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$36M Homestead Grays Bridge renovation complete, Rankin next for bridge facelift

A $36 million renovation of the Homestead Grays Bridge project is now complete. Linking Homestead with Greenfield, the truss deck bridge serves more than 40,000 vehicles every day.

Rehabilitation work involved replacing the bridge's deck, bearings, sidewalks, and traffic barriers. “We widened the footprint of the entire bridge and put in a new PA bridge barrier that separates traffic from pedestrians. The Riverlife Taskforce has pushed for this style, especially on the Fort Pitt Bridge,” says Doug Aiken with Allegheny County Public Works. “It’s a nice new clean bridge for a major retail environment. We changed the elevation and curvature to make it a smoother ride.” Built in the 1930s, the bridge received a new coat of grey to commemorate the Homestead Grays Negro League team.

“The I-35 bridge collapse in Minnesota is a real wake-up call. We’ve been looking at this issue in the state for years,” says Aiken. “Next week we’re scheduling a new inspection of the new bridge to address those issues specifically, because it’s a similar bridge.” The Federal Highway Administration covered eighty- percent of the cost. Pennsylvania provided fifteen-percent, and Allegheny County contributed five percent.

Next in line for a major rehab is the Rankin Bridge. “We’re going to bid at the end of this year; construction should start in the spring,” adds Aiken, who says the project could cost $40 million. “For people commuting, it’s an opportunity to keep traffic flowing with new bridges and wider lanes. These are major arteries between communities. The Rankin Bridge has a big Kennywood component.

Next year, the County will construct a $10 million flyover bridge connecting Duquesne’s RIDC Park to Rte. 837.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Doug Aiken, Allegheny County Public Works

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

Summerset at Frick Park unveils new home designs, begins next residential phase

Kicking off its latest residential phase, Summerset at Frick Park unveiled new home designs and opened its sales center on Sept. 7th.

Construction is set to begin on 46 new residential units, including single-family houses and town homes in Summerset’s updated Cottage, Village and Estate styles. The Village Grant model, a three-bedroom, 2,470 square-foot plan, starts at $460,000. Summerset also debuted several two-bedroom Craftsman models that range in size from 1,520 to 1,768 square feet, and sell for between $298,000 and $329,900. Ten homes are already under agreement for sale.

“We had early excitement when houses were sold overnight; now it’s more of a steady progress. Given the national climate, which really isn’t a Pittsburgh issue, it’s still really strong,” says Craig Dunham, with The Rubinoff Company and Summerset Land Development Associates. He says they would love to have everything done by the end of 2008.

“If someone made a decision to live in the city and wants a new house with open space and amenities, this is as good as it gets,” says Dunham, who notes that Summerset features a community center and pool. While buyers have moved in from places such as Ohio, Illinois and Indiana, Dunham says, “It’s primarily Oakland employees—medical or academic—Downtown professionals, and people wanting second homes or downsizing for retirement.”

Summerset’s first phase, which included 36 condos, 40 rental units and
123 houses and town homes, is nearing completion and close to selling out. Located in Squirrel Hill near Frick Park, Summerset is being completed in three phases and will feature 700 homes.  

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Craig Dunham, The Rubinoff Company

Image courtesy of Summerset at Frick Park

$3.75M expansion and renovation project underway at Squirrel Hill JCC

On July 23rd, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh (JCC) launched a $3.75 million expansion and renovation project at its Squirrel Hill site.

At the site’s current 5,244 square-foot configuration, only 75% of JCC members have access to the cardiovascular and strength training equipment. The expansion will add 4,114 square feet to the organization’s 20 year-old building at 5738 Forbes Ave. “When we expand, all of our general members will have access to our cardio vascular machines. We’re going to attract so many new members, and increase the satisfaction of our current general membership,” says JCC fitness director Laurie Wood. “It’s going to be more open, airy and welcoming; there will be windows everywhere.”

The expanded facility will feature a 4,000 square-foot state-of-the-art cardiovascular area, cycling center, dedicated personal training rooms, and senior- and teen-friendly equipment. Upgrades will be made to the center’s popular pool, including the installation of an environmentally-friendly ultra-violet filtration and disinfectant and the creation of a family waiting area. Locker rooms will undergo a facelift, and a new HVAC system will be installed. The expansion will also allow the JCC to add wireless Internet access and new programs for women, older adults and teens. 

