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Food & Wine magazine spotlights Pittsburgh twice

Last week, Food & Wine magazine named Justin Severino, chef and owner at Cure in Lawrenceville, the People’s 2014 Best New Chef, Mid-Atlantic region.
 
“We're obviously thrilled,” Severino said. “It's always great to be recognized for your hard work, and it feels really good to win as a Pittsburgh chef going up against some of the big names from Philly and DC.”
 
Severino and Cure have won a myriad of honors. Severino was a 2014 James Beard Foundation award nominee for Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic and he was awarded Pittsburgh Magazine Star Chef 2013. In 2012, Cure was named one of the Top 50 Best New Restaurants by Bon Appétit magazine. The restaurant was also selected as one of Pittsburgh Magazine's 25 Best Restaurants in 2012.  
 
This time, patrons were the judge. Foodies were invited to vote for their favorite chefs on Food & Wine’s website. Severino was selected by popular vote.
 
“The Pittsburgh community has been wonderful, and this win would have been impossible without them,” he said. “It's very gratifying to see Pittsburgh start to get some national recognition as a real food city. It's deserved it for a while — we couldn't do what we do at Cure, or any of the city's other great restaurants, without a strong community of sophisticated diners.”
 
Food & Wine also recently recognized Café Phipps at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens as one of the top museum resta urants in the country. Food & Wine noted the café’s green mission.The article states, “Chef Stephanie Gelberd often sources ingredients from the conservatory's edible garden.”
 
Richard Piacentini, Phipps Executive Director, said the café tries to stay as “green as possible” while also “serving great food.”
 
He said the restaurant composts, does not sell bottled water, uses real or compostable silverware and serves local (sometimes fresh from the garden) and organic food. The Café Phipps is a three star green certified restaurant — one of two certified green restaurants in Pittsburgh, according to Piacentini.  

Writer: Caroline Gerdes
Source: Justin Severino, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Eat + Drink: Independent Brewing Company, Quiet Storm's menu at Ava, Pittsburgh Beerfest

Eat + Drink is Pop City's weekly look at epic local nommz.

Independent Brewing Company opens today
The Independent Brewing Company, the new venture from brothers Matt and Peter Kurzweg that specializes in serving up local brews and spirits held a successful soft opening over the weekend and will open full-time today.

Don’t be mistaken, Independent doesn’t brew its own beer — but neither did its namesake. The tavern takes its name from a conglomerate of about 15 small breweries which formed in Pittsburgh in 1905. Until Prohibition, the Independent Brewing Company held the second-largest piece of western Pennsylvania’s beer market behind only the still-extant Pittsburgh Brewing Company. Independent went bust in 1933, its name, logo and trademarks all abandoned.

The Kurzwegs claimed and revived them, and Independent’s “IBC” bottle stamp lies set in a stately, old-fashioned mosaic tile backsplash above the bar, installed just last week. All beers served at the tavern will come from within a 100-mile radius of Pittsburgh.

For its opening, Independent will tap selections from Pittsburgh-based East End, Hop Farm and CoStar breweries, as well as offerings from Elk Creek in Millheim, Four Seasons in Latrobe, Sprague Farm in Venango and North Country in Slippery Rock.

“Wednesday and Thursday, we’re going to have a super-limited menu consisting mainly of bar snacks,” says Peter Kurzweg. “Monique [Ruvolo] is starting up on Friday with a full menu.”

Ruvolo, formerly the chef at Club Café, has created a menu divided into small and large bites. The appetizers include Mo’ Fries — French fries topped with feta, parsley, garlic and cumin. An initial selection of four bigger plates is highlighted by a house mac & cheese made with smoked gouda, Fontina, cheddar and East End Brewery’s Smoked Porter, sandwiches of bacon or tofu and tacos made with chicken cooked in a local stout.

The tavern’s music, Kurzweg says, will be very carefully curated to match with the beers. Independent’s first customers on Saturday were treated to a steady dose of James Brown while Four Seasons Brewing’s Get Down Brown Ale was on special.

Independent Brewing Company is at 1704 Shady Avenue in Squirrel Hill and is open Wednesday through from 5 to 11 p.m., Saturday noon to midnight and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Ava/Quiet Storm open today!
Though the sight of Justin Strong going rogue and slinging coffee outside of Ava Café & Lounge’s new Oakland location would have been pretty hilarious, it’s not going to come to that.

