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The Hollywood Theater's Indiegogo campaign: Go Digital or Go Dark

The Hollywood Theater in Dormont has given itself an ultimatum: Go Digital or Go Dark.

The title of its recently launched Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign is a serious one. Managing Director Chad Hunter says that there is no hard date set, but if the one-screen, 300-seat theater can't raise enough funds to transition to from 35mm film to a digital format, the Hollywood will close for good.

Hunter says it's increasingly difficult for independent cinemas to screen certain releases, with restrictions on use of DVD's, and the rarity of many film prints.

"The writing is on the wall," he says. "We can't operate effectively when these walls keep coming up from the studios."

The theater needs to raise $75,000 to make the film-to-digital conversion. The campaign began with $5,000 in seed money from last September's Pittsburgh Day of Giving.  The Indiegogo campaign has so far raised $6,622 as of press time, with 24 days to go.

The Hollywood Theater originally opened in 1933 and is one of few remaining single-screen movie houses in the Pittsburgh area. It has opened and closed several times in the past decade, but was reopened in May 2010 by the non-profit Friends of the Hollywood Theater (FOHT). The organization's long-term goal is to purchase the theater from its current owners.

And the Hollywood isn't alone in this scramble to transition. Theaters around the country are making the expensive switch—or closing up shop—including The Guthrie, in nearby Grove City, PA.

This Saturday, March 2nd, The Living Dead Festival will host a sold-out fundraiser at the Hollywood, featuring a meet-and-greet with cast members from the 1968 film by George A. Romero. The film will be screened in 35mm, with all proceeds going toward the Indiegogo campaign.

 
Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Chad Hunter

Katana now open in Dormont, features Chinese and Japanese cuisine, sushi and hibachi

Dormont has gained another new restaurant with the recent opening of Katana on West Liberty Avenue. Owner Mandy Lin's
also operates Sushi Boat, a take-out restaurant in Central Oakland.

Katana features two hibachi grills, which includes two sets of four tables, able to accommodate up to 35 guests.  In addition to a full menu of Chinese and Japanese cuisine, Katana boasts elaborate presentations from its gourmet sushi bar.  Lin highlights two of her favorite specials: tuna wasabi dumplings, and a grilled white fish in a ponzu sauce.

Lin says she and her husband chose Dormont because they like the area, and felt it was a good place to open a business.  Their restaurant replaces a home furnishings store  which has since moved to a new location.  The space was completely remodeled for the restaurant, from floor to ceiling, including an all-new industrial kitchen.

The restaurant seats approximately 90, and is open for lunch and dinner, seven days a week. Katana is located at 3229 W. Liberty Avenue, Dormont.  412-388-1800


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Mandy Lin

Thai Spoon, first Thai restaurant in the South Hills, opens in Dormont

The South Hills’ dining options have just grown more diverse, with Thai Spoon recently opening on Potomac Avenue in Dormont. The small, 12-table BYOB is open six days a week, for lunch and dinner.

Chef and owner June Jirachertchoowong, until recently part-owner of Thai Cuisine in Bloomfield, says many regulars of her former restaurant asked for a second location in the South Hills area, and when the Potomac Avenue storefront presented itself, she seized the opportunity to branch out.

While she had looked at many locations, she chose the Dormont site because of its heavy pedestrian and vehicular traffic, as well its close proximity to popular neighborhood destinations like the Dor-Stop Restaurant and Potomac Bakery.

Thai Spoon’s menu is very similar to Thai Cuisine, with the main differences being a higher emphasis on herbs, and an increase in the amount of spicy offerings. One of the house specialties, The Volcano, features baby-back ribs marinated in a homemade Thai chili paste, which Jirachertchoowong warns is extremely spicy.

The restaurant offers many vegetarian and vegan options, including mock duck and scallops made of wheat, tofu, and plenty of vegetable oriented dishes.

Jirachertchoowong’s older brother and sister, Chai and Lisa, own Thai Cuisine is Bloomfield. While their restaurant is under renovation, her family has been assisting her in the evenings during these opening weeks in Dormont. Pending inspections, their restaurant is scheduled to re-open on March 9th.

