Washington PA has a long history going back to colonial times. Washington was first settled by colonists around 1768 by mostly Northern Irish and Scottish immigrants. It is not surprisingly then that an open rebellion broke out when the new US government decided to tax the Whiskey production in Western PA. This resulted in the well known ‘Whiskey Rebellion’ of 1791. Fortunately things settled down in Washington and the Washington & Jefferson (a small liberal arts college) was established and the town was incorporated as a borough in 1810. Washington is also located along the Marcellus Shale formation and had several oil booms in its history including the turn of the 19th century and more recently. Washington’s population peaked in 1950 at 26K souls but has decreased in half to only 13K today. Fortunately its decline slowed significantly between 2010 and 2020.
Given its significant population decline its not surprising there are many blighted areas of Washington, but it has not completely lost its form and many of the Downtown buildings (especially along Main St) are still in-tact. There are some signs of rebirth as population decline is slowing and new food and beverage businesses are opening again downtown. Washington also has several walkable schools with decent ratings, lots of affordable housing, and decent cultural and retail amenities. To become a quality urban environment again Washington needs more people and businesses. The City also suffers from a lack of any bike infrastructure, limited public transit access and park spaces, and a pretty high crime rate.
* Good generational diversity (thanks in large part to the college) and economic diversity. * Several walkable schools with decent ratings. * Some rentals available and very affordable.1 & 2 -beds lease btwn 700K-1,000, and 3-beds btwn 1K-1.5K * For sale is also very affordable . Very limited 1-bed product selling btwn 40K-75K. 2-beds btwn 50K-250K, 3 & 4 beds is similar but with some product selling btwn 250K-300K. * ADA infrastructure is very good in parts and pretty bad in others. * Culturally a decent # of restaurants & bars, a couple cafes breweries & art galleries, a couple local museums and local theaters. Washington also has a local symphony and good performing arts coming from Washing & Jefferson College. * Decent but not great retail amenities including a Shop n Save and large Mexican grocerias & local farmer’s market, several dollar stores, a couple drug stores, several consignment shops & gift stores, a couple antique stores, several banks, a dwtn library & post office, a local hospital, and plenty of churches. * Urban form and streetscaping is good in Dwtn but pretty poor outside of Dwtn.
* Density is pretty low. * There is a local; Washington Co transit system and a commuter bus to Dwtn but I sense its pretty limited. Commute takes over an hr to Dwtn. To drive to Dwtn Pittsburgh is 40 mins. * No bike infrastructure here. * Only one park within my evaluation area although there are several on the edges of the City. Pretty limited park amenities overall. * Crime is high in spots but overall not terrible in Washington. Certainly areas of blight still remain.
Avalon was incorporated as a distinct municipality in 1875 starting out as a small community of a couple hundred families. The City was named after the legendary island of Avalon (“land of apples”) on account of there being several orchards in the area. By 1900 the borough reached 2,000 people and with the help of a streetcar and train line it reached 6,000 by 1940. Population maxed out at 7,000 souls in 1970 and Avalon has been losing people ever since and is down to 4,500 currently. Yet Avalon still feels very in tact and has been a recent destination of single family home renovations and strengthening real estate market.
Avalon also has decent main street buildings that with more investment in the community could lead to many more locally owned businesses and vibrancy. Other urban assets include: a good mix of affordable and moderately price rentals and for sale options thanks to the community’s flexible zoning laws, good tree canopy, solid parks, safety, excellent economic diversity, and decent historic architecture.
Urban areas where Avalon could improve include much more bike infrastructure, more retail and especially cultural amenities, and better urban massing along the state route 65, a very autocentric boulevard.
* Sidewalks are on 95% of the streets but ADA current ramps are more often absent. * Overall a pretty safe community. * Excellent economic diversity and very good generational diversity. * Good access to downtown with both good driving and bus access. * Decent rental options and affordable. 1-beds lease for $700-1K, 2-beds around $1,000s and 3-beds in the low $1,000s. * Good for sale diversity as well with a good # of 1 bed condos selling btwn 50K-125K, 2 beds btwn 75K and high 100Ks, 3-beds a bit more expensive extending into the low 200Ks, and 4 & 5 beds into the high 200Ks and low 300Ks. * Great tree canopy especially in the hillside areas. * Solid park amenities around Spruce Run. * Pretty good historic architecture.
