Latrobe, PA- Childhood home of Mr. Rogers and Historic producer of Rolling Rock Beer.

Latrobe was founded in 1854 and quickly became a significant industrial hub due to its location along the Pennsylvania Railroad. Along with being the childhood of Mr. Rogers, Latrobe is famous for housing one of the largest breweries in the United States and the maker of Rolling Rock beer. Latrobe hit its population maximum in 1960 at 12K but is now down to just under 8K. This is actually a pretty manageable amount of decline for an old Pittsburgh steel town. Many are much worse off.

Latrobe has several nice blocks of in tact historic main street fabric along both Main St and Ligonier Ave. Certainly plenty of historic commercial buildings outside of this core area, but not great main street cohesion. Occupancy is spotty with some nice store fronts but plenty of vacancies or occupied 1st floor and vacant floors above.  Latrobe’s most stable housing market is east of Lincoln Ave where most homes sell well into the 100ks. The rest of Latrobe is mostly working housing selling between 50K and the low 100Ks.

To become a quality urban area again Latrobe should start with a Main St. revitalization focus reoccupying its storefronts and upper floors. This would certainly foster vibrancy and interest in the city. Other improvements include more walkable schools, better bike infrastructure, consistant ADA infrastructure, more rental options, and a hub for immigrants. Latrobe needs to more population and lacks diversity. With cheap housing, it is well poised to attract immigrants.
Click here to view my Latrobe album on Flickr


* While there is certainly some blight in Latrobe crime is low.
* Very healthy medium income and a low poverty rate. High percentage of family households as well (nearly 60%).
* Solid park recreations well distributed throughout the borough.
* Decent walkable retail/neighborhood amenities including a Shop’n’Save, drug store, a library, post office, bakery, a dollar general, several boutiques, toystore, and a hospital.
* Some very nice historic architecture along Main St. and larger early 20th century historic homes on the east side of town.
* Decent urban form along Main St. for a couple blocks but it quickly breaks down to a semi-autocentric form. Ligonier also has a couple good blocks but then transitions into a gritty mixed-use street.


* Pretty poor density for an urban area.
* Generally consistent sidewalks and curb cuts but few ADA standard infrastructure.
* Limited bike infrastructure but a very nice recreational trail along the Lincoln and short path along the river.
* This a very white community (~96%) with limited racial diversity.
* Homes are very affordable but a stable market. Most homes sell between 50-200K. Some large mansions selling between 200K-300K.
* Rentals are very affordable but also limited.
* Cultural amenities limited to a handful of restaurants, bars, cafes, the Latrobe historic society, the Latrobe Art Center, and a couple other small art galleries.
* Walkable schools are limited to a public elementary, Catholic school and community college. The middle and high school are located out on the edges of Latrobe.

Mt. Oliver, PA Pittsburgh’s most Urban Suburb

The borough is surrounded entirely by the city of Pittsburgh, having resisted annexations by the City. I equate the urban form and level of blight and disinvestment with Mt. Oliver to be very similar to its neighbor, Knoxville, part of the City of Pittsburgh. This is a streetcar suburb that developed in the turn of the century maxing out at 7,000 people in 1930. Currently just over 3,000 residents remain in Mt. Oliver, but the Borough still retains pretty good density and quality urban form along Brownsville Road.

But similar to Knoxville, Mt. Oliver is plagued with disinvestment and shuttered stormfronts. They both share the same main street along Brownsville Rd. Residential streets, while at similar price points to Knoxville, are more in tact and stable than Knoxville overall. Mt. Oliver has great potential to become a viable walkable urban neighborhood with concerted reinvestment and attention. Other areas that could improve its livability include bike infrastructure, better park amenities, and new restaurants, retail, and creative storefronts along Brownsville road. A supermarket would be a huge benefit, but that may be down the road. There is at least a Shop’ n Save near the borough’s southern border. 
Click here to view the entire Mt. Oliver album on my Flickr Page


