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Riverlights celebration, concert to mark reopening of Point State Park fountain

It’s been a long time since anyone has seen the Golden Triangle at its best. On June 7, that will change when the fountain at Point State Park is turned on for the first time in four years.

“For a lot of Pittsburghers, [this] is their equivalent of the Golden Gate Bridge or the Gateway Arch,” says Stephan Bontrager of Riverlife.

The fountain has been shut off since 2009 as a part of the major renovations to Point State Park, which started in 2007. At a total cost of $35 million, the park’s facelift represents “the largest park project in commonwealth history,” according to Bontrager.

The evening festivities, dubbed Riverlights at The Point, will serve not only to celebrate the restarting of the fountain, but as the opening to the 2013 Three Rivers Arts Festival. Following a 5 p.m. ceremony during which the fountain will be turned on, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros will play a free concert, for which local band Donora will open.

Complementing the park’s new LED lighting for the weekend will be a public artwork, “Pittsburgh: Spectral Ascending,” which will be visible after sunset from June 7 to 9. A collaboration between artist Yvette Mattern and Pittsburgh’s Lightwave International, the piece consists of six projectors atop PPG Place, projecting light onto the fountain’s 150-foot column of water.

“The overarching theme of June 7 is putting the best face on Pittsburgh,” Bontrager says.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Stephan Bontrager

Upcoming mayoral forums address design, planning and public policy and greenspace

How will Pittsburgh’s next mayor ensure that public policy makes good design and planning central to the City’s growth?

That is one of several questions to be asked of Pittsburgh’s mayoral candidates at an upcoming forum to be hosted by the Design Center in Downtown Pittsburgh.

“The next mayor will provide leadership on community and economic development across the city,” says Stephen Glassman, president and ceo of the Design Center. “It is important for people interested in good design and planning to hear each candidate’s vision for Pittsburgh’s future, and equally important that our voices be heard by the candidates.”

Glassman says Pittsburgh is at an important inflection point, and with the proper visionary leadership can continue to not only expand its economic base, but provide a model for best practices to the rest of the country.

Each candidate will make the case for why he is capable of providing that leadership, as well as answer additional questions prepared by the Design Center.

Questions will also be taken from audience members, on topics ranging from blight and vacant properties, to historic preservation, riverfronts and multi-modal transportation.

Candidates Bill Peduto, A.J. Richardson, Jack Wagner, and Jake Wheatley are confirmed to participate in the forum, according to the Design Center. It will be moderated by Diana A. Bucco, vice president of The Buhl Foundation.

The Mayoral Candidates Forum on Design, Planning, and Public Policy will take place on Wednesday, May 8th, at Point Park University’s GRW Auditorium in University Center at 414 Wood Street, Downtown. It will run for 90 minutes, beginning at 6:00 p.m., with a reception to follow.

To RSVP call 412-281-0995, or e-mail design@judith-kelly.com.

And tonight, the Pittsburgh Greenspace Alliance and the League of Women Voters are hosting a mayoral forum on the importance of greenspace in the city. Candidates will be asked to discuss their plans as mayor for the expansion and integration of greenspace in Pittsburgh, including parks and trails. 

The Candidates’ Forum on Greenspace takes place at 6:00 p.m.tonight at the Heinz History Center, 1212 Smallman Street, in the Strip District. For information and to RSVP, click here.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Stephen Glassman

Eat + Drink: open-air Sienna Mercato; Andys Wine Bar on the street; Embody Natural Health

- A three-level, multi-restaurant concept known as Sienna Mercato is coming to Downtown Pittsburgh’s Cultural District.

Owners of Market Square’s Sienna Sulla Piazza have recently bought the former Trombino building at 942 Penn Avenue, and plan to build a glass-enclosed, rooftop dining space on the building’s top level. The enclosure will be retractable, creating an open-air dining space in warm weather.

Each floor in the project will be a separate restaurant concept, which owner David Gilpatrick says will be unique from each other, as well as Sienna Sulla Piazza. Chef Matthew Porco, also of the Market Square restaurant, will lead the Sienna Mercato project.

Gilpatrick says each restaurant will be sit-down, casual dining, and each floor will feature a bar.

- Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week (PCBW), a celebration of the region’s local brewing culture, continues this week until Saturday, April 27th. The festivities include beer tastings, exclusive PCBW releases, dinner pairings at local restaurants, and brewer meet-and-greets.  For more information visit the PCBW website.

- Andys Wine Bar has taken it to the streets. Located in Downtown’s Fairmont Hotel, the bar has added sidewalk dining and a lunch menu of international street food, including ramen, sushi, bánh mì, and more. Andys continues to feature live jazz in the hotel’s lobby, Tuesday through Saturday, every week.

