this Western PA town is strong investments in Market Street to eliminate blight, open new businesses, and create a better vibe for the town. Kittanning biggest challenge is its aging population (average age is 50 years old). This does not bode well for stabilizing the city’s population. 

Click here to view my Kittanning Album on Flickr


* Solid ADA and sidewalk infrastructure esp. in the core of the Kitanning.
* Nice recreational trail that cuts through the length of Kittanning. Limited bike infrastructure otherwise.
* Excellent gridded and connected streets.
* Good walkable high school and middle school but not much else
* Lengthy and well designed riverfront park in Kittanning. Also a good playground and an YMCA with an indoor pool.
* Good retail amenities including a supermarket, family dollar, a couple pharmacies, several banks, several clothing & consignment stores, a furniture store, a hardware store, several salons, a couple gyms, a local public library & post office, lots of churches, a couple doctor’s offices and the general hospital is a couple miles away.
* Solid imageability with a the courthouse centrally located at the end of the main business district that connects to the riverfront.
* Some excellent historic architecture esp. in the center of town.
* Lots of dedicated senior and affordable housing here.
* Good urban form and streetscaping along Market St.
* Impressive size to Kittanning’s mixed use area.


* Pretty low density for an urban area. 
* Transit access is very limited here.
* Aging population with the median age of 50 years old and not a lot of family households w/ kids.
* Very White population with limited racial diversity.
* Economic diversity not great either.
* Decent # of rentals, esp. 1-beds but all very affordable.
* Not much for sale diversity as housing stock is generally very affordable. 1 beds very limited. 2-beds sell btwn 50K-200K,3 & 4 beds sell btwn 50K-230K.
* Okay cultural amenities including a decent # of restaurants, a couple cafes, and several bars. a couple bars that do live music, a couple local museums, and a bowling alley.
* Some crime here and certainly blight but not an unsafe community by any means.
* Good amount of auto centric modern infill on the south end of town but also some decent urban in-fill sprinkled in throughout.
* Urban form and streetscaping of commercial south of Market St is hit or miss.

Vandergrift- Western Pennyslvania’s Olmsted Planned Industrial Town

North of Walnut street is the stable well planned portion of Vandegrift. South of Walnut street Vandergrift becomes more working class and gritty. This is also the unplanned part of the community seemingly untouched by Olmsted’s plan for the town.

Early in the 20th century, Vandergrift had the largest sheet steel mill in the world. Yet this ended in a bitter labor dispute with the Apollo Iron and Steel Company in the 1890s. In an attempt to avoid future unrest, the company sought to gain tighter control over its workforce and decided to provide workers with good housing and a good urban environment to foster  loyal and productive employees. The company hired Olmsted, Olmsted and Eliot to design a model industrial town resulting in a well laid out borough with curvilinear streets, well placed commercial district, tree lined streets and good park spaces. Homeownership rates among workers remained high and in general the plan worked creating a steel town where a relatively cordial relationship existed between the steel company and Vandergrift residents.

Vandergrift’s population peaked in 1930 at 11,500 but as with most western PA towns, its populational has more than halved since to 5K residents. Still Vandergrift’s urban form has remained largely in tact with mostly occupied buildings, many businesses, and better stability than most similar industrial river towns in the region. Vandergrift also excels at affordable housing, decent walkability good tree canopy, decent park and cultural amenities, and a diversity array of retail options. I’d of course love to see density increase in Vandergrift but this is an up hill battles for a Western PA industrial town. The best we can likely hope for with an improved urban environment is better bike infrastructure, more housing diversity, a supermarket, and updated streetscaping.

Click here to view my Vandergrift Album on Flickr


* Pretty good ADA infrastructure and sidewalks. Generally sidewalks exist and about 50% of the curb cuts are up to modern standards.
* Good generational diversity and decent economic but incomes are on the low side here.
* Olmsted’s curvilinear streets make be a bit disorienting but connectivity and efficiently are still good and it leads to some very good place making.
* Vandergrift has some grit but a pretty safe place to live.
* Tree canopy is pretty good, clearly much fuller in the north half of town.
* Some excellent historic commercial and great homes along Washington Ave but most residential is very working class in typology.
* Decent parks with the larger Kennedy and Franklin Parks.
* Decent cultural amenities including good food & beverage bizs, a brewery & winery, a performing arts center, a local museum.
* Good retail amenities too including a couple drug stores, a dollar general, several boutiques & gift shops,  a couple florists,  several banks, a couple homes/furniture  stores, several dessert joints and bakeries, a couple gyms, lots of churches, a local public library & post office, and several medical offices.
* Solid urban form along Vandergrift’s main biz district (Grant St) and other mixed-uses. 


