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The Moving Guide to Shadyside

When I moved to Pittsburgh five years ago, I wasn't familiar with the city’s neighborhoods beyond downtown. So, I relied on the guidance of a friend who had lived here her whole life in my apartment hunting endeavors.

“I’m going to take you to Shadyside,” she said decisively. “I think you’ll like it.”

Turned out that she was right. I ended up choosing a reasonably priced studio a few blocks from the Walnut Street shopping district as my first home and have lived here happily ever since.

Like many newcomers – and longtime Pittsburghers, too, for that matter – I was drawn to the neighborhood’s diversity and energy. With access to numerous urban amenities in a relatively safe environment, it’s no wonder Shadyside addresses are some of the most sought-after in Pittsburgh.

What do residents appreciate the most?  One common response is the diverse population, in both ethnicity and age.

“I like that there are students across the street, retirees on the other corner,” says Peggy Ott, who has lived in Shadyside on and off for two decades and currently serves as the president of the Shadyside Action Coalition. “I could never live in the suburbs," she adds.

Certainly many of the neighborhood’s features are attractive to a variety of demographic groups. Its proximity to Carnegie Mellon, Chatham University and Pitt brings in many students, particularly those in graduate or professional school, as well as the faculty from those institutions.

A plentiful supply of rental properties appeals to twenty-somethings embarking on their professional paths. Empty nesters wanting to downsize from their large suburban homes are attracted to the opportunity to live in a walkable, compact neighborhood without compromising their safety.

Park It Here

The housing stock in Shadyside is as varied as the population. From brand new condos to the large mansions that are the vestiges of Pittsburgh’s original Millionaire’s Row, the selection can accommodate the needs and tastes of nearly any house hunter.

Compared to most other areas in Pittsburgh, prices are steeper, with single-family dwellings averaging in the upper $200,000 range and condos going for just a bit less than that. Some homes top the $1,000,000 mark. While those prices might jolt Pittsburgh natives, transplants from much larger metropolitan areas think they’ve died and gone to real estate heaven when they see how much square footage they can get for the price.

“It’s still a very popular market for people moving to Pittsburgh,” says Suzanne Elliott, a realtor in Coldwell Banker’s Shadyside office.

Yet more frugal shoppers hoping to land a home in Shadyside can find something in their price range, Elliott notes, particularly when they’re willing to consider property that’s more distant from the neighborhood’s core area.

Shadyside also offers a variety of options to those who aren’t quite ready to make the long-term commitment of a real estate purchase. The bounty of rental properties are equally attractive to students and young professionals. Choices range from relatively inexpensive studios, which can go for as little as $500 a month to three- and four-bedroom apartments that are ideal for sharing – and splitting costs.

And  Shadyside residents don’t even need to leave the neighborhood to furnish their homes, with Arhaus and Weisshouse, two big-draw furnishings places nearby on S. Highland, as well as a number of antique stores in the vicinity.

Live Here, Shop Here

That’s just one example of  the convenience offered by the many amenities within walking distance of nearly all of the neighborhood’s homes.

“What we have available to us right here is pretty amazing,” says Susan McGinty, who not only lives in the neighborhood but owns the Eureka Chocolates and Gift Shop there as well.

Some of the best grocery stores in the city are found in Shadyside, and they draw in shoppers from far-flung suburbs in addition to neighborhood residents. The area’s only Whole Foods, one of the most profitable locations nationally, is just outside the border in East Liberty and blocks away is the only Trader Joe’s in town.  The Giant Eagle Market District store on Centre Avenue followed Whole Foods, stocking a bonanaza of products for upscale shoppers. Walnut Street’s Shadyside Market carries an impressive array of gourmet items, such as spreads, crackers and oils. Plus, you can get sandwiches made to order in the in-house deli and they offer free delivery.

Anyone who finds herself with unexpected guests can pick up treats at Prantl’s, one of the best bakeries in the region. Their burnt almond torte is a must. Too tired to cook after a long day at the office? Some of the city’s best restaurants are merely steps away, and the cuisine selection can satisfy any palate, from Thai to vegetarian. (See the Visitor’s Guide to Shadyside.)

And Work Out Here

Shadyside residents have plenty of opportunities to burn off all of those calories, though, thanks to the neighborhood’s many fitness facilities. X-Shadyside is the only 24-hour gym within city limits, and it offers creative group fitness classes. The Fitness Factory is a bit cheaper, but also more basic, with less space and  a collection of cardio and strength training equipment. Amazing Yoga challenges students’ strength and flexibility with classes in 90-degree heat. Year round. Shadyside Spin’s cycling classes are another way to get hearts pumping.

With its world-class medical facility in UPMC Shadyside and a number of physicians in private practice there as well, Shadyside can accommodate those who are less than healthy as well.

“God forbid you should get sick, but if you do, you want it to be here,” McGinty says.

Even Shadyside pets are well cared for, with Smiley’s Pet Pad providing for their daily needs—and wants—and a veterinary clinic set to open soon on Ellsworth Avenue.

Shadyside is one of the few city neighborhoods where residents can take better care of their health by walking daily. And they don’t need cars as much in this community. Commuters to downtown or Oakland can take advantage of the many Port Authority routes that serve the neighborhood and on weekends, they can walk everywhere.

“We fill up our gas tanks, I swear, just once every two weeks now,” says Sean Conley, who moved to the neighborhood from nearby Point Breeze two years ago.

“So many people in this community, including myself, love to walk,” McGinty adds.

The institutions within walking distance also include the neighborhood’s schools, both public and private, which are some of the best in the city. Shadyside parents need not worry about the quality of their children’s education. On the private side, the all-girls Ellis School and co-ed Winchester Thurston both offer challenging K-12 educational programs. Sacred Heart’s K-8 school offers a quality Catholic education. Also, Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Liberty Elementary School houses a Spanish International Studies magnet program in addition to its general program.

When it’s time to play, the kids can head to Mellon Park on the neighborhood’s eastern edge. It features ball fields, a year-round tennis bubble and ample greenspace.

If you’re worried that Shadyside is just for young, single folks and your kids won’t have any neighborhood playmates, don’t be. Plenty of other families set up their homes there.

“We’ve been amazingly surprised by the high number of kids,” says Conley, who has four children ranging from an infant to teen, He estimates that 60 children live within a two-block radius of their home.

Getting acclimated to the neighborhood is made easier by the Shadyside Action Coalition. The neighborhood group recently started a Welcome Wagon program that can help newcomers learn the ropes. For those interested in getting more involved with the community, membership in the group costs just $25. All Shadyside residents, regardless of home ownership status are welcome.

“It’s a neat way for people moving into the neighborhood to meet people and get connected,” Ott says.

If you do end up living in Shadyside, you’re likely to be satisfied with the choice. McGinty was. “I love living in Shadyside,” she said.

She’s not alone in that sentiment. I echo that.


Ellsworth Avenue Mansion

Walnut Grill on Walnut Street


Near Ellsworth Avenue

Mural at Whole Foods

Prantl's on Walnut Street

Fitness Factory, South Highland Avenue

Arhaus Furniture, South Highland

"Breath" by Joseph Mannino, Mellon Park

All photographs copyright © Brian Cohen
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