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Grist House Brewing coming to Millvale this spring

If there’s one lesson Pittsburgh has taught the world, it’s that you can turn nearly anything into a brewery.

Expanding on that concept and adding to the resurgence in Millvale, Brian Eaton and Kyle Mientkiewicz, childhood friends who grew up in Erie, are working to open Grist House Brewing. But it’s not in an old church, nor is it in a garage.

Their space, located at 10 Sherman Street in Millvale, was built as a slaughterhouse in the mid-1950s and was functional through the 1970s. The old meat hook-and-trolley system still hangs from the ceiling above the space that will be the pub, and a large room off to the side lined with insulated glass block was used for refrigeration.

“We’re trying to keep it kind of rustic and industrial,” Eaton says, adding that some of the walls in the pub and part of the bar are made from wood taken from a 100-year-old barn on Mientkiewicz’s family farm in Sarver.

Grist House’s brewing system, which is due to arrive from Wisconsin next week, will include a 15-barrel capacity and four fermenters. Once they begin brewing, Grist House won’t just fill growlers and pint glasses in its on-site brewpub, they’ll also be distributing to local restaurants and bars. Eaton and Mientkiewicz are planning three year-round flagship beers: a hoppy American red ale, a brown ale and a light session pale ale called Gristful Thinking.

“We’ll have ten taps in the pub which will carry the year-rounds, and we’ll be doing seasonals and one-offs — whatever we feel like brewing, we’ll put on tap,” Eaton says.

The pub will seat about 45 people indoors with an additional 20 to 30 seats available on an adjacent outdoor deck.
“What we’re going for is a big open concept. If you’re sitting in the pub, you’re really going to feel like you’re inside the brewery,” Eaton says.

Eaton and Mientkiewicz have been working on the building for about nine months, and it’s impressively close to done, especially considering they’ve handled all the renovations — from electrical and plumbing to gas and heating — entirely themselves. Grist House tentatively plans to open in late April or early May.

You can follow Grist House’s progress on Facebook and Twitter.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Brian Eaton, Kyle Mientkiewicz

Local firm bringing hotels to Millvale and Connellsville

Last year, Millvale welcomed its first library. If all goes plan, this year will see construction begin on Millvale’s first hotel in recent memory.

Local firm Hotel d2 Services has partnered with the Millvale Borough Development Corporation and Cobblestone Hotels to get the project moving.

“We started working with Cobblestone about eight months ago, and they expressed a strong desire to enter the western Pennsylvania market,” says Hotel d2’s Chris Rosselot. “There’s a big market for 30-to-60 room hotels in this area.”

Hotels d2 has already reached an agreement with the MBDC on a site — on Evergreen Street, next to the Drai Laag Brewery — and retained the services of Bridgeville-based architectural firm JMAC. Hotels d2 and JMAC are close to breaking ground on another hotel in Connellsville, though they’ve yet to select a contracting firm for either project.

“The whole crux of this initiative is to have community ownership as well,” Rosselot says. “Our team is identifying community members who’d have interest in ownership. We don’t want to pull in some investor from California to  fund the whole thing.”

The Connellsville building will have 54 rooms and be located right near the Great Allegheny Passage. Rosselot says It will cater toward the recreational guest, while the Millvale hotel will have more urban feel.

“There isn’t one prototype,” he added.

Groundbreaking on the Millvale site, he added, could begin as soon as late spring or early summer if everything goes according to plan, and that the hotel is projected to open in mid-2015. Construction on the hotel in Connellsville could begin as soon as February with the Cobblestone Inn & Suites ready to open toward the end of 2014.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Chris Rosselot

Eat + Drink: A heavy dose of holiday spirits and more

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

Larkin leads the way on Allegheny River Libation Trail
It seems that craft breweries, distilleries and wineries just recently started popping up in Pittsburgh.

