June 06, 2006

Curious George: Pittsburgh I just got a job in Pittsburgh, and I'm going there either later this week or early next week to go look for a place to live. Can any monkeys offer advice?

Do you know good neighborhoods, realtors to call, ways to save money, etc? What is "normal" in the local rental market and what is shady or suspect? (I've been living in a college town for so long -- where all landlord/rentor relationships are built on illegal/shady actions -- that my bs detector for landlords is a bit off.) Any help you could give would be greatly appreciated!

  • Here's some further info if you need it: Obviously, I have some specifics in mind. 1) I would like to be close to the U of Pitt, where I'll be working, but I know that there's probably going to be a trade-off where the closer I am to the Uni, the more expensive it's likely to be. I might be willing to live further out to be able to afford it (though I'm not keen on living in the "student ghetto" area (or the local equivalent. I'm sick of having drunk frat boys for neighbors, oddly enough). Money is definitely an issue, here. 2) I need at least two bedrooms (though I'd like three -- bedroom for me and Mr. meredithea, bedroom for the baby (who's more of a coming attraction now, but should show up around Christmas), and an office... the office and nursery can be combined in a pinch) 3) I need a safe, quiet neighborhood and a safe, quiet apartment/house. I am willing to do a slightly less-safe, but up-and-coming kind of neighborhood (rather than a going-downhill-quick one, which I did once before in Houston).
  • oh that was subtle... Congratulations on your impending Pittsburgh Christmas mini-Meredithea!!! And no, I know nothing about Pbgh other than what I have seen on TV when the Giants play the Pirates....
  • Congrats on the job! I've been to Pittsburgh only once -- a road trip with one day at the Warhol Museum, and then the next at Fallingwater -- but I liked it. A sort of mini-Manhattan. Offhand, I remember liking the area on the north side of the river a lot, between the 279 and the 579, above the stadiums. Older houses, clearly a area that has been bypassed, but it seemed like a real neighbourhood. I was searching for parking at the time, and did a lot of driving around. For all the convenience of being a quick walk to the downtown, I was surprised it wasn't a more popular area. After the Warhol, I did a lot of walking around on the ithmus, and found that things got dodgy the further you were away from the tip. I walked out all the way to Carnegie Mellon, and found that there was a real contrast between great neighbourhoods and lousy ones, and things would turn from street to street. Around the universities, there'd be a few great blocks, but things would turn to shit really fast. And public transport sucked hard. Probably doesn't help you, but there you are.
  • 'Ithmus' -- what am I thinking? Peninsula.
  • Piiiiittttsbuuuuurgh! Yinz gon' donton 'n at? Go Stillers! Ahem. Congratulations on the new job, meredithea! It's been 11 years since I left the 'Burgh, so take what I have to say with a grain of salt - I'm sure there have been some changes since I left. Oakland is the closest neighborhood to UPitt, but it's a little rough. There are some parts of it which are surprisingly nice though, even for a family with kids. I had some friends who were in grad school who lived out there with their spouses and kids and were quite happy. It's more urban living since it's pretty close to the university center. I think they were in the area bounded by Forbes Avenue, S. Bouquet St, Bates St, and the Magee Women's Hospital. Oakland also has most of the restaurants and is very much the college town. If it's still around, go to the Beehive Theater which was a great place for indie films. Rats - a quick search shows that it's closed now. Two things which are probably still around in Oakland - the "O" and the Primanti Brothers' restaurant. "O" fries are great to have at 3 in the morning - probably because most everything else is closed at the time. The Primanti Brothers' sandwiches are a local delicacy. They're stacked high and served with fries. Actually, the fries are in the sandwich. In case you hadn't noticed, Pittsburgh food is probably not for those who value their arteries. East of Oakland is where Carnegie Mellon University is. North of campus between Forbes Ave. and Center Ave. is Shadyside. It's a lot quieter and more houses, with some apartment buildings thrown in for good measure. It has tree-lined streets and is very domestic. Its shopping/downtown area is Walnut Street - quite a few local boutiques, cafes and restaurants. It's quite a little yuppie haven. Even further eastwards is Squirrel Hill, which is the ritzy, pricey part of town. They have a bunch of nice restaurants there - Gullifty's desserts are some of the best to be had out there. It may be a little further away than you'd like, but it's just the third neighborhood that I was familiar with while I was out there. The area around Schenley Park is also really nice, but I don't really know that much about it price-wise. Price-wise, Pittsburgh is a fairly low-rent town. You can get pretty good accommodations for what would get you a broom closet in San Francisco. That being said, I have no idea what the rental market's like out there now. A 1 bedroom place in Shadyside used to go for about $300/month back in the early nineties. I would suggest checking Craig's List to see what the zeitgeist is like. Personally, of the three neighborhoods I describe above, I think you would do well looking at Shadyside. Good luck with the move, and congratulations on your upcoming sprog!
