#8 Deutschtown (Allegheny East)
Pittsburgh’s Best Neighborhoods
Deutschtown Neighborhood Description
Deutschtown is great example of a small town inside a big city. It has a traditional Main Street (AKA, East Ohio St.), with townhouses and parks surrounding the center of the neighborhood. It’s walkable to downtown Pittsburgh. It’s walkable to a grocery store, and it’s historic with lots of character. Several Pittsburgh institutions are located in the neighborhood, not the least of which being Max’s Allegheny Tavern (German food) and Huszar Hungarian Restaurant.
Along East Ohio, the neighborhood center, one is subjected to a classic observational market analysis, one that quality urban planners know well. A commercial area’s retail mix suggests much toward neighborhood health. Does your neighborhood center have bail bond brokers and pawn shops, or Apple stores and Nordstroms? Along East Ohio, one can cash checks, grab a proper pack of menthols, get a tattoo, buy some yoga pants, or get a Blistered Shishito with ancho lemon emulsion and parmesan at Fig and Ash. East Ohio Street is a place where rent dynamics can shelter all entrepreneurial endeavors.
The point is Deutschtown is what a neighborhood looks like that’s on the edge of investments that influence international entertainment (most notably the Steelers), yet the further you get away from all the investments on the North Shore, the less influence they have. It’s fair to say Deutschtown is a transition zone, as well as a city within a city. It’s also fair to say that Deutschtown is dynamic and has far more amenities and neighborhood character than lesser communities, such as Cranberry or Plum or Robinson or Ross or anything Moon. You show me a street like East Ohio in Deutschtown, and I’ll show you a neighborhood that’s ready for investment.
A Front Door
There are several “Welcome to Deutschtown” signs surrounding the neighborhood. They don’t necessarily command respect, but they are certainly better than nothing.
An Identifiable Center
East Ohio Street is the center of Deutschtown. Its retail mix is among the most diverse in the Pittsburgh metro. Like most neighborhood centers throughout Pittsburgh, East Ohio maintains its traditional Main Street feel and several of the historic buildings have residential units located above the commercial store fronts.
Deutschtown’s boundaries are reflected by freeways and steep hills. Unfortunately, Deutschtown is a victim of poor freeway building because connectivity to the North Shore is limited by I-279, which then takes a sharp turn northerly bisecting Deutschtown into two different dynamics – one being the primary neighborhood, the other being the amputated appendage on the other side of the freeway. No doubt numerous historic structures were demolished to make room for I-279.
Deutschtown is a dense neighborhood filled with townhouses and multi-story commercial structures. There are few single family detached homes.
Detached Sidewalks and Street Trees
Deutschtown has a good number of detached sidewalks and street trees despite the challenge of having narrow streets.
Diverse Architecture and Buildings That Address the Street
Being one of the original neighborhoods within Pittsburgh, there is a rich historic stock of architecture throughout Deutschtown. Nearly all land uses make a point to address the street. Most structures are built right up to the sidewalks.
Mixed Land Uses
Being a transitional neighborhood from the partying North Shore and all things north side, the small business and real estate development community has rediscovered Deutschtown as a viable investment strategy. Traditionally a mixed land use neighborhood, said mixing of uses have return in the form of restoring old units above the street and shops sitting adjacent to townhomes.
Being a densely packed neighborhood, sidewalk and street energy around Deutschtown is fairly steady. Naturally, East Ohio Street being chief among the energetic streets.
Streets That Generally Connect
The only streets that don’t connect in Deutschtown are the ones that dead-end into I-279. Otherwise, the grid street pattern serves the neighborhood well.
Just boring city buses serve the Deutschtown neighborhood, though light rail access into downtown and the South Hills is perhaps a 15 minute walk from the neighborhood. In the end, however, it’s simpler to just jump on the bus.
Deutschtown is one of the most walkable neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. It’s high density environment and truly mixed land uses create a neighborhood easy to live in without a car and we haven’t even mentioned Allegheny Commons Park, which is a sprawling green that anchors the west side of Deutschtown.
Opportunities for Improvement
Deutschtown suffers from the same infrastructure investment neglect as most other Pittsburgh neighborhoods. Parts of it look tired. Freshening the streetscapes with trees, sidewalk leveling, and color are simple solutions. The Pittsburgh Urban Renewal Authority underwrites a residential façade improvement program, which would also serve parts of Deutschtown well.
Additionally, the east end of Deutschtown that was amputated from the rest of the neighborhood courtesy of I-279 feels like an orphaned part of the city looking for an identity. Although it was Deutschtown once, the feeling on that side of the freeway is different than the other side of the freeway. Even the gateway signage into Deutschtown is on the other side of the freeway, like the east side doesn’t even exist. Some identity building and placemaking would serve the east side well, whether it’s placemaking back into Deutschtown or maybe they rebrand into their own neighborhood, the overall conversation is worthy of residents’ and leadership’s time and resources.