More than one Pittsburgh neighborhood bears the scars of urban renewal gone wrong. The predominantly Black communities of the Hill District and Manchester are just two examples.

Now, the administration of President Joe Biden wants to fix the federal government’s mistakes.

Tom Perez, a senior advisor to Biden and labor secretary under President Barack Obama, on Wednesday toured the two neighborhoods and vowed to use federal money to try to make things right.

“We don’t want to repeat the same mistakes that people in the ‘50s and ‘60s made that frankly tore apart the Hill District and other communities of color,” Perez said.

“We all have a healthy level of impatience, we want to get things done yesterday, but we also want to get things done right.”

The Hill District suffered when construction of the old Civic Arena displaced residents. And a highway project cut off Manchester from the city’s Chateau section.

The Biden administration wants to use federal investment to lift up instead of tear down those fractured communities, said Perez.

At a press conference at the New Granada Apartments in the Hill District, Perez said $50 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is going to redevelop the Bedford Dwellings affordable-housing complex.

Another $14 million will fix sidewalks and city steps in the Hill District, he said.

Perez also touted federal spending to replace lead lines, reconstruct the Fern Hollow Bridge, and add high-speed internet access to rural areas as Pittsburgh-area investments by the Biden administration.

“That is the difference between what Joe Biden’s approach is and what the approach of prior generations have been. We are not Big Brother coming into a city,” Perez said. “We are a partner working with the state, city, the county and the community.”

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, a Democrat and die-hard Biden supporter, joined Perez on his rounds.

Gainey said the effects of urban renewal have left deep scars on Pittsburgh. Gainey noted that Pittsburgh is one of the only large U.S. cities that doesn’t have a Black or brown middle-class neighborhood.

The mayor said there is still a lot of work left unfinished to improve communities like the Hill District, but he praised the help from the White House.

“When we have partners that we can call on, we got an obligation to let people know this is why we need them to stay in office. Because we haven’t always had this type of relationship with the White House,” Gainey said.

Earlier in the day, Perez and Gainey visited Manchester to speak about the need for investment to help tear down a viaduct that carries Route 65 over the neighborhood and splits Manchester and the Chateau neighborhood.

“These urban renewal projects were anything but renewal. They ended up being destruction projects,” Perez said, noting that the highway now divides Chateau and Manchester. He vowed to “tear down the wall” that separates the two neighborhoods.

The Biden administration has made several visits to Pittsburgh to highlight infrastructure spending. Biden visited in April and reminded steelworkers that he passed infrastructure spending and bolstered labor rights.

But polling has shown voters are not given Biden much credit for infrastructure and job creation efforts, despite low unemployment figures and the $1.2 trillion infrastructure law, Biden’s signature domestic accomplishment.

A recent Politico-Morning Consult poll said just 40% of registered voters believe Biden has done more than former President Donald Trump to promote infrastructure improvements and job creation. About 37% believe Trump has done more, according to the poll.

Perez said it is important for the Biden administration to remind voters about its track record.

He said the federal government under Biden has brought $16 billion in spending to Pennsylvania thanks to the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the Inflation Reduction Act.

A lack of awareness among some voters won’t stop the administration from continuing to push for more infrastructure, Perez said. He hopes that translates to a recognition that Biden is responsible.

“I think as people connect the dots they will see that there are some really important examples of how their life has improved,” Perez said.

Ryan Deto is a TribLive reporter covering politics, Pittsburgh and Allegheny County news. A native of California’s Bay Area, he joined the Trib in 2022 after spending more than six years covering Pittsburgh at the Pittsburgh City Paper, including serving as managing editor. He can be reached at