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Downtown's Night Market returns for a 7th edition

You might remember the last time the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership held a Night Market — it took place on a bridge and happened to coincide with the arrival of a particularly beloved specimen of water fowl.

Granted, Night Market VII won’t clog the Clemente Bridge, nor will it occur simultaneously with the arrival of the bird that spurred a million Facebook photos. But it will be warm, intimate and tailored to the season when it runs from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at 131 7th Street this Friday.

“Were going to have about 20 different vendors in the space,” says the PDP’s Leigh White. “We’ve kind of curated it to include some people’s favorite vendors. It feels like each night market takes on its own special vibe.”

This incarnation of Nigh Market will be a stop on the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s first gallery crawl of 2014. Accordingly, the Toonseum is decorating the building’s front windows with comic-themed art.

In addition to vendors offering art, jewelry, crafts, food (Burgh Bites will be on hand with Cuban sandwiches) and warm drinks (including teas from Healcrest Urban Farms and coffee from Zeke's), the market will include music from local singer-songwriter Tori Plack. Oh, and there’ll be soup.

“Last year, we did it in the same space, and that’s one ofd the things we like about the night market — we can adapt it to the seasons,” White says.

For a complete list of vendors, see the event’s website.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Leigh White

Councilwoman proposes creating Pittsburgh land bank

Though it might be hard to believe amid all of Pittsburgh’s recent development, the number of blighted or abandoned properties within the city is around 35,000 — about 19 percent of the city’s land. Every year, Pittsburgh spends about $20.5 million managing these properties.

Last Tuesday, District 7 Councilwoman Deb Gross introduced a bill which if passed would lay the legal groundwork for Pittsburgh to establish a land bank — a public, non-profit authority designed to streamline the process of redeveloping these tax-delinquent parcels. The land bank would be independent from the city and be run by a board of seven directors — four mayoral appointees and three city-council appointees.

“The first thing that it could do is accept property so that it would have assets. That’s why it’s important as to why it’d be independent and not a city agency,” Gross says. “If your only job is to clear title assets and sell them, you have a clean purpose and unencumbered operation.”

“I’ve talked to [the department of] city planning to try and seek out how this might happen in the next year or two, and they’ve given us 7,000 to 8,000 that are sort of out in the nebula which they call surplus. They don’t spend any time at all thinking about them. They’re just there and they’d be happy to unload them,” she added.

Under a state law passed in 2012, Pittsburgh has the authority to establish a land bank, and that bank has the ability to accept free property. It could also recoup about half of the money collected from outstanding taxes and liens when tax-delinquent parcels are sold through city treasurer’s sales. The land bank would not have the power of eminent domain.

Once established, the land back would replace the city’s current “land-recycling” method and use proceeds from sales of its assets to create a more focused and specific approach toward redeveloping these properties. Using the city’s current method at its current pace, it’s estimated that clearing the backlog of blighted properties would take about 60 years.  

Gross also noted that a Pittsburgh land bank could work in concert with municipalities outside the city, such as Wilkinsburg, to help faster spur community development projects.

“That’s stuff the URA wouldn’t be allowed to do but the land bank could,” she says.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Deb Gross

Eat + Drink: Rum cocktails, beer and...gluten-free fries?

Eat + Drink is Pop City’s week a epic local nommz.

Rum cocktails for everyone
Maggie’s Farm Rum, the Strip District distillery from Tim Russell which opened its doors for bottle sales after Thanksgiving last year, held the grand opening of its in-house cocktail and tasting bar on Saturday. Russell, who for the event partnered with the organizers of Pittsburgh Cocktail Week and Butterjoint Bar Manager Will Groves, offered attendees a menu of five cocktails and a rum punch.

Russell says that eventually, the bar will operate in conjunction with the distillery’s retail hours, but that for now, the bar will only be open Thursday through Sunday, and that he'll likely offer between four and six different rum cocktails at a given time.

CoStar on tap at Gus’s Café
Eat + Drink paid its first visit to Gus’s Café in Lawrenceville over the weekend and discovered a few great things:
1. French fries cooked in gluten-free oil taste just as good as those fried in regular oil (admittedly, we’re still not sure what gluten actually tastes like).
2. A local brewery called CoStar (more on them next week) makes an American-style pale ale called Hopland Park. It’s a dark gold, hazy as apple cider and strikes an extremely fine balance between hop and citrus flavors; remarkably refreshing for how full-bodied it is. Go try it.
3. Gus’s ambience, menu and simple charm — plus the sizable outdoor patio on the way — could eventually make it one of the top neighborhood bars in a city full of great neighborhood bars.

