City Guide: Best of the 'Burbs

City-centric? Here’s a compass to lead you on a journey to some happening suburban communities — north, south, east and west.

(page 1 of 6)

From sidewalks to wide-open spaces, from funky to formal, there are as many varieties of suburban living as there are ways to mow your lawn. Long the preserve of young families with kids in tow, our comfortable local suburbs are evolving to meet new tastes and trends.

Whether it’s access to suburban business campuses (like Canonsburg or Cranberry), state of the art recreation centers (Upper St. Clair), walkable new street grids (hello, Newbury!) or friendly new cafes (Dormont, we’re looking at you), communities close to the city put distinctive stamps on the old lush-lawn and white-bread stereotype.

The bad news: Yes, you might have to cross the river. The good news: There are friendly towns to suit every lifestyle. Here’s a guide to a few gems.


New homes rise on the border of Treesdale Golf and Country Club.
 

As Cranberry Commons fills up, so does Richland. Allegheny County’s fastest-growing area and its highest ridgeline is home to Westinghouse nuclear engineers working just over the Butler County line as well as the new campus of Chatham University at Eden Hall Farm. One sign of growth: The LEED-certified Eden Hall Upper Elementary School already enrolls 1,000 fourth- to sixth-graders.

“This place has a history as a rural retreat for wealthy Pittsburghers,” says Mike Novak, a native who’s operated his restaurant, The Pines Tavern, on Bakerstown Road for 31 years. “The Babcock family, the Trees, the Muellers [an H.J. Heinz executive]—the residents were very prominent.”

Forty years ago, recalls Novak, “it was a less sophisticated place. We liked to say we were in the middle of nowhere, but on the edge of everything. Now I can be downtown [via I-79] in half an hour, but it’s semi-rural.”

Chatham University’s new School of Sustainability and the Environment takes advantage of the agrarian ethos. Berkebile Nelson Immenschuh McDowell, a Kansas City firm that was named last year’s AIA Architect of the Year, designed the new campus on the site of the former Eden Hall Farm.

The Pines Tavern offers easygoing outdoor dining and the perfect atmosphere for a summer night.Bob Berkebile, FAIA/Principal at BNIM who originated the LEED standards for the U.S. Green Building Council, has said the site (a hilltop source of two streams) inspired the design. “Our plan starts at the headwaters—two streams [that are] ephemeral on site,” he says. “Treating every drop of water that falls as a precious resource and using that as a guiding principle changes the community equation, the educational research and the whole sense of reconnecting ourselves with nature.”

The plan that BNIM developed with Andropogon,  landscape architects from Philadelphia, calls for smart buildings well beyond LEED standards, demonstration projects for hydroponics and organic agriculture, and regenerated forests and waterways—as well as restaurants, theaters and public art.

The Pine-Richland School District’s new upper-elementary school, with plenty of natural light and energy efficiencies, meets national green-building standards. Novak, a former school-board member, says that reflects local values.

“It’s more West Coast than East Coast. It’s aware of its environment,” he says. “The district has a mission—it offers something different for someone moving in to the area.” Novak also sees the Butler County border as “an economic powerhouse” for the region, with university and scientific brainpower.

Richland Township grew 20 percent in the past decade as families purchased large, secluded homes among its farms and gleaming, contemporary churches. With growth, though, come challenges: Additional commuters and school buses have created more traffic along its two-lane roads, particularly Route 910 (Wexford Road) because the area’s major shopping district sits at the merge point for I-79 in Cranberry Township.

The township has already completed a master plan with adjacent Middlesex Township that balances the preservation of green space with new development.

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Chuck Noll: A Man for All Seasons

Chuck Noll: A Man for All Seasons

Two years after Chuck Noll’s death, University of Pittsburgh Press prepares to publish the first definitive biography of the legendary Pittsburgh Steelers coach. Pittsburgh Magazine is proud to share an interview with author Michael MacCambridge and an exclusive excerpt of “Chuck Noll: His Life’s Work,” scheduled for release in October.
The Changing Face of Campus in Pittsburgh

The Changing Face of Campus in Pittsburgh

Renovation is under way at nearly all of our area colleges and universities. For students heading back to school this fall — and their parents — we offer this crash course on the highlights of these projects and their projected benefits.
Fall Fashion: In the Black

Fall Fashion: In the Black

The little black dress, and shirt, and pants, never go out of style. Add mystery to your wardrobe with these easy-to-accent autumn staples.
Apteka: A Taste of Home

Apteka: A Taste of Home

Kate Lasky and Tomasz Skowronski bring top-notch vegan, eastern European cuisine to Bloomfield.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Southwest Airlines Planning More Flights from Pittsburgh

Southwest Airlines Planning More Flights from Pittsburgh

The Allegheny County Airport Authority has been lobbying for more direct service from Pittsburgh to the West Coast.
Zing Basket Promises Speedy Grocery Delivery to Your Door

Zing Basket Promises Speedy Grocery Delivery to Your Door

The online grocery delivery service opened this week, promising delivery in 45 minutes or less to selected neighborhoods.
Old Farmer’s Almanac: Winter in Pittsburgh Will Be Warmer, But…

Old Farmer’s Almanac: Winter in Pittsburgh Will Be Warmer, But…

In its 225th year, the reference book on weather suggests we tune up our snow-removal equipment.
Chris Jamison Releases His First EP

Chris Jamison Releases His First EP

The Ross native finished third on NBC's “The Voice” in December of 2014.