Buzz is defined as, “an atmosphere of excitement and activity.” Buzz is “a feeling of euphoria.” Buzz is an “interest in someone or something, as reflected in or generated by media coverage or word of mouth.”
Buzz is…the new Pittsburgh?
“A lot of what drives a Buzz City is a growth—and interest by people from the outside who begin to pay attention to it—but at the same time, it is what’s happening within the city organically that drives people to start to look at it,” says Mayor Bill Peduto.
The term Buzz City was coined by former mayor Tom Murphy, who has in the past five months spoken in 27 cities about Pittsburgh and urban revitalization. Murphy says there are four types of cities: World Cities (international), Buzz Cities (thriving and attractive to young people), Resilient Cities (surviving but not growing significantly), and Legacy Cities (struggling and risk averse).
Make room, Portland, Austin, and Denver, because Pittsburgh is ready to join the ranks of the Buzz City.
“In Pittsburgh’s case, you could arguably say it’s been 30 years of process that has now has us poised to be that next Buzz City,” says Peduto.
When Pittsburgh died in 1979, “we doubled down on Arts and Culture and created new industries,” he says. The med/ed economy was a different model than what the city had seen before.
“We just did what Pittsburghers do: we dusted ourselves off, we worked hard, and we re-identified ourselves. And that is what has created the buzz,” says Peduto.
The past 15 years brought in a second phase of reinvention when “pioneer advocates were trying to create an atmosphere that was inclusive of younger people,” says City Councilwoman Deb Gross. Think the Sprout Fund, Bike Pittsburgh, Attack Theatre— organizations that started on small budgets and made big impacts—and are now the models for change. These innovators created an “openness, availability, and inquisitiveness for every next generation,” she says.
“This is definitely a space that the millennials have broken wide open,” says Gross. “We have really activated grassroots networks,” she says, “who are pushing the limits and trying new things. There’s so much action.”
Pittsburghers are turning brownfields into sunflower fields, planting native orchards in abandoned playgrounds, and harvesting wild edibles to sell to our nationally recognized restaurants. We’ve transformed vacant lots into social clubs and organized festivals that blend tech and music. We’ve got start-up accelerators, river keepers, and nomadic indie craft marketplaces. There’s small-batch distilleries and community meetings in people’s living rooms.
“One of the great things about Pittsburgh as a Rust Belt city, and I say that with love not disparagement,” says Pat Clark, managing partner at Jackson/Clark Partners, “is that if you want to, you can step up and get something done and make a real difference.”
And our new administration embraces this energy.
“I think our role, the way we’re looking at city government, is different. We’re not looking to create initiatives, but more so to enable those who were doing it,” says Peduto.
Gross agrees. “We’re happy to make phone calls open doors, more than happy to connect people to the other people. There’s a revolution going on out there.”
Here are a few of the buzz-worthy ideas in part one of a two-part series.
1. Pittsburgh’s Multi-Modal Model
In March 2014, PeopleForBikes chose Pittsburgh as one of the six cities to receive financial, strategic and technical assistance in an “intensive two-year program to build new bike lanes.” The plan is to build up five miles of protected bike lanes that connect through the city and to the trails along the river. In seven months, two protected bike lanes have already been built.
“We will be able to show that even in cities with hills and rivers and bridges and winters, that you can brainstorm, develop, plan—and then build the infrastructure that will create multi-modal opportunities in the community,” says Mayor Bill Peduto.
In the 1990s, we were rated one of the worse cities for bikes. Thanks in large part to BikePGH, we’re moving up. In the past seven years, bike commuter rates doubled. In September, we hosted the Pro Walk, Pro Bike, Pro Place conference.
The goal? To become a top 10 bike-friendly city.
“It’s all about enabling community-based groups that already have the support from within that community in order to make change happen,” says Peduto.
A bike share program in the works will offer some 500 bikes at stations strategically placed throughout the city. Pittsburgh Cultural Trust seized the opportunity to infuse public art with function and installed five artist-designed bike racks—like the yellow bridge bike rack near the Convention Center—in downtown. In October 2014, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust put out a call to artists to submit designs for the next installation in 2015.