Pittsburgh, like many medium-sized cities in the United States, stands at a pivotal moment.
On one hand, Pittsburgh is benefiting for the first time in decades from profound macro-forces that revalue the very elements that make urban communities distinctive—proximity, density, diversity and accessibility. Demographic transformation is rewarding places that give residents, young and old, the ability to live in authentic neighborhoods that are close to employment and service hubs and offer choices in housing, transportation and amenities. Similarly, the 21st-century knowledge and innovation economy is increasingly clustering in vibrant, mixed-use urban enclaves that concentrate anchor institutions; large, medium and small companies; individual entrepreneurs; and business incubators.
On the other hand, Pittsburgh—like all American cities—is confronted with a set of super-sized challenges that defy easy solutions. The ranks of the poor and near-poor have grown precipitously in the United States, and it has been decades since workers’ wages and incomes have risen with their productivity. Gaps in education, income and wealth by race and ethnicity are rising, impeding access to quality jobs that pay living wages. Climate change and the legacy of environmental pollution impose real costs on urban redevelopment. Public health has suffered from decades of pollution, much of it in communities with limited resources. In addition, the failure of the federal government and many states to be reliable partners means that cities like Pittsburgh must be in the forefront of setting predictable rules, creating new financing mechanisms and delivering core services.
The p4 Opportunity
In the spring of 2015, the first p4 Summit unveiled Pittsburgh for People, Planet, Place and Performance — p4 — as an organizing framework for growing jobs, mobilizing capital, rejuvenating neighborhoods and improving lives. The framework recognized that cities like Pittsburgh will be global leaders in designing, financing and delivering imaginative solutions that leverage new economic opportunities and address large challenges around sustainability and inclusion. The conference also introduced a cross-section of Pittsburgh’s community leaders to sustainability practices that have been transforming European and American cities, particularly those with industrial legacies.
The timing could not have been better. Pittsburgh already had been promoting the use of green strategies in new housing, office and retail developments, and was making efforts to be more inclusive in the planning of these projects. The city also is home to the largest district in the world to respond to the international 2030 Challenge, which includes ambitious goals for slashing energy and water use in existing buildings and trimming transportation emissions. Since the last p4 conference, interest in expanding sustainable approaches to reinvent Pittsburgh has continued to grow.
In its two years, p4 has become the umbrella initiative for new and existing social and economic improvement projects emphasizing innovation and inclusion. Among these efforts are the Fourth Economy’s Pittsburgh 2025 Initiative; Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s Envision Downtown; the Green Building Alliance’s Inspire Speakers Series; Neighborhood Allies/Policy Link’s ”All in Pittsburgh;” the Brookings Institution’s Innovation District; and the p4 Performance Measures for Sustainable Development. Together, these and similar initiatives are intended to help achieve the p4 vision of Pittsburgh becoming a global leader in implementing sustainable development best practices that holistically integrate socially just, culturally dynamic, and ecologically regenerative systems while promoting innovation and creating strong communities.
There is a reason why 'People' is the first element that makes up p4. Pittsburgh has experienced two prior rebirths that focused on new buildings, roads and bridges – this new movement in the City is the people's renaissance. By design, we have created these neighborhoods entangled with pollution. By design, we can solve that.
Mayor William Peduto
City of Pittsburgh
The compelling value of sustainable urban development is being recognized around the world. But Pittsburgh has a particular array of resources that make it an ideal city for concerted investment in this approach.
Pittsburgh is uniquely positioned to forge a new model of urban growth and development. The city’s strategic location, size, industrial legacy, innovative and entrepreneurial ethos and cultural vibrancy sets it apart as a city that can provide a threefold benefit of excelling in sustainable building, sustainable technology and sustainable jobs. It currently has a suite of visionary executive leaders at top levels of local government, research universities, corporations and foundations.
We have entered a period of change that will have huge ramifications for the quality of life for everyone in our community now and for future generations. Decisions we make over the next 5-10 years will have a profound and lasting impact, and our goal is to create in Pittsburgh a model of excellence that is inclusive, innovative and environmentally sound where everyone can benefit and where no one is excluded. The challenge of creating a just community really belongs to all of us.
The Heinz Endowments President
An Ideal Ecosystem for Innovation
Pittsburgh is also tailor-made physically for the 21st-century innovation economy. More than any other American metropolis of comparable size, most of its anchor institutions are densely co-located in a relatively small part of the city, providing the conditions for the rapid sharing and commercialization of ideas. It has industrial and urban opportunities that map to leading examples of sustainable urban development in the Nordic region and other cities around the world.
Pittsburgh’s strong ecosystem has already attracted iconic global firms like Google and Uber, and spawned homegrown companies like Acquion Energy. The city has also become a magnet for talented workers; its 25 to 34-year-old workforce has become one of the most educated in the United States.
The city has a rich set of philanthropies, technology and environmental intermediaries, arts and cultural organizations, and civic stewards. Organizations like Innovation Works, Sustainable Pittsburgh, and Riverlife — as well as initiatives around the Pittsburgh 2030 District and the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens — are considered national models.
Pittsburgh has landed on more than 200 “best” lists in recent years. The city is widely recognized as one of the most livable cities in the country, with a unique topography, an enviable location among multiple rivers and a treasure trove of distinctive neighborhoods. Achievements during Pittsburgh's transformation, especially over the past 10 years, continue to earn praise and accolades.
City of Pittsburgh
The Heinz Endowments