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Grist House Brewing coming to Millvale this spring

If there’s one lesson Pittsburgh has taught the world, it’s that you can turn nearly anything into a brewery.

Expanding on that concept and adding to the resurgence in Millvale, Brian Eaton and Kyle Mientkiewicz, childhood friends who grew up in Erie, are working to open Grist House Brewing. But it’s not in an old church, nor is it in a garage.

Their space, located at 10 Sherman Street in Millvale, was built as a slaughterhouse in the mid-1950s and was functional through the 1970s. The old meat hook-and-trolley system still hangs from the ceiling above the space that will be the pub, and a large room off to the side lined with insulated glass block was used for refrigeration.

“We’re trying to keep it kind of rustic and industrial,” Eaton says, adding that some of the walls in the pub and part of the bar are made from wood taken from a 100-year-old barn on Mientkiewicz’s family farm in Sarver.

Grist House’s brewing system, which is due to arrive from Wisconsin next week, will include a 15-barrel capacity and four fermenters. Once they begin brewing, Grist House won’t just fill growlers and pint glasses in its on-site brewpub, they’ll also be distributing to local restaurants and bars. Eaton and Mientkiewicz are planning three year-round flagship beers: a hoppy American red ale, a brown ale and a light session pale ale called Gristful Thinking.

“We’ll have ten taps in the pub which will carry the year-rounds, and we’ll be doing seasonals and one-offs — whatever we feel like brewing, we’ll put on tap,” Eaton says.

The pub will seat about 45 people indoors with an additional 20 to 30 seats available on an adjacent outdoor deck.
“What we’re going for is a big open concept. If you’re sitting in the pub, you’re really going to feel like you’re inside the brewery,” Eaton says.

Eaton and Mientkiewicz have been working on the building for about nine months, and it’s impressively close to done, especially considering they’ve handled all the renovations — from electrical and plumbing to gas and heating — entirely themselves. Grist House tentatively plans to open in late April or early May.

You can follow Grist House’s progress on Facebook and Twitter.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Brian Eaton, Kyle Mientkiewicz

Downtown Pittsburgh CDC 'hatching' new crowdfunding resource

It’s a debate as old as Mineo’s versus Aiello’s, North Hills versus South Hills or Penguins versus Flyers: Are you a Kickstarter person or an Indiegogo person?

Okay, so maybe it’s just not quite on par with those rivalries. But thanks to a new program launched by the Pittsburgh Downtown Community Development Corporation you can crowd-fund your next big idea with a resource right here in Pittsburgh.

The PDCDC has launched Hatch — a civic crowd-funding program especially for creative improvement projects in and around Allegheny County.

“Initially, we’d envisioned this as a Downtown-only program, but it really doesn’t take that much to widen the geographic scope so other communities can benefit from it,” says the PDCDC Communications Director Hadley Pratt. “We’ll work with you to craft a good plan on any sort of project that can benefit the community in some way.”

Like the other crowd-funding sites, Hatch recoups a small percentage of the project’s total funding — in this case, 6 percent. But if the project is referred to Hatch through another community organization, Hatch will split its share evenly with the referring organization.

Hatch, which launched in January after nearly a year in development, is already working to help fund a handful of projects including a theater space, an off-leash dog park, a street lighting project and a lecture series.

At the same time, Pratt says she thinks the program spread the word about crowd-funding to people who might not normally use it.

“We really want to see complete, well-thought-out project proposals and we’ll work with people every step of the way to make sure they have things they can use to engage an audience,” Pratt says. “We want to see things that have a great chance of succeeding and making a difference in the area. We’re open to a lot.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Hadley Pratt

State considering changing delivery laws for small distilleries

Imagine a world in which local craft distilleries are thriving and you can buy their products online, rather than only at the distillery because the state stores still don’t carry them.

That’s crazy talk!

Where do you think you are? Pennsylvania?

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and the state’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission are vetting regulation changes which would allow permit-licensed limited distilleries to deliver their products directly to consumers.
If everything goes smoothly, you’ll be able to order that bottle of Wigle Rye or Maggie’s Farm Rum over the internet and have it delivered straight to your door.

According to PLCB spokesperson Stacy Kriedman, there are three stages left in approving the process. The first step will take place next Thursday, when the PLCB and IRRC will hold a public meeting on the regulatory changes.

“If the regulations are approved, the attorney general’s office will have 30 days to approve them. If the attorney general’s office approves, the regulations would be effective once published in the state bulletin,” Kriedman says.