* Consistent sidewalks throughout but current ADA infrastructure is absent from most residentials streets. Common along the commercial corridor, Brownsville Rd.
* Good tree canopy due to the terrain but limited street trees along the Brownsville Corridor.
* Convenient access to Dwtn via both driving and public transit.
* Good connectivity in the street grid.
* Great ethnically diversity in Mt. Oliver.
* While blighted, Brownsville is a pretty in tact urban businesses district with attractive architecture. Some attention was made the its streetscape several decades ago.
* Good density, especially for a Pittsburgh community that has seen significant disinvestment


* No bike infrastructure.
* Very high poverty here (around 35%) but a decent middle class population.
*  For Sale Market is still pretty depressed with most homes selling below 50K. Stable well maintained stocks transacting btwn 50K-160K. Decent rental product with a mix of cheap and middle market prices..
* Cultural amenities are pretty limited to a handful of restaurants &  bars. Most residents are still within walking distance to Warrington in Allentown which has many amenities.
* Retail amenities are a bit better including a public library, hardware store, post office, banks, a family dollar, drug store, and hair salons.
* Still safety issues in Mt. Oliver and a fair about of blight along Brownsville and residential pockets.
* An elementary school is within the Mt. Oliver boundaries. Middle and Highschool are not walkable.
* Urban in-fill is pretty limited.
* Park amenities include the medium sized Transverse Park and a cemetery. 

Bridgewater, PA Historic town at the Confluence of the Beaver and Ohio Rivers

This small borough is one of the oldest communities in Beaver County. By 1870 it had a population of just over 1,000. That population grew slowly until 1930 where it maxed out at 1,800. Now about 800 residents remain in the Borough. Yet due to its historic development, Bridgewater has some nice urban attributes including a small but vibrant urban biz district along Bridge St., some nice historic homes laid out on a street grid, and some quality recreational amenities. To improve it urbanity Bridgewater needs to fill in the gaps of its historic main street with some quality mixed-use infill and additional residential to increase its low density. Bridgewater Commons on the Borough’s southern tip where the Beaver and Ohio Rivers meet includes several multi-family buildings set within a quality new park. More projects like this would go a long way to making Bridgewater a quality urban town.

Click here to view my Bridgewater album on Flickr


* This is a solid middle class community with only a 7% poverty rate and medium income slightly above the state average.
* Median age is pretty high but 50% of households are family households.
* Some blight throughout Bridgewater but pretty low crime rates in the past 5 years.
* Stable for sale market with most housing selling in the 100K. Some product above 200 and below 100K.
* Park amenities included Bridgewater Riverside Park complete with a waterfront trail and amphitheater and the new acre Bridgewater Crossing.
* Nice historic building including lots of architecture from the mid to late 1800s.
* Quality urban form on the northside of Bridge St but mostly parking lots on the southside. 


* While a lot of intersections have current ADA infrastructure, especially in the commercial district on Bridge St. sidewalks in the residential streets are hit or miss.
* Bridgewater has a country feel to it with its lack of infrastructure and low density.
* Bike infrastructure is limited to a  small disconnected all purpose path along the Beaver River.
* Racial diversity pretty limited. Over 92% White.
* Rental stock is pretty limited here, although the new Bridgewater Commons apartment complex should help with this.
* Cultural amenities include several nice restaurants and bars along Bridge St. Not much else although the quality cultural amenities of Beaver are nearby.
* In additional to restaurants and bars some nice stores along Bridge St including several boutiques and some neighborhood retail. No post office or library in the borough.
* No schools within the Bridgewater Borough limits but a catholic elementary just west of town in Beaver. Also several decent public schools within a 5-10 minute drive.

Connellsville, PA Historic Coke Capital of the World

Most of the City was included in my evaluation except the western and southern extremes south of Green St and west of 9th Street. Connellsville was officially founded as a township in 1793. By 1870 the town had more than 1,000 residents. Population got a boast in 1909, when balloting in New Haven and Connellsville merged the  two adjacent boroughs. New Haven was to the west of the Youghiogheny River and Connellsville to the east. Due to the city’s location in the center of the Connellsville Coalfield, coal mining, coke production became the City’s major sources of employment. Connellsville became known at the “Coke Capital of the World” due to the amount and quality of coke produced in its many beehive ovens. Connellsville also has the distinction of 5 railroads running through it. Many of these historic train stations remain. But like most Western Pennsylvania towns Connellsville has less than half of its historic population, which peaked in 1920 with just under 14,000 souls.

