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Eat + Drink: Wigle's aged whiskey released; Noodlehead; Franktuary; and a new speakeasy downtown

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

- BZ’s Bar and Grill is now open on the North Shore.  Open seven days a week, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., the restaurant features what owner/manager Brandon Herriott calls “twisted American cuisine.”  Menu items include crab and avocado mac and cheese, pizza with house-made chorizo, a “turducken” burger, and more.

BZ’s is located at 140 Federal Street, directly across from PNC Park.  And while Herriott expects his business to do well during game days, he hopes the community will embrace the establishment beyond events.  “I want to be part of the neighborhood,” he says.

The restaurant seats 200 guests, including a private dining space and meeting room.  In the spring, BZ’s expects to add 40-50 patio seats.  412-323-BZBG

- Pittsburgh’s newest Thai restaurant, Noodlehead, is now open in Shadyside.  A BYOB, the eatery specializes in noodle dishes from the street markets of Thailand.  The menu features just ten $6 and $9 noodle dishes, and a few snacks, such as Thai fried chicken ($6.50) and pork belly steamed buns ($6).

Noodlehead is located at 242 South Highland Avenue, and is cash only. 

Franktuary’s new Lawrenceville location (3810 Butler Street) is officially scheduled to open later this month, on December 21st.  The restaurant will have a bar, and will seat around 100.

Fans of the downtown location should fear not, the original shop (325 Oliver Avenue) will stay open.  Likewise,  the Franktuary Food Truck will continue with mobile service.

- Pittsburgh’s first batch of aged whiskey since prohibition will be released by Wigle Whiskey next Saturday, December 15th.  And although Wigle has been open since last year, offering its white whiskey, these are its first aged rye and wheat whiskeys, aged in small, 10 gallon oak barrels for six months.  In the spirit of craft innovation, the distillery has finished several of the oak barreled whiskey with cherry and maple honeycombed wood for a variety of flavors. 

The distillery also recently launched its Wigle Ginever, a Dutch-style gin, popular before the advent of large commercial stills.  It is one of only two produced in the nation.

-  Continuing with the theme of prohibition—today is the 79th anniversary of its repeal—the Omni William Penn Hotel has reopened a former speakeasy in the historic building’s lower level.  The new bar’s interior replicates the original décor, and a cocktail list features researched drinks from the ‘20’s.  The speakeasy is open from 5 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., Thursdays through Saturdays.  530 William Penn Place, Downtown. 

Writer:  Andrew Moore

Pittsburgh Neighborhood Renaissance Fund first round of grants of $275,000 announced

The first round of grants of the Pittsburgh Neighborhood Renaissance Fund was announced yesterday by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Steve Glassman of the Design Center and others from the URA and City Council at a press conference at the Pittsburgh Musical Theater.  The awards, totaling $275,000 and including 12 neighborhoods, are designed to help communities create neighborhood development plans, and to better align investment opportunities.

The program is targeting neighborhoods that have received relatively little community planning in the past, says Chris Koch of the Design Center, who adds that these planning efforts are crucial to attracting the right kinds of investment and development.

“It’s important because neighborhoods really have to have a collective vision and a common language about how they’re going to be an inviting neighborhood and the kind of things they want to see happen there,” Koch says.

The program was created by Mayor Ravenstahl and the URA earlier this spring, and is a partnership between the mayor’s office, the Department of City Planning, the URA, and the Design Center of Pittsburgh.

The program will be administered through the Design Center’s current Design Fund initiative, which awards community organizations and provides technical assistance to work with architects, planners, and other design professionals toward neighborhood revitalization projects.

Awards include $25,000 to West End Alliance for an adaptive reuse study for a closed and vacant school; $15,000 to Pittsburgh Musical Theater for implementation of façade improvements and expansion at its West End location; and $15,000 to Central Northside Neighborhood Council for sign and gateway design for its Allegheny City Central branding plan, among others.

The fund was established in April with an initial start-up grant of $300,000 from the mayor and the URA.  The Design Center has raised matching funds through local foundations and other funding sources.

According to Koch, the fund will be useful in directing the investment and redevelopment efforts that she expects to continue to grow in Pittsburgh.

“It’s great that the mayor’s office has really understood that planning is a great way for us to understand how to take advantage of that, and for the communities to be able to have a voice in that happening,” she says.

