First our region tops the U-Haul index for the fastest growth rate in people moving into any region and now we’ve made a top ten – this time among the “up and coming downtowns.”

According to, downtowns are being reborn across America, with double-digit population growth in the decade ending 2010 – more than double the rate of growth for cities overall.  Young adults are big drivers of this, particularly college-educated men and women ages 25 to 34, who are opting for urban lifestyles.

Downtown Pittsburgh turned up in Forbes’ top ten. The magazine notes that Class A office space was 94.5 percent leased as of the end of the third quarter of last year and the neighborhood’s population was about 8,000, up 21 percent from 2000.  And there’s more residential living on the way. According to the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, 219 units have come to market since 2009 with another 346 under construction.

The transformation of Downtown has been underway since the beginning of our region’s comeback 30-years ago.  (I’ve noted before that Pittsburgh’s darkest days were 30-years ago this year.  In 1983 the metro unemployment rate topped out above 18%.)

First came strategic investment in the arts, transforming a red light district into a cultural district.  About seven years ago PNC green-lighted a $170 million office tower (another skyrise is under construction) and jump-started the revitalization of the Fifth-Forbes corridor. Add to that the amazing success of the renovation of Market Square into a European-style piazza and the rest, as they say, is history.

But there’s more to come. Riverlife and the PA Department of Natural Resources are putting the finishing touches on a $41 million restoration of Point State Park, the biggest investment in a state park in state history, tying together the waterfront with trails and linear parks along the Allegheny and the Mon. Point Park University has already greened its urban campus with a plaza at the corner of Wood Street and the Boulevard of the Allies – and it’s got big plans for the Wood Street corridor, which connects to PNC’s new skyrise.

All of this is something to celebrate, something the entire community can do on Friday, June 7, when Governor Corbett will throw the switch to turn on the fountain in Point State Park.  The light show that weekend will be extraordinary, with a display called Riverlights showcasing the fountain – and Downtown – in a way none of us has ever seen before.

The event kicks off the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival, the JazzLive International Festival and Pride Fest, which all lead up PointMade!, the celebration of the completion of the Great Allegheny Passage, a 335-mile long biking and hiking trail that links Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.

It’s the perfect time to invite friends and family to check out everything that’s been accomplished here.  And, if they’re really into downtown living and looking for their next great career move, it’s a great opportunity to share with them one of America’s ten best “up-and-coming” downtowns.