Ava got its green and white sticker yesterday and will open its first-floor café — a joint-venture with former Quiet Storm owner Jill MacDowell — today from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.  The café had been scheduled to open Monday, but the opening was pushed back two days until a health inspection could be completed.

Strong tweeted the menu yesterday.

Pittsburgh Beerfest
The Pittsburgh Beerfest, a two-night festival at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Downtown, will take place next Friday and Saturday.

The winter sibling of the Pittsburgh Summer Beerfest held at Stage AE promises a selection of at least 300 craft beers on hand. VIP and general admission tickets remain, but Connoisseur’s Level tickets are already sold out.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Peter Kurzweg, Monique Ruvolo, Justin Strong

Eat + Drink: Quiet Storm, Ava Lounge returning and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City's weekly look at epic local nommz.

Quiet Storm re-launching at Ava Lounge’s new space
Last year saw three East End institutions — The Quiet Storm in Garfield and Justin Strong’s Ava Lounge and Shadow Lounge in East Liberty close rather suddenly. Now, they’ve joined forces and are storming back onto the scene at Ava’s new space at 304 N. Craig Street in Oakland.

“We are slowly getting the café operation up and running,” says Strong, who added that he expects health and plumbing inspections to be completed this week. “As soon as they give us the go ahead, we’re looking at a Monday opening.”

If not?

“I may have to go rogue and start slinging coffee,” Strong jokes.

Ava’s new incarnation will be called Ava Café + Lounge. The first-floor café will bring Jill MacDowell, who owned one of Pittsburgh’s most popular vegetarian cafes in The Quiet Storm, back onto Pittsburgh’s breakfast and lunch radar.

“She’s put together a really creative café menu. It’s a new element to Ava,” Strong says, adding that the café, which will operate daily from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., will serve grilled sandwiches, vegetarian and vegan fare. He also spoke glowingly of a turkey panini and a shake MacDowell has concocted with oats, bananas and almond milk.

There’s still work to be done on Ava’s lounge portion, which will be located on the building’s second floor. It will include its own kitchen and an entirely different menu for the bar. Between construction, acquiring permits and transferring Ava’s liquor license to the new location, Strong anticipates the lounge could be firing on all cylinders by April or May.

You can track Ava’s progress through its website and on Twitter.

Pittsburgh Juice Company opens in Lawrenceville
The Pittsburgh Juice Company, in development for the better part of a year, opened its doors Monday at 3418 Penn Avenue in Lower Lawrenceville.

The shop offers cold-pressed juices containing fruits and veggies from kale, cucumber and berries to apples, carrots and ginger.

In addition to an array of fresh, unprocessed juices, the brother-sister ownership team of Zeb and Naomi Homison will soon offer juice subscriptions.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Justin Strong

Eat + Drink: Rum cocktails, beer and...gluten-free fries?

Eat + Drink is Pop City’s week a epic local nommz.

Rum cocktails for everyone
Maggie’s Farm Rum, the Strip District distillery from Tim Russell which opened its doors for bottle sales after Thanksgiving last year, held the grand opening of its in-house cocktail and tasting bar on Saturday. Russell, who for the event partnered with the organizers of Pittsburgh Cocktail Week and Butterjoint Bar Manager Will Groves, offered attendees a menu of five cocktails and a rum punch.

Russell says that eventually, the bar will operate in conjunction with the distillery’s retail hours, but that for now, the bar will only be open Thursday through Sunday, and that he'll likely offer between four and six different rum cocktails at a given time.

CoStar on tap at Gus’s Café
Eat + Drink paid its first visit to Gus’s Café in Lawrenceville over the weekend and discovered a few great things:
1. French fries cooked in gluten-free oil taste just as good as those fried in regular oil (admittedly, we’re still not sure what gluten actually tastes like).
2. A local brewery called CoStar (more on them next week) makes an American-style pale ale called Hopland Park. It’s a dark gold, hazy as apple cider and strikes an extremely fine balance between hop and citrus flavors; remarkably refreshing for how full-bodied it is. Go try it.
3. Gus’s ambience, menu and simple charm — plus the sizable outdoor patio on the way — could eventually make it one of the top neighborhood bars in a city full of great neighborhood bars.