At the end of the press conference, students from the Pittsburgh Musical Theater performed several numbers on stage in front of a group that included the Mayor, several members of City Council, and many of the grantees.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Chris Koch

El Burro Comeador, take-out tacos and burritos, now open in Central Northside

El Burro Comedor opened last week in the Central Northside, offering take-out burritos and tacos.  The eatery is owned by Wes DeRenouard, and Derek Burnell, co-owner of Round Corner Cantina, in Lawrenceville.

DeRenouard describes the food as border-style Mexican food, which in addition to tacos and burritos also includes chilaquiles, carne asada fries, and the Tijuana Street Dog—a bacon-wrapped hotdog topped with avocado or pico de gallo.

Located at 1108 Federal Street, El Burro is the latest opening in a series of revitalization projects in the Federal-North corridor.  The restaurant is across from the Garden Theater Block redevelopment, where several historic renovations are currently in progress.  

Also along Federal Street are the $15 million Federal Hill housing development, and the Allegheny branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, which opened in 2009 on the site of a former gas station.

El Burro’s building, which was previously home to Toula’s Restaurant, was recently renovated by developer Bill Barron.  In addition to the improved restaurant space, the second floor has been renovated as a single apartment unit.  Barron is also responsible for the renovation of the nearby Crazy Mocha and Deli on North buildings, on North Avenue.

Burrito offerings at El Burro include chorizo, chile relleno, carne asada and rice, bean and cheese, with prices ranging from $4 to $8.  Tacos at $2.50, include shrimp, shredded beef, and carnitas, among others.  Soda offerings includ eJarritos, the popular Mexican soda featuring flavors such as tamarind and guava, and Mexican Coke.

El Burro is one of several restaurants to open in the lower Northside in recent months.  Earlier this year, Parkhurst Dining Services opened Eco Bistro within the Allegheny Center Mall, an earth-friendly lunch spot that focuses on fresh and local ingredients. 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Wes DeRenouard

Eat + Drink: Wild Purveyors Market Stand; Benjamin's Burger Bar; soul food and mobile food

- The Wild Purveyor’s Market Stand is now open in Upper Lawrenceville.  An evolution of the wholesale wild-foods business started by brothers Cavan and Tom Patterson, the market features local Pennsylvania cheeses, meats, and produce, as well as an assortment of seasonally foraged foods.  Currently in stock: chicken of the woods and hen of the woods mushrooms.

And the Second Annual Pittsburgh Picklefest will take place at the market this Saturday.  The event is presented by Crested Duck Charcuterie and Slow Food Pittsburgh.  5308 Butler Street, Lawrenceville.  412-206-WILD.

-  Benjamin’s Western Avenue Burger Bar is scheduled to open tonight in Allegheny West.  The restaurant is operated by Paul Tebbets, co-owner of Toast! in Shadyside, and the former BRiX Wood Fired Wine Bar, which the new restaurant replaces. 

BRiX closed its doors earlier this year after difficulties with a zoning permit for its wood-fired pizza oven.  The burger bar will be similar in concept to BRiX while swapping pizza for burgers.  Benjamin’s is located at 900 Western Avenue in the Northside.

-  Fredrick’s Soul Food is now open Monday through Saturday on Smithfield Street, in Downtown Pittsburgh, serving breakfast at 6:30 a.m.  Fredrick’s specializes in chicken and waffles, ribs and wings, yams, greens, and mac & cheese. 

Fredrick’s is owned by Larry Ross.  Ross says the menu consists of family recipes, and his kitchen staff is headed by his daughters Maya and Seaera.  412-232-1900. 633 Smithfield Street.  6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

-  Sal’s City Deli is opening soon in downtown, and will feature made-to-order sandwiches, fresh salads, and homemade soups.  It will be located at 245 Seventh Street, next to the Benedum Theater in the Cultural District.

-  In addition to locations in East Liberty and Cranberry, BRGR’s gourmet burgers are now available to downtown lunch crowds via The BRGR Food Truck.  From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. it will be parked at Grant Street and Forbes Avenue, Monday through Friday.  It also makes regular appearances in the Strip District, on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at 21st Street and Penn Avenue.

-  Another newcomer to Pittsburgh’s mobile food scene is Oh My Grill, a specialty grilled-cheese themed food truck.  724-996-3955.
 Click here for more information about food trucks in Pittsburgh.

