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Downtown & The Cultural District : Development News

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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

Robert Morris to open Downtown RMU, offering bachelor's and master's degrees

Robert Morris University is expanding in Pittsburgh once again.  The university has announced that it will be opening a new campus, known as RMU Downtown, at the Heinz 57 Center on Sixth Avenue this fall.

The center will offer bachelor's and master's degrees for part-time students, and will become the new home of the RMU Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management, which will be relocating from the nearby Regional Enterprise Tower. 

The new campus comes just two years after RMU sold its former downtown location to Duquesne University. 

Kyle Fisher, VP for public relations at RMU, says the school had been looking for a better downtown home for its programs ever since selling its former location in 2010.  She says the previous space had been more square-footage than the university needed.

“This lease [at the Heinz 57 Center] provided us with the best of both worlds,” Fisher says.  “We can consolidate everything that we want to make available to downtown audiences…and also ample space to deliver a number of our high demand degree programs.”

And it's just one of several satellite campuses the university plans to open throughout the region, including degree programs at Southpointe in Washington County, and in Monroeville.  The school's main campus, located in Moon Township, is 18 miles from Downtown Pittsburgh.

Downtown RMU will offer six degree programs and two certificate programs, including Master of Business Administration; Master of Science in Information Systems; and undergraduate and graduate certificates in Enterprise Systems. 

Classes will start for the fall semester on August 25th.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Kyle Fisher, RMU

One night only Night Market pops up Downtown this Friday

For the first time in recent memory, an unused lot in Downtown Pittsburgh is being transformed into a one-night-only Night Market, giving city residents one more reason to venture to (or stay in) the Golden Triangle after work.  The Night Market, which takes places this Friday from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. will feature music by DJ Soy Sos, independent vendors of jewelry, art, and crafts, and food from a variety of local eateries.

Jeremy Waldrup, president of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, says his organization created this event in order to showcase this particular stretch of Liberty Avenue as a block filled with activity, including a variety of bars and restaurants, and the August Wilson Center. 

“By providing individuals with another reason to come to this street we hope to encourage more folks to mill around downtown and see what opportunities there are to experience,” Waldrup says. 

At Friday’s market (located at 917-919 Liberty Avenue), the restaurant Meat & Potatoes will offer a preview of food from its new concept, Pork & Beans, which is expected to open later this fall.  And Conflict Kitchen, which is set to open Downtown in the coming months, will also be serving food.

Among the 15 independent vendors will be Tugboat Printshop and Devorah Naturals.  And café tables and chairs will be set up at the Night Market to encourage guests to linger in the space.

This Friday is also the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s Gallery Crawl, which begins at 5:30 p.m. 

“It should fit very well into the [Gallery Crawl] with people exploring that area,” says Ida D’Errico, of PDP.

D'Errico says this is the only Night Market currently planned, but based on the event’s success there could be more in the future.

“Pittsburgh enjoys various markets and our outdoor plazas, and so potentially this could expand into another location at some future point in time,” she says.

The Night Market is the latest endeavor to come from the Project Pop Up Program, a partnership between Mayor Ravenstahl, the URA, City Planning, and the PDP.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Jeremy Waldrup, Ida D’Errico

Pittsburgh's 21st Century Triumph Over 20th C Urban Renewal, lecture by Dr. Mindy Fullilove

When a city is divided by race and class, how are its residents' minds affected?  And in a nation filled with struggling cities, what has Pittsburgh done differently to address those divisions?

Next Monday, Dr. Mindy Fullilove will address those questions at a free lecture titled "The Meaning of Things: Pittsburgh's 21st Century Triumph Over 20th Century Urban Renewal." 

Fullilove, a social psychologist at Columbia University, views Pittsburgh as an anomaly among American cities.  She says Pittsburgh has maintained an unusual sense of community despite its fractured past and brutal top-down interventions in neighborhoods like the Hill District and East Liberty.

“Pittsburgh has always been a city of great neighborhoods that are very strong,” Fullilove says.  “Even through all this upheaval… people have really clung to the vision of their neighborhoods and love of their city.”

She says those types of past interventions break a bond between a city and its residents, but that Pittsburghers seem to make a distinction between the city’s politicians and decision makers, and the city as a place of beauty and fellowship, of culture and history.

But perhaps more importantly, Pittsburgh’s leaders seem to have learned from the past, and have changed the way they’re making decisions.  Rather than a top-down approach, Fullilove says there’s been a big shift to a more inclusive, shared decision making process when determining how to reanimate neighborhoods.

 “Which I think is not only really helpful for Pittsburgh, but is something that's going on in the US and around the world, and makes Pittsburgh a real thought leader for the nation,” she says.