The Porch hosts ‘Bee to Beer’ tonight
To celebrate the release of its Honey Heather Ale, East End Brewing will throw a release party tonight at The Porch at Schenley from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Made with honey from hives kept on the roof of The Porch, this new edition of Honey Heather Ale will only be available on draft at The Porch and its Downtown sister restaurant Six Penn Kitchen, as well as East End’s brewery in Larimer.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Tim Russell, George Haritos

Carnegie Mellon gets $10 million gift toward renovating Heinz College space

Hamburg Hall, the home of Carnegie Mellon University’s H. John Heinz III College, will undergo a major overhaul over the course of the next two years, thanks in part to a gift from the Heinz Endowments.

“It’s all going toward renovating and expanding the home of the Heinz College,” says CMU spokesperson Abby Simmons.

The renovation and addition to Hamburg Hall constitutes the second of four phases of expansion CMU has planned for the western portion of its campus along Forbes Avenue in Oakland.

“The crux of phase two is creating a larger auditorium, renovating the rotunda and developing some collaborative spaces for students to meet for projects — a sort of open, common area,” Simmons says. “It’s very focused on improving the student experience and improving growth and enrollment.”

The Heinz College offers the nation’s top graduate and post-graduate programs in information technology and management, and a program among the 10 best in public policy analysis, according to U.S. News & World Report rankings. Not surprisingly, it’s seen a 30 percent spike in enrollment since 2008.

“What we’re finding is that the enrollment growth we’ve experienced the past several years has made it necessary to create more space for students and faculty,” Simmons says.  “This is part of an ongoing relationship that the Heinz College has benefitted from. We’re very thankful for their support through the years.”

Simmons added that Phase II of the expansion is tentatively due to be completed by December of 2015.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Abby Simmons

Eat + Drink: Pamela's owners launching 'modern Jewish deli,' Legume's new lunch hours and much more

Eat + Drink is Pop City's weekly look at all the news that's fit to eat and/or drink.

Pamela’s founders bringing an old-world Jewish deli to Squirrel Hill.
An eat-in, modern Jewish deli will open in Squirrel Hill next month. Nu (from the Yiddish interjection for “well?” or “so?”) will occupy the space formerly held by Pamela’s sister restaurant Aji Picante at 1711 Murray Avenue, which held its last dinner service on Saturday night.

In addition to new twists on traditional Jewish fare, such as homemade pickles and matzo ball soup, Nu will smoke and hand-carve all its own meats. It will also have its own line and workspace, rather than share a kitchen with Pamela’s, as Aji Picante did. The sit-down restaurant will retain Aji’s outdoor seating, but won’t have any cases, nor will it sell deli meats.

“It’s going to be a little upscale looking, but not expensive,” says Pamela’s co-owner Gail Klingensmith, adding that executive chef Kelsey Sukel and co-owner Pam Cohen’s sister Rise’ will operate the restaurant.

“This is a family passion. It’s a slice of Americana, and it’s our history,” says Klingensmith, adding that Nu, which she projects will open around October 15th, will probably operate 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. “We’re old girls, but we can still make it to eight.”

Legume now open for lunch
The popular, locally sourced Oakland bistro has begun a lunch service that will run from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The menu, which will change every day, will include small plates, sandwiches and salads. Also, we hear the chocolate mousse cake is a legitimate slice of heaven on Earth.

“Steel Town” filmmakers holding fundraiser at Bar Marco
Steel Town,” a live-action, short film currently in pre-production that tells the story of the Homestead Steel Strike, will host a fundraiser and live table read at Bar Marco next Wednesday, October 2nd, at 6 p.m.

Carnegie Mellon alumni Nick Hurt and Yulin Kuang wrote the screenplay, and Hurt will direct when principal photography begins in November. The fundraiser’s host committee includes city councilmen Bruce Kraus and Bill Peduto, as well as State Representative Erin Molchany.

You can RSVP for the event by calling Producer Dan Vetanovetz at 937-243-1518, or e-mailing steeltownmovie@gmail.com. The producers of “Steel Town" are also operating a Kickstarter campaign that has just nine days remaining.