Well don’t look now, but there are 15 such independent producers along the Allegheny River corridor alone. That’s why Bill Larkin, who with his wife, Michelle, owns and operates Arsenal Cider House in Lawrenceville, is leading the charge in establishing the Allegheny River Libation Trail.

“I pulled everybody together from a certain geographical area and we just had a meeting,” Larkin said. “I think it’s remarkable that there are so many producers in such a small area. I think it’s something that should be exploited.”

The coalition’s first order of business will be to produce a brochure, highlighting all of its members and their proximity to one another. Larkin says that since a lot of the producers already support each other— many order their ingredients together in bulk to save on shipping costs — so this kind of cross-promotion makes sense.

Of the 15 breweries, distilleries and wineries in the neighborhoods along both sides of the Allegheny — from Millvale and Lawrenceville, all the way up through the Strip District and the North Side — 13 intend to participate in what Larkin views as a loose confederation of businesses.

“I don’t think anybody wants to make this an official organization,” he says. “We’re all pretty busy, and I don’t think anyone wants that kind of commitment.”
Stay Tuned Distillery opens in Munhall
One distillery you won’t find on the libation trail, simply by virtue of its location, is the Stay Tuned Distillery, which opened earlier this month.

Located at 810 Ravine Street in Munhall, Stay Tuned specializes in finishing whisky and gin made from spirits distilled at the Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville, Virginia. The local operation houses their rectification facilities, a retail shop and a tasting bar.

“We finish their rye and their single malt, and we make our own gin,” says co-owner LeeAnn Sommerfeld.

Though not yet available for sale, Stay Tuned’s PathoGin is made from a barley base and contains more citrus and floral flavors than most mass-market gins. Its rye and single malt whiskys will both be ready in time for the holiday shopping season.

Music at Marty's Market
The folks at Marty's Market are forever finding new ways to make use of their outstanding space. This Friday will mark the first installment of the Music at Marty's series, which will feature local Latin musician Geña. The event will run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and include music, freshly prepared Latin cuisine and a Q&A with the musician. Tickets are $15 and may be purchased on the market's website.
Cocktail viewing party
Hey Bartender,” Douglas Tirola’s documentary examining New York City’s craft cocktail culture through the eyes of two skilled mixologists, will screen tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Downtown’s Harris Theater as a part of the Three Rivers Film Festival.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Bill Larkin, LeeAnn Sommerfeld

Steel and moss mural and more for grand opening of first Millvale library

A hundred years ago, Millvale — which covers less than one square-mile across the Allegheny River from Lawrenceville — was home to nearly 8,000 people. It thrived and collapsed along with the industries of the region.

On Sunday, Millvale will take one giant step toward its revitalization when the doors open to the Millvale Community Library — the first public library in the borough’s 145-year history.

Millvale will celebrate with a day-long block party featuring food, live music, games and a ribbon-cutting ceremony.  The festivities will also include the unveiling of a new mural — made entirely of steel and moss, and featuring the word “imagine” with a silhouette of the Millvale skyline — on the side of an adjacent building the library owns.

The library, which will include print materials, digital resources, computer access and a full slate of community class offerings, will be open 30 hours a week and occupy a 2,400-square-foot space at 213 Grant Avenue.

“It’s really been a local community effort with a lot of regional tie-ins and support,” says Brian Wolovich, president of the library’s board of trustees, who has worked on the project since its inception in 2007. “Hopefully, we can use this to further capitalize the development and redevelopment of the neighborhood itself.”

The product of over 50,000 hours from more than 1,000 volunteers, the library received four years of fiscal sponsorship from startup supporter New Sun Rising before striking out on its own.

“There’s no manual on how to just start a library,” Wolovich says, adding that the non-profit worked closely with the Shaler North Hills Library, Allegheny County and design and architecture firm Pfaffmann + Associates to make the facility a reality. “We view the space as a community center as much as we do a library,” Wolovich says. “It’s an agent for positive change.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Brian Wolovich, Gianna Paniagua

Lots of Green Bike + Bus Tour now bigger and better and ending in a party

For the second straight year, Growth Through Energy + Community Health (GTECH) will host a BikeFest event highlighting neighborhood efforts to make Pittsburgh greener.

