Pittsburgh’s new mayor took office this week, and with him comes a cabinet division dedicated to neighborhood development. The Steel City has largely scrubbed its image as an ailing post-industrial town in recent years, drawing in new artists and young professionals, but the revival has not touched all parts of the city equally.
Some urbanists have pinned their hopes of remedying that on incoming Mayor Bill Peduto. During his victory speech on November 5, Peduto contrasted himself with his predecessor, Luke Ravenstahl, who saw “Pittsburgh’s Third Renaissance” in large developments like stadiums and convention centers.
“Tonight, we end the era of renaissance. There is not going to be a Renaissance Four,” he said that night. “It’s about building within, rebuilding the neighborhoods.”
He tapped Valerie McDonald-Roberts to serve as the Chief of Urban Affairs, who will work with the city’s expanded planning department, non-profits and others to oversee the city’s housing initiatives, “with a particular focus on underserved neighborhoods,” according to her profile on the city’s website.
Kevin Acklin, the mayor’s chief of staff, will also oversee development and city infrastructure as Pittsburgh’s chief development officer.
Peduto has also advocated improving bike infrastructure. Whether Peduto can realize his vision for a more equal Pittsburgh, with economic development beyond its resurgent downtown, remains to be seen. As the Post-Gazette reported, Peduto faces a capital budget largely depleted by his predecessor:
Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle believes working within the city’s financial constraints will be the biggest obstacle to Mr. Peduto implementing his vision.
“It’s one thing to be visionary, [but] once you’ve sort of hit the ground you’ve got to govern,” he said. “You’ve got to make the hard choices.”