Writer:  Andrew Moore

Eat + Drink: Piccolo Forno to Garden Theater; Stagioni farm dinner; Mac Diner now open; and more

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

-  Restaurateur Domenic Branduzzi, of Lawrenceville’s Piccolo Forno, has announced plans to open a second establishment in the Central Northside.  The restaurant, which will likely be named Il Giardino—a tribute to its historic setting—will occupy the former Garden Theater space, and will be a key component in the block’s long-awaited redevelopment. 

Il Giardino joins Nakama Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar, which announced plans earlier this year to open in the former Masonic building, also on North Avenue.  The block-wide redevelopment is a project of Zukin Realty.

Branduzzi hopes to be open by late summer, 2013.  Construction at both restaurant sites is expected to commence simultaneously.

Branduzzi says the space will be larger than his current restaurant, at 4,000 square feet, and will likely feature a rear patio.  Like Piccolo Forno, the restaurant will include a wood-fired pizza oven, with the addition of a pizza bar.

-  In the South Side, Stagioni will be hosting a family-style farm dinner at their restaurant next Tuesday, September 25th.  The dinner will feature produce from Pittsburgh’s Knotweed Urban Farm, a CSA and cooperative farm in Stanton Heights.  The four-course meal begins at 6:30 p.m. and is $35.  2104 E. Carson Street, South Side.  412-586-4738.

Truth Lounge celebrated a grand opening last week.  The upscale restaurant and cocktail bar replaces the former Café Allegro at 51 S. 12th Street in the South Side’s Bedford Square. The menu focuses on small plates, as well as craft cocktails and high end wine.  412-381-9600.

21st Street Coffee has relocated to a new storefront space in the Strip District, at 2002 Smallman Street.  The cafe is now next door to Kaya.  "No, we aren't changing the name," their website reads.

Mac Diner is now open in Allison Park, a breakfast-all-day eatery serving nine varieties of mac and cheese.  Open 7 days a week, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.  4848 Route 8, Allison Park 15101.  724-939-7434.

Writer:  Andrew Moore

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

Allegheny Inn B&B coming soon to the Northside

In the heart of the Northside, a large Victorian home sat vacant for more than three decades, located just across the street from Allegheny General Hospital.  But thanks to a doctor there, the building will be given a second chance, this time as the Allegheny Inn bed and breakfast.

A groundbreaking ceremony was recently held at the circa-1880 home (1010 Cedar Avenue), and the building's new owners--Justin and Keili Mistovich--were joined by Mayor Ravenstahl and other city and neighborhood leaders. 

Justin Mistovich, orthopedic surgeon at AGH, says he and wife Keili (a pediatrics resident at Children’s Hospital) had their eyes on the building for a while.  Mistovich, originally from Youngstown, Ohio, says he first became familiar with the neighborhood as an undergraduate at Duquesne University.

The couple own their home in nearby Mexican War Streets, and Mistovich says creating this bed and breakfast is part of their commitment to the neighborhood, and the region.

"For the two of us growing up in Youngstown, we’re very familiar with communities that had been down on hard times, especially in the Rust Belt," Mistovich says.  And even though there is still work to be done, he believes the neighborhood's residents are driven to revitalize the area.

Mistovich says he is eager to use the inn to showcase the neighborhood and the hospital.  He anticipates guests to be affiliated with AGH, or tourists visiting the Northside's myriad attractions--from the Pirates and the Steelers, to the numerous museums.

The couple plan to restore the building, which includes five bedrooms, to the Victorian era, including furnishings, wallpaper, etc.  

"The whole decor is going to be like you stepped back in time into the glory days of both the building and the neighborhood," Mistovich says.

Mistovich's friend Brent Bissell is a partner in the project.  Bissell's parents, who run a bed and breakfast in Columbiana, Ohio, will also help establish the inn, and will manage day-to-day operations once it opens.

Northside architect Bob Baumbach will lead the historic renovations.  Mistovich expects the building to be completed and the inn’s first guests to arrive within nine months.

"We firmly believe in the positive value of this neighborhood, both to the city and the community as a whole, and we’re anxious to be able to show people the good stuff that both Pittsburgh and the Northside has to offer," he says.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Justin Mistovich

Columbus Square phase II breaks ground, new homes underway in Manchester

More new homes are under construction in Manchester, as Fourth River Development broke ground on phase II of its Columbus Square development.  The latest phase will bring four new homes to the former brownfield site, a project that has already begun breathing new life into this corner of the historic Northside neighborhood.

