It's no secret Pittsburgh has some of the richest sports history in the country. Each month we ask one of our favorite Pittsburghers:

What else makes this city great?


Phoebe Downey  Program Manager,  Envision Downtown,  http://www.envisiondowntown.com
Live: Lawrenceville •  Work: Downtown •  How Long: 2 Years

Where did you grow up?
I spent my first 11 years in south-west London, England and the next seven in Dorking, England a town about an hour south of London.

Where else have you called home and what brought you back to PGH/keeps you in PGH?
I did my undergrad degree in Baltimore where I met my husband (then boyfriend). He moved to Pittsburgh to start his PhD five years ago and convinced me to join him a year later. At the time I was unconvinced. I’m now very glad he was so persuasive and very happy to be able to call Pittsburgh home.

Besides out sports, what do you think makes PGH great?
Pittsburgh has a lot of heart. There is a pride and sense of community here that is almost overwhelming at first. Pittsburgher’s love Pittsburgh and want you to love it too. It’s hard not to get infected with that passion.

It’s a place where the urban lifestyle is open and attainable in a way it’s not in other cities. Culture, entertainment, food and yes, sports; aren’t intimidating or pretentious, they invite you in to participate and be part of them. Our public life is vibrant and takes on so many different characters neighbourhood to neighbourhood but it’s always uniquely Pittsburgh. Plus the geography is pretty spectacular both to look at and explore. If you are tired of the city and need to catch your breath you can be out in the mountains or enjoying one of the rivers with very little effort.

What are you most excited about for PGH future?
There is this underlying common energy here that is constantly asking how do we make Pittsburgh even better? Whether it’s through new technology or new restaurants or community development Pittsburgh is reinventing the role that it takes on the national and international stage. More and more you hear from non-Pittsburgher’s ‘wow Pittsburgh is doing some really cool things.’ It’s exciting to be part of that process.

Where do we need to grow to continue to better ourselves?
Pittsburgh needs to continue to attract and retain talent and increasing diversity is important. Cities are places for ideas to come together and for innovation to happen. The more backgrounds, the more viewpoints these ideas emerge from the more innovative and successful the end products will be. We need to be looking at policies and approaches that foster that not hinder it. At the same time, we need to make sure that all Pittsburghers get to participate in and benefit from all the exciting changes and successes that we are seeing.


Cody Baker  Founder,  Creatives Drink,  http://www.creativesdrink.com
Live: Cultural District •  Work: Downtown •  How Long: 2 years

Where did you grow up?
Chippewa, about 40 minutes west of downtown.

Where else have you called home and what brought you back to PGH/keeps you in PGH?
Moved to Pittsburgh for college and immediately fell in love. I always knew I wanted to live in an urban environment, but Pittsburgh turned out to be the missing piece in my work. The energy and atmosphere inspires me and constantly motivates me to work harder. I stay here because my story is just getting started and this is the perfect setting.

Besides our sports, what do you think makes PGH great?
Pittsburgh is a small town disguised as a city. It’s not so much an urban jungle as it is a backyard. While we’ve managed to gain national recognition on several accounts, we’ve kept to our roots. The relationships I’ve formed in my time here, whether it be bartenders or the guys behind some of the best shops in town, have made me realize that we are all on the same team here. Everyone is supportive and friendly and ultimately we just want to see Pittsburgh thrive. I think that’s really awesome and pretty rare.

What are you most excited about for PGH future?
The fact that our city is growing and bursting with creativity. People are taking notice of it’s potential and acting on it, which results in tons of new concepts and ideas that would have never succeeded in Pittsburgh before. Creatives Drink gives people the opportunity to express themselves in this city and push past the barriers. We want to see what this city is capable of.

Where do we need to grow to continue to better ourselves?
More people need to be taking chances! We need more places to network, eat and simply be around. People sometimes prefer to stick to their comfort zone, which leaves little room for new groups of people to meet. The more our city interacts, the more we can grow and expand. When Chancelor Humphrey and I met we shared a common goal and now we have “Creatives Drink.” That’s the whole point of CD – get together with people you know and don’t know. Drink (for free). Talk. See what happens. Collaboration breathes innovation.


Aaron Clark  Cultural Engineer, Ace Hotel Pittsburgh; Organizer/Partner, Hot Mass/Honcho,  http://www.acehotel.com/pittsburgh
Live: Garfield •  Work: East Liberty •  How Long: 13 Years

Where did you grow up?
Canton, Ohio. The home of the NFL FOOTBALL HALL OF FAAAAAAAME!

Where else have you called home and what brought you back to PGH/keeps you in PGH?

Ohio and Pittsburgh. I did a brief stint in San Francisco over the winter to get it out of my system. Because of that I’m comfortable scratching “live somewhere else” off my list for a while. I’ll stay here because Pittsburgh puts it’s claws into you and doesn’t let go.

Besides our sports, what do you think makes PGH great?

