Friday, April 27, 2007

Who Would Have Known? Pittsburgh Is # 1

Hopefully Merge doesn't mind me pasting in his post off his blog

Rand McNally's 2007 Places Rated Almanac has been released, and SURPRISE... Pittsburgh is rated #1 in the nation. The last time the city received this status was in 1985. But Pittsburgh is the ONLY city that has been rated in the top twenty in every single edition (falling to its worst 14th-place ranking in 1997). It is the only city rated #1 twice, out of a pool of over 350 metro areas. But what is the criteria? Well... the editors looked at a variety of factors including housing, transportation, jobs, education, climate, crime, health care, recreation and ambience. And what is the key to Pittsburgh's continued success? As publisher David Savageau points out, "It's the triumph of the better than average place. It's not spectacular but it is very good in all of the areas." Certainly that's good news to its inhabitants. We are no one-trick pony.

Once mired in a deep depression after the decline of American steel, the region's economy has refocused itself on education, technology, healthcare, nuclear engineering and financial services. The Wall Street Journal, noting a particular growth in robotics, refers to the city as "Roboburgh". The city has a number of diverse and quirky neighborhoods, many of which seem to be succeeding in their strenuous efforts to improve their identity. Pittsburgh has the lowest property crime rate and a lower-than-average violent crime rate among cities of similar size. There are many quality educational institutions, including the University of Pitsburgh and Carnegie Mellon (both ranked in the tip 25 in their respective categories nationally). The city is very clean and beautiful, and has an incredibly eclectic mix of architecture. And it has more bridges than Venice, Italy.

As I've tried to document on this blog, Pittsburgh also has a thriving arts scene. Internationally known institutions such as the Carnegie, the Warhol, and the Mattress Factory give the Burgh a much needed dose of serious culture. Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, The Frick Art and Historical Center, Phipps Conservatory, Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, The Society for Contemporary Craft, and Pittsburgh Fillmakers all do their part as well. Additionally, the last few years have seen the opening of many quality private galleries, as well as the continued presence of publically funded spaces. And for the masses, there are art parties including the Flux series, seasonal Downtown Art Crawls, and this weekend's Art All Night in Lawrenceville. That's not to mention the numerous smaller functions held in bars, galleries and industrial buildings throughout the year. Opportunities to take classes abound and there are multiple drawing sessions available weekly.

Most of the information about the excellence of the arts scene (here on this blog) has been anecdotal. But American Style Magazine has just named Pittsburgh the #1 destination for the arts among all midsized cities in the nation.

And that's not the end of the accolades either:

Foreign Direct Magazine (an affiliate of London's Financial Times) recently rated Pittsburgh one of the top three "North American Cities of the Future" (among participating cities) ahead of such cities as Boston, Atlanta, Montreal, and Miami. Only Toronto and Chicago fared better. Yet there is a strong caveat with this award- only ten cities in Pittsburgh's subcategory eligible for ranking returned surveys. Still the Burgh received specifically high marks for cost effectiveness and technological infrastructure.

In 2005, The Economist ranked Pittsburgh and Cleveland the top most livable cities in the United States, and tied the cities for 26th world-wide.

In 2006, Expansion Magazine ranked Pittsburgh among the top 10 metropolitan areas in the nation for climates favorable to business expansion.

It's quite clear that Pittsburgh's status as a "best-kept secret" can't be maintained forever. Eventually the area is going to attract a growing population, and that will result in congestion along with all the typical hassles of a rapidly developing city. There are many inhabitants of our town that are anxious for growth. But part of what makes this place #1 in so many areas is the room people have to move around in. Sure it would be nice to have more wealth flowing into Pittsburgh, but not at the expense of the qualities that make it the "Most Livable City" in the US. Folks should learn to appreciate what they have.

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