Fullilove has studied Pittsburgh's communities for the past 15 years.  Her forthcoming book, Urban Alchemy, tries to identify the key elements of restoring cities from a state of fracture.  She proposes nine elements of restoration that appear to be working in cities in the U.S. and in France, with one case in particular being Pittsburgh.

The lecture will be held at the August Wilson Center, in Downtown (980 Liberty Avenue), at 6 p.m. on Monday, June 18, and is free and open to the public.  For more information or to RSVP, email terickson@cdcp.org or call 412-391-4144.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Mindy Fullilove

The Gardens at Market Square moves forward; Downtown Restoration Program uncovers history

The Gardens at Market Square, the latest plan for redeveloping Downtown's Forbes Avenue, will continue to move forward as the Millcraft Industries project has gained the approval of the Pittsburgh Historic Review Commission.

The planned $81.8 million complex includes an 18-story office tower and hotel, and a 10-tier above-ground parking garage.  A revised design of the structures passed with a 5-0 vote last week.

Design revisions include changes to materials, like a lighter stainless steel frame, and a visual break between buildings, now appearing as individual segments rather than one massive structure.

Lucas Piatt, of Millcraft, says his company wanted to create a contemporary structure that complemented the historic structures in Market Square, rather than produce a replication.

“We think it is important to honor the history that Market Square embodies,” Piatt says.  “We are well vested in the square…so we fully under that and we did our best to accommodate those concerns that we heard.”

The project’s next step is to go before the city planning commission for final approval.  If approved, Millcraft hopes to begin construction this fall, with a projected completion of early 2014.

And in the neighborhood surrounding Market Square, the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation (PHLF) is proceeding with the restoration of several historic structures, as part of Mayor Ravenstahl’s Downtown Restoration Program.

At the corner of Forbes and Wood Street, PHLF has removed the orange metal paneling that had covered the building there, revealing a handsome stone structure.  Built in 1930 in the early Modern style, it was designed by the Pittsburgh firm of Hunting, Davis & Dunnells.  Its first and longtime tenant at the ground level was a Stouffer’s Restaurant diner.

The Mayor’s $4 million program also includes restoration of three cast-iron storefronts on Wood; the Thompson Building on Market Street; and a stone building at the corner of Fifth and Wood, along with two historic buildings on either side. 

PHLF has taken bids for contractors for each of these projects, which they plan to review with the City and make a decision on over the new few weeks.  PHLF President Arthur Ziegler says construction should begin within several weeks.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Lucas Piatt, Millcraft Industries; Arthur Ziegler, Al Tannler, PHLF

PNC to acquire, restore historic Lord and Taylor building Downtown

The former Lord and Taylor building, a key historic structure in Downtown’s Fifth-Forbes corridor, will soon be active again as PNC Financial Services Group has reached a deal to purchase that landmark.  The bank plans to relocate 800 employees there, returning the granite, Classical-styled building to its original use as a bank.

Fred Solomon, of PNC, says this building presented the best opportunity for consolidating the bank’s real estate portfolio in that neighborhood.  Solomon adds that PNC employees enjoy working downtown, citing restaurant and shopping options, and access to public transportation.

The building has been vacant since November 2004, when the department store closed its doors citing declining sales.  Its most recent owners, J.J. Gumberg Co., had purchased the building in 2005 for $2.5 million.

Built in 1924, the six-story building served as a Mellon Bank branch for seven decades before its conversion to a retail use.  Solomon says PNC believes it can easily convert the space to office uses, and will utilize the building’s new escalators and elevators.

Solomon says PNC plans to restore the building’s exterior, which was designated a city historic structure in 1999.

“We have no intention of changing anything on the building's exterior,” he says.  “We plan to honor its heritage.”

PNC plans to close on the building by the end of this month.  Remodeling will start soon after, with a completion date around the end of 2013.

Solomon says PNC has been a longtime supporter of Downtown, and cites its other developments in that area.

“The company's been on the same corner at fifth and Wood for approximately 160 years,” he says.  “We expect to be at the same intersection for much longer with the construction of the Tower at PNC Plaza, which will be our new headquarters building in Pittsburgh.”

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Fred Solomon

Market Square Farmers Market returns tomorrow double the size; more events weekly

The season for events has returned to Market Square, as tomorrow kicks of the 8th year of the Market Square Farmers Market.  This season's market has more than doubled its vendors, from 11 to 25, and includes fresh fruits and vegetables; organic raw milk and cheese; hot lunches, and more.

