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James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy opens, Pittsburgh jazz standard revived

James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy has opened in Deutschtown, evoking the spirit of a former Pittsburgh jazz hangout, while offering an updated menu of food and drinks.

Located at the intersection of Foreland and James Streets (just north of East Ohio Street), the large building was originally built for the Perry Homestead Loan and Trust Company in the 1800's.  More recently, the Classical Revival-style structure has been home to a string of neighborhood restaurants and other quirky uses.

The first floor restaurant space, while repaired and renovated, appears much like it might have in years past: exposed brick, a handsome, dark-wood bar, and wooden booths.  Autographed musician photographs line one wall, mementos inherited from the former jazz club once located here, the James Street Tavern.

The James Street Tavern was a beloved local venue and restaurant, serving Louisiana-style cuisine.  Co-owners Adam Johnston and Lisa Saftner say when local musicians heard that “James Street” was back, they were overwhelmed with enthusiasm and support.

“I had no idea that there was such a huge jazz community in Pittsburgh,” Saftner says. 

James Street is already booked with jazz and blues three nights a week (Friday through Sunday) through May.

Performances are held in the "speakeasy" basement level, where bands take the stage in an intimate setting, at arm’s length from seated patrons.  Scheduled performers include the Boilermaker Jazz Band, Roger Humphries Quintet, and the Etta Cox & Al Dowe Band.

The Pittsburgh Jazz Society has also relocated their weekly Sunday Night Jazz series to the speakeasy.  On January 15th, the Kevin Howard Quartet will take the stage at 6 p.m.

Johnston says the menu at James Street was designed to be as eclectic as this Northside neighborhood.  That means everything wings and burgers, to Cajun oysters, short ribs, and chicken fried steak.  There’s also plenty of appetizers and small-plates to chose from, for sharing with friends during a set of live jazz.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Lisa Saftner, Adam Johnston

Northside streets get first-ever bicycle infrastructure

The Northside’s first-ever on-street bicycle infrastructure is now in place with more to come.  Shared lane markings, or sharrows, have been painted on several key streets leading from the riverfront trail to Northside neighborhoods.  Part of a greater community-wide bicycle route, the project will eventually include bicycle lanes from the Central Northside to the Wood’s Run neighborhood.

Bike Pittsburgh’s Eric Boerer says this infrastructure will allow safer access for Northside residents to the riverfront trail system while addressing other issues of connectivity.

The new markings are along a bicycle route identified by the Northside Bike/Ped Committee.  

Jerry Green, a member of the Bike/Ped Committee, is amazed by the work being done, and how quickly the city has responded to his organization’s input.

Green says the committee views sharrows as important for raising awareness of cycling as a normal and healthy transportation option for residents and visitors.

“It legitimizes the bikes,” he says.

Green, who has been cycling for decades, says he notices a change in driver behavior while on roads with sharrows, like Penn Avenue in the Strip District.  He says he hopes it makes a difference on the Northside.

“I’m hopeful that this isn’t all, that there’s more to come,” Green says.

And new sharrows have also been laid along Penn Avenue at the Doughboy Square intersection in the Strip District.  Those markings link the Liberty Avenue bike lanes with existing sharrows in the Strip District, part of an East End-to-Downtown on-street bicycle route.

“The sketch is there,” Boerer says of the bicycle routes in progress.  “And now we're trying to work with the city to fill in the gaps to make it a more clear and present connection.  The long-term vision is to make sure there’s a network safely and clearly connecting neighborhoods with bicycling infrastructure.”  

***

A community meeting will be held tonight, November 30th, about the future of the former LTV (Almono) site in Hazelwood, and whether or not the riverfront trail will be extended into that neighborhood.  6:30 to 8:30 P.M., International Union of Operating Engineers, 300 Saline Street.  For more information contact Jim Richter, jwarichter@comcast.net, 412-421-7234


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Eric Boerer, Bike Pittsburgh

Garden Theater redevelopment project to work with Nakama, Round Corner Cantia, and Firehouse Lounge

Restaurant and bar concepts similar to Nakama, Round Corner Cantina, and the Firehouse Lounge are in the works for the former Garden Theater block in the Central Northside.