* No bike lanes infrastructure. * Cultural amenities are pretty limited to several restaurants & bars, and some chain coffee stores, a small local theater. * Retail amenities are a bit better including several clothing stores, a bank, a drug store, florist, a couple barbershops & salons, several auto centric businesses on 65 and walkable access to a supermarket (and many other amenities) that’s located in adjacent Bellevue. * Decent but not great schools access with one well rated elementary schools and the schools in Bellevue (some school district) are somewhat walkable. * Some very crummy modern in-fill along 65 but some good modern apartments/condos. * Urban massing is a mixed bag. Pretty awful along 65 as its a auto centric blvd but very good massing along Lincoln Ave.
This small borough along the Ohio River in Allegheny County Population arose in the 1870s and grew to 1,000 residents by 1900 taking advantage of its proximity to factory jobs along the Ohio and convenient rail service to Dwtn Pittsburgh. Emsworth’s population peaked in 1970 with just over 3,000 residents but has shrunk by about 1,000 souls.
Emsworth’s attraction lies in its convenience to Dwtn; only a 15 minute drive and around a 30 minute bus ride to during commuting hours. It also has a stable set of single family homes in a quite and safe neighborhood setting. This has led to rising homes prices and it is now difficult to purchase a nice home here for less than 200K. But from an urban perspective there are lots of deficiencies mainly due to the Borough’s lack of retail and cultural amenities. Density is also low and ADA and bike infrastructure are lacking. My hope is that Emsworth and its neighboring inner ring suburbs urbanize and densify around improved public transit connections. There are plans by the Port Authority to re-open dedicated rail to the north Ohio river suburbs.
* Density access is so but only a 15 minute drive to Dwtn and 20 minutes if you time the bus right. Oakland about 40 minutes by bus. * Solid economic and generational diversity. * Some nice historic homes but nothing spectacular. * Solid tree canopy. * For sale homes are moderately priced but stable. Product sells anywhere btwn high 100Ks to the low 300Ks. * Emsworth Community Park is a solid and expansive park really nothing else.
* Urban density is rather poor. * No dedicated bike lanes. * ADA infrastructure and sidewalks are pretty hit or miss. Generally sidewalks but more often than not ADA infrastructure is not up to date. * Limited racial diversity. * Limited modern in-fill and most of it is auto centric. * Some mixed-use development on Centre, which has decent urban, massing but most of the commercial is along state route 65 which is auto centric. It has sidewalks but they are located right next to fast moving traffic. * The only school in the City is a small but quality Catholic High School. At least its walkable. * Rentals are also moderately priced but very limited. * Cultural amenities limited to a handful of restaurants, bars, a brewery, and a art gallery. * Retail amenities limited to a handful of salons, a barber shop, a chiropractor, several churches, and some auto centric retail uses.
Originally incorporated as Sheraden Borough in 1894, Sheridan quickly grew and was annexed by the City of Pittsburgh in 1907. The neighborhood became a hub for Irish and German immigrants in the early 20th century. Like most European Ethnic groups most families moved to the suburbs in the 70s on the westside leaving a large African American population behind.
Sheraden has struggled ever since shedding at least several thousand residents leading to many pockets of blight and disinvestment. The commercial districts along Chartiers and the Sheraden and Hillsboro node also suffered as well leaving a handful of bars and restaurants, a dollar store, and several convenience stores. Yet with the rise in interest and values in Pittsburgh since the 2000s, Sheradan has begun to slowly rebound, most visibly with a rise in price of its attractive turn of the century housing stock now selling in the high 100s and low 200s. There are also several pockets of stable 1950s housing in the Corliss sub district on the hill tops. With a great central park (Sheraden Park), busway access, and downtown only 3.5 miles away, I’m confident the neighborhood will stabilize and hopefully revitalize a couple nice urban business nodes. The speed of this work ready depends on how serious the City of Pittsburgh is about revitalizing its blight.