Thai Spoon is open Tuesday to Friday, 11:30 to 2:30 p.m. for lunch, from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. for dinner; Saturday, noon till 9:30 p.m; Sunday, 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Thai Spoon, 1409 Potomac Avenue, Dormont, 15216. 412-563-1409.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: June Jirachertchoowong




Dormont's Potomac Avenue to get new grocery store, Peoples Food Mart

Among the restaurants and shops, one thing that Potomac Avenue in Dormont lacks is a full fledge grocery store. Thanks to Vic Pabla, that void will soon be filled.

Owner of Peoples Grocery for 27 years, Pabla says he heard the Dormont Fresh Market, opened by Dormont resident Cher Murphy, was closing and jumped on the chance to take over. "We loved her concept where everything was community-oriented," he comments. "That's what we've been doing in Garfield, so we figured it would fit our mold."

The 3,500-square-foot Peoples Food Mart will be a full convenience store, stocked with produce, a deli, cigarettes and candy. A Western Union and small café are also in the works, he adds.

"They have a lot of walking traffic, and we figured not everyone has a car," says Pabla. "Our goal is to have everything that you would need on a daily basis so you wouldn't have to go outside of Dormont."

Peoples Food Mart will be located at 1435 Potomac Avenue, next to Knossos Gyros and across the street from the Dor-Stop Restaurant. Pabla says they hope to open the first week of May.

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Writer: Alex Audia
Source: Vic Pabla, Peoples Food Mart

Photograph copyright Alex Audia

Dormont's historic Hollywood Theater will reopen in May

As digital filmmaking ushers in a new cinematic order, some pieces of the old movie garde are too important to leave behind. When the Hollywood Theater, located at 1499 Potomac Avenue in Dormont, closed its doors last May, a determined group of volunteers called Friends of the Hollywood Theater (FOHT) vowed to keep alive this single-screen gem that dates back to 1933. The hard work of this 11 member board, and 25 member advisory board, has paid off.  The Hollywood Theater will reopen on May 4.

"We've been working with 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania, they're a non-profit, and they're going to show The New Metropolis at the theater on May 4. It's a PBS documentary about the inner suburbs and the challenges they face in the 21st century," says John Maggio, board member of the non-profit FOHT.

After The New Metropolis screens, there will be a Hollywood Theater open house with free film showings on May 14-15. Part-time showings of paid-admission films will be shown the following week, and the theater will open full-time beginning in June.  FOHT plans to hire a permanent manager and two paid employees. The 48 Hour Film Festival has already signed on to use the venue, and FOHT intends to start showing The Rocky Horror Picture Show, as well as other classic and rare 35mm works. They will also use the theater as a community space for a wide variety of on and off screen events.

For nearly a year, the diverse volunteer FOHT board has been busy fundraising, working with Duquense law students to achieve 501c3 status, and collaborating with CMU students to develop a business plan. FOHT currently needs less than $10,000 to open the theater's doors, which they're confident will happen. While they will rent the building for now, Maggio believes they will be able to buy it in the near future.

Tax-deductible donations can be made to Friends of The Hollywood Theater at P.O. Box 7902 Pittsburgh, PA 15216.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: John Maggio, Friends of the Hollywood Theater

Photograph copyright John Farley

Dormont announces grants totaling more than $778K for community revitalization

Dormont has received several new grants for revitalization, infrastructure improvement and pool repair projects.

The borough just south of Pittsburgh received three Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The CDBG-funded projects include: (1) Resurfacing and repainting the Dormont Horseshoe Club courts; (2) installing much-needed storm sewers; and (3) redeveloping vacant land into a "passive" pocket park.

A $19,000 CDBG will support the revamping of the historic horseshoe courts; a $117,000 CDBG will go toward installing sewers along Mattern Avenue (the Borough has also received a $138,000 grant from the Environmental Projection Agency to support the $300,000 infrastructure project, which is expected to go out to bid at the end of winter); and the third CDBG award, for $37,000, will be used to complete work on a vacant plot of land located at the corner of West Liberty and Hillsdale Avenues. That revitalization project calls for rebuilding crumbling stone walls along the site's perimeter, removing diseased and dead trees, leveling land, installing lights, and completing ongoing general maintenance and landscaping that has been started by resident-run DIG Dormont garden club in cooperation with the Dormont Borough Council.

