Squirrel Hill Pittsburgh Wide Sidewalks Forbes Ave

#7 Squirrel Hill Neighborhood

Pittsburgh’s Best Neighborhoods

Squirrel Hill Neighborhood Map Pittsburgh
Squirrel Hill is one of Pittsburgh’s cornerstone neighborhoods.

Squirrel Hill Neighborhood Description

The Squirrel Hill neighborhood is a fine blend of hoity-toity, pinky pointing affluence and poverty stricken, barista workin’ hipsters. It is also the first neighborhood on the list of Pittsburgh’s Best Neighborhoods that best fits a more common (non-urban planner) definition of “good neighborhood” with plenty of ornate detached single family homes, numerous streets with larger homes on larger parcels, and a handful of streets with rows of finely tuned mansions on large estates. Squirrel Hill is a neighborhood in demand and competes head-to-head with Mt. Lebanon as metro Pittsburgh’s most notable and accessible upper income neighborhood.

Neighborhood Ranking Criteria

A Front Door

Squirrel Hill desperately needs more and better gateways. I’m unaware that any proper front doors exist into the neighborhood.

An Identifiable Center

Squirrel Hill Pittsburgh Neighborhood Forbes Ave Wide Sidewalks
Slip on the plaid pants and make yourself comfortable on Forbes Ave’s wide and luxurious sidewalks.
Squirrel Hill Murray Ave Pittsburgh
Murray Ave is Squirrel Hill’s other Main Street, and will take you down to the Parkway. It also clearly has a design theme.

There are two identifiable centers within Squirrel Hill – Forbes Ave and Murray Ave. Both function like traditional Main Streets and intersect with each other in the commercial heart of Squirrel Hill. Taken together, Forbes and Murray create significant street energy courtesy of their retail mix and urban design. Indeed, Squirrel Hill’s neighborhood center is one of the marquee commercial destinations in the metro.     

Boundaries

Identifying boundaries on Squirrel Hill comes easy courtesy of several factors. Wedged between the immense and forested Frick Park and Schenley Park, and I-376 creating a hard southern boundary, the only obscure boundary for Squirrel Hill is how it bleeds into the Shadyside neighborhood to the north. Further, the significance of Frick and Schenley parks should not be understated. They represent two of Pittsburgh’s largest urban recreational amenities. There are natural areas, maintained areas, conservancies, tons of trails, playgrounds, it’s easy to get lost, and it’s easy to get found. Frick and Schenley parks create a better Pittsburgh, and Squirrel Hill has Pittsburgh’s best access to both being wedged between them.    

Density

Squirrel Hill Pittsburgh Density
That’s some proper high density housing on Squirrel Hill. It’s also a nice example of mixed land uses.

There are dense parts of Squirrel Hill with apartment complexes, mixed land uses, and universities that create significant energy. Then there are less dense parts of Squirrel Hill whereby opulent mansions on large parcels dominate. Between is the Squirrel Hill average of relatively larger homes with varying degrees of separation between them. Squirrel Hill is the first neighborhood on the list of Pittsburgh’s Best Neighborhoods whereby it is not defined by rows of townhomes; to the contrary, Squirrel Hill is defined by its detached single-family homes.   

Detached Sidewalks and Street Trees

Squirrel Hill Pittsburgh Detached Sidewalks and Street Trees
Detached sidewalks and tree lined residential streets define Squirrel Hill, and props to the gateway into this residential street.
Squirrel Hill Pittsburgh Slag Pile Houses No Sidewalks
Slag atop slag. Where are the sidewalks and curbs? Despite the upper income housing, this newer section of Squirrel Hill built atop an old slag pile does not fit with the rest of the neighborhood.

Squirrel Hill’s tree canopy is intentional and uniform courtesy of detached sidewalks and plenty of tree lined streets, with the notable exception of the slag above.

Diverse Architecture and Buildings That Address the Street

Squirrel Hill Pittsburgh Homes for Sale
Squirrel Hill specializes in streets like this.

Even the opulent mansions in Squirrel Hill address the street. Nearly every street in the neighborhood has its own design theme and the vast majority of said themes face the street.  

Mixed Land Uses

Squirrel Hill scores well in this category courtesy of its elongated main streets of Forbes and Murray that provide walkable access to commercial needs for much of the neighborhood.

Street Energy

Squirrel Hill Pittsburgh Street Life Poised
Despite being a cold Saturday morning in February, Squirrel Hill is poised to entertain some proper street energy.

Street energy in Squirrel Hill is active, particularly during the warmer months. There is significant restaurant and retail diversity along Forbes and Murray avenues that draw people in from outside of the neighborhood and increase street energy.

Streets That Generally Connect

Some proper Squirrel Hill homes.
Some proper Squirrel Hill homes with big front porches, diverse architecture, built along curbs and sidewalks.

Squirrel Hill is generally built on a grid street system, despite being atop a hill, that connects most streets to other streets.

Transit Access

Just regular old buses serve Squirrel Hill.

Walkability

Squirrel Hill Pittsburgh Walkability
Neighborhood walkability always increases with a larger scale, urban grocery store, such as this Giant Eagle on Murray Ave.

One could quite comfortably reside in Squirrel Hill without a vehicle. The neighborhood even boasts an urban grocery store on Murray Ave. If one resides outside of the Forbes/Murray orbit, however, functional walkability decreases. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of corner coffee shops and bakeries serving the less walkable (upper income) areas of Squirrel Hill that help maintain an element of neighborhood walkability above and beyond a simple quiet evening stroll.  

Opportunities for Improvement  

Squirrel Hill is a healthy neighborhood in need of few improvements. Proper gateways into the neighborhood are the most obvious opportunity for improvement pursuant to this list. Otherwise, preserving and maintaining the street tree canopy, preserving historic structures and streets, and perhaps sprucing up Forbes and Murray avenues with better streetscaping and more colors are all good ideas. If you really want to get aggressive, plotting out and developing areas for mixed income housing will improve density and housing accessibility within the neighborhood. All of these suggestions are more about neighborhood upkeep and maintenance than fundamental improvements, however. Squirrel Hill is a healthy neighborhood in need of few improvements. The trick is keeping it that way.