* Solid public transit access, especially with the West Bus Way running through the neighborhood. * Great access to Dwtn via public transit and driving. Access to Oakland a bit challenging via public transit. * Good racially diversity with a surprisingly large Asian population. Large Pct of family households and good age diversity. * Large range in housing prices from 25K-the low 200KS depends on condition, size, and amount of blight in a particular section of the neighborhood. * Sheraden Park is a large and amenity rich park located at the heart of the neighborhood. Several other nice smaller parks throughout. * Pretty good historic architecture especially in the nicer streets of Sheridan. * Decent tree cover on the residential streets, excellent along the hill sides and hollers.
* Density is pretty low but better than other Westside neighborhoods. * Sidewalks are generally pretty consistant but ADA curbs missing in most intersections. Also plenty of sidewalks are not in great condition. * Very high poverty rate (around 36%) but still decant economic diversity. * Rental product (at least officially listed) is very low here. * Retail and cultural amenities are limited to a couple restaurants & bars, a dollar general and several convenience stores. Downtown McKees Rocks has some good amenities a mile away though. * Crime doesn’t appear to be a more issue here, but still a fair amount of blight. * One elementary school located is the community is fair at best. A Middle school with a stem focus is located in adjacent Crafton Heights. * Limited modern in-fill but at least there are some stable 1940-1950 homes on the hillside portions of the neighborhood. * Decent urban form at the small biz node of Sheraden and Hillsboro. Chartiers is a tired early 20th century mixed-use Pittsburgh run with some good urban form but few open businesses. * The streetscape is pretty underinvested and has been touched in decades. * Pedestrian activity is fair at best.
West End Village (originally named Temperanceville) was founded in 1860 as a dry town. It was annexed into the City of Pittsburgh in 1874. The village was founded on the valley floor through which Saw Mill Run flows toward the Ohio River and between the Coal Hill end of Mt. Washington and River Hill. This is a very curious spot hidden in what I would call a Pittsburgh “holler” yet only 2 miles from Downtown Pittsburgh. It also is located in a flood plain. This along with being a victim of blight and abandonment have nearly decimated the village’s historically high population of 2,000 residents in 1940. Now just over 200 souls remain here. Fortunately, much of the neighborhood’s historic commercial remains in-tact forming a decent main street. Some businesses have set up shop here but much vacancy still remains.
Just up the hill from the West End westwards along the Ohio River is the Elliot Neighborhood. It was annexed into the City of Pittsburgh in the early 20th century. The neighborhood grew rapidly in the early 20th century due to its proximity to downtown Pittsburgh and direct access to several arterial roads and streetcar lines into a pretty dense and walkable community. Sadly like many districts in Pittsburgh, it faced decline following WWII and has never really recovered. But unlike other distressed Pittsburgh communities, Elliott’s housing stock is mostly in-tact and boasts high densities, albeit without the walkable amenities it used to have.
Given their very convenient access to Downtown via transit and of course driving, there’s no reason these two urban communities should remain stagnant. Hopefully the City of Pittsburgh gets its act together in cleaning up the blight of these neighborhoods. Elliott could easily become a walkable community again with a decent mixed use district along Chartiers Ave. With appropriate investment the West End Business district could be thriving again but with dense housing surrounding it.
* Excellent public transit access and very convenient to Dwtn and Oakland via bus and car. * Very high level of family households and solid racial and economic diversity. * Good park access with several small parks well dispersed in the community. Westend Overlook provides excellent views of Downtown. * Excellent tree canopy due to all the hills and valleys. * Good historic architecture in the West End biz district. The residential architecture is blander worker housing. * Pretty good massing in the West End’s urban biz district.
* Decent bike connection into the West End via the West End bridge, but limited bike infrastructure outside of this. * Housing is very cheap. High end of the market is in the low 100s. Fair amount of housing selling below 50K. * Rentals are pretty limited and generally pretty cheap. * Cultural amenities are limited but some good stuff including a local theater, a handful of restaurants and bars, a cafe, a couple art galleries. While not walkable the plethora of cultural amenities downtown and in the side are nearby. *Some nice retail amenities (mostly in West End). This includes a post office, library, hardware store, a handful of boutiques, and lots of construction supply stores. No grocery or drug store nearby. * While most structures are still standing (esp. in Elliot) lots of vacancy and blight. * No schools within the district and only a handful in nearby neighborhoods. * Sidewalks are largely in tact but current ADA ramps is rare except in the core biz district of the Westend. * Streetscaping is pretty uninspiring and outdated but not terrible.
