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Eat + Drink: Inca Peruvian downtown; D.Jís Butcher Block; La Palapa Mexican Cuisine; and more

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


•  AJ's Inca Peruvian Restaurant opened this week in Downtown Pittsburgh at 500 Liberty Avenue.  Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken is the star here, along with a variety of other Peruvian dishes.  The restaurant is located in the former Cuzamil space, just outside Market Square.  Open Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday, noon to 8 p.m.  412-642-6606.

•  In North Oakland, Legume has re-launched its adjoining bar space under the name Butterjoint.  The word refers to a type of brickwork masonry known for its simplicity and elegance.  Chef Trevett Hooper says it’s a metaphor for how food is prepared at Legume, and now at Butterjoint.

Hooper says the redesigned bar menu—with fare such as pierogies and burgers— now offers substantial meals at a lower price than in the restaurant.  He hopes it will allow Legume’s loyal customers to visit more frequently.  It’s the same quality meat and produce, he says, just with a more straightforward preparation.

The space itself has been reconfigured to provide a more comfortable dining experience.  A weekly variety show, featuring music, comedy, spoken word and magicians, is held on Tuesdays.  And bar manager Will Groves was brought on to revamp the beer and cocktail menu.  214 North Craig Street.  412.621.2700.

•  D.J.’s Butcher Block Specialty Sausage and Meats opened recently in Bloomfield, a small storefront shop offering fresh, cured, and smoked sausage, grass-fed beef, as well as local chicken and turkey.

For the past three years, owner/butcher D.J. Smulick, a former chef at Café Sam, has offered products at various farmers markets.  Smulick sources a majority of meats from local vendors, and seeks to offer high quality products that remain affordable. 

D.J’s also stocks a small selection of local cheese, eggs, pickles, mustards and jellies.  Smulick doesn’t want to become a grocery store, he says, rather he’s just offering a few products that complement the meats.  4623 Liberty Avenue.  412-621-3100.

Also in Bloomfield, multiple sushi restaurants have opened, including Ginza (412-688-7272), at 4734 Liberty Avenue.  And more recently, Fukuda Sushi, which is BYOB, opened in the former Stagioni storefront, at 4770 Liberty Avenue.  And on Sundays, Chef Matt Kemp offers an evening menu at East Liberty’s AVA Lounge.  412-377-0916.

•  La Palapa Mexican Cuisine is the latest food purveyor to join the growing list of vendors at the Strip District’s Pittsburgh Public Market.  Friday through Sunday La Palapa will offer a variety of tamales, quesadillas chilangas, chiles rellenos, frijoles charros, enchiladas, and desserts including flan.    412-992-7206.

Also in the Strip, the Thin Man Sandwich Shop is opening soon at 50 21st Street, in the former 21st Street Coffee and Tea location.  Owners and chefs Dan and Sherri Leiphart have previously worked at Isabela on Grandview, the former Le Pommier, and Lidia's Pittsburgh.  The Leipharts are aiming to bring their classically trained experience to a more relaxed and casual atmosphere. 

•  Wilkinsburg has been a dry borough for the past 80 years.  But now, the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation (WCDC) is pushing for a ballot referendum to allow liquor licenses in the community.  It’s cited as a tool for economic development, as alcohol sales could help draw hotels, fine dining, and other entertainment options to the borough.  Visit WCDC’s website to learn more.

 
Writer:  Andrew Moore     

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

Building Healthy Communities to be focus of upcoming Commonwealth Awards

At this year’s Commonwealth Awards, the 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania’s signature event, the theme of “Building Healthy Communities” will be emphasized in honor of the late Mark Schneider. 

A former Chairman of 10,000 Friends, Schneider was a leader in smart growth and sustainable development in the region.  In recognition of his impact, the organization’s highest individual award, the “Friend of Pennsylvania” Award, will be presented to Mark posthumously and will be renamed the “Mark C. Schneider Memorial Friend of Pennsylvania” Award.