The Porch hosts ‘Bee to Beer’ tonight
To celebrate the release of its Honey Heather Ale, East End Brewing will throw a release party tonight at The Porch at Schenley from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Made with honey from hives kept on the roof of The Porch, this new edition of Honey Heather Ale will only be available on draft at The Porch and its Downtown sister restaurant Six Penn Kitchen, as well as East End’s brewery in Larimer.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Tim Russell, George Haritos

Schell Games expanding to Station Square offices

Schell Games, the South Side-based videogame developer is expanding its operations and will move from its space at 2313 East Carson Street this spring, but it won’t be going far — two miles down the road, to be exact.

“We’re going to be in Bessemer Court, which is located in across the street from the main mall area in Station Square,” says Schell spokesperson Jill Sciulli.

The award-winning, local game developer, now entering its 12th year of business, has occupied its South Side location for the past six years. The new space won’t just be bigger, but more convenient for both Schell’s employees and clients.

“I think the location will be a lot easier for clients to come visit, as well as a bit more accommodating to them. It’s a much more [tourist-friendly] place, and if they spend the night, they’ll have an easier time taking advantage of what Pittsburgh has to offer,” Sciulli says.

Though she couldn’t detail specifications, Scuilli described the new space as consisting of two floors with a mezzanine and large windows

“In terms of creativity, we feel it will allow our employees to explore their creativity and inspire them,” she added.

After the move, Schell will also look to add to its workforce and will add up to 10 new employees later this year. The company currently employs about 100 people.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Jill Sciulli

East Liberty Whole Foods plans expansion, more parking

Since it opened in 2002, the East Liberty Whole Foods has provided Pittsburgh with something nobody before thought possible: a parking circumstance more maddening than the North Shore during a Steelers game, combined with Starlake after a Tom Petty concert, multiplied by East Carson Street on St. Patrick’s Day.

Now, after nearly 12 years of parking anarchy, the Mosites Company is working with Whole Foods, not only to expand parking, but the market itself.

The proposed plan would see a second parking deck installed above the current ground-level lot, as well as a 6,900-square-foot second floor added to the market. That, plus an additional 8,300 square feet of proposed retail space on the ground floor will increase the market’s size by about 60 percent and net the store 52 additional parking spaces.

“The goal is to have the shell and the deck done by mid-September, and then there will be interior work that will take between three and six months,” says Steve Mosites, the development company’s president, who added that initial construction could begin as soon as March. “Right now, we’re working through the permit process, and we still need to get some variances from the city.”

While the store will remain open during construction, it will force the current parking lot to close from June through August. Mosites says that his company is working on alternative parking solutions to accommodate shoppers, and his talking with AAA about securing spaces in their lot across Centre Avenue.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Steve Mosites

Mayor's office announces pothole blitz

Rare is the Pittsburgher who’s seen a winter turn into a spring, a spring into a summer and a summer into a fall and thought, “how is it that they still haven’t fixed all the potholes from last year?”

In his second week on the job, Mayor Bill Peduto is getting a head start. His office announced yesterday that city’s department of public works will take advantage of the recent spate of warm weather and fix as many of the current potholes as possible over the next 72 hours, working around the clock as long as the weather remains clement.

The city will have 17 crews filling potholes during the day and another 10 crews working overnight shifts. The mayor has enlisted the help of the City Parks maintenance staff to assist the DPW during what’s thought to be the city’s first “pothole blitz.”

The mayor will discuss the initiative this morning at a news conference with Chief Operations Officer Guy Costa and District 2 Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith.

Peduto is encouraging residents to assist the city by reporting potholes to 311.

Writer: Matthew Wein

Eat + Drink: Bluebird Kitchen expands, Kevin Sousa celebrates, winter restaurant week details

Eat + Drink is Pop City’s weekly roundup of epic local nommz.

Bluebird Kitchen opens second Downtown location
Bluebird Kitchen, the popular Downtown breakfast and lunch spot, opened a second location Monday on the lower level of the First Niagra Building at 11 Stanwix Street.

Like the original, the new installation will offer made-to-order breakfast, salads, sandwiches and pastries. The new Bluebird will be open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. the rest of this week, with breakfast service scheduled to debut next week.

Liz Moore opened the first Bluebird Kitchen at 221 Forbes Avenue, just outside of Market Square, in the spring of 2012.

Crowdfunding pays off for Superior Motors
Kevin Sousa’s crowdfunding campaign for a new farm-to-table restaurant in Braddock reached its goal and then some on Monday.