- Embody Natural Health, a juice cafe and studio, will mark its first year in Lawrenceville with a celebration this evening from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. The cafe offers fresh, organic juice and smoothies, and features sidewalk seating.

Owner Aimee Woods also offers healthy food at her shop that is ready-made and available for take-out, what she calls healthy convenience food. Among other items, Embody now offers sushi from Penn Avenue Fish Company.

Woods also provides health coaching at the studio, helping clients plan for individual lifestyles. Yoga, juice cleanse, and other services are also available.

Writer: Andrew Moore

The Wheel Mill now open, city's first indoor bicycle park

Pittsburgh’s first indoor bicycle park, The Wheel Mill, is now open in Homewood. The 80,000 square-foot facility is the first of its kind in the Commonwealth, and is one of just a few in the nation.

Located at 6815 Hamilton Avenue, the facility offers year-round riding opportunities for mountain biking and BMX, with with skill levels ranging from beginner to advanced. Lines are marked in green, blue, and black diamond, corresponding to difficulty.

Current features at The Wheel Mill include the expert jump line, mini ramp and micro mini-ramps, foam pit, beginner mountain bike room, and street plaza (similar to a skatepark), as well as the 7-and-under area.  A lounge area is also open.

Owner Harry Geyer says several ramps are repurposed favorites from the former Mr. Smalls Skate Park, reconfigured in the new setting. Construction of the lines was completed in-house by Geyer—who also owns a reclaimed lumber business—and other local builders.

Several features under construction and opening soon include the beginner jump line, technical mountain bike line, and flow mountain bike trail section. A banked oval track and intermediate jump line are also coming soon.

Geyer credits the city’s dedicated bicycle scene—including Velomuse, the Pittsburgh Trail Advocacy Group (PTAG), and Bike Pittsburgh—for fostering an engaged cycling culture in the city. “That’s really the only reason that this was a feasible idea, is because everybody else laid the foundation,” Geyer says.

The Wheel Mill is open Monday to Friday, 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Harry Geyer

TOWNHOUSE pop-up home goods and furniture store coming to East Liberty

TOWNHOUSE, a new pop-up furniture and home goods shop, is opening soon in East Liberty. The shop will feature goods from Weisshouse, The Shop in East Liberty, and Florida-based designers Industry West.

The retail collaboration is a project of partner organization Epic Development, a Pittsburgh-based economic development firm. Epic’s Michael McAllister says TOWNHOUSE will offer modern pieces—including chairs, stools, rugs and prints—currently unavailable in Pittsburgh, aimed for the city’s growing design community.

The storefront will also serve as an experimental street-level coworking lounge for members of The Beauty Shoppe, a partner in TOWNHOUSE.

McAllister says the store is committed to high design and quality at a low cost, with the majority of items priced under $200.

And since the project is a pop-up, TOWNHOUSE will close just eight months later, in December.

This is not the first time Epic has brought together members of Pittsburgh’s creative community. Last year, the firm launched Tapped, a pop-up beer garden event series that activates empty lots with local food, beer, and music. McAllister says Epic plans to continue Tapped in 2013.

TOWNHOUSE opens Friday, May 3rd, and is located at 6016 Penn Avenue, in East Liberty. It will be open Tuesday through Saturday, and by appointment Sundays and Mondays.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Michael McAllister

Locomotive Lofts opening soon in Lawrenceville, 34 new market-rate apartments

Locomotive Lofts, a residential adaptive-reuse of the former H.K. Porter Co. building, is on track to open May 1st in Lawrenceville. Developer Ernie Sota says the project is the most state-of-the-art apartment complex in the neighborhood.

Locomotive Lofts LP is a partnership between Sota and Tony Rodriguez. Paul Rodriguez is the project architect.

Located at the corner of 49th and Harrison Streets, Locomotive Lofts includes 34 market-rate apartment units, and was designed to achieve LEED Gold Certification. Each unit features numerous energy efficiency measures, such as LED lighting, web-based thermostats, and Energy Star appliances. Sota says units have been air-tested and are draft-free.

The former office building was once home to H.K. Porter Co., a manufacturer of compressed air locomotives. Total redevelopments costs were $5.4 million.

One- and two-bedroom units range from $1,050 to $1,850, and secure, off-street parking is also available.

Sota says green landscaping and the integration of art and natural materials was done to create a warm feeling at the redeveloped site. A sculpted entry wall features the fossil-like image of plants, created by pressing bamboo into wet stucco. And several site walls feature a combination of custom railing and weathering steel panels.