The Lots of Green Bike + Bus Tour, which will take place on August 10th, offer participants bike tours of seven and 32 miles, as well as the option of a 90-minute bus tour for those less inclined to ride.

To expand upon last year’s bike tour of new and innovative community green space, GTECH has partnered with Grow Pittsburgh to make the event even bigger.

“Most of the projects that will be highlighted are former vacant lots — spaces that have been transformed into community green spaces,” says GTECH’s Sara Innamorato.

The tours will begin at 9 a.m., and leave from GTECH’s offices at 6587 Hamilton Avenue.

“If you look at the route, a lot of the gardens are in neighborhoods with high levels of vacancy,” Innamorato says. “There are these green efforts happening in the community and there are people who really care about them and want to make them better.”

The tours include stops at community gardens and parks in city neighborhoods such as Garfield, Greenfield, the South Side, East Liberty, Homewood and Larimer, and areas just outside the city, including Braddock, Wilkinsburg, Homestead and Millvale.

When the tours conclude, participants will meet back up at GTECH’s offices for a party, featuring food from local vendors such as Marty’s Market, My Goodies Bakery and Rob’s Awesome Italian Ice, drinks from Commonplace Coffee, and beer donated by East End Brewing Company.

The Tech Shop will be on hand with a bike-themed demo, and Carnegie Library of Braddock’s Print Shop will be doing custom screen printing.

Tickets for Lots of Green are $10 and may be purchased through Showclix. For more on 2013 BikeFest, visit its website and check out Pop City’s expanded coverage.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Sara Innamorato

Award nominations sought for upcoming Community Development Summit

With the  Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG) celebrating 25 years at its upcoming Community Development Summit, the organization is currently seeking nominations for the awards ceremony portion of that event.

Categories include the Community Development Awards and the Neighborhood Leader Award in Memory of Bob O'Connor.

Community Development Awards are given to projects or programs that create a positive, lasting impact on the physical, social, or cultural fabric of a community, says Katie Hale, PCRG’s Neighborhood Policy Manager.

Recent winners include the Gardens of Millvale, a borough-wide greening initiative that includes land acquisition for community gardens, education outreach, and the engagement of over 300 volunteers.

Hale says the Gardens of Millvale has become “one of the most thriving community garden efforts in the region.”

Another recent Community Development winner is the Green+Screen streetscape beautification initiative of the Penn Avenue Arts District. A project of the Bloomfield Garfield Corporation, Green+Screen engages designers to use sustainable materials to “screen” the view of empty lots or parking lots.

And the Neighborhood Leader Award, given in memory of Bob O’Connor, recognizes an individual who exemplifies the late mayor’s dedication to neighborhood improvement.

The deadline for nominations is Friday, April 19th, and the awards ceremony will be held on May 21st.

The Community Development Summit will take places May 21-22nd, at the Omni William Penn Hotel, in Downtown Pittsburgh. The summit will include four mobile workshops, highlighting revitalization efforts in Pittsburgh neighborhoods, as well as several keynote speakers and networking events.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Katie Hale

Kayak Millvale to launch at Allegheny River, boat and bicycle rentals seven days a week

For a town whose name echoes the industry of its past, Millvale has made huge strides to transform polluted waterways into public amenities.  And on May 26th, when Kayak Millvale begins operating a kayak and bicycle rental facility, it will be that much easier for residents to access a cleaner, healthier Allegheny River.

Kayak Millvale, a project of Venture Outdoors, will have an initial fleet of 20 kayaks and 15 bikes available for rent, seven days a week.  Prices for one- and- two-person boats range from $15 to $20 an hour. 

Venture Outdoors operates two other kayak rental programs, one in North Park, and the North Shore-based Kayak Pittsburgh, which was launched in 2004.  Last year, the organization rented-out over 14,000 kayaks to paddlers on the Allegheny. 