All told, home delivery from permit-license limited distilleries could be a reality in Pennsylvania by late April.

“We’ve been working on this with them for a couple of years and they very readily saw the potential of cultivating local and state economies around this opportunity,” says Wigle co-owner Meredith Grelli. “We’ve built a business on selling directly to consumers, so we see this as a continuation of that, but we’re doing things that you can’t really do if you’re trying to meet volume demands for a big distributor.”

In November of last year, the state relaxed laws on limited distilleries, allowing them to self-distribute to bars and restaurants on a wholesale basis. That makes it easier for restaurants to patronize local liquor makers, but the new regulations would do even more to open up the market.

“Act 113 of 2011 created the limited distillery license and the regulations are really just an update to that, and to make sure that limited distilleries have the same privileges as limited wineries,” Kriedman says.

Craft liquor sales account for .1 percent of Pennsylvania’s alcohol market. That might not sound like much, but availability has always been a mitigating factor.

“It’s an enormous opportunity for growth for us, going from one retail location in Pittsburgh to being available to entire state,” Grelli says. “If we can go from .1 percent of this area to .1 percent of the state, that’s meaningful.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Stacy Kriedman, Meredith Grelli

Eat + Drink: Quiet Storm, Ava Lounge returning and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City's weekly look at epic local nommz.

Quiet Storm re-launching at Ava Lounge’s new space
Last year saw three East End institutions — The Quiet Storm in Garfield and Justin Strong’s Ava Lounge and Shadow Lounge in East Liberty close rather suddenly. Now, they’ve joined forces and are storming back onto the scene at Ava’s new space at 304 N. Craig Street in Oakland.

“We are slowly getting the café operation up and running,” says Strong, who added that he expects health and plumbing inspections to be completed this week. “As soon as they give us the go ahead, we’re looking at a Monday opening.”

If not?

“I may have to go rogue and start slinging coffee,” Strong jokes.

Ava’s new incarnation will be called Ava Café + Lounge. The first-floor café will bring Jill MacDowell, who owned one of Pittsburgh’s most popular vegetarian cafes in The Quiet Storm, back onto Pittsburgh’s breakfast and lunch radar.

“She’s put together a really creative café menu. It’s a new element to Ava,” Strong says, adding that the café, which will operate daily from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., will serve grilled sandwiches, vegetarian and vegan fare. He also spoke glowingly of a turkey panini and a shake MacDowell has concocted with oats, bananas and almond milk.

There’s still work to be done on Ava’s lounge portion, which will be located on the building’s second floor. It will include its own kitchen and an entirely different menu for the bar. Between construction, acquiring permits and transferring Ava’s liquor license to the new location, Strong anticipates the lounge could be firing on all cylinders by April or May.

You can track Ava’s progress through its website and on Twitter.

Pittsburgh Juice Company opens in Lawrenceville
The Pittsburgh Juice Company, in development for the better part of a year, opened its doors Monday at 3418 Penn Avenue in Lower Lawrenceville.

The shop offers cold-pressed juices containing fruits and veggies from kale, cucumber and berries to apples, carrots and ginger.

In addition to an array of fresh, unprocessed juices, the brother-sister ownership team of Zeb and Naomi Homison will soon offer juice subscriptions.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Justin Strong

West Elm furniture coming to Bakery Square

West Elm, a retailer of modern, high-end furniture and housewares has signed a lease and will move into Bakery Square this fall.

“They’re going to be front and center as you drive into Bakery Square,” says Greg Perelman, a spokesperson for development owner Walnut Capital. “It complements everything else we’re doing with the new rental properties and other strong retailers. It’s hip and young and we’re very happy it’s coming to Pittsburgh.”

The store will be West Elm’s first in western Pennsylvania. A Brooklyn-based subsidiary of Williams-Sonoma, West Elm will occupy 8,000 square feet on Bakery Square’s eastern side, which has been vacant since the development’s construction. Williams-Sonoma also owns housewares retailer Pottery Barn.

West Elm has been looking to expand into the Pittsburgh market for several years.

“They initially looked at the project five years ago, but then the recession hit and a lot of retailers cut back,” Perelman says. “But the economy has improved and everybody wants to be in the Shadyside-Squirrel Hill-East Liberty area. It’s the hottest place in Pittsburgh to be in.”