And this year’s keynote speaker will be Dr. Richard J. Jackson, co-author of the book and host/narrator of the public television series, Designing Healthy Communities.  Dr. Jackson is a recipient of the 2012 Heinz Award for the Environment.

Regional Director Grant Ervin says Schneider’s numerous projects in Pittsburgh are great examples of Dr. Jackson’s message—that the built environment has a direct correlation on public and individual health.

“Projects like Summerset and Washington’s Landing have set the bar high and have provided recognition that people want these types of products,” Ervin says.  “They were trailblazers at the time.”

10,000 Friends will also honor several southwest Pennsylvania awardees from the first round of the Pennsylvania Community Transportation Initiative (PCTI) funding.  Schneider also helped develop the vision for PCTI and was one of its chief advocates.

Founded in 1998, 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania is a statewide advocate for smart growth.  It has operated a Pittsburgh office since 2004.

The 2012 Commonwealth Awards will be held at Point Park University, Lawrence Hall 201, Wood Street, Downtown Pittsburgh.  For more information, and to register, click here.

 
Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Grant Ervin

Downtown's Century Building wins Urban Land Institute's excellence award

Downtown’s Century Building was built over 100 years ago and it’s still garnering accolades.  The Washington D.C.-based Urban Land Institute (ULI) has awarded TREK Development’s 2009 retrofit of the structure a Jack Kemp Workforce Housing Models of Excellence Award.

The $18.1 million development is praised for two key components: its sustainable development practices, and a commitment to maintaining workforce housing in the heart of the city.

According to ULI, it was the first residential structure in Pittsburgh to receive LEED Gold certification.  Additionally, TREK installed an open-loop geothermal system to reduce the building’s dependence on non-renewable energy sources.

And together with the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP) and the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, a bicycle commuter center—made of recycled metal shipping containers—was installed on the site. 

PDP President and CEO Jeremy Waldrup says the Century Building is a "beautiful, innovative mixed-use development," and applauds TREK's commitment to creating affordable housing options in Downtown, and their attenton to sustainability.

In an effort to maintain affordable workforce housing at the site, a 30-year declaration of restrictive covenants was placed on the property, requiring that specific units be rented to households between 60 and 120 percent of the area median income.

The project is praised for its use of creative financing, which included funds from the Heinz Endowments, the Richard King Mellon Foundation, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, as well as the URA and the Allegheny County Department of Economic Development.

Century Building is bounded on one side by Katz Plaza, a 23,000 square foot square that is home to the  weekly JazzLive series—a project of the Cultural Trust—as well as a unique fountain and benches designed by artist Louise Bourgeois. 

Other cultural amenities nearby include the Cabaret at Theater Square and Backstage Bar, the Benedum Center for Performing Arts, and numerous restaurants including Meat and Potatoes, and one located in the ground floor of the Century Building, Grille on Seventh. 

ULI calls the Century Building a “model for sustainable development, adaptive use, downtown housing, and cross-sector partnerships.”  It goes on to say that the project is worthy of replication in other cities which are addressing concerns about pricing “essential residents” out of the housing market.


Writer:  Andrew Moore

Eat + Drink: Charcuterie and cocktails; 90-second wood fired pizza; yogurt and more

This week in Pop City's Eat + Drink roundup:

- Nicky's Thai Kitchen, the popular Allegheny West Thai restaurant, will be opening a new location downtown, at the corner of Penn Avenue and 9th Street.  Sinful Sweets by Christopher George is also planned to open in the adjacent storefront at 901 Penn Avenue.

- The Strip District’s Bar Marco has announced it will team up with Chef Justin Severino, of Cure, every Monday for charcuterie, cheese, and cocktail pairings.  The weekly events will be menu-free, with custom-made cocktails built for guests based on personal preferences.  Cocktails, with small charcuterie and cheese tastings, will be $10.  Bar Marco, 2216 Penn Avenue.  412-471-1900.

