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Mobile talk show collects views in Pittsburgh's 90 neighborhoods

Monday, April 15, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

On a corner in Knoxville where newly renovated homes sit next to boarded-up ones, Kathleen Lambert spoke about her adopted neighborhood in the city she has come to love.

“People in Pittsburgh have no idea what they have,” Lambert said before entering the mobile TALKPGH studio that's visiting each of the city's 90 neighborhoods this month to record people's stories, opinions and thoughts — good and bad — about where they live.

“A home like that would cost $1 million in California,” she said, pointing to an older, brick two-story at Knox and Marland avenues.

Artist Jon Rubin, who came up with the “mobile talk show in a see-through truck” idea, believes it could be the first project of its kind in the country. The goal is to hear from people who usually don't attend community meetings to help policymakers develop the public art and urban design portions of Pittsburgh's comprehensive master plan, scheduled to be completed in 2014.

Lambert, a retired public artist, left northern California three years ago and headed to Pittsburgh, where she said she found more affordable housing, a better work ethic and an accessible government and health care system.

“California is dying. Young families can't afford it,” said Lambert, who helped her daughter, Michele Davenport of Allentown, start Allentown's community garden. “Communities like Knoxville, an older community, are worth saving.”

A comprehensive plan is an official statement of local government's plans for physical development. This will be Pittsburgh's first comprehensive long-range plan.

The interviews will be shown publicly in late June through broadcasts on the city's cable channel and a posting on the Web.

“We need their voices,” said Morton Brown, the city's public art manager. “It's so important ... to have oral histories of what the neighborhood used to be.”

At St. Paul of the Cross Monastery in South Side Slopes on Thursday, Ivy Steinberg, 33, who moved here from Seattle four years ago, discussed her neighborhood.

“I like the closeness to the city, but it's quiet,” she said. “It's the best of city living.”

Many of the 130 or so people interviewed last week at 29 locations talked about making changes to their neighborhoods, said Matt Sandler, 24, of Philadelphia, who conducts the interviews.

“They like their neighborhood and want it to change, but they want it to change because they love it,” he said.

The desire for change drew Betty Kripp, 66, to the Slopes about 12 years ago.

“I grew up on Mt. Washington, raised my kids in Mt. Lebanon,” Kripp said. “And then I felt a hankering to return to the city. The energy and the creativity is so strong when you live within city limits.”

The TALKPGH mobile studio visits will conclude April 25 in Swisshelm, Regent Square and Point Breeze.

Six community meetings about the project are planned between April 22 and 30. The city is paying for TALKPGH through its $585,000 budget for the art and urban design components of the master plan.

Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or



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