Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, like many regional centers throughout the United States, is in a necessary state of transition from the twentieth century to the current one. Through these growing pains, American cities and their regions have inherited the role of setting the social, physical, educational, and environmental agenda as Federal policy either moves too slow or is too blunt to adequately contribute to each place’s unique sense of being and the particular opportunities or challenges in diverging corners of a country as big and vast as this one.
Concurrent to this downshifting of responsibilities is an upshifting of expectations. The United State’s economy and its demographics is actively responding to some of the anomalies of the 20th Century. People old and young are making the financial, health, and quality of life connections that were severed in the past era's post-war and industrial exuberance that inadvertently allowed us to spend our savings and mortgage our future in a vain attempt to sustain the unsustainable. This is causing a widespread re-evaluation of how we spend our time, how we invest, where we live, and how we apply our creativity.
The cities that recognize this phenomenon are making the investments and changes to policy that not only make them more resilient to the many externalities that are outside of their ability to directly control (think Sandy, The Great Recession and other events that are costly to cities but not the result of purely local actions) but to also compete on a national and global stage for the innovators, educators, investors, creators and leaders that will further reinforce a place’s population, its economy, and its vibrancy.
Of the many metrics used to gauge how a city is moving closer to a 21st Century livelihood, the health of the public realm remains one of our best barometers. Much like internet hits are used to measure and further attract web activity, public space “hits” illustrate for us the intersection between a place’s culture, economy, navigability, openness and creativity to increase the ‘memorableness’ of a place in driving even more traffic and more investment. While the strength of these indicators need to be tracked throughout a city, a city’s downtown is where the results might matter more than any other part of a city. A place is only as strong as its core.
Pittsburgh understands this. And, because the city and its downtown was largely built before the focus on the automobile outscaled it’s ability to keep pace, the public realm we are now repopulating is truly central to an Investment Ready Place. This inheritance affords public space entrepreneurs the ability to invest in public spaces in a direct and meaningful way.
Ben Miller, founder of Fundrise, discusses with the House Committee on Small Business, the "why" and the challenges his group faces when crowd-sourcing real estate investment deals.
Emerging neighborhoods don't get the attention from instutional capital, even though that is where the growth is...You can invest in a Japanese Manufacturing company today, but you really can't invest in your own community...The public was a very tough critic [in self-policing investment-worthiness].
Learn more at www.Fundrise.com
Hurricane Sandy has shifted the discussion of how we build our communities from overly focusing on sustainability to "bounce-back-ability," or, resilience. While, understandably, the response has centered around technological and social responses to weather events, we are beginning to understand that variability is normal and predictability not only is, at best, short-lived, but it lulls us into a false quiet, an ahistorical sense of security. Adaptibility is essential. Economic, social, and demographic waves sweep over our settlements in hard to predict ways just as do ocean swells and high-powered winds. Since the relative global calm settled in after World War II (with periodic shocks along the way), we have focused on sustaining a calm through provisions built to provide an illusory stability of such a system. This is akin to building storm surge walls and flood levees to feel safe from events like Sandy or Katrina that surpise us by toppling them. Instead, says Andrew Zolli,
we need approaches that are both more pragmatic and more politically inclusive — rolling with the waves, instead of trying to stop the ocean.
What does a place that has been invested in look like? It can end up looking a lot like Ohio City, a thriving Investment Ready Place (IRP) in the Near West Side of Cleveland, Ohio. Let’s view Ohio City as a case study of Investment Ready Places. We will use the checklist to show why investment makes sense for this neighborhood and we will document previous investments.