- Stone Neapolitan Pizzeria at River Vue is now open.  The restaurant features an Italian imported wood-burning oven and promises a 90 second cooking time.  Located in the ground floor of the recently opened RiverVue apartments, the pizzeria is across the street from downtown’s Point State Park.  Also on the menu are house-made mozzarella, Italian sodas, draft and bottled beer, as well as made-to-order salads and sandwiches.  300 Liberty Avenue, Suite 100.  412-904-4531.

- Yogli Mogli, a franchise of the national chain, opened recently on Washington Road in Mt Lebanon.  The eatery is a self-serve yogurt shop that features classic flavors with unique parings such as blueberry acai, and pomegranate raspberry tart.  Toppings range from mango, lychee, and peaches, to cookie dough, walnuts, and granola.  695 Washington Road, Mount Lebanon.  412-207-2291.

- Mrs. Jean’s Southern Cuisine has moved to a new location at Hosanna House, 807 Wallace Ave., Wilkinsburg.  The restaurant also recently finished taping an episode for Chef Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.  412-723-2015.

- The South Side’s Carson Street Deli has reopened after closing briefly for renovations to the sandwich shop and craft beer store.  In addition to bottled beers from local breweries and specialty imports, Carson Street Deli now features 20 taps.  The deli hosts weekly beer samplings Wednesdays, from 6 to 8 p.m.  1507 E. Carson Street.  412-381-5335.


Writer:  Andrew Moore

$500,000 boost to historic renovations in Downtown Pittsburgh, grants available to building owners

The renovation of historic buildings in Downtown Pittsburgh has been given yet another boost.  The Colcom Foundation has granted Landmarks Community Capital (LCC) $500,000 to create a loan fund for property owners of historic structures in the Golden Triangle.  The program aims to spur more retail in downtown’s historic buildings.

LCC is the lending subsidiary of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation (PHLF).  According to PHLF President Arthur Ziegler, the loans are available for borrowing to start a business in a historic building, as well as for storefront and façade improvements.

“It’s for improvements to the physical historic real estate,” Ziegler says.  He adds that the new initiative is designed to work in concert with existing efforts, such as the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s Paris to Pittsburgh program, and the URA’s façade improvements program.

LCC will make loans to building owners ranging from $5,000 to $30,000.

Although there are several historic buildings looming tall in Pittsburgh’s skyline, Ziegler says most structures are between two and five stories. 

And downtown’s historic districts, which include the Cultural District and Market Square, may soon be expanded.  Funded in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Historic Museum Commission, Ziegler says PHLF has recently submitted an expanded districts proposal to the National Register.

This new initiative comes on the heels of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s $4 million Downtown Preservation Program, a partnership with PHLF that is restoring seven historic structures in the Wood and Market Street corridors.

For more information about the loans, and to apply, visit LCC's website.



Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Arthur Ziegler

Plan to develop former Saks site downtown includes subterraneous parking, retail, apartments

A new mixed-use development is moving ahead at the former Saks site downtown.  The plan includes 20,000 square feet of retail space, subterraneous parking, and 101 apartment units. 

Developers Millcraft Investments and McKnight Realty Partners, with the Pittsburgh Parking Authority, have entered into an exclusive negotiation period with the URA.  The planned development would demolish the current four-story structure, as well as three smaller structures along Fifth Avenue.

URA Director Robert Rubinstein calls this an exciting project that “magnifies the original concept considerably,” bringing in two developers with a strong track record both in Pittsburgh and nationally.

In addition to underground parking, the development will include several levels of parking, to be located above the retail space, and below the market rate apartments. 

Parking is already in high demand in the central business district, Rubinstein says, and with other neighboring redevelopment projects in the works this structure will help to meet a growing demand.  Other adjacent projects include the Oliver building’s redevelopment into hotel and office space; PNC’s coming use of the former Lord and Taylor building; and the conversion of the Reed Smith and Alcoa buildings into apartments.