Tarentum is located about 20 miles up the Allegheny River from Dwtn Pittsburgh. This rivertown developed after the Civil War, rapidly expanding in the late 19th century and reaching 5,400 residents in 1900. The borough peaked at nearly 10K souls in 1940. But like most Western PA river towns it has been on a steady population decline since WWII and now Tarentum has just over 4K residents.
Tarentum was a well built city and hosts a fairly expansive Dwtn with main street like buildings across several streets and several bulky historic mixed-use buildings (including a large abandonded Opera House). There is also a historic main street along Freeport in Western Tarentum that is largely in-tact but very blighted. Nice homes climb the hill north of Dwtn but most housing is historic worker housing. The oldest homes in Tarentum are near the Allegheny River, which also hosts a really nice riverfront park.
There is some hope for a revitalization of Tarentum. There is a small but dedicated group of local businesses downtown, many well built historic commercial buildings ripe for renovation and most of the housing stock is still in tact. It will be interesting to see if the slow drive of revitalization along 28 reaches Tarentum some day.
* Consistent sidewalks infrastructure, but modern ADA curbs are hit or miss. More within the biz districts. * Some nice Dwtn Historic architecture. Mix of nice residential buildings (north of Dwtn) and gritty worker housing (West Tarentum). * Lots of family households and decent economic diversity. * Culturally Tarentum has a decent set of restaurants and bars, some live music venues, a handful of cafes, a nice art gallery, a local museum. * Crime is very low here but plenty of blight and abandonment. * Pretty good urban form remains in Dwtn Tarentum and even along Freeport in West Tarentum (although its a very gritty and underutilized biz district).
* No bike infrastructure. * Transit access is so but decent in the Dwtn Tarentum. * Modern in-fill is limited. What does exist is mostly crummy autocentric uses. * Rentals are very limited. * For sale housing is inexpensive. Most product sells between 50K and low 100Ks. Some homes selling in the 100Ks but plenty below 50K. * Tarentum has a very nice riverside park with multiple amenities but nothing else, meaning park space is not convenient to many of its residents. * Some nice retail amenities downtown including a local pharmacy, family dollar, post office, a florist, a couple banks, jeweler, and several boutiques. * Walkable schools limited to one public school.
Springdale’s claim to fame is that it is the childhood home of marine biologist and author of Silent Spring, Rachael Carson. Perfect setting as Rachael Carson witnessed first hand the environmental destruction that modern industry can create on the environment and liked in the shadow of a very distinctive power generation plan with massive twin smokestacks. Other than this claim to fame, Springdale is yet another rivertown built on industry during the turn of the 20th century. Its population peaked in 1960 at 5,600 and has been in a steady decline ever since now hosting just over 3,000 residents.
Springdale is a relatively stable post-industrial town with a medium income near the Allegheny Co. average, limited poverty, and some blight (concentrated along its main street and near the Allegheny River). The main street hosts several nice in-tact blocks with a decent array of local businesses,. Beyond this Pittsburgh Street becomes pretty drab and semi-autocentric. It would be nice to see more businesses and in-fill along Pittsburgh St. and a renewed interest in Springdale. This might happen as some river towns along route 28 closer to Dwtn Pittsburgh have started to witness revitalization. If not, Springdale will likely continue on without much change.
* Some nice historic architecture. * While transit access isn’t great, only a 23 minute drive to Dwtn. * Economically this is a very middle class community. * High percentage of family households (56%) * Crime below the national average, although there is some grit and vacancy especially Btwn Pittsburgh St and the River. * Good tree canopy. * Some local retail along Pittsburgh St but not a ton (i.e. dollar general, ice cream, a bookstore, jeweler, florist, post office, public library, and a couple banks and salons). * The junior high and high school are walkable and located within Springdale Borough limits. A Christian school located in the adjacent Cheswick community.
