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New Squirrel Hill condominium development underway

This week, Landmark Properties Group unveiled its plan to build the first new condominium development in the Squirrel Hill area in nearly a decade.
 
More than 350,000 people live within a five-mile radius of the development site, 2704 Murray Ave., along with some of the region’s top employers such as Google, UPMC, University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.
 
“Consumer demand is shifting toward a more efficient and economical urban lifestyle in the East End,” says Landmark Chief Executive Officer Robert Ferree. “The Q will answer the growing demand for new construction in the area.”
 
The Q, the proposed development, will be a four-story building with 23 new one-, two- and three-bedroom units. The proposed design of residences includes open floor plans, custom flooring, gourmet kitchens, stainless appliances, crafted cabinetry and bathrooms complete with ceramic and stone. Additional amenities include indoor parking, a 24-hour secure entrance and a fitness center.
 
“With spacious interiors, sophisticated finishes and all of the services and amenities one might expect to find in Manhattan, The Q lifestyle will offer the perfect balance between small-town charm and big-city comfort,” said Landmark Director of Acquisitions David Landman.
 
Landmark plans to have the building finished in 2015 and ready for occupancy in 2016. Keller Williams Realty will market and sell the condos with sale prices anticipated to start in the $300,000 range.
 
Bob Hoza and Ryan Edmondson, in charge of pre-sale, said there is still time for potential buyers to customize each space by contacting them at bobhoza@kw.com.
 
 
Source: Landmark Properties Group

PGH4ART campaigns for revised public art ordinance

Earlier this month, dozens attended a City Council meeting to push for an updated “percent for art” program in Pittsburgh.  According to PGH4ART, a group campaigning to update the city’s public art ordinance, “percent for art” programs usually require one percent of the total cost of a large-scale construction project to be allocated for public works of art.
 
“We came together fully with the purpose of having this 1977 'percent for art' [law] enforced,” said Carolyn Speranza, artist and team leader of PGH4ART, about the group’s attendance at a City Council post-agenda meeting convened by Councilman Corey O’Connor. She said the organization is working for the law to be rewritten and updated to modern standards.
 
Speranza explained that the 1977 “one percent for art” program is limited. A written copy of Speranza’s agenda from the meeting states that as the ordinance is currently written, it appears that the “‘one percent for art’ requirement applies only to construction or renovation of a public building, and even then only when it is a municipal project with a city department in charge of the project.”
 
However, financing vehicles for private development have altered how municipal construction and investment in buildings are funded in Pittsburgh. Speranza’s agenda explains that the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance Act and Tax Increment Financing Act account for a sizable amount of development and may not trigger the “percent for art” requirements. And, she said, the Urban Redevelopment Authority is much more likely today to be in charge of a construction or renovation project -- rather than a city department like in the 1970s.
 
At the meeting, Speranza urged the Council to create a new standard for Pittsburgh public art. She asked that all development, public or private, above the $50,000 threshold of our ordinance be subject to the "percent for public art ordinance," that all of Pittsburgh's neighborhoods benefit, for transparency when allocating funds and explained that there would be economic benefits.
 
“A new ‘percent for art’ law would become an economic stimulant,” Speranza said. She explained that local artists and builders would benefit from public art programs.
 
While many support PGH4ART’s efforts, change will need to come from the city. O’Connor explained at the meeting that changes should come from the city’s planning and zoning departments. Morton Brown, public art manager in the city’s Planning Department, said the city is developing a master plan that includes a revised “percent for art” ordinance. 
 
Source: PGH4ART, Carolyn Speranza

Innovative online supper club Dinner Lab launches in Pittsburgh

Dinner Lab began in New Orleans in 2012 and has since become a national sensation. The pop-up supper club has hosted innovative dining events in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Washington D.C., Philadelphia and New York. Today, Dinner Lab announced Pittsburgh as its newest city.
 
“We’re really excited about coming to Pittsburgh,” said Zach Kupperman, co-founder of Dinner Lab. “Pittsburgh [has] an amazing cultural and culinary scene … Pittsburgh is a very cool and underground cultural city with a lot going on.”
 
According to its website, Dinner Lab is an underground dining club that strips away the typical restaurant trappings and replaces it with a pop-up experience. City-dwellers become members online to receive a calendar of events. The menu is posted beforehand, but the location isn’t disclosed until the day before or the day of the event.
 
“Dinner Lab, at its core, is a membership-based social dining club,” Kupperman said.
 
The company operates as a subscription service where people pay upfront for access to the calendar. This is not to be exclusive, but how Dinner Lab subsidizes the cost of dinners, hires local people and rents kitchens. Guests then pay for each dinner and have access to not only events in the local market, but in every other city that Dinner Lab operates. Tickets, which include gratuity and alcohol, are purchased through the website a few weeks prior to the event.
 
Dinner is usually five courses (though it can be more), includes all-you-can-drink beer and wine. There's a pre-dinner cocktail hour, too. Membership rates vary between $100 and $200, depending on the participating city, but Pittsburgh’s membership rate is $125. Starting today, you can register online.
 
