Introducing: Land & Power

Nov 4, 2020

From 90.5 WESA, this is Land & Power: who has it, what they do with it, and how that shapes the cities around us.

 


 

In 2015, residents of the Penn Plaza apartment buildings in Pittsburgh learned that they’d have to leave their homes to make way for a new development. The news arrived like a pronouncement: this neighborhood, East Liberty, isn’t for you anymore. 

 

Some people were afraid.

 

Some people were angry.

 

And some people were ready to fight.

 

They weren’t just fighting for their homes. They were fighting for the future of East Liberty, and Pittsburgh. 

 

You’ve probably heard this story before, or stories like it, about people being pushed out of neighborhoods they’ve called home for years. About government officials leaping into the fray. About how cities try to balance growth and equity.

But usually these stories are told from places like New York City and Los Angeles, Miami and Nashville. Places where there really aren’t enough homes for everyone who wants to be there. But Pittsburgh is a city built for twice as many people. We lost half our population in the 1980s when manufacturing collapsed, and those people never came back. How can a city with thousands of vacant homes push people out?

It turns out, it’s not just about scarcity, it’s about choices. It’s about who’s at the table and who’s calling the shots.

In Land & Power, we’ll take you beyond what happened in East Liberty to explain how it happened. This story is one of big gambles, unlikely wins, hubris, misunderstandings and a bid to remake the city. 

 

So often in these stories, developers are the bad guys, activists are the good guys and residents are the victims. But it’s never that simple.

 

From steel mills to shopping malls, from the Hill District to Homewood, Land & Power explores how one place becomes another, and what that means for the people who used to call it home. How even when everyone thinks they’re doing the right thing, people still get hurt. That hurt sticks around. And that shapes our cities, too.

 

Land & Power begins November 16th.