Sally Flinn, of Fourth River Development LLC, says the project has received significant interest based on its urban setting, the quality of the new construction, and now, because of its proximity to the new Allegheny Station.

“Based on the success that we've had on the current phase we hope to continue to just keep rolling and moving forward,” she says.  

The latest phase will bring two types of homes to Columbus Avenue, on the opposite end of the development site’s original five homes.  Two of the new homes will be large, four bedroom, three and a half bath (type C) models; and two will be three bedroom, two and a half bath (type A) models.  

Prices range from $325,000 to $214,000 for the various models.  Flinn says one already has a buyer, while the other three are still available.  

According to Flinn, the type A homes have proven to be the most popular style thus far.  Moving forward, the remaining 22 homes at Columbus Square will be built based on pre-sales.

One of the type C homes will be used as a model, and will feature a significant amount of upgrades, including a fireplace and granite counter tops, in order to showcase all that is available in various home packages, Flinn says.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Sally Flinn

Society of Tavern Seekers to explore Penn Brewery in storied bars, taverns, clubs event series

The Society of Tavern Seekers (SOTS) latest event is offering preservation enthusiasts a tour of one of Pittsburgh’s most historic brew houses, Troy Hill’s Penn Brewery.  Attendees will get a unique opportunity to see the brewery’s operations up-close, as well as learn about the building’s history on the Northside.

The brewery complex consists of three buildings, which began as the Eberhardt & Ober Brewing Company in 1848.  The central building and the stock house date in their present form from 1894. 

SOTS is a social gathering of historic preservation professionals and advocates, organized by the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation (PHLF).  David Farkas, of PHLF, says these programs, in addition to being great networking opportunities, are meant to be fun and educational as well.

The event will include a short presentation about the brewery and its buildings, followed by a tour of the site.  Penn Brewery’s full selection of draft beers and hearty German food will be available for purchase throughout the evening. 

SOTS is currently in its second year, and will continue to occur each quarter.  The next event will be held on September 20th, at the Teutonia Mannerchor German Social Club on the Northside.  Farkas says this is another rare opportunity to experience a private social club that would otherwise be off-limits to most.

On December 13th, the SOTS end-of-the-year event will be held at the Omni William Penn, Downtown.

SOTS will tour Penn Brewery on June 21st, 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.  800 Vinial Street, Troy Hill.  To RSVP contact Mary Lu Denny at marylu@phlf.org or 412-471-5808.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  David Farkas

Deutschtown Gateway Project to enliven East Ohio Street, historic renovations and infill development

The Historic Deutschtown neighborhood is working to give the 50,000 cars that pass through it on a daily basis even more reason to pause.  The Deutschtown Gateway Project, which is currently underway, includes restorations of several Victorian storefronts on East Ohio Street, an effort that neighborhood organizations hope will improve the entryway of this important Northside business district.

Phase I of the Deutschtown Gateway Project is the complete restoration a Victorian-era commercial building's facade at 632 East Ohio Street.  Located near I-279, it is a highly visible landmark for commuters and visitors exiting the highway. 

Among other improvements, colored art glass windows, hidden for decades behind an earlier remodeling, will soon be restored. The building’s current tenant, Grace Period, plans to expand its administrative offices to a renovated second floor.

The restoration is part of a larger redevelopment plan of the Historic Deutschtown Development Corporation (HDDC) and the Northside Leadership Conference (NSLC). 

At 620-628 East Ohio Street, a combination restoration and infill construction project will add updated retail space to the block, whose buildings are mostly vacant.  The project will create 6,000 to 8,000 square-feet of horizontal commercial office space per floor, on the 2nd and 3rd stories of this multi-parcel redevelopment.

According to NSLC Executive Director Mark Fatla, the project will bring a type of large office space the district currently lacks.

“We’ll be able to offer the office market what it wants,” Fatla says.

HDDC is also planning renovate several other buildings it owns, including 431, 433, and 502 East Ohio Street.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Mark Fatla

Fineview incline gateway project moves up the hill

Although the city has only two remaining inclines, the Fineview Citizens Council is in the process of preserving and celebrating what remains of that neighborhood’s former funicular.  But the neighborhood group won’t be restoring transit service up the hill.  Instead, they plan to use the remains of the Nunnery Hill Incline’s retaining wall and base station as a well-marked gateway to the hilltop community.   