Dinner Lab chefs are usually the second or third at great restaurants. But, as Kupperman explained, they are often in the back of someone else’s kitchen, cooking someone else’s food. There is a disconnect between what chefs prepare on a regular basis and what they actually care about, he said.  
 
Dinner Lab pulls about 50 percent of its chefs from the local market and then will bring in top performing chefs from other Dinner Lab city markets. The group requires its chefs' food to tell a compelling story. Chefs have the opportunity to cook for an event and create a menu that is unique to their experience and palate.
 
Dinner Lab focuses on global cuisine enjoyed in random, local places outside a traditional restaurant setting. Kupperman said abandoned warehouses, old churches and rooftops are transformed for one night as a pop-up dinner venue. Guests dine together at community tables. Food is designed to be the common element to bring participants together.
 
There is also a diner feedback component to Dinner Lab. Diners rate each course and all of this information is aggregated and delivered back to the chef.
 
Though Dinner Lab officially launched in Pittsburgh today, it will be a few weeks before the first event. Kupperman said it will take time to hire people to operate the program in Pittsburgh and scout venues. Once Dinner Lab is established in a city, members can expect as many as six or seven events per month.
 
Pittsburgh’s first event will feature New Orleans Chef Mario Rodriquez, most recently of La Petite Grocery in the Big Easy. His menu concept will feature the flavors of Malay cuisine through the lens of a fine dining chef. 
 
Source: Dinner Lab, Zach Kupperman

AMPD Group plans Social House Seven, an Izakaya-style Asian restaurant

Izakaya is a style of restaurant in Japan that serves shareable plates and a variety of drinks and sake, according the AMPD Group, which is launching an Izakaya-style Asian restaurant in Downtown Pittsburgh.
 
The AMPD Group, a Pittsburgh entertainment and hospitality development and management company, recently announced its newest venture, Social House Seven, located in the Downtown Aria Lofts, the home of Bossa Nova Lounge for 12 years.
 
“The Group has been searching for a location for our new Izakaya-style Asian concept for some time. We have had this concept on the drawing board for the past four years and are excited to finally bring it to fruition. Social House will be our best project to date,” said Michael DeSimone, AMPD Group Partner.
 
Opening summer 2015, Social House will feature a custom-built robata grill and sushi bar along with an expansive lunch and dinner menu of shareable pan-Asian dishes ranging from Japanese to Thai, Korean to Chinese. In addition to sushi and grilled meats, including Kobe beef, the menu will feature shareable vegetarian and gluten-free items.
 
Adam DeSimone, AMPD Group Partner, described robata as a Japanese grill and said Social House’s robata will be a solid fuel grill with charcoal. “The great thing about a robata grill is it sears the meat … and captures all the juices within the meat,” he said, adding that the six-foot grill will run at about 800 degrees and capture juices to keep the meat tender.
 
The 7,300-square-foot restaurant will seat 175 guests with space for another 60 at the main bar and robata and sushi bar. The restaurant will also feature a 2,300-square-foot late-night lounge and event space, reminiscent of Bossa Nova, to host receptions, fundraisers and corporate events for up to 150 guests.
 
The lounge space can also serve as overflow to the restaurant and will turn into a late-night environment at the conclusion of dinner service on weekend evenings with Pittsburgh’s best DJ’s.
 
“We’re predominantly a restaurant, but have a strong nightlife component to it,” Adam DeSimone explained.
 
Social House will feature Asian-style décor with framed glass, wood trussing ceiling features and 16-foot hand-carved Buddhas peering over the restaurant.
 
“There’s nothing like it in Pittsburgh,” Adam DeSimone said, calling the location at 123 Seventh St. in the Cultural District “second to none.” He added that the AMPD Group, which developed Ten Penny, Steel Cactus, Local Bar & Kitchen, Diesel Club Lounge, Skybar Pittsburgh, Dominic’s Deli at PNC Park and Delanie’s Coffee, is excited to introduce this latest venture to the city. 
 
Social House Seven will serve lunch Monday through Friday, brunch on Saturday and Sunday and dinner seven days a week. The lounge will be open Thursday through Saturday. Valet service will be available during dinner and late-night hours.
 

The Penn Avenue detour is over! Discover what is #OpenOnPenn

Two-way traffic returned to Penn Avenue in December following a multimillion-dollar reconstruction project, which hindered businesses along the corridor between Bloomfield and Garfield.
 
Though the barricades are down and traffic has returned to the community, the businesses still need a boost, according to Amber Epps, Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation commercial district manager.
 
Epps explained that the BGC’s current campaign #OpenOnPenn seeks to spread awareness that these shops are still open and ready for business. 
 
“Our businesses have suffered pretty substantially during this process,” Epps said in a previous Pop City interview.  “[We’re] trying to get some business back to Penn Avenue.”
 
