Pittsburgh Uptown Neighborhood Townhomes

#12 Uptown Neighborhood

Pittsburgh’s Best Neighborhoods

Pittsburgh Uptown Neighborhood Location Map
Uptown neighborhood is adjacent to downtown.

Uptown Neighborhood Description

I’ve walked enough Pittsburgh neighborhoods to know awnings are a signal of neighborhood investment. Streets and neighborhoods with more awnings haven’t seen investment in some time. Streets with less awnings is a signal the housing stock is turning over and new households are investing. Further, if the housing has turned over, it likely signals the fruits of larger market movements toward the neighborhood. There are awnings in Pittsburgh’s Uptown neighborhood, but they are fleeting. Investments are increasing due to its proximity to downtown, Duquesne University, PPG Paints Arena, the imminent construction of Pittsburgh Regional Transit’s Bus Rapid Transit Plan, which is like light rail light, and the implementation of the new Ecoinnovation District Plan. Like Millvale and Wilkinsburg, artists are the leading edge of neighborhood reinvestment. The vanguards have arrived in Uptown and they’re throwing great parties and doing creative things. I don’t think it will be long before they realize that all the old awnings around Pittsburgh are actually pretty dope, and they’ll make them cool again.

Neighborhood Ranking Criteria

A Front Door

Pittsburgh Uptown Neighborhood Duquesne Gateways
Duquesne University erected several of these great gateways onto their campus.

There are several great front doors into Uptown, the vast majority of which are brought to you by Duquesne University.

An Identifiable Center

One could make an argument for several neighborhood centers in Uptown — Paints Arena, the hospital, Duquesne. Because it’s considerably more dense on the downtown side of Uptown, which also includes the arena and University, the entire end of the neighborhood qualifies as the neighborhood center.   

Boundaries

Uptown has distinct boundaries. When traveling from downtown, Uptown peters out as it approaches the edge of Oakland. The steep hill into the Hill District is the northern boundary, while the Mon River and the Boulevard of the Allies is to the south.

Density

Pittsburgh Uptown Neighborhood Near Downtown
Uptown gets more dense the nearer one is to downtown.

Just as the urban planning gods intended, Uptown is denser the closer one is to downtown and gradually levels out to two and three story townhomes.

Detached Sidewalks and Street Trees

Pittsburgh Uptown Neighborhood Sidewalks
No awnings. Must be new households.

There are no detached sidewalks, but the sidewalks are generally wide enough. As a whole, a neighborhood tree planting campaign would add much character on account of the fact that there isn’t much of a neighborhood canopy.

Diverse Architecture and Buildings That Address the Street

Pittsburgh Uptown Neighborhood Around Duquesne
The creep of new development is pressing from downtown into Uptown. Balconies are a great way to address the street.

There are lots of great townhomes throughout Uptown. The hospital and Duquesne University’s campuses fit the neighborhood well by adding density and breaking up the monotony of the townhomes – good monotony though it is.

Mixed Land Uses

Pittsburgh Uptown Neighborhood Paints Arena
Paints Arena is a significant activity anchor in Uptown.

Townhomes, small businesses, large businesses, condos, apartments, dorms, offices, sports venues – Uptown has a lot going for it in the mixed-use department.

Street Energy

Pittsburgh Uptown Neighborhood Uptown
Awnings are on the endangered species list in Uptown.

Street energy in Uptown is steady courtesy of large-scale anchors, such as Duquesne and the arena. There are also a handful of corner bars that help keep eyes on the street during the evening.

Streets That Generally Connect

Uptown is built upon a uniform grid. All streets connect.

Transit Access

Pittsburgh Bus Rapid Transit Map
Pittsburgh’s new light rail light line is every bit about Uptown as it is about Oakland. (Map from Pittsburgh Regional Transit.)

A $291 million investment is coming to Uptown in the form of bus rapid transit. BRT is far better than regular old buses because the service is quicker, has the feeling of permanence, higher capacity, dedicated lanes, and often large loading platforms in lieu of little bus stops. In most new systems, BRT functions more like light rail but is significantly more affordable since tracks don’t have to be laid. In short, BRT is a cheaper alternative to light rail but offers many of the same benefits. Being a relatively new transit model, the question is can it spur transit-oriented development as well as proper light rail systems have proven up? Uptown has an opportunity to answer that question.

Walkability

Pittsburgh Uptown Neighborhood Street Trees
For the most part, Uptown’s side streets are well occupied.

One can easily live in Uptown without a vehicle. There are plenty of places to walk to that can fulfill day to day needs.

Opportunities for Improvement

Perhaps the most fascinating part of Uptown is it doesn’t feel like a college neighborhood despite the 15,000 students at Duquesne. Geographically, Uptown is not a very large neighborhood and to have a 15,000 person anchor ought to influence the local street environment more. To put it bluntly, Duquesne has an opportunity to move Uptown toward a student centric street environment by engaging with the private sector with partnerships – everything from research to creative entrepreneurship – and influencing the city to focus on design improvements that invite students/people onto and off of campus. The new bus rapid transit is also an opportunity to explore transit-oriented developments, whether or not in partnership with Duquesne, to help increase neighborhood density.