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Release Date: Thursday, July 23rd 2015

Making the Move to Downtown after a Lifetime Living in the Suburbs

By Jane Vranish


My backyard is Point State Park. I have a 360-degree view of the Point’s fountain on my morning walk. I can also see Mount Washington, the North Shore and the city rising behind that iconic spray of water.

Do I miss the Pittsburgh suburbs? Of course, I spent my whole life there. But now I live Downtown.

Although there are other people around the park — sunbathing, reading, just hanging out — it feels like it’s all mine. That’s the beauty of living Downtown — it has all the amenities of a big city, from the Steelers to the symphony, but the heart and charm of a town where almost everyone knows your name. And if they don’t, they’ll not only give you directions to your destination, they might take you there.

For years, I came Downtown or to other parts of the city for performances, medical care and the like. I joked that I passed three Giant Eagles and a Shop’n Save to go to Whole Foods. So when the opportunity arose to move, it seemed like a good fit. But moving Downtown is like a new marriage: You don’t really know what it’s like until you live it.

It’s changing as I write. The Market Street Grocery is a great little European-style addition to the neighborhood, and the 30-story Tower at PNC Plaza, the world’s greenest skyscraper, is nearly complete. New restaurants are part of the burgeoning landscape. I’m not so sure about EQT Plaza’s reconstruction, though.

It’s been almost a year since I moved to a condominium on Fort Pitt Boulevard. In addition to enjoying the covered parking (a must), some residents of my building see Mount Washington and the Mon while others (like me) are reflected in PPG Place. While determining the best path to various performances and PNC Park, I learned an early lesson at the intersection of Liberty Avenue and Stanwix Street: Look behind you before stepping into the street, even if you have the right of way. Yes, the stories about the tug of war between pedestrians and motorists are true.

Now I use PPG Place and Market Square to access the Cultural District and PNC Park (you haven’t lived until you walk across a Downtown bridge). Market Square always has a festive atmosphere, from outdoor yoga classes to the holiday and farmers’ markets, and PPG Place has dancing waters (most of the time) or an ice rink lit by changing colored lights at night.

Although I feel safe Downtown with all the activity, I have invested in a can of Mace — just in case.

My first official hike was to the Hill District, sponsored by Urban Hikes, one of several organizations that explore the region. Like Rome and San Francisco, it has seven hills and boasts spectacular views of both the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers, and, Downtown itself.

I can’t wait to take advantage of the free walking tours — Grant Street, Market Square, bridges — sponsored by the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation. However, the prospect of all that walking led me to reassess my shoe wardrobe. I now incorporate more foot-friendly designs and a purse big enough to handle an extra pair of heels for dressy Benedum Center events.

Downtown residents never lack for things to do, what with the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s weekly email newsletter and various organizations like Venture Outdoors and Kayak Pittsburgh. These days, Downtown remains busy and dynamic way beyond its former 9 p.m. wrap-up.

Every 20 years or so since 1945, people talk about Pittsburgh renaissances. The way I see it, we’ve had three — the first when Mayor David L. Lawrence transformed the “Smoky City,” followed by Mayor Richard S. Caliguiri, who presided over construction of PPG Place, the EQT Tower and Westin Hotel, and Mayor Tom Murphy, who shepherded into existence Heinz Field, PNC Park and the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

I believe Pittsburgh is undergoing its fourth renaissance under Mayor Bill Peduto, who is putting an emphasis on environmental beautification along with infrastructure. For the first time, outsiders are coming not only for a visit, but also to invest, and sometimes, to stay.

I’m glad to be a part of it.

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