From an urban perspective Connellsville is well built but the scars of deindustrialization and poverty are highly visible. Historic main streets cover a large area along E Crawford Ave (historic Connellsville dwtn), W Crawford Ave (historic New Haven dwtn), Pittsburgh and Apple Streets. Lots of great buildings but only some of them have been stabilized. The Connellsville Redevelopment Authority has done some work to stabilize buildings and bring in new businesses. But there is certainly much more investment needed to make this a viable urban area once again. 
Click here to view my full Connellsville album on Flickr


* Sidewalks are pretty consistent throughout the City. Also ADA curbs are pretty prevalent as well especially in commercial areas.
* Dedicated bike trail passes through the westside of town, part of the larger Great Allegheny Passage.
* Over 50% of households are family households and decent generational diversity in Connellsville.
* Several ballfield sprinkled through but other nice recreational spaces including the bike trail along the Youghiogheny River, the multi-faceted East Park complete with a lake, and a couple other smaller parks.
* Excellent but underinvested historic architecture especially in the historic dwtn. Residential architecture is hit or miss.
* Generally pretty good urban form even with missing teeth and vacant buildings. Several commercial streets spanning both sides of the river.
* Good array of retail throughout Connellsville several main street areas, but never great concentration in one area. Amenities include several drug stores, a public library and post office, a hardware store, nice array of antique stores, and some boutiques, banks, Highlands Hospital, and a full-service supermarket but in a strip mall plaza. 


* Poverty is pretty high topping 20%. This helps drive down medium income to just over 30K. Racial diversity is also limited as over 90% of the population is White.
* Limited rental housing. For sale housing is a bit better. Half of available housing goes for less than 50K. Still plenty of stable options selling from 75K-200K. Limited product in the 200Ks.
* Cultural amenities consist of several restaurants & bars (mostly Americana and Italian), the art community center (Appalachian Creativity Center), a community theater, and a couple local museums.
* Lots of blight and abandonment here and crime is higher than the Nat. average.
* Decent access to walkable schools with both the Catholic grade school and high school with the City limits. Connellsville public middle & high school are also located within town but located in the extra Northeastern corner in an auto centric part of town. 

Zelienople a charming Western PA town with lots of history

I only evaluated the urban portion of Zelienople I include areas north of McKim/Beaver and excluded the industrial portions of the city along the Connoquenessing Creek.

This quaint historic town was named after its founder’s (Baron Dettmar Basse) eldest daughter. He arrived to modern day Zelienople in 1802.  The village remained small with only 387 people in 1870 but development picked up a bit with the construction of a commuter line in 1879. The town never really saw a great period of decline. In fact, in the 1970s & 1980s it grew due to the construction of the Passavant retirement community. Just over 3,600 souls now reside here. With the construction of 1-79 Zelienople has become more of a bedroom community for upper middle class families enjoying the town’s walkable charm and high quality public education. Main street runs along Perry’s Highway filled with lots of local specially stores, the Strand historic Theater and much more. The town’s housing stock also includes many attractive historic homes.

Areas that Zelienople could improve from an urban perspective include: the addition of dedicated bike lanes, better racial diversity, a walkable supermarket, and more modern in-fill to built upon the few surface parking lots. 
Click here to view my Zelienople album on my Flickr page


* Solid street grid and connectivity.
* Poverty is low here with a good mix of middle-upper middle class residents.
* 50% of households are family ones but a pretty high medium age due to a large retirement community here.
* Stable housing market with a nice mix of for-sale homes between 100K-350K. A handful of high end homes above 350K.
* Most streets have sidewalks and about half have ADA current ramps. Very good streetscape along Perry Highway.
* Zelienople Community Park holds some excellent recreational amenities (pool, playground, sport facilities, open greenspace, and trails). There is also cemetery and underutilized town square here.
* Cultural amenities include a great array of restaurants, bars, cafes, & brewpubs along with the Strand theater, Zelienople Historic Museum and an art gallery.
* Retail amenities include a good array of boutiques and creative stores, a hardware and drug store, library, post office, banks, and other general retail stores.
* Limited blight and low crime rate here.
* Walkable schools include a Catholic and public grade school. Public school system is highly rated. Middle and Highschool located outside the Borough’s limits.
* Nice historic architecture.
* Good tree canopy throughout although they could add more street trees to their main street. 