The Henderson Street Gateway Project will work to preserve the incline’s remnants, improve the entry point into Fineview, and create a unified streetscape, as well as provide improvements to the historic iron fencing on the street’s south side.

Ed Lewis, program manager of the FCC, says the council wanted to have a consistent plan and strategy for improving the entire street.

“This is the first impression people get of [Fineview], and it will be more a welcoming and inviting entryway into the neighborhood,” Lewis says.

Henderson Street intersects the Central Northside at the $15 million Federal Hill housing development, a project which is adding 60 new townhomes to the neighborhood.  Lewis says his organization is hoping to built on the momentum of the Federal/North corridor, which is now redeveloping after many years of planning.

Last year, the incline plane was designated a city historic site.   The Nunnery Hill Incline was one of only a few that meandered up a hillside with a curving route, rather than shooting straight up

The design work is being led by Klavon Design Associates, and the project scope will start at the intersection of Federal Street and Henderson Street, and run approximately 2,000 feet, ascending the hill into the neighborhood.

A portion of the study’s funds were provided by the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh, as well as the Rivers Casino partnership with the Northside Leadership Conference, and a community development block grant from City Council members Darlene Harris and Daniel Lavelle.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Ed Lewis

Use art to build urban connections on the North Side? One-day charette for 18 to 25 year olds

How can neighborhoods use art to build urban connections?  That's the question being asked this Saturday by the Northside’s cultural institutions.  But rather than hiring a distinguished design firm, they're turning the question to the young, creative people of Pittsburgh. 

Beginning with a one-day charrette led by the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh, the challenge will be to design connections—whether literal or metaphorical—between the various points-of-interests throughout the Northside, from the Andy Warhol Museum and the National Aviary, to the New Hazlett Theater and the Mattress Factory.  The event is open to all Pittsburgh residents ages 18 to 25.

That these cultural institutions are sometimes disjointed is a problem that the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh has previously identified.  Their ongoing Charm Bracelet Project has similarly sought to link the district’s cultural and recreational destinations through public art and other unifying efforts.

The current effort, Art and Urban Connectivity, is open to all ideas, and could take on any form, says Thor Erickson, of the CDC.

"We're looking for the creative folks that are the young adults in Pittsburgh to come up with something that's outside of the box and maybe hasn't been thought of before," Erickson says.

Following the charrette, participants will be asked to create a design board detailing their ideas, to be submitted for a juried competition.  The work of 13 finalists will be displayed at the Warhol on June 29th, with cash prizes for various categories of excellence. 

Saturday’s event will run from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, meeting at the New Hazlett Theater, and moving to the Children’s Museum.  Erickson says the traveling charrette will give participants a taste of the Northside’s cultural offerings.

"There's a lot of little things going on in Northside," Erickson says, "And as you look at them together, it's a pretty compelling piece that if there was a way to easily identify paths to get to each of them, it could create a really unique experience."

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Thor Erickson

East Deutschtown's first commercial development in decades breaks ground, future dialysis clinic

East Deutschtown’s first commercial development in nearly 40 years has broken ground on what will be a future DaVita dialysis clinic.  Neighborhood groups hope it will be the beginning of renewed and continued investment in this centrally located, Northside community.

The 9,000-square-foot building will be situated just east of Interstate 279 along Madison Avenue and Tripoli Street.  Although the new structure will be just a single floor, a second-story gable was added to the design in order to blend the structure with the surrounding 19th century two- and three-story homes and businesses.

As the site is located near a major traffic corridor, and will be a highly visible landmark, the Community Alliance of Spring Garden and East Deutschtown (also known as East Allegheny) felt that it was especially important that the building’s design reflect the historic character of the neighborhood. 

Community board member Neil Poillon says the completed building will have a look and design that Pittsburgh will be proud of.  He says developer Marc Anthony Construction has worked closely with neighborhood stakeholders, and with the community’s input in the design process.

“We all gave a little and I think we came up with something that was good for the neighborhood and works for the developer,” Poillon says.

In addition to the new dialysis clinic, three historic townhomes in the adjacent block have recently been renovated and are for sale. 

