Braddock Steel Mill

#33 Braddock

Pittsburgh’s Best Neighborhoods

Braddock Location Map
Braddock occupies a significant part of metro Pittsburgh’s soul.

Braddock Neighborhood Description

Braddock is to Pittsburgh what Caesar is to Rome.

But let’s not beat around the Garden Party beer, Braddock isn’t in great shape – at least not from a curb appeal perspective. In fact, it’s quite the mess. Most buildings are derelict, most sidewalks are crumbling and overrun with weeds, and there was this weird dude wandering around alone on a hot afternoon taking pictures of everything. Whereby once Braddock was known as party central, it’s now tired looking and trying to find its place within a 21st century Pittsburgh.

Being its own borough, Braddock does not answer to the whims of Pittsburgh city council, but they are certainly influenced by them.

Rome influences all.

Yet the heritage of Pittsburgh shines through Braddock. Of all the boroughs surrounding the central city, Braddock is probably the most Yinzer. A US Steel mill is still operational, which no doubt finances the bulk of Braddock’s annual budget.

Despite how run-down Braddock looks, it’s perfectly safe for weird dudes taking street scene pictures. It’s also likely past market rock bottom and on the way up because a rising Rome lifts all boroughs. There are canaries within Braddock that slurp down plenty of oxygen and are still merrily chirping along. Go get a beer in downtown Braddock at a microbrewery called Brew Gentlemen (I recommend the Garden Party beer, obviously). After tossing back a few at Brew Gentlemen, wander down the street and bump into a local joint called Lucky Frank’s Irish Pub, they’ll treat you well. Lucky Frank’s is a little old school, but such is the dichotomy between old Pittsburgh and new Pittsburgh, old Braddock and emerging Braddock. The best part about Pittsburgh, and the best part about Braddock is at one moment you could be drinking several cucumber flavored beers at hipster Brew Gentlemen, and in the next moment you’re having a shot of Jamison and a High Life at a proper neighborhood pub chatting with the regulars, the Yinzers, and they are educating you on how to be a total bad ass.

Good news is cucumber beer drinkers are welcome in Braddock, all are welcome in Braddock.

A Front Door

One could make a reasonable argument that the old mill is the front door into Braddock. At the least, it certainly defines the community.

An Identifiable Center

Braddock PA Downtown
Welcome to downtown Braddock.

Remnants of a traditional Main Street still exist on Braddock Avenue. Although vacancies abound, Braddock Avenue can still very much be preserved. Rents are affordable and ripe for start-ups, as illustrated by Brew Gentlemen. Leaders would do well to entice and create an anchor project for downtown Braddock.


As is the case for many neighborhoods around Pittsburgh, Braddock grows up the hill from the river bottoms. Braddock’s south boundary is the Monongahela River. To the east is the monster US Steel facility, and to the west is the elevated Rankin Bridge.


Braddock has lost 91% of it’s population, so it’s fair to say it’s not as dense as it was during its peak. The bones of density past are still present, however, so if the community can tap into a growth market local leaders and developers have a real opportunity to rebuild Braddock into a place that does justice to its early years.

Detached Sidewalks and Street Trees

Braddock Pittsburgh Neighborhood Residential Housing
Lots of historic multi-story homes in Braddock. There are less detached sidewalks, which would improve their curb appeal.

There are a few detached sidewalks throughout Braddock, so don’t expect a lush, uniform street tree canopy.

Diverse Architecture and Buildings That Address the Street

Downtown Braddock, PA
The ghosts of old Braddock can hopefully haunt its future.

Braddock’s commercial architecture will score well in this category. Many of Braddock’s historic buildings are ripe for reinvestment. From a residential perspective, given Braddock’s blue-collar roots, most of the homes are architecturally modest. Braddock is an old town that was built with front facing homes and commercial structures. No garden variety subdivisions here.

Mixed Land Uses

One the best things Braddock could do for itself right now is throw away its old zoning code and adopt a new one that reflects 21st century city building. There is hardly a better economic development tool that a city council can deploy than having a zoning code that enables growth, community health, and community building. Antiquated zoning codes achieve the exact opposite objectives.

All this is to say that Braddock does not do well in the mixed land use category.

Street Energy

Braddock, PA downtown
It’s a warm, Saturday, summer afternoon. You tell me if there is street energy in Braddock.

Not a lot of street energy in the neighborhood. On the whole, there’s just not a whole lot of market energy in Braddock.

Streets That Generally Connect

Braddock’s mostly grid street system is only hemmed in by the Monongahela River to the south.


Braddock is still walkable; the question is where are you going to walk to?

Opportunities for Improvement

More dilapidated Braddock
Braddock has a lot of of room for improvement.

You’re going to start seeing a theme around this blog, particularly for the lower ranked neighborhoods. You might even sense a bit of frustration. Braddock frustrates me. It’s not for a lack of money (“resources”) that Braddock’s curb appeal and market activity are reflected in the image above. Don’t blame it on mill closures. Don’t blame it on outside economic forces. And for mercy’s sake, Wikipedia, don’t blame it on the crack era from about 40 years ago.

Competence accounts for a lot. Either elected leaders and top administrative officials know how to do more with less, or they know how to look like a Rustbelt City. One of the hallmarks of a failing Rustbelt City is it’s ability to blame others for their current state of affairs. Despite macro economic forces, drugs, and social challenges well outside of local leadership’s control, Braddock is not helpless. To the contrary, Braddock is poised to take control. The recipe for success is no secret. Best part is the little, affordable things are a great place to start. Here’s a few suggestions:

Step 1: pay a neighborhood guy $500 a month to knock down and clean up the weeds along Braddock Ave.

Step 2: put some color on the street. Have some local artists paint an intersection or two. That will set you back about $200 and a little coordination time.

Step 3: don’t listen to your public works director, because public works directors have no vision. They’re hall monitors protecting their standard weights and measures. They have thick books on their shelves written by other hall monitors that tell them what colors go where on a street and whether or not the street is wide enough to accommodate different uses. It’s succumbing to those very same standards that has effed you over, Braddock. Forget the hall monitors and their closed-minded standard guidebooks. You’re doing your own thing now. There are no rules. There’s not even a box to think outside of, much less a standard guidebook.

The best part is the fundamentals of how to be a kick-ass town are easy to discover. There is no secret sauce. Like all recipes, it’s a compass that points toward improving quality of life. All you have to do is mosey that way. Make the path uniquely Braddock. If you do that, the glory days are ever in front of you, not behind you.

*Map boundaries are an approximate and not identical to Braddock municipal boundaries.