These CDBG-funded projects are expected to be completed by the end of 2010.

Dormont also has announced that it received a $605,000 PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) grant in 2009 for continuing the next phase of restoration, repair and renovation work to its historic community pool. The pool will be resurfaced and repainted in time for the 2010 swimming season, and the facility will be equipped with a new outdoor stereo/public address system to complement its new Wi-Fi accessibility. Nonproft group Friends of the Dormont Pool has helped secure grassroots support as well as state funding to preserve and maintain the circa-1920s pool.

John Maggio, of Dormont Borough Council, says Borough Manager Gino Rizza has been instrumental in attaining these grants that prioritize stewardship of the community's grounds, streets and amenities. "Gino has been with us for about a year now. We're lucky to have him here. He really cares about the community," says Maggio.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: John Maggio, Dormont Borough Council

Image courtesy of DIG Dormont


Dormont's Hollywood Theatre to reopen fulltime

Dormont's Hollywood Theater has made its second major announcement this month.

Earlier in June, the Hollywood announced it would reopen to screen classic films on weekends with the assistance of the Bradley Center, a team of volunteers and Dormont Borough Council President John Maggio. However, Maggio is now reporting the Hollywood will reopen fulltime under new leadership in August, thanks to interest from Motion Picture Heritage (MPH).

MPH is an Indianapolis-based group that rehabilitates and operates classic cinemas nationwide in conjunction with community activists. It will be subleasing the space for two years, with the option for an additional six, from the Bradley Center, which leases the building from Hollywood Partners LLP.

The Hollywood was last operated as a second-run theater by the Bradley Center between 2007 and 2008.

Plans for the 298-seat venue, which underwent more than $300,000 in renovations in 2007, include a café, an eventual liquor license and live music performances. Films will range from classics to cutting-edge indies to contemporary major studio fare, says Bill Dever with MPH.

"We don't want the Hollywood to be just a movie theater; we want it to be a complete experience," says Dever. "Potomac Avenue has a huge potential for restaurants and shops, so we want to help create foot traffic for our neighbors. People get a meal before or movie, or grab a beer afterward. We've seen situations like this where revitalized theaters have really improved local economies."

The Hollywood, located at 1449 Potomac Ave., is in the heart of one of Dormont's two business corridors, the other being along West Liberty Avenue. Dormont is celebrating its centennial this year, with a week of activities and events kicking off June 27. One such happening is Buy Local week, which encourages sustainable shopping habits by promoting independent businesses in both of Dormont's commercial districts.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: John Maggio, president, Borough of Dormont; Lisa Fox, CEO, Bradley Center; Bill Dever, manager, Motion Picture Heritage

Photograph copyright Jennifer Baron

Schoolhouse Yoga expands with new SouthSide Works location

Schoolhouse Yoga is opening a new center at 2737 E. Carson St in the SouthSide Works. The 1,500-square foot studio is in the street-level storefront previously occupied by Karma Fashion boutique.

The opening, scheduled for this weekend, marks Schoolhouse Yoga’s fourth site. Other studios are located in the Strip District, Squirrel Hill and Shadyside.

After being approached by the owner and manager of the SouthSide Works four months ago, Schoolhouse owner Leta Koontz decided to open a studio at the live-stay-play development to serve the needs of people who work in the area, as well as residents of the complex’s condos and future guests at the in-progress hotel project.

Schoolhouse joins Breathe Yoga Studio, 1113 E. Carson St., and Amazing Yoga, 1506 E. Carson St., as the South Side’s third yoga facility.

Koontz notes that Schoolhouse, which was founded in 2002, schedules some unique classes to try set itself apart from competitors.