Pittsburgh Opera will perform at Downtown Farmers’ Market
Puccini, Rossini and Bizet aren’t varieties of mushrooms, but they’ll nonetheless be featured during each of the next three Market Square Farmers’ Markets.

The Pittsburgh Opera will perform tomorrow, October 3rd and October 10th between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., to celebrate the arrival of fall and the Opera’s 75th season. Lunchtime concerts have long been a staple of Market Square, and this marks the Opera’s first appearance in the series.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Gail Klingensmith, Dan Ventanovetz

Eat + Drink: Peet's Coffee in Pittsburgh, Cocktail Week, America's largest native fruit

Eat + Drink is Pop City's weekly glance at the finest in local epic nomz.

Peet’s Coffee coming to Pittsburgh
Peet’s Coffee & Tea, the San Francisco Bay area-based coffee roaster and retailer whose coffee has a near-religious following on the west coast, is set to open its first Pittsburgh stores.

Peet’s will take over the locations of the former Caribou Coffee shops in Oakland, the South Side, Brentwood and the Waterworks Mall, near Aspinwall.

According to Gary Wilson, a principal with the development firm of Langholz Wilson Ellis, which owns the site of the recently closed Caribou Coffee in Oakland, the developers are in the process of approving plans now. Wilson did not give a timetable for the Oakland location’s opening.

Peet’s products aren’t entirely new to the region. Giant Eagle has carried various Peet’s blends for several years.

Eat + Drink heartily recommends giving the House Blend a shot. Fans of darker roasts are likely to enjoy the full-bodied Major Dickason’s Blend.

Pittsburgh Cocktail Week
A cadre of bars and restaurants will participate in the first annual Pittsburgh Cocktail Week, which will run from September 16th through the 22nd.

Cocktail Week will include everything from tequila classes at Verde to ice-carving sessions at The Livermore, will run from September 16th through the 22nd.

A list of Cocktail Week events, still being updated, is available on the event’s website.

Paw paw tasting
The paw paw is often described as a cross between a banana and a mango. It’s the largest edible fruit native to the United States, yet most people have never even heard of it. Andy Moore is looking to change that.

“It’s native to 25 or 26 states in the eastern United States, and it’s virtually unheard of,” Moore says. “How does something that’s this ubiquitous get overlooked?”

Moore, a former Pop City staffer, is looking to answer that question and others, as he travels around the country to research the history of the paw paw for a book he’s working on. To help raise money to finance his research and travels, Moore will host a paw paw tasting event Thursday, September 19th at 7:30 p.m. at Buena Vista Coffee on the North Side.

Attendees will learn about the paw paw, and have the opportunity to sample a variety of paw paw-inclusive foods, including ice cream, cupcakes, and the raw flesh of the fruit itself.

Those attending will also receive paw paw seeds from which to grown their own paw paw trees, and Moore plans to raffle off a pair of paw paw trees to one lucky participant.

Tickets for the event are $40 and may be reserved by calling 407-967-3519, or e-mailing Moore.

You can follow his paw paw adventures on Twitter @thepawpawbook.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Gary Wilson, Andrew Moore

Schenley Park to get two new water management systems

In an effort to reduce runoff and pollution and restore the ecosystem in Panther Hollow, two new rainwater management systems will be built in portions of Schenley Park.

“These are pilot projects and they’re part of a larger effort to restore the Panther Hollow Watershed,” says Erin Copeland, a restoration ecologist for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.

One system will consist of French drains along Bartlett and Beacon Streets in Squirrel Hill, near the park’s perimeter.

The drains are designed to collect surface water and groundwater into special piping which will redistribute the water.

The other system, which will be installed along Schenley Drive through the Bob O’Connor Golf Course at Schenley Park, involves a process called retentive grading.

Utilizing strategically chosen areas of the golf course, the conservancy will construct 20 to 25 earthen mounds perpendicular to water flow and made of soil mixtures designed to effectively soak in the most water.

Copeland says that together, the two systems will absorb about 1.9 million gallons of water each year, all of which will be redistributed to the Panther Hollow Watershed.

The systems, both of which qualify as pieces of green infrastructure, are part of the conservancy’s larger plan to restore the streams, woodlands and lake in Panther Hollow.

“Right now, the lake drains back to the sewer system,” Coleman says. “We’d like to change that. We want to get that water back out of the lake and create a stream in Junction Hollow.”

