Question: Is Pittsburgh undergoing a renaissance?Answer: Only if you focus on bright, shiny buildings in the Downtown neighborhood and in a couple of neighborhoods nearby.
Mike has a lot to say on the matter and this is only part I. A wandering eye to the top of Mt. Washington, for example, might wonder what all the fuss is about. The celebrated Pittsburgh is, indeed, geographically concentrated.
Actually, I think that is worth celebrating. I'm not alone:
Unlike other notorious Rust Belt cities, Pittsburgh is most certainly not a dump. While it might suffer statistically in a variety of economic categories, it has arguably the healthiest downtown and most active midtown area (Oakland, home to Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh ) in flyover country excepting Chicago.
That Pittsburgh isn't a "dump" is faint praise. But a vibrant downtown is a big deal. The Chicago renaissance followed this pattern. This is the urban economic geography of globalization. We don't get to sweep Uptown under the rug and exclaim missioned accomplished. However, I would argue that the term "revitalization" does apply to the entire region, even if most of the area appears to be to the contrary.
I think Pittsburgh's renaissance claim is legit. We needn't qualify it. But that doesn't absolve the leadership of past mistakes. Furthermore, I would be very suspicious of anyone claiming credit for the turnaround. And where does Pittsburgh go from here? The pension disaster could derail everything. Status quo approaches from those fat on recent successes will do more harm than good.
Pittsburgh may do well in spite of itself, but I wouldn't bank on it.