“We offer Ashtanga and Kundalini classes in addition to more conventional Yoga 1 and Yoga 2,” she says. “We also offer prenatal, mommy-and-me and kids’ classes, which are so popular we have people driving in from the suburbs to attend.”

Schoolhouse’s South Side studio is not Pittsburgh’s only new yoga center. Sterling Yoga, 2889 Glenmore Ave. in Dormont, is hosting its grand opening celebration this Saturday. Sterling Yoga offers classes for children through seniors, as well as specialized workshops including hula hoop dance and reiki exchange.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Leta Koontz, Schoolhouse Yoga; Sterling Painton, Sterling Yoga

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

Residents come together to raise $50k for historic Dormont Pool

At their third annual St. Patrick’s Day Dance fundraiser, Friends of Dormont Pool presented officials from Dormont Borough with a check for $50,000 to help keep one of the oldest and largest pools in Western Pennsylvania running. The note on the check read, “Saving Dormont Pool, one dollar at a time.”

Friends of Dormont Pool formed in 2006 when a group of Dormont residents came together to raise money for structural repairs to the pool, including new decking and flooring, renovating the bathhouse, and structural work. Through a door-to-door campaign, the group raised $20,000, and helped the borough with grant-writing to raise $575,000 for the needed repairs.

Since then, Friends of Dormont Pool has continued to raise money through annual events like the St. Patrick’s Day Dance, a pub crawl, a scavenger hunt, and a Steelers ticket raffle. Residents, artists, and local businesses help by donating time and supplies. Even the giant check presented at this year’s dance was printed and donated by a local resident.

“We’ve had a lot of help,” says John Maggio, one of the group’s founders. “There have been a lot of unsung heroes in this.”

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Writer: Rob Cullen
Source: John Maggio, Friends of Dormont Pool
 
Image courtesy Ed Massery


Café J debuts complete makeover, brings tapas dining, wine bar to South Hills

A popular South Hills gathering spot has unveiled a fresh new look inside and out. With a new menu, moniker and design concept, Café J is drawing tapas and wine lovers at 3220 West Liberty Ave.

Linking Dormont and Mt. Lebanon, Café J is located within a stretch of West Liberty that’s seeing a spate of facade improvements and new businesses. “The Washington Road corridor is extending in this direction,” says owner Jamie Petrolias, who recently teamed up with new partners Phil and Linda Krause of Mt. Lebanon. “If you head north from Rolliers Hardware, Pamela’s has opened and they’re building new condos.”

Formerly Jamie’s, the 7,500-square-foot bistro features a newly remodeled dining room and bar, spacious banquet room and ample off-street parking. “We spent a lot of money and used green materials to make the space look and feel comfortable,” adds Petrolias, who worked with Bill Korenich of Mt. Lebanon-based Ardaugh Designs. “It’s a bit upscale and very up to date.” With a rich green and brown palette, Café J features a Paperstone bar, bamboo paneling, stained concrete flooring, and glass pendant lighting.

After running Jamie’s in Downtown’s Market Square for 16 years, Petrolias relocated to Dormont in 2004. “As far as I know, it’s the only tapas place in the South Hills,” adds Linda Krause. “We lightened and brightened everything up. We’re also looking to grow our banquet business.”

Executive chef is Dormont native Rob Seeberger. Boasting 50 wines—with 21 by the glass—Café J serves tapas until 11p.m. on weekends. Signature items include grilled calamari and rosemary ham panini.

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Jamie Petrolias and Linda Krause, Café J

Photograph copyright Jennifer Baron







New independent businesses spruce up block along West Liberty corridor

A new crop of independent businesses—two headed up by mother-daughter teams—is energizing the 3200 block of Dormont’s West Liberty Ave. corridor.

After sitting vacant for one year, an 800-square-foot storefront at 3227 West Liberty has been artfully transformed into new boutique Enchanted Wings. Boasting artisan-made baubles, curiosities and fair trade goods, Enchanted Wings carries everything from housewares and wearable art to organic lotions and pet products.

