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Regionalism : Development News

10 Regionalism Articles | Page:

Transit-oriented development breaks ground in Homewood, part of Bridging the Busway plan

Construction has begun on a transit-oriented development (TOD) in Homewood that kicks-off implementation of Bridging the Busway, a community-driven plan aimed at revitalizing the neighborhood.  Homewood Station Senior Apartments will be 41-units of independent senior apartments, and is just the first project in a multi-phased redevelopment plan.

The current $10 11.5 million, four-story development is adjacent to the East Busway’s Homewood Station, is developed by Oxford Development and S&A Homes, and designed by Rothschild Doyno Collaborative.  With an anticipated completion date of December 2013, it will include ground floor commercial space for neighborhood businesses, as well as a café.
Bridging the Busway Plan

Completed last April, Bridging the Busway has set out four main goals: to celebrate the East Busway and TOD as neighborhood strengths; build on existing assets; ensure investments enhance the lives of residents and business owners; and to leverage the relative health of Point Breeze North to help stabilize Homewood.

The result was to think of Homewood Avenue more holistically, says Christine Brill, of Studio for Spatial Practice (SSP).  Brill co-managed the Bridging the Busway planning process, and consultant team.  

“Homewood was kind of the core focus of the project, but everybody recognized that we needed to work with the surrounding communities,” Brill says.  “That busway stop is the hub and the catalytic point between Homewood and Point Breeze North.”

Homewood’s assets—including the Afro-American Music Institute and historic Carnegie Library—don’t stop at the busway, and can have a regional draw, Brill says.  The East End Food Co-Op and Westinghouse Park, for example, are assets that span neighborhoods, and include Homewood.

And while cities throughout the country are working to increase development around light-rail and bus rapid transit, Brill says, “we already have it, but we have vacant land all around it.  So what can we do to harness the potential of what’s around there, and do something that really helps people who live there?”

Source: Christine Brill, Studio for Spatial Practice
Writer: Andrew Moore

Crested Duck Charcuterie to expand, USDA certification in Beechview

Crested Duck Charcuterie, the Beechview-based meat market and deli, is expanding to become a USDA certified facility.  The planned upgrades will allow the French-inspired charcuterie to ship out of state, and supply large chains such as Giant Eagle.  And according to owner Kevin Costa, it will also be an opportunity for him to give back to the region’s small-scale farmers.

“The small farmers have made my business what it is,” Costa says.  “They have supported me and supplied me with a really good, quality product.  So if I can help them out I don’t know why I wouldn’t.”

According to Costa, there are just a few USDA certified processing facilities in the region.  He says they’re not always easy to work with, nor do they give farmers many options in terms of gourmet products.

Costa says farmers are losing customers because they can’t provide certain custom cuts and higher-end products, especially around the holidays.  He hopes that with the new certification, Crested Duck can help to meet that need.

The shop will offer farmers a full range of nitrate-free meats, including bacon, sausage made with farm-grown produce and many other specialty cuts and orders.  Although similar products are already offered through Crested Duck, the certification will expand the shop’s capacity and distribution means. 

In order to complete the necessary upgrades, Costa launched a Kickstarter campaign that was successfully funded last month.  In addition to USDA certification, the campaign will aid in expansion of its Beechview retail service, including a new Sunday brunch and occasional evening dinners.

Crested Duck also remains a mainstay at the Strip District’s Pittsburgh Public Market.  412-892-9983.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Kevin Costa

MOVEPGH transportation priorities released today; final public Green Boulevard meeting

After a year of compiling public input, the City of Pittsburgh is today releasing its priorities for MovePGH.  Once completed, it will be the City’s first ever 25-year transportation plan.

A list of transportation and mobility priorities will be announced during a series of Prioritization Workshops throughout the city beginning today at 1 p.m.  Mayoral spokesperson Joanna Doven says the meetings will be used to educate the public on the ranking process.

“We’ll also explain what can be gained by investing in bicycle-pedestrian transit infrastructure improvements,” Doven says.  She adds that earlier models which enable faster, more efficient movement of automobiles often do so at the expense of other modes of transportation.  

City Planning and a team of consultants compiled a list of projects suggested by the public, as well as projects proposed by other regional partners and stakeholders.  Those projects were then evaluated for various levels of effectiveness, and ran through the Southwest Pennsylvania Commission’s Regional Travel Demand model.

Now that the projects have been ranked, funding will emerge as a key issue.  But Doven says the City’s future blueprint—PLANPGH, Pittsburgh’s first ever comprehensive plan—will help attract key partnerships and funding sources.

