Kevin Sousa Restaurant Kickstarter Braddock

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Jan 27 2014 at 5:52pm #

Very interesting, mostly civilized, conversation going on in here!

I have to agree that having genuine concerns & conversations about how a business might affect/gentrify a community are important to have, however some of the negative comments brought-up in here seemed —at least to me— slightly on the malicious side, as-if interjecting some obscure/evil ulterior motives might be behind Kevin Sousa and/or his Team with this new restaurant….. not cool.

I’m a big fan of Kevin, both of his food and restaurant entreprises, and must say that his heart is in the right place. Starting with his first restaurant (Salt), down to Pig & Chicken, H & H, even the Union Station -he’s always tried to travel the slightly-less traveled path each time to find locations for his restaurants in neighborhood areas that could use some of the synergy he and his clientele brings. Each time he’s done it, it brings a degree of danger -opening a restaurant, and a successful one at that, is not an easy task, for it can make you or brake you if it fails, and for him to go to Braddock would be his biggest risk to-date which many -or rather none, usually do.

Sure, having the restaurant is also a potential risk to Braddock as well (gentrification and what-not); but the community is depressed enough that experimenting with this endeavor should fit it nicely to in the least inspire others to give Braddock a chance to open other community-sustaining businesses to strengthen its feeble current economy. And please note -by writing this I’m not implying that what is currently happening in Braddock is bad or not important, only that it needs more.

I look forward to see the new restaurant open and see how it fares, and hope that it will inspire others to invest in it.

And last but not least, gentrification is not started or caused by one business alone -there are alot of factors at play when it unfortunately occurs.

Ok, that’s it….


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Jan 27 2014 at 8:50pm #

On the Reddit AMA, did you notice the oblique mention of the GAP connector?


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Jan 28 2014 at 11:28am #

BTW, Mayor Fetterman was featured on a show, A day in the life and is available for free on hulu if anyone wants to check it out.


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Jan 28 2014 at 12:31pm #

Nice video. Wishing him and the community the greatest success. I think they have a good caring mayor with his heart in the right place.


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Jan 30 2014 at 7:55pm #

If there was any malice, it was more due to my hyperbolic writing style rather than an actual feeling on my part

Even though the mayor says that gentrification isn’t possible because there’s such a population decline, (per the Reddit post) I still don’t think that’s entirely impossible.

It’s true that there are a lot of vacant properties, but a lot of them are in such disrepair that the repair costs are equivalent to buying a property in the same area without the problems. For example, there are two houses across an empty lot from me. Both are vacant. They both have holes in their roofs and major water damage. The cost to repair the roof alone would be equivalent to buying another house in the neighborhood. Even just tearing them down would almost be as cheap as buying another house in the neighborhood. That’s how low house prices are out in the depopulated burbs.

I read on some other Braddock site that there isn’t even any commercial properties on Braddock Ave that are tenant ready. They’re building a new commercial property on the street. I’m not sure what’s going in there, but I’m dubious

So anyhow, I think the building stock and lack of population is being overstated

Jacob McCrea

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Jan 30 2014 at 10:40pm #

Pierce wrote:Even though the mayor says that gentrification isn’t possible because there’s such a population decline, (per the Reddit post) I still don’t think that’s entirely impossible.

I’ve traveled through Braddock quite a bit over the last 15 years. From what I’ve seen there are major impediments to what I’d call “true” gentrification, i.e., middle class people and above moving in and pushing out the poor.

First, there is the local income tax rate of (I believe) 4.07%. That is a direct consequence of what happens when, as Edmonds rightly noted, the percentage of the poor becomes too high for the municipality to support – a pattern that is plain to see in the county’s poorest boroughs. 4.07% amounts to a lot of money for a couple that brings in between 100k and 200k per year in gross income by getting out of bed and going to work every day. It’s also a lot for people who have to retire, pay their student loans, pay to raise their kids, etc. on their own money. If I recall correctly, the real estate tax is equally staggering. The bottom line: it isn’t a great place to have a high income or own a valuable piece of real estate.