Joining forces with her mother Barbara Ranegar and sister Heather Fontana, jewelry designer Jennifer Profio opened the distinctive shop on June 27. Between them, they have 35 years of merchandising, retail and hotel hospitality experience. While Ranegar specializes in children’s tutus and Fontana creates boiled wool items, Profio designs jewelry using everything from natural earth stones to found objects.

“With three active minds, we’ve always got ideas flying. We believe in giving back to the earth and putting magic back into people’s lives,” says Ranegar. “We love the location because it’s a part of Dormont that needs to be developed. We’re a mother-daughter team like New Leaf Café—that empowers us. We’re also adding to the community.”

Part-boutique, part-gallery, Enchanted Wings also offers origami and flower pressing classes and children’s theme parties. The shop’s Envirosacs, created from recycled milk cartons, are flying off the shelves. “I never wanted anything more than to have my own store. As a kid, I walked these streets with my friends,” adds Porfio, 30.

Also new to the block is Xie LiHong's Wellness Center, while longtime landmark Cain’s Saloon is undergoing renovations at 3239 West Liberty. Content management tech company Industry Weapon moved into its new offices at 1426 Potomac Ave. in May.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Jennifer Profio and Barbara Ranegar, Enchanted Wings

Photograph copyright Jennifer Baron

Dormont Dogs serves up street-themed fare, historic pool makes preservation list

Atlantic City may have Monopoly, but Pittsburgh’s got Dormont Dogs. Drawing inspiration from the borough’s state-named streets, the new eatery—located at 2911 Glenmore Ave.—specializes in creatively prepared hotdogs. Dormont Dogs serves 15 varieties and one weekly special, in a space located near the neighborhood’s T station.

The lunch and dinner spot, opened on April 1,  is owned by Captain Barnes and his wife Rachel Dudley.

Served in baskets, specialties include the baked bean and coleslaw-laden Connecticut and the BBQ sauce, French’s onions and pepper jack cheese-topped Tennessee. Non-Dormont dogs include the Bruschetta, with tomatoes, pesto and Parmesan. “It’s hotdogs, but I'm using fresh ingredients and the French techniques I was taught. With food, less is more,” says Barnes, who was executive chef at Sonoma Grille. “I like spending time with every customer.”

Vegetarians take note: Dormont Dogs serves vegan dogs and veggie chili, as well as homemade soups, salads and sweet tea. The all-beef Sabrett dogs—sold at the Big Apple’s beloved street carts—are popular with ex-New Yorkers.

“We did this with eleven-thousand dollars, which is incredible. We live here, so it’s nice to be in your community,” adds Barnes.

This summer, Dormont Dogs will set up a cart at the Dormont Pool, which just made the Young Preservationists Association’s 2008 Top Ten list. Structural repairs have begun on the pool’s bath house, filtration system and decking.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Captain Barnes, Dormont Dogs; John Maggio, Dormont Borough Council

Photograph copyright Gregory Langel



Allegheny County completes TRID study in South Hills, identifies next steps

Allegheny County has completed a Transit Revitalization Investment District (TRID) study in partnership with Dormont, Mt. Lebanon and Port Authority.

Supported by a $150,000 state grant, the study identifies future land use and development scenarios for properties and sites surrounding the Dormont Junction, Potomac and Mt. Lebanon T stations. Targeting sites that are off the tax roll, the study outlines high- and low-density development options, such as redeveloping Dormont's light rail park-and-ride lot, shifting parking from streets to underground facilities and using the project's tax increment to support borough and school needs, infrastructure improvements and public transit.

"We're trying to bring something that's to scale, lay the foundation for private developers and strengthen main streets. There's a lot of support from both communities to bring more density to T stations," says George Darakos, with Allegheny County, who worked with consultant DMJM Harris. "Each of the stations has so much potential. Developing the sites could bring new housing and potentially more revenue to each of the taxing bodies."

One of the first of its kind in the state, the study suggests developing air rights above T stations and existing properties and creating residential opportunities within walking distance to transit stops. Redevelopment and streetface improvements are also recommended for Dormont's Potomac Ave., which is home to independent businesses, restaurants and a recently restored movie theater.