In past years, the market has attracted 7,000 to 10,000 office workers, residents and visitors to the square each week.

PDP President and CEO Jeremy Waldrup says the market is an important amenity for the community, serving not only office workers, but offering Downtown's growing residential population access to fresh produce.

"The market reinforces why Market Square has become such a vibrant neighborhood gathering place," Waldrup said in a statement.  "We hope the addition of new vendors and entertainment will allow us to provide a great experience for visitors week after week."

While the market is in full swing, the Thursday Noontime Concert Series also will bring weekly acoustic performances to the square, from noon to 2 p.m.  Maddie Georgi will perform tomorrow; Joy Ike on May 24th, and The Whiskey Holler on May 31st.

In addition to the farmers market, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has also returned to the square with its Reading Room in Market Square, every Tuesday.  And on the 2nd and 3rd Tuesday of the month, the library will bring special programming from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m, including chef demos and salon sessions, as well as the weekly mobile library which offers used books for sale. 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Brooke Fornalczyk

Cultural Trust acquires Liberty Avenue building, Downtown influence continues to grow

The Cultural Trust is expanding its influence in Downtown, as it has recently acquired a building at 811 Liberty Avenue.  The building, which had most recently been a La Prima Espresso coffee house, has been vacant since that store's closing in 2004.

Although they did not own the building during La Prima Espresso's occupancy, the Cultural Trust had helped bring the coffee house into Downtown, according to Director of Public Relations Veronica Corpuz.   The Trust has also facilitated the opening of several other businesses in that block, including Crazy Mocha, the SPACE art gallery, Go Pretzel, and many more.

Corpuz says the new building is part of an overall effort to activate storefronts in the area with art venues and micro-retail enterprises.  The Trust is currently exploring the best use for the space at 811 Liberty.

Also in the 800 block of Liberty Avenue, the James E. Rohr building, dedicated by the Trust in 2009, is used by the organization’s Education and Community Engagement Department.  The building’s classrooms and Pierce Studio are programmed for events such as the Gallery Crawl and the PNC Grow Up Early Childhood Arts Program. 

In addition to those events, the department holds arts workshops and programs for students, educators, and other groups.

Founded in 1984, the Trust attracts 2 million people annually to the Cultural District for over 2,000 events and activities.  The organization currently manages over 1 million square-feet of real estate, and is responsible for the renovation of the Benedum, Byham, and Harris Theaters, and the construction of the O’Reilly Theater in 1999.

To find out more information about the Education and Community Engagement Department, or for rental information, call 412-471-1496.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Veronica Corpuz

PDP report says Downtown is strong; Osteria 100 to open soon

Supporters of the Golden Triangle may have known this for some time, but with the release of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership's recent report, the message is clear: Downtown’s economy is strong and continues to grow. 

The PDP's report, titled the State of Downtown Pittsburgh, is an analysis of the urban core’s economic growth, and provides data on specific study areas. 

According to the report, Greater Downtown's residential population grew by more than 33 percent between 2000 and 2010.  Over those years, new construction and several apartment conversions have added to the neighborhood's housing options, in addition to several housing developments currently underway.

Other highlights from the report include:

--   Within the Central Business District, Class A office space has a vacancy rate of only a little more than seven percent, accounting for more than 50 percent of the overall Pittsburgh office market.

--  Tourism and entertainment has continued to grow, with 5.8 million people attending more than 2,600 performing arts and sporting events in Greater Downtown (which extends downtown to the North Shore).

--  Greater Downtown currently boasts 313 dining establishments, 197 shops, and 148 services. 

Jeremy Waldrup, PDP President and CEO, says the report should be a comprehensive resource for developers, investors, businesses, and community leaders to highlight current development efforts underway in Downtown
“The report exemplifies why Downtown Pittsburgh is the center of opportunity, and is essential to the region,” Waldrup says, “[providing] unique downtown-centric indicators that can serve as a benchmark for the future, tracking success, and also challenging us to do even better.”

The report was released at an event within the soon-to-open restaurant Osteria 100, located within Point Park’s Academic Village.  Osteria 100 will offer a casual Italian menu that reflects both of its sister restaurants, Cioppino and Osteria 2350, in the Strip District. 

In a statement, Tom Trimm, co-owner of the Cioppino/Osteria restaurants, said his company was excited to be among the 16 new restaurants to open Downtown since last year.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Brooke Fornalczyk, PDP

Bus rapid transit plans advancing, public review sessions next week

The Port Authority of Allegheny County is taking the next step in its exploration of bus rapid transit (BRT).  Next week, a series of three community input meetings are being held throughout the city to provide the public with opportunities to review and comment on potential alternate alignments for the proposed system.