Squirrel Hill-based architect and JCC member Alan Dunn is designing the expansion. Contractor is Angelo Martini. The project is expected to take six months. 
The JCC recently, the JCC completed capital projects at its Henry Kaufmann Family Recreation Park in Monroeville, South Hills center and Emma Kaufmann Camp. In July, the JCC surpassed its $10 million endowment fund goal by $15,000.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Laurie Woods, JCC

Image courtesy of the Jewish Community Center

$2.3M Carriage House Children's Center seeks LEED gold, hosts GBA tour

The Carriage House Children’s Center (CHCC), located at 5604 Solway St. in Squirrel Hill, will be spotlighted during a Green Building Alliance tour on July 26th. Led by architect Gary Moshier, the tour will highlight the project's sustainable design and programmatic features. The $2.3 million dollar interior renovation project is seeking a LEED-certification gold rating for an existing building, as well as an Energy Star rating.

In addition to housing the CHCC, the turn-of-the-century property also provides space for numerous non-profit, community and arts organizations. The project involved basement and first floor renovations, including expanding the CHCC’s program space by 2,000 square feet and building a commercial kitchen. “The goal was to reduce energy consumption overall by thirty-five percent,” says Moshier, who cites a new boiler, air conditioning and daylighting controls as central to the school’s new green operations. “A significant amount of construction waste was both recycled and diverted from the site—ninety-five percent was the goal. We used recycled content carpet, low-VOC paints and FSC-certified wood.” 

The project’s green approach does not stop with the building. Building manager Bob Michel has instituted a green cleaning system, new recycling procedures and a battery recycling program, while the school has launched a green curriculum. “We used durable and non-toxic products, for the children’s safety and indoor air quality, “ says Moshier, who worked with Jendoco Construction Corporation. “We cut down their waste by twenty-five percent. It was a completely integrated process and team.”

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 40,000 square-foot, four-story building housed The Wightman School until 1979. To register for the GBA tour, go here.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Gary Moshier, Moshier Studio

Image courtesy of Green Building Alliance

YPA unveils region's top preservation sites, celebrates 5th anniversary

The Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh (YPA) unveiled its “Top Ten Best Preservation Opportunities” list at the group’s fifth anniversary celebration on May 25th.

The list calls attention to endangered properties that show potential for reuse and highlights the economic value of historic preservation. “We really wanted to do a list that would be different, not just endangered places, but where we see potential. It shapes our thinking on historic places,” says Dan Holland with the YPA, who is currently working to secure preservation grants for the National Negro Opera House in Homewood. “These are strategic and purposeful awards. Community revitalization should start with historic resources."
For the first time, the YPA identified two Washington County sites. The Coyle Theater in Charleroi, West Overton Museums in Scottdale and Pittsburgh’s former Morningside School were also recognized.

Sandee Gertz Umbach, founding executive director of Washington Community Arts and Cultural Center, won the YPA’s emerging preservation leader award. “She’s a magnet for revitalization in Washington. While we have these top ten sites, it is the people and demographics that matter,” says Holland.

To select winners, the YPA looks at architectural and historical significance, project feasibility and community interest. “It takes a huge amount of teamwork. We’re trying to encourage donors to invest in these projects.” Next fall, the YPA plans to launch technical assistance programs for  individuals, business owners, community-based organizations, and local governments.

Holland cites the Union Project and Armstrong Cork Factory as examples of preservation success stories. Of 54 sites the YPA has identified since 2003, only one is considered a loss.
Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Dan Holland, YPA

Image courtesy of YPA

Cool Space Locator spotlights Pittsburgh's hottest spaces

Cool Space Locator (CSL) shines a spotlight on Pittsburgh’s hottest spaces during its June 1st "Cool Down" awards party.
Founded in 2005, the bi-annual event highlights the role that compelling architecture, design and communities play in strengthening urban life.

This year, CSL established five criteria to guide the decision-making process: community connections, creativity, historical inspiration,  adaptive reuse and the people behind the places. “We wanted to give people a better idea of what specifically we focus on,” says Keren Shefet with CSL, which assists business owners and non-profit leaders with locating creative spaces. “Cool creative spaces need to inspire the people working in them. A lot of spaces need to connect with communities.”

Winners include the Blacksmith Studio on the Northside, Uncommon Grounds in Aliquippa and The Union Project in East Liberty. New this year is an award for two communities, Bellevue and Braddock, neighborhoods recognized for stimulating economic revitalization along business districts.

To further plug cool spaces, the event will take place at The Meter Room, a former warehouse located in Sheraden. Spearheaded by local artist John Ross, The Meter Room provides residential, work and performance space for artists. “Our event for him is like a coming out party. It brings him more attention,” adds Sheret, who says the awards promote urban revitalization by calling attention to unique workspaces located in walkable neighborhoods.

