6% Place

the tipping point


6% is the number, the tipping point. If a neighborhood can get that many creative workers, it becomes an attraction in its own right, according to a study by CEOs for Cities. cityLAB has been testing out this hypothesis in Garfield, an overlooked neighborhood in Pittsburgh’s East End, since 2011. Our goal is to fill in the neighborhood’s vacancies with creative workers who will be good neighbors, invest in the community, and help the neighborhood grow sustainably. In order to do this, we wanted to find out what would motivate creative workers to move to Garfield. Answering this question took some time. We broke it down into several tasks.

the lay of the land

First, we determined the current lay of the land. Knowing exactly where things stand today helped us to determine how to attain our goal. We gathered much information including existing demographic data; maps of the neighborhood’s assets and liabilities, real estate holdings, foreclosures, gas shutoffs, liens and more, and maps of the creative work force in and around the neighborhood.

moving to Pittsburgh

Next, we explored migration patterns and developed an understanding of how and why people move to and from Pittsburgh. We spoke with experts and Pittsburgh transplants about of how people choose new places to live (we found that people pass along relocation success stories in a chain from friend to friend) and created the Chain Migration strategy, which will help us identify and reach out to potential Garfield residents.

the people

Finally, we developed a process for human interaction. We talked to a diverse range of people with the goal of hearing what both current and potential Garfield residents had to say. We talked to them one-on-one and in pairs and asked them to attend larger brainstorming sessions that we organized. At these sessions, many ideas were generated that helped to inform us later on how to make our 6% Place attractive to potential residents and a better place for current residents. These ideas were documented on hundreds and hundreds of sticky notes.

We systematically researched of the people and places of the Garfield, Penn Avenue and Friendship neighborhoods as well as peoples’ reasons for moving to Pittsburgh so that we could develop a meaningful strategy for the 6% Place.

our findings

We were surprised by what we found. While the goal of the Penn Avenue Arts Initiative was to unite the fortunes of Friendship and Garfield more closely, this had not been accomplished to date. Penn Avenue remained a dividing line between wealth and poverty. This manifested itself in many ways. For example, Garfield has significantly higher rates of foreclosure and vacancy than Friendship, and lower housing values and rates of educational attainment. Additionally, there are still many vacant storefronts and land along Penn Avenue.

Creative workers made up more than 7% of the population in Friendship but barely more than 0% in Garfield in 2000. This is a nine-fold difference.

the interviews

We conducted interviews and held focus groups so that we could learn more about the experiences and attitudes of both current neighborhood residents and potential future residents. Thousands of comments were made in the interviews and brainstorming events that we conducted, and some common themes quickly emerged. It was surprising how much the current and potential neighborhood residents had in common: both groups wanted a safe and affordable place to live with resources and opportunities for themselves and for their children. These common threads in these conversations helped us create projects that will make the neighborhood a better place for everyone to live.

what did we hear?

Each group had a distinctive viewpoint. From neighborhood residents, we heard some strong reminders that Garfield’s identity is critical to them with quotes such as: “I don’t want Garfield to become Friendship 2,” “I wish Garfield had a better reputation,” and “I wish Penn Avenue belonged to Garfield.” From potential neighborhood residents, we heard some strong reminders of what they hoped for and the bond they hope to make with their new home with quotes such as “Pittsburgh was my Paris” and “I’m paying it back.”

However, and most interestingly many comments were made by both groups and included these: I want an authentic place. I want an affordable life. I want a great business district. I want things to do, places to eat, and places to shop. I want good public transportation and a bikeable neighborhood. I want a clean and safe neighborhood. I want creativity and culture. I want cultural diversity. I want a voice. I want room for more than work. I want room to succeed. I want entrepreneurial opportunities. I want access to jobs. I want Garfield to be better. I want to feel part of something.

wishes & dreams

The commonality of these thoughts provide us with starting point for our Toolbox. Here are things that both groups want. None of these wishes threaten anyone’s identity or the identity of Garfield as a place. In fact, if these wishes and dreams were accomplished, Garfield would be a better place for its residents and a much more desirable place for people to move to.

the priorities

After analyzing everyone’s comments, six main themes emerged. These have become the six key priorities that we will remain focussed on. They are the most important issues for both Garfield residents and for our target creative worker group. By framing the 6% Toolbox around these priorities, our projects will serve the our dual audiences of current and potential future Garfield residents. These priorities are to:

Current neighborhood residents might view each priority a little differently than in-comers, but they remain equally as important to each group.

After all the gathering of information —maps, demographic information, thoughts and ideas—we were finally able to assemble the 6% Toolbox. The information we gathered had been with one purpose in mind: to ensure that the incentives we propose will be effective in reaching our 6% goals.

the toolbox emerges


We set ourselves the goal of always solving at least four of our six priorities with each Toolbox project to be implemented. To find the best incentives we rated each idea generated (all 400 of them) against our six goals. Some additional principles guided us: first, participation by the residents of Garfield is key and second, we need to amplify the good that is already there. Finally, we also considered the speed of implementation and impact of of each incentive, to ensure that a full range of quick wins and big challenges were considered—quick versus slow, easy versus hard, and big versus small.

And so the Toolbox emerged. On September 7, 2011, we presented them to the community.  At the same time, 70 Carnegie Mellon architecture students, working through the Urban Design Build Studio, began the exercise of turning each of these ideas into an implementable strategy, including brainstorming with community members in October 2011.

By early 2012, there was a lot to work with. Below are our sixteen ideas for Garfield, with links to the projects we have started to date.

sixteen ideas


1. Tee Contest
2. BBQ cook-off
3. Dream property database
4. Expand the arts
5. Community internet radio
6. Dearborn Street market (now the Garfield Night Market)
7. Bikes on Broad
8. Exercise park
9. 6% space
10. Housing that set Garfield APART
11. Tiny housing
12. Kid Cafe
13. Garfield Hilltop Park
14. Bike incline
15. Girl cabs
16. Food incubator