The upgrades, which the conservancy has been planning since 2010, will be completed next spring.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Erin Copeland

Pitt approves $37 million upgrade to engineering school building

The University of Pittsburgh has approved a plan to spend $37 million to complete renovations on Benedum Hall, which houses the university’s Swanson School of Engineering.

“This final phase of Benedum Hall renovations will complete our building’s transformation into a leading-edge engineering education and research facility,” says Gerald Holder, dean of the Swanson Engineering School. 

The renovation will be the third and final phase of Benedum’s makeover, which began as part of Pitt’s 12-year Facilities Plan. It will focus on floors 9 through 12, as well as on the basement and subbasement.

The project will upgrade laboratories and classrooms, as well as support facilities such as conference rooms, lobbies and offices.

“Our undergraduate and graduate student population continues to grow in quality and quantity, and these projects will help us compete for the best engineering students,” Holder says. “In addition, our new and renovated lab spaces are helping us attract the best faculty candidates to Pittsburgh.”

In addition to the work on Benedum Hall, Pitt will upgrade about 900 feet of steam distribution lines between the corners of Terrace and Lothrop streets and DeSoto and O’Hara streets. The upgrade will aide steam flow from the Carrillo Street Steam Plant on Pitt’s upper campus and further ease campus growth in the future.  

The renovations are scheduled to be completed by 2015.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Gerald Holder

Eat + Drink: AVA moving to Oakland, Wigle Whiskey expands, Syrian cuisine in Squirrel Hill and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City’s weekly dive into the world of local consumables.

AVA Bar & Lounge moving to Oakland
AVA Bar & Lounge, which announced last week that it would close its location on South Highland Avenue in East Liberty and seek a new space, will move to 304 North Craig Street in Oakland in August.

The new spot, formerly Luna Bar, will allow AVA to expand to two floors and offer a parking lot for its customers at the corner of Craig and Center Avenue.

"It's just a better market for us," says AVA owner Justin Strong. "It's where we started."

Strong says the space's second floor will host AVA's events, such as jazz and open mic nights. The first floor will be a bar and lounge area.

Strong has launched a campaign on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo, seeking to raise $35,000 in the next four weeks to help cover AVA's moving costs make the transition to the new location as seamless as possible.

Naya brings Syrian cuisine to Squirrel Hill
Radwa Ibrahim, who formerly owned Middle Eastern restaurant Tyma’z in the North Hills, has moved her operation to 2018 Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill.

Her new venture, Naya, offers Syrian-style home cooked food along with her versions of Middle Eastern favorites, such as falafel, babaganoush and stuffed grape leaves.

Ibrahim, who opened Naya earlier this month, said that many of her regular Tyma’z customers have already made the trek into the city to continue enjoying her cooking.

Wigle Whiskey expanding to the North Side
Wigle Whiskey, the Strip District-based distiller of local and organic spirits, has purchased a warehouse in the Spring Garden section of the North Side and will begin converting it into a barrelhouse.

“We were quickly running out of room, so we’ve been searching for a space for a while,” says Wigle’s Meredith Grelli. “The building fit all our needs and we love the neighborhood.”

The space, which occupies about 10,000 square feet at 1055 Spring Garden Avenue, is the former home of the Balestreire Produce Company. It will house Wigle’s barrels of aging spirits, its innovation lab and a state-of-the-art whiskey garden, thought to be the first of its kind in the country.

“We imagine it as this seasonal kind of space where we’d have community events and small concerts, and the garage would become kind of a bar area,” Grelli says.

Architectural firm Edge-studio will design the new space. Wigle has hired contractor Marty Marra to undertake the construction. Grelli says they hope to open the space in the summer of 2014.

North Side Sandwich Week kicks off
Thirteen locally owned and independent restaurants are taking part in the second annual North Side Sandwich Week, which started yesterday and will run throgh June 23.

Elks Lodge #339 will host a sold-out sandwich sampler event tomorrow evening, at which attendees and celebrity judges will crown a new sandwich king or queen.

Each participating restaurant will hang a Sandwich Week banner, and customers can use their smartphones to scan QR codes in order to vote for their favorite sandwiches.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Justin Strong, Radwa Ibrahim, Meredith Grelli

Eat + Drink: The Livermore, Pitaland and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City’s weekly round-up of news you can consume with your mouth.