A panel of community leaders, including architect Ken Doyno and Malik Bankston of The Kingsley Association, assisted with selecting 10 winners from 48 submissions. The event is sponsored by Mellon Financial Corporation and the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Keren Shefet, CSL

Image courtesy of Cool Space Locator

Smart Growth Conference to convene downtown on May 18

"Focusing Growth for Regional Prosperity,” the 7th annual Smart Growth Conference, will take place on May 18 at the Omni William Penn Hotel.

The free conference features keynote speaker Don Chen, executive director of Smart Growth America, a national advocacy coalition that promotes preservation of open space and farmland, reinvestment in existing communities, affordable housing and transportation alternatives.

Attendees will be invited to respond to a draft of Project Region, a long-range transportation and development plan being developed by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission. "This is an opportunity for the public to give input on the plan," say Court Gould, executive director of Sustainable Pittsburgh. "This plan will have a real impact on the face of the region, how we will grow and develop, whether we will continue to sprawl outwardly or focus on our existing communities.”

Participants will hear progress reports from three community committees created at last year's conference: leveling the field for redevelopment, promoting regionalism and transportation funding. The event will also feature a Q&A with state, regional and local leaders.

Project Region: The Southwestern Pennsylvania Growth Plan, which must be adopted by July, aims to make regional planning processes more transparent, maximize infrastructure, and integrate transportation, job creation and economic competitiveness within a plan for regional growth.

“In light of the city's recent top livable city award, this plan will address important quality of life issues for the future. We're at an important point where the plan will steer growth and development for the next 30 years,” says Gould.

To register, go here.

Road to 2010 symposium to address region's major construction projects

The region’s major construction projects, set to occur over the next three years, will be addressed at the “Road to 2010 Symposium.” The free event takes place on May 16 at the downtown Westin and is organized by Navigant Consulting, an international firm with a downtown office.

Government officials and industry experts will share information about building plans with area construction, engineering and design communities. Sessions will address construction issues relating to infrastructure, higher education, and private and public sector development. “There’s so much development money coming in with gaming and the North Shore. The synergies between different areas will impact the labor market and the lives of all Pittsburghers,” says Jeff Burd with BreakingGround, event co-sponsor. “What an exciting time to be here. We’re at the beginning of a large wave of work.”

Jack Mascaro of Mascaro Construction Company will chair a panel featuring Joseph Fink, associate vice chancellor for facilities management at the University of Pittsburgh. Transportation officials, private developers and non-profit leaders will also participate. Major city developments, such as The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s RiverParc and the new arena, will be spotlighted.

“It’s meant to demonstrate what's coming up, facilitate discussions about what the needs are, and make sure that people understand the full breadth of the region’s three-year climate,” says Burd, a session moderator. “Four out of five experts feel we’re not going to have sufficient skilled labor. We'll need to facilitate people coming here.” Burd feels the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. markets could be a source for labor. “We’re bringing in decision makers who are in charge of funding to make it a high-level event and tie everything together.” To register, call 412.454.4100.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Jeff Burd, BreakingGround/Tall Timber Group

Image courtesy of Navigant Consulting, Inc.

Howard Hanna ranks high on REAL Trends' national list of top real estate firms

Howard Hanna Real Estate Services has received three high rankings by REAL Trends, the country’s leading publisher of residential real estate analysis. Based on 2006 production, Howard Hanna was named the country’s sixth largest firm for closed transactions and fifth largest for both sales and settlement services. 

“When you consider how hot the markets have been in California, Florida and Arizona, and here's a home grown company in Pittsburgh, it’s pretty impressive,” says Steve Murray, editor of Denver-based REAL Trends, which collects data from 800 leading brokerage firms. “This is the highest ranking they’ve ever attained."

Murray would not be surprised to see the company enter new markets. “We are actively looking for quality acquisitions of real estate companies and expanding our mortgage, title and insurance businesses with adding new locations in 2007,” says Howard W. “Hoddy” Hanna, III, chairman and CEO of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services.

Howard Hanna was also recognized as the nation’s third largest privately owned real estate firm; in 2006, the company completed 52,555 closed and settlement service transactions. “In a year that was down in overall real estate sales, it is gratifying that Howard Hanna went against the market and had another up year,” says Hanna. “The real estate market in Western Pennsylvania is of strong value, and will continue to be, with three to five percent appreciation in the next two years. This will create housing appreciation in our region to be in the top 10% nationally.”

