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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Court Gould

Schenley Drive to get skinny; Panther Hollow watershed restoration

Schenley Drive is going on a diet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Erin Copeland

Conflict Kitchen's new home is Oakland; new expanded menu

Conflict Kitchen has a new home in Oakland's Schenley Plaza. The take-out restaurant, which only serves cuisine from countries that the United States is in conflict with, will begin serving an expanded menu from its new kiosk location on April 1st.

Co-director Jon Rubin says earlier plans to move downtown fell through because of changes in the Golden Triange's rental market. But he sees a strong future in the Oakland location, with its proximity to universities, libraries, and the plaza's own seasonal cultural offerings.

While they've lost interior space that a downtown location could have offered, Rubin believes they've made up for it in high-quality public space.

"It's really Pittsburgh's only public plaza," he says, in terms of a large, relaxed, multi-use space.

The eatery is planning weekend dinners and other special events to be held at the plaza. Conflict Kitchen joins other take-out kiosk businesses and The Porch at Schenley.

At the original East Liberty location, Conflict Kitchen had served Cuban, Venezuelan, and Afghani cuisine, among others, but offerings were limited to one or two items under each incarnation. At the new location the menu has been expanded to 10 to 12 items.

Conflict Kitchen will serve its Iranian menu through June, in recognition of that nation's summer elections. Items include the ground beef kebab Kabab-e Kubideh; Kookoo Sabzi, an egg frittata served on nan; and Khoresht-e Fesenjan, pomegranate and walnut chicken on stead rice.

Plans for future concepts include North and South Korean, as well an Israel-Palestine version of the project.

Hours will be 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.
 

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Jon Rubin

Luxury apartments recommended for reuse of former Schenley High School in Oakland

Luxury apartments may be in store for the historic former Schenley High School in Oakland.

The recommended proposal calls for a $36.9 million renovation that would create 175 apartments and a fitness center, making use of an existing gym.

Fourth River Development recently released its recommendation to sell the building to PMC/Schenley HSB Associates for $5.2 million. Fourth River was hired by the Pittsburgh Public Schools to manage the marketing and bidding of the former high school.

Fourth River’s Pat Morosetti says the panel review committee did a full evaluation of all proposals, and PMC’s stood above all the rest.

“The benefits to the community we believe stood above and beyond the others,” he says. “They’re a very focused group with a strong business model proven in the Pittsburgh market, and we expect nothing but the same from them with the proposed Schenley redevelopment."

The school board is expected to vote on the proposal on February 27th, while reserving the right to reject any bids. A public comment meeting will be held on February 25th, at 6:00 p.m., at the board's headquarters on Bellefield Avenue in Oakland.

PMC Property Group was the highest bidder. In 2011, the company had successfully bid for the same building for $2 million, and was then the lone bidder for the project. Recently, PMC successfully converted the former Verizon building, in Downtown, into apartments and the City Charter High School.

Other proposals include Kossman Development Co. and Provident Charter School, at $4.6 million with 115 units of housing and a charter school for 336 dyslexic children; AWSVPA/Edward Alexei, $4.1 million, creating the Andy Warhol School of Visual and Performing Arts; Ralph A. Falbo Inc. and Beacon Communities Development, $4 million, 123 market-rate apartments.

 
Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Pat Morosetti

GoBurgh releases transit-oriented development study, road map for advancing region's transit

A new study was released last week making the case for transit-oriented development (TOD) in the Pittsburgh region.

GoBurgh’s Chris Sandvig says the new report offers a clear strategy for advancing TOD, a type of development he calls an economic engine where investments should be made. His organization’s previous reports have offered ideas on why TOD is important; now they’re showing how it can be done.

Founded in 2009, GoBurgh is a non-partisan transit advocacy organization, and is part of the Regional Policy program of the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG).

The report offers a county-wide framework for understanding where key TOD opportunities exist, an implementation system, as well as important actions to be taken, including policy changes.

Sandvig hopes the study can help direct public policy in Allegheny County, as well as educate the region’s developers about the benefits of TOD and the current opportunities that exist.

Recommendations include modifying transit station design and system operations; addressing gaps in funding availability for small- to mid-size infrastructure improvements; and offering a consistent source of funds for station area visioning and planning.

The study was conducted by the Center for Transit-Oriented Development (CTOD) and commissioned by the PCRG under the auspices of its GoBurgh initiative.  It was funded by the Heinz Endowments.

“Coming from a national organization that works with many cities and regions to achieve TOD, I think Pittsburgh can be a model for other places trying to maximize the potential of their current transit networks,” said Abigail Thorne-Lyman, Director of CTOD, in a statement.

