Downtown Pittsburgh: Back and Better Than Ever

Mark Belko traces downtown Pittsburgh's rejuvenation since bottoming out three decades ago. The area's recent comeback, marked by a surging office market and residential renaissance, has some claiming that Downtown is better than ever.
December 31, 2012, 11am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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1983 marked the last peak of downtown Pittsburgh's ascendency, when "offices were filled to the brim, with new skyscrapers on the way. And Pittsburgh was home to 15 Fortune 500 companies, many of them headquartered in the city center," reports Belko. The last three decades have seen a roller coaster of fortunes for the area, however. A collapse brought on by the implosion of the steel industry and suburban flight has been followed by a remarkable comeback over the last decade.

"It's really been an unbelievable ride to see Pittsburgh go from the depths of despair to what it is today, a blossoming city," said Gerry McLaughlin, the Newmark Grubb Knight Frank executive managing director who has worked in the market for 35 years.

The potent shifts in the office and residential markets signals Downtown's changing fortunes. For instance, in the last ten years the class A office vacancy rate has gone from 15.1 percent to 5.5 percent, with new skyscrapers recently completed and under construction.

More notable, however has been the surprising residential growth. "In 1983," writes Belko, "Downtown was the home to a half-dozen apartment or condo buildings and about 3,500 people. Today, there are more than a dozen apartment or condo buildings, with more on the way, and nearly 8,000 residents. Most of the units have sprouted up within the last seven or so years."

"I don't think we're ahead, but we've caught up. It's pretty unbelievable when you think about it. I doubt any other city in the country has lost what Pittsburgh lost and has made a comeback the way we have," said McLaughlin.

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Published on Sunday, December 30, 2012 in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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