Located just northeast of Downtown Pittsburgh, “The Strip” is a narrow one-half mile strip of land sandwiched between the Allegheny River and a mountain of a hill. Once Pittsburgh’s center of industry, the Strip emerged during the 19th century as a district populated by mills and factories along the Allegheny River. Anchored by names such as US Steel, Westinghouse, Pittsburgh Reduction Company (ALCOA) and the H.J. Heinz Company, by the early 20th century its infrastructure had attracted a vibrant network of fresh produce, meat, poultry wholesalers and auction houses, with small businesses catering to shift workers nearby, making it the economic center of the city. The district fell into decline when the Pittsburgh was hit hard with the closing of several steel mills and other aging manufacturing facilities during the mid-to-late 20th century. In addition, nearly 80 percent of its produce industry abandoned the area.
With the need to change with the rest of the city, the neighborhood, which had become littered with abandoned buildings and empty factories, stayed alive by re-branding itself as a notable market district. Today, it’s known as a place where industry, nightlife, dining and wholesaling seamlessly blend together. Bursting with local flavor, gritty and authentic, the Strip is considered a slice of pure Pittsburgh. A haven for citizens of the city and tourists alike and centered around parallel corridors, Smallman Street and Penn Avenue, the district is packed full of meat, produce and seafood markets, ethnic grocers, sidewalk vendors and local eateries known for their diverse selections and wholesale prices.
Pittsburgh’s Strip District (above) and Jacksonville’s Rail Yard District (below). The area highlighted in red is the Honeymoon Yard area of the Rail Yard District that originated with Henry M. Flagler’s establishment of the Jacksonville Terminal during the mid-1890s.
Above: The Rail Yard District’s Jacksonville Farmers Market on West Beaver Street. Pittsburgh’s Penn Avenue serves as the epicenter of the Strip District’s popularity. Based on the layout of Jacksonville’s Rail Yard District, Beaver Street’s Westbrook commercial district (Beaver and McDuff), the Jacksonville Farmers Market and Myrtle Avenue would be nodes of potential pedestrian centric wholesale opportunities.
While auction houses and major wholesalers lined Smallman Street near the produce terminal, smaller businesses opened up shop along Penn Avenue in existing buildings during the early 20th century. Following the produce terminal falling into decline after the end of World War II, many produce dealers expanded their operations by opening retail stores a block away on Penn Avenue. Today, Penn Avenue remains a vibrant and authentic pedestrian scale wholesale district filled with local businesses.
7. Looking down 19th Street.