 
Writer: Andrew Moore
Source:  Chris Sandvig

Eat + Drink: Nicky's Thai Kitchen, Sinful Sweets, Rose Tea Cafe, and The Grateful Deli

Eat + Drink is Pop City's roundup of Pittsburgh's food scene.


Since our last update on Nicky’s Thai Kitchen, one of the Northside’s most popular restaurants, its second location has opened in Downtown Pittsburgh.

The interior is decorated with artwork and statues from Thailand, an atmosphere manager Dave Brunner says is like a Thai art gallery.  The space, originally built for a bank, had most recently housed a pizza shop and art gallery.

Unlike the original Northside location, the downtown restaurant will not be BYOB.  But while the full-service bar is still under development patrons are welcome to bring their own alcohol without any corkage fee.

The new restaurant is open for dinner seven days a week, as well as lunch Monday through Saturday.  Reservations are available for Friday, Saturday and Sunday dinner service.  903 Penn Avenue.  412-471-THAI (8424).

Sinful Sweets Chocolate Company has also recently opened in the space adjacent to Nicky’s, at 901 Penn Avenue.  Owned by chocolatier Christopher George, the shop sells a variety of handmade, gourmet chocolates.  Open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday.  412-235-7865

- Rose Tea Café is opening a second location on Oakland’s Craig Street (414 S. Craig Street).  The original Squirrel Hill location (5874 Forbes Avenue) is well known for its Taiwanese cuisine, considered to be among the best in Pittsburgh.  The new location replaces a former mail store which closed last year.  412-421-2238.

- The Grateful Deli & Catering Company has opened at the intersection of Penn Avenue and Main Street, one block from the Children’s Hospital.  The deli offers hoagies, soup, salad, pizza, and more.  It replaces a portion of the former Sammy's Famous Corned Beef.  4065 Penn Avenue.  412-682-8000.
 

Writer:  Andrew Moore

Eat + Drink: Inca Peruvian downtown; D.Jís Butcher Block; La Palapa Mexican Cuisine; and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City's roundup of Pittsburgh's food scene.


•  AJ's Inca Peruvian Restaurant opened this week in Downtown Pittsburgh at 500 Liberty Avenue.  Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken is the star here, along with a variety of other Peruvian dishes.  The restaurant is located in the former Cuzamil space, just outside Market Square.  Open Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday, noon to 8 p.m.  412-642-6606.

•  In North Oakland, Legume has re-launched its adjoining bar space under the name Butterjoint.  The word refers to a type of brickwork masonry known for its simplicity and elegance.  Chef Trevett Hooper says it’s a metaphor for how food is prepared at Legume, and now at Butterjoint.

Hooper says the redesigned bar menu—with fare such as pierogies and burgers— now offers substantial meals at a lower price than in the restaurant.  He hopes it will allow Legume’s loyal customers to visit more frequently.  It’s the same quality meat and produce, he says, just with a more straightforward preparation.

The space itself has been reconfigured to provide a more comfortable dining experience.  A weekly variety show, featuring music, comedy, spoken word and magicians, is held on Tuesdays.  And bar manager Will Groves was brought on to revamp the beer and cocktail menu.  214 North Craig Street.  412.621.2700.

•  D.J.’s Butcher Block Specialty Sausage and Meats opened recently in Bloomfield, a small storefront shop offering fresh, cured, and smoked sausage, grass-fed beef, as well as local chicken and turkey.

For the past three years, owner/butcher D.J. Smulick, a former chef at Café Sam, has offered products at various farmers markets.  Smulick sources a majority of meats from local vendors, and seeks to offer high quality products that remain affordable. 

D.J’s also stocks a small selection of local cheese, eggs, pickles, mustards and jellies.  Smulick doesn’t want to become a grocery store, he says, rather he’s just offering a few products that complement the meats.  4623 Liberty Avenue.  412-621-3100.

Also in Bloomfield, multiple sushi restaurants have opened, including Ginza (412-688-7272), at 4734 Liberty Avenue.  And more recently, Fukuda Sushi, which is BYOB, opened in the former Stagioni storefront, at 4770 Liberty Avenue.  And on Sundays, Chef Matt Kemp offers an evening menu at East Liberty’s AVA Lounge.  412-377-0916.

•  La Palapa Mexican Cuisine is the latest food purveyor to join the growing list of vendors at the Strip District’s Pittsburgh Public Market.  Friday through Sunday La Palapa will offer a variety of tamales, quesadillas chilangas, chiles rellenos, frijoles charros, enchiladas, and desserts including flan.    412-992-7206.