West Elm projects to open its doors by mid-September. Its occupation of 8,000 square feet leaves about another 10,000 feet of space Walnut Capital is still looking to fill in Bakery Square. Perelman says that Walnut is “talking to some restaurant people” about that space, but wouldn’t elaborate further.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Greg Perelman

Market Square will debut public art program next week

Don’t you just hate it when it’s that time of year between the holidays and spring and there’s nothing run going on outdoors?

Of course you do. Now, the Market Square Public Art Program is here to fill the void.

Started as a collaboration between the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and the city’s office of public art, the Market Square Public Art Program is a pilot program that will place a piece of interactive installation art in Market Square during the winter months of 2014, 2015 and 2016.

“Last March we did a temporary installation for just a weekend. It snowed that weekend, it was cold, but people came out and it was a great event,” says Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership CEO Jeremy Waldrup. “This will serve as a pilot for this initiative for the next couple of years, and it will serve as a model for temporary public art around the city.”

The program’s first installation, called Congregation, will debut next Friday and run through March 16th. An interactive piece involving sound, light and video, Congregation will go on display from Dusk until 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from dusk to midnight on Friday and Saturday.

“The great thing about this and the way it’s designed is that it won’t displace any other event,” Waldrup says, adding that’s an important consideration for Market Square, which is already a very heavily programmed part of Downtown. “This is specifically a night time event, so we didn’t want to push things out so much as complement them.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Jeremy Waldrup

Bar Marco launching The Wine Room in March

“In the service industry, if you’re a server or an owner or a manager and you go to another restaurant, they’ll usually send out a free dish or something like that,” says Bar Marco co-owner Bobby Fry. “But if you’re a chef, they’ll cook for you.”

Making that experience more accessible is the premise behind The Wine Room — a 10-seat, no-menu dining room located in the fully-finished wine cellar at Bar Marco.

A seating in The Wine Room — which includes food and wine pairings — will be the joint work of Chef Jamilka Borges and sommelier Sarah Thomas, who have spent the last several months fine-tuning their senses of each other’s palates.

“We took a trip to Chicago where we ate the same things and drank the same wines and started training to understand each other’s descriptions,” Borges says. “She can’t taste every single thing that I’m sending, so she’s really trusting on my description of aesthetic or salty or warm.”

Beginning in March, The Wine Room will host two seatings a night, Wednesday through Saturday. The first, a 6:15 p.m. pre-dinner seating for $55, will consist of four small courses. The 8 p.m. dinner seating costs $125 and will treat diners to Borges and Thomas teaming up on between eight and 12 courses.

Because reservations for The Wine Room are pre-paid and include tax and gratuity, Fry says diners need only focus on what’s in front of them.

“It’s the whole idea of making dining a full sensory experience, walking through the dining room and meeting the people you’re going to be dining with, then getting escorted downstairs,” Fry says. “You’re going through our kitchen — our home. There isn’t this weird disconnect between you and the server or you and the chef.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Bobby Fry, Jamilka Borges

Eat + Drink: Sousa leaves Salt, meatballs rolling Downtown

Sousa leaves Salt
Kevin Sousa, Salt of the Earth’s executive chef since its launch in the fall of 2010, announced yesterday that he had stepped down and sold his stake in the restaurant in order to devote his time to other projects.

“It was something in the back of my mind when [Braddock Mayor] John Fetterman and I started to really pull together what we thought was a pretty great idea,” Sousa says, referring to his new venture, Superior Motors. “I shelved it for a while, and when the Kickstarter succeeded, it was so moving and inspirational to me that I felt it was a good time to sell my part of Salt.”

Chad Townsend, Salt’s chef de cuisine, takes over as executive chef. Melissa Horst will stay on as the restaurant's general manager.

“Chad is a great friend. As far as I’m concerned, there isn’t a more talented chef in the city,” says Sousa, who hired Townsend nearly three years ago. “Chad had just come off a stint in France and he came to Salt looking for a change. We didn’t have room for him at the time, but he didn’t care and came on as a line cook. That’s just the kind of guy he is.”

Townsend says that he has no major or immediate changes planned for the restaurant, and that he’s eager to carry on.

“It’s a chance to continue what he started,” says Townsend, adding that he’d been receiving congratulatory messages throughout the day from colleagues. “Pittsburgh is great like that. Everybody gets along. Some of the other chefs and I are planning to do something [at Salt] in the spring. We all want to succeed and we all want to have the best restaurant in our own right, but it’s a great community for us.”

Sousa says that he’ll be using his time to make sure that his other restaurants, Union Pig & Chicken (and its second-floor bar, Harvard & Highland) and Station Street Food are running well before he spends the spring and summer working full-time at Braddock Farms in preparation for opening Superior Motors.

