Reviving a Hardscrabble Steel Town

Mayor John Fetterman of Braddock, PA struggles with the challenges of reviving a former steel town that has lost 90% of its peak population.

Mayor Fetterman was asked about how he hoped to get his town back on its feet.

'We've been taking a two-pronged approach,"'Fetterman says to answer this question. 'On one hand we have to make improvements in providing functional services and urban space for the existing resident base. When I took office, Braddock had no basketball court. No parks. No place to even walk your dog, except the street.'

Given such a lack of the basic amenities of urban life, the first three years of his term have seen some quick progress. Fetterman ticks off the accomplishments as he drives by them on another impromptu tour of town: Braddock's first basketball courts have been constructed, and its functional green space increased substantially with abandoned lots renovated into parks and gardens. A community-supported agriculture project called Pittsburgh Grow now operates an urban farm under the bridge into town.

Good intentions and hard work only go so far without resources. Fetterman points out, 'Braddock is an Act 47 community.' The term refers to the Pennsylvania legislature's provisions for municipalities (many of them old steel towns like this one) that no longer have the tax base to support themselves. He describes the facts of life for a long-bankrupt town with a disarming lack of spin: 'We wouldn't even have money for 911 service here, if we didn't get a grant for it from the state.'"

Thanks to Nick Gurich

Full Story: Braddock, Pennsylvania: Out of the Furnace and into the Fire


Prepare for the AICP* Exam

Join the thousands of students who have utilized the Planetizen AICP* Exam Preparation Class to prepare for the American Planning Association's AICP* exam.
Starting at $245

Essential Readings in Urban Planning

Planning on taking the AICP* Exam? Register for Planetizen's AICP * Exam Preparation Course to save $25.

Get the "Green Bible" of educational planning books

Understand the complexities of planning at the local level while preparing for the AICP* exam. Find out why this edition is included in the APA's recommended reading list.
City Plate table setting

New Arrival! City Plates

City downtown cores printed on gorgeous decorative collectible porcelain plates.