* Density is so so.
* Some public transit but generally pretty limited.
* About a 45-50 minute drive to Dwtn.
* No bike infrastructure to speak of.
* Walkable schools in the Borough consist of a quality great school and small parochial school. Public high school and middle school are good but out in the suburbs.
* Some rentals and generally very affordable. Limited diversity in offering.
* For sale hsg options are all pretty limited and generally very affordable. 2-beds sell btwn 40K-125K, 3 & 4 beds sell anywhere btwn 30K-150K.
* Missing a supermarket in town.
* Some poor urban form (parking lots and industrial uses) along Lincoln Ave.
* Really no modern in-fill to speak of.
* Streetscaping is fine but dated.

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


* 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.


* 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.

Mount Lebanon- One of Pittsburgh’s Ritziest Suburbs

Mount Lebanon was a bit of a late bloomer as inner ring suburbs go in Pittsburgh. The City was incorporated in 1912 but had just over 2K residents in 1920. By that time Mt. Lebo had streetcar service but it was the opening of the Liberty Tunnel in 1924 allowing easy automobile access to Pittsburgh that led to a real estate boom. Between the 1920s and 1930s, Mt. Lebanon skyrocketed from 2,258 to 13,403 residents. It then reached 26K by 1950 and maxed out at 39K in 1970. The City has seen a steady decline since but appears to be stabilizing at around 32,000 souls.

From an urban perspective about half of the City has a quality urban environment surrounding the two urban commercial districts along Washington Ave and Beverly Rd.  The T-Line (light rail line) also runs along this portion of Mt. Lebanon providing 3 stations. The southern half of Mt. Lebanon is more quasi urban. There are generally sidewalks here, but the commercial districts are rather autocentric, and home are also less dense and mostly single family.

Overall Mt. Lebanon excels at providing excellent schools, great parks, a very safe community, many wonderful tree lined streets, quality cultural and retail amenities, and a decent housing mix. Mt. Lebanon is, however, a lily white community, lacks much economic diversity, is hit or miss with ADA infrastructure, and doesn’t have great density for an urban area. I’d love to see this City welcome more people and loosening up its zoning laws to permit more multi-family housing.

Click here to view my album on Flickr


* Good public transit thanks to the line rail line running through the City and decent bus connections.
* Good access to Dwtn via transit or driving.
* Lots of family households here and good age diversity.
* Very safe community.
* Highly rated schools across all types. Most schools have at least decent walkability. Lots of options too.
* Decent amount of rental hsg and pretty moderately priced. 1-beds rent btwn 800K and the low 1Ks, 2-beds low to mid 1Ks, 3-beds 1.5K-2k.
* No spectacular parks here but just many small and medium sized parks are well spread throughout the City. The City’s best recreational facilities are located within Mt. Lebanon park and include a recreation center, indoor and outdoor pool, ice rink, major tennis complex, and soccer and baseball fields.
* Excellent tree canopy.
* Great historic architecture especially the residential homes.
* The Beverly and Washington Ave biz district are vibrant but the suburban ones aren’t and plenty of dead spaces in the residential areas.
* Good cultural amenities including a diverse array of restaurants, plenty of bars & cafes, a cineplex, several breweries and art galleries, a couple historic sites, and a couple bar/live music venues.
* Great retail amenities including several supermarkets & drug stores,  the Galleria Mall (a medium sized mall), a hardware store; decent # of boutiques & gift shops and  a couple book stores along the walkable biz districts; a public library and post office, several dessert options, St. Clair Hospital, and plenty of churches. Many stores are in autocentric settings.


* Density isn’t great but not terrible.
* About 70% of City streets have sidewalks. Neighborhood clusters on the edges of town often are with out them and even some arterials. Many residential areas are also missing ADA curb cuts.
* Connectively not great although some assemblance of a street grid.
* Poor bike infrastructure. No dedicated bike stations and few dedicated bike lanes.
* Very lily white community as 95% of Mt. Lebanon is white. Economic diversity isn’t much better.
* Housing is generally expensive but a fair amount of affordable condos and some moderately priced SF homes. 1-bed condos sell btwn 60K-150K, 2-beds condos anywhere btwn 100K-300; 2-beds SF sell btwn 200K-400K, 3-beds are a wide range btwn 200K-800K depending on size and condition; and 4 & 5 beds btwn 250K and the low millions. Overall a decent variety of available for sale housing.
* Some dedicated affordable housing in Mt. Lebanon but not enough.
* Mix of urban and auto centric biz districts. The urban ones are along Washington Ave, Beverley, and park of Cochran. The autocentric ones are along Mt. Lebanon Blvd and Gilkeson.

Canonsburg- One of Pittsburgh’s oldest Suburbs

I included most of Canonsburg in this evaluation but excluded the less than urban edges with limited sidewalks south of I-79, west of Oak Spring Rd, and north of North and Gladden Roads.