* While it’s a 30-35 minute drive to Downtown Pittsburgh Zelienople’s only public transit is a couple commuter buses a day to Downtown.
* No bike infrastructure.
* Very Poor racial diversity. Whites make up 97% of the population.
* Rental housing options are limited.
* No Supermarket or hospital within the Zelienople boundaries.
* Limited modern in-fill but some good stuff in the historic main street. 

Wilmerding, PA historic home of Westinghouse Air Brakes

This evaluation only includes the portion of Wilmerding south of Turtle Creek. That is the most cohesive portion of this small borough. George Westinghouse purchased current day Wilmerding in 1888 as the future site for his Westinghouse Air Brake Company and related facilities. The town quickly began to develop in the 1890s. Wilmerding’s most notable historic structure is the Westinghouse Air Brake Company General Office Building designed by local Pittsburgh architect Frederick J. Osterling.

Wilmerding feels very much like a villagy company town with two hubs. The Air Brake warehouse and factories along Turtle Creek and Wilmerding Town Square where the borough’s modest business district abuts. The town peaked with over 6,000 residents in 1920 and now barely boasts over 2,000. The fortunes of the town really seemed to decline by 1960. The Westinghouse Air Brake Company has gone through several owners through the decades but appears to still be producing train air brakes. To really find new life, Wilmerding needs to rebrand itself and find smaller manufacturing’s and businesses to move to the Borough. With investment in its main street and new retail this could be an attractive little town. Hopefully the conversion of the Westinghouse Historic Offices into a boutique hotel will breath new life and interest into Wilmerding. 
Click here to view my Wilmerding album on Flickr


* Sidewalks are consistent throughout Wilmerding but current ADA curb ramps are rare.
* Wilmerding is only a 25 minute drive to dwtn but public transit options are fair.
* Younger than average population and near 50% are family households. Decent racial diversity.
* Westinghouse built some spectacular historic buildings here including the High School, Westinghouse Airbrake Building, and the Westinghouse historic offices. Residential architecture is pretty good as well.
* While the town has a fair amount of grit, especially in the commercial areas, it feels pretty safe.
* Solid tree canopy thanks to the hillsides that surround the borough’s border and consistent street trees. 


* No bike infrastructure.
* Poverty is around 25% driving down the town’s medium income to around 38K.
* Rentals are limited and inexpensive. Limited for sale diversity too with most homes selling below 50K. A few sales in the 100Ks.
* Walkable schools are limited but there is the Westinghouse Arts Academy for high schoolers.  This is at the site of the historic Wilmerding Memorial High School.
* Wilmerding Park is the only greenspace in the borough.
* Cultural amenities limited to only a handful of restaurants and bars. Hopefully the Westinghouse Air Brake Office Bldg.’s conversion into a boutique hotel will lead to some additional cultural amenities for the community.
* Some walkable neighborhood retail including a post office, dollar general, a portrait studio.
* There isn’t really a consistent main street, instead several blocks of main street like mixed-use buildings between Station St. and Wilmerding Park. These areas feel tired with little recent investment and TLC. Parts of it even have surface parking. 

West View, PA- once home to the Historic West View Amusement Park

This inner ring suburb, is located just north of the City of Pittsburgh. Interestingly, Westview is surrounded by Ross Township and the portion of the Township between West View and Pittsburgh is much newer. The borough likely developed along a streetcar line creating a historic leapfrog development pattern.

West View is similar to other Pittsburgh streetcar suburbs like Dormont, Mt. Lebanon, and Bellevue and has remained a stable and attractive community. The Borough’s population peaked in 1970 with 8,312 residents and now has around 6,500. Young families are attracted to West View due to its strong schools, convenient access to Downtown, and semi-walkability. Perry Hwy contains several in-tact urban commercial blocks, but many other parts of the Borough are pretty auto centric including the West Park Shopping Plaza built in the early 1980s to replace the historic West View Park Amusement Park. Other areas West View can improve include the addition of at least one street with dedicated bike lanes, better cultural amenities and parks, and more shops and occupancy along Perry Highway.  
Click here to view the full Westview album on my Flickr Page