Sota Construction Services recently achieved LEED Platinum Certification for its own office building, earning the most LEED points ever awarded to a project in Pennsylvania, and the fifth-highest score in the entire LEED system worldwide. Sota is also responsible for developing Pittsburgh’s first net-zero home—a home that generates as much energy as it uses annually—on the South Side.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Ernie Sota

Penn A Caster Loft Offices want to rock the Strip

An office building in the Strip District is getting a rock and roll makeover. Its exterior walls will soon be wrapped in the likeness of a giant, backlit guitar as the building formerly known as 3030 Penn Avenue becomes the Penn A Caster Loft Offices.

Tusk Development bought the 24,000 square-foot building late last year and wanted to give it a new identity. So when co-owner Jim Genstein returned from a trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, they were inspired to give it a new guitar-centric theme.

In addition to the exterior changes, an interior lobby has been redeveloped and now features a guitar touchscreen that controls a video wall and streaming music. Lami Grubb Architects is the project architect.

The three-story building was built in the early 1900s as a warehouse and stored salt as well as the horse-driven carriages that drove goods to and from the nearby Allegheny River.

Genstein’s partner Andy Schaer says the office space is ideal for a tech or creative services company. The loft offices feature brick walls and exposed beams, as well as abundant natural light.

The building is wired for any tech company’s needs—including battery backup for uninterrupted power—and could be built-out to meet tenant needs. The site also includes over 100 parking spaces.

The name Penn A Caster is derived from the Fender Telecaster guitar, which has been played by countless musicians including Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, and George Harrison.

Schaer expects the new guitar-clad facade to be complete within the next eight weeks.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Andy Schaer

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

New apartments coming to Downtown's quiet First Avenue

Developer Todd Palcic is planning to bring 35 new apartment units to a quiet, village-like corner of Downtown Pittsburgh.

The project is a renovation of the eight-story former Graphic Arts building located at 422 First Avenue on one of Downtown’s least-traveled corridors. “It’s almost like a mini Greenwich Village,” Palcic says, because it’s quiet and clean, yet bounded by the much busier Boulevard of the Allies and Fort Pitt Boulevard.

And though it’s quiet, the First Avenue apartments will be near many Downtown institutions, including the Art Institute of Pittsburgh—which is just across the street—and Point Park University, which Palcic says will also soon occupy two existing buildings on First Avenue.

Palcic has also bought an adjacent lot at the First Avenue site to be used for tenant parking.

The First Avenue apartments will be a mix of one- and two-bedroom apartments, though the specifics are to be determined. Half of the units will feature views of the Monongahela River, South Side, and Mount Washington. Indovina Associates Architects are the project architects.

Palcic is looking for ideas for the first-floor retail space, as well the built-out, semi-finished basement. “Between the two I think there are a lot of possibilities,” he says.

The developer has had success in Downtown’s Cultural District to the point that he says there’s very little development work left in that neighborhood. Palcic has already created 24 condo units in Downtown, at L'Enfant Lofts and other projects. And the soon-to-open Lando Lofts development will add 27 new apartment units at 907-909 Penn Avenue.

Renovation of the structure is expected to begin next year, and Palcic hopes to have it completed in 2015.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Todd Palcic

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

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

Eat + Drink: Il Pizzaiolo in Market Square; Aspara Cafe; The Steer and Wheel food truck

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

- One of Pittsburgh’s newest food trucks is The Steer and Wheel, which serves antibiotic- and hormone-free beef burgers. All beef is sourced locally from Penn's Corner Farm Alliance, ground fresh daily on the truck, and served on Mediterra Bakehouse breads and rolls.

Burgers included the Chesapeake (Old Bay rub); The Bacon Squared (balsamic bacon jam, chive cheddar, lettuce, tomato, bacon on an onion roll); and the Andre (bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado, smoked gouda, grain mustard on an onion roll).

To find The Steer and Wheel food truck, look for them at The Coffee Buddha (often along with the PGH Taco Truck), or follow them on Twitter or Facebook. 412-230-7323.

- Apsara Cafe has opened in the South Side, a new restaurant offering Thai and Cambodian cuisine. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, seven days a week. 1703 East Carson Street. 412-251-0664.

- Il Pizzaiolo’s opened a second location in Market Square, serving its highly regarded and authentic Neapolitan-style pizza. Like the Mt. Lebanon original, the new restaurant’s pizzas are cooked in a wood-burning ovens, built by Italian artisans.

Il Pizzaiolo replaces the former Lubin and Smalley flower shop at 8 Market Square (between Starbucks and Moe’s Southwest Grill). The 40-seat restaurant includes a bar on each level of the storefront space. 412-575-5853.

