With 2013 quickly approaching, I’d like to take this time to reflect on another successful year in the City of Pittsburgh. As our Third Renaissance reaches and revitalizes even more neighborhoods, I have never been more proud of the way our residents and neighbors have worked hand-in-hand with the City to clean up blight, remove litter and transform eye sores into beauty. We should all be proud of our neighborhoods, and of the work we’ve done – and continue to do – to ensure that they’re a great place to live and do business. Across the City, many great things happened in 2012.
There are currently more than 1.2 million jobs available in Pittsburgh – that’s more available jobs than ever before. This is a result of our vision to grow strong neighborhoods and business districts by remaining dedicated to impressive neighborhood investment, job creation and a thriving high-tech innovation economy. In 2012 alone, Downtown has seen $5 billion in investment, which brought 30 new restaurants to Market Square and multi-million dollar investments like Gardens at Market, which will transform dilapidated buildings at the Square’s Fifth Street entrance into an 18-story mixed-use building, and the $83 million Piatt Place development to include luxury condos and high-end restaurants. Looking forward, Downtown will become even more vibrant as the new PNC skyscraper – slated to be the world’s greenest skyscraper – moves toward completion.
Pittsburgh’s Third Renaissance expands beyond Downtown. Developments like Bakery Square 2.0 in East Liberty, South Shore Riverfront Park at SouthSide Works and the Garden Block Revitalization project on the Northside bring jobs and much-needed office space for Pittsburgh’s growing and thriving economy.
ENSURING PUBLIC SAFETY
As we celebrate Pittsburgh’s sixth consecutive year of historic crime lows, the City’s public safety officials continue their efforts to drive crime rates even lower in our neighborhoods with improvements in equipment and upgrades in police cars. Safety officials have received advanced training and over $3 million was dedicated to the demolition of condemned homes in the area. From 2006 through 2011, the City’s overall rate of reported crime dropped by 26 percent. The safety of Pittsburgh’s residents and businesses has been and will remain the highest priority in the New Year.
BRINGING BACK PITTSBURGH’S PROMISE
Since 2008, more than 3,000 students have pursued higher education thanks to The Pittsburgh Promise – a scholarship program that gives Pittsburgh Public Schools students up to $40,000 to follow their dreams. This past June, the first Promise scholars graduated from college and the program will come full circle as local employers hire from a newly trained, local talent pool.
GREENING AND IMPROVING PUBLIC INFRASTRUCTURE
We have taken many steps to reduce the City’s energy usage and save taxpayers’ money. Just this year, we upgraded 3,700 business district street lights to brighter, cleaner, cost-efficient LED lights; conducted energy-efficient improvements to the City-County Building; and are creating Green Central, the City’s first one-stop-shop for green- and sustainability-related information.
The Department of Public Works (DPW) has made strides toward improving streets and cleaning up communities. This year, DPW paved almost 60 miles of City streets, installed 56 new handicap ramps, and – through the Mayor’s Redd Up and Green Up programs – cleaned up 43 lots, boarded up 102 abandoned buildings, cleared 466 tons of debris, created 12 new community gardens and opened two new dog parks.
FROM SENIORS TO KIDS – IMPROVEMENTS FOR EVERYONE TO ENJOY
From renovated senior centers to community farmers markets to youth-friendly events, residents of all ages had the opportunity to enjoy Pittsburgh in 2012. The recent reopening of the historic South Side Market House marked the completion of the first of three renovation phases to bring the building to complete usability and restore quality-of-life programming for senior residents. The project, originally slated for almost $1 million in repairs, cost under $250,000 thanks to in-house work provided by the City’s Public Works department.
Safety repairs and improvements have recently been made to many of the City’s 130 parks and playgrounds, including safety surface installments, upgraded courts and lighting, and improved overall appearance. Farmers markets were held in neighborhoods across the City during the summer and fall to provide residents with locally grown food and handmade crafts. Among a variety of family- and youth-friendly events, the City held its first-ever “Wallflowers and Wildflowers: Alternative Homecoming” dance for teens who find it difficult or intimidating to attend their own school’s dance among their classmates.
ENGAGING RESIDENTS IN CITIZEN-SERVICE
By obtaining a Cities of Service grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies and Rockefeller Foundation, Mayor Ravenstahl launched servePGH in March 2011 to engage Pittsburgh’s citizens in service and to answer President Obama’s national call to volunteerism. Through eight new and innovative servePGH initiatives, the Mayor has engaged citizens in volunteer-fueled solutions to revitalize close to 200 City blocks, restore vulnerable residents’ homes, help middle-school youth navigate life’s challenges, clean up over 21,000 pounds of litter, and more. Over 3,000 volunteers have committed over 30,000 hours of service through servePGH to date.
Despite the nation’s biggest downturn since the Great Depression, Pittsburgh has stayed on top. Accolades touting the City’s successes continue to come in. This year alone, we were named one of “20 Cities with the Happiest Young Professionals” and one of “25 Best Places to Retire in 2012” by Forbes.com, one of 20 “Best of the World” must-see places to visit in 2012 by National Geographic Traveler, a top 10 “American Comeback City” by Forbes, and America’s “Most Livable City” year after year by The Economist and Forbes.com.The list goes on, and the resounding message is clear – Pittsburgh is a growing city, a revitalized city, a thriving city. And people across the world are taking note.
As we look forward to another successful year in 2013, I anticipate even more milestones to be reached, neighborhoods to be improved and accolades to be received. And I look forward to working together with residents, community organizations and businesses to write the next chapter in Pittsburgh’s remarkable story. I wish everyone a safe, healthy and happy New Year.