Monday, April 27, 2009

Coolest Part of Cool Pittsburgh

Just in case I have a few readers who don't follow Chris Briem's blogging at Null Space, Richard Florida hearts Lawrenceville:

Florida, director of the Martin Prosperity Institute and professor of business and creativity at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, knows Lawrenceville well. Before decamping to Canada he was on the faculty of Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University. He did the research for the book that made his name, The Rise of the Creative Class there, and he thinks Lawrenceville – with its inexpensive housing stock, growing number of restaurants, bars, arts outlets and specialty shops – has what it takes to attract and keep precisely the type of people he describes in that book – the designers, engineers, technology workers and artists he sees as the drivers of contemporary economic growth.

Chasing my spouse-to-be, I lived in Pittsburgh for a few months during 1997. At that time, the Strip District was rapidly gentrifying, but Lawrenceville wasn't really on the map. The neighborhood is now a creative hotspot, artists and entrepreneurs mingling at the lively eateries now well established along Butler Street. The transformation, still in progress, is impressive.

It's not too late to move into Lawrenceville. The Allegheny River waterfront is targeted for beautification and rehabilitation. Once that is done, good luck affording a residence there. The better housing stock is already pricey, at least for Pittsburgh. A few years ago, I recall reading some city booster publication touting Lawrenceville as the next Williamsburg (hipster neighborhood in Brooklyn). That seemed like a big stretch at the time, but I've been to pre-cool Williamsburg (I was in NYC for a geography conference in 2000). The artist vanguard was already evident, but the scene was just getting started. When I think about that Williamsburg, the comparison is apropos.

Lastly, the article about Lawrenceville is in the Financial Times. Talk about putting Pittsburgh on the map, let alone Larryville. The light is most flattering. Let the influx begin.

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