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What Can Other Cities Learn From Pittsburgh's Renaissance?

September 03, 2009 05:00 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
President Obama's selection of Pittsburgh as host of the G-20 Summit later this month is a crowning moment in the city's revitalization, and serves as a model for other struggling cities.

Spotlight on Pittsburgh

President Obama chose Pittsburgh as host of the G-20 Summit because of the city's eco-friendly manufacturing development, medical and educational prowess, and the fact that "it is showing the way back for American cities that have lost the industries that made them great," Tom Infield writes for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

When Pittsburgh plays host to world leaders and the European Union during the economic-focused summit, residents will be ready. "People are getting very proud and pleased," public affairs consultant William J. Green explained to Infield. "This is a chance for us to be known for something other than our sports teams."

The key to Pittsburgh's reemergence has been "a high degree of collaboration between industry, labor and government," says a report from the Campaign for America's Future, according to US Newswire. To celebrate the successful transition from pre-1970s industrial powerhouse to cultured green industry leader in 2009, the city hosted a convention for "progressive bloggers and activists" in mid-August that included a tour of a steel mill.

Challenges to Rust Belt Revitalization

Former steel manufacturing leader Youngstown, Ohio, had deteriorated to the point of no return, Jeremy Kutner explains in an article for The Christian Science Monitor. Faced with a mass exodus of residents and stretches of deserted buildings, the city created Youngstown 2010, "a bold plan for a new mode of urban sustainability" that would downsize, rather than build up, the city. But according to Kutner, the plan "is faltering." Hampered by the recession, Youngstown can't afford to demolish buildings, and none of the residents have taken the city up on the "$50,000 incentive to move," Kutner writes.

Opinion & Analysis: Making the case for small cities

In an essay for Boston Review, Catherine Tumber describes the decline of small American cities, such as Syracuse, N.Y., and Erie, Pa., and stresses their importance. Although neglected by urban planning initiatives, small cities "will be critical in the move to local agriculture and the development of renewable energy industries," Tumber writes. Furthermore, small cities' "underused or vacant industrial space and surrounding tracts of farmland" lend perfectly to land sustainability initiatives and "smart growth," she adds.

Related Topic: Pittsburgh's sports history

On Dec. 23, 1972, the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Oakland Raiders on a miraculous—and disputed—last-second touchdown dubbed the "Immaculate Reception." That year, the Steelers had been in the National Football League for 39 seasons. During that time, they had finished above .500 only nine times and had made just one postseason appearance. But the 1972 AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Raiders brought them redemption. 

Days later, on Dec. 31, 1972, tragedy struck when Pittsburgh Pirates all-star outfielder Roberto Clemente was killed en route to deliver assistance to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. His humanitarian legacy survives to this day. 

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