Pittsburgh is a neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia, founded in 1883 as a black working-class suburb alongside the Pegram rail shops. It was named Pittsburgh because the industrial area reminded one of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and its famous steel mills. Pittsburgh is relatively poor and underdeveloped, but as property values rise in Intown Atlanta neighborhoods, many see hope that this trend will spread to Pittsburgh and bring renewal.
Pittsburgh is bounded on the northern tip by I-20 across which is the tip of Castleberry Hill, on the Northeast by a Norfolk Southern rail line across which is Mechanicsville, on the west by Metropolitan Parkway and Adair Park, on the East by Peoplestown, and on the south by the BeltLine across which is the Capital View Manor neighborhood. It shares its street names and alignments with Mechanicsville, however the two neighborhoods are separated by a rail line such that the only connections are on the Northeast and West edges of the neighborhoods.
Pittsburgh is conveniently located off I-75 and within walking distance of downtown, the Atlanta Braves Stadium, the West End Mall, Grant Park and the Atlanta Zoo. It is separated from downtown by Mechanicsville to the North. Three major downtown through-fares connect into Metropolitan Parkway, McDaniel Street and Pryor Street inside of Pittsburgh.
It is within walking distance of the Garnett, West End and Oakland City MARTA stations.
The area of land known as Pittsburgh was on the southern outskirts of Atlanta in the early 1880s when houses began to be built there. Owned by white real-estate investor H.L. Wilson, it had many similarities to neighboring Mechanicsville, which also grew up around the Pegram railroad repair shops, but there were substantial differences. In contrast to Pittsburgh, Mechanicsville was racially mixed and included some well-to-do areas.
A working class, black community, Pittsburgh was served by four streetcar lines: Washington Street, Pryor Street, Stewart Avenue (now Metropolitan Parkway) and Georgia Avenue (now Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard). In spite of its poverty, early Pittsburgh boasted some well-educated and self-sufficient residents. Until the 1930s, Pittsburgh housed Clark College; it also held two theological seminaries. Black-owned businesses sprung up on McDaniel Street.
Starting in the 1960s it became possible for better-off blacks to move into previously all-white areas, and many did, even as “white flight” started to the suburbs. This led to the depreciation of home values in Pittsburgh and eventually to abandoned houses. Pittsburgh’s population fell by fifty percent from 7,276 in 1970 to 3,624 in 1990. It had started increasing in the early 2000s before the crash. Vacancies increased during the crash, however starting in 2012, the population has started to increase again and investment in the community has increased.
In the first years of the 21st century, middle and upper income people started moving into many parts of intown Atlanta again. This brought hope to many in Pittsburgh, at least up until the real estate crash in 2008-9, that their neighborhood would eventually gentrify as had been the case with, for example, Cabbagetown. A great deal of visible change has not yet come, however there are some positive signs pointing to the future. The Pittsburgh Civic League Apartments, a low-income housing project was torn down and replaced with a large apartment complex. The BeltLine forms the southern boundary of Pittsburgh, which will add park space, a bicycle path, and plans include light rail with a stop at the corner of University and Metropolitan Avenues. This in turn gives the opportunity for new development. Starting in 2012, a resurgence in Adair Park, Summerhill, West End, Mechanicsville and other neighorhoods surrounding Pittsburgh has made gentrification even more imminent.
In 2012 the beating of a young gay man in Pittsburgh with a discarded car tire, leading to the capture of members of a growing gang, highlighted the issues of gangs and prostitution. However, Pittsburgh is still one of the safest low income neighborhoods in Atlanta, with property crime and vandalism being a bigger issue. Nevertheless, the incident provoked the concern of Pittsburgh’s safety committee about how to get the tires cleaned up. Community members got together to clean up the tires in a brownfield across from mixed-use apartments near the Northern border with Mechanicsville.
It also highlighted the issues of brownfields in the Pittsburgh neighborhood and surrounding areas, with one of the largest being a 31.4 acre brownfield along University Avenue and the future Beltline trail that dominates the Southern gateway into the neighborhood and is therefore critical. This brownfield was purchased by UPS in 2001 for a distribution center, but changing priorities caused UPS to sell it to the Annie E Casey Foundation in 2006 to build a park and mixed-use development. Annie E. Casey determined outreach and a Master Plan was needed for the community, which has ensued ever since, extended by the recent economic downturn in 2008. Early in the process, the Annie E. Casey foundation has become active in planning, along with a group called SDNSI who created some guiding documents such as “Blueprints for Successful Communities Plan” and helping develop the Master Plan with Annie E. Casey, Beltline, Inc, Pittsburgh Community Improvement Corporation, city of Atlanta, NPU-V planning unit, and residents. The newly developed Master Plan shows the critical University Avenue lot being developed into a mixed use of high density, parks, and connecting Pittsburgh roads into adjoining neighborhoods. Recent conferences show that there is renewed interest in fast-tracking brownfield cleanup in the area, not only including the University Avenue brownstone, but also the brownfield formerly littered with tires on the North end of the Pittsburgh neighborhood, and Federal funds have been provided. That has resulted in a Background Report produced in October, 2012 describing the conditions and initiative. The University Avenue property was also discussed in the Brownfields 2013 Conference. The newly developed Master Plan also led to a rezoning of the neighborhood.
Pittsburgh’s western border is Metropolitan Parkway, an important commercial thoroughfare. Pittsburgh’s Eastern edge is East of I-75 adjoining Peoplestown and has a small business and industrial district. McDaniel Street also houses some local businesses, and was historically the primary through-fare for businesses. It is, however, in need of urban renewal due to blight and under-performing businesses.