Developer Wayne Zukin, a principal with Zukin Realty, told an assembled URA board that his team, Allegheny City Development Group LLC, held letters of intent to work with the owners of those three popular Pittsburgh establishments. 

Phase one of the redevelopment project will transform the Garden Theater and several adjacent buildings into mixed use spaces, with storefronts containing dining and retail on the first floor, and apartments above.  Zukin says the owners of Nakama, a Japanese steakhouse and sushi bar, are looking specifically at the former Masonic Lodge building for a restaurant concept.

“We don’t want to delay any longer,” Zukin says.  “We want to get started with the tenants that we have in hand, and get the project kickstarted.” 

Zukin hopes this first phase of development will create enough critical mass to generate interest and tenants for the remaining structures along North Avenue and Federal Street.

Zukin was awarded the development rights to the Garden Theater block in October of 2010.  He says stabilization work will begin within the next six weeks, and hopes to be out of the design phase and under construction this coming spring.

“I think it’s going to be a great asset to the Northside, and it’s a project that’s been a longtime coming,” Zukin says.  “It’s been tricky, but I think we're finally figuring it out.”

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Wayne Zukin

The Mattress Factory to expand with new exhibit space

A rowhouse and adjacent lot on Sampsonia Way will soon become The Mattress Factory's third exhibit space in the Northside.  

Because the Mattress Factory is an installation museum, where artists stay and work in-house, much of the gallery space can be unavailable for periods of time.  But with the new gallery spaces, museum spokesperson Lindsay O'Leary says, “there will always be something new for the public to see.”

The 1890 Victorian home, located at 516 Sampsonia Way,  was most recently an installation by Ruth Stanford titled Dwelling Home.  As part of that exhibit, the home’s windows were replaced with gravestone-like markers that listed the former occupants of the home.  Those markers will remain on site, but will be removed from the facade.

In addition to the rowhouse, an adjacent lot will be used for both education and performance programs, and outside installations.  Sota Construction will lead the renovation work, which will be done using environmentally friendly and energy-saving practices.

The Mattress Factory’s main exhibit space, located at 500 Sampsonia Way, was founded in 1977.  A second exhibit space, at 1414 Monterey Street, reuses a former storefront and upstairs home.  O'Leary says the museum is conscious of the surrounding Victorian neighborhood, and tries to keep facades similar to what they were originally.

“We don't ever tear anything down,” O’Leary says.  “We just rehab it so we can use it again in a different way.”

The officially groundbreaking will take place on Thursday,  November 10th, at 10 a.m., and is free and open to the public.  412-231-3169.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Lindsay O’Leary


Columbus Square ribbon cutting in Manchester; new homes completed

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held  last Thursday for the Columbus Square development in Manchester, a project five years in the making.  Despite wind and rain, community members turned out to tour the project’s first completed home, and to hear remarks from project developers and community leaders.

Linda Nelson, chair of the Manchester Citizens Corporation, said this development will anchor the north-eastern section of the neighborhood, adding valuable housing diversity to the community.  Nelson says her organization is also extremely proud of the cost-saving, energy features included in these homes.

“Because we value sustainability and we understand that it is necessarily for communities like ours to grow and prosper,” Nelson said.

Currently, five homes are finished or near completion.  Project developer Fourth River Development LLC will continue the build-out based on pre-sales, with plans to construct a total of 31 new homes.

The featured model unit contains four bedrooms, a first-floor den or study, three and one-half baths, and is offered at a base price of $255,000.  Two of the five homes have been pre-sold, with prices beginning at $179,000.

The redevelopment project has also resulted in the reopening of Juniata Street to Fulton Street, which had formerly dead-ended into a cul-de-sac.

A ten year tax abatement program is offered as an incentive to potential homebuyers.  Mayor Luke Ravenstahl called this a tremendous incentive, and said he was happy to have it available in Manchester, targeted by his administration as a Neighborhood Growth Zone.