According to Millvale Borough Council Vice President John Kelley, the boat rental program is just one of many upgrades coming to Millvale’s Riverfront Park and outdoor recreation areas.  An existing walk-in boat launch will soon be joined by new finger piers and a new dock for non-motorized boats, as well as additional facilities.

Kelley says Kayak Millvale is a great fit for the borough, and expects the service to become very popular.

“[Kayak Millvale] knows the river like the back of their hand,” he says.  “These guys were born to have their concession in this spot.”

The Millvale Borough Development Corporation and borough council approached Venture Outdoors about bringing their concession to the Riverfront Park.  Kelley says the town's current leadership is committed to improving the public's access to waterways, and increasing opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Jon Lucadomo, of Venture Outdoors, says his organization will start by offering a small fleet of boats while gauging the public's demand.

Kelley, himself a member of the Three Rivers Rowing Association, which also uses Millvale’s waterfront facilities, says paddling in the middle of the Allegheny is a “revelation.”

“It’s a completely different point of view,” he says.  “I just hope that everyone in Pittsburgh has a chance to come out and experience this.” 

Kayak Millvale will be located along the Allegheny River at Millvale Riverfront Park, River Front Drive, Millvale, PA 15209; open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to dusk; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to dusk.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  John Kelly; Jon Lucadomo, Venture Outdoors

Draai Laag brewery open in Millvale

The Pittsburgh region’s newest brewery aims to make and sell beer in the tradition of a small, European village.  For Draai Laag Brewing Co. that means offering small batches of high-quality, hand-crafted beers.

Although Draai Laag’s brewing team has been experimenting with recipes for over 14 years, it wasn’t until this past winter that they began distributing to local bars and restaurants.  And after installing a new tap system at the brewery (the first in Millvale since 1845), they’re selling growlers and cases every first and third Friday.

Draai Laag’s beers go through a triple fermentation process, which continues after bottling.  According to co-owner Sean Monaghan, the beers actually get better with age.

“I can drink it when it's still young, and they’re great,” he says.  “But I'll be candid, you lay them down, and they get even better.  They just mellow, and the quality just goes from there.”

Draai Laag is a modest, two-barrel system.  Currently on tap: the Aureus, and the Simon Girty. 

The Aureus (8.0% ABV) which is described as being "aromatic of fruit esters, citrus and underlying banana custard tones," is golden in color, and can be aged up to two years. 

The Simon Girty (8.0% ABV) is off-red in color, has fruit, spice and bubble gum aromas, with citrus and rum tones, and is finished with a hint of cocoa. 

Monaghan says his team wanted to make high-quality beer that would still be considered affordable.  One approach they have taken to achieve this is through self-distribution, which helps to keep re-sale costs lower.

Monaghan says the Millvale Boro Development Corporation has embraced the brewery, and were instrumental in not only bringing them into the community, but have assisted them throughout the opening process.

Draai Laag is available at a dozen regional locations, including Remedy, Brillobox, the Beerhive, and Vivo Kitchen.

The next chance to buy directly from the Draai Laag brewery is April 6th, from 6 to 9 p.m.  501 E. Ohio Street, Millvale.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Sean Monaghan

The Saxifrage School to bring new college experiment to Millvale

The Saxifrage School is on the move. With plans to launch a new, community-integrated college, the organization is seeking space in Millvale for their next storefront project set to begin later this summer.

Saxifrage founder Tim Cook says his group hopes to spark conversation within the community by activating an empty storefront, and demonstrating what that college could actually look like in Millvale.

"The best way to really get to know a place is to actually be there," Cook says.

The school would not have a traditional campus. Instead, classes would be taught in vacant spaces, churches, at coffee shops and bars. Cook says the project doesn't work without community buy-in.

"It's very much founded on the basis that it needs to be supported by all these partner organizations...and that's the only way that it will work," Cook says.

Saxifrage was most recently operating in the former Firewarters Saloon building across from PNC Park. The school is planning similar projects in the Northside and East End.