  • I'm not sure of the ecat address, but rumor has it there's a pawnshop on a corner somewhere.
  • Pittsburgh Craigslist for advice as well as listings. /useful Or you could live in nearby Wheeling (WV, ~1 hour away). My boyfriends sister bought a house there for $12,500. So, it's cheap. /less useful Also, isn't "Queer as Folk" supposed to be set in Pittsburgh? You should figure out where they film it - cuz, you know, hot guys. /far less useful
  • Congrats on the new job, meredithea! Looks as if you're making a smart move.
  • Hey yentruoc! - Queer As Folk was set in Pittsburgh, but shot in Toronto. It certainly didn't look like *any* part of Pittsburgh that I knew. A fun show, nevertheless. (Pittsburgh - Queer Capital of the USA!)
  • congrats on the new job, meredithea. *looks up pittsburgh on the map
  • If yins guys don't mind a bridge crossing or two, why not take a look at Carnegie? It's just west of the dahntown ahreea. (Clears throat) ahhhm. Sorry, it's been awhile since I used my 'burgh accent, so forgive me. It really comes down to how many bridges you want to cross. Carnegie has some good places, and it's a short trip through the tunnels to downtown. Dormont has a nice "Mr. Rogers Neighborhood" look about it, and if the prices suit you there is Upper St. Clair and Mt. Lebanon. It's best to stop into some of the places in the neighborhoods you want to see. Diners, barber shops, and of course, Eat n' Park (a damn fine institution) are a good place to start. That will give you the best idea of what kind of folk you'll be living around. I've been considering moving back home to the 'burgh, but in the meantime at least I can get Eat n' Park coffee online at http://eatnpark.com/shop.asp ps. Don't feed 'dem ducks, they got disease.
  • You are really going to love the Pittsburgh accent. No matter how hard you try, it'll get to you. And if in the future you leave, you'll always be able to turn that accent off and on like a switch to amaze and confuse the rest of the world. This site will help you translate Pittsburghese.com
  • I lived in Mt. Lebanon when I was wee. No idea what the housing prices are like, but it was definitely safe & quiet in the 80s. I have only the fondest memories, particularly of taking the trolley in to visit my dad at work (yay public transit), and the foreign rooms at the Cathedral of Learning. Also, Pittsburgh has an Ikea.
  • Sweet. Monkeyfilter (or Safari) still remembers my login and password even though it's been like years. Ooga Booga: Did you go to one of the Unis when you were there? You left in 95? I went to CMU, but I didn't get there until 97. meredithea: I have nothing practical to tell you, but I do miss Pittsburgh. I hated it when I first moved there from NYC, but it grew on me. Like a fungus. I saw my first opera there. And the student productions I've seen there were better than any of the theatre I've seen here in SF. It's a surprisingly rich place, culturally. Good food too, and a lot of it the cheap, real, stuff sold from the back of vans. And it's so amazingly cheap. I also have a friend who bought a 3 br 2.5 bath house for 5 figures. They also started some serious development on the waterfront when I left. Anyway, Shadyside seems like a good place to start, but my info is dated as well. Congrats, and good luck!
  • You might look into Regent Square. It's a little further from the universities, but near my favorite urban park (Frick Park) and has a nice little business district. If I were for some strange reason going to consider moving back to my home town, it's the neighborhood I'd want to live in.
  • When I was in Pgh I preferred the Squirrel Hill area to Shadyside. Squill is known as a predominantly upscale & Jewish enclave, but there are still plenty of rentals there. Shadyside seemed snobbier to me. You should look around in both areas. Be careful with Oakland, the Meyran Ave. area, etc. Anything on the South Side is probably going to be too far away for you. I liked a breakfast-oriented greasy spoon called Pamela's. I think it had several branches, one of which was on Forbes, perhaps another in Shadyside. There is still a Beehive on the South Side, IIRC, but it doesn't have a movie theater in it. Clientele there is notoriously snooty. (That is, I have experienced the notoriety but not the "What are YOU doing in OUR coffee place?" snootiness personally. It may not be entirely true.) I would definitely NOT live anywhere outside of the city and try to work in Pgh - the commuter traffic, especially on the major roads in and out of the city, is pretty bad. The only place I've seen that was commonly worse was Los Angeles. I don't think the Wheeling WV suggestion is a good one. What you save on housing you'll spend on gas and time lost in commuting. You might enjoy reading Michael Chabon's book The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. It'll get you in the mood.
  • (I don't mean to suggest that a neighborhood being predominantly Jewish would somehow lead to it not having many rentals! Only that you might be curious to know the flavor of the neighborhood. There are lots of kosher places, synagogues, Hebrew day schools, etc in the area.)
  • Thanks for all your help, everyone! I went on Craigslist, and I have appointments to see a few places this Saturday. I'm getting pretty excited -- I've lived in a small town for so long that I'm looking forward to living in a "real town" again. I'm sure I'll have to re-learn all my "city living" techniques, though. (For example, I just saw a car in the grocery store parking lot with all the windows down and a new gameboy, gameboy games, several CDs, and lots of loose change up on the dashboard. I don't do *that* but I'm no longer as vigilant about things as I was when I lived in the Big City.)