10 things to love about East Liberty

Oh, East Liberty. What to say about you, my first neighborhood in Pittsburgh? Plenty of people have plenty of opinions about the neighborhood: where it's been, where it's going. I've heard the stories about where we were in the late 1800s (first traffic light in Pittsburgh, what's up), the 1950s and then what happened after Urban Renewal. I know we have a long way to go, and that it hasn't always been an easy ride.

But I do know that I felt welcomed into East Liberty almost immediately. My walk through the neighborhood to work every day made me fall in love--the people, the sights, the sounds. We're still a neighborhood where folks sit on their porches in warm weather, and I like that. I wanted to write 50 things that I love about this place, but I limited myself to ten. Ten things that I truly love about my neighborhood.

Top 10 Things to Love About East Liberty (aka S'Liberty)

1. Restaurants
In how many neighborhoods can you go from Parisian to modern American to burgers to Ethiopian to Caribbean to Waffles, back to Ethiopian to Pan Asian to pizza? And soon, we'll have barbeque AND a hot dog shop. And that's all in one square mile! Eleven different restaurants from which to choose, including the only two Ethiopian restaurants in all of Western PA. I love being able to visit a different restaurant every day for a week.

2. Green stuff

I can think of few neighborhoods in this city with as many new trees as we have in East Liberty. Trees are everywhere! I've only started to learn how important they are for us. And not only do we have trees, but we have rain gardens. Lots of them. And clean ups. And mulch madness days. And rain barrels I love living in a place dedicated to caring for the environment.

3. Shadow Lounge/AVA
Title Town, live bands, happy hours...I love Shadow Lounge and AVA. I love even more that Justin and Tim are committed to East Liberty. Shadow's been in the neighborhood for ten years strong, and I'm so thankful that it's there. Drinks with friends after work, or a benefit for the local farm, you can do it at Shadow and AVA. And stick around for jazz or a poetry reading.

4. PULSE - The Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience

The reason I'm here. I moved to the city to take part in the Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience (PULSE). We have over 20 alumni living within half a mile from the house, right in the East Liberty/Highland Park area. PULSE taught me so much about myself and the city. P.S., PULSE will provide over 20,000 hours of service to the City of Pittsburgh this year. Isn't that amazing?

5. Super markets
I live within walking distance of four full-size grocery stores: Giant Eagle Market District, Giant Eagle, Whole Foods and Trader Joes. How many other neighborhoods can boast that? No matter what I need, food-wise, I can get it quickly. I can even stop by my number six favorite thing about East Liberty...

6. Target
Target's huge food selection (for a Target, anyway) makes FIVE grocery stores within walking distance. And I can buy shoes. And pick up a DVD. And then buy new nail polish. All at the same time! Not to mention if I have a big shopping order, I get to use the cartalator for my fancy, space-age-looking cart. The store also takes up 1/3 of the space of a regular Target, since the parking is underneath. Urban design FTW.

7. My very own LYS (Local Yarn Store)
I'm not afraid to admit that I love knitting. I love it, love it, love it. It was always hard to find good yarn, though, because I grew up in a place without a yarn shop. I had to go to a big-box craft store. Which was fine, until I knew what I was missing! Natural Stitches (it's in the Village of Eastside plaza with Staples and Trader Joes, on Penn Avenue) is amazing. They have all kinds of yarn. Needles (and hooks, for you crochet-ers). Books. Patterns. Classes. But best of all, there are always people knitting there, and willing to help you learn something new. So welcoming!

8. East Liberty Presbyterian Church

Many thanks to the Mellon Family on this one. This church is absolutely beautiful, inside and out. Have you checked out the courtyard? I saw a performance from their musical/acting school in the courtyard last summer, and I was struck by its beauty. And the stained glass in the sanctuary. And the tall—no, gigantic—ceilings. It's just beautiful, no other word for it.

9. A green roof bus shelter
Have you ever seen plants growing on the roof of a bus shelter? Intentionally? The first (and currently only) green roof bus shelter in Pittsburgh is on Penn Avenue, right across from ELPC. It's educational, it mitigates (a bit of) stormwater, and it just looks cool. It's got a solar panel, a cistern bench and tons of signage so you can learn all about green roofs and the kinds of plants that are on the roof.

10. Union Project
Other neighborhoods might try to say Union Project is in their neck of the woods, but I'm going to claim UP for my own. Union Project is a community arts and enterprise space. The building itself is beautiful. And over the past decade or so, UP has been restoring the beautiful stained glass windows in the great hall by teaching the community to do it. Now, the windows are complete and really make the space beautiful. What other buildings in Pittsburgh can boast yoga classes, ceramics, hula hoopers, a church service and a wedding in the same week? Not too many.


Maggie Graham is a nonprofit communicator in love with the City of Pittsburgh. She's lived in East Liberty since joining PULSE in August of 2010. When she's not tweeting about her neighborhood or empowering women through Propelle, Maggie knits, bakes and explores the City.


Jess's picture

Don't forget the newly renovated Carnegie Library branch! Free books and DVDs are very important. :)

Maggie's picture

Oh man, how could I forget! Number 11 is most certainly my Library. I'm there every week!

Anonymous's picture

Great post! You're right, east liberty is awesome. I grew up here and am grateful to be able to say that. But notice that only one of those places is a community space. The one aspect of community living that is missing from east liberty is public, open community space. We have UP, the library, and kinda sorta KST. We need more places for the residents of EL to be able to gather in, build networks of support in and organize in.

This has been a pet peeve of mine for a some time. One of the occupy movement has had me thinking about is space - who owns/controls/uses it. Just now in writing this I realized I need to start pulling people together to increase the availability and accessibility of community owned/controlled/used space for all of as a whole as well as specific populations within it. If you're interested email me at quinn.elliott00@gmail.com.

Justin's picture

So great, a YLS! And a bus shelter with plants! So that when we see everybody who can't afford to own a car to get to work is taking the bus, we can feel good about the fact that there is less environmental impact. From a bus shelter.

It sure feels good to be able to look around and see what we want to. Thank goodness that the East End Cooperative Ministry soup kitchen is in the church basement!