“Your ability to get outside dollars greatly improves when you show you have a vision and a plan,” she says.  “And we’ll have that.”

Also in planning news, next Thursday, November 15th, the URA will host its final public meeting regarding the Allegheny Riverfront Green Boulevard.  The planned corridor is exploring connecting Highland Park to downtown via a bike-pedestrian path, and a potential commuter rail serving the greater Allegheny Valley.

Also part of the Green Boulevard plan is a new riverfront development in Lawrenceville, between 43rd and 48th Streets, which would include a mix of townhomes and multi-unit buidlings.

The final Green Boulevard meeting will e held at the Teamster Temple, 4701 Butler Street, from 6 to 8 p.m.

MovePGH Prioritization Workshops will begin today at 1 p.m. , at the Kaufmann Center on 1825 Centre Avenue, and 6 p.m. at the Carnegie Library, East Liberty Branch, 130 S. Whitfield Street.  For more information, and for tomorrow’s meeting locations, click here.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Joanna Doven

Great Allegheny Passage near complete, final segments underway

The Great Allegheny Passage is almost complete, and a groundbreaking ceremony was held this weekend to celebrate the construction of the trail’s final two segments.

The trail is a 141 mile car-free route for cyclists and hikers running from Homestead, PA to Cumberland, Maryland.  In Cumberland the GAP joins the C&O Canal Towpath, which together creates a continuous, 325-mile long trail from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C.

Saturday’s ceremony was held at Sandcastle Waterpark, where a new segment will be built along the amusement park’s interior road, at the rear of the park.  The new segment will be separated from vehicular traffic.

The final segment will be built on a former railroad spur on land that had until recently belonged to Keystone Iron and Metal.  Friends of the Riverfront (FOR) had worked with Keystone to develop a land-swap deal that was necessary to fill this final void in the trail.

“They’ve been a great partner for a very long time and it was a pleasure working with them now and into the future,” says Thomas Baxter, FOR executive director.

Baxter expects the two segments to be complete sometime next year in late spring or early summer.  Once complete, a trail party will be held to commemorate the occasion.  Baxter says a date will be announced soon.

“It’s a monumental undertaking, but thankfully, through a lot of dedicated people it’s finally all coming together,” Baxter says.

The Great Allegheny Passage has been a work in progress for the past 30 years.  In 1995 the Allegheny Trail Alliance was formed, a coalition of regional trail organizations that includes the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, the Steel Valley Trail Council, Mountain Maryland Trails, and more.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source: Thomas Baxter

Allegheny River Green Boulevard plan moving forward, Strip and Lawrenceville redevelopment

The Allegheny River Green Boulevard is beginning to take shape.  At last week's public meeting, project leaders unveiled specific information about the corridor's future, including a detailed six-mile bicycle/pedestrian path alignment.

The uninterrupted bicycle path is set to run along  Allegheny Valley Railroad's freight corridor between Lawrenceville and the Strip.  

But while AVR continues to pursue commuter rail service in this area, Green Boulevard leaders want to move some aspects of the project forward sooner rather than later.

"We'd love to see new transit options in there, but we also want to move some elements of the plan forward before that," says Lena Andrews, URA senior planning specialist.  "We don’t want to wait for that to happen."

At the meeting, consultants presented test scenarios for Lawrenceville's 43rd Street master plan, which included passive recreation space along the river between 43rd and 48th Streets and a mix of riverfront townhomes and multi-unit buildings.

In the Strip District, consultants recommend future developments to include a 95-foot setback from the river.

Andrews says community members in attendance were supportive of the boulevard project, particularly for the bicycle/pedestrian trail and commuter rail options, but also were eager to see improvements in storm water infrastructure.

Possible funding sources for the project were discussed, and included special assessment districts, tax increment financing, corporate sponsorship, and contributions from foundations.

Andrews says another possibility for making the project financially feasible is to reduce the development's parking requirement.

A reduced parking requirement should make sense for the Green Boulevard.  One of the project’s goals is to reduce the city’s dependence on automobiles by increasing transit options and by providing a safe and direct bicycle corridor.

"It makes a huge amount of sense, and that's the point of building all this new infrastructure…to enable people to live a little less dependently on the automobile,” Andrews says.  “To have a district where the parking requirement is a little bit lower, that not only has benefits for the environment but it makes it cheaper to build, too."

