Melissa Catanese, 36, and Ed Panar, 38, were looking for a place to move their specialty photo bookshop, Spaces Corners, when they discovered a house on Lowrie St. in Troy Hill. It fit the bill: an affordable,  two-story fixer-upper with a ground floor for their store, and the floor above for them to live in.

“We were sold when we saw the view from our backyard,” says Catanese. “Aesthetically, it’s a beautiful place to live, situated on top of the hill overlooking the Allegheny River and Polish Hill.”

They renovated in 2014 and moved in December of last year.

At Spaces Corners in Troy Hill. Photo by Brian Cohen.
At Spaces Corners in Troy Hill. Photo by Brian Cohen.

Troy Hill, she says, “is like a secret. It’s super connected to everything – the Strip, Lawrenceville, Aspinwall. It’s two minutes to Downtown and convenient to all neighborhoods.”

And a lot of other young professionals are moving there, she notes, citing not just the affordability but also “the entrepreneurial spirit.”

Like Nicole Moga, 33, and her husband. She runs Boat Pittsburgh, a pontoon rental based in nearby Sharpsburg, and he works as an engineer at DEP on Washington’s Landing (which is also in Troy Hill).

Back in 2008, they were looking for a house when someone suggested under-the-radar Troy Hill, a place they had not considered. That led them to a red brick house on leafy Harpster St. that was in foreclosure and was “for the most part untouched by time.” They bought it and worked on it for six months before moving in. “We continue to work on it,” adds Nicole with a laugh but it’s evidently a labor of love.

“It’s convenient to a lot of things,” she adds of the location. “We like to go running with the dogs and we’re close to the Heritage Trail along the Allegheny River. We bike a lot so we go down Rialto or Troy Hill Rd. and we’re right on the trail.”

What ultimately sold them on the neighborhood, though, were their neighbors. “The people are so great,” she says. “And they’re like our family now.”

Kids at play in front of St. Anthony Chapel. Photo by Tracy Certo.
Kids at play in front of St. Anthony Chapel. Photo by Tracy Certo.

The neighborhood, only one square mile, is an impressively diverse mix of young and old, people who have lived there all their lives — and new ones moving in, as well as different races and religions, including a small Burmese population. The authentic yet tiny Pittsburgh neighborhood also boasts a main street, community parks and gardens, independent businesses and, from its perch on a plateau high on a hill that hugs the Allegheny River, amazing city views.

And the price is right. Troy Hill is one of many Pittsburgh neighborhoods that is under the radar but won’t be much longer since real estate prices in prime neighborhoods such as Lawrenceville and East Liberty are pricing out many.

Proof? Here’s a comparison of the median and average sales prices for 2015  of Lawrenceville and Troy Hill, along with up and comer Polish Hill just for good measure, from RealStats.

 Neighborhood                  Median               Average        #sales

Troy Hill                                $42,000                 $44,000               18

Central Lawrenceville      $310,000                $310,000               1

Lower Lawrenceville        $148,000                $105,000               15

Polish Hill                             $92,000                 $59,500                8

(Note: The Central Lawrenceville 2014 median, with more sales than listed here, was $170,000, and the average was about $150,000.)

Houses on Harpster St. in Troy Hill. Photo by Tracy Certo.
Houses on Harpster St. in Troy Hill. Photo by Tracy Certo.

We’re here. You should be, too. 

Like many recent transplants, Nicole has become an ambassador for Troy Hill, first working with the very active Troy Hill Citizens group and then recommending the neighborhood to all her friends. She now adds anyone who is interested to the Facebook group she created called Troy Hooligans.

Leah Hohman is another resident — in her 30s who moved to the city neighborhood fresh out of college — who promotes the neighborhood. She bought a house on Vinial Street, which borders Troy Hill, that she says was a “perfect fit.”

Her parents, who live on a farm north of the city, were skeptical and nervous until they met her neighbors. And then they felt a lot better, Leah adds.

After nearly a dozen years in the neighborhood, Leah is married now with three young kids—6, 2 and 9 months old–and has no desire to leave. “We have a really solid neighborhood and a really diverse group of people. I’m really happy that I could stay here as long as I have,” she says.

Like everyone else, she touts the hard-to-beat location, praising its proximity to major highways and to the Strip District, her favorite place in Pittsburgh, as well as attractions such as the Aviary and the Children’s Museum in the North Side.

Tracy Certo

Tracy is the founder and Editor at Large of NEXTpittsburgh which she started in March 2014 and sold in December 2020. She is passionate about making Pittsburgh a better place for all and connecting people to do the same.