Where should we live in Pittsburgh?
September 27, 2016 11:17 AM   Subscribe

We would like to relocate to Pittsburgh, in the next two to three years. Help me find a neighborhood in the Steel City similar to our current (awesome) one in Buffalo!

I'd love to hear from people who have lived in both cities in the past 2-3 years, but anyone familiar with PGH will be able to give me great insight, I'm sure.

Background: I was raised in SWPA, but rural suburbia east of the city. My only experience living in the city was as a student at Pitt; I lived in Oakland for two years in the late nineties/early 00s. I settled down in Buffalo in 2008.

Now my partner and I are thinking about relocating in the next few years. We have lots of time and opportunity to scout any suggested locations. We don't really want to leave Buffalo but my parents would never move here (lake effect snow freaks them out) and I do want to be closer to them.

We would like to find a similar neighborhood to where we live now. We live in the West Side adjacent to Allentown for those familiar with the BUF. We know we won't find anywhere as beautifully designed in terms of parks and streets in Pittsburgh, but we would like a similar vibe and demographic. So, where in Pittsburgh are the neighborhoods that have:

-Ethnic diversity? We live in a Puerto Rican neighborhood but there are lots of resettled refugees in our neighborhood.

-Small businesses? We can walk to a hipster pickle store, a farmstand but also lots of immigrant owned and operated businesses. This mix is important, at least in that hipster shops haven't overrun the place.

-Access to parks? Just for lounging/strolling.

-Access to public transit? Pittsburgh and Buffalo seem equivalent in paucity of mass transit. We are used to it. But we want to be able to catch a bus within a block or two of our house. We do have one car.

-Friendly neighbors and community events.

-We aren't going to be priced out of rents in 2-3 years. We are facing this now; we can't move within our current neighborhood without a huge rent increase.

We are also open to moving into ethnic blue collar neighborhoods but prefer the residents to not be racist a-holes like a lot of the blue collar neighborhoods in Buffalo (e.g. Kaisertown, South Buffalo). Perhaps a mythical neighborhood like this exists in Pittsburgh?

I have ruled out Lawrenceville (too gentrified) but I am open to anything else. My brother lived on the North Side for ages but moved away several years ago. That's pretty much the only place on my list to look into at the moment. Any suggestions?
posted by tippy to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe look in the general Bloomfield, Shadyside, East Liberty area. If you stay close to Liberty you'll have good bus access to downtown. Bloomfield/Garfield/East Liberty are definitely blue collar, but segregated.
posted by dis_integration at 12:15 PM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I moved to Pittsburgh in 2012 from New Orleans, and was looking for a neighborhood much like you describe. I ended up in Regent Square, which is a tiny neighborhood on the east side near Squirrel Hill and Point Breeze. I loved living there. The 'main drag' through the area is about 2 blocks, but has a few restaurants and bars (including the most excellent Square Cafe), a gas station, laundry, antique shop, etc. There is also a huge park (Frick Park), bus routes, and quick access to the interstate. The houses are old and pretty and rent was/is affordable. There were community events like the annual garage sale, book fairs, and a small community center with leisure classes. The East End Food Co-Op is nearby if you like that sort of thing as well. I found the neighbors to be a great mix of people of all sorts, and I got to know quite a few people very well just from hanging around the local bars and shops. If you are commuting downtown, the drive home can suck because of tunnel traffic, but otherwise I really enjoyed my time there.

I came back to New Orleans last year (I am not made for winter), but if I ever moved back to Pittsburgh I'd probably go right back to Regent Square, with Squirrel Hill as a back-up. Feel free to memail me if you have questions, and enjoy Pittsburgh!
posted by tryniti at 12:46 PM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hi! Pittsburgh native here who moved back several months ago. There are definitely neighborhoods that fit some of your criteria, but I don't think you're going to hit all of them.

Pittsburgh, unfortunately, is not super diverse, and it can be a bit segregated. It also has a tiny Latino population for a city of its size, but it is growing tremendously. I live in Beechview, which is the big Latino neighborhood. It hits some of your other criteria (the trolley runs right through it so it's great for public transit and rent is super cheap), but it's not walkable at all.

I second Regent Square as a great option. Bloomfield and East Liberty are gentrifying neighborhoods and rents are skyrocketing, and Shadyside has and always will be expensive. Regent Square is close enough to those neighborhoods and ticks a lot of your boxes without the threat of being priced out.
posted by anotheraccount at 12:48 PM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

The DingoWife and I live in East Liberty, and I'd definitely give it a look - it doesn't hit all of your criteria but I think it hits a decent number of them. We've got easy access to the bus lines here, and are within walking distance to Highland Park, which is decently-sized and quite lovely (and in terms of community events, they do have Jazz in the Park all summer long, among other things). I've found people to be friendly here - I like that random passers-by will talk to you as you're walking around. Diversity-wise, East Liberty is largely African-American and white - unfortunately I can't really think of a neighborhood in Pittsburgh with a substantial mix of immigrants (perhaps someone else can). I also can't think of many immigrant-owned shops, either in East Liberty or other Pittsburgh neighborhoods, but for what it's worth we're within walking distance to a pub with out-of-this-world burgers, at least two locally-owned coffee shops and a locally-owned bakery ... and heading the other way there's more corporate stuff that I have to admit is useful - being a mile from Target and Whole Foods is a mixed blessing.