Rubinstein says that although a subterranean development in the heart of downtown will be quite expensive, he has the highest level of confidence that the development will take place.

“This is a development team that has done many deals that people thought were impossible,” Rubinstein says.  “They find a creative way to use the various tools that are out there.”

Millcraft Investments is a subsidiary of Millcraft Industries, responsible for several notable projects downtown, including Market Square Place, Piatt Place, and the RiverVue Apartments.  McKnight Realty has previously purchased and converted the former Gimbels building downtown into the Heinz 57 Center, and owns the nearby Grant, Oliver, and Brooks Brothers buildings.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Robert Rubinstein

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

Night Market to pop up at Gallery Crawl; vote for People's Choice at Design Exhibit

The Night Market is popping again, bringing food, music and art to a vacant lot in Downtown Pittsburgh.

A component of Project Pop Up Pittsburgh, the market will take place during this week’s Gallery Crawl in the Cultural District.  Bethany Tucke, a project consultant, says the Night Market helps to achieve one of the initaitive's original goals: to activate vacant or underused space.

"The parking lot where we will be hosting the Night Market is a daytime parking lot that operates weekdays only," Tucke says.  "Figuring out a way to pop something up that’s interesting for both residents and visitors to downtown, and giving an opportunity for creative entrepreneurs to showcase and sell their goods in underused space, is exciting."

The list of food vendors has grown to include 10 eateries, including downtown’s Bluebird Kitchen and Conflict Kitchen, as well as BRGR, Reyna’s Tacos, and Smiling Banana Leaf.

Handmade ware vendors include Beads of Light, Best of Bizarre, Creative Customology, Devorah Naturals, Erra Creations, SMD Jewelry, and Tugboat Printshop.

Night Market will be located at 917-919 Liberty Avenue, between Ninth and Tenth Streets, from 7 p.m. to midnight.  But the footprint of the market itself has grown. This Friday’s event will also extend into adjacent Exchange Way, between Ninth Street and Garrison Way.

At the Gallery Crawl the public will also have an opportunity to view nominations for the 2012 Design Pittsburgh awards, and to vote for their pick in the People’s Choice Award.

Design Pittsburgh is presented by AIA Pittsburgh to highlight outstanding architecture and design in the region.  Last year’s People’s Choice Award went to Desmone and Associates Architects for their work at Savoy Restaurant in the Strip District.

The Project Pop Up initiative began last year as a way to animate vacant storefronts and public spaces throughout downtown with the goal of improving safety and economic health.  The project is a program of Mayor Ravenstahl, the URA, City Planning, and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Bethany Tucke; Leigh Ann White

Buildings made of cans? CANstruction 2012 opens to public next week

What would Pittsburgh landmarks look like if they were made of cans?  At this year’s CANstruction event Heinz Field, a giant ketchup bottle and several other iconic structures will be given the tin treatment and it’s all for a good cause.

CANstruction is a national design competition that asks local groups to create buildings and other fantastical structures out of canned food.  Now in its 20th year, the event is a canned food drive for regional food banks.  This is Pittsburgh’s second year participating in the competition.

This Saturday, eight teams will gather downtown at One Oxford Center for the build-out. Beginning Monday, the Can City will be open for public viewing in the building’s lobby, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.  The structures will remain on display through Friday, September 28th.

The public will have a chance to participate by voting for their favorite structure.  Votes are cast by donating a canned food item, or a reusable tote bag.  The people's choice winner will advance to compete in the national contest.

CANstruction is partnering this year with the Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project, as the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank uses these sturdier bags to distribute food to residents in the region.

On Friday a private gala will be held, with judges awarding winners in categories such as structural integrity; best use of labels; people’s choice; and best meal.

CANstruction organizer Anastasia Herk says the judges will determine a best meal winner by looking at what kinds of canned food the structure is made of and whether it would actually make a nutritious meal.

