Monday, November 21, 2005

250 Years of Urban Growth and Urban Decay

As an amateur historian and genealogist, I geek out about this sort of thing. Yes -- Pittsburgh (pronounced "Pitts-borough") is turning 250 years old in 2008. It's never too big to plan for a year-long birthday bash, so the powers that be have already started figuring on a total price tag of $9.9 million dollars for the celebration.

The city deserves it, really. There is a lot of history here. Lots and lots of history. And also...history. From the French and Indian War to the Salk polio vaccine, Pittsburgh has been the site of many memorable events.

But what about the present...and the future?

Former local economic development official Tim Parks wonders if the new Pittsburgh 250 campaign may look back too much.

"My concern is we are ... defining Pittsburgh by what it once was or how Pittsburgh used to be rather than what we are today and where we are going," said Mr. Parks, former president of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, a group formed in the mid-1990s to change Pittsburgh's image

Bingo! Pittsburgh has been in a steady state of decline for the last 30-40 years, if you strictly define "Pittsburgh" as a political entity within city limits. There has been growth in the area, but most of it has been outside of the city and quite often outside of Allegheny County. People who aren't from around here think of it all as "Pittsburgh", but those of us who do live here know better. You have to admire what someone like Tim Parks has been trying to do for the region, but these group efforts usually fizzle out (as the PG article tells us).

Does Pittsburgh have a decent future? We shall see. For now, let's get ready for the big 250. It's not just any excuse for a party -- it's a good excuse for a party.

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