Pittsburgh California-Kirkbride Neighborhood

#24 California-Kirkbride

Pittsburgh’s Best Neighborhoods

Pittsburgh California-Kirkbride Neighborhood Location Map
California-Kirkbride is a small neighborhood hemmed in by below grade railroad tracks and a steep hill.

California-Kirkbride Neighborhood Description

Pittsburgh’s California-Kirkbride neighborhood is a textbook example of what a neighborhood looks like post blight. What were once rows of townhomes are now dominated by vacant, grassy parcels with the leftovers sprinkled between those that met the bulldozer. California-Kirkbride is a transitional neighborhood that bridges the flat river bottom of Manchester as it meets the upslope into Marshall-Shadeland. It’s separated from Manchester via a significant below-grade set of railroad tracks. The coveted Mexican War Streets defines Cali-Kirkbride’s eastern boundary, which may serve as a catalyst for creeping market activity and redevelopment. Despite its unwoven nature, California-Kirkbride is still quite livable and has walkable access to numerous quality neighborhoods. The rabbit the city needs to find in its hat is motivating the market to rebuild all those vacant, grassy parcels that presently subtract from neighborhood quality.     

Neighborhood Ranking Criteria

A Front Door

There are no front doors into California-Kirkbride.

An Identifiable Center

Pittsburgh California-Kirkbride Neighborhood Old Theatre
That old theatre is ripe for redevelopment.

The neighborhood center is the intersection of California Ave and Brighton Place, whereby what is apparently an old theatre is still standing alongside a more or less built-out environment.

Boundaries

Railroad tracks make for obvious barriers, and they define California-Kirkbride’s southern border. Contending with railroads for approval to build crossings, be them below, above, or at grade is a notoriously fruitless endeavor. Protected from on-high courtesy of laws from the 1800s, railroad companies are nearly as untouchable as the federal government and come with nearly as much authority. Thus, don’t hold your breath for increased connectivity into Cali-Kirkbride.     

Density

Pittsburgh California-Kirkbride Neighborhood More Holes
Plenty of vacant, developable lots in California-Kirkbride.

What was once a dense neighborhood has seen so much demolition that its hardly a shell of itself. What makes Cali-Kirkbride interesting, however, is its neighborhood demolition occurred on a per parcel basis, slowly, and over time, as opposed to other neighborhoods that experienced wholesale demolition all at once.

Detached Sidewalks and Street Trees

California-Kirkbride has sidewalks but they are not detached and nearly no street trees are present.

Diverse Architecture and Buildings That Address the Street

Pittsburgh California-Kirkbride Neighborhood Front Door on Stairs
How about buildings that address the stairs? Do they have to drag those trash cans down to the street or do the sanitation folks come up to grab them?

The old townhomes that are still standing are historic and face the street.

Mixed Land Uses

Pittsburgh California-Kirkbride Neighborhood Center
There’s not a lot of active commercial in Cali-Kirkbride’s neighborhood center, but the architecture is fabulous.

There are a few mixed land uses throughout the neighborhood, the most dominant of which being an immense US Postal Service distribution center and Post Office.

Street Energy

Pittsburgh California-Kirkbride Neighborhood Townhomes
Some neighborhood streets are still intact.

There is no street energy in the California-Kirkbride neighborhood.

Streets That Generally Connect

Aside from the streets that stub off at the railroad tracks, the neighborhood is built upon a grid and the streets connect.

Transit Access

Just regular old buses serve the neighborhood.

Walkability

California-Kirkbride is walkable enough, but one has to walk out of the neighborhood to fulfill basic daily needs. A couple of mid-anchor retailers such as Right Aid and Dollar General are nearby and walkable. The top-shelf neighborhood centers of Allegheny West and Mexican Wars Streets are a few blocks further down the road, but still walkable.

Opportunities for Improvement

Pittsburgh California-Kirkbride Neighborhood Grassy Lots
There’s lots of green in Cali-Kirkbride.

California-Kirkbride needs an infill campaign. There are too many vacant parcels, and I suspect many of them are long abandoned and owned by the city or the land bank or whoever. Put them on the market for $1.00 in exchange for a commitment to rebuild. Given high-ranking neighborhoods that have active market activity are on all sides, one would think California-Kirkbride’s dormant market can be resuscitated. Giving away free land in exchange for development is a good place to start.