Canonsburg was laid out by Colonel John Canon in 1789 and incorporated in 1802. It quickly grew to 500 residents in 1820 and 650 by the Civil War. Canonsburg hosted the first institution of higher learning west of the Allegheny Mountains, Jefferson College, founded in 1802. The school would go on to become Washington & Jefferson College in nearby Washington in 1868 leaving Canonsburg is severe economic straights. Fortunately the railroads and industrialization came to the Borough leading to a second population boom. By 1900 the borough reached 3,000 residents and 12,500 by 1930 but fell  to 8,600 residents by 2000 following the trends of most historic Western PA towns. Surprisingly the Borough’s population has begun to raise and as of 2020 9,744 residents called Canonsburg home.

From an urban perspective Canonsburg has a solid historic main street along Pike St., and hit or miss residential streets. The Borough has solid economic & generational diversity, great public schools, quality parks & recreation, affordable housing, and solid retail amenities. To become a quality urban district the Borough needs better density, bike infrastructure, and connections to Dwtn Pittsburgh via transit, more consistant ADA infrastructure, better cultural amenities, and just more vibrancy and activity. There is also lots of blight still to clean up in the Borough.

Click here to view my Canonsburg Album on Flickr


* Economic and generational diversity.
* Several excellent public schools within Canonsburg and an excellent public high school in the adjacent Strabane that should be in the same school district.
* Canonsburg Town Park is expansive with diverse amenities including a pool tennis court hiking trails, playground and ball fields. The borough also the Falconi Fields and couple other smaller parks.
* Some interesting historic architecture along the main street but generally pretty plain in the residential areas.
* A decent # of rentals and generally affordable. 1-beds lease btwn $600-1K, 2-beds in the 1Ks, and 3-bed houses in the high 1Ks and low 2Ks.
* For-sale is also pretty affordable. 1-beds (not many) sell in the low 100Ks, 2-beds btwn 10K-300K, 3 & 4 beds 150K- ~ 400K.
* Seems to be several afford. hsg projects in Canonsburg.
* Pretty good retail amenities including a Shop n Save, Rite Aid, several boutiques & consignment stores, a toy store, antique & home good stores, several banks, a post office, plenty of dessert shops and bakeries, several gyms, and a Public Library. There is also the Canonsburg hospital and tons of churches.
 While Canonsburg has some blight and grit it is actually a very safe place to live.
* Good urban form in the core 4-5 blocks Canonsburg. Pretty autocentric outside of this core area.


* Pretty poor density for an urban area.
* So  access to Dwtn. About a 25-30 drive but 50 min public transit ride.
* Transit service is limited to several trips to Dwtn per day on week days and only a couple on the weekend.
* Bike infrastructure is non-existent.
* Poor racial diversity.
* Tree canopy is hit or miss in the residential areas, poor in the biz district, but good along hillsides and valleys.
* Ok cultural amenities including several American restaurants & bars, a couple cafes, a couple breweries. Missing any art galleries, live music venues, theaters/cinemas, or museums.
* ADA infrastructure is pretty decent along the Biz Corridor but very hit or miss along the residential streets. Plenty of missing ADA curbs and often missing segments of sidewalk.
* Not great pedestrian activity.
* Not much in-fill and what does exist is generally pretty bad.

Bridgeville- Western PA’s Borough named after a Bridge

I included the portion of Bridgeville that at least had some semblance of sidewalk connectivity. Areas of Bridgeville I excluded from the evaluation where areas east of New York Rd. and north of McLaughlin Run.

The village that eventually became Bridgeville gained its name after the first bridge built at the crossing of Chartiers Creek at the south end of what is now Washington Avenue. For nearly 100 years, Bridgeville was a village within Upper St. Clair Township, known for its one bridge over Chartiers Creek where people would meet to trade goods. This evolved into an informal name of the village that sprung up north of the bridge starting in the 1830s. As mining operations began in the 1880s  Bridgeville grew to around 1,000 residents in 1900 and shortly after was incorporated as a Borough. Its population quickly grew in the early 20th century to 4,450 residents in 1940 and maxed out in 1960 at just over 7K residents. Like many Western PA communities Bridgeville has seen a steady population decline but not as severe as other communities. Bridgeville now has just under 5K residents.

Bridgeville’s evaluation score was 90, the minimum level I consider to be an urban community. That’s because Bridgeville has a mix of positive and negative attributes from an urban perspective. On the positive side Bridgeville has a decent Dwtn area, with plenty of retail, many restaurants and bars, good mix of affordable for-sale housing, quality historic architecture, decent urban massing, and some walkability. However, it lacks good density, quality transit and bike infrastructure, has fair ADA and sidewalk infrastructure, only one walkable school, limited cultural amenities, and has a rather tired and dated looking streetscape. Obviously there are many areas for urban improvement in Bridgeville but the Borough has the urban bones and a strong enough housing market to become a solid urban community.