-  The creators of Bar Marco in the Strip District have secured the space at 126 Highland Avenue for The Livermore, a new coffee and cocktail joint. It will fill the space previously occupied by The Waffle Shop, an art space/restaurant/internet reality show which started as a Carnegie Mellon class project and lasted four years before closing in July 2012. Livermore is scheduled to open in late June.

-  Lucy Nguyen’s banh mi cart, a seasonal favorite in the Strip District, is back up and running in the parking lot next to Bar Marco. From spring to late fall, Nguyen, who spends winters in her native Vietnam, makes sandwiches of marinated and grilled chicken or pork topped with all manner of herbs and pickled vegetables.

-  Pitaland in Brookline, a Mediterranean bakery and caterer, recently finished renovations to its space and has added an on-site café. Open Monday through Saturday, the café offers breakfast until 11 a.m. and lunch and dinner options until 7 p.m.

-  The café at Sunny Bridge Natural Foods, a specialty grocery store in McMurray, recently unveiled a new catering menu. The café’s chef, Patty Caputo, designed the menu to include dishes made from local beef, chicken and eggs, as well as vegetarian and vegan items. The menu is augmented by selections from the store’s gluten-free bakery, says Sunny Bridge owner Gina Snyder.

-  For the fifth straight year, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens will host a farmers’ market. Farmers at Phipps, part of the conservatory’s healthy food and sustainability initiatives, will run every Wednesday from 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., and offer customers a wide variety of locally grown organic produce from local farms.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Gina Snyder

Eat + Drink: Outdoor dining spots and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City's roundup of restaurant and food news.

Cure, Chef Justin Severino’s Lawrenceville restaurant, has obtained a liquor license. While the restaurant will offer a full-service bar, its full menu of wines and specialty cocktails won’t be ready for another few weeks. “Right now, they’re just testing some stuff out,” says restaurant spokesperson Gita McCutcheon.

- A new addition to Pittsburgh’s food truck scene, the PGH Crepes cart sets up at the corner of Penn Avenue and 20th Street on weekends and makes its way around town during the week.

“We really like the carts in general. We think it speaks well the entrepreneurial spirit of Pittsburgh,” says Leigh White of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. “It’s a new twist on things, and a nice compliment to the many restaurants downtown.”

To find the crepe cart, follow it on Twitter @pghcrepes.

Waffalonia, the Squirrel Hill-based makers of Belgian-style Liège waffles, will open a kiosk in Schenley Plaza in mid-May.

And now that the weather is good, it’s time to dine outdoors. Here are some of the latest openings:

Make Your Mark Artspace & Coffeehouse in Point Breeze opened its serene back patio last week.

The garden portion of Pusadee’s Garden in Lawrenceville is ethereal and lovely.

The partially re-done patio at Kelly’s Lounge in East Liberty is open, as is the spacious back patio at Lawrenceville’s Round Corner Cantina.

Marty’s Market in the Strip has tables around the outside of its corner location, as well as stools at its garage-door coffee counter.

Orange chairs adorn the patio at Verde Mexican Kitchen & Cantina.

The Porch in Oakland has some of Pittsburgh’s best outdoor seating, and plenty to go around with school out for the summer.

Biddle’s Escape, a coffee shop tucked away off the main drag in Regent Square, has a spacious and tree-shaded deck.

And Il Pizzaiolo, in both Market Square and Mt. Lebanon has outdoor spaces. In the Mt. Lebanon location, the charming terrace in the back just opened and in Market Square, you'll find tables outside the new location next to Starbucks.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Gita McCutcheon, Leigh White

Mackey Lofts nearing completion in Uptown

The Mackey Lofts, a new housing complex situated in a former Uptown bakery at 1819 Forbes Avenue, is nearing completion, with tenants expected to move in by June.

The lofts are the latest project from ACTION-Housing, a local organization which designs and builds sustainable, accessible housing for working-class residents and people with physical disabilities.

“What we’re trying to do with the Mackey Lofts is shift how we integrate supportive housing into a community,” says Andrew Schull, ACTION’s communications coordinator. “One of the reasons we were attracted to Uptown is its proximity to Downtown and Oakland.”

