Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Pittsburgh Rendell-icans?


Mayor Ed Rendell stunned pundits in the 2002 PA Gubernatorial race, sweeping the Republican suburbs of Philadelphia by touting his cred as Philly's savior. As Mayor of Philadelphia from '92 to '00, Rendell singlehandedly righted Philadelphia's notoriously bankrupt budget, beat back union contracts, and forced new efficiency in government. But the real reason for the "Republicans for Rendell" signs dotting yards from Ardmore to Paoli was Rendell's transformation of Center City and Society Hill. The decrepit neighborhood seemingly transformed overnight from embarrassment to destination, with market ramifications stretching from Washington Bvd in S. Philly to Girard Ave in No-Libs. The Delaware Valley thanked their Mayor by doing the equally unimaginable: voting in a regional bloc for the Mayor of Philadelphia cum Governor of PA.

PNC 3 is a half-baked version of Rendell's Philadelphia miracle. Rendell spent the last 4 years focusing on slots and property tax reform, as Pittsburgh watched its city undergo draconian cuts to public services. As the ship sank, State legislators tried to line their own pockets in the notorious pay-grab. As Russell Nigro found out, this region is pissed off. Most Pittsburgher's dont like ANY state government right now, so the titular head of said government needs a BIG win. Take one huge bank, add millions in state subsidy, and you have a 5th Avenue redevelopment plan. If ya can't earn their love, Eddie, buy it.

Development cycles take quite a bit of time, but the 200k people who work downtown will notice the bulldozers on Liberty and 5th. The economic ramifications of this development will likely not be felt until Rendell's second term expires, at which point he'll be eyeing the White House or Congress. Its a risky thing to gamble one's election victories on soft-market real-estate development: will PNC actually spur development on 5th/Forbes; are we flooding the downtown market with a surplus of Condo developments (500 units this year); will the impact spread beyond that block? This is quite a gamble to get Pittsburghers to make Rendell our Mayor: a real eggs-in-one-basket scenario. Hopefully he mixes this agenda with some pro-active leadership on the City's budget crisis.

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