Also in the Strip, the Thin Man Sandwich Shop is opening soon at 50 21st Street, in the former 21st Street Coffee and Tea location.  Owners and chefs Dan and Sherri Leiphart have previously worked at Isabela on Grandview, the former Le Pommier, and Lidia's Pittsburgh.  The Leipharts are aiming to bring their classically trained experience to a more relaxed and casual atmosphere. 

•  Wilkinsburg has been a dry borough for the past 80 years.  But now, the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation (WCDC) is pushing for a ballot referendum to allow liquor licenses in the community.  It’s cited as a tool for economic development, as alcohol sales could help draw hotels, fine dining, and other entertainment options to the borough.  Visit WCDC’s website to learn more.

 
Writer:  Andrew Moore     

Mansions on Fifth celebrates grand opening as 22-room boutique hotel

The Mansions on Fifth, a 22-room boutique hotel, celebrated a grand opening yesterday along with the complete restoration of the McCook Reed House. It’s the culmination of a seven year historic restoration process that has given new life to a pair of unique Pittsburgh homes.

Mary Del Brady, who owns the Mansions with husband Richard Pearson, says they are eager to share these historic spaces with the community.

“We feel more like stewards than owners,” Brady says.

The homes, which are Elizabethan Revivalist and Tudor styles, were built between 1900 and 1906 by industrialist and lawyer Willis F. McCook on what was then Millionaires Row.  According to Brady, McCook also helped build the nearby St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The buildings’ most recent owners vowed to only sell to someone who would restore them.  Pearson, a developer and preservationist, had long admired the mansions. When they went up for sale, he and Brady jumped at the opportunity.

“You can’t ever rebuild a building like this again, and that’s the magic of it,” Brady says.

The hotel was restored consistent with Secretary of Interior standards.

The main McCook House, a 30,000-square-foot, solid granite structure, was opened to guests last year.  In addition to 13 guest rooms, this building contains most of the Mansions’ public rooms, including the grand hall and staircase, the Oak Room, library, as well as a wine cellar and fitness room. 

The Mansions feature a gallery specializing in 18th and 19th century European art (Gallery Werner), and has begun to host live music.  The hotel is also available for weddings and other special events.
 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Mary Del Brady

Oakland 2025 master plan released; group seeks proposals to remake Schenley High

Oakland has published a plan for its future.  Titled The Oakland 2025 Master Plan: A Vision for Sustainable Living and Mobility, it’s the neighborhood’s first comprehensive master plan in decades.

According to the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation (OPDC)—facilitators of the study—the document outlines strategies to guide and support Oakland’s continued growth as a center of innovation and technology, and for supporting quality of life for residents.

Wanda Wilson, OPDC Executive Director, says the process was successful in bringing together the interests of the institutional, development, and residential communities.   

“We engaged about 400 people through the whole process covering the range of stakeholders that we have in Oakland,” Wilson says.  “It's really the first broad-based community engagement the likes of what the Oakland community hasn't seen for a couple decades.”

The plan recognizes that without an improved housing stock and reliable transportation options Oakland is at risk of losing its edge as an innovation center.

Addressing those issues, OPDC is seeking to create a transportation system that serves all users equally, including pedestrians, cyclists, transit, and automobiles, with strong, well-designed neighborhood connections. 

OPDC anticipates bus rapid transit to be implemented in the Fifth Forbes Corridor, accompanied by dedicated east-west bicycle lanes.  The plan recommends route alternatives, as well as improved parking management and the possibility of an Oakland-Downtown circulator.

The plan also proposes “Ten Big Changes for Oakland”, including increasing the number of people who both live and work in its neighborhoods, and increasing access to parks, open space, and trails.

According to the document, housing upgrades would be achieved through rehab, conservation, and financial incentives to spur innovative new housing choices.  Options include employer assisted housing, trailhead neighborhoods, and 50+ intergenerational communities.

A release party for the plan will be held on November 1st,  6 to 8 p.m. at the University of Pittsburgh’s Alumni Hall, 4227 Fifth Avenue.

Also in Oakland, Fourth River Development LLC has issued a request for proposals for redevelopment of the former Schenley High School.  Fourth River is working on behalf of The Pittsburgh Board of Public Education.

The School Board states that through an open community engagement process it will approve the sale of the school to a competitive bidder based on criteria deemed important by the School District and the North Oakland community.
 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Wanda Wilson

Eat + Drink: Sousa's Harvard and Highland craft cocktails; Lola Bistro; Embury returns, and more

Eat + Drink is a new occasional section of Development News focusing on restaurant and bar happenings in Pittsburgh.