“I know a lot about food and the process of farming, but I’m not a farmer,” he says. “To deliver what I want, I need to give it everything I have. I feel like I owe it to everybody to deliver something great in Braddock and do the things I said I was going to do.”

At long last, meatballs
Emporio: A Meatball Joint will open its doors today at 4 p.m., and you're never going to believe what's on the menu.

Actually, you probably have a pretty good idea.

The new venture from Sienna Mercato is a 120-seat  restaurant with a 20-seat bar. In addition to meatballs made from everything from beef to pork to a vegetarian option rolled from mushrooms, white beans and cauliflower, there will be 32 beers on tap, wines, cocktails, cream sodas and Italian ices.

Emporio, on the first floor of Sienna Mercato at 942 Penn Avenue in Downtown, will be open for dinner service the rest of this week and begin its lunch service next week.

Mercato's third-floor restaurant, Il Tetto, is on track to open in the spring and will include substantial rooftop seating.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Kevin Sousa, Chad Townsend

Google to expand its Pittsburgh presence in Bakery Square 2.0

Google confirmed long-running speculation on Monday when it announced that it will expand its Pittsburgh presence. According to a company-issued statement, Google has signed a lease on 66,000 square feet of additional office space across from its current Penn Avenue location in Bakery Square 2.0, the new residential and commercial development from Walnut Capital.

The California-based tech giant opened its first Pittsburgh office in 2006 and currently occupies 140,000 square feet of space in the former Nabisco factory at Bakery Square.

“Google has expressed their commitment to growth in Pittsburgh. They see Pittsburgh as a market worth expanding in, and it’s a place both they and their employees are happy to be,” says City Councilman Dan Gilman, whose District 8 includes the site of Bakery Square 2.0.

The new offices will include a skywalk across Penn Avenue, linking Google’s new offices to its existing ones. While there has been no indication of the number of jobs Google’s Pittsburgh expansion could potentially create, the addition will push Google’s Pittsburgh operations over 200,000 square feet. According to the company, Google’s local offices work on its search functions, ads, shopping and core engineering infrastructure.

“It’s clear that this corridor is becoming a high-tech industry corridor with retail there to support it,” Gilman says. “It’s going to continue to grow into Larimer and Lemington and Homewood. This is a fine location looking for any company looking to grow in Pittsburgh. What Google has consistently said is that as long as they continue to find the talent, they’re going to continue to grow in Pittsburgh.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Dan Gilman

Developer building houses, preserving history on Mt. Washington

Developer Jeff Paul has already built more than 40 homes on Mt. Washington, but his new project includes an especially historic touch.

Tentatively called the Bradley Street Redoubt, Paul’s plan to construct 26 housing units and a park includes the preservation of Pittsburgh’s last known Civil War fortification.

“The cool thing about it now is that nobody really knows it’s there. It’s private property in heavily wooded land you can’t even get to,” Paul says.

When Robert E. Lee led the Army of Northern Virginia toward Pennsylvania in the summer of 1863, there was local concern he’d try to invade Pittsburgh. Working at a frenetic pace, the city constructed 19 earthen fortifications on high ground around the area. Called redoubts, Mt. Washington’s is the last standing Civil War fortification in Pittsburgh.

“The cool thing about it is that we’re going to be able to create another park for Mt. Washington and a cool space for people to live,” Paul says, adding that eventually, the park and fort will be connected to Emerald View Park through its Greenleaf Street trailhead.

“I think it’s a really interesting case study about how development and preservation can go hand-in-hand,” says Ilyssa Manspeizer, the Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation’s director of park development.

Paul says his company, Pomo Development, will work with local historians and archaeologists to preserve and refurbish the redoubt, and that the housing won’t interfere.

“We’re giving them free reign to preserve and recreate it,” he said, adding that Pomo will be happily footing the bill.

Paul has enlisted the services of architect Ed Pope, with whom he worked on Sweetbriar Village, to design the new homes, each of which will have garages and front porches to create a city-type feel.

“We’re trying to create something like Summerset at Frick here in Mt. Washington,” Paul says.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Jeff Paul, Ilyssa Manspeizer

Aspinwall Riverfront Park debuts free skating rink

The first sections of Aspinwall Riverfront Park aren’t scheduled to open until later this year, but the community is still making the most of the land in the meantime.

