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

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* 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.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* 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

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* 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.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* 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

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* 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.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* 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.

Washington, PA- Heart of the Whiskey Rebellion

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.

Click here to view my Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* 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. 

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* 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.

Emsworth, PA- a sleepy Pittsburgh historic suburb along the Ohio River

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.

Click here to view my Emsworth Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* 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 WEAKNESSES:

* 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.

Sheraden- A westside urban district with convenient access to Dwtn Pittsburgh

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. 
Click here to view my Sheraden page on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* 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.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* 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/Elliot- West Pittsburgh’s most urban neighborhoods

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.
Click here for my West End Album and here for my Elliott Album

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* 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.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* 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, PA- A well built but blighted rivertown 20 miles from Downtown Pittsburgh

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. 
Click here to view my Tarentum album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* 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).

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* 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, PA- Childhood home of Rachal Carson located only 25 mins from Downtown Pittsburgh

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.
Click here to view my Springdale Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* 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.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* 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.

Irwin, PA- Historic Town 30 miles east of Downtown Pittsburgh

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. 
Click here to view my Irwin album on Flickr

Urban Strengths:

* 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. 

Urban Weaknesses:

* 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.