Click here to view my Bridgeville Album on Flickr


* Decent access to Dwtn. 20 min drive and 40 min bus ride.
* Great economic and generational diversity.
* Decent medium sized parks (McLaughlin and Chartiers Park).  Bridgeville Historic Society Park is centrally located but small. No swimming pools.
* Bridgeville is overall a safe community. Still a fair amount of grit and some vacancy, especially with commercial bldgs.
* Good mix affordable and moderately priced for sale housing. 1 & 2-bed condos sell btwn 60K-125K, 2-beds sell anywhere btwn 100K-250K, 3&4-beds generally btwn 150K-400K.
* Several affordable housing towers in town.
* Okay cultural amenities include several American restaurants & bars, a good # of cafes, the Bridgeville Historic Society, there is a cineplex just north of the Borough in Collier Township.
* Good retail amenities include a supermarket, a drug store, several boutiques, a couple antiques, a couple hardware stores, a  couple of banks, gyms, and bookstores, a bookstore, a public library, local post office. A major shopping plaza is just north of Bridgeport with a home depot, supermarket TJ MAX and lots of other stores but access is dicey for pedestrians.
* Good historic architecture.
* Mix of good and fair urban massing.
* Good tree canopy in the residential areas but pretty limited in the main St.


* Density is pretty poor.
* ADA infrastructure is pretty decent along the Biz Corridor but very hit or miss along the residential streets. Plenty of missing ADA curbs and often missing segments of sidewalk.
* Overall transit access is so .
* Connectivity is fair.
* No bike infrastructure here.
* With 90% of the population as White, racial diversity is limited here.
* Bridgeville is in a good school district, Chartiers School district, but only a small elementary school is walkable and located within the borough.
* Some rental product but generally affordable. 1-beds lease btwn 700 & the low 1Ks, 2-beds around 1K but not many of them.
* Culturally Bridgeville is missing any art galleries, there are few museums, limited live music venues.
* Limited modern in-fill
* Streetscaping is ok but pretty tired.

McDonald, PA- A small borough located on the Allegheny/Washington County Line

Like many small boroughs in Western Pennsylvania, McDonald was established in the late 1880s around light manufacturing. By 1900 the town hosted 2,400 residents and peaked at 3,500 in 1950s. Since then the population has declined by nearly half and just over 2,000 souls resident in McDonald.

While McDonald is in the Pittsburgh MSA, it feels pretty disconnected to the Pittsburgh Metro. There is no Port Authority Service here and its surrounded by woods and farmland. But McDonald is only a 1/2 hour drive to Downtown Pittsburgh. This is one of the less developed sides of the Pittsburgh Metro. From an urban perspective McDonald has stable housing, largely in-tact but gritty and often vacant commercial buildings. The community does have several important amenities including a Giant Eagle, a local library and post office, a handful of shops and restaurants, good parks, and overall a pretty safe community. The only way for this to become a thriving urban area is more people. But without a major wave of immigrants I don’t see McDonald changing much (other than continuing its slow decline) anytime soon.

Click here to view my album on Flickr


* Decent connectivity.
* Excellent economic and generational diversity.
* Lots of affordable and moderately priced SF homes with prices ranging anywhere btwn 75K-335K
* Pretty good tree canopy.
* McDonald hosts a pair of medium sized parks (Heritage and East End Parks) with good recreational and sports amenities.
* Overall a pretty safe community.
* A set of very nice historic business buildings and pretty good historic homes as well.
* Good urban form in the core of Dwtn. But it drops off outside of the core and becomes pretty auto centric.


* Pretty low density for an urban center.
* Very limited public transit here.
* Driving to Dwtn and Oakland only takes about an hour but very limited public transit options.
* ADA compliant ramps is hit or miss. Sidewalks missing on about 1/3 of streets.
* Nice recreational bike trail cutting through town, but other than that no other bike amenities.
* Limited racial diversity as McDonald’s population is 90% White.
* Rental options are very limited.
* Several well rated schools are a 10-15 minute drive. But none of them are walkable.
* Cultural amenities are limited to a handful of restaurants & bars, a historic theater (now an event space), and the Calwell Historic Home (now an B&B).
* McDonald has some retail amenities including a Giant Eagle, a couple pharmacies, a couple banks, several salons/barber shops, a local post office, a couple antique and home good stores, a gym, a local public library, and several churches.
* Very limited modern in-fill and what does exist is generally crummy auto centric bldgs.