Pittsburgh's Renewal: Myths and Realities

Because the popular media remain fascinated by stories of Pittsburgh's contemporary "reinvention," "renewal," and/or "renaissance," I'm returning to the blog just this once to post a link to my own published account of what happened in Pittsburgh over the last few decades.  If all goes modestly well, then anyone doing background research on what makes modern Pittsburgh tick will eventually land here.

"Contrasts in Innovation: Pittsburgh Then and Now" puts Pittsburgh's story in context, pointing out not only what about Pittsburgh has changed, mostly for the better, but also what has not changed.  Naturally, I have some detailed theories about why some things have changed and why some things have not, and my view of the whole tale differs in some key respects from the story that usually appears in the mainstream media.

This piece started as a series of long blog posts here at Pittsblog in 2010.  With some refinement and added material about economic history, it was published in 2011 as a chapter in a longer collection about regional economics, titled "Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Evolving Economies: The Role of Law," from Edward Elgar Publishing.

Download it for free.at http://ssrn.com/abstract=1858741

Just One More Thing ...

I feel like Lieutenant Columbo.  Just one more thing:

I'm on Twitter @profmadison.  Most of the content there will be tweets of posts at my law-and-technology blog, madisonian.net, which continues even as Pittsblog expires.  But Pittsburgh notes and other things may sneak in from time to time.

To paraphrase the words of the classic country song, how can you miss me if I won't go away?

Pittsblog: Eight Years is Enough

Pittsblog followers -- and a few loyalists are still out there, I believe -- have noticed the steady decline over the last many months in the frequency of posting here.  There are lots of explanations and no excuses.  The reality is that I have simply gotten too busy to give the blog regular attention and too interested and engaged in things going on both outside of Pittsburgh and in my little corners of Pittsburgh to spend energy writing anything more about the place.  This will be the last Pittsblog post.  I promise.

Earlier this Fall, I started a short series called "Fresh Eyes on Pittsburgh," and I promised five posts.  I managed to produce three of them, and you can find them here (on the economy), here (on Pittsburgh society and community), and here (on culture, particularly sports).  I had hoped to write about Pittsburgh politics, and about Pittsburgh's environment (natural resources, I mean), but looking back and looking forward, I just don't have the time or the energy.  For the omitted posts, I throw myself on the proverbial mercy of the blogosphere.  I have long planned to wrap this whole thing up by the new year.  I started Pittsblog way back on December 31, 2003, and I'll end it just shy of the blog's eighth birthday.

I stopped blogging here once before. That turned out to be a false start, as it were.  Then, it turned out that there was more that I wanted to say.  Now, that's not the case.  (Plus, the blogosphere as a whole is steadily being absorbed into the Twitterverse.  How many of the old-time, once-novel Pittsburgh blogs are still around?  Tube City may be the last.)  The blog will stay up, at least as long as Google will have me.  My final word, for what it's worth, will end up in print.  The Pittsblog series known once and for the foreseesable future as "The Story Behind Pittsburgh's Revitalization" is being adapted into a chapter in a forthcoming edited collection on the renewal of American's cities.

Eight years of blogging are too much to wrap up in a single post.  The most important thing to say is thanks.  Thanks to all of you who read, who continued to read, who commented, who disagreed and criticized and told me that I was and am wrong, very wrong (yes - I mean that), and most of all who reached out in one way or another.  Perhaps the most important benefits of my blogging here have been the gifts of friendship that I received from blogging colleagues; media colleagues; law and business colleagues; arts, tech, and culture colleagues; higher education colleagues; and non-colleague colleagues -- individual souls, often named, sometimes anonymous and pseudonymous -- who took time to engage at Pittsblog in the construction of the continuing project that is Pittsburgh.  Many of the people who began as my Pittsblog readers and correspondents have become my Pittsburgh friends. 

True gifts, I have learned, are given again.  They stay in motion.  Pittsblog will close, and it closes now.  But the point is not farewell, let alone a Pittsburgh-ish "Bye now."

The point is this:


Adios to Aldo Coffee

Coffee aficionados in Pittsburgh already know this:  Aldo Coffee in Mt. Lebanon has closed.  New ownership will carry on the practice of high quality coffee in the same venue.

Aldo's valedictory blog post is here.  The store opened in 2004, and at the time it was in the vanguard of a lot of things in Pittsburgh:  High quality coffee as an alternative to Starbucks.  Explicit concern not just for the quality of the beans and the flavor in the cup, but for fair treatment of the people who grow and sell the beans.  Aldo was an early adopter of broad-based social media strategies to support a small business.  Today, outstanding coffee houses are flourishing all over Pittsburgh.  Marketing via social media is the rule, not the exception.

Along the way, Aldo provoked.  It made a lot of friends.  It also alienated a few people.  The real cost of a cup of coffee at Aldo reflected the real costs of making coffee.  Was that honesty, or pretense? 

Above all, and in the face of a lot of locals who thought (and perhaps still think) that Pittsburgh is fine just the way it is, Aldo unsettled the status quo.  In this Pittsblog post, I linked to some Aldo comments about the future of localism and small business. Pittsburghers take enormous pride in their neighborhoods and in their small towns.  They still buy an awful lot of coffee at 7-11 and Sheetz and Dunkin' Donuts, and when they go upscale, they are often spotted at Starbucks. 

Thanks, Rich and Melanie, for giving us the love of your labors over the years.

They named the dog, "Aldo."

Pittsburgh's Decline v. The Decline of Steel

Chris B. appears to be running out of patience with the conventional history of modern Pittsburgh, which blames the losses of jobs and wealth in steel towns such as Braddock squarely on the shoulders of the decline of the steel industry.  As the data shows, and as Chris repeats over and over, the decline of places like Braddock is a complex tale.  It got started long before steel started to slide, and it has all kinds of causes, some steel-related, some not.

Relevant posts:

The Blame Game (Nov. 22 2011)

Braddock mythos redux (Oct. 18 2009)

Speaking of real estate - Braddock (Dec. 1 2008)

"The Cruel Lesson of Penn State"

This post is off-topic for Pittsblog.  I am posting it -- a link to a piece at Slate about the sources and costs of childhood sexual abuse, written in the wake of the disclosures coming out of the Penn State football program -- because it is brilliant, moving, humbling, chilling, and in my opinion absolutely essential reading.   The author is my friend, and I am moved beyond words by his courage.

Read "The Cruel Lesson of Penn State:  How what happened in State College forced me to confront my own abuse."

Innovation Practice Institute at Pop City

In connection with Global Entrepreneurship Week, now underway, Pop City has a nice feature on Pitt Law's Innovation Practice Institute, where I am the Faculty Director.  Under the leadership of our Executive Director, Justine Kasznica, who is the focus of the piece, the IPI has really blossomed over the last ten months.

The Pop City story has links to current IPI events in Pittsburgh.  The IPI's home page is here.  Justine and I have big plans for additional IPI programming, including new courses for law students and a research program to complement the teaching and community engagement.

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About Pittsblog

Updated September 2020:

Pittsblog 2.0 was written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, from January 2004 through December 2011.

Since then, Pittsburgh-themed essays have appeared from time to time at madisonian.net, on law and technology, and in some of Pittsburgh's classier professional media venues.

Chris Briem of Null Space drops by Pittsblog from time to time.

All opinions expressed at Pittsblog 2.0 are those of their respective authors and of no one (and no thing) else, least of all the University of Pittsburgh.

Pittsblog 2.0 has a motto: "It's steel good in Pittsburgh." Say it aloud, with a Pittsburgh accent.


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