"If you think about higher education, you think about cathedrals of learning, and castle-like academic buildings," Cook says. "[But] higher education is not about the buildings, and it's not about the absurd cost, it's about actual student outcomes, people learning how to live well, work well, and change the world potentially."

By integrating into the community, the school hopes to limit tuition to around $5,000, offering a more affordable alternative to traditional colleges. The school is being founded, in part, as a response to rising costs in tuition and student debt.

Each Saxifrage student would pick two majors, one in the liberal arts tradition, and one in a more technical field, such as home building, organic gardening, or computer programming. Cook says the Saxifrage School hopes to better prepare students for success as well-rounded individuals with practical skills for everyday life.

"So theoretically then you graduate being a great communicator, and philosopher, and poet, but also know how to build a house," Cook says.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Tim Cook

Millvale community library construction to start soon; garden already in bloom

Millvale is now one step closer to having its first-ever community library.

Pfaffmann + Associates, architects for the Millvale library, submitted construction documents in March, and in mid-May, Millvale Library Project received code clearance to begin construction.

The movement to create Millvale's first library started in 2007. It is spearheaded by Millvale resident Brian Wolovich and New Sun Rising, a nonprofit organization Wolovich helped create after Hurricane Katrina that helps launch grassroots projects in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

The library project is supported by the Grable Foundation, Pittsburgh Foundation, Laurel Foundation, Sprout Fund, Give water, Pittsburgh Cares and a number of local churches, businesses, schools and individuals.

Starting in the summer of 2008, Wolovich -- a sixth grader teacher at Quaker Valley Middle School -- hosted a library summer program for about 300 local children at the Millvale Community Center, using volunteers and donated furnishing, computers and about 3,000 books for children and adults. The community kept the makeshift library running through December 2009, when Wolovich decided to shutter that short-term goal and focus on the ultimate goal: Getting the library up and running in its own independent space.

At the time, Wolovich and a core group of about 20 volunteer focused their efforts on purchasing and renovating a property in Millvale's business district -- 209-213 Grant Ave. The price was right, Wolovitch says, and it has something the organizers were looking for -- outside space for gardening.

Through the property construction was just approved, volunteers have been working on the garden for some time. Fruit trees have been provided by Soergel Orchards; five raised garden beds are currently being tended by community members; and students from Shaler Area High School have been working on creating a wetlands area.

The property also has space for residential (one apartment is already rented out and generating profit), and for a coffee shop down the line, which will provide additional income for the library. The library is also installing the infrastructure now to install solar panels on the roof in the future.

The circa 1870-building has been totally gutted, and is in the process of being reinforced so that the structure can support the weight of the 3,000 books, which are currently in storage. Wolovich says that completion of the project depends entirely on funding, but could happen as soon as the end of 2011.

"We'd like to do creative fundraising and share the partnership between the private and public sectors," says Wolovich. "The future for libraries and nonprofits in general is changing, and libraries need to change to reflect the changing needs of society."

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Brian Wolovich

Image courtesy of Millvale Library Project

Allegheny Grows: County initiative supports urban farming, community gardening

County Executive Dan Oronato has launched "Allegheny Grows," an initiative to encourage urban farming and community gardening on vacant lots and blighted properties throughout the region.

The program offers startup materials, as well as technical and educational assistance.

Nine municipalities will participate in the inaugural year. McKees Rocks and Millvale will create urban farms with the partnership of Grow Pittsburgh and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy; and Bridgeville, Elizabeth Borough, Millvale, Sharpsburg, Stowe Township, Swissvale, Tarentum and Verona will develop sunflower bioenergy gardens with GTECH Strategies.

Urban farms and community gardens offer a host of environmental, economic and social benefits, says Kevin Evanto with the County. Gardens can combat blight, cool urban areas and reduce runoff from rain and pollutants in the air. Additionally, explains Julie Butcher Pezzino with Grow Pittsburgh, "Gardens bring fresh produce to communities in the most simple way possible--by communities growing food themselves. They can save money on grocery bills and can supplement their incomes by selling their vegetables."