To participate in Open on Penn and show support for the community, one can purchase a gift certificate to any of the following businesses listed on www.pennavenue.org/openonpenn: Los Sabrosos Dance Company, Yoga Hive, Clay Penn, Most Wanted Fine Art, Diva Den, People's Indian Restaurant, Artisan Piercing and Artisan Tattoo.
 
“We wanted to make a way for people to [get] cash flowing, while also giving the purchasers something tangible in exchange,” Epps said.
 
Epps encourages Twitter users to utilize the hashtags #OpenOnPenn and #ProudToBeBeen when purchasing the gift cards or patronizing Penn Avenue shops.
 
“Even though we’ve dealt with the construction, we are optimistic about what’s to come on Penn Avenue,” Epps said.

Source: Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation, Amber Epps 

Double Wide Grill expands to third location in North Huntingdon

Since 2006, Double Wide Grill has been a South Side staple. Six years later, the gas station-themed eatery opened a second restaurant opened in Mars, Butler County. Now, Double Wide Grill has plans to open a third location in North Huntingdon, Westmoreland County, at what used to be Teddy’s Restaurant.
 
“This location is very different than the other two, which makes us really excited to get things underway,” said Double Wide co-owner Steve Zumoff. “Rather than turning an existing building into a restaurant, or building from ground-up, the new location was already a restaurant, so now it’s all about us transforming the space into the Double Wide brand that people already know and love.”
 
Double Wide Grill in North Huntingdon will be located just off the turnpike on Route 30, and is expected to open summer 2015. The menu will feature their popular ribs along with burgers, barbeque, vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free specialties. Zumoff explained that the location will also continue to carry some of Teddy’s favorite menu items, like the stuffed pork chop.
 
“We’ll have 40 American craft beers on tap that will rotate with the seasons and a big menu that caters to meat-lovers and vegans alike, plus many gluten-free options,” said co-owner Scott Kramer.
 
Zumoff explained that North Huntingdon was attractive because of its new housing, business and office developments. Last summer,Express Scripts, a St. Louis-based Fortune 100 company serving 90 million people each year, announced that it was moving 600 employees to a 70,000-square-foot facility in North Huntingdon.
 
Zumoff added that the new, highway-adjacent Double Wide location is in a high-traffic area, wedged between a Giant Eagle, Target and Walmart Supercenter.
 
The 6,500 square feet of space will be transformed to have the same vintage gas station theme that has become the recognizable branding of Double Wide Grill. The inside will seat 220 people and the upcoming, newly constructed outdoor patio will seat up to 70.
 
“The new location has the garage look like our other ones … but we’re looking to make it a little more roadside [themed],” Zumoff said, explaining that they want incorporate a historic highway theme à la Route 66, as the location is off Route 30. “Hopefully, the travelers on the highway will find out about us … We’ll be the place they stop, a roadside attraction.”
 
Double Wide Grill in North Huntingdon is slated to open during the summer of 2015. Other locations are in South Side on East Carson Street and in Butler County on Route 228. 

Casual dining options come to Lawrenceville with The Vandal, Smoke BBQ Taqueria and more

Joey Hilty, formerly of Bar Marco, and Emily Slagel, owner of Lawrenceville boutique Mid-Atlantic Mercantile, are bringing casual dining and approachable fare to Central Lawrenceville with The Vandal, opening in May at 4306 Butler St.
 
The duo explained that they were inspired by their dining experiences in cities throughout Iceland and Europe. They wanted to create a neighborhood dining experience on the Butler corridor.
 
“Amidst the evolving dining culture in Pittsburgh, we saw a real need for an affordable, convivial eatery,” Hilty said. “Our intent is for The Vandal to be an everyday neighborhood spot where you can grab dinner with your friends or a lunch alone with a book and your laptop.” 
 
The Vandal isn’t the only casual dining experience coming to Lawrenceville -- Smoke BBQ Taqueria opened this week at 4115 Butler St. While the soft opening boasts irregular hours, the smoked meats, migas and breakfast tacos are being met with a warm welcome. Owners Jeff Petruso and Nelda Carranco are from Austin, making it a bona fide Texas joint. Feb. 16 will mark the first Smoke Monday, where customers can can bring Smoke tacos to Row House Cinema next door to enjoy with a movie. Atlas Bottle Works, within Row House, is also conveniently adjacent to Smoke to fit the restaurant's BYOB policy.
 
Allegro Hearth Bakery’s owner Omar Abuhejleh also has plans to open a vegan and Mediterranean café, bakery and coffee shop at 5202 Butler St. in May. And, Morcilla, the second Lawrenceville venture from chef Justin Severino of Cure, will open this summer at 3519 Butler St. In a previous interview with Pop City, Severino said the new restaurant will be a casual, neighborhood restaurant with shareable snacks and tapas.
 