Poillon says the neighborhood is filled with good people and cultural institutions, is favorably situated within the city, and believes it’s only a matter of time before even more vacant lots are transformed into positive community assets.
Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Neil Poillon

Northside Leadership Confernece receives $600,000 for neighborhood revitalization efforts

The Northside Leadership Conference (NSLC) has received a total of $600,000 from First Niagara, and First National Bank of Pennsylvania, boosting real estate and business district revitalization projects throughout Northside neighborhoods.

The first pledge of $300,000 was announced last week, with funds from First Niagara targeting  NSLC’s real estate development programs.  The pledge will include $50,000 annually for six years.

The partnership was announced at the former Ludwig’s Floral building on East Ohio Street, where it and an adjacent storefront are to be renovated as two commercial units, and two second-floor apartments.  The project was supported by previous NPP funding.

“Community development is a difficult business, and our projects are not routine,” says Mark Fatla, NSLC executive director.  “They need creative solutions, and First Niagara’s folks understand that and…share their technical expertise with us.”

Construction of this project, to include streetscape and façade improvements, is scheduled to begin later this summer.

The second $300,000 pledge, from First National, was announced yesterday, and is targeted to support NSLC’s work in business district revitalization.  These efforts include supporting existing businesses, recruiting businesses or new entrepreneurs, as well as marketing and branding business districts, and beautification projects.

Previously, First National financed the $1.7 million streetscape reconstruction of Allegheny West’s Western Boulevard commercial corridor, which included new sidewalks, curbs, trees, and lighting.

“Normally you don’t see banks financing in an infrastructure project like that, but they understood where we were going, why it made sense,” Fatla says.  He adds that First National’s shared expertise allows NSLC to make stronger deals and better decisions.

Both partnerships are part of the Neighborhood Partnership Program (NPP) administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.  First National has become NSLC’s 6th corporate partner under the program, joining H.J. Heinz Co., the Pittsburgh Steelers, Huntington Bank, and E&O Partners.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Mark Fatla, NSLC

North Shore Connector opening, new T stations dazzle

The North Shore Connector, the latest expansion of the Port Authority's "T" Light Rail service, will officially open for service on Sunday, March 25th.  The 1.2 mile extension will pass under the Allegheny River, connecting Downtown Pittsburgh with the North Shore, PNC Park, and Heinz Field.

In addition to the new transit line, three new T stations were constructed as part of the project.  The new Gateway Station features a translucent structure which brings natural lighting into the underground platform.  The station was designed by the Light/Motion Collaborative, a joint venture between EDGE Studio and Pfaffmann & Associates.

Located within Gateway Station is the restored “Pittsburgh Recollections” mural by renowned artist Romare Bearden.  Originally completed in 1984, prior to the opening of the original Gateway T station, the mural was carefully restored over a 13-month period by conservator McKay Lodge, and installed in its new location last fall.

The mural features transportation motifs, and an interpretive timeline of Pittsburgh history, from Native American culture to modern industry.

The North Side Station was designed by Cooper Carry, of New York, and the Allegheny Station was designed by Burt Hill, of Pittsburgh.

The T’s Free Fare Zone will be extended to both new North Shore stops, and will continue to include all stops Downtown.

Last month, the Port Authority announced that along with a previous agreement between the Stadium Authority and Alco Parking, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Rivers Casino would underwrite the northernmost segment of the North Shore Connector.  This will allow for free rides at all times, at no cost to the Port Authority, and is expected to last up to three years.
Travel time between Allegheny station (end of line) and Wood Street Station is estimated at 9 minutes.  Service will run 7 days a week, with extra service during special events.  Cars will arrive every 4 minutes during peak periods.  Schedules are available at the Port Authority website.

The $523 million project was funded through federal, state, and county funds.  According to the Port Authority, these were capital funds specific to the project, and cannot legally be applied to the agency’s operating budget deficit, or to prevent service cuts or fare increases. 

Port Authority spokesperson Jim Ritchie says that if the most recently proposed budget cuts do take place, light rail service will be cut back in September.

“Obviously, we don’t want to cut service,” Ritchie says, “So we're…looking to make sure that doesn't happen if at all possible, and we're taking the steps necessary to try to achieve that.”

Ritchie says that the future of transit in Pittsburgh, whether it be further extension of the T Light Rail service, or Bus Rapid Transit between Downtown and Oakland, is at the will of the community.

“We're going to go in the direction the community wants us to go, and that's what we’re looking for,” Ritchie says.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Jim Ritchie
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