With more than 3,600 employees, Howard Hanna has 120 offices in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and West Virginia. This year, the company is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Steve Murray, REAL Trends

Image courtesy of Real Trends

$12M 5859 Beacon sells 20 condos, receives top construction awards

Squirrel Hill’s newest condominium 5859 BEACON, located within walking distance to the neighborhood’s business district, has sold 20 of its 28 units and won two top construction awards.

The project team--developers S & W Investment Properties, LLC, which consists of Charles Staley and Fran Wymard, contractor BRIDGES and Company, Inc. and architects Renaissance 3--received two 2006 "Excellence in Construction" Eagle Awards from the Associated Builders and Contractors.

Site manager Marie Louise Vaughn cites the Beacon’s central location, concrete and steel construction and Traco windows as criteria which led to the industry accolades. “It’s the design. The way it’s situated, there really isn't a deep dark unit. They’re all bright," she says.

The $12 million project features 28 for-sale condos, a fitness center and pet grooming facilities. Two- and three-bedroom units range in size from 1,360 to 2,451 square feet, and include balconies,11-foot ceilings and customized interiors designed by Londonbury Homes.

With 71% of its condos sold, Vaughn expects interest to continue. “It's so interesting, because we have an elderly couple in their 80s, and then we have a sophomore in college. We also have couples in their 50s, professors, active and retired physicians, and an economist who worked for the government. It’s truly a mix,” she says. "We're really hoping it sells out by July." Residents will move in during the next three months. Units in the four-story condominium start at $385,000.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Marie Louise Vaughn, Howard Hanna

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

$9.4M Crescent Court sells 21 condos, hosts opening events

To welcome new residents and mark the completion of construction, Crescent Court Condominiums hosted an open house on April 27-29th. The $9.4 million project has sold 21 of its 36 units.

“Three-fourths are from the Pittsburgh area, and of that, ten percent are coming into the city from suburbs. The rest are from places outside the region. We have many older couples, working people associated with Oakland, and a very large group of middle-aged, single women,” says Craig Dunham with The Rubinoff Company. “Now that the building is visible, sales are moving. As people move in, it’s not abstract anymore.”

Designed by Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff + Goettel Architects and built by Mistick Construction, the three-story, 87,000 square-foot Crescent Court features one-, two- and three-bedroom condos ranging in size from 1,100 to 1,860 square feet. Units, which have sold for between $299,000 and $489,000, feature large solariums. “We hope they’re perceived as very generous, gracious floor plans,” says Dunham. LaQuatra Bonci Associates completed master planning and landscaping.

Developed by Ralph Falbo, Inc. and Pennrose Properties, Crescent Court is the latest addition to Summerset at Frick Park, a project of Summerset Land Development Associates and the URA. Adjacent to Squirrel Hill, the 200-acre project includes 200 single-family houses, town homes, rental apartments and condos. When completed, it will feature 700 units, and the addition of 100 acres to Frick Park.

“There’s a diversity of housing types. Streets are interconnected with no cul-de-sacs, garages are in the back, the houses are uniformly set back 20 feet, and small parklets are interspersed throughout,” says Dunham, of Summerset’s New Urbanist approach.
Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Craig Dunham, The Rubinoff Company

Image courtesy of Summerset at Frick Park

335-mile Great Allegheny Passage trail system nears completion

The 335-mile Great Allegheny Passage is one step closer to connecting Point State Park to Washington, D.C. The U. S. Steel Corporation has transferred 1.5 miles of land to the Regional Trail Corporation to help complete the biking and hiking trail. Valued at $2 million, the land is located in West Mifflin and Duquesne.

To prepare the site for recreational use, U.S. Steel removed a former coke-oven gas pipeline and cleared the trail surface. With funds from the Allegheny Regional Asset District, Allegheny Trail Alliance and Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Regional Trail Corporation purchased the land for $550,000.

“It’s a real tool to get people here and keep people here. Here we are being named most livable city again, and taking another step to improve quality of life. These amenities really do help us with economic development,” says Kevin Evanto, spokesperson for Allegheny County. “We hope to have all of the property transferred by the fall of 2008 so that for Pittsburgh’s 250th, you could ride from D.C. to the Point." Twelve landowners, including Kennywood, own the remaining 7.5 miles needed to complete the route, which aims for class A trail status.