The park’s development team and more than 150 volunteers have worked together to construct an ice rink on the former brownfield while construction on the first phases of the park is ongoing. The rink is 108 feet by 88 feet and free to the public.

“It’s going to be open as long as the weather is cold enough to accommodate us,” says park developer Susan Crookston. “If you have your own skates, you can skate beginning at 9 a.m. We’ll have food and skates available after 3:30 p.m.”

In addition to the rink, the park has a hut — staffed by Aspinwall Everyday Gourmet — offering snacks and hot cocoa during after-school hours and on weekends, and about 50 pairs of skates in both child and adult sizes which visitors can borrow for free.

Though they haven’t been able to spring for a Zamboni, park caretakers do have a device they’re using to smooth out the surface of the ice on a daily basis, and the maintenance of the rink has been something of a shared responsibility.

“The people who are using the rink help keep it clear,” Crookston says. “We bought a device to smooth the ice, but kids have had a lot of fun shoveling snow off the ice to keep it clean.

In addition to free ice skating and hot cocoa, the park’s winter facilities include a fire pit over which visitors can roast marshmallows. While visitors bringing their own skates are free to begin using the rink at 9 a.m. daily, free skate rental and snacks are available from 4 to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 12 to 7:30 p.m. on weekends.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Susan Crookston

Eat + Drink: Dishcrawl Pittsburgh, Summer Winter Warmer and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City’s weekly guide to local epic nommz.

Dishcrawl takes off
Dishcrawl, the neighborhood restaurant tour which takes diners to four different neighborhood restaurants in one evening, will hold its first event of 2014 on February 19th.

There are just two catches:
1)      Diners won’t know the restaurants until 48 hours before the event.
2)      February’s incarnation is already sold out.

Dishcrawl, which takes place in about 100 cities across the United States and Canada, first game to Pittsburgh last year with stops in Lawrenceville and Shadyside. But new director Colleen Coll has her sights set on giving the event a more distinctly local flavor than it’s had in the past.

“Sometimes people don’t know a certain neighborhood, then they get to go to four restaurants in one night. It’s great to get to that experience all at once,” Coll says.

February’s edition will take participants to four different restaurants in Downtown Pittsburgh. And because it’s already sold out, Coll has started planning March’s excursion. Her destination? The Strip District.

“One of the things we like to focus on is having an area with at least 20 restaurants,” she says. “Between Downtown and the Strip, those neighborhoods are perfect. One event’s not enough for Downtown. I was surprised they weren’t picked in the first place.”

For updates, follow Dishcrawl Pittsburgh on Facebook and Twitter.

Summer Winter Warmer back on tap at Roundabout
Consider this a public service announcement: Summer Winter Warmer is back on tap at Roundabout Brewery. This brew, which starts out smelling like a floral West Coast IPA and seamlessly transitions into a rich, full-bodied English-style warmer full of roasted malts, is a delightful little journey of flavor. It’s like seeing the sun for the first time in six weeks.

Markets need friends too
The Pittsburgh Public Market would like to be your friend, and it doesn’t mean on Facebook.

Fresh off its move into the new space at 2401 Penn Avenue in the Strip, the Public Market is debuting its “Friends of the Market” program. In exchange for pledging your charitable support at one of the four levels between $25 and $250, the market is doling out perks ranging from stickers and tote bags to free use of its meeting space.

One way to join is by attending the market’s first annual tasting event this Friday from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Tickets are $35 and include samples from the markets various vendors. The price of the ticket covers your first year-long membership in the program and gets your name on the wall under the list of founding members.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Colleen Coll

Riverlife launches guide to aid Pennsylvania's riverfront development

Pittsburgh’s importance in the founding and forging of America owes a great deal to its rivers. For the last 15 years, Riverlife has worked with property owners, community groups and elected officials to restore Pittsburgh’s riverfront territories as assets which have helped to once again set the city apart.

Now, Riverlife is sharing its methodology with the world. This week, the organization released a new resources guide for river towns looking to duplicate Pittsburgh’s success in reviving waterfront property.

“We have 86,000 miles of rivers and streams in Pennsylvania. We have more river communities than most places in the world,” says Riverlife President and CEO Lisa Schroeder. “The guide compiles what we’ve learned here at Riverlife over the last 15 years as we’ve worked on projects on and adjacent to the river.”

Schroeder added that in creating the guide, which took about a year, Riverlife tried to make its lessons and processes applicable to communities of all sizes, and thinks it will be of particular help to river towns in and around the Rust Belt.

