It’s long been my opinion that one of the reasons for the seeming ignorance of the economic depression occurring in Bellevue has to do with the strange phenomenon in this region to never explore outside of one’s own community. After 18 years of growing up in Bellevue I could probably count on two hands the number of times I ventured into the East End or South Hills. Not until the redevelopment in Robinson was I able to successfully navigate the Parkway West between there and the airport.
Upon graduation from high school I moved out of state for college and graduate school. It was during the eight years I spent as a proud member of the “Pittsburgh diaspora” that my eyes were opened to the fact I barely knew my home town. Seriously! While away I would regularly meet others from Pittsburgh also “living abroad” and because we were practically neighbors, at least relatively speaking, the conversations were impossible to stop. However, during these casual conversations I’d discover the fact that I had no mental images for the various communities my “long lost neighbors” called home. Though they might have lived mere miles from my house, they might as well been from India with how little I knew about their communities.
I have no reservations traversing Pittsburgh’s countless tunnels or bridges. Nothing about crossing the rivers is particularly frightening to me. I really had no excuse for not exploring this marvelous city other than the sheer fact that we Pittsburghers tend to get quite comfortable in our little “neck of the woods.” We might cross a bridge or pass through a tunnel to get to work in the morning, but other than that we simply do not explore areas in which we don’t live or work. My theory is that because Pittsburgh is a large metropolitan area with a strong “small town” mentality we unconsciously convince ourselves that our particular side of Pittsburgh is all there is to see.
Since moving back to Pittsburgh, I’ve made it a bit of a personal mission to get out of the North Boroughs. I want to know what Lawrenceville is like. I want to spend time in Highland Park. I want to enjoy the restaurants and businesses in Squirrel Hill. I’m tired not knowing anything about the South Hills. I want to see and experience the best this city has to offer. I want to know Pittsburgh.
For the past four and a half years, I’ve intentionally explored this city. More recently, on days when it’s not vital for me to work from my office, I forward the phones and head out to work from a coffee shop or eatery in an area I haven’t been recently. It’s been a brilliant experience. Not only has it helped me appreciate the immense diversity of Pittsburgh and its amazing transformation and redevelopment. but it has opened my eyes to the reality of the situation in Bellevue. I love Bellevue. My wife and I chose Bellevue to purchase our first home. We intend on raising our family in Bellevue. However, Bellevue has a long road ahead of it to become anything close to what it should be. In communities around Pittsburgh far less conducive for economic growth, the wheels are in motion, people are investing, and loads of work is going into to see new life and growth. Meanwhile, Bellevue sits idly by dreaming of the glory days 15, 25, even 50 years ago! I’m convinced if more of Bellevue’s current leadership were to venture out of their comfort zones and into the sprawling metropolis that surrounds them they’d see the same.
It’s going to take a bit more than a community garden or neighborhood clean up to fix what ails Bellevue. I don’t care how many hours of labor goes into a new dog park, that does nothing to help replace the countless businesses that have left Lincoln Avenue for greener pastures. Arguing for hours on end about who can light a grill or when its safe to ride a skate board will not improve the deplorable residential areas. Bellevue needs new vision. Bellevue is prime for a Renaissance, but it is at a cross roads. We are on the cusp of losing one too many visionaries and investors (some would argue they’re already gone). However, there is hope on the horizon and we, the members of Liberty in Bellevue, believe it begins within the hallowed chambers of Bellevue Borough Hall. A new day is dawning. The right people are standing up to take the reigns and declare that we want Bellevue to be a part of the redevelopment occurring all over Pittsburgh. This is not about Republican versus Democrat or rich versus poor. This is about breathing new life into a community desperate for it. Perspective is right around the corner, I think it’s time we all got some.