Braddock Revisited

Editor’s note: Today we are releasing Braddock, PA Mayor John Fetterman’s 2009 PopTech talk. Braddock has lost ninety percent of its buildings, yet John is fighting for the town’s future. His ambitious plans include repurposing abandoned lots and fostering numerous arts and community initiatives.

Braddock Rubble
Image courtesy of shooting brooklyn

Just days before speaking at PopTech, John was shocked to learn that he was on the cover of The Atlantic; that same week he learned that the hospital, Braddock’s biggest employer, was shutting down, which was devastating news to both him and the community.

Yesterday, we caught up with John and asked him about the latest news from Braddock. Here’s an edited version of what he told us:

When we were at PopTech last fall, we were staring down the barrel of a gun. But over the last year, two great things have happened.

First, while we’re about to lose our hospital, in its place we’ll be getting a brand new mixed use facility. It’s a 29 million dollar development that will include a new health clinic and a county-wide culinary training program where the Community College of Allegheny County will house its training program for all of Allegheny county. The facility will provide housing for the college, and the culinary program will support a new restaurant. The culinary arts training program will have a profound impact on the community on a cultural and an economic level. Now when a 19-year old comes to me looking for a job, I have a place to send him.

Additionally, we’ve received a grant from Department of Labor for a jobs training program where locals can learn the trade of deep salvage. (This includes weatherization, environmentally sound land reuse and storm water management and demolishing buildings so that the materials can be reused.) When we lost the hospital, I’d say it was like we went minus 100; this new facility is like adding back 85. Given where we were, this is a home run. Clearly there are still huge challenges, but things are definitely heading in the right direction.

Braddock Farms
Image of Braddock Farms courtesy of Kristen Taylor

The second important thing that has happened is our partnership with Levis. This two-year partnership will help us fix up the Braddock Community Center. The recent Levis ad campaign features all local people as models with 100% of the benefit coming back to the community. How many other communities have their residents featured by an iconic brand like Levis?

Oh, and there’s a third big thing that happened since PopTech. My son’s walking around like a champion.

Watch John speak at PopTech 2009 on reviving Braddock, Pennsylvania.

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