Columbus Square is built on the former American Electric site, which had been vacant and empty for nearly 20 years.  Fourth River Development LLC’s other notable redevelopment projects in Pittsburgh include Washington’s Landing and Summerset at Frick Park. 


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Fourth River Development LLC

URA seeks developer for North Shore, riverfront site

A former industrial site on the North Shore will soon be redeveloped, with the goal of transforming a stretch of waterfront along the Ohio River.  The Urban Redevelopment Authority acquired the former Eles Brothers site in bankruptcy court for $500,000 last month.  This new parcel, combined with adjacent land previously owned by the city, totals 5.9 acres.  The URA has begun seeking developers for the site.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl toured the former concrete-manufacturing facility last week, and said the city will be open-minded in considering a range of developer proposals, and envisions residential, commercial, or even light industrial uses.

Ravenstahl said proximity to downtown, entertainment venues, transit, and bike trails make the site ideally situated for residential development, among other uses.

“It’s really strategically located in an area where we think there would be a tremendous amount of interest on the residential side,” Ravenstahl said.  “We want to make sure that whatever is proposed is able to be executed.”

The North Shore Bike Trail intersects the two properties (829 Beaver Avenue and 801 Kroll Drive), less than a mile upriver from Rivers Casino and Heinz Field.  As a public right of way, Ravenstahl said, rest assured the bike trail will remain.

"We want to have this project include that wonderful amenity that the bike trail is,” Ravenstahl said, adding that they will select a developer that recognizes the trail as an asset.

Yesterday, the URA held a tour of the site for interested developers.  Requests for Qualifications will be due to the URA on October 21st, and a developer selection is scheduled to be made by November 10th.

Demolition of the former concrete facility will begin with the next two weeks, and remediation of the property will be required of any redevelopment plan.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Mayor Luke Ravenstahl; the Urban Redevelopment AuthorityPhoto courtesy Brian Cohen

Historic Deutschtown House Tour this Sunday

Early fall is house tour season in Pittsburgh and this Sunday seven homes will be opened to house and garden enthusiasts during the Historic Deutschtown House Tour.  Architecture styles featured on the tour include traditional Victorian and Italianate, as well as newly built, modern homes. 

Randy Strothman, a spokesperson for the Deutschtown community group, says one outstanding home is the newly built townhouse of local contractor Al DePasquale.  Beyond an original façade, the home was completely rebuilt to DePasquale’s own personal design and lifestyle preferences.

“It looks like it's been there forever,” Strothman says,  “very traditional of the period…but it's a very modern treatment, very personalized to his style.”  The home features five interior fountains, murals, and a garden.

Strothman says the neighborhood has been gradually revitalizing itself for the past 30 years, following the construction of I-279 which sliced through the community in the 1980’s.  He says the private market has begun to lead renovation efforts, including home renovations and the opening of new businesses.

Neighborhood business will be open throughout the tour, and include Bistro To Go, the Victory Grill, Amani Coffee, and the Park House. 

Tickets are $12 in advance; $15 at the door.  For more information call 412-321-1204.  The tour starts at the Priory Hotel Courtyard, 614 Lockhart St., 15212; free parking at the hotel’s Grand Hall. 

The Priory Hotel will also be hosting a special wine tasting event in conjunction with the tour.  Live music will be provided by a Deutschtown accordionist.  Tickets for the wine tasting are $15.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Randy Strothman

TreeVitalize and Brighton Road developments in the Northside

Several new developments are transforming vacant spaces in the lower Northside's Brighton Road corridor. The heavily trafficked road received a face-lift via the TreeVitalize program this past year and in the wake of those improvements two new businesses, a park, and an elementary school have opened.

Throughout the Brighton corridor 490 trees were planted at an approximate worth of $900 per tree, including maintenance for two years, paid for by a federal stimulus grant.

Jeffrey Bergman, TreeVitalize director of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, says that according to research, tree-lined streets are
preferred by pedestrians as places to socialize and shop.

