Business District Analysis
The Tri-COG Collaborative (comprised of the Steel Rivers Council of Governments—formerly Steel Valley and Twin Rivers Council of Governments—and the Turtle Creek Valley Council of Governments) pledged to work together on behalf of their 39 municipalities to combat regional blight and revitalize local communities. To that end, the Tri-COG Collaborative retained 4ward Planning, along with evolveEA, to undertake an analysis of revitalization and redevelopment opportunities within the business districts of ten of Pittsburgh’s eastern suburban communities in Allegheny County.
Phase I of the study consisted of economic condition assessments, case study analysis, and stakeholder interviews. For clarity, the ten business districts were grouped into four study areas:
- North Tri-COG: Plum
- West Tri-COG: West Homestead
- Central Tri-COG: East Pittsburgh, East McKeesport, Monroeville/Wilkins, Wilmerding, McKeesport, & North Versailles
- South Tri-COG: Clairton & Elizabeth
Key findings for Phase I of the study and each of the four study areas are provided below. The entirety of the Phase I report may be accessed here.
All Tri-COG study areas demonstrate an increase in the older adult population and growth in non-family households. Population growth, generally, is relatively flat across all areas – reflective of population trends throughout the greater Pittsburgh MSA. With the exception of the Plum study area, lower- to middle-income households are predominant across all areas, with lower-income households most prevalent within the residential areas adjacent to the business district corridors.
Business & Retail:
Large retail gaps (i.e., more annual retail sales revenue than resident populations can support) in all study areas suggest that consumers within the greater Pittsburgh MSA may commute to these areas to shop. The West Tri-COG study area, for example, demonstrates relatively high restaurant revenues, indicating that consumers are travelling from other towns to restaurants within the 15-minute drive time contour to dine out.
Labor & Industry:
Tri-COG residents are employed in a host of industry sectors, represented largely by health care and retail, industries which continue to create a broad range of employment opportunities. However, depending on educational attainment levels, many residents living within the Tri-COG study areas may be challenged to secure more than lower-wage employment, as many so-called “middle-income” jobs have been eliminated over the past 10 years.
Highest median household income of all areas
North Tri-COG residents have the highest median household income - over $60,000 annually – and, of the four study areas, North Tri-COG possesses the smallest share of households earning less than $30,000 per year.
Highest spending on commercial goods
Consistent with relatively higher household incomes, North Tri-COG residents spend more than the national average on many categories of consumer goods, as well as on health care and education. Comparatively, North Tri-COG residents are wealthier than those in other study areas and may demonstrate unmet demand for specialty and boutique shopping.
High home ownership rates, low vacancies
Approximately 70 percent of all housing stock in the North Tri- COG study area is owner-occupied. Less than five percent remains vacant. Homes are, on average, of higher value in North Tri-COG than in any of the other study areas.
More densely populated
Similar to West Tri-COG, the Central Tri-COG study area is fairly populous, with almost 180,000 residents within a 15-minute drive of its business districts. Though mostly representative of an aging population, Central Tri-COG is also home to a sizable share of young professionals.
Below-average spending, lowest median salaries
Central Tri-COG residents, like those of West Tri-COG, spend less than the national average on many categories of consumer goods, as well as on health care and education. Households in the Central Tri-COG study area are more likely to earn less than $30,000 annually, demonstrating the lowest overall median household income of all four Tri-COG study areas. However, median household income is higher in some areas, such as Monroeville and Wilkins, which combined have a median household income of $56,812.
Low home ownership rates, high vacancies
Despite relative affordability, less than 50 percent of all housing stock in the Central Tri-COG area is owner-occupied, and over 80 percent of its housing is valued under $200,000. More than 10 percent of housing units remain vacant.
Most populated area
West Tri-COG is the most populous study area, with over 200,000 residents within a 15-minute drive of the business district, representing a large consumer base. Consistent with regional trends, West Tri-COG is experiencing growth among its older adult population, but is also home to the largest proportion of young professionals.
Residents in the West Tri-COG study area spend less than the national average on many categories of consumer goods, as well as on health care and education, reflective of lower household incomes in the area. Despite this, residents in this area may support a more diversified retail mix, particularly catering to a younger population seeking unique gathering spaces such as neighborhood cafes or
Low home ownership rates, high vacancies
Less than 50 percent of all housing stock in the West Tri-COG study area is owner-occupied, and over 70 percent of housing is valued under $200,000. Unoccupied properties are more prevalent in this area, with over 10 percent of housing units remaining vacant.
Least populated area
South Tri-COG is the least populous of the four study areas, with less than 60,000 residents within a 15-minute drive of either the Clairton or Elizabeth business districts.
Average spending on commercial goods
South Tri-COG is home to the greatest income diversity of the four study areas, though is most similar to North Tri-COG, demonstrating relatively higher household incomes. South Tri-COG residents’ expenditures mirror, or are slightly below, the national averages for many categories of consumer goods, as well as for health care and education.
High home ownership rates, high vacancies
Consistent with higher income earnings in the area, approximately 70 percent of all housing stock in the South Tri-COG area is owner-occupied, but about 9 percent of housing units remain vacant.