This city has made headlines recently as one that’s transitioning from an old to a new economy. It used to be an industrial engine built on extracting and refining natural resources – and some parts of the metro still sputter along like this. But much of the city proper has moved on. There are now multiple neighborhoods where eds, meds and technology, not large factories, are the main job drivers, and high-skilled employees the residents.
A recent major development called the Energy Innovation Center (EIC) embodies this transformation. Recently I toured the facility, and found that it was a compendium of everything Pittsburgh aims to become.
EIC is 200,000 square feet, and located on a 6.6-square acre campus in the Lower Hill District, a traditionally underserved community sitting just uphill from the central business district. The purpose of the facility, according to its Facebook page, is to “co-locate collaborative university industry projects, proof-of-concept energy technology demonstration laboratories, an early-stage business incubator and targeted workforce training programs. Corporate partners will showcase new products and deploy advanced energy management systems.”
EIC occupies the former Connelley Trade School, which opened in 1931 as a high school for Pittsburgh students hoping to work in heavy industry. The front of the school was used for classrooms, cafeterias, auditoriums, etc., while the rear was a model workshop where students learned skills, before graduating to go work in Pittsburgh’s many factories. At its peak, Connelley had 1,800 students, and its massive imprint up on the hill still makes it part of Pittsburgh’s skyline……
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