The Kickstarter campaign for Superior Motors, which sought to raise $250,000 in 33 days, wound up crossing that threshold some 18 hours before time ran out. By the time the clock hit all zeros, Sousa had raised $310,225 from 2,026 different backers, most of whom gave pleged $100 or less.

At the end of last week, the campaign was in serious danger of not hitting its goal. Sousa says that over the weekend, he and Braddock Mayor John Fetterman were staring down the possibility of what to do if they hadn’t met their goal.

“It’s incredibly humbling,” Sousa says.

Pittsburgh Restaurant Week, Winter 2014
The winter edition of 2014 Pittsburgh Restaurant Week starts next Monday and runs through the following Sunday. More than 75 local restaurants will participate, offering everything from specials for $20.14 to prix-fixe menus and other specials.

The kickoff and preview party will take place tomorrow at Bill Chisnell Productions, located at 1111 Penn Avenue in Downtown. Tickets, which may be purchased through ShowClix, are $50 in advance and $60 at the door.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Kevin Sousa

Developments to watch from the new administration

After taking the oath of office Monday, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto pledged in his inaugural address to “build the Next Pittsburgh.” Here are two major building projects initiated on Luke Ravenstahl’s watch — one which could see some drastic changes, the other the new mayor will have the opportunity to help shape — before they become part of the Next Pittsburgh.

Riverfront Landing
The Buncher Company’s original $450 million plan to redevelop riverfront space in the Strip District included an office and residential complex, extending 17th Street all the way to the Allegheny River and demolishing about a third of the iconic produce terminal on Smallman Street in order to make it happen.

The plan has drawn criticism from historic preservationists who don’t want to see any part of the building razed. Yesterday, Buncher agreed to put its plans for the building on hold while it works with Peduto’s office to try and find a solution agreeable to both sides

City council tabled a vote in December which would have granted the terminal an historic landmark designation and made it vastly more difficult for anyone to damage it.

Peduto has said that he would like to see the terminal reused without demolishing any part of it, and has compared it to Seattle’s Pike Place Market, which before its overhaul was also scheduled for demolition.

Almono site
In November, city council approved an $80 million tax-increment financing plan (TIF) — the largest in Pittsburgh’s history for the site of the former LTV Coke Works in Hazelwood.

While contractors will likely spend most of 2014 grading and building interior roads and utilities on the 178-acre site, no plans for its actual development have been finalized.

Peduto has said that he would like development of the site to include significant green infrastructure to help manage stormwater runoff and alleviate some burden from the city’s already overloaded sewer system. Such measures could include canals, shallows and stormwater gardens and parks, like the one built last year in Larimer.

Writer: Matthew Wein

Local firm bringing hotels to Millvale and Connellsville

Last year, Millvale welcomed its first library. If all goes plan, this year will see construction begin on Millvale’s first hotel in recent memory.

Local firm Hotel d2 Services has partnered with the Millvale Borough Development Corporation and Cobblestone Hotels to get the project moving.

“We started working with Cobblestone about eight months ago, and they expressed a strong desire to enter the western Pennsylvania market,” says Hotel d2’s Chris Rosselot. “There’s a big market for 30-to-60 room hotels in this area.”

Hotels d2 has already reached an agreement with the MBDC on a site — on Evergreen Street, next to the Drai Laag Brewery — and retained the services of Bridgeville-based architectural firm JMAC. Hotels d2 and JMAC are close to breaking ground on another hotel in Connellsville, though they’ve yet to select a contracting firm for either project.

“The whole crux of this initiative is to have community ownership as well,” Rosselot says. “Our team is identifying community members who’d have interest in ownership. We don’t want to pull in some investor from California to  fund the whole thing.”

The Connellsville building will have 54 rooms and be located right near the Great Allegheny Passage. Rosselot says It will cater toward the recreational guest, while the Millvale hotel will have more urban feel.

“There isn’t one prototype,” he added.

Groundbreaking on the Millvale site, he added, could begin as soon as late spring or early summer if everything goes according to plan, and that the hotel is projected to open in mid-2015. Construction on the hotel in Connellsville could begin as soon as February with the Cobblestone Inn & Suites ready to open toward the end of 2014.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Chris Rosselot

Eat + Drink: Ten Penny and Gus's open, Bella Christie branches out

Eat + Drink is Pop City’s weekly roundup of local epic nommz.

Ten Penny to open this weekend
Ten Penny, the latest and most dining-focused restaurant and bar from AMPd Group — which earlier this year opened Skybar on the South Side — will open at the corner of Tenth Street and Penn Avenue in Downtown this weekend, according to AMPd Managing Partner Adam DeSimone.