Open for lunch and dinner, The Vandal plans to offer an ingredient-driven menu six days a week. Sandwiches and snacks will be available all day with larger offerings, like steak frites, available for dinner only. Hilty plans on building the menu using what is fresh and seasonally available. The result will be menu items like a lamb sausage sandwich with tahini-spiked potato salad. Sandwiches will start at $8 while larger portioned dinners will start at $14.

For beverages, the restaurant will have a range of soft drinks from house-made lavender-hibiscus soda to Korean apple soda as well as a BYOB policy. Hilty said he hopes to eventually have a liquor license for the venue and to collaborate with Lawrenceville breweries and bottle shops.
 
While the name The Vandal has a strong, almost aggressive, sound to it, Hilty explained that the atmosphere will be far from threatening. Conversely, he said the design will be soft, cozy and minimalist.
 
“It’s important for us to design a warm, community-focused space,” Slagel said. “Through the union of food and design, we are able to cultivate the experiences that we want to have in our city.” 
 
Slagel’s vision and attention to detail will displayed throughout the intimate 30-seat space, from the custom bench seating to the menu design. Future plans include updating the rear outdoor patio into a beer garden or al fresco space with a wood-fired pizza oven.
  
While The Vandal is not slated to open until May, Hilty will host a menu preview at Bar Marco’s no-menu Monday on March 2.  For more information, visit www.thevandalpgh.com.
 
 
Source: The Vandal, Joey Hilty

Study: Liquor ban turns off would-be Wilkinsburg restaurateurs

The liquor license ban in Wilkinsburg is discouraging potential restaurateurs from opening up shop in the borough, according to the Urban Partners Market Study of Wilkinsburg.

From the study: “Full-service sit-down restaurants are also in short supply in the Wilkinsburg business district. A major contributing factor is the prohibition of alcohol in restaurants in the borough, which is typically a significant revenue generator for restaurants. As a result, prospective restaurateurs interested in opening new venues are avoiding Wilkinsburg, which is keeping the demand for finer dining high and the supply relatively low.”

The Borough of Wilkinsburg has been a dry community since 1870, but the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation aims to change that this spring.
 
The WCDC Board of Directors recently voted to pursue a liquor license referendum to legalize the sale of liquor licenses to restaurants in the Borough of Wilkinsburg. This effort is supported by the WCDC 10-year Wilkinsburg Business District Revitalization Plan, which was approved by Wilkinsburg Borough Council in 2010. The revitalization efforts of the Wilkinsburg business district were recently recognized by the state with a Main Street designation.
 
A statement from the WCDC said they believe restaurant liquor licenses will attract new businesses to Wilkinsburg and increase investment in the area. WCDC Executive Director Tracey Evans explained that the community currently offers several small diners and take-out businesses, but not a lot of sit-down restaurants. She said this referendum could bring more restaurants and evening activity to the borough. 
 
“With so many nice restaurants right on our border, why not encourage the same in Wilkinsburg and keep dining dollars in our community? Today, if you live in Wilkinsburg and want to meet friends for dinner and a cocktail you have to go to Regent Square, Point Breeze or East Liberty,” Evans said.
 
To lead a successful campaign, the WCDC and volunteers must circulate petitions between February 17, 2015, and March 10, 2015, and collect 1,059 signatures from registered Wilkinsburg voters. If that goal is met, the liquor license referendum question, “Do you favor the granting of liquor licenses for the sale of liquor in the Borough of Wilkinsburg?,” will be placed on the May 19, 2015, primary election ballot in Wilkinsburg.
 
In addition to attracting new businesses to Wilkinsburg, existing Wilkinsburg establishments, including Salvatore’s Pizza House and Biddle’s Escape, have expressed interest in acquiring liquor licenses once they are legally able to do so.
 
“Prohibiting liquor licenses hurts Wilkinsburg,” said Biddle’s Escape owner and Wilkinsburg resident Joe Davis. “Residents can easily go a few blocks away to a neighboring community, like Swissvale, Braddock or the city, to enjoy a beer or glass of wine. We need to make this an option in Wilkinsburg, too.”
 
Additional information about the WCDC’s liquor license campaign is available at www.wilkinsburgcdc.org/liquor-license. For a list of Frequently Asked Questions, visit www.wilkinsburgcdc.org/liquor-license-faq. To volunteer during the campaign, call (412) 727-7855 or email marlee@wilkinsburgcdc.org.
 
 
Source: WCDC, Tracey Evans

Donate clothes to break a world record this weekend at the Public Market

In the spirit of the University of Pittsburgh’s Year of Sustainability, the Office of PittServes launched the Give a Thread Campaign, a world-record attempt at collecting 150,000 clothing items for donation and recycling. Since the campaign’s kick-off in December, the drive has gathered more than 61,000 items via the support of students, staff, faculty and local partners.
 
