Butler Street in Lawrenceville provides for quite the stroll.

#5 Lawrenceville

Pittsburgh’s Best Neighborhoods

Pittsburgh Lawrenceville Map
Lawrenceville is in the heart of Pittsburgh just east of downtown.

Lawrenceville Neighborhood Description

Lawrenceville is one of Pittsburgh’s best neighborhoods. Anchored by the hustle of Butler Street, an almost perfect urban environment lends itself to a unique dynamic of trendy energy balanced by the stability of families who reside off the main drag. Lawrenceville’s neighborhood center is anchored by a bowling alley. There are plenty of restaurants, bars, retail shops, attractive people, attractive places, and an architectural dynamic unique only to Pittsburgh. As one ventures off Butler, kids are playing, moms and dads are grilling, and the housing stock is best described as townhouses but detached single family homes can be found. Unlike the suburbs, the design of Lawrenceville faces the street and relishes the organic, community building interactions that quality urban design creates.

Neighborhood Ranking Criteria

A Front Door

As one ventures up Penn Avenue from the Strip District, a fork in the road splits off to Butler Street. A Flatiron-esque building marks your entrance into Lawrenceville. Coming in from the east, there is no front door but the building density increases dramatically as one enters the neighborhood, hence establishing a subtle que. There’s also a proper gateway sign as one enters the neighborhood via the 40th Street Bridge. Naturally, I have pictures of none of these things.

An Identifiable Center

Arsenal Bowl anchors Lawrenceville
Arsenal Bowl anchors one of Pittsburgh’s best streets.

Butler Street defines Lawrenceville. Long and linear, anchored by Arsenal Bowl, sidewalk dining, cafes, bars, and retailers are found up and down Butler. For the retail industry in general, once movie theatres served as popular anchor tenants but the market has since shifted to bowling alleys, which was a looming trend well before the pandemic. The point is anchor tenants are meant to attract people into a neighborhood (or mall or strip mall or whatever), and Arsenal Bowl serves that purpose for Lawrenceville.

Boundaries

The Allegheny River borders Lawrenceville to the north. To the south, the transition from Lawrenceville into Bloomfield is more subtle, but the spacious and historic Saint Mary Catholic Cemetery breaks up the street patterns and helps with division.

Density

Townhomes in Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh
Zeroed-out side and front setbacks. That’s a good recipe for density.

Neighborhoods in Pittsburgh were built during the steel industry boom years and traditional working-class neighborhoods like Lawrenceville were built dense to jam-pack as much labor in the neighborhood as possible. If you like proper urban built environments, Lawrenceville abides, and it’s far cleaner than the old days.

Detached Sidewalks and Street Trees

Lawrenceville Street Trees on Butler Street
The uniform street trees along the westerly end of Butler Street in lower Lawrenceville sure do add a lot of character. They also help to separate the sidewalk from the street.

You won’t find detached sidewalks in Lawrenceville but most of them are plenty wide enough to navigate through crowds. It’s fun checking out the front stoops wandering through the residential sections of the neighborhood. But street trees in Lawrenceville need improvement. They occur mostly at random, and leaders would do well to plant more trees along the sidewalks.

Diverse Architecture and Buildings That Address the Street

Butler Street Gatehouse, Allegheny Cemetery Lawrence, Pittsburgh
The architecture in Lawrenceville is so diverse you’ll even find a castle or two.
Front stoops in the Lawrenceville neighborhood in Pittsburgh.
Front stoops in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood.

Commercial architecture in Lawrenceville is highly diverse with a dominant red brick theme. Residential architecture is somewhat less diverse with many townhouses only differing by paint color. But where Lawrenceville scores well is most buildings in the neighborhood are built right up to the sidewalks — both residential and commercial.

Mixed Land Uses

Warehousing in Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville neighborhood.
When one stray’s off Butler Street, there is plenty of old Lawrenceville to be found.

If you ever dreamed about living in a hipster loft above a hipster bar, Lawrenceville is the place for you. Most of your daily needs can be met with a brief walk, the exception being a centralized grocery store.

Street Energy

Lawrenceville Butler Street
It must be fall in Lawrenceville because these two bucks are in rut. Lawrenceville is one of Pittsburgh’s premier neighborhoods for singles to be seen, whether or not they’re in rut, estrus, or just want a nice French pastry.

Lawrenceville’s broad diversity of retailers and restaurants creates one of Pittsburgh’s best environments for street energy, particularly up and down Butler Street. It’s a party neighborhood, so expect open revelry.

Streets That Generally Connect  

Check the box, Lawrenceville is built upon a tight grid street pattern that subtly shifts orientation throughout the neighborhood.

Transit Access

No problem catching a bus in Lawrenceville. How about some sexy light rail?

Walkability

Lawrenceville Townhomes
The tightly packed townhomes in Lawrenceville lend themselves well toward walkability.

Lawrenceville is one of Pittsburgh’s most walkable neighborhoods. It’s an urban planner’s dream. The ebbs of the market made Lawrenceville somewhat dodgy for a few decades but, because of it’s solid bones, Lawrenceville has roared back to life and now sits comfortable as one of Pittsburgh’s best neighborhoods.

Opportunities for Improvement

The streetscapes of Butler and surrounding roads could use some softening. More green. More trees. More color, whether it’s paint or landscaping. I’m not talking about wholesale streetscaping. Light touches like colorful intersections go a long way toward creating place and it only costs a few gallons of paint to make the magic happen. Just don’t allow traffic engineers into the conversation because they are sure to screw it up.