-  Restaurateur Kevin Sousa has announced he will soon open a craft cocktail bar, called Harvard and Highland.  The bar will be located above Union Pig and Chicken, the barbecue restaurant Sousa opened earlier this year, located at 220 North Highland Avenue.

-  Embury, the classic cocktail lounge and speakeasy formerly located in the Firehouse Lounge, will soon reopen on the South Side.  Owner Spencer Warren has purchased the building currently home to Z-Lounge at 2108 E. Carson, and plans to reopen the bar in the top floor space.  It will be similar to the previous establishment which closed last August.

-  Sushi Fuku is celebrating a grand opening in Oakland this week.  The restaurant is a create-your-own sushi establishment, allowing customers to "roll it or bowl it".  In addition to various raw and cooked fish, the menu includes chicken, shrimp, and steak, and also features fresh salads and prepared rolls.  Located at 120 Oakland Avenue, the fast-casual eatery is open 11am to 9pm daily.  412-687-3858.

-  City Café is relocating from Lawrenceville to the Cultural District in Downtown Pittsburgh.  The café will be a breakfast and lunch restaurant, serving coffee and offering vegetarian cuisine, located at 951 Liberty Avenue.  412-621-2460.

-  Lola Bistro is now open in the Northside’s Allegheny West neighborhood at 1100 Galveston Avenue, serving contemporary comfort food.  It replaces the former Hoi Polloi Coffee House and Vegetarian Cafe, which closed over a year ago.  Lola Bistro is owned by Chef Michael Barnhouse and wife Yelena, and is open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday.  412-322-1106.


Writer:  Andrew Moore

Keep it a school? Community shares vision for Schenley High School building

While Oakland’s Schenley High School may have closed its doors in 2008, some community members believe the building should remain an institution of learning.

That was just one of several scenarios that were developed during a series of recent planning sessions led by the Schenley Farms Civic Association and Oakland Planning and Development Corporation.

Architect Rob Pfaffmann, a project consultant, says neighborhood residents want the school board to think outside the box in terms of what an educational intuition could look like in this facility.  

Community members considered various possibilities, from an International Baccalaureate program, to an employment training facility or an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.  

But Pfaffmann says the community was most excited about the possibility of a mixed-use facility that combined residential units on the top floors, with office or educational space on the bottom.  He says this scenario would allow a developer to take advantage of historic tax credits by creating apartments, while renting space to an income-producing learning institution on the bottom floors.

All of the scenarios have been gathered in a report, available on OPDC’s website, which will be presented to school board on August 15th.

But Pfaffman says all of these scenarios will be high magnitude challenges from a development perspective.

“If it was easy, it would have already been done,“ he says.  “In order for a developer to be successful it probably means that he has to offer a fairly low purchase price to the school board.”

When the school board originally listed the building for sale last year, they received only one bid for $2 million from PMC Property Group of Philadelphia.

Pfaffmann says the school board has cooperated with the Oakland community throughout this process, and Superintendent Linda Lane agreed to delay the school’s sale while the process was put in place.

The three public meetings were made possible by funding secured from City Councilman Bill Peduto.  The goals of the meetings were to provide information about best practices, address community concerns and desires, and provide a report of these findings to the school board.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Rob Pfaffmann

Dutch experts propose cycle tracks for Oakland, highest level of safety in infrastructure

After two days of ThinkBike workshops, the City of Pittsburgh is ready to bring the highest level of bicycle infrastructure to Oakland. 

Based on the recommendations of Dutch mobility experts, the City is beginning the process of installing separated cycle tracks in the Fifth-Forbes corridor of this heavily trafficked neighborhood. 

According to the City's Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Stephen Patchan, cycle tracks represent the most progressive piece of bicycle infrastructure currently available, and offer the highest level of safety for both cyclists and motorist.

Cycle tracks are on-street, bicycle-only paths, and often include physical barriers, such as curbs, between automobiles and cyclists.  In Homestead, a cycle track was recently installed along the Great Allegheny Passage.  The proposed track in Oakland would be the first in Pittsburgh.

Patchan says the city has no timeline for installing the cycle tracks, and will conduct extensive public outreach and engineering studies before selecting a design and location.  He says the project will necessarily impact existing conditions for automobiles.

“We're trying to figure out a way to mitigate the impacts, but also provide a piece of infrastructure that's required for getting from hundreds [of cyclists]...to several thousand cyclists biking through that corridor.”

