Archive for the ‘Pittsburgh Growth’ Category

Gee, Twenty

So, we’re inching closer to a big event here in Pittsburgh that you might have heard about, if you haven’t been walking around with your head tightly wrapped in layers of black soundproof acoustic foam. Yes, the G20 is coming up next month, and in addition to threatening to turn my twelve minute commute into a four hour one, it’s polarizing ‘Burgh-watchers everywhere.

For example, this Wall Street Journal blogger answers his own question, “Why Pittsburgh?,” by likening the summit’s host city to L’Aquila, the Italian city that hosted the G8 earlier this summer. The town of less than 100,000 inhabitants was chosen for the G8 as a show of sympathy and solidarity after it was devastated by an earthquake in April – the idea being, apparently, that the summit would bring in jobs and publicity that would help L’Aquila recover. Well, uh, thanks for that… but I can’t help but point out that some job loss in a cool overall economy is not exactly comparable to a natural disaster than killed over 300 people.

On the other hand, the columnist for the Huffington Post (never shy about kicking folks when they’re down) picked up the refrain of decline and renewal that Pittsburghers have been singing for decades.

From inside the city, the Eds and Meds at CMU, Pitt, and UPMC are excited to show the G20’ers what we’re made of in the 21st century, inviting summit attendees to tour their facilities in Oakland and see the labs and classrooms that have replaced coke ovens as the workplaces of many locals. And the Pittsburgh G-20 Resistance Project objects to everything the G20 stands for and is not afraid to say so in the most incomprehensible and opaque way possible (their goals are to “lay the groundwork, provide an information clearing house, create & distribute publicity and educational materials, build momentum for the mobilization, engage in local, regional and national outreach, and develop an action framework.” Oookaay.)

And if that’s not weird and conflicted enough for you, there’s this, from a blog so thoroughly creepy I’m not crediting it:

g20etchingSo, I don’t really know what to say about the G20. I’m willing to imagine that it could do some good things for Pittsburgh if global bigwigs think we’re as great as I do, but I kind of think it’s bringing a lot of the wrong kind of attention our way.

Plus, my commute.


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I have come to realize, now that I am back in the ‘Burgh, what a very positive experience it is to live elsewhere for awhile. Like Rumspringa for Western Pennsylvanians, a stint in the Diaspora gives one the chance to choose, one way or the other, and that is a very powerful transforming opportunity.

For me, anyway, I feel as though I’m seeing everything familiar with new eyes, because I’ve chosen it. I know what color the grass is on the other side of the fence (green), and I decided to come back to this side.

I decided.

There actually is a lot of power in that. Power to make Pittsburgh a better place for the people who haven’t chosen it yet. When you put yourself behind something because you chose it, not just because it’s what you’ve always known, you’re invested in it in new ways. When you choose, you’re making a stand. And you want the things you stand for to be strong and succeed.

Sometimes it can be a tough choice. Living away is different. Living away in the West is very different. And living away in one of America’s darlings of growth and youthfulness (Austin, Charlotte, Portland…) is very, very different. Just like you sort of suspect, if you’ve never lived outside the area, that it would be. And no matter what I say, or what these guys say, or these guys, or this guy, there’s no way to know if you will find it different/good or different/bad.

Not without seeing it for yourself.

So. I think you should go see it. I do.

I’m telling you, maybe you should go away for awhile. In the hopes that by leaving, you will become one of the (hopefully) legions of diasporans who are choosing to return. Bringing with them the lessons of elsewhere, and the fire to keep making Pittsburgh worthy of the choice we made.

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Got an email from Mrs. PF today, still in exile in Oz-tin:

A friend’s facebook post that I thought you might appreciate more than most:

“Pittsburgh, do you seriously need to dominate in everything? Maybe other cities would like to win every sporting championship or host the G8 [sic] summit or be a center of biotechnology, health care, banking, and education or be largely unaffected by the recession or have such an awesome real estate market that your pizza guy has more square footage than the national archives…y’all just getting greedy”

This friend does not, apparently, live in Cleveland. I asked. He lives in Italy.

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One thing that Pittsburgh and Austin are about to have in common: brand-new, state-of-the-art, beautiful hospitals for children. Dell Children’s Medical Center opened in Austin in 2007 and is a truly great place. Austin should be proud to have it.

Now the new Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh is opening on Saturday – a spectacular, sprawling, one-of-a-kind facility that now sits in place of the old St. Francis Hospital in Lawrenceville, profiled in the Post-Gazette this week.