"There's sort of an instinctual enjoyment of trees by people, and they want to be in places that are beautiful and shaded," Bergman says.

Also on Brighton Road, Propel NORTHSIDE, a K-4 elementary charter school, will soon hold classes in the former Columbus Middle School building. Propel NORTHSIDE will be the seventh Propel school in the region, and the first within the city of Pittsburgh.

The former middle school had been closed and vacant since 2006. Propel Pittsburgh was granted charter by the Pittsburgh Public School Board earlier this year.

Downhill from the school a corner park has been created on a formerly vacant lot. Situated at a triangle intersection of Brighton Road, Charles Street, and California Avenue, this new green space serves as a gateway between several neighborhoods.

The park was created through Greenup Pittsburgh, a program of the Ravenstahl administration, the Green Team, and neighborhood organizations.

And just outside the Mexican War Streets, Sho' Koran's Wings-N-Things has reopened at 1600 Brighton Road. Owned and operated by Netta Waits, the shop features $2 burgers, $.99 beef hot dogs, and a variety of wings. Next door, Brighton Market convenience store has also recently opened.

"It's just nice to see [the corridor] getting to a tipping point," says Bergman. "You see things start to happen incrementally in an area, and they then they build on each other."  Bergman says he hopes the TreeVitalize program can continue contributing to that effort.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Jeffrey Bergman

Deli on Butler opens second location, Deli on North

After two and a half years of serving sandwiches in Lawrenceville, Deli on Butler has opened a second location in the Central Northside. Deli on North is the newest business to open in the revitalizing Federal Street and North Avenue corridor.

An extensive menu of paninis, hoagies, wraps, salads, and sandwiches--from Muffalettas, to Cubans, to corned beef--are available at the deli, as well as meat and cheese by the pound. And if you can't find the right menu item, owner Pete Notarangelo says he'll let you build your own sandwich.

As with the Lawrenceville location, Deli on North is located adjacent to a Crazy Mocha coffee shop. Notarangelo says both businesses have a very good working relationship, and it was Crazy Mocha owner Ken Zeff who encouraged him and his partner, Gary Gigliotti, to expand to the Northside.

In addition to Zeff's encouragement, Notarangelo says other developments in the neighborhood were important for bringing the deli to the Northside.

"We saw what was happening in Lawrenceville just in the two years that we've moved in, and we looked at this neighborhood and said, yeah, it's definitely going to happen here [in the Northside]," Notarangelo says. "And that's why we wanted to be a part of it as early as we could."

The deli's storefront was completely remodeled for their shop by developer Bill Barron, of Barron Commercial Real Estate. The upper floors were remodeled for two two-story apartments.

Barron is also responsible for the remodeling of Crazy Mocha's North Avenue storefront, which now serves as a gateway to the Federal Street business district. Barron is also developing a third property on Federal Street.

Deli on North, 4 East North Avenue, is open Monday through Friday 10am to 5pm, and Saturday, 11am to 3pm. 412-322-DELI.


Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Pete Notarangelo

Bicycle Heaven bike shop and museum opens along North Shore Trail

Craig Morrow has collected bicycles for decades, filling two houses and several garages with rare and unique cycles. But Morrow is now ready to share those prized rides with the public, and has opened the Bicycle Heaven bike shop and museum.

Morrow has filled a warehouse in the RJ Casey Industrial Park, on the Northside, with around 2,000 bicycles. Bikes include memorable Schwinn Sting-Rays, rare fiberglass Bowden Spacelanders, a racing bike from 1909, and a collection of vintage bells, bright-colored fenders, strange lights, and funky seats.

But perhaps the most notable bike on display is the wooden Boneshaker from 1862, one of the first bicycle types ever made. Other than a few parts made of iron, the bike is all wood, including wheels.

The museum and shop fills a total of six rooms on two floors, with bikes hanging from the ceiling and attached to walls.

Located just off the North Shore Trail along the Ohio River, the museum will soon be a full-service bike shop, the first in recent years on the Northside.