* Convenient access to dwtn and Oakland via the court. Ok transit access.
* Great generational and economic diversity here.
* Great array of for-sale housing options. Most housing is selling in the 100ks. Good amount. Decent amount of rentals as well medium priced.
* Attractive historic housing. Commercial district architecture is not that interesting.
* Some spots of quality urban business form and streetscaping along Perry and Center Ave.
* Good retail amenities including a supermarket, two drug store, post office, library, and a nice mix of specialty stores and general retail. But a mixed bag of whether stores are located on a walkable main street or strip mall.
* While some blight remains in Westview especially in the commercial corridors, this town has a very low crime rate.
* High quality elementary school located within the borough and is very walkable. Middle and High Schools are just outside of the borough’s border’s but unfortunately accessible on by car.
* High quality tree canopy aided by the hills and valleys of the borough. But a decent amount of street trees as well. 


* Sidewalks and ADA infrastructure is pretty good in the main street but hit or miss in the residential areas.
* No bike infrastructure in Westview.
* Very white community near 95%. Limited racial diversity.
* Decent but not great park amenities throughout Westview.
* Cultural amenities are limited to several restaurants and bars. Not much else here.
* In-fill architecture is mostly crummy strip mall buildings. 

Sharpsburg, PA historic home of Heinz Glassware

Since its incorporation in 1841 Sharpsburg became an industrial town, manufacturing iron, brick and glass with goods transported through the canal that bisected the borough, along with the Allegheny River. One of the borough’s well-known industries was the H. J. Heinz Company. The Heinz glass works in Sharpsburg once manufactured all glassware for Heinz products. Sharpsburg population maxed out at 9,000 in 1920 and but is now down to just over 1/3 of that at 3,300. Incredibly, the borough still boasts a solid urban density. Imagine how bustling it was in the 1920s!

The quality of home construction in Sharpsburg is not the greatest with lots of cheap wooden rowhouses with ugly aluminum siding put up after WWII. Yet this is outweighed in my opinion by Sharpsburg’s quality urban form with a mostly in-tact Main St. filled with a decent amount of businesses, good transit service, quality parks & recreational spaces, and convenient access to Dwtn Pittsburgh. Due to this urban form, its location within the coveted Fox Chapel School District, and proximity to Pittsburgh, Sharpsburg’s housing market is stabilizing and seeing investment with many homes now selling in the 100Ks and 200Ks.  Areas the Borough can continue to improve from an urban perspective include better bike infrastructure, improved tree canopy, and more retail. 
Click here to view my Sharpsburg album on Flickr


* Good density, especially for a Pittsburgh rivertown that has lost a fair amount of its population.
* Convenient assessed to downtown and good public transit service.
* Large percentage of family households around 50%.
* Nice array of cheap and medium priced apartment buildings.
* The for sale market is stabilizing in Sharpsburg offering a nice range of prices. Most homes sell between 75K-200 but a wide range of options between 50K-300K depending on size and condition.
* Sidewalks are consistent throughout but up to date ADA curb ramps is hit or miss here.
* Several decent small to medium sized parks throughout (Kennedy Park, Marion Gerardi, Heinz Memorial Field & James Sharp Landing, and a recreation center. The expansive Meadow Park is located just across the line in O’Hara Township.
* Nice array neighborhood retail including several drug stores, a post office & library, banks, a bakery, floral shop, and a fair amount of specialty stores.
* Crime is pretty low here.


* Pretty high poverty rate (around 25%). This helps drive the median income to around 35K.
* Tree cover is not the best.
* No bike infrastructure
* Cultural amenities are a bit limited. They include a decent set of restaurants, a bars, two breweries, a cafes. There are also a handful of art galleries.
* This is a gritty town and therefore lots of blight. It certainly has a strong Pittsburgh aesthetic.
* Sadly there are not schools within the Sharpsburg limits but it is in the desirable Fox Chapel district. But one must drive or get a bus.