“We can’t change what has happened to the children before they come here,” said Dr. Andrew Urbach, medical director of clinical excellence and service, “but what we can do is make the healing environment such that they get distracted, entertained and they have a little respite from what they have to face, making it easier to face whatever challenge it is that they have.”

And a better environment for healing is just what CHP needed.

Anyone who had the occasion to visit the old Children’s Hospital – venerable home of Jonas Salk and Mr. Yuk – knows that the operative word there is “old,” not “children.” Kids who are suffering in Western Pennsylvania needed a place to heal, and still be kids. And it looks like that’s what they’re getting.

It’s light and bright and playful. It’s quiet. It’s designed for what matters to kids.

It’s good.

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1. No, no, no, no, and no. That is all.

2. Spring training is underway, and if you care, follow the analyses here, here, or here. This is the bestest time of year. Almost time for baseball joy, but no actual sucking yet.

You guys, I love baseball. I don’t know if I’ve emphasized that enough. I would anticipate a lot of never shutting up about it very soon.

3. Uh, sorry neighbors. Cleveland is number 4 on Forbes’ 10 most miserable cities in 2009. That’s higher than Flint, MI. Michael Moore made a whole movie about how miserable Flint is.

4. So, Mr. TR and I are looking for a new house (anyone wanna buy a little Cape Cod?), and one of the big pluses noted by a real estate agent about a house we were considering was its proximity to a new retail development. I was mildly annoyed by it (see the rant I just wrote about mixed-use neo-urban development), until I realized two things: a) this is an actual old urban building, the Nabisco plant; and b) we’d be so close to a gym, I might actually go.


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I love the Warhol. I love the pop-art craziness. I love the collections of stuff. I love the room full of circulating mylar shapes. I love that it’s a Carnegie museum, so if you’re a member, you get free admission to pop-art craziness and circulating mylar along with your dead dinosaurs.

But now there’s a new reason to love the Warhol (officially The Andy Warhol Museum) for the ‘Burgh Diaspora. The new position of Milton Fine Curator of Art at the Warhol has been filled by a worldly, well-educated, young boomerang Western Pennsylvanian – Eric Shiner of New Castle. Via Pitt, via Osaka University, via Yale, via NYC. Mr. Shiner has been out to the wide world, and now he’s back. Enthusiastically.

Shiner’s commitment to community has already been put into practice. He’s only been here since October but has two exhibitions opening Feb. 7, one of work by Bridget Berlin, which will bring Warhol’s confidant here for a performance and time capsule opening. The other, titled “The End” (inspired by the “tanking economy”), will include among its 32 global artists Pittsburghers Susanne Slavick and Diane Samuels.

“There’s a huge pool of talent here. And it’s exciting that young university graduates are trying to stay here,” says Shiner, who resides in Lawrenceville.

Perhaps even more important than Mr. Shiner’s direct contribution to keeping young talent in the region by involving local artists in the Warhol is his influence. Folks sometimes need a little role modeling to see how glad they’d be to live and work in Pittsburgh, and it’s hard to ignore a young star who can write his own ticket – and came home.

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I like change. I think it’s good, and I seek it often. But I find myself upset by changes that happen back home when I’m not there. It’s one thing to experience the changes, to roll with them, to be able to say goodbye when necessary. It’s quite another to read about change on the internet, and to come back and find things different.

Things I’m not ready for just yet:

  • Replacement of signage on the Parkway West designating the whole length I-376, scheduled to begin in January. But I like seeing signs telling me I’m traveling south on I-279, when I’m clearly driving northwest. It’s fun explaining that to tourists.
  • The abandonment of the historic Penn Brewery on the Nor’side. Yes I know the beer will still be available. No it won’t be the same.
  • The new and improved Boulevard of the Allies. I’ll be working in Oakland, like I always have – the drive into the heart of it is as automatic to me as filing my nails. The new route is likely to result in near-death experiences every day for the first two months I’m home.
  • Tiffany’s at Ross Park Mall. Why? Why was this necessary? Had the Tiffany’s people never actually been to Ross Park before they planned this? Nordstrom I’m okay with – they sell my bra size. TMI, sorry.
  • Drink tax. Enough said.
  • Pittsburgh’s premier concert venue moving to Sandcastle. Seriously? Sandcastle? Chevy Amphitheatre (née IC Light Amphitheatre) wasn’t the most awesome venue on earth or anything, but I saw the Pixies there. Come on. Don’t move it out of town. The suckiness of this move is, of course, compounded by the fact that they haven’t even reopened yet.

Post script:  Consol Energy Center, eh? Okay, sure, why not.

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