Give me your homeowners tired of high costs, your newly equity-rich west coasters yearning to breath freer in western Pennsylvania… We’ve certainly got lost of reasonably priced property around here.
Maybe Pittsburgh should be billing itself as the place for expatriates to retire early. Certainly some of them are considering the prospect.
The other day I was reminded of this when I received an email from a reader in California that had stumbled on Gist Blackridge while looking for information on Blackridge, the community in which I live. The reader has been thinking of moving back to Pittsburgh, where he grew up. After all the years he’s been gone, Pittsburgh still feels like home, he wrote.
The reader said he’d visited Pittsburgh recently on a scouting trip and liked the Blackridge area, but he wanted my take on it.
“Does the Parkway serve as any sort of north-south line of demarcation or psychological barrier? And just how often do you hear the sound of gunfire wafting up the hill from downtown Wilkinsburg,” he asked, referring to a story that I wrote about living in the Wilkinsburg section of Blackridge.
I responded that Blackridge is a small community of about 600 homes, covering parts of Wilkinsburg, Churchill and Penn Hills. I walk the dog three blocks down the street to a 10-acre park that includes some woods, Blackridge Civic Association community center, a ball-field and a playground. On the other side of the park is Churchill Country Club.
I've heard gunfire in the summer, mostly. A mile or so down the hill is the Wilkinsburg hood, but even down there, many beautiful houses and commercial buildings are being rehabbed. I know some young professionals who live down there, and I know other people that are taking an active part in Wilkinsburg's revitalization. Wilkinsburg used to be one of the premier suburbs in Pittsburgh. It's coming back, slowly.
Is it dangerous here? Not for the average person who isn't dealing drugs and getting into gunplay. The Parkway doesn’t serve as any sort of demarcation or psychological barrier. I walk my dog along Greensburg Pike, over the Parkway and further into Forest Hills from time to time. Sometimes I'm walking him in the morning, while folks are backed up in rush hour on the Parkway. As I walk across the bridge over them I think how nice it is to be a freelance writer, and not have to sit in traffic to go five miles in thirty minutes.
The reader responded that my observations matched his impression of the area. I wrote back that I also like Blackridge because of its proximity to Squirrel Hill, Shadyside, Oakland and downtown. The Parkway and the Turnpike are close, too.
What makes Blackridge more interesting is that the neighborhood has a diverse group of people: singles, married couples, folks with kids, a majority white but a fair amount of blacks, and a substantial number of gay and lesbian couples. There are a lot of friendly dog-walkers, too, I added.
Part of what makes this community so quiet and comfortable is the trees. There are many large oaks and maples, as well as many mature ornamental and fruit trees (some of which may have come from the Black farm, for which Blackridge was named) that give this place an almost park-like feel. The trees are the structure that many gardeners here use to landscape their yards. The roots of those trees are firmly dug in.The roots of former Pittsburghers still lay dormant in this region. We should encourage those roots and bring back those former residents, to bloom again where they originally were planted.
This story was first published in Gist Blackridge.