The lofts will contain 43 total housing units. Eighteen units are designed with special accessibility features, and 10 of those units will cater specifically to the needs of deaf and deaf-blind residents.

Schull said that ACTION-Housing has been accepting applications for the lofts since January and 20 applicants have already been approved. While the lofts are ACTION’s first installation in Uptown, the organization has bigger plans for the area.

“We just received an allocation of tax credits for two properties up the road on Fifth [Avenue],” he says.

The two buildings, which will contain 23 and 24 units, respectively, will house residents of the MyPlace program, which helps house young people who are transitioning out of foster care.

Those  interested in the Mackey Lofts should contact Carol Kelly of Supportive Housing Management Services at 1-800-238-7555.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Andrew Schull

Pittsburgh's Bus Rapid Transit effort gets grant from Rockefeller Foundation

The initiative to get Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) rolling between Downtown and Oakland has been given another boost with a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. The grant will support research, communications, and community outreach efforts to engage and educate the public on the benefits of BRT.

GetTherePGH, a BRT Stakeholders Advisory Committee, facilitated by Sustainable Pittsburgh, welcomed last week’s announcement as well the opportunity to continue working with the community to raise awareness about the BRT project.

Though specifics of the grant are yet to be determined, Sustainable Pittsburgh’s Court Gould says the Rockefeller Foundation has shown an interest in enabling citizens to have a voice in determining what BRT projects should look like, let alone whether they should be implemented at all.

BRT is a form of bus transit that operates similarly to a rail system—though less expensive to implement—with dedicated stations, route priority, and platform fare collection, among other efficiency measures.

The Rockefeller Foundation has awarded $1.2 million to be split among four cities: Nashville, Boston, Chicago, and Pittsburgh. The funding initiative is part of the foundation’s Transform Cities effort.

“Rockefeller having competitively identified Pittsburgh in the echelon of the other three is a significant validation of several years of concerted effort here to study the benefits of Bus Rapid Transit,” Gould says.

Pittsburgh’s BRT effort is an outgrowth of recommendations from the Port Authority of Allegheny County’s 2009 Transit Development Planning Process, a comprehensive review of the agency’s entire system.  BRT served as a key component of serving Downtown to Oakland, and to the East End, Gould says.

The Bravo Group, a public relations firm, has been selected to lead the outreach effort in Pittsburgh.


Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Court Gould

Schenley Drive to get skinny; Panther Hollow watershed restoration

Schenley Drive is going on a diet.

The road, which cuts through the Bob O’Connor Golf Course, will get a “skinny street” makeover as part of the upcoming Panther Hollow watershed restoration project.

Because of stormwater runoff, Panther Hollow Lake—which is at the bottom of the watershed in Schenley Park—has gone from a recreational pond to a polluted eyesore.  And its plight is just one of the more visible effects of the park’s stormwater runoff problem.

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy (PPC) is implementing a number of new green infrastructure designs to improve the park’s stream and groundwater recharge health.

The “skinny street” project, which will narrow the 40-foot-wide road to approximately 26 feet, will divert more than 3 million gallons annually of runoff by introducing porous surfaces to the roadway. It is the third pilot project in the restoration project.

Through public meetings, PPC learned that many residents feel unsafe in the park because of speeding vehicles.

“We could have a really big impact by narrowing the street,” says Erin Copeland, senior restoration ecologist with PPC.  “We have the opportunity to improve so many different aspects of watershed health, and recreational experience in the park.”

Adjacent to the road, infiltration berms will channel water into rain garden wetlands, and a new porous pathway for pedestrians and bicycles will run along the road, separated by a buffer of plants. This design will allow water to soak into the ground slowly and prevent erosion.

The pathway would still be paved—not crushed limestone or gravel—but the application will actually soak in water to the subsurface layer. Cyclists will still be welcome in the Schenley Drive roadway, Copeland says, where sharrows will be painted.

Designs for the “skinny street” have yet to be reviewed Department of Transportation traffic engineers.  Copeland says the first two pilot projects are shovel ready and could begin as early as this summer.

PPC is completing the green infrastructure projects with support from the Department of Public Works, City Planning, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, Alcosan, as well as the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, and PPC volunteers.


Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Erin Copeland
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