Although the corridor is currently used by many bicycle commuters, Patchan says the street’s current design--three to four lanes of one-way traffic--doesn’t encourage new riders.

“It takes a certain personality to ride on that street,” he says.

ThinkBike is a multi-city initiative of Dutch experts and companies to increase bicycle use in the U.S. and Canada.  Since the first workshop in Toronto, ThinkBike has been held in Washington D.C., San Francisco, Miami and Los Angeles.

Patchan says ThinkBike contacted the City to host a workshop because of its rising reputation as a bicycle-friendly city, and its maturing cycling community.

But Patchan says the city intends to do more, and create cycling infrastructure on-par with the best Dutch cities.

"We're going to be a world-class bicycle city, so we're going to need the infrastructure for it," he says.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Stephen Patchan

New restaurants in Oakland: Hello Bistro; Kahila's Taste, Authentic Caribbean Kitchen

Hello Bistro, a quick-service burger-and-salad eatery, is opening soon in the bustling 3600 block of Central Oakland.  A project of Eat'n Park Hospitality Group, the bistro will offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and will feature the company’s trademark Superburger and salad bar, as well as beer and wine.

“It was designed to be something that capitalizes on our heritage and our commitment to Pittsburgh,” says Mark Broadhurst, director of concept development.  “We think this is something a little different... [but] the best things that people love most about Eat'n Park.”

The bistro is scheduled to open June 28th, and will seat up to 60 guests.  Service style will be similar to the company’s other Oakland concept, The Porch at Schenley, where guests order at the counter, and are then waited on at tables.

Broadhurst says the burgers will be similar to what is offered at an Eat'n Park restaurant.

“We've been doing that since 1949, and people love the Superburger, so we figured there's no reason to touch that,” he says. 

The restaurant replaces the former Rue 21 retail store in this space, which has been completely remodeled. 

Also now open in North Oakland is Kahila’s Taste: Authentic Caribbean Kitchen. The menu features traditional dishes from throughout the Caribbean, including several types of roti; rice and peas; curry chicken, goat, and tofu; ox tail; and jerk chicken.

The restaurant also specializes in vegetarian and vegan options, and house-made juice and teas.

Owner Kahila Miller has already earned a following at the Pittsburgh Public Market, in the Strip District, where she has operated a food stand for the past several years.

Kahila’s Taste, 305 N. Craig Street, Oakland.  412-377-7951.
 


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Mark Broadhurst

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

Bus rapid transit plans advancing, public review sessions next week

The Port Authority of Allegheny County is taking the next step in its exploration of bus rapid transit (BRT).  Next week, a series of three community input meetings are being held throughout the city to provide the public with opportunities to review and comment on potential alternate alignments for the proposed system.

Last summer, the Port Authority began a $1 million study of BRT between Downtown, Oakland, and East End neighborhoods.  Although the study is still in progress, the purpose of next week’s meetings is to share with the public what BRT could potentially look like in those neighborhoods, including routing, changes to traffic lanes, and the possibility of added bicycle lanes.

This current study of BRT is using a “complete streets” approach, according to Heather Pharo, of the Port Authority.  This means access for all users-- including transit, bicyclists, pedestrians, and general auto traffic—is being taken into account.

The study is being conducted by Parsons Brinckerhoff, and includes an environmental assessment, route alternatives, and general economic impact on communities in the corridor. 

BRT is a form of bus transit that operates similar to a traditional street-rail system, with dedicated stations, route priority, and platform fare collection, among other efficiency measures. 

Get There PGH, a partnership of over 30 neighborhood organizations, has been leading the effort to advance BRT in Pittsburgh, of which the Port Authority is stakeholder.
 

Meetings will be held at the following locations and times:

Hill District: Tuesday, April 24, 2012, 6:00 to 8:00 pm, Hill House Kaufman Center Auditorium, 1825 Centre Avenue

Oakland: Wednesday, April 25, 2012, 6:00 to 8:00 pm, Carnegie Mellon University, University Student Center, Rangos Ballroom 3, 5032 Forbes Avenue

East End: Thursday, April 26, 2012, 6:00 to 8:00 pm, East Liberty Presbyterian Church Social Hall, 116 South Highland Avenue

Uptown: Tuesday, May 8, 2012, 6:00 to 8:00 pm, UPMC Mercy Hospital, 1400 Locust Street, Sr. Ferdinand Clark Auditorium, 2nd. Fl., Bldg. D.  Free Parking in Mercy Garage. Ticket will be validated.
 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Heather Pharo, Port Authority
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