Steel to Steel: 4 final ideas from Pittsburgh to Hamilton

Here are four more pieces of advice from Pittsburgh to Hamilton.

Pittsburgh's strengths sound familiar: 'hospitals, universities, history and location'

"There's a resilience and persistence of people who have grown up in these industrial cities," says Don Carter, an urban renewal expert at Carnegie Mellon University. He encourages Hamilton and Pittsburgh to embrace their natural personalities. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Pittsburgh and Hamilton, two Steeltowns, two cities forced to struggle with decline of their traditional manufacturing economies, two cities trying to find a new way. Pittsburgh is frequently held up as a model of economic redevelopment. Three major magazines have named it America's most livable city. Major tech companies such as Google and Apple have located there. CBC Hamilton went to Pittsburgh to find three success stories that might have application here, from a warehouse full of artwork to a neighbourhood plan that turned an area known for drive-by shootings into a family-friendly hangout.

Here are four more words of wisdom.

1. Embrace two-way streets

Steel to Steel: Bright ideas from Pittsburgh to Hamilton

Tuesday: The Mattress Factory

Wednesday: A non-profit foundation that saves historic buildings 

Thursday: A community plan for economic revitalization 

Many cities across North America have a plethora of one-way streets and are deciding whether to convert them back, said Don Carter, head of the Remaking Cities Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.

The answer is almost always yes.

One-way streets became all the rage in the 1950s, when "for some reason, highway engineers decided that streets in cities should be in one-way pairs," Carter said. Cities even timed the lights to turn green at the same time so people could drive faster. The primary purpose was to move traffic from the inner city to the growing suburbs.

One-way streets cause more accidents because people drive faster on them, he said. Merchants hate them too. It's also harder for pedestrians.

These days, "we almost always recommend that you turn them back to two-way streets."

2. Don't bet everything on a casino

That's the advice of Bill Peduto, a city councillor, lifelong Pittsburgher and a frontrunner in this month's mayoral race.

When asked about how the north-shore Rivers Casino benefits the city, Peduto shrugs. He hasn't noticed excessive crime or social deterrents since it opened in 2009, but he hasn't noticed a windfall for the city either.

"A lot of the money leaves the region," he said. "We get a portion of the slot revenue but it gets divided according to a formula created by the state, not the city."

"I would say it's not what you want to base your economy on. It's an add on."

3. Spread the word

Pittsburgh has a benefit that Hamilton doesn't — everyone in the U.S. knows where it is.

Its sports teams keep it in the news every day, but the arts factor just as prominently. The city has been featured in high-profile novels and movies, such as Mysteries of Pittsburgh and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, both written by ex-residents. It doubled as Gotham City in The Dark Knight Rises.

Peduto attributes this to the fierce loyalty of people who used to live there. Pittsburghers are serious about being from Pittsburgh.

"We were so big back in the day that we have a lot of expats who are living all over the country now," he said. "They take Pittsburgh with them, almost like an ethnicity."

4. Be yourself

Cities such as Hamilton and Pittsburgh will never be Toronto or Philadelphia or New York City, but that's OK, Carter says. The real key to success is growing on your own strengths.

"Start with what your strengths are, and I can't tell you what they are," he said. "I know that we had to do that here. We recognized that our universities and our hospitals were our strength. Our downtown, our history, our regional location and our amenities we have.

"Another strength you'll find is the people. There's a resilience and persistence of people who have grown up in these industrial cities. They're very proud of what it was. Almost everybody has a grandparent who work in the steel mill, and there are all these ethnic churches around and vestiges of ethnic villages.

"Start with what you have that's strong and talk about what your vision of the future is. In Pittsburgh, our vision was we'd chase technology. Everyone's doing that now but Pittsburgh did it first. It takes a long time for people to be proud again."