Debating Gentrification in Lawrenceville


Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood has gotten a lot of good attention lately. It has a new hospital, a burgeoning retail district, and is generally considered to be one of the city’s more up-and-coming, trendy areas. Some might even say it is gentrifying.

I know I’ve seen a lot of new shops springing up there, but I’m not familiar enough with the area so say if it is really gentrifying or not – are long-time residents being forced out by rising rent costs? Have community groups opposed some of the changes? Can a neighborhood have hip stores and boutiques and still maintain the blue-collar folks that have lived there all along?

Here’s a blogger who has some thought on the subject: his witty post really slams an anarchist anti-gentrification poster urging people to “Help Keep Lawrenceville Dangerous.”

I’m eager to hear what Pittsburghers think about this neighborhood and this debate.



Filed under Economic Development, Featured, Real Estate, Rust Belt Blogs

12 responses to “Debating Gentrification in Lawrenceville

  1. Kelly

    What Boguszewski may be missing, in anger and literalism, is that, the anarhist intent isn’t to support and/or exotify dangerous living conditions but rather display the way in which the word “dangerous” is strategically used to manufacture consent for gentrification.

  2. northern girl

    Lawrenceville needed ‘gentrifying’ if that is what they call it. Years ago it was unsafe with problems of drug dealing and prostitution. Now it is becoming one of the coolest neighborhoods in the city with a unique energy all its own. It’s still one of the best priced neighborhoods to live in and has a strong business group that supports each other and the neighborhood at large. The businesses are also very civic-minded and community-minded. Giving back is very important to the business owners-many of which also live in or near Lawrenceville.
    I do not own a business there but visit a lot with my friends and family-and if gentrifying means making a place more visitable (is that a word) and safer for everyone who lives there and spends money there-well I guess I don’t see a downside to it!

    Try or google the lawrenceville corporation.
    And check it out-really a fun place to be!

  3. Similar tensions are felt in neighborhoods here in St. Louis between anarchists(what a joke) and so-called “hipsters” who they blame for making an area desirable. God forbid people actually want to walk neighborhood streets and feel safe.

    Grow up, anarchists. You’re a bunch of 7th graders.

  4. Tibi

    I’ve known Lawrenceville for only 4 years since moving to Pittsburgh, and have never lived there, but visit it relatively often. Yes, there are a bunch of hip/trendy/cool/whatever places on Butler street (the main artery there), but all you need to do is go a street up towards the hill or down towards the river to discover that old-timers still live there, that the buildings are as un-hip and/or un-cared for as in the rest of post-industrial, somewhat-recovering Pittsburgh as a whole. The place is still probably gentrifying (have never had experience with crime/prostitution in the old Lawrenceville), but, to be honest, lots of Lawrenceville still looks quite old-timey.

  5. schmange

    I don’t think gentification is such a bad thing in most Rust Belt cities.

    Gentrification helps boost school district and city coffers and increases property values. This is good news for homeowners. As for renters, most of them are rather transient anyway.

    I can see how in Chicago and New York, when minorities are pushed to the margins through gentrification, it’s a problem. But in the Rust Belt, the bigger issue is concentrated poverty and I truly think that when there is a mix of incomes in an area, it’s better for the people at the bottom of income scale. There is research to back this up.

    Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams (who is black) used to say the city could use some gentrification. Right now, the balance is skewed too far the opposite direction.

  6. Peter Debelak

    Three year resident and home owner in Lawrencville here. Spend some nights in “hipster” spots (Brillo Box; New Amsterdam etc…) but my evenings on the stoop on a street filled with folks who have lived there for three generations. Plummer to my right; electrician to my right and city garbageman across the street. Most “long-time” residents are not renters, but homeowners. They aren’t being forced out and their homes are sold generally only when the last in the family line has died or volitionally moved to another city. The pricey rentals are the loft spaces above the commerical properties along Butler. Wylie Properties is mostly responsible for this. But there’s still plenty of cheap rentals around – including a good chunk of section 8 in upper lawrenceville.

    Many of the local taverns (Salac’s; SomewhereinLawrencevill; Stinky’s) still sport a robust clientelle of long-time regulars.

    Perhaps the best juxtaposition is at the Thunderbird cafe. Its bringning in National Acts and thus draws the young hip crowd to its second-level stage. But it also opens at 7am for the night-shift fellas, the retired or the union guys on the bench. These folks line the lower bar and the young hipsters have to run the “locals gauntlet” before reaching their happenin’ scene upstairs.

    None of this is by way of any conclusion, just more info for the ongoing discussion. Its definately a really great case-study for those who have larger concerns over urban redevelopment in general.


    P.S. I find it ironic that those who advocate for a more “dangerous” neighborhood as a means to fight the luxuries of gentrification are generally only those who have the luxury to think that way.

  7. Paz

    I had a similar idea a couple of months ago (, and I’m still not entirely sure. The most fundamental necessity for “gentrification” is a housing shortage, and there’s not really a housing shortage in any Rust Belt city. Ergo, gentrification, in the classic “Mission District/SoHo” definition, can’t really exist in a shrinking city.

  8. Special K

    Thanks for the comments, readers. I love when posts spark an intelligent discussion from folks with a lot to say. Keep ’em coming!

  9. jane.t

    Often when there is a discussion of gentrification, I’m torn–a feeling I think many have. When we throw the word “gentrification” on a situation, it puts everyone into particular tracks of thinking–for, against, right, wrong capitalist, anarchist (apparently). I think it’s sometimes too easy to use that word, put people on the defense, and lose the opportunity to really engage in conversation about what it means to have community-directed investment and development and about the difference between “gentrification” and “neighborhood change.” Those two concepts are very different; one does not take into account the context of the neighborhood, the community that already exists, the lifestyle of long-time residents. The other does take those things into account when investing in new housing, businesses, or amenities. There aren’t just two possibilities for these neighborhoods (no investment or gentrification)–we have to work towards developing a host of ways to invest in communities without pushing people out.

  10. Brian

    just to clarify – Belvedere’s (Abduction) – before the anarchists hung out there – was a local polish bar with a little old polish lady making fantastic food. So one could argue the anarchists drove them out.

    No neighborhood ever remains the same. Time elapses, people die and people are born. The questions is, does the change originate from individuals in the neighborhood doing small projects over a long period of time, or is there a large corporation creating a vast, repetitive development in a short amount of time. Compare East Liberty to Lawrenceville.

    When a neighborhood gets better, it is not gentrification. Gentrification is more about the process of how a neighborhood changes.

  11. well

    I lived there as a kid and while I was somewhat oblivious, you do notice most of your friends don’t wear shoes. According to people who were adults at time, most of the residents were on welfare and the area had a drug problem.

  12. well

    That’s not to say it was the worst though. There were much more dangerous areas. Still, in the revitalization people seem to like to glaze over its not so distant past (gun problem as well–forgot to mention that).

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