The last public forum will be held later this year in November.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Lena Andrews, URA

Phipps' Center for Sustainable Landscapes opens today, to be greenest building in the world

Today is the grand opening of the Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL), a building that promises to be one of the greenest in the world.  The CSL is a research, education, and administrative complex, and meets the three highest green building standards: The Living Building Challenge; LEED Platinum; and the SITES landscape rating system.

The complex is the centerpiece of the latest phase in a $20 million, multi-year expansion project underway at Phipps to upgrade and expand its facilities with an emphasis on green and sustainability.  While planning the project, Phipps accepted the Living Building Challenge issued by the U.S. Green Building Council, an attempt to raise the bar and define a closer measure of true sustainability in the built environment.

“In a way this building marks the end of a journey we've been on to really discover and learn about the most effective ways to build and operate our buildings, to be more in harmony and in tune with the environment,” says Richard Piacentini, executive director at Phipps.

According to Piacentini, the Living Building Challenge is a new benchmark that goes far beyond LEED Platinum, requiring that buildings are net-zero energy; that all water is captured and treated on site; and that many commonly-used but toxic materials are not used in construction.

The SITES system, a LEED-style rating for landscapes, is also new.  The CSL is a pilot for that program, and the center is expected to be the first in the world to achieve all three ratings.

Piacentini says the opening also marks the beginning of a new journey, as the center is developing a research program to understand how people learn about the environment and what motivates changes in behavior, based on environmental psychology.

While planning and developing the center, Phipps prioritized working with Pittsburgh- and Pennsylvania-based architects and engineers.  It was their goal to celebrate the talent and leadership of the region.

“It’s one of the greenest buildings in the world and we're going to be able to say that it was designed and built by people right here in Pittsburgh,” he says.

Today's gala is the official grand opening, and the center will be open for public tours in June.  Click here for a Pop City slideshow of the newly completed CSL.

Phipps Conservatory, One Schenley Park, 15213, 412-622-6914.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Richard Piacentini

Best Practices from Chicago metro planning at Design Excellence lecture

Want to learn about successful strategies for progressive regional collaboration and promoting civic engagement in public planning? On Monday April 4, The Community Design Center of Pittsburgh (CDCP) will host Chicago Metropolitan Planning Council president MarySue Barrett in their Design Excellence Lecture Series. 

"While typically in our series we've had more of a discussion about architecture and design, this one will be more about the process of municipal change and metropolitan planning," says Kate McGlynn, director of community programs for the CDCP.

The Metropolitan Planning Council is a non-profit organization founded in Chicago in 1934, which promotes community-focused, regionally collaborative approaches to sustainable urban growth and improved low-income housing situations. President since 1996, Barrett has a track record of utilizing data in order to advocate and provide technical assistance for sustainable development initiatives and public-private partnerships.

"Following her talk will be a panel discussion with local folks, and that's really where we bring the conversation back to Pittsburgh," says McGlynn. The panelists leading the discussion include Steve Craig, chairman of Lawrence County Commissioners and secretary treasurer of Southwest Planning Commission, and Doug Heuck, executive director of Pittsburgh Today. Anne-Marie Lubenau, president of the CDCP, is the third panelist. The conversation will be moderated by Jim Denova, vice president of The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

The lecture will take place Monday, April 4 from 6-8 p.m. at Point Park University's George Rowland Theater, located at 414 Wood Street in Downtown Pittsburgh.  Tickets are $20 and can be purchased here.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Kate McGlynn, CDCP

Image courtesy of CDCP

Monroeville a hub with 191-room Doubletree Hotel, $16.2M green Convention Center

Monroeville, which lost its sprawling ExpoMart and Radisson Hotel complex last year, is back with a new convention center/hotel campus. The facilities are located just off the Pennsylvania Turnpike, next to the Monroeville Mall.

The $16.2 million Monroeville Convention Center opened in September 2009 in the former Wickes furniture store building. Developed by Oxford Development Co., the 100,000-square-foot facility was designed specifically for small- to medium-sized conventions and trade shows. It accommodates as many as 5,400 visitors, features 1,800 free parking spaces, a state-of-the-art sound system and Wi-Fi capabilities, and includes green elements such as energy-efficient heating and cooling systems and a white roof that reflects sunlight.

Just a few steps from the Convention Center is the Doubletree Hotel, which hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week. The 320-room Radisson, which closed in November 2008, was completely renovated, and one of its towers was demolished, to create the 191-room Doubletree. All public spaces were redone, safety upgrades were made, and the hotel's decor was updated. The Doubletree also features a Share Wine Lounge & Small Plate Bistro on its first floor. The restaurant serves eclectic American cuisine and more than 30 wines by the glass.

