The New Portland

In this Pop City piece about Pittsburgh's newfound ability to attract executive talent, I read this quote from a source:

"Twice last fall and then again last week I heard someone say that Pittsburgh is the next Portland."
I paused.  Does Pittsburgh really want to be the next Portland?  Remember that Pittsburgh's unemployment rate has been below the national average for roughly four years; Portland's has been ... higher.  The cost of living in Pittsburgh is modest.  In Portland, it's extraordinary.  Portland is beautiful.  It has bikeways, roses, high tech design and industry, craft beer, one of the world's great independent bookstores (perhaps one of the world's few remaining independent bookstores?), and a wonderful hole in the wall called Voodoo Donut (slogan:  "The magic is in the hole").  But ... 

"Perhaps Portland is actually a bit too livable. As urban scholar Joel Kotkin put it, "Portland is to today's generation what San Francisco was to mine: a hip, not too expensive place for young slackers to go."  (Source)
I have great friends in Portland, who love it there.  Some of them moved to Portland from Pittsburgh.  But Pittsburgh might be careful what it wishes for.  Mountain vistas aside, Portland doesn't look so great when it's compared to, say, Indianapolis.


3 Responses to "The New Portland"

Anonymous said... 1/19/2011 12:28 PM

As a Pittsburgh-to-Portland transplant, I can say this article makes a great point. But, there are three reasons why Pittsburgh will never be the new Portland. Here they are, in no particular order: The Steelers, Iron City Beer, and great Italian food.

BrianTH said... 1/20/2011 12:41 PM

There are some things about Portland potentially worth borrowing. I particularly like what I understand about their Metro agency (how it is elected, the authority it has, and so on). A city of the second class may not be able to persuade PA to adopt such a model in the near future, but I think it is worth contemplating at least.

But overall? No, we should not actually try to be the "next Portland". Of course I'm fine if people want to say that as a shorthand for "Pittsburgh is a midsize city which looks increasingly attractive to mobile young people."

Mike Madison said... 1/23/2011 1:35 PM

Just so that no one misses my own point: My view is close to what BrianTH said. I don't truly think that Pittsburgh should aspire to be like Indianopolis, either; my point there is that comparisons have layers, and at some layers, there is much to like about Indy.

A long-running theme here at PB is exhaustion with the idea that Pittsburgh should aspire to be "like" any other city. Increasingly, and for reasons having nothing to do with me, other cities want to be like Pittsburgh! In some ways, that's great. In others, not so much. How many public authorities with hundreds of millions of dollars in pension debt can the country handle?

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