Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Pittsburgh: Shadows of the City

This week I’m featuring a promotional video for the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was part of a series of videos Atlantic Cities highlighted about the city. They say this is played at the stadium before every home game. I can see why. It’s a fantastic piece. The way that it captures gritty Pittsburgh while also throwing in slices of more traditional “cool urban” (like skyline shots) and lots of average, everyday people instead of the Beautiful or the Bearded Ones is great. The lessons of this videos should be absorbed by the tourism teams of most cities which as a rule continue to churn out work that actively makes me not want to visit those cities. If the video doesn’t display for you, click here.

I’d like to contrast the Pittsburgh with a video called “Here Is St. Louis.” I pick that one not because it’s bad, but because in many ways is actually very well done. It’s not a tourism video, but what I’d call an explicit “city video” of the type I often post here. This video does indeed show many only in St. Louis type landmarks, shots of people, etc. But where this video falls flat is that it tries too hard to make St. Louis look like a super-cool city. Coffee shops, microbreweries, cool restaurants, record stores, etc. It checks all the boxes. But substitute in your city’s equivalents for everything shot in the video, and you’d probably come away not really being able to tell the difference. This doesn’t tell a truly compelling story of St. Louis, though it’s certainly well done and conveys the city positively. I just think the Pirates did a much better job of capturing the unique spirit of their city. If the video doesn’t display for you, click here.

h/t Chris LeBeau

15 Comments
Topics: Architecture and Design, Civic Branding, Urban Culture
Cities: Pittsburgh
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15 Responses to “Pittsburgh: Shadows of the City”

  1. MichaelSchwartz says:

    You’re right about the St. Louis video–could be anywhere USA, nothing unique. However, the Pittsburgh video, while more interesting and Pittsburgh centric, does nothing for an ex New Yorker or for that matter an out of towner in my opinion. In fact, if this is what Pittsburgh is so be it, but it is a New Yorkers worst nightmare. And this is not an attack on Pittsburgh, as many other cities stuck in the middle of the country face the same situation. The bottom line is that these cities really have no strong selling point compared to LA or NY.

  2. Matt Wootton says:

    That was great! I was about to make a joke about their team, but they’re playing .600 baseball right now.

  3. John Morris says:

    It’s not really meant as a sales or travel video for Pittsburgh. The “grit” & hardcore Yinzer aspects of the city are played up. Ending with the theme song, from Pittsburgh’s last World Series team in 1979 played to that nostalgia.

  4. John Morris says:

    The Pittsburgh video doesn’t just not play up model types, it goes out of it’s way to avoid them. Pittsburgh today, is largely a college town loaded with young pretty hipsters wearing Letang, Malkin & Crosby jerseys

    The Pirate fan demographic tilts a bit old and nostalgic and the video reflects that in a sort of sweet way.

    The high contrast filter turns pretty Pittsburgh into gritty Pittsburgh

  5. Matt Hall says:

    Sure they have selling points. I’ll never forget the friends of a friend I met in NYC. They “acknowledged” that Ohio might be 30 or 40 percent cheaper to live in, but that is was culturally dead. When I informed them it was 60 to 70 percent cheaper for a physically comparable life, but that pay was only 20 to 30 percent less for given jobs,they were speechless.

  6. doubter says:

    Being from somewhere between the coasts, maybe I’m missing something. The Pittsburgh video shows virtually no black people at all. The St. Louis video is just a celebration of the city, right? What if city videos were only allowed to show what is truly unique in a city? Well, how much is truly unique? Can’t show botanical gardens, can’t show professional sports, or basically all museums and parks… What’s the point? I did look up the big playground in the St. Louis video – do yourself a favor and Google “City Museum, St. Louis”.

  7. Danny says:

    Not really trying to argue with your point, but to be fair, “Here is St. Louis” isn’t really a tourism-focused video. It wasn’t produced by the local tourism bureau, it was created by a local couple in St. Louis who wanted to celebrate and share the things they loved about the city. It’s true that a lot of the types of things they focused on could be found in other cities, but that’s not really a surprise- these are types of things that people love and enjoy about American cities right now. But I think what is cool about this video is the hubbub it created amongst locals. It was shared and passed around among literally thousands of St. Louisans who it inspired to appreciate some of the hidden spots around in the St. Louis. And it made locals (especially some in the suburbs) take notice of some of the interesting places they didn’t know about in the city. It created pride in St. Louis. I think that’s cool for one couple to be able to create.

