It took three years, but I managed to hop in the car and drive down to Pittsburgh PA yesterday and go to Mr. Jason Sauer’s Pittsburgh Art Car extravaganza on Penn Avenue. Having gone to the one in 2013, as this old piece I wrote shows, the event has since then tripled in size. He was expecting Pittsburgh’s Mayor Bill Peduto to be there, as well as Richard Swartz of the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation, but I had to head back to Ohio before I was able to meet either of them. However, I did see what really mattered, Jason’s wife and little son Rowdy; who was having the time of his life throwing chalk and picking up leaves.
Not only has Pittsburgh Art Car, but Penn Avenue itself has flourished. I noticed that they completely repaved the street (like they did up here on Waterloo Road in my North Shore Collinwood neighborhood) but he was saying how only two of his freestanding sculptures he put in lot remain. Apparently, the properties have been bought and are in the process of being redeveloped. As for Jason, he bought a bunch of lots a few streets North of Penn, and up the hill, and plan to move his operations there.
In fact, as I drove around a huge part of the city before parking my car, I did see some of what planners and writers have been talking about. There are a lot of young people there, vibrant neighborhoods, and as a result very little parking. The most important thing I noticed was that this was broad-based. Squirrel Hill is not close to Garfield and students attending Chatham or Carnegie Mellon cannot account for all the people I saw on Walnut Street with all its’ stores. Except for Little Italy, the city of Cleveland has nothing like that on the East Side; and only in pockets of such activity on the West Side for that matter.
Clevelanders can learn something from them.
Photographs by James Valentino