PittServes Director Misti McKeehen explained that the Pitt community wanted to think beyond campus when it launched Give a Thread. She said they wanted to create a project where anyone in the community could participate. And, in order for Pitt to reach the ultimate goal of breaking the world record, the university has enlisted support from the city and area organizations. Pitt’s next Give a Thread community collection event will be at the Pittsburgh Public Market on Saturday, Feb. 14, and Sunday, Feb. 15, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
 
PittServes staff will be at the Public Market, 2401 Penn Ave. in the Strip District, collecting items on both days. University students and staff will accept any clothing donation, like shoes and accessories, but only clothing items like pants, shirts, outerwear, sweaters, skirts, dresses and children’s clothes -- including baby onesies -- will count toward the Guinness goal.
 
To encourage support and patronage of the small businesses at the market, select Public Market vendors will provide discounts to customers who donate clothing items to the campaign.
 
McKeehen said those who donate at the market can enjoy a free sample of beer at the East End Brewing Co. booth, buy one get one free treats at Eliza’s Oven and Ohio City Pasta, deals at The Olive Tap and Glades Pike Winery, dollar off ice cream and a discount on Backstage Alpaca socks.
 
“There’s a lot of different kinds of coupons,” McKeehen said. “[The event is] a nice way to introduce vendors.”
 
Erika Ninos, PittServes sustainability program coordinator, said she hopes the Public Market drive brings in “a few thousand items.” She explained that the market sees 1,000 patrons per weekend. If everyone just brought five items, she mused, imagine what that could do for the drive?
 
Give a Thread is already receiving assistance from the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, the City of Pittsburgh, Bank of America, Delanie’s Coffee Shop, Mayor Bill Peduto’s Office and the Allegheny County Department of Human Services. These offices have all collected at least 1,000 items for the drive.
 
Ninos said Give a Thread has collected 65,045 items to date -- and joked that with the haul they have already collected, she can’t imagine what 150,000 items will look like. However, if PittServes has not collected 125,000 items by the end of February, they will not continue the world record campaign. If the goal is reached, the final push to reach 150,000 donations will be in March.
                         
The campaign’s Get a Thread partners will receive donations and include: Goodwill Industries of SWPA, Dress for Success and Pitt’s on-campus student-run thrift shop, Thriftsburgh. Goodwill will recycle any items unfit for donation to reduce landfill deposits.
 
“You can bring a grocery bag or a garbage bag [to the Public Market event]; any bit of clothing will help us at this point,” Ninos said, adding that it is all going toward a good cause.
 
In addition to the community collection event at the Public Market, donations are accepted throughout the University of Pittsburgh, including the William Pitt Union, 3959 Fifth Ave. The Give a Thread Campaign will be collecting items through the end of February. For a list of the drop-off locations and more information on the campaign, please visit www.pittserves.pitt.edu.
 
If your business or organization would like to participate, please reach out to the PittServes office. The deadline for donating is at the end of February.
 
Source: Misti McKeehen, Erika Ninos, PittServes
 

Allegheny County begins endorsing local entrepreneurs for Kiva City Pittsburgh

For small businesses like Oakdale-based Carrie Ann's Bridal looking for funding to expand and grow, social underwriting may be the most effective way to secure financing.

While banks run background checks, credit reports and analysis before writing a loan, Kiva Zip requires endorsements based on relationships, said Emily Keebler, Kiva City Pittsburgh lead. Now, Allegheny County is becoming part of the social underwriting movement with the ability to help endorse local businesses for Kiva loans.
 
Kiva, an international micro-loan nonprofit founded by Pittsburgh native Jessica Jackley Flannery, began working to alleviate poverty across the globe in 2005. In 2011, Kiva began supporting small domestic businesses with Kiva Zip. Since Kiva City Pittsburgh launched in March 2014, the number of Kiva-sponsored Pittsburgh businesses has grown to more than 60.
 
Borrowing businesses must show that they are reputable with an endorsement from a Kiva Zip Trustee in order to participate in the program. These small businesses endorsed by Kiva Zip Trustees gain access to 0 percent interest -- AKA “zip” -- loans of up to $5,000 for first-time borrowers. 
 
Allegheny County has formed a partnership with the nonprofit to help small businesses gain access to capital and improve the local economy. Via this relationship, Allegheny County Economic Development, the county’s lead economic and residential development agency, is able to recommend entrepreneurs for Kiva’s innovative crowdfunding platform.
 
Kiva Zip Trustees are individuals, organizations and governmental agencies that vouch for entrepreneurs they know and trust in their community. Allegheny is the third county in the nation to become a Trustee and is home to 1.2 million residents, making it Kiva Zip’s second-largest Trustee.
 
“Kiva Zip's vision is one of a community of individuals coming together to lend their support to small business owners and entrepreneurs,” said Kiva Zip Director Jonny Price. “This vision is shared by Allegheny County and we are delighted to welcome them into Kiva Zip’s growing network of Trustees.”
 