As a combined TRID district, the two communities plan to continue meeting as a team to coordinate development. Over the next three months, a TRID management team will be formed in order to identify funding sources and attract private developers. Darakos says that now that the TRID study is complete the district is expected to receive priority funding from the state.


Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source:  George Darakos, Allegheny County Economic Development

Image courtesy Allegheny County Economic Development

Pittsburgh diner Pamela's expanding into South Hills, opening 6th area location

After opening its first location in Squirrel Hill in 1980, popular breakfast spot Pamela’s will debut its sixth Pittsburgh restaurant in May. Located at 427 Washington Rd. in Mt. Lebanon, the restaurant brings a new breakfast destination to the bustling suburb.

Located within a space owned by Dyke Automotive, the 2,200-square-foot eatery will seat 80 people. The instant owners Gail Klingensmith and Pam Cohen spotted the space’s original Italian marble floor, they knew they had struck gold. “Sometimes you’ve got to go with your gut. It was really a gift. We love the neighborhood—it’s a great fit,” says Klingensmith, a North Hills resident with a fondness for the South Hills. “We know a good location—it’s next to churches, within walking distance to Rollier’s, across the street from condos being constructed, and near a Marriott that's coming. That's all icing on the cake.”

Utilizing Cohen’s creativity, Pamela’s will be designed in the 1950s-era space-age Googie style. Its retro décor will feature amoeba-shaped lighting, orange and blue boomerang tabletops, vintage counters and framed fabric panels. Muralist Sandy Kessler-Kaminski is painting Pamela’s parachute cloth sign. Contractor is Advance Construction Services.

The restauranteurs have been received with open arms by the property owner and municipality. “I’ve received so many calls from people offering to help. They’re so enthusiastic—it makes this doable,” adds Klingensmith, who says Pamela’s employs 95 people. “We’ve grown one by one. We keep getting better. It’s fun to take your mistakes and not remake them.”

Pamela’s most popular items are specialty hotcakes and Tex-Mex omelets. New items such as sweet potato hash will be debuted in Mt. Lebanon.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Gail Klingensmith, Pamela's

Image courtesy Pamela's





Mt. Lebanon plans residential developments near transit, central business district

With funding from a Transit Revitalization Investment District (TRID) grant, Mt. Lebanon is completing a study of two development scenarios for sites surrounding its Washington Rd. T station.

Funded by a state grant of $75,000 to the Borough of Dormont and the Municipality of Mt. Lebanon, the study is being led by Allegheny County Economic Development in cooperation with Port Authority. The intergovernmental group is considering long-range plans for development surrounding light rail stations in the two neighborhoods.

“We’re taking advantage of an untapped asset we have in the T, and its proximity to our central business district. There’s a trend around the country of people moving back into urban centers,” says Mt. Lebanon’s commercial districts manager, Dan Woodske. “It calls for more high-density residential. It makes sense for people who work in Pittsburgh.”

Two development scenarios are under consideration. A low-density alternative would bring a 42-unit building, 11 townhouses and four lofts to Shady Dr. E. A high-density option calls for a 90-unit residential property above the T station, as well as nine levels of residential and 94,000 square feet of offices along Washington Rd.
   
“We’ve had preliminary interest from developers. The low-density plan gives us future options to see what the market will bear. We’ll make infrastructure improvements so we can sustain this type of development,” adds Mt. Lebanon planner, Keith McGill, who says the TRID project will be complemented by plans to bring an $11 million, 98-room hotel to the 600 block of Washington Rd. “The hotel is a constant. I don’t when the last hotel was built in the South Hills. It’ll be very fresh looking, in between Downtown and the airport.”

The third and final public meeting of the South Hills TRID planning study takes place on March 5 at 7:30 p.m. at Mt. Lebanon's municipal building. Project consultant DMJM Harris will discuss its findings and outline next steps for funding sources and an RFP. To read Mt. Lebanon's TRID study, go here.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Kevin Evanto and George Darakos, Allegheny County; Dan Woodske and Keith McGill, Mt. Lebanon

Image courtesy Mt. Lebanon Planning Department





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