Skip to content

Pittsburgh as New Brooklyn

Pittsburgh is again recognized as hip and trendy for a certain demographic: People looking for hip and trendy on the cheap. Once, the hip and trendy baseline was Portland. Today, it’s Brooklyn.

The money quote:

“Size, it seems, is Pittsburgh’s double-edged sword. ‘We still need more humans,’ said Matthew Ciccone [The Beauty Shoppe]. ‘There are not enough humans — The more people you have, the more vibrant a place can be.'”

The more humans you have, of course the more expensive a place gets.  And the hip and trendy crowd will keep moving, looking for the next cheap thing.


The focus on hip and healthy food that seems to define Brooklyn is taking down a Pittsburgh institution:  Del’s, in Bloomfield.  Reports suggest that Del’s has problems beyond the fact that its style of Italian food isn’t as popular as it used to be, but I was struck nonetheless by this quote:

“‘I can’t keep up with the craft beers and infusion drinks,’ [Marianne DelPizzo] said. ‘And young people today, all they care about is healthy food and small portions. They’re trying all the new places. There’s no loyalty anymore.'”

I suspect that she meant to emphasize the decline in loyalty, but I noticed the passing reference to place. Pittsburgh is an extraordinarily place-oriented city and region, with its 90 city neighborhoods, forged into a steel-strong single identity, and its abundance of hill-and-valley-based communities. (I used to write about this at Pittsblog.) Newcomers, particularly non-natives, are unaware of this “place-ness” or, if they are aware of it, may be indifferent to it. One day Lawrenceville, the next day Troy Hill; Pittsburgh neighborhoods are breaking apart and renewing and remixing at a speed that is almost literally unimaginable to long-time residents.  From the boosterism of Pittsburgh-as-New-Brooklyn to the laments of the owners of Del’s, you can almost feel the age-old fabric of the city being torn apart.

I’m reminded of Max Kellerman, the resort owner in Dirty Dancing, at the intro to the movie’s finale:

“It’s not the changes so much this time. It’s that it all seems to be ending. You think kids want to come with their parents and take fox-trot lessons? Trips to Europe, that’s what the kids want. Twenty-two countries in three days. It feels like it’s all slipping away.”

I’m also reminded of the music industry of about 15 years ago.  For a time, any legacy integrated industry that was disrupted by technological forces of dis-integration was said to be “Napsterized.” Can a city can be “Napsterized”? Maybe that’s what’s happening in Pittsburgh.