At this point, it shouldn’t come as a surprise — Downtown remains one of Pittsburgh’s most vibrant and quickly growing neighborhoods. That’s the gist of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s third annual State of Downtown report, released during an event Thursday afternoon at the Union Trust building.
The neighborhood’s population is booming, and it’s not just in areas like the Strip District, Uptown and the Lower Hill. The Golden Triangle’s population rose nearly 41 percent between 2000 and 2010, based on U.S. Census data. Downtown has seen 824 new residential units open since the beginning of 2010, and of the 517 units currently under construction, all are located in the Golden Triangle.
If current trends continue, Downtown will see the largest expansion of residential units in recent history well before the end of the decade. Rent is also on the rise. The same square-foot of residential space which cost an average of $1.64 at the end of 2012 was running for $1.82 by the end of last year.
Similar trends hold true for Downtown’s arts and culture scene. Gallery, museum and sporting event attendance were all up from the previous year, and the PDP estimates the economic impact of Downtown’s cultural attractions at $276 million. The Pirates’ first winning season in 21 years, a full NHL season and the more than one million people who turned out to see The Rubber Duck last summer all played roles.
Accordingly, there are about 1,500 new hotel rooms on the way — part of $772 million in current construction projects.
The growth in hotel and residential space is coming at the cost of one of Downtown’s few shrinking amenities: office space. Since 2011, about two million square feet of office space have gone off the market to make room for new hotel and residential units. And since 2010, occupancy of Downtown’s remaining office space has gone up 4 percent while rental rates have risen 11.3 percent.
Downtown’s retail still leaves something to be desired. According to a study the PDP conducted last year, 10 percent of Downtown’s retail space is vacant. That’s not so hot compared to the 6.6 percent average for central business districts nationwide and the 3.9 percent rate in the Pittsburgh metro area.