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Pittsburgh Shopping: The Waterfront

Dave and Busters, Labor Movement

Once a major part of Pittsburgh history, the mills of Homestead, Pennsylvania, are no more. Once the site of one of the most important battles of the American labor movement, today’s Homestead is a vastly different place. Now it is an open shopping mall, with only the open hearth stacks left standing to commemorate the once vibrant industry.

Homestead was a steel town. More so even than neighboring Pittsburgh, Homestead existed for the mills and for the unions supported by the mills. It was the site of the Homestead Strike, in which laborers and Pinkertons actually became violent, shooting at each other and laying siege to the mill buildings. With the demise of the steel industry however, Homestead nearly died as well. The population of homestead today is less than one fifth the population of 1910, and the empty homes and ruined apartment buildings stand practically empty.

As a plan to bring money back into the town, leaders envisioned turning the old mill sites into a modern shopping area. Complete with housing, groceries, food, entertainment, and retail stores, the Waterfront was born. The Waterfront was intended to revitalize Homestead, but it initially caused the opposite effect. Money came into the shopping areas, but little of it came back to the town, and worse yet, the main street began a rapid decline as people were driven off of it to the new retail.

Finally, the Waterfront is beginning to help in the town’s recovery. As the tax base in the city grows, the Waterfront may be the beginning of a renewed Homestead, but much work remains. In the mean time, you can shop there and find almost anything you might want in the massive area.

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It is a car friendly destination, and many of the large chain stores in the Eastern side of the development are hard to reach without one. There aren’t a lot of sidewalks, so you may have to drive from store to store. On the west side however, there is a walking mall area with small retail stores like Gap and entertainment like Dave and Busters. Along the Monongahela river itself you can find chain restaurants like UNO’s. There is housing as well for those who like to live and shop in the same places. There is also a massive movie theater complex right there. It is easiest to approach from the South Side or from Squirrel Hill, and you should avoid 376 at all costs unless you like standing still.

On the down side, there isn’t a lot of local flavor to the complex. In general, it feels more like a mall than like Pittsburgh proper, and aside from the Steelers jackets and jerseys in the crowd, the view there could have been taken out of any Midwest outdoor mall. If you need a big store though, the convenient driving, ample parking, and close location make the Waterfront an ideal Pittsburgh spot, especially since you don’t have to get on 376 through a tunnel to get there.