As far as the "gentrification" goes, I would look for myself before I made up my mind about that - yes, it is definitely present and I can think of one situation in particular that continues to be very problematic - but personally I HIGHLY doubt East Liberty is ever going to become another Lawrenceville. And if it matters, our rent has increased all of $25 in the four years we've been here - I don't disagree that prices are rising, but I'm not sure it is or will be as extensive as it's been elsewhere.

At any rate, I agree with anotheraccount that you're not likely to find exactly what you're describing here in Pittsburgh, but neighborhoods like East Liberty, Bloomfield, or Regent Square do have their charm. Happy to answer questions if you'd like to know more about East Liberty - feel free to PM, and good luck in your search!
posted by DingoMutt at 1:24 PM on September 27, 2016

Follow-up questions, if I may:

Is school district important to you? (This is mainly relevant in the Regent Square recommendation because the neighborhood actually lies at the intersection of four different municipalities with different school districts.)
What is your current housing budget?
Do you k now where you're going to work? Transit here is largely oriented towards getting people to either Oakland or Downtown. If you're going to be working some place other than Oakland or Downtown, where you live is going to have a big impact on how easy it is to get there.

The neighborhood with the greatest range of ethnic diversity is probably Squirrel Hill. It's very close to the universities so that's the primary source of the diversity. It's a big neighborhood with a lot of subsections. You'll find apartment buildings there of varying qualities as well as duplexes and triplexes. The prices aren't bargain basement but they are in the "a grad student could afford this" range. It's in between Frick and Schenley Parks, the two large forest parks in the city, so you have easy park access. Public transit is excellent, though it mostly is oriented towards getting people to Oakland where the universities are. The business district is very large, many blocks.

Just south of Squirrel Hill, across the barrier of I-376 (there's a couple bridges over, but one of them is being rebuilt right now so is out of service for the next year or so) is Greenfield, which is more working class, older and whiter. There you'll mostly find duplexes and whole houses. It's also a very large neighborhood, with two business districts, but both are pretty sleepy. There's a great bar there, Hough's. While Greenfield is older and whiter than Squirrel Hill, its proximity to the universities, to Downtown, and to a brand new high-tech development happening along the Monongahela river in Hazelwood means that it's going to be going the way of Squirrel Hill slowly but surely.

Most East End neighborhoods hit at least a plurality of your boxes. Regent Square, East Liberty, Bloomfield, Garfield (Penn Avenue in Garfield is looking great these days and while Garfield is still a pretty blighted neighborhood, the streets within a couple blocks of Penn are improving by leaps and bounds). The universities and hospitals dominate this part of town, which has its up and down sides.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:41 PM on September 27, 2016

A couple of options that haven't been mentioned yet are Point Breeze and the Mexican War Streets, but I can't claim to be all that familiar with the rents in either.

Regent Square is split between Pittsburgh proper and the borough of Edgewood. Both sections are nice, but I think there's a difference in character from one side of Braddock Ave. to the other. Also, beware that some landlords in adjacent sections of the significantly troubled borough of Wilkinsburg advertise their properties as being in "Regent Square," when they really aren't.
posted by jon1270 at 2:26 PM on September 27, 2016

Is school district important to you? No.

What is your current housing budget? $1,000/month

Do you k now where you're going to work?
This is a couple years down the line, so nothing definite yet. I work in the legal field, so high likelihood of downtown. My partner works in transportation and has previously worked for airports and universities. Additionally, I may apply for a graduate program at Pitt.
posted by tippy at 4:37 PM on September 27, 2016

Just to throw some other options out there: Dormont and Mt Lebanon are very cute and are connected to downtown by the T, so they're not as "far out" as they look.
posted by nakedmolerats at 5:45 AM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Pittsburgh native here, moved back in 2010, never been to Buffalo. Based on your preferences, I would nth Regent Square, Squirrel Hill, and Shadyside. Mexican War Streets are beautiful but I don't know how expensive rents are there.

There are many more apartment renting options in the Strip District than there used to be, with a bunch of grocery options on Penn Avenue.

Troy Hill is a very cute area but I'm not sure how many small businesses are up there.
posted by amicamentis at 6:15 AM on September 28, 2016

Yeah, Regent Square or maybe some parts of Point Breeze sound up your alley. Friendship or Garfield around Penn Avenue are also some good places to look. If you're interested in checking out the North Side, Manchester might also meet some of your criteria depending on how close you live to the park.

Welcome back!
posted by helloimjennsco at 6:26 AM on September 28, 2016

I live in the Greenfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh and I've been there for about 12 years. It's a good match for most of your requirements. It's not quite as walkable as Squirrel Hill, but it's far more affordable and the parking is much less cutthroat. Still, I can walk to the grocery store, my dentist, a good selection of bars and restaurants, and our local franchise of Escape Room. There are a few ethnic shops, mostly Russian and Ukrainian. There is a bus stop directly in front of my house that will take me downtown or to Oakland.

Schenley Park will be close once again when our bridge is back up next year, but the Greenfield itself is good for walking. There is a community center in the heart of the neighborhood that hosts events like movie nights and exercise classes. It also has a pool and playground that are popular with local children.

Diversity has been improving steadily, but it's still pretty white. My daughter was pretty pleased to find two other kids in her Kindergarten class who spoke Spanish. My block is mostly young families priced out of Squirrel Hill. $1000 a month should be doable.
posted by Alison at 10:18 AM on September 28, 2016

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