It’s the aesthetic, above all. It’s trees, on top of water, with a city slapped down, bridges crisscrossing over each other, insane roads that go nowhere, gorgeous old architecture, tons of grit. Pittsburgh has such drastic contrasts everywhere you look. You’d be hard pressed to find a place that is this visually stimulating. As a little kid, that’s what really drew me in and began the love affair. I think everything else going on today has built off of this. It lures the right people into this visual stew, and then they create on top of it. It’s incredibly inspiring and supportive to be here.

What are you most excited about for PGH future?

It’s hard to say, because it’s really unknown. We know we’re all riding a rocket ship to a new Pittsburgh right now, but it could take many turns. There’s the big influx of tech and newer industries, rising costs, new people. That is a bit scary, but I’m an optimist and think it’s a net positive. This city is idea central right now. Pittsburgh 2015 feels a like a concept drawing – the exciting part will be watching that sketch mature into a fully-realized city as people get better and better at what they do.

Oh yeah, and I’m excited to show the city what we’re going to do at Ace Hotel when we open. 😉

Where do we need to grow to continue to better ourselves?

I think we need more constructive criticism. There’s this knee-jerk reaction at times to get defensive about our faults – I fall into the trap myself sometimes. You can’t really improve on things if you don’t admit that there are shortcomings. We also need to close the racial disparity and income gaps as our economy transitions. The neighborhoods need to mix up, and less lines should be drawn between them.


Robin Abramson  Actor, Othello,  Pittsburgh Public Theater,  http://www.ppt.org
Live: Friendship •  Work: Downtown • 

 

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, but grew up in Monroeville PA.

Where else have you called home and what brought you back to PGH/keeps you in PGH?

For about  four years in my mid-20s, I called Israel my home. But ultimately, Pittsburgh’s warm community of artists and the increasing opportunities to make theatre called me back home.

Besides our sports, what do you think makes PGH great?

Certainly the incredible arts community from galleries to theatre to the Symphony  & Opera. Its easy for us to forget we are not in a major international city with all the offerings that we have here.  When I am not doing theatre, I help run a leasing office for people relocating to our lovely city. When I ask them what brings them here, they always say opportunity. We should be proud that people come here to make a difference and to lead a more fulfilling life.  

What are you most excited about for your performance in Othello? 

Our production of Shakespeare’s Othello at Pittsburgh Public Theater is so relevant, thrilling, poignant, and heartbreaking that audiences will watch as if they don’t already know what’s going to happen next. I can’t wait to hear the audience gasps towards the end of the play!

Want to see Robin live on stage for an amazing price!? PPT is offering Urbanist readers $25.75 any open seat for the run of Othello (code: URBANIST).  Get out there and support this terrific company and get some killer seats while you are at it!


Alan Stanford  Artistic and Executive Director​,  PICT Classic Theatre,  http://www.picttheatre.org
Live: Greenfield •  Work: Oakland/Dormont •  How Long: 4 years

Where did you grow up? 

I grew up in the UK on the Isle of Wight but was born in the North of England and, being of Irish decent, I spent most of my adult life in Ireland​ (Dublin).

When did you move here and why?

I came to Pittsburgh in 2006 with a touring play. I was invited back year by year and, having decided that I needed a new challenge as I was getting older, I chose Pittsburgh as my new home in 2010.  The city amazed and attracted me with its world of art and culture in a small but perfectly balanced city.​

Besides our sports, what do you think makes PGH great? 

Pittsburgh, rather like my home city of Dublin, is a small city with a huge heart. It is vibrant, charming, friendly, and full of creativity. It is a city that pulses with artistic creativity. It feels like home.​


Julia Weiskopf  Owner,  Jules,  http://www.julespittsburgh.com
Live: Lawrenceville •  Work: Lawrenceville •  How Long: 1 year

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Point Breeze and then Squirrel Hill. I attended Winchester Thurston in Shady Side and then Taylor Allderdice for High School, so basically East End born and raised!

 

When did you move here and why?
As a kid, I couldn’t wait to leave Pittsburgh to have bigger and perhaps more stylish adventures.  I left as soon as I could, heading to Boston for college and then went right to NYC where I stayed for almost 7 years working as an entertainment publicist. But Pittsburgh is magnetic; I was drawn back here two and a half years ago and am here to stay. It’s a very different city than the one I grew up in and still changing and growing in amazing ways; I am thrilled to be part of it again.

 

Besides our sports, what do you think makes PGH great?
Pittsburgh is unlike any other city. I tell people this all the time and they don’t understand until they visit. You can be in one neighborhood experiencing something unique and travel 5 minutes by car or even walking and be somewhere entirely different, yet special in it’s own way. Not to mention it’s beautiful architecture juxtaposed with rolling hills and rivers. There’s a real gritty history here that makes Pittsburgh unique, but it is evolving into something entirely new; I’m thrilled and humbled to be involved in it in my own way now.

Jeff Catalina  Owner,  Tender Bar + Kitchen, Verde Kitchen + Cantina,  http://www.tenderpgh.com http://www.verdepgh.com/
Live: South Side •  Work: East End •  How Long: 5 years

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?
I was an Air Force brat, born in Italy and then moving 8 times during my childhood. My family finally settled in San Antonio, and so I claim “Texan.”