With $19,704 from the County, the McKees Rocks project will further expand the eight-bed farm already established in the Bottoms neighborhood by the McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation, Youth Advocate Programs and several borough residents. When completed, there will be a total of 15 vegetable beds.

With another $19,704 committed to Millvale, the County will work with the borough, Millvale Community Development Corporation and Allegheny River Towns Enterprise Zone to develop a brand-new farm of 15 raised beds on a cluster of vacant lots on Butler Street.

The County will provide between $4,000 and $5,000 to each Bridgeville, Elizabeth Borough, Millvale, Sharpsburg, Stowe Township, Swissvale, Tarentum and Verona for planting sunflower gardens on vacant lots in their business districts. With the assistance of GTECH Strategies, the communities will harvest the sunflowers to produce biofuel, and the sunflower seeds will be packaged and sold to the East End Food Co-Op and Whole Foods.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Kevin Evanto, Allegheny County; Julie Butcher Pezzino, executive director, Grow Pittsburgh

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

$3M Mon Wharf trail dedicated, Route 28 trail ready for construction

Pittsburgh's interconnected trail system is coming together with the completion and the construction of new portions along the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers.

On Monday, a 2,017-foot long stretch of riverbank between the Fort Pitt and Smithfield Street Bridges was dedicated as the Mon Wharf Landing. The $3 million project transformed parking spaces into a park with public riverfront access. The area features new lighting, seating and steps to the Monongahela River, as well as native shrubs and plants. The park was designed by South Side-based LaQuatra Bonci Associates to withstand flooding, and construction was overseen by Pittsburgh-based Clearwater Construction.

The Mon Wharf Landing is the first phase of a project that will eventually connect Point State Park to the Eliza Furnace Trail and the Great Allegheny Passage.

"Right now it's a little island of a park," says Stephan Bontrager with Riverlife. "But for the cycling community, patience is going to pay off. This trail will eventually lead to Washington, D.C."

Support for the project was provided in part by Riverlife, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, PennDOT, the K. Mabis McKenna Foundation, the Heinz Endowments and the Richard King Mellon Foundation.

Additionally, Friends of the Riverfront announced this week that construction is starting on new section of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail as part of PennDOT's Route 28 East Ohio Street Improvement Project. The half-mile segment will offer users a dedicated trail corridor along the Allegheny Riverfront between Pittsburgh and Millvale.

To complete this $2.8 million segment, Friends of the Riverfront is partnering with the City of Pittsburgh and PennDOT. Funding has been provided by PennDOT through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, Federal Earmarks, Laurel Foundation, the Heinz Endowments and membership support from Friends of the Riverfront.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Stephan Bontrager, director of communications, Riverlife; Thomas E. Baxter, executive director, Friends of the Riverfront

Before and after photographs of the Mon Wharf Landing courtesy of Riverlife

GTECH gardens vacant lots, creates green jobs for students

Now in its third year of operation, GTECH Strategies is revitalizing Pittsburgh's vacant lots and brownfields through bioenergy gardens, and cultivating a green workforce in the region.

The nonprofit plants crops, generally sunflowers, which transforms unused land into community spaces, improves soil quality and produces oil for biofuels. GTECH has not yet produced enough oil to sell commercially, but is looking to increase output and sell its product to local vendors in the future, says Chris Koch with GTECH.

GTECH, which stands for Growth Through Energy & Community Health, is doubling its neighborhood acreage this season. Previously, the nonprofit converted about 12 acres of vacant land in the region, with six of those in Hazelwood's 180-acre Almono Brownfield, and six in neighborhoods such as East Liberty, Lawrenceville and Larimer.

