Report Cites Downtown Dynamics
Downtown Pittsburgh is a more diverse and dynamic place than it was just seven years ago — more residents, more students and workers, more people riding bikes and running.
That’s the conclusion of Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership President Michael Edwards, based on the group’s new report about living, working and commuting Downtown.
Among the findings:
• The peak age of Downtown residents is 25 to 29.
• One-third of Downtown residents have incomes of more than $100,000.
• Of the 126,000 people working Downtown, two-thirds are in the service or finance industries.
• The proportion of students jumped from 4 percent to 13 percent since 2003.
• The use of public transit also jumped, from 48 percent to 53 percent in the same period.
• The average commute to Downtown is 13 miles, or about 38 minutes.
The report comes from four different surveys conducted in 2010. For the most part, the studies are looking at the “greater Downtown” area that includes the Golden Triangle, the north and south shores, the near-Strip District and Uptown.
The full report is available at www.downtownpittsburgh.com.
Most of the indicators are positive, Mr. Edwards said.
One piece of data that never registered before is the growing number of people coming Downtown on weekends to exercise. That, he said, speaks to the work of Riverlife, the nonprofit advocacy group, and increased riverfront activity, from kayaking to biking and running the trails.
“This is the first time we’ve seen that,” Mr. Edwards said. “It shows a more compelling place to locate, with the whole Downtown as your backyard.”
But there are two trouble spots in the report.
Commuting costs are up anywhere from 8 percent to 89 percent, looking at parking, gas, bus fares and tolls. At the same time, fewer employers are contributing to those costs with bus passes or discounts. So, while Downtown is holding its own as the region’s employment hub, those costs are a concern for the future.
Also of concern: The cost of developing new housing Downtown is 25 percent higher than what the market will bear.
There’s not much the partnership can do about commuting costs, but it does have an idea to lower the cost of building new housing. Mr. Edwards said he and others will be lobbying in Harrisburg for a state historic tax credit, a financing tool that could fill 20 percent of the gap.
“That would lower the cost to the developer significantly,” he said.
It only makes sense to make Downtown development more affordable, he said, because the residential population there has more than doubled in the past decade, from 3,050 to 7,260.Right now, the occupancy rate for Downtown residences is 97 percent, so there is good reason to believe that new units would fare just as well.
For office space, overall occupancy is 90 percent, the highest in 20 years. Hotel occupancy, at 65 percent, is still higher than national average.
“So we are performing pretty well,” Mr. Edwards said. “This information allows us to tackle the nuances and make things even better.”
The spike in students is attributable to Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12, Point Park and Duquesne universities and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. That influx, Mr. Edwards said, adds to the district’s depth because “they come at different times and spend money on different things.”
For example, comic books.
“This location thrives off the college students,” said Humes Grossman, a clerk at Comic Book Ink on Smithfield Street.
Downtown regular Premo Masullo, 40, of Brentwood, is a server at the Omni William Penn Hotel. He’s noticed changes for the better.
“I’ve been working here almost 20 years, and it’s more thriving than it was 20 years ago,” he said. “There are [more] smaller businesses Downtown. There are more kids, college kids, which increases business.”
But not every part of Downtown is benefitting equally from the positive trends, said Julina Coupland, 29, of Point Breeze.
“Pockets of it seem to be [thriving] and others are moving more slowly,” she said. “The Cultural District, the new Market Square are pretty vibrant. But mostly when I’m down here on weekends and evenings, it’s pretty quiet, not a lot is going on.”
Other findings in the report include:• Average household size increased to 1.5 people from 2008, and 4 percent of households have children.
• Top reasons for moving Downtown were convenience, desire for city living and appeal of the buildings.
• Weekly average of spending at Downtown restaurants and retailers was $183.
• Four in 10 commuters are ages 35 or younger.
• The Boulevard of the Allies is mostly traveled by students.
• Market Square and Fifth Avenue are among the busiest pedestrian areas due to recent revitalization.