* Sidewalks are consistent but really no ADA standard curb cuts. * Modern in-fill is very limited. * Transit access is so . * No bike infrastructure. * Pretty low density for an urbanized area. * Relatively stable housing market, but not much variety in price point. For-sale generally ranges from 60K-180K depending on size and condition. * Rental options are very limited. * Park amenities limited to Veterans Memorial Field (home to several sports fields) and couple other greenspaces * Cultural amenities limited to a handful of Americana restaurants, some bars, a local brewery, and the Rachael Carson Homestead Museum. * Good urban form for several blocks along Pittsburgh St. but beyond this it becomes pretty semi-autocentric. Same idea follows for the streetscape.
I only included a small portion of Irwin in this evaluation. It’s the portion north of Penn Highway and west of Locust St. This is the older most walkable portion of Irwin where sidewalks are consistent.
Irwin was a very small community through most of the 1800s. It began to take off in the late 1800s with the discovery of extensive bituminous coal deposits and by 1900 had reached around 2,500 residents. Its population maxed out in 1980 with around 5,000 (thanks to some suburban annexation). Unfortunately Irwin has lost just over 1,000 residents since then. Fortunately Irwin is still pretty healthy, especially for Western PA standards. It has a vibrant main street with lots of shops and restaurants open and its residential fabric is mostly in-tact with a stable housing market.
My hope is that Irwin can stabilize its population decline soon, allowing it to grow more neighborhood serving retail and start to fill-in underutilized buildings and spaces. Other urban improvements include more walkable schools, better bike infrastructure, and public transit access. Irwin could also use some immigration not only to help stabilize its population but to add diversity to a place where Whites make 95% of the population.
* Pretty good density. * Nicely connected street grid, convenient for pedestrians. * Stable housing market with most product selling in the 100Ks. Some lower end product btwn 50-100K. Some higher end product selling in the 200Ks. * Consistant sidewalks in Irwin. Current ADA ramps typical in the downtown area but rare in the residential streets. * Irwin Park is a very nice one with lots of amenities. But its the only park in Dwtn Irwin. * Some nice cultural amenities including a nice array of restaurants, bars & cafes, a community theater, a couple historic sites, and an art center. * Good array of neighborhood amenities as well including a post office, lots of boutiques and locally owned stores, antique stores, a toy store, many churches, and other neighborhood retail. * Very nice urban form in the Dwtn Irwin. Some surface parking lots but generally off the main street. Streetscaping is also pretty good.
* Pretty poor public transit access, although downtown Pittsburgh is only a 30-35 min drive. * No bike infrastructure. * Rentals are very limited. * No walkable supermarkets or larger retailers. * Only the Catholic grade school and music school are located within Dwtn Irwin. All other schools are located on the outskirts of Irwin and not walkable. * Modern in-fill is very limited.
Jeannette was first incorporated as a borough in 1889 and quickly grew to 3,000 residents by 1890. Jeannette earned the nickname “the glass city” as it became a major glass producing center for the US. Some estimates indicate the borough produced 70-85% of the world’s glass at one point. Jeannette was also Westmoreland County’s first truly industrial town and rapidly grew to 8,000 residents by 1910. At times, there were as many as 7 significant factories operating in the borough. Jeanette reached its height at 16,000 residents in 1950 but the post WWII decades were not kind to the City as only 9,000 residents now reside in the borough.
What remains of Jeanne is an impressive historic main street, but with many vacancies and vacant lots. Still some shops remain, but nothing like its heyday. Residential areas immediately surrounding downtown and in the industrial flats have been hardest hit with the hillside neighborhoods mostly in tact. Sadly Jeannette is likely to continue its slow decline without drastic changes like an influx of immigration, or major reinvestment effort into its downtown and neighborhoods. Towns like this make me wish the US has an immigration policy incentivizing resettlement of rust belt cities. That seems to be its only hope of coming back.
