neighborhoods

Young Men of Color Learn How to Interview Their Role Models

Jan 8, 2015
Crossing Fences

Since 2012, the Crossing Fences project has been using audio and radio to connect generations and continue the oral tradition in Pittsburgh.

The project, run by local radio program Saturday Light Brigade, gathers African-American students in neighborhoods such as Homewood, the Hill District, and Sto-Rox, and teaches them about audio engineering.

During this time, members of Crossing Fences and the students discussed role models within the community. The students then had to reach out to these role models and plan, record and edit an interview with them.

Joining us to discuss the project are Larry Berger, executive director and Chanessa Schuler, multi-media specialist of Saturday Light Brigade Radio.

Pittsburgh Neighborhood Focus: Allentown

Jan 6, 2015
Joseph / Flickr

Pittsburgh is made of dozens of neighborhoods, each with their own unique backgrounds, residents, businesses and other characteristics.

Business contributor Rebecca Harris focuses in on some of the city’s most interesting neighborhoods, and discusses her findings every first Tuesday of the month.

Today, she focused on Allentown, a neighborhood south of downtown and just up the hill from WESA’s South Side studio.

The "town" of Allentown was founded by an Englishman, Joseph Allen, in 1827, but most of its original occupants were German. Pittsburgh annexed the town in 1872.

Much has changed since then, as most of the original businesses have disappeared. But shops such as the Hardware Store have moved into the neighborhood.

The Hilltop Alliance has announced a six-year, $1.5 million dollar economic development and community services grant aimed at bringing the struggling neighborhood back to life. Allentown, nestled between Mt. Washington and the South Side Slopes, has a high vacancy rate, nearly double that of the city's median rate and property values about half the city's median value.

The Community Fights Illegal Housing In Oakland

Aug 12, 2014
Zach Morris / Wikipedia

For most of its existence, Oakland was known as a neighborhood that happened to have a university in it. But over the last few decades, as the enrollment at the University of Pittsburgh expanded, so did the need for student housing. This in turn led to a major shift in the neighborhood from residential to tenant based housing dominated by college students.

The many disturbances and code violations committed by students living in the neighborhood has brought down the quality of life and has led many new residents to pass over Oakland when choosing a part of the city to live in. Oakwatch was formed by the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation in order to attract people to permanently reside in the neighborhood. 

Will Larimer be the New Success Story of the East End?

Jul 10, 2014
Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

For years, East Liberty has been touted as the biggest success story of the East End.

But now Larimer has the potential to add its own chapter to the story, with the help of a $30 million dollar grant from the Choice Neighborhoods Program of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

“We certainly expect that the awarding of this grant is going to serve to kickstart a lot of the work that we’ve been engaged in, over the past seven years in particular," said Malik Bankston, executive director of the Kingsley Association.

Preserving Pittsburgh's City Steps

Jun 27, 2014
Rebecca Selah / Flickr

Pittsburgh is known as the City of Bridges, but it should also been known as the City of Steps. It has by far the most steps of any American city, and if all of Pittsburgh’s stairways were collectively stacked, they would reach the top of Mt. Everest.

Like the bridges, they add a unique touch to the area. Unfortunately, they also suffer from a lack of maintenance, and many of the stairways have fallen into disrepair. It is a problem that the cash-strapped city government has struggled to fix, so the onus of stairwell upkeep has fallen onto the citizens.

A South Side community group recently received a grant to make much-needed repairs to steps of the South Side Slopes. Brad Palmisiano, board member of the South Side Neighborhood Association thinks these repairs will help provide safety and make the steps more aesthetically pleasing.

Community Design for Changing Demographics

Jun 3, 2014
Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA


“If a city were a human body, then blight is a disease.”

Like many other older industrial cities, the Pittsburgh region has its share of blight. According to the most recent data from the 2010 census, there are more than 50 thousand vacant houses in Allegheny County. For more than a century, federal, state and city governments have tried to address the issue.

90.5 WESA’s Larkin Paige-Jacobs recently reported on a new generation of tools is being used to try and clean up blighted neighborhoods.

Key to this fight is Land Bank legislation which Mayor Bill Peduto urged city council to pass in order to expedite the claiming of blighted and abandoned property.

"The land bank allows the city to quickly acquire and bundle tax delinquent properties to sell to home developers, rather than the piecemeal and time-consuming approach neighborhood development corporations had taken." 

Beyond Blight...

In our quest to battle blight, how can neighborhood improvements accommodate the current residents and the next generation? How can we revitalize in a way that's adaptive to changing demographics? The Design Center helps local neighborhoods create community driven development plans.

We talked about this with Chris Koch, interim CEO of the Design Center, along with project consultants Rob Pfaffmann, an architect and designer, and Todd Poole, Managing principal and president of 4Ward Planning.

Chris Koch explained how the Design Center balances the developer’s desire for a return on their investment while not driving people out of their communities.

“We want developers in our communities, but there’s anxiety that comes with development. How do we help the communities navigate that? Everything has to be a compromise. When its developer driven, the community doesn't get to be part of the conversation. So it’s finding a way for both groups to come to the table and work with our designers in the city of Pittsburgh to find solutions that work for everybody.”

Neighborhood Resurgence Should Not Eliminate Affordable Housing

Jan 29, 2014
Joseph A / flickr

Many Pittsburgh neighborhoods are experiencing a resurgence in new development. As new homes and businesses take shape, affordability for the working class.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Diana Nelson Jones and Richard Swartz, Executive Director of Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation discuss ways to motivate developers to build low-cost housing.

Joseph A / Flickr

The history of the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Hazelwood predates the Revolutionary War. White settlers arrived in the 1750’s, tore down towering Native American burial mounds and used the stones to pave a trail that became Second Avenue.

By the middle of the 20th century it was home to more 30 thousand people and several thriving businesses. Today its population has dwindled to 5,000 residents and roughly a quarter of them live in poverty. With Mayor-elect Bill Peduto focused on Hazelwood because of its proximity to downtown and Oakland, it looks to be prime for development.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

A large crowd gathered outside of the Shop n’ Save in the Hill District on ribbon cutting day Thursday; many of the people have waited a long time for a full-service grocery store in the neighborhood and now they have one.

“This is not something that’s been a day or a week in waiting, or even a month or a year, this is something that’s been decades in the making and it’s finally come to fruition,” said Michael Jasper, chairman of the Hill House Association Board.

Via Tsuji / Flickr

Expansion plans to designate more of the North Side as a historic district are causing an uproar in the Mexican War Streets. It's an issue that has neighbors split and calls into question the issue of who has a say in the neighborhood's master plan.

Paul Johnson, president of the Mexican War Streets Society and Post-Gazette reporter Diana Nelson Jones who covers the city's neighborhoods talk about the controversy.