Racheallee Lacek, a Downtown resident and realtor with Millcraft Real Estate Services, moved into the Lando Lofts on Penn Avenue two years ago, from another location Downtown.
“I knew what I was looking for—I wanted open space, I wanted a large space, I wanted some views, and I wanted something in a boutique-size building. This has only 27 units,” says Lacek of the beautifully renovated historic building.
“If you wait long enough, and you look hard enough, you will find it,” says Lacek who specializes in properties in Downtown, Lawrenceville, the Strip, Shadyside and South Side. “For me, it was the right place, and the right place in my life, where I was 37. The median age Downtown is now 36.”
In the short time she has lived there, Downtown has undergone many changes. “Downtown demand has grown in the past three years,” Lacek says. “Now Downtown is such a destination, mainly because it’s sustainable; it’s only going to grow residentially and commercially.”
The luster of living in Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle won’t wear off anytime soon, say realtors, residents and others who promote Downtown living.
An estimated 4,660 people call Downtown home. Add in the 7,944 who live in neighborhoods that complete the “Greater Downtown” boundaries—the North Shore, Strip District, South Shore, Uptown and Lower Hill—and the number swells to nearly 13,000, says Jeremy Waldrup, executive director of Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.
“Our pitch for living Downtown is really being in the center of it all,” says Waldrup. But finding an apartment isn’t necessarily easy with 92 percent occupancy, and even small units costing at least $1,000. Buying is even pricier—from $250,000 to $2 million, unless you’re lucky enough to snatch up a foreclosure.
Yet the central business district population has grown about 28 percent since 2010, Waldrup says, with the conversion of former office buildings to living spaces. The count is up to 817 condos and 4,000 apartments—and growing. At least $129 million in residential construction is underway. (See info at the end of this article).
“We’re expecting almost 6,000 new residential units in the next five to seven years, given the projects we’re aware of today, which will be significant,” Waldrup says of Greater Downtown.
Because the number of buildings is limited in the Golden Triangle, much of the growth will be in fringe neighborhoods. “We consider that a real advantage, something that’s really going to transform downtown.”
Shane Culgan, 28, has rented a one-bedroom unit at 201 Stanwix Apartments since 2012. He moved to cut his hour-plus commute from Penn Township to his Downtown job at PPG Industries to mere minutes. His wife, Rossilynne Culgan, 27, lives there now, too, and she takes the T one short stop to her North Shore job at the Carnegie Science Center. That kind of convenience is hard to beat.
He notes the many changes Downtown that have occurred in the four short years he’s lived there.
“There’s lots to do—it looks nice, it feels safer,” Culgan says of Downtown life. “Since I moved in, they’ve added a dozen new restaurants, new bars. You can find good drink menus, good food menus, a good place to hang out if you’re not looking for a party atmosphere. And with the theaters, there’s always something going on.”
The couple now wants to buy a condo and hopes to move into a renovated warehouse in the Strip District this fall, despite Shane’s recent work relocation to Cranberry. They looked in the Golden Triangle but “the prices are a little hard to swallow, at this point,” Culgan says. “It’s Pittsburgh; it’s not Manhattan.”
Some choose to rent. Doug Allen, 31, an attorney with Reed Smith, chose downtown—specifically, a one-bedroom apartment at River Vue in 2013—when his fiancé, Bianca Branch, joined him from Atlanta.
“It was the best thing we could have done,” says Allen, who walks to work to Three PNC while Branch walks to her job at Kraft Heinz in PPG. Combined, they might have the shortest couple commute in Pittsburgh. “That’s the absolute best thing about it— the convenience factor,” he notes.
The views of Point State Park aren’t bad, either, not to mention the riverfront bike trail access across the street.
Allen grew up in Homewood and left Pittsburgh for a decade, for college and his first legal jobs. He wishes the city’s population was more diverse: “Pittsburgh is still Pittsburgh—when we go into a lot of restaurants and bars, we’re the only black people. That part of it is still unfortunate . . . But we’re not going to go to the suburbs and deal with that whole thing.”
About 76 percent of the Greater Downtown market is rentals; most residents are professionals ages 25 to 34, or empty nesters ages 55 and older. They may not care about school districts; they want to walk to work, ride a bus or bicycle, and be close to the Cultural District, sporting events, restaurants and nightlife spots.