“The food banks want healthy food,” Herk says. “If a structure is made out of a bunch of SpaghettiOs cans, that might not be as appealing to the judges as something that’s made out of beans and spinach.”

One Oxford Center is located at  301 Grant Street, Downtown. 

CANstruction Pittsburgh is an all-volunteer initiative supported by the Pittsburgh design community.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Anastasia Herk

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

Market Square 2.0? $4 million Downtown Preservation Project now underway

The Downtown Preservation Project has officially begun, with $4 million in restoration work underway on seven historic structures in the Wood and Market Street corridors.  Arthur Ziegler, President of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation (PHLF), says this partnership between the mayor's office and a preservation organization is unlike any other in the country.

"I think it's unique in the United States where a mayor sees historic preservation as a primary instrument for economic revitalization and to attract downtown living," he says.

According to Ziegler the impact of historic preservation in downtown is already evident, and he cites the revival of Market Square and Fifth Avenue.  The square and its environs were severely dilapidated when PHLF undertook to restore that area, much like the seven structures currently under renovation are in great need of exterior work.

Ziegler says once the initial investment was made in the square, other investments followed their lead.

"We think that if we can improve these facades and graphics, we will find the same kind of upgrade occurring through the private market," Ziegler says. "The mayor believes in that, and we have proven that it can work, and we think it'll work again."

PHLF is being employed by the City to hire architects, oversee bidding and design, and construction supervision.  Funding for the project comes from the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program.

The project is emphasizing the Wood Street corridor as a women's retailing district, as they had emphasized Market and Fifth for men’s retailing.  Ziegler says that more than 40 businesses have expressed interest in the storefronts, and seven have said they would be ready to move in today if space and deals were available.

Of the three cast iron facades to be restored, three are now owned by PHLF.  The foundation is working with Point Park University to bring student housing to the structures’ upper floors.

Ziegler says the cast iron facades, once produced in foundries throughout the region, create remarkable buildings.  And while its unknown if these particular pieces were produced locally, Ziegler recognizes the material’s resonance in Pittsburgh.

“We’re the city of iron and steel,” he says.  “We have three of these in a row on Wood Street, they are all in very bad shape, and we will take them back to what they looked like originally.”  


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Arthur Ziegler

Pittsburgh launches ARTPGH and DESIGNPGH, first ever comprehensive public art and urban design plans

The City of Pittsburgh has recently launched initiatives to develop the city's first ever comprehensive plans for urban design and public art. The plans--known as DESIGNPGH and ARTPGH--will set guidelines for future development based on the quality and character of design, and create a strategy for the city's public art collection.

The purpose of these plans is to provide predictability in development, not uniformity, says Noor Ismail, director of city planning. "We do not want to stifle creativity," she says, but rather to have development meet a contextual purpose.

Public Art Manager Morton Brown says it would be impossible, and ill advised, to prescribe to Pittsburghers what type of public art should appear in their neighborhoods.

"You want artists to respond to the contexts of each neighborhood,” Brown says.  "And likewise with urban design, not every neighborhoods has the same built character.  We must remain flexible."

The two initiatives are just two of twelve components of PLANPGH, the city’s first ever 25-year comprehensive plan, to be completed in 2014.

Ismail says the city is not interested in reinventing the wheel, and project consultants will sift through and incorporate existing neighborhood plans. The plan will be developed following a variety of community meetings and public workshops.  Brown says the first of several meetings will seek to put community members on equal footing in terms of understanding design concepts.

"Part of it is education and bringing everyone up to a certain vocabulary level so that we can dig deeper into these conversations and learn what are the needs and desires of the community, and how can we serve them through this plan," he says.

Once the process is complete, DESIGNPGH will produce an urban design manual to guide development in the city.

Joy Abbott, assistant director of city planning, says these manuals will aid developers and community groups with a streamlined set of standards for criteria such as aesthetics in new construction, streetscape elements, and contextual design.