Bikes are for sale or rent, but admission to the museum is free. In the coming month, Morrow hopes to have a full fleet of rental bikes available and on display near the bike trail.

Morrow says opening the museum wasn't a dream he'd always had, rather just the progression of his collecting. When buyers would come to Morrow's home shop it was difficult to see what all was there, and so he needed more space.

"I wanted everything to be in one place where everybody could enjoy it," Morrow says. "This way everybody can see it all at one time and they really get to like what they see."

Bicycle Heaven is open 9 - 5, Monday - Sunday. R.J. Casey Industrial Park, 1800 Preble Ave. 412-716-4956.


Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Craig Morrow

Pig Hill Cafe serves fermented foods in Troy Hill

Pig Hill Cafe might only be open two days a week, but Naomi Auth is plenty busy meeting the demand for her homemade kombucha. Five gallon jugs of the living, fermented green tea are stacked at the rear of the cafe, which is now serving brunch on weekends.

This same space once held the Magnolia Cafe, Auth's first coffee shop project in Troy Hill. As she describes it, the neighborhood wasn't quite ready for a conventional coffee-sipping cafe, and there wasn't enough foot traffic to be open throughout the week.

So Auth reorganized and focused on the aspects of her business that were in fact working--the fermented foods. Within her storefront space, Auth makes kombucha and sauerkraut under the label of RedStar Specialty Foods.

Auth says it takes 5-7 weeks to transform tea leaves into a case of kombucha. Once finished, the beverage is bottled and sold at the East End Food Co-Op, the Pittsburgh Public Market, and Lili Coffee Shop in Polish Hill.

Before reopening, Auth says the shop was remodeled and "opened up to allow full usage of the space." She brought in more kitchen equipment and is able to do more cooking than before.

Auth doesn't think kombucha should be pigeon holed into the health drink category. "I prefer to think of it as an enjoyable drink, that's good for you also," she says.

And she is marketing it as such. Her kombucha is sold in soda bottles, and uses a traditional beer label for marketing. Auth is also hoping her brunch menu will cast fermented foods in a more accessible light.

"If you give somebody a bag of sauerkraut, they might think how do I eat this, what should I eat this with?" Auth says. "But if you give them a baguette with some organic, local ham and some good, grass-fed cheese and some sauerkraut on there, then they'll know what to do with it--and like it."

Pig Hill Cafe, 1721 Lowrie Street, Troy Hill, 412-586-7527

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Naomi Auth

Swissvale House Tour unveils Madonna del Castello condos

At the second annual Taste of Swissvale House Tour this Sunday, guests will be able to explore the recently renovated Madonna del Castello church, which has been converted into four condominiums as part of the Kopp Glass Gateway Redevelopment Project.

The fundraiser is sponsored by the Swissvale Economic Development Corporation (SEDCO), with samples of food, wine, and beer to be donated by local businesses.

The Mon Valley Initiative (MVI) has partnered with SEDCO for this $4.14 million project to renovate a section of Swissvale that had once been home to nuisance bars and had suffered a period of neglect, according to Leanne Aurich, MVI community outreach specialist.

"It was an area that had kind of been abandoned for a really long time," Aurich says. "[SEDCO] actually identified the area and worked with the Mon Valley Initiative to also identify homes that we could go in and renovate or construct."

This phase of the project includes five homes and the church condos, "which we're really excited about," Aurich says. "To date we have around 17 houses that we're working on throughout the area."

While working to preserve the historic character and integrity of these homes, Aurich says each unit has received an Energy Star rating to improve their energy efficiency.

In addition to touring the homes, food and drink will be provided by Home Towne Tavern, Pub in the Park, Cafe dez Artz, Map Room Grill & Bar, Boomerang Bar & Restaurant, and more.

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased on the day of the event, along the park at Park Avenue, between Palmer Street and Monongahela Avenue, 1pm-4 pm.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Leanne Aurich, MVI

Bicycle parking installed throughout Northside neighborhoods

Last month, the Northside Bike/Ped Committee filed a request for 22 bike racks for neighborhood businesses and institutions. Within two weeks the city's signature, three-rivers bike racks had been installed at nearly every location.