  8. Alki says:

    To me the difference between the two vids is the difference in confidence levels. For the past few years, Pittsburgh has started to move forward and has been getting kudos from both the national and international media. That celebration of what is good about Pittsburgh gives it the confidence to show the city, warts and all whereas St Louis ain’t there yet. While making a lot of improvements, St Louis continues to run in place. When your confidence is kept in check, its harder to show your flaws.

  9. John Morris says:

    I agree with what Alki just said. Pittsburgh is getting some attention and new investment. New Google offices, office towers, fancy hotels and apartment buildings are going up.

    A city that a few years ago was old, in now becoming very young in many areas. The Pirates video really plays up the gritty hometown aspect of the city that in many ways is passing away.

  10. John Morris says:

    The Google office has been there a few years, occupying an old Nabisco factory. Some of the other projects like the renovation of the Highland Building in East Liberty are also conversions. Evens so, for a city that for a few years seemed to see little change, things are moving quickly. The demographic shift towards youth was expected by those who watch these things but likely stuns the old time Pittsburgher.

  11. MichaelSchwartz says:

    Yada yada yada. Talking like Pittsburgh is the new Silicon Valley. Did I mention the unbelievably big Google office? Let me mention it again. Let me tell you something, as I know a little bit about Pittsburgh. This city may have the worst infrastructure in the country–both seen and unseen. The downtown streets are like the moon. The sewer system has an 1800’s quality about it. I won’t even mention the bridges, just don’t look to closely. If Pittsburgh wants to get beyond its hype and actually be for real, it will need billions in infrastructure development, and I don’t see it happening. Did I mention the huge Google office there?

  12. John Morris says:

    Pittsburgh is a small city and while many of these projects are TIF financed or involve other deals, one is seeing lots of new investment in the city itself- about 6 hotels, a new PNC Bank tower, waterfront apartment construction, new office construction near Google etc..

    By the way, the poor infrastructure- specifically the bridges, flash flooding & landslides may drive more investment into the city itself by making commuting around the metro more difficult. The Oakland/ Shadyside/ Baum corridor has many projects planned reflecting movement towards the college core.

    By the way- I chose the move from NYC to Pittsburgh

  13. MichaelSchwartz says:

    John, I appreciate your boosterism. However what you describe in your first paragraph, about all the new investment that is going on is also going on in 100 other cities right now as we come out of recession. Pittsburgh would be way better served if it really wants to grow, by instituting a Marshall plan for its roads, sewers, etc. “Hoping” that infrastructure refurbishment will take plaace means it never will happen. Take a look if you can at almost any street in the Raleigh Durham area and its condition, and then compare it to almost any street in Pittsburgh. Why wuold anyone or business want to locate in Pittsburgh after looking at the condition of the roads? I know there is technology to overcome the winter effect, its just a matter of priorities. Whatever boom in Pittsburgh will be short lived until billions are spent on addressing these issues.

  14. John Morris says:

    I’m afraid your prescription is closer to delusional boosterism.

    As someone with a negative view of Pittsburgh, you should know we have deeply underfunded pension funds and lack the capital to implement anything close to a regional “Marshall Plan”.

    I prefer to look at the private investment that is happening- in spite of the city’s problems as a huge positive.

    The blunt fact is that a lot of people are interested in the assets and possibilities in the city as it exists now- like close access to leading universities, an amazing middle and high end housing stock.

    The key here is maximizing return on the current infrastructure by building up existing walkable communities like Bloomfield, South Side, Shadyside, Oakland, Friendship, Squirrel Hill; creating smart infill in places like The Strip & East Liberty and making building up streetcar suburbs like Dormont & Mount Lebanon.

    As to the investment happening in other cities- a lot is strongly focused on multi familiy housing and the type of mixed use development that plays Pittsburgh’s strengths.

  15. Joe Bobbit says:

    I fail to see how the Pittsburgh video is “realer” than the St. Louis video. It’s all a matter of perception. Also to the people who think Pittsburgh is heads and shoulders above St. Louis, get off your delusion driven fantasy. There is nothing Pittsburgh is doing that St. Louis is currently not doing. Okay you got some Google announcements, well St. Louis got huge Monsanto and Boeing announcements in the last month. St. Louis has one of the fastest growing tech scenes in the country. The idea that Pittsburgh is some great reinvented mecca and St. Louis is some Rustbelt backwater searching for an identity is absolutely false. I ask again, what is Pittsburgh doing or currently have that St. Louis doesn’t?

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