I’m fascinated by great American cities in transition. Onetime centers of industry. Company towns like Detroit, where you can see the hopes, dreams, and boundless ambition of the builders in the architecture. Back when American steel, American cars, American manufacturing were the envy of the world.
What happens when the company leaves town? The pride remains long after the jobs disappear.
Pittsburgh still views itself in many ways as a blue-collar, hardworking city—even though the steel mills have mostly closed down, the population and tax base have shrunk drastically, and there have been many years of hard times.
But lately, as in Detroit, there have been new arrivals—a renaissance of excellent restaurants, brewpubs and, most significantly, tech companies. Which is surely good.
But it also means changes for the basic character of an already beautiful city that still sees itself silhouetted in a hard hat against the roaring furnaces. Who will live in the Pittsburgh of the future?
I asked that question of the people I met there who are grappling with those questions first hand and trying to build the future.
I love Pittsburgh. It’s a no-bullshit city. It feels good walking down the street or drinking beer in a saloon. The food, whether old school or new, is right in my happy zone. I hope we did the town right.