The guide is divided into four sections. The “Natural” section encompasses information about ecological conservation. The “Connections” section details best practices for maximizing public access to riverfront developments. “Built” covers elements of design, materials, stormwater management and river-adjacent structures, and “Character” touches on everything from landscape architecture and invasive species management to integrating public art projects.

“Whether a community hopes to build a park or a stormwater garden, we hope this gives them the sense not only that they can do it, but of how to go about it,” she says. “We’re very pleased we’ve been able to layer in years of experience from accomplished professionals.”

The Benedum Foundation financed the creation of the guide and has helped to make it widely accessible. Complimentary hard copies are available through Riverlife, and a digital, print-friendly version is posted on the organization’s website.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Lisa Schroeder

CoStar Brewery gaining traction from its tiny space in Highland Park

If someone was to start a brewery in a garage in Highland Park, how long would it take Pittsburgh to notice?

That’s by no means a hypothetical question. In 2010, beer enthusiasts Jeff Hanna and Dom Cincotta started kicking around the idea of starting a nanobrewery. After working their way through all of the legal and construction processes, they incorporated CoStar Brewing in November of 2011, and secured state and federal licensing last February.  

“We’ve really flown under the radar since we’ve been operation,” says Hanna, whose wife and brother are also partners in the project. “We’re all home-brewers and ex-Pittsburgh bartenders. We have a lot of good connections to the Pittsburgh bar community.”

Still, this isn’t a full-time venture for anyone involved. All four CoStar partners have full-time jobs and brew three times, one day a week.

“We brew on a 15-gallon system and have three one-barrel fermenters. We’re taking it just little by little,” Hanna says.

In addition to its flagship American pale ale Hopland Park (reviewed in Eat + Drink two weeks ago), Among its impressive menu, CoStar makes Top Down (a California common or steam beer), Brick Alley Brown Ale and a coffee stout made with beans roasted by Zeke’s Coffee in East Liberty. There’s also a doppelbock and a strawberry wheat beer, and seasonal selections include a pumpkin beer and a Christmas ale.

“We have a Belgian strong ale heading out to bars shortly,” Hanna says. “Our goal is just to make beers that we enjoy.”

CoStar only distributes in sixtels — kegs which hold 1/6th of one barrel. A normal-sized keg holds half a barrel. And since they only brew three barrels a week, supply is always limited.

The brewery has a dedicated tap at Harvard & Highland, and its beers appear regularly at Kelly’s Lounge in East Liberty, Up Modern Kitchen in Shadyside and Gus’s Café in Lawrenceville. A handful of other bars and restaurants carry CoStar Brews periodically. For a full list, check CoStar’s taps page.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Jeff Hanna

Three young artists establishing Garfield gallery, residency space

If you’re already chomping at the bit to get out of your house and partake in a warm-weather activity —say, a gallery crawl — you’ve got something new to look forward to once the ice melts.

Three intrepid young women have started the Bunker Projects — an art residency and gallery space at 5106 Penn Avenue in Garfield, right in the heart of the Penn Avenue Arts District.

“It started with our discovering the space. When we found this building, it’d been partially destroyed by a fire a few years ago, so our first job was to restore the space, and we’ve been doing that with help from volunteers,” says Cecilia Ebitz, one of Bunker’s co-founders. “Because it was so rough, it was sort of an invitation to customize the space and have it cater to the resident artists.”

Ebitz and her collegues, Jessie Rommelt and Abigail Beddall, first met as students in Penn State’s BFA program. All three hail from State College, but didn’t know each other before coming together to study sculpture.

“We had friends who lived in Pittsburgh who’d really touted its praises. The art scene is really accessible and not oversaturated,” Ebitz says, adding that it seemed the natural location to start their project.

When the space is totally complete, it will include two bedrooms, two private studio spaces and two gallery spaces. It will host two artists at a time for three-month periods. Ebitz says they could have the renovations done by the end of January, and aim to show the space and exhibit some work during the Penn Avenue gallery crawl scheduled for February 7th.

Right now, though, they’re just trying to secure enough funding to finish renovating the building. Bunker launched a crowdfunding campaign earlier this month to help cover the remaining costs, about $10,000. They’re nearly halfway there.

“This is the first time we’ve ever taken on a project like this,” Ebitz says. “We have all of our artists scheduled for ’14, as well as a few remote residential projects. We have a bulk of the residency programming all figured out for 2014, but we also want to offer the space as a place for special projects, exhibitions and performances.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Cecilia Ebitz
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