This spring, GTECH planted in New Orleans, its first activity outside the region. New project investments this summer include: 500 Jeanette St. in Wilkinsburg, where GTECH planted on half a 10,000 square-foot site being developed by Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation; and a two-acre site at Fifth Avenue and Jumonville Street in Uptown. Additionally, GTECH is in talks to plant in Millvale and Homewood.

Through a partnership with the Student Conservation Association, GTECH will create 12 jobs this summer, a continuation of last year's pilot program. GTECH also partners with Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board on a Green Jobs Advisory Board that brings together between 20 and 30 groups on a monthly basis.

"In the past two years, a green workforce has gone from an unknown concept to something at the forefront of a federal mandate," says Andrew Butcher with GTECH. "The more people exposed to sustainable education, training and experience, the more this sector will continue to grow."

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Chris Koch, COO, and Andrew Butcher, CEO, GTECH

Image courtesy GTECH Strategies

Allegheny Riverfront takes shape with selection of Perkins Eastman design team

A master plan designed to link the Allegheny Riverfront with ten city neighborhoods is one step closer to fruition.

On March 12—after reviewing 24 submissions culled during an RFP process—the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) board selected a team led by Perkins Eastman to craft a comprehensive plan for a key portion of the underutilized riverfront.

Targeting a 6.45-mile segment of the Allegheny’s southeast bank—stretching from the Convention Center to Highland Park—the project's goal is to transform inaccessible riverfront land into a series of interrelated districts. Work on the $350,000 project will take approximately 12 months. The resulting blueprint will serve as a model for the city’s comprehensive riverfront master plan, slated for completion in 2010.

One of Pittsburgh’s most underutilized riverfront stretches, the area also extends through Lawrenceville, Morningside and a portion of the Northside. Characterized by long parcels of flat land with direct river access and adjacent residential communities, the riverfront currently houses distribution, parking and industrial uses. The master plan will also address ecological concerns, community engagement, economic development activities, and land use and transit recommendations.

Perkins Eastman—a firm with local and international experience in urban design and planning—was unanimously selected by a steering committee consisting of staff from the URA, Department of City Planning, and Riverlife, along with property owners, developers, and community representatives. The multi-disciplinary design team also includes firms with expertise in market assessment, environmental and infrastructure planning, and traffic and transit analysis. 

The team is expected to make recommendations for sustainable design practices, walkable infrastructure, stormwater management, and on-site energy production.

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Megan Stearman, Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh

Allegheny Valley Community Trail to connect 17 municipalities, receives $25K grant

A major new 32-mile trail iniative, which will connect 17 municipalities with the City of Pittsburgh, is underway along the Allegheny River.

Expanding the outdoor amenities of Allegheny County, which is close to completing the Great Allegheny Passage along the Monongahela River, the Allegheny Valley Trail will tie into the Pittsburgh-to-Harrisburg Mainline Canal Greenway, which follows the 320-mile path of the historic Pennsylvania Mainline Canal, as well as the Erie-to-Pittsburgh Greenway.
A coalition of municipalities, trail groups and greenway advocates will build the continuous riverfront trail, which is designed to expand recreational and economic development opportunities throughout the Allegheny Valley. Allegheny County Economic Development, Friends of the Riverfront and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council will provide staff support.

The Allegheny Valley Community Trail Initiative will help to coordinate planning, fundraising and construction to complete trail links between Millvale and Harrison Twp. Trail connections are already underway in a number of participating communities. The Three Rivers Heritage Trail has been completed in Millvale, O’Hara Township has built the 5-mile Squaw Valley Riverfront Trail, and Sharpsburg and Harrison Twp. have begun trail planning and construction.

The project has received a $25,000 grant from the St. Margaret Foundation to cover construction expenses. Kevin Evanto with Allegheny County says that Friends of the Riverfront has just issued an RFP for a portion of the trail work, which is now in the assessment and planning phase. Additional partners include the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, Pennsylvania Environmental Council, Allegheny River Towns Enterprise Zone, and Fox Chapel District Association.

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Kevin Evanto, Allegheny County

Image courtesy Allegheny County
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