WHEN DID YOU MOVE HERE AND WHY? 
Five years ago, my native-Pittsburgher wife got a job with Heinz, and so she pulled me back to her hometown. I hear this is a common thing.

BESIDES OUR SPORTS, WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES PGH GREAT?
Opportunity. As a small business owner, you can see the positive change happening, slowly but surely. It can still be frustrating at times with how easily the city can be distracted by sports or concerts (or ducks), but the population and demographic changes can be exciting for businesses looking to start up or grow.


Scott Bricker  Executive Director,  BikePGH,  http://www.bikepgh.org
Live: Friendship •  Work: Lawrenceville •  How Long: 16 years

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP? Chippewa, PA in Beaver County about an hour northwest of Pittsburgh

WHEN DID YOU MOVE HERE AND WHY? I moved to Pittsburgh at age 18 to go to college at Carnegie Mellon. When I graduated in 1999 I did what almost every other young college graduate from Pittsburgh did — I left the city. I packed my panniers, pedaled across the country, and ended up in San Francisco. During the tumult of the dot com bust I moved back to Pittsburgh to live cheaply and explore what I wanted to do next. I ended up co-founding BikePGH and the rest is history.

BESIDES OUR SPORTS, WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES PGH GREAT? Pittsburgh is a magical place. The city is incredibly beautiful and its landscape is dramatic and challenging; it’s uniquely urban and pastoral at the same time with beautiful architecture, walkable business districts, rivers, runs, vistas, bluffs, and hollows. There’s a European feel to it without being precious or pretentious. One of my colleagues in D.C. said it best: “It looks like a city is supposed to look.” But I think the element that makes Pittsburgh truly great are the people pouring every ounce of their beings into making it even better.

Andrea Hnath  Co Owner/Partner,  TOWNHOUSE,  http://https://www.facebook.com/townhousepgh
Live: South Hills •  Work: East Liberty •  How Long: 1 year

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?
Pittsburgh

WHEN DID YOU MOVE HERE AND WHY?
Moved away for college to Savannah, then found my home away from home in New York City for several years. Ultimately, I felt a draw to be back in Pittsburgh and moved back in early 2013.  Pittsburgh is a different city than when I left, for the better, and that’s been terrifically exciting to experience.

BESIDES OUR SPORTS, WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES PGH GREAT?
Well, I mean, Heniz 57.   But in all seriousness, there is this raw energy happening in Pittsburgh right now, where I see great small things happening all around the city, not just one buzzy neighborhood.  It’s shops, galleries, restaurants; things that easily could be popped in Manahattan but chose to open here.   It’s an interesting time for Pittsburgh and I love being apart of it.


Kacey Wherley  Founder/Director,  TEDxGrandviewAve,  http://www.tedxgrandviewave.com
Live: Mt, Washington •  Work: Oakland •  How Long: 7 years

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?
Born and raised in a small, eastern Ohio town called Dover. Imagine Friday Night Lights combined with Pleasantville…

WHEN DID YOU MOVE HERE AND WHY?
In October of 2006 I began school at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh for Advertising. I wanted to move somewhere larger and more exciting. Plus, I wanted to study in a program that combined business and the arts – two of my favorite things.

BESIDES OUR SPORTS, WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES PGH GREAT?
The people & their passion. If you have an idea or want something to happen – Pittsburgh is a great place to do that. Pittsburgh is filled with creative, innovative and all around awesome individuals who want to learn more, help out and spread that inspiration. When I first created TEDxGrandviewAve, I was afraid that my idea for this event would get lost in the shuffle of larger events, or that maybe no one would understand my passion for learning new ideas in the TED atmosphere. Needless to say, I was completely wrong in the greatest way.


Derek Burnell  Co-Owner/Collabortor,  Round Corner Cantina, El Burro, 6119, VIA,  http://roundcornercantina.com http://elburro.com http://facebook.com/VIA.Pittsburgh
Live: Lawrenceville •  Work: Lawrenceville, North Side, East Liberty •  How Long: 5 Years

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?
San Diego
WHEN DID YOU MOVE HERE AND WHY?
Spring of 2008, my wife (a PGH native) and I, knew we wanted to move from San Diego and open a bar. We looked at other places (Vegas, Venice Beach) but decided Pittsburgh was a perfect fit.  We opened up Round Corner Cantina in 2009 with our partner Sarah Fitzgerald.
BESIDES OUR SPORTS, WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES PGH GREAT?
There are so many things. There is a terrific sense of place and people here. It’s a city that feels lived in.  It’s rich with history and that is reflected in people’s attitude and perspective. It’s very authentic rather than engineered, you can’t find many places. Another aspect I love is the ability to carve out a business/interest here and thrive. You look at cities similarly sized and that is not really an option, you need to fit to them. But Pittsburgh really embraces people/businesses that bring something new and interesting to the market. For me, that’s ranged from opening restaurants/bars to working to bring an amazing electronic music/mixed media festival to PGH.