Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pittsburgh vs. Detroit, by way of Cleveland

Just returned from Cleveland and saw a city totally mired in what Richard Florida calls "the great reset."  A city of downtown urban promise surrounded by the decay, unemployment and foreclosers of the current economic crisis.  It's interesting to wonder if Cleveland will go the way of Pittsburgh and continue to re energize, or will it go the way of Detroit.  

John Craig, a former editor of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette nails it in his recent Washington Post article.  Money quote:

Particularly challenging is the state of affairs in the urban core, where population stood at slightly more than 900,000 in 2006, down from a 1950 high of 1.6 million. There’s a critical difference here between the two cities. Even though it has only a third of Detroit’s population, Pittsburgh has more people working in it every day — 298,429 to 241,627. It also has a 1 percent county sales tax that serves as a user fee for regional entertainment and cultural institutions. Thus it’s able to offer area residents more urban amenities and job opportunities than Detroit.

For all its traumas, Pittsburgh retains an urban/suburban/rural coherence. That, coupled with striking architecture and a beautiful natural setting, goes a long way toward explaining why it consistently gets better press than it might deserve, and why, after you examine the region’s economic, demographic, environmental, health and local government measures, you refrain from blurting out, “Why, they’ve been treading water for years!” Which is, in any case, better than sinking.