#6 Troy Hill Neighborhood
Pittsburgh’s Best Neighborhoods
Troy Hill is a Pittsburgh neighborhood only locals know about. Tourists don’t really visit because they don’t really know about it. It’s also the first neighborhood on the list of Pittsburgh’s Best Neighborhoods that represents the best of everyday Pittsburgh. Located atop a hill, there is no reason to venture into Troy Hill unless you’re visiting loved ones, eating at one of the restaurants, or going to church. All of this equates to low traffic counts, quieter streets, and safer walkability. Nearly perfectly self-contained, the only missing element is a neighborhood grocery store. Otherwise, one could live in Troy Hill and theoretically never have to leave the neighborhood. Restaurants, pubs, small-business retail, and numerous churches dot the neighborhood between tightly knit rows of townhomes and a few larger detached houses. The neighborhood’s proximity to downtown Pittsburgh, the Strip District, North Shore, Lawrenceville, Mexican War Streets, and Deutschtown provides quick commute times to neighborhoods that provide goods and services Troy Hill does not have. In sum, it’s easy living on Troy Hill with an urban design dynamic that’s quintessential Pittsburgh.
A Front Door
Troy Hill’s front door is distinct, if not a bit busy, but that’s okay because it still looks cool.
An Identifiable Center
The triangular intersection of Ley and Lowrie streets is Troy Hill’s neighborhood center. Numerous shops, businesses, and restaurants fill the intersection. Make a trip to Troy Hill and check out dining on the finer side, yet still a casual atmosphere, at Scratch & Co, Restaurant.
Identifying boundaries on Troy Hill comes easy on account of the fact that the neighborhood sits atop a hill. Perhaps the most unique features of the neighborhood are the numerous urban stairways that connect the hill to neighborhoods below it. (I counted six different sets of stairs surrounding and connecting the neighborhood, but I certainly could have missed one or two.) Pittsburgh has the second most urban steps in the world amounting to 24,108 vertical feet, and no doubt Troy Hill contributes significantly to said total.
Troy Hill’s density is typical of most Pittsburgh neighborhoods. Two and three story townhomes and a few taller apartment buildings and mixed use structures define the neighborhood.
Detached Sidewalks and Street Trees
There are sidewalks in Troy Hill, but they are not detached, nor are there many street trees. Many streets in the neighborhood are too narrow to accommodate detached sidewalks and a uniform tree canopy.
Diverse Architecture and Buildings That Address the Street
Troy Hill’s architecture is diverse and historic with a peppering of contemporary new construction throughout the neighborhood. All homes and businesses focus on the street with the notable and unsightly exception of a bastard strip mall that’s home to a mini mart and a few other businesses. The upside to the strip mall is there’s at least a C-store in the neighborhood to satisfy one’s midnight craving for a mentholated cigarette.
Mixed Land Uses
It seems like there is a pizza joint or pub on every corner in Troy Hill, which are two critical daily needs. The city of Pittsburgh is still largely saddled with an antiquated Euclidean zoning code, but you wouldn’t know it in Troy Hill.
Street energy in Troy Hill is scaled to its neighborhood size. Residents strolling or walking to a commercial destination define the pedestrian street scene.
Streets That Generally Connect
The streets that don’t connect in Troy Hill are stubbed off by the hilltop edges of the neighborhood. Otherwise, developers and planners did well connecting streets by way of a general grid system that’s very much influenced by the natural landscape.
Just regular old buses serve Troy Hill. Being near the center of the Pittsburgh metro, however, equates to quick access to all your needs.
One could quite comfortably reside in Troy Hill without a vehicle. The neighborhood is its own self-contained body and lives like a small town within the metro. You’ll know your neighbors and the shop owners that serve the neighborhood, but at the same time enjoy amenities that only big cities can offer.
Opportunities for Improvement
Troy Hill is a nearly flawless neighborhood. Opportunities for improvement are marginal in nature, such as more streetscaping and street trees, or more public art, or perhaps a regular Saturday street market. A good handful of sidewalks need repair. Additionally, the city would do well to allow for more mixed land uses in the neighborhood – uses that would contribute to its quality of life. If there are developable parcels, allowing for taller, multi-story complexes with city views on the north side of Troy Hill would add to the neighborhood’s overall market health and not accidently place established townhomes in the shadow of taller buildings. Nevertheless, this is not an exercise in good to great, it’s an exercise in great to excellent. Troy Hill does not need fundamental improvements. It’s the comparable that other Pittsburgh neighborhoods should strive toward.