"It's going to make it easier for them to understand what the city is looking for in terms of what things look like," Abbott says.  "This is going to supplement our code by showing people with pictures, rather than text, what kinds of projects we're looking for and what the community wants them to look like."

Brown anticipates the first public meeting to be held before the end of the year.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source: Noor Ismail, Morton Brown, Joy Abbott

Perle French-Mediterranean champagne and tapas lounge now open in Market Square

Market Square's latest dining destination, Perle, has made it very easy to celebrate.  In addition to a long list of bottles, the French-Mediterranean tapas lounge has six varieties of champagne on draft.

As the renovated Market Square has quickly filled with restaurants, Perle is offering a new nightlife concept that has been missing from this area of Downtown.

The beige interior features an open ceiling that allows light fixtures to circulate throughout the lounge, a visual ode to champagne’s signature bubbles, or pearls, after which the space is named. 

Along with flutes of champagne, the bar has created a list of champagne cocktails that includes classic recipes with French and Greek liquors, as well as interpretations of drinks like the Manhattan, Old Fashioned, and Gin Twist.

Perle’s small menu has around 20 dishes, including French crepes, and tapas offerings designed for sharing.

Perle is a project of Peter Landis and the Big Y Group, owned by Yves Carreau.  Carreau's other restaurants include NOLA, located just next-door, as well as Seviche, and Sonoma.

Located above Bruegger’s Bagels, at 24 Market Square, Perle features a small open-air balcony that is a first for the square in recent years.  Although too small for tables, guests are able to bring drinks outside and overlook Market Square.

The amenity adds a New Orleans-Bourbon Street feeling, says bar manager Jennifer Welsh, which combined with NOLA’s sidewalk dining enhances the streets overall aesthetic.

Perle opens Wednesday through Saturday at 4 p.m., and closes late (2 p.m.) on weekends.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Jennifer Welsh

PNC Legacy Project unveiled downtown, interactive multimedia history exhibit

While PNC Bank readies the foundation for the world’s greenest skyscraper, they’re quietly opening another structure, the Lantern Building, as a tribute to the region’s banking history.

The new 800-square-foot facility, located at 600 Liberty Avenue, is part of the PNC Legacy Project, a program designed to honor, document and preserve the history of banks that PNC has acquired. 

The exhibit is free to the public, and features interactive multimedia displays that highlight the city’s culture, commerce and community.

Within the exhibit a touchscreen timeline chronicles Pittsburgh’s history from the late 19th century, and features a listening experience using oral histories collected from prominent community leaders, from the Zambelli Brothers to Carol Brown, former executive director of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

David O’Neil, an oral historian and the founder of Story Trust, produced the stories that tell of the city’s numerous transformations.  Mary Beth Corrigan, an archivist and curator who has curated other PNC Legacy Projects, oversaw the development of the exhibit.

The Innovation Wall, also part of the exhibit, recognizes 230 organizations that have recieved PNC support.

The building, redesigned by Pittsburgh-based EDGE studio, makes use of an existing storefront, but the former Liberty Travel structure is hardly recognizable.  Gone are the billboards that had once adorned the façade.  A revolving door, green and grey zinc panels, and channel glass bring the space in line with PNC’s other nearby properties.

The Lantern Building sits adjacent to the Fairmont Hotel, and its sleek modern materials complement the towering glass structure.

And while it might not be as large as the planned green tower on Wood Street, the new Lantern Building does feature a green roof that’s used to naturally cool the building and lowering energy consumption, as well as address storm water management.

The building will not be used for any banking operations,  however, its second floor will be used as a meeting space.

In addition to Pittsburgh, Legacy exhibits exist in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Cleveland, Fredericksburg and Annapolis. 

The Legacy exhibit will be open to the public on Thursday, August 2nd.
 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Emily Krull, PNC Bank; EDGE studio
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