Published in the Post-Gazette, Tuesday Nov. 20, 2007:
Post-Gazette sportswriter Dejan Kovacevic usually ends his online Pirates Q&A with "Thing No. [X] That Makes Pittsburgh Great." Inspired by his example, and dismayed by the story about the purging of Candy-Rama from its longtime home Downtown ("Hanging Up Their Hats," Oct. 31), I present "Thing No. 87 That Makes Pittsburgh Lame and Degenerate":
A slavish adherence to yuppie-centric Reaganomics in Downtown drives small, local businesses out, in favor of high-rise condos, ritzy chains and fitness clubs.
These spawns of misguided supply-side development seem to sprout in our city daily like a twisted thicket on the shores of Acheron. Aside from the pandering to the upper crust antithetical to Pittsburgh's proletarian identity, the distressing element here is that Downtown is going to be loaded with high-end housing and gyms that will be completely empty.
And yet, the Urban Redevelopment Authority keeps making way for these establishments as if the problem were that they just haven't built the right one yet. They think that perhaps this will be the boutique-condo-fitness-martini-bar complex that will tap the yuppie geyser and have the Lincoln Navigators flowing through town on a river of wealth.
More likely, 15 years from now we'll still have an abandoned Downtown full of overpriced lofts nestled among shanties of uninspired art and bad theater, but we also will have wasted billions on a metropolitan-center-never-to-be.
Pittsburgh's charm and strength is in the personalities of its (now decaying) neighborhoods. Build on that. People don't visit New York to see office buildings, but Greenwich Village and Chinatown. People want personality and variety, not a pathetic attempt to fulfill a generic and unrealistic notion of "urban."