East Liberty mural shows people walking through the streets before their redevelopment.

The changing faces and facades in East Liberty

By Mekka Lloyd

Have you ever reunited with someone after being away for a while and thought, “My, have you changed”?

Anyone who hasn’t seen East Liberty in a few years would be in for a shock. In some neighborhoods, the residential and businesses communities are always evolving but change is seeming to take place overnight in East Liberty.

The predominantly low-income, black neighborhood is seeing new businesses and residents coming, which is increasing rents. Some criticize the change as gentrification that is pushing out loyal East Liberty’s supporters who can’t afford to stay. Others say the redevelopment of dilapidated buildings and the decline in vacancies can only benefit East Liberty.

Jamil A. Jami, owner of Jamil's Global Village, stands in front of his shop on Penn Avenue.
Jamil A. Jami, owner of Jamil’s Global Village, stands in front of his shop on Penn Avenue in East Liberty. The shop, which sells Afrocentric clothing and other items, has been in the neighborhood for 25 years. Photo credit: Mekka Lloyd
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As rents rise in East Liberty, the landlord on Jamil’s Global Village was in jeopardy of losing its lease. Loyal supporters boycotted the move. The lease has been renewed for three years, Jami said. Photo credit: Mekka Lloyd
East Liberty mural shows people walking through the streets before their redevelopment.
A mural on the corner of Penn and Centre Ave in Pittsburgh shows how East Liberty was previously before reconstruction. This image is being contested by various residents in the neighborhood about its necessity. Photo credit: Mekka Lloyd
A storefront for
This building at 515 North Highland Avenue in East Liberty was once a school, Florence Reizenstein 6-8, that later became Obama High School. It will soon become luxury townhouses. Photo credit: Mekka Lloyd
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This photo of Kirkwood Street shows how East Liberty is changing. Rundown, neglected buildings like the structure on the right are renovated into luxury apartments as seen in the middle.
Photo credit: Mekka Lloyd
Two shopping carts, one with a child safety seat, in front of the lighted Target logo.
A Target opened in the 6000 block of East Liberty in summer 2011. Like many other places in the community, the site was a former housing high-rise. Photo credit: Mekka Lloyd
A high-rise apartment building with a sign in front that says
Penn Plaza Apartments, a high-rise building for low-income residents, in August 2016. Photo credit: Emoni Jones
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The rubble-filled lot where the former highrise apartment complex Penn Plaza used to stand. It is one of the newer projects currently underway. The development plans at the site, 5704 Penn Ave., call for more retail and more new residential buildings. Photo credit: Mekka Lloyd
Two East Liberty residents pose for the camera while riding bikes along Penn Avenue.
E.J and Meeka, both East Liberty natives, said the former Penn Plaza highrise wasn’t the only thing torn to rubble, and that many longtime East Liberty supporters and fans were torn over the demolition. “Give us our neighborhoods back, straight like that!” Meeka said. Photo credit: Mekka Lloyd
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