Executive Chef Scott DeLuca, formerly of BOhem Bistro in Seven Fields and the South Side’s Truth Lounge, has designed a menu which explores new takes on classic American comfort food. The restaurant will sport 24 taps of craft beer to go with an extensive wine and cocktail menu.

Gus’s open in Lawrenceville
Gus’s Cafe, the long-awaited Lawrenceville venture from George Haritos, held its soft opening last week and is now operating full-time from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily, with the kitchen closing at 11 p.m.
In addition to a generous beer selection, the café offers wine, cocktails and a variety of gluten-free dining options, including french fries, crepes and doughnuts.

Located at 4717 Butler Street, Gus’s takes its name from Konstantinos “Gus” Haritos, who opened Shadyside’s Harris Grill back in 1951. George Haritos, who sold Harris in 2003, also plans to open another restaurant at 5416 Butler.

Bella Christie coming to Lawrenceville
Bella Christie & Lil’ Z’s Sweet Boutique, the dessert-centric bakery known for making extravagant cakes for every occasion you could think of (and even a few you probably wouldn't), will open a new spot in February. The Aspinwall-based bakery will take over the former Dozen Bake Shop space at 3511 Butler Street.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Adam DeSimone

Emerald View Park will receive National Park Service assistance

Mount Washington’s Emerald View Park, which occupies 257 contiguous acres of land on Pittsburgh’s highest mountain, garnered some major support last week when the National Park Service deemed it eligible for its Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program.

“This is a great opportunity for the park to get more recognition for the kind of efforts we’ve been putting into it,” says Ilyssa Manspeizer, director of park development and conservation for the Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation.

The MWCDC, Manspeizer said, will utilize the NPS’s help in conducting a park use survey, finding continuing funding for park development and engaging the community in an ongoing conversation about how to best finance the park, among other things.

“We’ll be able to call on the assistance of some of their specialists,” Manspeizer says.

Emerald View Park links existing parks on Mt. Washington with degraded community green spaces and hillsides to form one of the region’s largest urban parks. The most recently refurbished piece, the Saddle Trail Head off of Sycamore Street, debuted to the public in September —a small but crucial connecting piece in the park’s extensive and growing series of commuter trails.

“We’re looking at several possibilities for next year,” Manspeizer says. “One is a connection from the Sycamore piece to the McArdle roadway, so it would be great for safe, commuter pedestrian access.”

Emerald View Park’s partnership with the NPS will last through September of next year, at which point it will be free to re-apply for further assistance if needed.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Ilyssa Manzpeizer

Community group seeking buyer for historic North Side church

If Pittsburgh has taught us anything, it’s that you can convert an old church to suit almost any need.

Between community centers, art studios, bars and restaurants, a preponderance of old churches has proved one of Pittsburgh’s greatest assets during its ongoing reinvention. Now, there’s an absolute gem on the market.

But don’t expect it to be there for long.

The church which housed the First Immanuel Evangelical Congregation, built by German and Swiss immigrants in 1889 is for sale by its owner, the Community Alliance of Spring Garden and East Deutschtown. The alliance purchased the church four years ago to save it from demolition, and had a congregation using its sanctuary as recently as last month.

Now, it’s looking for a new owner to bring economic potential to the neighborhood while taking care of the historic building.

“We want someone who’d love and care for it, but who’d also bring some kind of economic stimulus to the neighborhood” says Nancy Noszka, a development consultant who’s working with the alliance to help sell the building at 1000 Madison Avenue at Tripoli Street.

Noszka adds that the alliance is working to have the building designated an historic landmark with the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, and that among the interested parties are people who would look to turn the space into an artists’ social club, gallery space or concert venue.

The church itself occupies a little about 16,000 square feet, including two adjacent buildings which are not a part of the original structure. The building is in pretty good shape for being nearly 125 years old, and sanctuary is in nearly pristine condition — including leaden stained glass windows which, though boarded on the outside, trace their origins to a turn-of-the-century Highland Park glassmaker.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Nancy Noszka

Carnegie Mellon gets $10 million gift toward renovating Heinz College space

Hamburg Hall, the home of Carnegie Mellon University’s H. John Heinz III College, will undergo a major overhaul over the course of the next two years, thanks in part to a gift from the Heinz Endowments.

“It’s all going toward renovating and expanding the home of the Heinz College,” says CMU spokesperson Abby Simmons.

The renovation and addition to Hamburg Hall constitutes the second of four phases of expansion CMU has planned for the western portion of its campus along Forbes Avenue in Oakland.

“The crux of phase two is creating a larger auditorium, renovating the rotunda and developing some collaborative spaces for students to meet for projects — a sort of open, common area,” Simmons says. “It’s very focused on improving the student experience and improving growth and enrollment.”