Rochester, PA a Ohio River Town with a great History of Glass Innovation

Like many places around Pittsburgh, Rochester was a former industrial hub especially with glass production. In 1897 the National Glass Company helped revolutionize glass production by inventing a glass mold as opposed to the traditional technique of cutting glass by hand. At its height, the company employed over a 1,000 people but its bankruptcy during the Great Depression began Rochester’s long decline. In 1930 Rochester held 7,700 residents but now has around 3,400.

While the town still retains decent walkability and retail assets, its downtown along Brighton St. is in rough shape with little investment in its buildings and streetscape. Town planners also decided to install a traffic circle around the town’s historic town square really hurting Rochester’s sense of place and desirability. This would be the first thing I’d change to improve Rochester before even embarking on a major downtown investment campaign. There is also need for bike infrastructure, better parks, and cultural amenities.
Click here to review the full album on my Flickr page


* Good street grid and connectivity.
* Solid economic and generational diversity with over 50% of households as families.
* While Rochester doesn’t have a great cohesive main street there are some good retail and neighborhood amenities including: a post office, library, supermarket, drug store, and several antiques and specialty retail.
* Rochester Middle and High School are located just east of the borough’s borders, but still pretty walkable to the community.
* As the borough is generally flat sidewalks are consistent through. ADA updated curbs are limited especially outside of the downtown area.


* The retains decent density even after losing more than half its population.
* No bike infrastructure.
* Public transit access is ok but not great routes to downtown Pittsburgh. About a 40-45 minute drive.
* The for sale market is pretty depressed with half of all housing selling below 50K. Some more stable housing selling in the 100Ks. Rental options are pretty limited and inexpensive.
* Recreational space consists mostly of several ball fields ringing the edge of town. Also a couple a decent plazas downtown but they are surrounded by high traffic street and not well integrated into the town’s urban fabric.
* Cultural amenities are pretty limited and include a handful of restaurants & bars. Also a couple local theaters. Important to keep in mind that Downtown Beaver is only a 5 minute drive.
* Crime is pretty high here and a significant amount of blight.
* Some infill but most of it is crummy autocentric stuff.
* Street trees are very limited in the downtown area and spotty in the residential areas.

Monongahela, PA the Oldest Mon Valley Community

What is now the City of Monongahela was founded in 1769 making it oldest settlement in the Monongahela River Valley . The word Monongahela is Native American meaning “falling banks”. This is also the home of famous quarterback Joe Montana. This historic town peaked with nearly 9,000 residents in 1950. Now that population has dwindled to just over 4,000 souls. Compared to the rest of the Mon valley this isn’t a terrible population loss. The Mon City is quite stable all things considered and boasts a nice Main Street and pretty strong housing market.

Areas where the Mon City could improve from an urban standpoint include the installation of bike paths, improved public transit, rental apartment options along with additional cultural amenities and retail. It would also be great to see a couple public schools relocate with the City limits as opposed to being on the outskirts of town along with some quality urban infill.

Click here to view my Monongahela, PA photo album on Flickr


* Decent ADA infrastructure and sidewalks through Mon City. Some residential streets without sidewalks and the main st is hit or miss with ADA curb ramps.
* Good economic diversity and a relatively low poverty rate compared to other Mon Valley cities. Good generational diversity and a much lower median age than other Mon Valley cities.
* For sale housing is pretty stable for the Mon Valley. Half of product selling above 75K into the low 200Ks.
* Several modest parks spread throughout Mon Valley. The impressive is the Aquatorium, a 3,000 seat amphitheater facing the Mon River.
* While there is still blight throughout Mon City, Crime is lower than the Nat. average.
* Solid urban form remains along Main St. Streetscape needs an update and trees. Good tree canopy through the Borough’s residential areas.
* Lots of interesting historic architecture including many homes from the early to mid 19th century. 


* Limited racial diversity. Mon City is more than 90% White.
* Poor public transit and access to major employment center in the Pittsburgh Metro.
* No bike infrastructure here.
* Rentals are limited but cheap.
* Cultural amenities are pretty limited and consist of several restaurants, bars, & cafes, the longwell historic house, and the Aquatorium.
* Decent neighborhood retail amenities especially along Main St: Pharmacy, a Foodland, dollar general, hardware store, a library & post office, and good array of boutiques and local stores.
* A Catholic grad school is the only school within Mon City limits. The middle and high school are out on the edge of town.