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While I was researching the history of population migration of Pittsburgh at the Heinz History Centre archives last week, I came across a very interesting article regarding blight in Pittsburgh, not realizing there may have been a history of the condition in this city. 

The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote about Pittsburgh as a a great example of how to overcome blight in a October 1956 newspaper article. Touting Richard Mellon and David L Lawrence as the leaders of Pittsburgh’s renaissance, the article highlighted the importance of business remaining in Pittsburgh as a catalyst for development.  They helped form the Allegheny Conference for Community Development in 1943, and the city had spent $2 billion on urban renewal since then until 1956 to address issues of blight and public health. The journalist attributed the success in generating revenue to the advances made in medicine, technology and culture in the city, drawing more people in to replace the great loss caused by deindustrialization.

Given all that we have been learning about currently with regard to the legacy of urban renewal and its impact on the current socio-economic landscape of Pittsburgh, it was interesting to read the perspective of an individual written at the time that urban renewal was happening.

During a recent walk along Pittsburgh’s riverfront, I found it interesting to study the city’s infrastructure from this vantage point. With predominantly manufactured hard edges and high riverbanks characterizing the interface of riverfront neighborhoods with the rivers themselves, the city relies on bridges as a means to cope or even conquer its relationship with the three rivers. Icons of connections across communities, bridges have become part of the identity of many areas, a presence that surpasses their physical nature. The idea of the bridge that is or once was will live on even after its useful life, as many are in various states of deterioration. 

Although points of connection, they also represent the sporadic nature communities in the city. Pittsburgh’s metro area score on the diversity index is quite low compared to similar cities of its size and history; pockets of homogenous populations are nestled in the topography of city with bridges, highways and major roads allowing people to move across areas without ever needing to interact with the communities they pass through. In a study conducted in 2011, Friendship came out as the second most diverse neighborhood - economically and racially. This is promising as when there were fears of it becoming more like its neighboring Garfield, an upswing allowed it to evolve more toward Shadyside’s characteristics, however, with a heterogenous demographic. Hopefully the trends of Friendship can bleed across East Liberty in the flurry of development, in order to benefit current and incoming residents.