Kiva Zip uses social underwriting to screen loan applicants. Keebler explained that social underwriting means that the business has a Trustee willing to speak to an entrepreneur’s good character and reliability. She said the organization understands that many have had bad credit in the past; so, instead, Kiva looks to a person’s network. Once endorsed, entrepreneurs can post their loan request on kivazip.org and begin crowdfunding their loan with the help of friends, community members and Kiva’s growing global community of 1.3 million lenders.
 
“Our economy continues to do well because we work together and support each other in this community,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “Kiva Zip’s vision allows us to build on that history and to further expand the ways that we can support small businesses in Allegheny County. Kiva Zip, literally, allows everyone to play a part in a business’ success.”
 
One of the county’s interests is to help businesses in areas of the county that don’t have a strong business development corporation or chamber of commerce, Keebler said. She explained that many established business districts serve as Trustees for entrepreneurs, but there are areas of the county that do not have these organizations for support.
 
“We’re just so excited to have [Allegheny County] on board to fill in those gaps and give additional legitimacy to our program,” she said.
 
Allegheny County Economic Development identified an ambitious female business owner for its first endorsement. Since she was a young girl, Carrie Ann has been passionate about fashion, but she has also suffered from polycystic ovarian syndrome, causing her to feel uncomfortable in her own skin. As an adult, she strives to raise awareness of PCOS and make all women feel beautiful, two goals she aims to combine via her Oakdale business, Carrie Ann’s Bridal.  
 
“We're a one-stop bridal shop that believes all women are beautiful and should embrace their uniqueness,” said Carrie Ann, as she is known on her crowdfunding page. “We want to make our customers' bridal, prom or other big day fabulous, fun and stress free." 
 
Keebler added that Carrie Ann’s business falls outside of an established business development district and there was no obvious Trustee for her until the county stepped in to support the shop.
 
Carrie Ann hopes to raise $5,000 via Kiva Zip to improve the e-commerce portion of her website in order to increase online sales and to purchase equipment and supplies to bring her custom designs in-house. Lenders can visit www.kiva.org/Pittsburgh to browse entrepreneurs’ profiles and stories, including Carrie Ann’s, and make a loan as small as $5 to the person of their choice.
 
Visit www.kiva.org/pittsburgh for more information on the Kiva City Pittsburgh initiative, including a list of all 39 Trustees in the Pittsburgh area. 
 
 
Source: Emily Keebler, Kiva City Pittsburgh

Supporting Pittsburgh's homeless in powerful, creative ways

With temperatures dropping to dangerous digits, homeless shelter options are making the news this winter. Pittsburgh students and officials have presented lifesaving ideas, technology and housing. Now, via an Indiegogo.com campaign, any Pittsburgher can take action.
 
Carnegie Mellon University students recently made headlines for their heated pop-up homeless shelters, which use aerospace technology to convert a portable sleeping bag into a durable winter shelter. Last week, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded a $15.5 million Continuum of Care grant to Allegheny County. The grant will go toward the county's Department of Human Services and its efforts to reduce homelessness.
 
The Department of Human Services will administer the grant funds to 25 agencies that provide housing and vital services to the homeless. The county department will contribute fiscal and operational support, and monitor service through regular site visits.

But one Pittsburgh resident is working to create a local homeless shelter at the community level via an Indiegogo campaign, The Pittsburgh Home.
 
“In second grade, my class was asked to draw a picture of how we envisioned our lives when we were older. I drew a picture of a big house with tons of strangers living in it and lots of hearts all over,” Jon Potter says on the Indiegogo page about his inspiration for The Pittsburgh Home. In a follow-up interview, he joked, “I guess it was a second grader’s version of what a co-op would be.”
 
Potter said he thought he had accomplished this dream with his Lawrenceville hostel, which has hosted 3,000 people in its three years in operation. But, Potter says he realized that he wanted to do more and create a safe and free place for the homeless men and women of Pittsburgh.
 
Last month, Potter took to Reddit, r/Pittsburgh, and asked the community for support on his journey to opening a homeless shelter. The response was huge. Through the post, he connected with a real estate agent, several contractors, local restaurants and food pantries and a nonprofit that is helping him secure 501c3 status.
 
“Most of the big things that we needed, Reddit came through with,” Potter said.
 
He added that The Pittsburgh Home is looking to help people who are actively working toward a goal to better themselves. Through his hostel, Potter said he has encountered many people who have been through a fire or another event that leads them to needing longer term housing than most homeless shelters allow.
 
He said The Pittsburgh Home would also provide the “most important thing” someone needs to make a change: an address. Potter explained that you can’t vote or apply for a job without an address.
 
The Pittsburgh Home page on Indiegogo is now active and working toward a $50,000 goal to buy a house. Donors are eligible for prizes including a personal hakiu written by Potter or a paragliding lesson from Potter, who is also a professional paraglider. These prizes were offered in the past, when Potter created an Indiegogo campaign that helped The Bloomfield Sandwich Shop get back on its feet. 
 
From the hostel to the sandwich shop to the homeless shelter, why does Potter give so much to the city?
 
His answer was simple, “Pittsburgh is just the friendliest city on the planet.”
 
