Pittsburgh’s 16:62 Design Zone
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Previously occupied almost entirely by lower-income and working-class families, the Pittsburgh’s East End neighborhood of Lawrenceville has lately experienced something of an artistic rebirth. The city’s gay and lesbian community became responsible for much of the area’s turnaround after some snapped up cheap row houses along the main commercial thoroughfare of Butler Street and then proceeded to transform them into antique shops and quirky boutiques.
Wisely, a number of area business owners choose to take advantage of the changes by creating the 16:62 Design Zone, a district stretching from the 16th Street Bridge in the Strip District to the 62nd Street Bridge in Lawrenceville. Here, more than 100 galleries, unique interior design vendors, and professional creative firms can be found.
Keep in mind that while the Strip District has long been packed with curiosities, the Lawrenceville stretch of the Design Zone is still a relatively young creation. In other words, don’t expect to find galleries or boutiques of great interest on every last block. Your best bet is to start somewhere around 35th and Butler Streets and to then slowly wander east (away from Downtown and the Strip District).
Scavengers Antiques and Collectibles (3533 Butler St., 412/682-6781) is one of Lawrenceville’s older retail spaces; here you’ll find a rambling collection of kitschy toys and assorted Americana treasures. The next few blocks east are home to newer shops, such as Sugar Boutique (3703 Butler St., 412/681-5100, www.sugarboutique.com), which stocks designer women’s clothing and accessories; and Pavement Shoes (3629 Butler St., 412/621-6400), where distinctively unique women’s footwear can be found.
Galleries worth your while include Fe Gallery (4102 Butler St., 412/860-6028), an especially forward-thinking space known for its sometimes shocking contemporary art shows; and Digging Pitt Gallery (4419 Butler St., 412/605-0459, http://diggingpitt.blogspot.com), whose shows tend to lean toward lowbrow, pop culture, or politically influenced work. Also, don’t miss Who Knew? (5156 Butler St., 412/781-0588), a self-described “retro-mod” home furnishings store with rare designer goods from the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s.
Once you’ve gotten your fill of shopping and gallery-going, or if you simply need to refuel, stop in at one of the Design Zone’s better cafés or eateries. Coca Cafe (3811 Butler St., 412/621-3171) does a decent breakfast and Sunday brunch while serving up the usual assortment of espresso drinks and pastries in a hipster-friendly environment, while Piccolo Forno (3801 Butler St., 412/622-0111) offers Tuscan-style wood-fired pizzas covered with ingredients imported from Italy.
Handy 16:62 Design Zone guidebooks are available free of charge at many district locations; you can also visit www.1662designzone.com and request to have a guide mailed directly to your home.
© Dan Eldridge from Moon Pittsburgh, 1st Edition