Last summer, the Port Authority began a $1 million study of BRT between Downtown, Oakland, and East End neighborhoods.  Although the study is still in progress, the purpose of next week’s meetings is to share with the public what BRT could potentially look like in those neighborhoods, including routing, changes to traffic lanes, and the possibility of added bicycle lanes.

This current study of BRT is using a “complete streets” approach, according to Heather Pharo, of the Port Authority.  This means access for all users-- including transit, bicyclists, pedestrians, and general auto traffic—is being taken into account.

The study is being conducted by Parsons Brinckerhoff, and includes an environmental assessment, route alternatives, and general economic impact on communities in the corridor. 

BRT is a form of bus transit that operates similar to a traditional street-rail system, with dedicated stations, route priority, and platform fare collection, among other efficiency measures. 

Get There PGH, a partnership of over 30 neighborhood organizations, has been leading the effort to advance BRT in Pittsburgh, of which the Port Authority is stakeholder.

Meetings will be held at the following locations and times:

Hill District: Tuesday, April 24, 2012, 6:00 to 8:00 pm, Hill House Kaufman Center Auditorium, 1825 Centre Avenue

Oakland: Wednesday, April 25, 2012, 6:00 to 8:00 pm, Carnegie Mellon University, University Student Center, Rangos Ballroom 3, 5032 Forbes Avenue

East End: Thursday, April 26, 2012, 6:00 to 8:00 pm, East Liberty Presbyterian Church Social Hall, 116 South Highland Avenue

Uptown: Tuesday, May 8, 2012, 6:00 to 8:00 pm, UPMC Mercy Hospital, 1400 Locust Street, Sr. Ferdinand Clark Auditorium, 2nd. Fl., Bldg. D.  Free Parking in Mercy Garage. Ticket will be validated.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Heather Pharo, Port Authority

Sienna Sulla Piazza opens in Market Square

Sienna Sulla Piazza, an upscale-casual Italian restaurant and wine bar, opened last week in Market Square, replacing the former Bella Serra Urban Trattoria.  The previous restaurant was sold to its news owners in February, and the name change reflects the transition to Chef Matt Porco's new menu and aesthetic.

The new menu is built on smaller, less-expensive plates intended for multi-course dining.  Antipastos include mozzarella stuffed veal meatballs and chicken liver mousse; pastas such as parsnip ravioli with short ribs, house-made gnocchi with braised pork ragu, and wild mushroom risotto; and meat and seafood dishes include braised lamb osso bucco, chicken marsala with mascarpone polenta, and prosciutto wrapped Atlantic salmon.

Chef Porco's previous restaurant, Mio Kitchen & Wine Bar, garnered many accolades, including a 2010 Chef of the Year award from Pittsburgh Magazine.  Poroco says this new endeavor is a home-coming of sorts, as some of his earliest cooking experiences were in Market Square, where is family owned bars and restaurants in the '70s and '80s.

Yet while the menu and name have changed, fans of the former restaurant's intimate setting will find the familiar rustic-chic decor, which features plenty of exposed brick, dark woods, and intimate lighting.

And like its predecessor, Sienna is certified by the Green Restaurant Association,  which means it maintains environmental standards in seven categories, including water efficiency, waste reduction, and recycling, sustainable furnishings, and sustainable food and energy.

Sienna will continue to offer seasonal outdoor dining on the square, and is open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner.  For more information and reservations, call 412-281-6363.

Writer:  Andrew Moore

Conflict Kitchen is moving Downtown, receives $25,000 Sprout Fund Root Award

Conflict Kitchen is bringing its globally-conscious cuisine to Downtown Pittsburgh.  The take-out kitchen has operated from a small window in East Liberty since 2010, offering a rotating menu of foods from countries around the world where the U.S. government is in conflict.
The food-meets-dialogue project received a $25,000 Root Award from the Sprout Fund last week, which will enable the downtown move (although a location has yet to be determined), add more kitchen space, and bring their meal-with-a-message to a more robust lunch crowd.  With these funds, Conflict Kitchen also plans to create an indoor space for hosting events and programming.

"The hope is in the interior to create a kind of convivial space for conversation [and] discussion as food is being eaten and distributed," says co-founder John Rubin.

This past Saturday, Conflict Kitchen re-launched its Iranian-based Kubideh Kitchen.  Most recently the restaurant had been serving Venezuelan arepas as La Cocina Arepa.  Rubin says this latest menu change was done in response to current world-geo politics.

Rubin says the award will allow Conflict Kitchen to change its menu more frequently in the future, and be more responsive to current world politics.

