Jesebel Rivera-Guerra in Greenfield. Photo by Maranie Staab.

Jillian Rodgers: From Upper St. Clair to Dormont

Pitt office manager and Graduate School of Public and International Affairs student Jillian Rodgers grew up in Upper St. Clair, went to Pitt, then moved to Dormont. “I wanted to be close to the city,” she says, “but without paying high rent. Living here, I love that I can walk to places—something I could never do in Upper St. Clair—and that the T is right outside my door. And that it doesn’t take forever to find a parking spot!”

For Rodgers, the move to Dormont began during her undergraduate years. “When I went from the South Hills to the ‘big city’ of Oakland,” she says, “I fell in love with a city I had never really seen. I loved exploring neighborhoods, Downtown, Squirrel Hill and Shadyside. It was like visiting a new town every weekend.”

“I also fell in love with being able to hop on a bus, so Dormont’s convenience spoke to me.”  As did her favorite urban amenities. “I walk to Washington Road and the shops along West Liberty Avenue,” she says. “I walk to new restaurants for breakfast.”

“While I’ve always loved Pittsburgh,” she says, “I’m excited about how much national recognition we’ve been getting, putting us on the map for good reasons. People are discovering what I did: Pittsburgh has both a big city and a small city feel. Dormont is a mix of both.”

Jamie Sylves: From North Braddock to the Strip

When almond milk latté addict and vintage fashion doyenne Jamie Sylves came back to Pittsburgh from a decade-long gig in New York, she knew she couldn’t go home to North Braddock. “I didn’t see a future for myself there,” she says.

Wanting to see “the revitalization I’d read so much about,” she brought her Clara Mae James lifestyle blog and freelance PR and social media consulting business to the Strip District. 

“I like it, too,” she says, because she’s always meeting new people. “We live in a small building,” Sylves says, “just 14 units, with transplants and other boomerangs. We’re on the top floor, and when we hear footsteps on the roof we run up and greet people. We’ve found that people care just as much as about life as their careers. It’s a nice balance. And everyone is very friendly! I love being back home.”

George Irwin: From Regent Square to Plum

When Pittsburgh marathoner, craft beer quaffer and UPMC health planner George Irwin and his wife looked for a place to raise their two children, they went east, moving from Forest Hills to Plum. “My wife and I wanted a suburban feel,” he explains. “At first I was against it,” Irwin admits, “but I discovered Pittsburgh stretches a lot further than I thought. It still feels like home even out of the city proper.”

“We like it out here,” he adds, “big open spaces but close to the metro area. Boyce Park, for instance, and Shadyside. And we’ve become part of a great community. There are a lot of families. My kids can stay with the same kids all through school.”

More than the schools, though, for Irwin, there are the morés. “When I was growing up in Regent Square,” he says, “kids were respectful to adults. It’s like that here. And I feel safe with my kids walking down the street.” Irwin pauses. “The biggest thing is that this is a community that still is a community. In our first month here people brought us cookies and housewarming gifts. People say hi on the street. It’s one of those towns that once you get a taste of it, you just want more.”

Jesabel Rivera-Guerra at her home in Greenfield. Photo by Maranie Staab.

Jesabel Rivera-Guerra: From Oakland to Greenfield

When American Heart Association community health director Jesabel Rivera-Guerra came to Pittsburgh seven years ago from her native Puerto Rico, the first thing she noticed was the city’s walkability. Second: the people. “They were so nice to us,” she recalls. They explained everything—and were so friendly!”

If that didn’t sell her on the city, a week after her arrival, Rivera-Guerra attended the Latin American Cultural Union’s Annual Latino Picnic. “I met my whole new family here,” she says.

It also didn’t hurt that “in seven years, I went from being an undergraduate to a community health director,” Rivera-Guerra says. “Nowhere else would I have been able to do that. Only here in Pittsburgh! Pittsburgh is truly the city of opportunities for young professionals.”

At first, she began her new life in Oakland. Then Monroeville, where her husband got a job. Wanting an affordable place of their own closer to bus lines and Downtown, they visited Greenfield and fell in love. “It has everything we wanted,” she says. “It’s walkable, close to everything, including parks. And everybody loves dogs. It really is a gem!

“When I chose Pittsburgh as my new home,” she adds, “I didn’t realize that it would be such a gift. I am so happy we live here. We’ve been in other American cities, and there’s no other place like this.”

Abby Mendelson

Abby Mendelson is a veteran Pittsburgh writer and reporter. A novelist and short-story writer, he is also the author of numerous Pittsburgh-related books, including Arena: Remembering the Igloo, Pittsburgh:...