University of Pittsburgh

alumni hall


Written by Lauren Mylo

At a spacious, restored Victorian mansion in Pittsburgh’s Friendship area, neighbors and business people gather around a dining-room table to discuss a nearby piece of land. For years, the lot was the site of a dingy tire shop, but recently the property was sold. The people at the table are there to encourage the land’s new proprietor to improve the space, and they’re willing to help.

The mansion’s owner, Will Davies (EDUC ’04, EDUC ’05G), is a member and past board delegate of the Friendship Preservation Group, an assortment of residents who are revitalizing historic homes, parks, and streetscapes in the neighborhood, located roughly two miles from Pitt. It’s an affordable and popular living place for students and others at the University. The preservation group, which includes a host of Pitt professors and alumni, is part of a nationwide trend to eschew suburbs and revive urban centers.

Davies bought his fixer-upper mansion on South Negley Avenue the same year he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in applied developmental psychology and became the third generation in his family to earn a Pitt degree. Since then, he has turned the house into a livable achievement that also preserves history.

Back at the dining table, the group decides that planting trees would spruce up the nearby property, newly leased by a rental-car business. They pledge to help make that happen.

These days, whenever Davies passes the newly planted trees, he’s glad to be part of a movement that’s creating new life in age-old places.