The definition of insanity, part three
You can learn everything you need to know about what is wrong with Pittsburgh by reading this story in today's Trib:
With 31 properties Downtown worth more than $27 million, Pittsburgh's Urban Redevelopment Authority has a big stake in the area's rebirth.
But the URA also is a major reason why the hard labor leading to that rebirth continues, retailers and real estate brokers say. They complain that the agency turns away developers who might bring new life to the Downtown.
"The city's got to allow the private sector to develop Downtown," said Eitan Solomon, who owns Prime Gear, a sports apparel shop on Wood Street. "We don't live in Russia. I don't think so."
Several of the URA's high-profile buildings along Forbes Avenue -- all bought with taxpayer money for city government-directed redevelopment plans that failed -- sit empty. Cheerful posters behind dust-caked and graffiti-scrawled windows show a rising sun and the URA's name while proclaiming: "Preparing Downtown for a Brighter Tomorrow!"
Mayor Tom Murphy readily acknowledges the city has turned down "a number of developers" who want individual URA properties. The city would rather hold onto them, he said, hoping to turn them into a sweeping retail and housing redevelopment.
"We believe -- and every person we have talked to, every developer, has been clear -- that the value is in doing it holistically, comprehensively, not in a piecemeal way," Murphy said. "If we begin to sell the buildings off, then we move away from doing what I think would be attractive development."
Truly vibrant, healthy city neighborhoods do not develop "holistically." They cannot be planned. They are diverse. Often, they grow in fits and starts. Sometimes they are messy. They often are noisy and chaotic. Ever spend a Saturday morning in the Strip District? You'll almost convince yourself you live in a city.
My friends, how many times must I say it? Many of the people who run Pittsburgh, who have controlled it through decades of decline, do not like cities. They pretend to like them, they say they like them, but in reality, they hate cities. They hate everything that makes a city special, everything that separates cities from the unyielding monotony of the suburbs. And until the people who live in this city throw off their shackles, Pittsburgh will continue to shrivel and shrink until it is less than an empty shell.
"Preparing Downtown for a Brighter Tomorrow"? What's that saying, that today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday? Well, tomorrow is here. And it is every bit as bad as we feared.