The Heinz College offers the nation’s top graduate and post-graduate programs in information technology and management, and a program among the 10 best in public policy analysis, according to U.S. News & World Report rankings. Not surprisingly, it’s seen a 30 percent spike in enrollment since 2008.

“What we’re finding is that the enrollment growth we’ve experienced the past several years has made it necessary to create more space for students and faculty,” Simmons says.  “This is part of an ongoing relationship that the Heinz College has benefitted from. We’re very thankful for their support through the years.”

Simmons added that Phase II of the expansion is tentatively due to be completed by December of 2015.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Abby Simmons

Eat + Drink: Fish, fireplaces, macarons by mail

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

Toro Fest 2013
Bloomfield’s Fukuda, which celebrated its first anniversary in October, is hosting its first annual Toro Fest this week, with a full calendar of events scheduled through next Monday. Named for the Japanese term for fatty Bluefin tuna, Toro Fest isn’t just a celebration of the food itself, but of fish and sustainability on the whole.

Throughout the week, Fukuda will offer sessions on Japanese culture and language at the restaurant, and end the week by taking over No Menu Monday at Bar Marco on December 16th.

For more information, check out Fukuda’s Toro Fest calendar or the event’s Facebook page.
 
Macarons by mail
Gaby et Jules, the French patisserie on Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill which started this year as a joint venture between Paris 66 owners Fred and Lori Rongier and Master Pastry Chef David Piquard, has opened up an online store and begun taking orders for its deservedly celebrated macarons.

In addition to its normal range of flavors, Piquard has rolled out a holiday line which includes gingerbread, peppermint white chocolate, Orangette (chocolate and orange, Eat + Drink’s favorite), chestnut and egg nog — a flavor Piquard was initially skeptical of, but which was made at Lori Rongier’s urging and much to our delight.

To ensure the macarons arrive fresh, Gaby et Jules ships only Monday through Wednesday and utilizes USPS Priority Mail.
 
Get inside, get warm
Today’s high is under 30°. Tomorrow’s is under 20°. But are you really going to let that keep you from enjoying your weeknight happy hour? Consider joints with fireplaces:

For drinks, stop by 1947 Tavern on Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside. Monterey Pub in the North Side’s Mexican War Streets district is another cozy option. A few blocks away, Max’s Allegheny Tavern offers German fare by an old fireplace. Toast! offers excellent food and great wine in a beautiful old building in Shadyside which has fireplaces on all three stories. Eat + Drink’s favorite, though, is The Oak Room — the hotel bar inside the Mansions on Fifth. It’s seldom crowded unless there’s an event, and it’s easily one of the five coziest rooms in the city.

Writer: Matthew Wein

An artist and an antique dealer form one of the Strip District's coolest shared spaces

Michael Lotenero was an artist looking for workspace. John and Marla Zerrer were antique dealers with a little more space than they needed.

“These guys were looking to rent the space out to other antique dealers, and I just walked in one day and asked if they’d be willing to rent it out for one artist to use as a studio,” Lotenero says.

That’s how the front half of Zerrer’s Antiques, located at 2703 Penn Avenue in the Strip District, became the headquarters for Lotenero Art + Design. And why not?

Lotenero and the Zerrers will celebrate one year together with an open house tomorrow from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., showcasing both businesses’ finest in art and antiques, respectively.

The building, which in 1890 housed the upscale Hays Hotel & Saloon, sports unfinished bare brick walls and an ornate ceiling of pressed tin — all frozen in a state of decay that’s warm, interesting and oddly suited to its joint purposes.

Because it’s situated in an area of the Strip that’s closer to Lower Lawrenceville than it is to the food markets, the block hasn’t seen much foot traffic since the Zerrers moved in about five years ago, but that’s changing with the relocation of the Pittsburgh Public Market.

“I’ve noticed a lot more foot traffic on the block,” says John Zerrer. “You see some, but usually it’s people going to check out the warehouse with the Steelers jerseys. But the week the market opened, we had people who stopped in on their way to or from the market who said they had no idea we were here.”

The partnership has benefitted both businesses. Zerrer’s dedicated clientele, some of whom do prop work for movies, have inquired about using Lotenero’s art. People who specifically seek out Lotenero’s work find themselves in a room full of eclectic antiques, rethinking the way they want to decorate.

“I’m here almost every day. It’s an open studio. I wanted to be exposed to people walking in and being around,” Lotenero says. “It’s a weird experiment. I get to rifle through some weird, old things.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Michael Lotenero, John Zerrer
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