When it was conceived, Allegheny Center Mall on the North Side was meant to appeal to city dwellers attracted to the comforts of the suburbs. Though somewhat successful for 20 years after it opened in 1966, it did not last.
Today the mall, now known as Nova Place is one of the largest mixed-use, urban renewal projects in the country. And it's in this space that Mayor Bill Peduto announced his campaign for re-election at his 12th Annual Holiday Party last night (Dec. 14).
"This building was built to keep people from leaving the city. Now we're re-envisioning it and making it a center for a better economy," Peduto said. "Our city is changing more now than it has in the last 50 years."
Hundreds packed into Nova Place last night to voice their support for Peduto.
"He supports the LGBT community and he's a fucking great guy," said attendee Joe King. "I've been a friend and supporter for years and I agree with his policies. He has a good heart and loves this city."
Several Democratic Party leaders stopped by to show their support for Peduto throughout the evening including Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, and State House Rep. Ed Gainey.
"He's extremely creative," said Allegheny County Democratic Committee Chair Nancy Patton Mills. "He's energetic, he has a vision for Pittsburgh. And he's highly respected around the nation, especially with other mayors and that's why I support him 100 percent."
Others reflected on the mayor's performance over the the past three years in office along with his time on Pittsburgh City Council.
"I remember once when I was protesting the treatment of Jordan Miles I did a sit in outside of the mayor's office," said local musician Phat Man Dee, recalling that Peduto was among the members of city council who addressed the protesters.
She also praised Peduto for appointing former Pittsburgh police chief Cameron McLay, who advocated for community policing. McLay wasn't well-liked among rank and file officers and Pittsburgh's Fraternal Order of Police issued a no-confidence vote
in him earlier this year. McLay resigned
last month and Phat Man Dee said he has big shoes to fill.
"Considering the FOP endorsed Trump, I really don't know where we go next," she said. "Whoever Peduto picks to replace McLay, [the FOP are] not going to like them. So we need to stand behind Mayor Peduto. It's going to be difficult. I don't envy his job."
Richard Parsakian, who was recently appointed to the board of the mayor's LGBT advisory council praised the mayor's commitment to being inclusive. "I love the fact that he is beyond inclusive and that we are becoming a sanctuary city for progressives. In this time of change nationally, we need that," he said.
"Since being elected he has really proven to have a genuine concern for the present and the future of this city," said Rev. Glenn Grayson.
Grayson's son was killed a few years ago when he was shot at a party. He thanked the mayor for helping with the development of the Hill District community center named for his son. Asked about Peduto's performance around the issue of gun violence Grayson said, "Unless the mayor takes an interest in it, it can't happen. It may not be moving to the level we want it to, but we're glad he's taken an interest."
Unlike previous administrations, Mayor Peduto has the support of the majority of council members, many who were in attendance last night.
"I support Mayor Peduto. I worked with him on council and I think our city is moving in the right direction," said Councilor Corey O'Connor. "We're all on the page and I think it's been really great for our city."
When Council President Bruce Kraus thinks about his support for Mayor Peduto, he says the word that comes to mind is "unwavering."
"I know him as a mayor and a collaborator," Kraus said. "So often we align in the ways we view public policy. It's not orchestrated in any way. We just see the world in the same way."
"He's accessible to me and my constituents," said Councilor Theresa Kail Smith. "If there's an issue in District 2, he listens. Do we disagree on somethings? Yes, but we do so respectfully."
So far, no one has announced plans to run against Bill Peduto, but Councilor Darlene Harris has been a vocal opponent of the mayor and it's no secret she's considering a run. Harris did not immediately respond to a request for comment by Pittsburgh City Paper
"I've heard various rumors, but I don't know if anyone is seriously considering challenging him," said Kail Smith. "I don't think he takes that for granted, but I think if you talk to anyone at this party, they're not worried."