Committee member Stephanie Miller says this quick turnaround speaks to a level of commitment and support for bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure improvements on behalf of the city of Pittsburgh.  The bike racks were made avaialbe as part of Mayor Ravenstahl and BikePGH's Small Business Bike Rack Program.

"As a community, we feel like [the city is] listening," says Miller, who is business development director with the Northside Leadership Conference.

Perhaps one reason for the city's rapid response was the collective nature of the committee's requests. Rather than submitting 22 different applications, individual businesses pooled their requests into one document under the organization of the committee.

This coordinated effort allowed for a more streamlined approval and installation period. Additionally, this method is helping to build the committee's reputation as an accomplished advocacy group.

"We're getting put on the map and people are starting to notice us," Miller says.

Miller says the purpose of these racks is to encourage and facilitate bicycling in the city. She and other committee members say they have noticed more bicyclists in the Northside in recent months.

Bike racks have been installed at the Monterey Pub in the Mexican War Streets, at the Crazy Mocha and the soon-to-be-opened Deli on North in the Central Northside, and the Park House in Deutschtown, among other locations.

However, one important location which lacks adequate bike parking is the Giant Eagle on Cedar Avenue. "We would love to see [bike racks] there," Miller says. "I have brought that to the owners' attention."

Still, Miller says this initial phase of installations was so successful, "we'll probably have to do another round."

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Stephanie Miller, Northside Leadership Conference

Cue the falcons: the Aviary sky deck opens!

When the National Aviary opened its new Sky Deck this weekend, visitors received an up close view of birds of prey swooping and diving above the open-air rooftop.  

A martial eagle, lanner falcons, and six black kites are the stars of the show.

Coaxed by lures sent flying by their trainers, the birds zoom above the building.  The lures they seek range from frozen pieces of chicken to leather straps disguised with feathers.

Each bird is trained extensively before its debut, to ensure that they do not fly away.  The lanner falcons are still completing training after a rainy spring, but they are expected to join the show soon.

The Aviary in Allegheny Commons Park is the only place in the country where you can see a martial eagle fly freely and black kites fly in unison.   It is also the only aviary recognized by an Act of Congress. The National Aviary took its name in 1993.

According to Laura Ellis, of the organization's marketing staff, the parking lot is consistently filled with out of town license plates, especially during the summer.

"It's a remarkable experience," she says.  "It's the opposite of a zoo experience.  You're having a chance to observe birds in a way that you would never see in captivity."

The Sky Deck is open at 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. daily until Labor Day.  Tickets are available online and at the Aviary on the North Side.  Reservations are recommended.

Writer: Lindsay Derda
Source: Laura Ellis, National Aviary

Columbus Square will bring 31 new homes to Manchester

Construction has begun on the first five of 31 single-family homes at Fourth River Development LLC's Columbus Square complex at the corner of Juniata and Sedgwick Streets in Manchester on the North Side. 

Sally Flinn, a principal at Fourth River Development, says the Manchester Citizens Corporation was looking for investment opportunities within the community and housing seemed the best choice.

With RDC Contracting and Devlin Architecture responsible for design and construction, Columbus Square homes will feature two and three bedrooms ranging from 1,700 to 2,070 square feet. They will also include a two-car garage, private yard and energy-efficient appliances.

The houses will have flexible layout options and will range in price from $175,000 to $255,000. "We want to incorporate the architectural vocabulary that already exists in Manchester, and really make these a part of the community," Flinn says. Buyers will benefit from market-rate housing and a 10-year property tax abatement. 

The location and style of these homes is ideal or anyone from young professionals and families to empty-nesters, says Flinn.

Four of the houses will be available for occupancy in late summer, and the fifth home will serve as a model unit. Infrastructure for the remaining homes will be finished by June 1 and construction will begin once qualified buyers are secured.

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Writer: Alex Audia
Source: Sally Flinn, Four Rivers Development LLC
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