You should be concerned about gentrification in Pittsburgh

Written By Salvatore Elia, Staff Writer

Luxury apartments are planned to take over the YWCA building, evicting a longstanding organization helping young women and girls, as well as Point Park’s Center for Media Innovation, and Mandarin Gourmet, a restaurant known for hosting an appearance in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019). 

In early 2021 the YWCA sold their downtown location to development company City Line Apartments LLC, who own at least fourteen other luxury apartment buildings across the Rust Belt with several more currently under construction. Their website likes to paint their style of housing as “Experiential living,” hosting cafes, gyms, restaurants, and everything you would expect from luxury apartment living. 

While many may see this as a good thing, bringing more people downtown, and providing a hub for living and nightlife, is it truly worth sacrificing a piece of Pittsburgh culture, and such a prestigious college resource as the CMI? One may argue that this is pure gentrification, kicking out local resources in favor of replacing it with expensive housing that will only cater to the upper classes who may not even be from the Pittsburgh area. And one may ask what of the dozens of luxury apartments that already sit vacant in the downtown area alone? With so many already sitting empty, does the city really need any more? Or is this just corporate greed trying to make a quick buck at the cost of important resources. 

In an interview with TribLive last year the YWCA painted it as a beneficial move for their organization. In recent years their services have been scaled for a number of reasons whether they be funding, staff retention, or just less people coming in. If you were to walk by the YWCA right after reading this article, chances are the building would look vacant, nobody sitting at the desk, and the lights barely shining. One also needs to ask, based on historic examples of luxury apartments moving into an area, what would that mean for the Wood Street Commons? The WSC is an assisted living facility that provides government subsidized housing for those experiencing homelessness, and provides an affordable place to live. With Pittsburgh’s Gentry moving just across the street, how would that affect them? 

One can only hypothesize but look at the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia. Fishtown gets its name from the people who lived there, blue collar fisherman and dock workers. In the past, Fishtown went through a rough patch, especially as it neighbors the infamous Kensington, an area known for large numbers of homelessness, crime, and open air drug markets.Within the past ten years many developers have been moving in, buying property, and renting it out to predominantly upper middle class young adults. 

Objectively one may see this and think “Oh, people are moving in, cleaning up the neighborhood, and opening businesses.” While that is a valid take, the city never addressed the issues of crime, homelessness, and rampant drug use. Many in these luxury neighborhoods take a Not-In-My-Backyard approach (NIMBY for short). All of these issues remained, the city would roll in, destroy encampments, and issue tickets, but never try to help these people. All that would happen is they would be pushed somewhere else. 

While this may not be the case for this one specific apartment building, as more developers move in, building expensive artsy apartments, what does that spell for the residents of Pittsburgh? What does that mean for students who are losing an amazing resource such as the CMI, especially as there is no clear date for when the replacement for the media studio? Nor what does this mean for the Man.