“Once completed, the Great Allegheny Passage will enhance the quality of life in Western Pennsylvania and serve as a dynamic pathway for visitors to experience our region’s unique qualities and history,” says John Surma, CEO of U.S. Steel. “The impending celebration of Pittsburgh's 250th anniversary has been a definite catalyst for completing the project,” says Erin DiPietro, spokesperson for U.S. Steel.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Kevin Evanto, Allegheny County; John Surma, Erin DiPietro, U.S. Steel Corporation

Image courtesy of Allegheny County

Grand View Scenic Byway receives regional park designation

Grand View Scenic Byway Park has received regional park designation, a significant milestone for the future development of the park’s amenities and activities. Spanning 280 acres throughout Mt. Washington and
Duquesne Heights, the park wraps from Grandview Park in Allentown around Grandview Ave. and along Rte 51.

“We’re raising funds to acquire 36 privately owned acres on the park's western end,” says Ethan Raup, executive director of the Mt. Washington community development corporation (MWCDC), who ties the park’s stewardship to economic and community development. “We’re working hard to provide a better experience for visitors, to draw them back into the business district and turn our open space asset into a world class park.” Along with the city, the MWCDC will partner with non-profits to raise additional funds and utilize regional resources.

“We’ve raised funds for interpretative signage on Grandview, and a habitat restoration is underway which is replacing invasive species with lower growing natives that are better to manage and will save the city maintenance funds,” says Raup, who is working with Civil and Environmental Consultants on the replanting project. In May, the MWCDC will select a firm to design new signs.

“Volunteers here have worked on this for five years. It’s really been a long time coming,” says Raup, who is excited to see most of the park on the city's map. “Earth Day was the end of the beginning.” The MWCDC has received funding from the R.K. Mellon Foundation, the Federal Highway Administration, the Laurel Foundation, and the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development to support park improvements.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Ethan Raup, MWCDC

Image courtesy of MWCDC

Venture Outdoors hosts Town Hall meeting to discuss 128-mile park

Plans for a continuous county-wide park, which were unanimously approved by Allegheny County Council in November, will be discussed at a Town Hall Meeting on April 19th at 5:30 p.m. at The Cork Factory. Hosted by Venture Outdoors, the free event will address ideas for creating a 128-mile park along the Allegheny, Monongahela, Ohio and Youghiogheny Rivers.

“We’re delighted to help leverage outdoor amenities toward economic development,” says Sean Brady, assistant executive director with Venture Outdoors, who has 2,000 members. “The Pittsburgh region is nearing a tipping point when it comes to realizing our potential centered around outdoor amenities.”

County Councilmen Fawcett and Burn will present the park’s latest developments and Venture Outdoors will facilitate a Q&A session. “It’s all systems go, a monumental project,” says Brady, who expects 300 people to attend. “It’s a process of connecting the dots. Ventue Outdoors doesn't want to compete with other valuable outdoor groups--we want to partner to make this happen.” Brady says that establishing a nonprofit entity to spearhead fundraising is key.

“Just like our amazing number of green buildings, when we start stacking up internationally, it’ll give people a greater sense of pride—this could be one of the longest linear parks in the world," says Brady, a County Parks Commissioner. He cites The Sprout Fund’s RFP for a Manchester Climbing Wall, Sharpsburg’s new boat launch and fishing spots near Highland Park as exciting ideas that are being put into action.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Sean Brady, Venture Outdoors

Image courtesy of Venture Outdoors

CCAC opens new $10M, 150,000 sf workforce training center

The Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) celebrated a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new $10 million West Hills Center on March 30th. More than 200 people joined Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Katherine Baker-Knoll, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato and CCAC officials to mark the completion of the new academic, career and trade-related center in North Fayette Township.

Located on a 34-acre site at 1000 McKee Rd., the 150,000-square-foot facility features a $1 million laboratory, state-of-the-art classrooms  and video conference centers, as well as a library, health center and cafeteria. The building also houses automotive, HVAC, welding, and additional trade-related training programs. Doubling the college's previous workforce training space, the West Hills Center occupies a refurbished building that formerly housed Siemens Westinghouse; in 2005, CCAC purchased the building for $4.7 million.

"We are excited to have so much to offer in the way of workforce
training and educational opportunities for businesses and residents," says Tom Santone, chair of CCAC's Board of Trustees. "This excellent facility serves as a showcase to reinforce the economic development agenda for Western Pennsylvania." The facility will enable CCAC to expand educational opportunities to residents in the rapidly growing western Allegheny suburbs and provide regional employers with first-class workforce training services.

The National Center for Integrated Systems Technology recently recognized CCAC as a workforce training "Center of Excellence." The college provides customized training programs in partnership with numerous regional businesses, inlcuding AT&T, Alcosan, U.S. Steel, and Comcast.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Helen Kaiser; Tom Santone, CCAC

Image courtesy of CCAC

115 Squirrel Hill Articles | Page: | Show All
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