The Doubletree was developed by Oxford Development Co., and is managed by Davidson Hotel Company, which also manages the Convention Center. Hotel project costs were around $16 million.

"One of our goals is to support the entire Monroeville community," says Craig Bollman with the Doubletree and Convention Center. "We have a lot of future events we're working on. By keeping the center busy, we're keeping revenue coming through the entire community of Monroeville."

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Craig Bollman, director of sales, Doubletree Pittsburgh/Monroeville Convention Center

Photograph courtesy Doubletree Pittsburgh/Monroeville Convention Center

$40M re-designation of I-376 puts southwestern PA on the map

Thanks to a $40 million conversion of 64 miles of roadway, Interstate 376 now officially extends through four counties--from the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Monroeville, in Allegheny County, to Interstate 80 in Mercer County.

The I-376 corridor now links between I-80, Pittsburgh International Airport, Downtown and the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The roadway was previously designated as three different routes: I-279, U.S. Route 22/30 and PA Route 60. New I-376 placards have started to be installed along the entire Route 60 corridor, and signs currently covered in Beaver County will be uncovered in coming months.

In a written statement, Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, says this re-designation is, "one more important step in putting southwestern Pennsylvania on the map for more business investment."

"When businesses are looking to expand or move here, one of the first considerations is transportation access," he says. "[The re-designation] will help move the Pittsburgh region onto the lists of site selection consultants and other business investment decision-makers. Our region already has a great position on that map--within 500 miles of almost half of the U.S. and Canadian population--and the extended I-376 is one more way to reach both that market and that potential workforce. "

Though this re-designation has been part of a 15-year-long effort, work to really push the change came together in 2002, Yablonsky says, when the Allegheny Conference commissioned a study to identify key barriers the Pittsburgh region needs to address to attract more business investment, particularly in the Airport Corridor. The conclusion? Businesses want to be along an interstate.

Interstate designation was subsequently made a top priority by the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce and the Tri-County Airport Partnership, which resulted in legislation passing in 2005 that supported the I-376 re-designation.

The re-designation was celebrated Fri., Nov. 6 with an event attended by PennDOT Secretary Allen Biehler and federal, state and local officials, in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Dennis Yablonsky, CEO, Allegheny Conference on Community Development; Jim Struzzi, press officer, PennDOT

Photograph courtesy of PennDOT

Hostel territory: Group works to bring affordable travel lodging to city

Pittsburgh attracts about 4 million visitors a year, and many of these visitors are looking for affordable accommodations.

Most hotels cost about $100 a night, says Katherine Camp, which can be a lot for budget-conscious travelers. These travelers used to have the option of checking into the Pittsburgh International Hostel, in the city's Allentown neighborhood, but that facility closed in 2003 due, in part, to problems with its size (too large) and location (too far removed from hotspots).

The Pittsburgh Hostel Project is trying to bring back the hostel option. Led by Camp (a planner at East Liberty Development, Inc.), her fellow CORO classmate Tony Lodico, Sarah Papperman and Venture Outdoors program coordinator Lora Woodward, the organization formed about a year ago with the mission to "provide high-quality, community-oriented accommodations, allowing budget-minded travelers to enjoy Pittsburgh." The Pittsburgh Hostel Project held a successful fundraiser at the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern in July 2009, and has more than 600 Facebook fans. But it's still trying to find its footing regarding what the organization should look like, and more importantly, what the hostel should look like and where it should be.

"A hostel is a lagging, not leading, indicator of a successful young neighborhood," says group organizer Lodico. Allentown, therefore, many not have been the best spot for such a facility, but Lawrenceville or the Strip District--with their bustling nightlife and easy access to public transportation--could be.

The group hosted a potluck Sunday night to encourage dialogue and find new directions. About a dozen participants attended, ranging from group organizers, to developers pitching properties and strategies, to Burgh-based travel junkies offering up anecdotes and suggestions for the kind of place they'd want to stay.

What emerged over shared cookies, pie and pita was the idea that a hostel offers a very unique service to a city. It attracts a different kind of traveler (one who'd be more eager to try an Iron City at Gooski's than a martini as Olive or Twist, perhaps), and through its communal spaces, it engages these travelers in different kinds of conversations than those most hotel-goers have with their concierge.

Most mid-size Rust Belt cities, with the exception of Cleveland, do not have hostels, the Pittsburgh Hostel Project organizers say, so it could be up to Pittsburgh to lead the way.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Katherine Camp, Tony Lodico and Sarah Papperman, Pittsburgh Hostel Project

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

10 Regionalism Articles | Page:
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