Pittsburgh South Side Carson Street

#8 South Side Neighborhood

Pittsburgh’s Best Neighborhoods

Pittsburgh South Side Map
The South Side is located on the Monongahela River bottoms.

South Side Neighborhood Description

Pittsburgh’s South Side is known for its revelry and a dense, historic urban environment. The neighborhood’s beating heart is Carson Street. The nice thing about Carson Street is a person can get whatever they want there. Another nice thing about Carson Street is its multi-story brick architecture that spans the length of it. As one might stagger between the many drinking establishments along Carson, there are also plenty of diverse retail shops, coffee shops, sandwich joints, cafes, fine dining choices, ethnic grocers, and corporate chains that will serve your needs, among other things. From a neighborhood health standpoint, the South Side is in good shape. There’s a lot of street energy because it’s a walkable neighborhood with cool places to walk to. New investment has taken shape and stabilized the east end of Carson. Revelry produces some pointless bro fights from time to time, which certainly doesn’t help the neighborhood’s image, but it’s perfectly safe cooking around the neighborhood at all hours. The South Side is one of Pittsburgh’s cornerstone neighborhoods and, indeed, the health of the South Side impacts the health of the entire metro.

Neighborhood Ranking Criteria

A Front Door

There are no gateways into the South Side that caught my attention. Let’s do some placemaking, Pittsburgh City Hall.

An Identifiable Center

Pittsburgh South Side Neighborhood Carson Street
Welcome to Carson Street. One of Pittsburgh’s premier partying streets. It also anchors one of Pittsburgh’s premier urban neighborhoods.

Carson Street is one of Pittsburgh’s great streets. It spans about 2.5 miles through the South Side and the street feeling changes depending on where you’re standing. On the western end of Carson, closer to downtown, the street is narrower and the architecture is predominantly more historic – there’s even an old highschool. But as one ventures east, the street grows subtly wider, there’s more corporate chains, and you’re eventually surrounded by new construction.

Boundaries

The Monongahela River is the neighborhood’s north boundary and the steep slope into the South Hills alongside an elevated rail trestle bound the southern edge.

Density

Many of the South Side's side streets are narrow.
Many of the South Side’s side streets are narrow.

The South Side is defined by its dense stock of townhomes, block after block of them. The neighborhood’s population density is among the highest in the metro.

Detached Sidewalks and Street Trees

Pittsburgh South Side Neighborhood Sidewalk
Trees, stoops, and awnings adorn the sidewalks of the South Side.

The South Side isn’t much for detached sidewalks, mostly because there is not enough room for them, but the neighborhood does well with street trees and old awnings.

Diverse Architecture and Buildings That Address the Street

Most of the residential on the South Side is in the form of townhomes.
Most of the residential in the South Side is in the form of townhomes.

In a city that shines with diverse architecture, the South Side is a big reason why. Apart from a couple of warehouses and storage facilities that don’t do well addressing the street, nearly every structure in the neighborhood is street facing and up against the sidewalk.

Mixed Land Uses

Pittsburgh South Side Neighborhood Karwoski's Tavern
You can smoke cigarettes inside Karwoski’s Tavern.
Pittsburgh South Side Street Grid Shift
Corner cafes and street grid orientation changes define the environment off Carson Street.
Pittsburgh South Side Neighborhood Mixed Land Uses
Some proper residences located above that Right Aid on Carson.

Whether you’re looking for a proper corner bar, or a proper grocery store, the South Side has both and they are flawlessly mixed into the neighborhood.

Street Energy

There is street energy along Carson at nearly all hours – one of Pittsburgh’s premier party streets. Things are much quieter, however, as you venture into the side streets.

Streets That Generally Connect

Pittsburgh South Side Neighborhood Grid Shift
It’s not a proper Pittsburgh neighborhood without a lot of awnings. Also, that’s a dope grid shift.

The best part about the South Side is how the orientation of the street grid shifts about 45 degrees at multiple locations within the neighborhood. I assume the grid shift is to follow the arc of the river, but it creates dozens of unique street views for one to rest their eyes upon and significantly improves the feel and character of the neighborhood.

Transit Access

Buses, blah. How about some sexy light rail? Or a trolley that just runs up and down Carson but connects to the light rail in Station Square? And by trolley, I mean one on rails, not a stupid bus that’s made to look like a trolley. While we’re at it, let’s commission a few rickshaws.

Walkability

Pittsburgh South Side Wide Streets
Looks like the traffic engineers got a a little too handsy with this side of Carson.

The South Side is among Pittsburgh’s easiest neighborhoods to live in without the burden of owning a vehicle. The neighborhood has everything and it’s all walkable.

Opportunities for Improvement  

Party streets come with some natural testosterone and Carson is no exception. Fights and juvenile shenanigans are unfortunately a part of the South Side’s persona. Nevertheless, it’s perfectly safe taking the family out to dinner or strolling Carson well into the evening. Aside from the perception of disorderly conduct, improving the urban environment of an almost flawless neighborhood requires nothing fundamental. It’s the simple things. How about some great gateways into the neighborhood? More color. More trees. More placemaking. Preserve all the historic buildings possible. Allow for residential units above commercial space. Things like that. The South Side has all the ingredients well balanced and marinated, now it’s simply about preservation and enhancement.