- On Monday, April 22nd, Downtown’s Vallozzi’s will host a benefit dinner and film screening of Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. The event is a benefit for the Western Pennsylvania & West Virginia Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Tickets are $20, and can be purchased online or at the door; for more information contact: rachealleelacek@gmail.com. 226 Fifth Avenue. Monday, April 22nd, 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Writer: Andrew Moore

Who's Downtown? Population is younger and they use transit

Downtown Pittsburgh's resident population has increased by more than 30% in the past 12 years, and its population is getting younger.

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP) released two new reports—with information from the 2012 Pedestrian Traffic Study and the 2012 Downtown Pittsburgh Resident Survey—that shed light on who Downtown residents are, and what they do.

"This research provides us with excellent insight that can be utilized in business attraction and retention initiatives, highlighting the growth and progress we have seen throughout Downtown over the last few years," said PDP President and CEO Jeremy Waldrup in a statement.

The studies show that 45% of Downtown residents are under the age of 40, and 27% are under the age of 30, compared to 47% and 26% in 2010, respectively.

As for the general pedestrian population, over half travel to and from Downtown using the public transit system, either the “T” or a bus, according to the PDP.

The report also says that pedestrians spend an average of $108 per week at Downtown establishments, including $40 on food and drink. About $37 is spent on retail per week, $13 on sporting events, $11 on entertainment, and $7 on miscellaneous services.

More than half of Downtown households are now comprised of more than one person, an increase from 40% in the 2010 resident survey.

And overall, Downtown residents are happy with their chosen neighborhood; 74% of  respondents expressed that they were “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with their Downtown living experience, and on a scale of one to nine, the average score was eight.

Residents cited the availability of entertainment, restaurants, and events in a walkable environment as contributing to the favorability of living downtown.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Leigh Ann White, PDP

Federal Hill final phase now under construction, 44 new homes in Northside

The third and final phase of the Federal Hill development is underway in the Central Northside, a project that has brought a total of 44 new homes to the historic neighborhood.

The current phase (2A) of six new townhomes brings to a close the five-year project.

Federal Hill is a project of the Central Northside Neighborhood Council (CNNC), S&A Homes and the URA, along with architects Rothschild Doyno Collaborative. The three- and four-bedroom homes range from 1,400 to 2,300 square feet, and units on the corners of each block include a third-floor, open-air balcony.

All of the new homes are under contract with buyers. Andy Haines of S&A Homes says his company receives continuous calls of interest for Federal Hill.

“It's one of our best selling developments throughout the three states we work in,” Haines says.

Every home in each previous phase has also been sold. Home prices range from $130,000 to $220,000, with individualized upgrades up to $80,000. The majority of new homes were built along Federal Street, however a few infill homes were constructed on adjacent Alpine Street.

Federal Hill is one of several redevelopment projects in the neighborhood, including a new branch of the Carnegie Library, which opened in 2009, several new businesses including El Burro Comedor and Crazy Mocha, and the ongoing redevelopment of the Garden Theater Block.

Haines says that although the project has been challenging in terms of financing—with funds from state and local agencies—the satisfaction level has been very high.

“The end result is we made a difference on the street, we made a difference in the neighborhood,” Haines says. “It's a good investment of public dollars.”

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Andy Haines

Upcoming mayoral forum to ask candidates how they plan to support neighborhoods

Though the number of candidates continues to change, one thing is for sure: Pittsburgh will elect a new mayor on November 5th. And so a local community group is asking, how will that new mayor work with individual neighborhoods to continue revitalization throughout the city?

Next Thursday, April 11th, the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG) is hosting a mayoral forum to ask that question and more. Each candidate will explain how they plan to support, equitably and transparently, the revitalization of neighborhoods and catalyze investment in them.

“A lot of Pittsburgh’s rebirth over the past several years really came out of the work that’s been going on in neighborhoods and the leadership there,” says PCRG’s Chris Sandvig.

Sandvig says it’s important for neighborhood leaders to know how each candidate’s mayoral decisions would impact their communities, in terms of federal funding, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, and more.

“The next mayor has a huge impact on whether we continue our rebirth as a city, and our position nationally and internationally,” Sandvig says.  “Everything we see from both a national and local perspective, neighborhoods are really where it’s at in the future for a city's vitality, and also their competitiveness.”

PCRG is a coalition of community-based organizations that advocates for strong, healthy neighborhoods in Allegheny County.

State Representative Jake Wheatley, City Councilman Bill Peduto, and former State Auditor General Jack Wagner will be in attendance, according Sandvig. The three candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination for mayor. The event will not be a debate.

The event, co-sponsored by the Design Center, is free and open to the public. It will be held at the Union Project, 801 North Negley Avenue, on April 11th at 6:00 p.m.  To RSVP by Friday, April 5th, contact csandvig@pcrg.org.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Chris Sandvig
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