Pittsburgh and 100RC: From Steel City to Resilient City

The City of Pittsburgh has long been known for its toughness – the Steel City. And for what we’ve weathered over the last 50 years, despite some rust, the Steel City is now once again shining on the global stage.

After losing 40 percent of our population between 1970 and 2006, Pittsburgh is growing again and getting stronger. However, the Steel City must still overcome the stresses associated with its industrial legacy, while responding to ongoing pressures stemming from urbanization, globalization, and climate change. Persistent socioeconomic inequities, coupled with a history of fragmented governance and planning, continue to undercut resident quality of life and strain city resources.

To build the Pittsburgh of the future – one that serves all residents and adequately prepares us for the challenges of the 21st Century – we knew that we needed to create a new vision for our city. Through our partnership with 100 Resilient Cities – Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation, Pittsburgh has done just that.

Together with 100RC, Pittsburgh released our city’s Resilience Strategy – ONEPGH – in 2017. ONEPGH is the strategy for Pittsburgh to thrive in the 21st century as a city of engaged, empowered and coordinated neighbors. It recognizes that Pittsburgh will be resilient when our city is livable for all residents.

By 2030, we want to show measurable success in tackling our environmental stresses, retaining our cultural assets and maintaining our natural assets, and eradicating hunger and homelessness. We envision safe and complete streets that don’t just offer physical mobility, but ensure social mobility and access to opportunity in each of our unique neighborhoods. By 2030, our housing will be affordable and Pre-K available for all Pittsburghers, our stormwater will be an asset and we will have a world class water system.

How do we achieve this vision of Pittsburgh in 2030? We need the agility to work across sectors: public, private, nonprofit, and philanthropic, to create efficiencies and targeted outcomes by reducing fragmentation in the city. We need the resources to innovate, experiment, and not fear failure, but use it as a tool to create better projects and programs. We need reserves to rebound from the shocks and disasters that take us by surprise.

As a follow-up to the ONEPGH Resilience Strategy and to implement this vision, the City has assembled more than 125 partners into working groups to put our deep shelves of plans and analyses into action, and identify the most critical projects ready for implementation.

By utilizing our Resilience Strategy and convening working groups, we are identifying the costs associated with the transformational projects that will lead the city to thrive by 2030. By creating an Investment Prospectus to raise the capital needed to ameliorate the chronic stresses that currently impact resident well-being, we see a real ability to move the needle toward these long-term goals, while improving the lives of Pittsburghers day-in and day-out.

Through our partnership with 100RC and others, Pittsburgh has also developed an innovate look at equity across our city, creating an Equity Indicators Report, which has the ability to serve as a baseline that locates points of disparity in the city, and can indicate success and improvement of Investment Prospective initiatives overtime.

Fundamentally, our ability to achieve this vision of resilience is about our ability to make these necessary investments. To do this, Pittsburgh is creating a Social Benefits Fund: a new entity to mobilize the public, private, nonprofit and philanthropic sectors to work together and make the targeted investments needed to improve the quality of life for all Pittsburghers.

We’ve identified a need for approximately $3 billion in the next 12 years to implement ambitious projects including:

  • Creating 1,500 seats to ensure Pre-K for all
  • Expanding access to affordable housing doubling our Housing Opportunity Fund and making over 7,000 vacant, distressed properties available for affordable housing
  • Removing 2 billion gallons of stormwater from our sewers by investing in 27 green infrastructure projects

Already, we’ve identified $1.4 billion toward these projects. By having the framework of the ONEPGH Resilience Strategy and partners like 100RC, we’re well on our way to closing this ambitious gap.

I couldn’t be more excited about the trajectory our city is on. Resilience has long been part of the DNA of Pittsburghers. Now, it’s not just who we are, but how we work and how we invest our time and resources to ensure a better tomorrow.