Point State Park seen from the river. Photo by TH Carlisle.

“If you’re looking for someone who symbolizes the human saga of revival,” writes the Huffington Post, “take an Uber (self-driving or not) from downtown Pittsburgh a few miles up the Monongahela River to the old mill town of Braddock.

“There you will find Kevin Sousa.”

In an article titled, “Pittsburgh’s back, thanks to people who pulled their city up,” the HuffPost’s Howard Fineman first focuses on Sousa — chef, restaurant owner and former drug and alcohol abuser — who is now eight years sober.

“In a sense, it has taken him a lifetime to build his dream place, Superior Motors, which sits literally and appropriately across the street from one of the only steel mills left in Allegheny County. Patrons can sit at the bar and watch the mill’s gas flare light up the night sky.”

Sousa is now a leader in “an urban movement that sees food as one part of a much larger social and economic revival.”

… His landlord has given the community access to another Braddock building for use as an experimental theater. Sousa himself runs a program for youths to learn culinary and hospitality trades while they work at the restaurant. And he’s partnered with other locals who have created a large urban farm nearby.

“Braddock actually has great soil and growing conditions,” he said. “If you clean up the old sites and acreage properly — and we have — you can grow almost anything here.” All of the vegetables at his restaurant come from the urban farm.

“I’m an optimist,” Sousa said. “This is all about the people here. I know it sounds real corny, but they have true grit. And we’re just beginning.”

Fineman outlines the host of reasons that allowed Pittsburgh to bounce back, from the strong universities and Downtown that never collapsed to the philanthropic community and PNC, a world-class bank.

The challenge now is to translate that mentality into what Mayor Bill Peduto called “a fourth industrial revolution,” focused primarily on human capital — through education, housing and jobs that lift people out of poverty — and the environment. “The fourth revolution is about people fulfilling their potential and about giving those who’ve been left behind a full chance to be part of the future,” Peduto said.

That means focusing on the low-income neighborhoods that are too often ignored (in Pittsburgh they tend to be on hard-to-reach hilltops) and in other neighborhoods that are gentrifying long-term residents out of their homes.

Another focus: the dozens of small and often bereft mill towns that dot the rivers and valleys far from the shiny Downtown core. “We need better public transportation and roads to reach them and to allow them to have access to our improving quality of life,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

Read the full article here.

NEXT staff

The staff at NEXTpittsburgh writes about the people driving change in the region and the innovative and cool things happening here.