 
Source: Jon Potter, Office of the County Executive, The Pittsburgh Home

Hill District agreement solidifies U.S. Steel headquarters and $20 million investment

The long-awaited redevelopment of the Hill District is moving forward, thanks to cooperation among city officials, neighborhood residents and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
 
"We are committed [to] implementing a transformational development on the Lower Hill District site that rebuilds the Middle and Upper Hill District,” said Mayor Bill Peduto. “When I took office last January, I committed to having an open-door policy for my administration, and this agreement proves that. Everyone will have the opportunity to have a seat at the table. "
 
The agreement clarified the Community Collaboration and Implementation Plan for the Lower Hill at the 28-acre site of the former Civic Arena. A new U.S. Steel headquarters will anchor the project.
 
In addition to U.S. Steel’s headquarters, the agreement also included plans for the Greater Hill District Reinvestment Fund, which is slated to invest more than $20 million in projects throughout the Hill District.
 
"This renewed agreement is important not only because it allows this project to move forward, but because it also ensures continued benefits for the neighborhood that is most likely to be impacted," said Sen. Wayne D. Fontana (D-Allegheny). "I'm proud that we have continued to work together to find compromise, and that we have a stronger agreement thanks to the work of this dedicated team."
 
Under the settlement, the Hill Community Development Corp. withdrew its appeal of the Lower Hill Planned Development District approved by the city Planning Commission in December, and agreed to support the U.S. Steel headquarters as a catalyst for the overall development of the Hill District.
 
City Councilman Daniel Lavelle will introduce an affordable housing task force comprised of city, county, state, federal and community leaders. An executive community created under the CCIP agreement will also appoint an independent consultant to help implement the community collaboration plan and issue progress reports to the committee.
 
According to the Mayor’s Office, the deal was reached with the assistance of Peduto, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald (D), Congressman Mike Doyle (D), Fontana and state Sen. Jay Costa (D). State Rep. Jake Wheatley (D) and City Councilman Lavelle (D) took leadership roles in helping to preserve the opportunity for the most robust investment ever made by a public-private partnership in the Hill.
 
 
Source: The Office of Mayor William Peduto

Construction underway for Strip District apartments as part of $130 million development project

At the site of a former trucking terminal and rail yard in the Strip District comes another real estate development, The Yards at Three Crossings. The Yards will continue the area’s transformation and will have immediate access to the adjacent riverfront trails.

Designed by WTW Architects of Pittsburgh, construction of the Oxford Development Company project is already underway following a December groundbreaking. The 300-unit apartment complex is part of Oxford’s $130 million Three Crossings development.

“The Yards [at] Three Crossings is geared to promote an active lifestyle for its multi-generational residents,” said Richard Bamburak, WTW’s principal in charge. “Amenities include an outdoor swimming pool, hot tub, games area, fire-pit, barbecue grills, a fitness center, ample bicycle parking and extended gathering places, including a private lounge and bar area.”

In addition to trail access and recreational amenities, Bamburak said the building will be pet-friendly. There will be a private dog walking area and a dog wash.
 
Bamburak said The Yards is taking the idea of transportation, rooted in the former truck and rail site, and reimagining it for a new generation with an approach geared toward biking and walking.

The proximity to Lawrenceville and Downtown makes the Strip an attractive location for empty nesters and young professionals seeking city life, Bamburak said. He added that the flat terrain to get to the entertainment on Butler Street or in the Cultural District makes the neighborhood attractive to those who want to walk or bike from a central location.

Bamburak explained that this complex is just part of Oxford’s development in the Strip. According to Oxford’s website, Three Crossings is an 11-acre, mixed-use development along Smallman and Railroad streets, bound by 25th and 29th streets. The Three Crossings project is developing offices, residential properties and a parking structure, The Hub, which will also feature bicycle and recreational amenities, possibly including bike repair and kayak rental. Oxford calls this multi-building project “urban flex office space,” designed for the efficiency of the next-generation worker.

Rycon Construction, the general contractor for The Yards, is involved in this reinvestment of the area, Bamburak said. He explained that the company is relocating from its old offices, also in the Strip, into a bigger space within Three Crossings.

“The Strip District is a unique neighborhood; it is one of those places in Pittsburgh that has no equal. Our desire is to parlay the authenticity and energy that already exists in the Strip into a revitalized waterfront neighborhood,” said Steve Guy, president and chief executive officer of Oxford Development Company. “This project encourages sustainable living and fosters active lifestyles that will reknit the frayed fabric of the neighborhood into a community that provides new opportunities for living, working and everything else.”

Completion of the LEED-rated apartment complex at 2645 Railroad St. is expected by spring 2016.
 
Source: Richard Bamburak, WTW, www.oxforddevelopment.com

Gaucho Parrilla Argentina receives big Yelp win; plans expansion

Last week, Yelp ranked Strip District restaurant Gaucho Parrilla Argentina No. 7 on its Top 100 Places to Eat in the United States for 2015. Gaucho was the only East Coast eatery listed in the top ten.
 