* Decent economic diversity but also high poverty here (22%). * While there is lots of blight and vacancy here, very low crime rate. * High pct of family households (58%) * While dwtn Jeannette is certainly very blighted there is still a decent amount of walkable retail remaining including a drug store, library, post office, a couple banks, a dollar general, florist. a liquor store, jeweler and several other general retail options. Some retail on mixed-use streets throughout Jeannette. * Some nice historic buildings Dwtn. Nothing extraordinary about the housing stock generally. * The massing of the main street is actually pretty good even though there is significant blight Dwtn. Outside of dwtn commercial is generally mixed-use with decent urban form.
* Limited current ADA curb ramps and plenty of areas missing sidewalks and curb cuts. * Very low density for an urban area. * Poor public transit and therefore multi-model access to Dwtn. * No bike infrastructure in Jeannette. * Housing is very inexpensive. Large amount of product below 100K and much of it below 50K. The most stable product is generally further from Dwtn and selling in the low to mid 100Ks. * Rentals are pretty limited and very inexpensive. * Parks a limited to a couple playgrounds and ball fields. * Cultural amenities limited to a handful of restaurants (many of them Italian) and bars along with the Italian cultural center. * Several decent walkable schools including a public elementary, middle, and high school and Catholic Grade school. * No recent investment in streetscaping. Looks very tired.
In the early 19th century, Greensburg had very little growth in population. After 1850, Greensburg became a growing county seat with inns and small businesses. By 1870 it had 1,600 residents. The railroad and discovery of large areas coal reserves nearby added commerce and residents during the turn of the 20th century. Its population reached 6,500 in 1900 and doubled a decade later. Like most western PA towns Greensburg entered into decline after WWII but much less severe than other comparable cities due to its location as County seat and annexing a significant amount of its suburban growth. By the mid-1990s, city officials shifted revitalization plans to the cultural aspects of Downtown leading to projects like the Palace Theater and historic Train Station, as well the new Seton Hill performing arts. New businesses are filling many historic storefronts in Downtown Greensburg (especially along Main and Pennsylvania Avenues).
There area certainly plenty of areas Greensburg can improve from an urban perspective. First of all it has a very low population density making vibrancy and walkability more challenging. Its commercial district become mostly auto centric outside 1/2 mile of Dwtn, even if the surrounding neighborhoods were built before WWII. ADA and Bike infrastructure is certainly wanting and racial diversity is limited. Similar to Latrobe, an increase in immigration would provide many urban benefits to Greensburg.
* Good economic, and generational diversity. * Generally a pretty same community although certainly a fair amount of blight, but not widespread vacancy in Greensburg. * Nice amount of rental product that is generally affordable. * Some excellent historic architecture, especially Downtown and in the more affluent north and east side neighborhoods. * Solid tree cover. * Several nice parks including St. Clair Park, the County Courthouse Plaza, Coulter Playground, Grove St. Park, and expensive grounds at Seton Hill, and Lynch Park (located just outside the city but close to Dwtn). * Some nice cultural amenities here including: the Palace Theater, Greenfield Civic Theater, A Performing Arts Center, an Art Museum, decent amount of restaurants, bars, and cafes, several art galleries, and cultural offerings of Seton Hill. * Decent neighborhood amenities including several supermarkets & Pharmacies, a Dwtn library and post office, Ollies bargain store, a hardware store, and plenty of boutiques, local clothing stores, antiques, banks, & jewelers in the Dwtn area. A full service hospital is located on the Westside of town. * Good array of walkable schools including a Catholic elementary and high school along with a several public grade schools and a middle school. The Public high School is on the outskirts of town.
* Decent ADA and sidewalk infrastructure. Some areas with missing or crummy sidewalks and modern ADA curb cuts is about 50% of all intersections. * Decent public transit access in Dwtn and surrounding streets, but this drops off pretty quickly as one moves away from Dwtn. * Nice recreational trail on the eastern side of Dwtn connecting to Youngwood. Other than this, bike infrastructure is limited. * For sale housing is plentiful but generally pretty affordable. Also generally just SF options. Housing prices range from 50K-250K with more stable housing in the north and east sides of town. * Solid walkability and urban form in the Dwtn area and on commercial streets extending about 1/2 out. Beyond this, the biz district become very autocentric and run down.