Second, I don’t recall seeing any of the larger, well-built homes that are good candidates for rehabilitation and investment. Many areas of Pittsburgh have that sort of housing stock and in my view would be a much safer investment than trying to rehab a small, dilapidated place in Braddock.

Third, as a few commenters noted above, there simply isn’t much happening there. So, not unlike a number of comparable neighborhoods, to live there you get a whole lot of the downside that comes with a run down neighborhood – the high taxes, the blight, the risky real estate investment – but you don’t get a lot, if any, of the upside of an urban environment, e.g., being able to walk to a nice park, a well-stocked grocery store, a nice choice of bars and restaurants, multiple entertainment venues, etc.

Fourth, the place probably has the same issues that Homewood and other run down neighborhoods have: a glut of properties that are very difficult to acquire and rehabilitate due to massive tax liens, owners who can’t be located, and other “clouds” on the title to real estate. There was a great article on the problem in the P-G just two days ago. I’ve seen the problem firsthand, having tried to acquire a piece of property from someone who was happy to sell, provided that I cleaned up the past-due real estate taxes. I quickly found out that the owner never paid dollar one of real estate taxes since acquiring the property 20 odd years ago, and the liens were 15x what I felt was fair market value!

None of this is to knock the place or diminish what the mayor et al. are trying to do. I just can’t help but note the serious barriers to true gentrification by truly affluent people.

@Pierce, I honestly think you are scapegoating gentrification and garden variety neighborhood revitalization efforts with a separate issue: the region’s shortage of decent, affordable housing for people with low incomes. There was an article in the P-G a few months ago about that topic, and it would be worth your time to find and read it. The lack of low income housing is a multifaceted issue, and gentrification is probably among the least significant causes, at least in our region. Among the more substantial causes are the closing of public housing projects, negative attitudes toward Section 8 housing, zoning laws that reflect said attitudes, property that is beyond its useful life, property that has been run into the ground for any number of reasons, even the high scrap price of copper, which drives junkies to break into homes and rip out the plumbing and wiring for its scrap value, rendering a marginal home beyond economic repair. Those are all more substantial causes of the problem than some entrepreneur opening a mid-priced restaurant in an old car dealership.


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Jan 31 2014 at 10:17am #

” Those are all more substantial causes of the problem than some entrepreneur opening a mid-priced restaurant in an old car dealership.”

Valid point taken.

FWIW, this organization is doing okay work in this arena:

I’m on the fence whether it is better or worse for poor people to own property, but my hunch is that for long-term poor people, owning property is ultimately better than renting for a similar period of time.

For a lot of people, property is largest asset they have and more so for poor and minority people. Those same groups were also disproportionately effected by the housing collapse and all the house financing hoopla.

Even with Action Housing though, poor people are still renting so their own labor is just going down the drain. Similarly, I’m seeing an increasing trend of senior housing in these low income neighborhoods. My hunch is that whereas before an elders money may have stayed in the family, now the money is going into these nonprofits, reducing already low generational wealth


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Jan 31 2014 at 4:15pm #

Pierce wrote:Even with Action Housing though, poor people are still renting so their own labor is just going down the drain.

Perce, do you know true cost of house ownership?
Interest rate is a small portion of this. Real estate taxes, insurance, continuous repair (roof every 10-25 years, painting walls, fixing stuff outside and inside, appliances, gas-electrical lines-water lines-sewage insurance), all utilities, cutting grass and tools for this, all permits, etc. And if something is broken very often it has to be fixed very soon or it’s going to cost you many times more. so you have to have money saved for these “unforeseen cases”. And biggest part of those spending’s are not going to be reflected in a house price since (other than inflation) since it’s your duty to maintain property in normal condition (otherwise bank can sue you).

After owning house for 13 years I am thinking that probably apartments are could be a choice for me. I doubt that majority of poor people understand it.

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