The Spout Fund's Root Award, which was supported by The Benter Foundation, is designed to build on a project's previous successes and enhance the project's sustainability.  It has been offered only twice before: to the Zany Umbrella Circus in 2007, and to Bike Pittsburgh in 2008.

Conflict Kitchen had previously been awarded a $7,000 seed grant from the Sprout Fund.  Mac Howison, Sprout Fund program officer, says his organization is exited to be able to support Conflict Kitchen’s culturally-current method of engaging global issues and the world political stage.

The restaurant’s lease ends in East Liberty in August, at which point the project plans to re-open downtown.  

Conflict Kitchen is currently located at124 S. Highland Avenue, and open 7 days a week, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Mac Howison; John Rubin

New City Cab taxi service and Project Pop Up: Downtown, two efforts to make downtown vibrant

Hailing a cab in Pittsburgh has just gotten a little easier.  Last week, Mayor Ravenstahl and Pittsburgh Transportation Group launched a new cab service dedicated to the greater downtown area.

According to a statement released by the mayor's office, this service was created in response to a demand for additional downtown transportation options.  The new City Cabs, which are currently a fleet of six black-and-white taxis, are intended to connect residents and visitors to various dining and retail destinations within the urban core. 

The service is limited to downtown, but includes destinations in the South Side, North Shore, and Oakland.

In addition to expanded transportation options for the central business district, yesterday marked the official launch of Project Pop Up: Downtown, the storefront activation project that has brought eleven new art installations and retail projects to formerly-vacant spaces in the Golden Triangle.

At yesterday’s event, the mayor said that due to the success of current efforts, the city is looking to expand the project to additional areas of downtown, including the “Skinny Building” at 641 Forbes Avenue.

At 5 p.m. this Friday a free, self-guided walking tour will showcase the various Pop Up storefronts, which include downtown’s only bookstore, a clothing boutique, a robot repair shop, Dream Cream Ice Cream, and more.  A printable map is available here.

Currently, 9 of the 11 storefronts are up and running.  Dream Cream Ice Cream announced yesterday an opening date of April 27th.  And BikePARK, a secure, weather-protected bicycle parking lot will open at 238 Fourth Avenue in June.

Writer:  Andrew Moore

Dream Cream Ice Cream, a downtown pop up store, rewards dreamers

Downtown Pittsburgh’s latest pop-up storefront, Dream Cream Ice Cream, hopes to make dreams come true with every cone it sells.  Opening in early April, the shop’s unique business model will direct a portion of its sales to 12 different “dreamers” each month.

Although the desire to open the shop originally sprang from a passion for ice cream, co-owners Alecia Shipman and Thomas Jamison say they also wanted to create a business that would support positive action in the Pittsburgh community.

To become a dreamer, one needs to submit an application.  If selected, the individual or organization picks a particular flavor of ice cream, and 25% of those sales will be donated to their cause.  Each month, a new set of dreamers will be announced.

To qualify, Jamison says the dreamer must first identify a need, not a want--that means no Rolex watches or new rims for your car.  A review committee selects dreamers based on a grading rubric to see if the idea is a good fit.

“We are looking for some key factors,” Jamison says.  “Whether it’s a theater company that needs funds for their next production, a soccer mom who wants new equipment for her kids, or a student who's trying to pay down student debt--those are all things that I think everybody would agree are just wholesome, good causes.”

But dreams won’t get funded without a little work.  To be a participant, each dreamer will work two, 7-hour work days a week.  Jamison says this relationship is beneficial for both parties: Dream Cream saves on expenses, while the dreamer can reach potential supporters.

“It’s an opportunity for you to sell your dream to folks and tie them to where this money is going,” Jamison says.

Shipman says the ice cream model, compared to crowdsourcing sites like  Kickstarter, allows dreamers to raise funds without needing to gain complete buy-in from supporters.

“Some will come down [to the shop] specifically for that reason,” Shipman says.  “But others are just going to come down because they want ice cream.  It’s more advantageous for the [dreamers] because the fund raising opportunity is a little bit more intuitive than the traditional methods.”

Dream Cream is just one of several new businesses to open as part of  Project Pop Up: Downtown, a storefront activation program that is a collaboration between Mayor Ravenstahl, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, and the URA.

And the ice cream shop also has its own dream: to become a permanent part of Downtown Pittsburgh, after the Project Pop Up term ends.

“We’re hopeful that the relationship works out and we can be there for years to come,” Jamison says.

Dream Cream Ice Cream will open in early April at 539 Liberty Avenue, 7 days a week, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Alecia Shipman, Thomas Jamison
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