“It’s just awesome news. [It’s] great for us, great for our neighborhood and great for the city,” said Gaucho chef and proprietor Anthony Falcon. 
 
Rachel Carlson, Yelp Pittsburgh community director, explained that the bar for good food in Pittsburgh has been raised. And while taste and quality are part of the equation behind a positive Yelp review, Carlson said Yelpers also make note of good customer service and atmosphere. She noted that users recognize these qualities at Gaucho.
 
“They have 298 reviews and a perfect five-star rating. And that’s unheard of.” Carlson said about Gaucho’s online popularity. 

Falcon said regular customers and new faces have been commenting on the Yelp shoutout. The win comes on the heels of some other news for Gaucho.
 
The restaurant at 1607 Penn Avenue will be expanding into the building next door. Falcon said the project, which has been in the works for one year, finally has the green light from the city. He said construction is expected to begin as early as next week and added that he hopes it is completed in three or four months for summer business.
 
“The new space will be a lot more comfortable for our customers,” Falcon said. Currently, Gaucho only has limited stool seating. But, the expansion will bring additional stools, tables and chairs to accommodate 40 people. He added that there are tentative plans for a bar in the future. “We really want to focus on local craft beers and South American, Argentine-inspired wine.”
 
He said the current Gaucho space will be converted into a large kitchen and the space next door will serve as the dining area. In addition to physical renovations, Falcon said the menu will also add items, like more vegetable dishes, paella, coffee and baked goods. But don’t worry, the mouthwatering steaks, five-hour braised rosemary beef sandwich and other customer favorites will all still be there.
 
Falcon said he wanted to give “a massive, huge, heartfelt thank you” to the community and out-of-town diners who supported Gaucho on Yelp. He said these positive reviews and local support are what made the restaurant No. 7 in the country.
 
 
Source: Anthony Falcon

Downtown Wilkinsburg awarded Main Street designation

Since 2008, the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation has been working toward a Main Street designation through the Pennsylvania Department of Economic and Community Development and Pennsylvania Downtown Center’s Main Street Program. Last week, Wilkinsburg was accepted into the prestigious program.
 
Since the WCDC’s office officially opened in 2010, 33 business district properties have sold, 10 vacant storefronts have been filled and 22 vacant properties have become viable homes or commercial properties through the Vacant Property Recovery Program.
 
The WCDC has worked to clean up and improve Wilkinsburg’s streetscapes and image by installing banners and litter receptacles, refurbishing lampposts and planting more than 100 trees and plants throughout the business district.
 
“We are thrilled to have been selected for Main Street designation by the PA Department of Community and Economic Development and the PA Downtown Center," said WCDC Executive Director Tracey Evans. "The WCDC was formed in 2008 to revitalize our business district and we have been following the Main Street Approach from the beginningThanks to the dedication and commitment of our residents, business owners, community stakeholders and government officials, the Wilkinsburg Business District has made tremendous progress.” 
 
According to the WCDC, Wilkinsburg has all of the ingredients for a successful Main Street Program: a traditional business district, a core of strong businesses, and historic building stock. Wilkinsburg’s strategic location along Penn Avenue and the East Busway makes the borough the next location for economic and transit-oriented development along the Penn Avenue Corridor, Evans explained.
 
Acceptance into the Main Street Program will provide Wilkinsburg with more financial and technical resources. Wilkinsburg businesses located within the designated downtown area will be eligible to apply for Enterprise Zone Tax Credits through the Neighborhood Assistance Program; Wilkinsburg will be eligible to apply for and receive façade grants and other funding; and Wilkinsburg stakeholders will be able to network and collaborate with other Pennsylvania Regional Main Street grantees, among other benefits.
 
Through the state’s Neighborhood Partnership Program, the WCDC has already hired a full-time Economic Development Program Coordinator to oversee the Main Street Program and attend training sessions in Harrisburg to ensure its success.
 
“This award is an excellent beginning to 2015; we have a number of exciting projects including restoration of the Wilkinsburg Train Station, plans for the former Penn-Lincoln Hotel site and campaigns to promote and support our businesses. We are grateful for the opportunities and resources that this designation brings to our community, which will improve the quality of life for those who live and work in Wilkinsburg,” Evans said.

Evans added that improving the historic Wilkinsburg Train Station is top priority in 2015. The train station is located along the Busway and would ideally be utilized as a business district bus station -- between the Wilkinsburg and Hamnett stops -- not a train stop. Evans said 27,000 cars drive on Penn Avenue daily; the redevelopment of the train station would be a valuable resource as well as a win for historic preservation.
 
She said she hopes to build on the trend of new food businesses and restaurants in downtown Wilkinsburg, which is a dry community. A possible liquor license referendum in the future could bolster restaurant business, Evans said.
 
 
Source: WCDC, Tracey Evans, Marlee Gallagher
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