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335-mile Great Allegheny Passage trail system nears completion

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of Allegheny County


Grand View Scenic Byway receives regional park designation

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

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

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

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

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Ethan Raup, MWCDC

Image courtesy of MWCDC


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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Sean Brady, Venture Outdoors

Image courtesy of Venture Outdoors


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

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of CCAC


Springboard receives national and local design commissions

Southside-based architecture and communication firm SPRINGBOARD, known for its work with the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and Butler’s Maridon Museum, is taking its designs to national clients.

Wellesley College, located outside of Boston, has commissioned SPRINGBOARD to renovate its 2,500 square-foot Davis Museum and Cultural Center. “We were invited to redesign their contemporary galleries and work on a new lobby; now we’re talking to them about redesigning their permanent collection,” says Paul Rosenblatt, who founded SPRINGBOARD in 2001. “We’re excited that people are beginning to look in our direction for quality design services, not only for us, but for Pittsburgh."

For the 6,000 square-foot Backus Museum, located in Fort Pierce, Florida, SPRINGBOARD will design modernized facilities. The museum was established in 1960 by Florida’s preeminent landscape painter, who mentored self-taught African-American painters. “This will lengthen the life of the work. We look at museums as holistic environments,” says Rosenblatt. Plans call for tripling the space, creating a 20,000 square-foot arts center.

On its home turf, SPRINGBOARD is designing Fox Chapel's $5M, 30,000 square-foot Boyd Community Center, and a 4,000 square-foot dining pavilion at CMU. “The idea that you have to go to New York or Boston for your libraries and community centers is changing,” says Rosenblatt. “There’s no reason why design leadership can’t come from post-Industrialist Pittsburgh. We have the ingredients of an incredibly creative and positive community.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Paul Rosenblatt, SPRINGBOARD


 
 
 
 
 









Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene


Pittsburgh selected for National Association of Counties conference in 2012

Pittsburgh will host the National Association of Counties (NACo) Annual Conference and Exposition in 2012. Washington, D.C.-based NACo is the only national organization that represents the country’s 3,066 county governments.

Expected to draw 4,200 people and generate $5.8M for the region, the conference will take place July 13-17 at the convention center. The event will feature seminars and educational sessions on topics relevant to county governments, tours of the region and a gala reception.

“The NACo Board of Directors is delighted that Allegheny County will be hosting our annual conference in 2012. I cannot overemphasize the importance of where we hold our annual conference,” says Colleen Landkamer, NACo president and commissioner of Blue Earth County, Minnesota. “I am most confident that Allegheny County and the city of Pittsburgh will welcome us with open arms and that the David L. Lawrence Convention Center will more than meet our needs.” Landkamer says that Pittsburgh met NACo’s criteria in terms of location, hotels, transportation, tourism, and convention center facilities.

Pittsburgh was selected late last year after competing with other cities.   
The conference will utilize downtown hotels and highlight developments such as Piatt Place, Three PNC Plaza and RiverParc. “We’re going to showcase what is going on here; in 2012, so much more will have happened,” says Kevin Evanto, Allegheny County’s director of communications, citing downtown housing as well as the planned casino and arena. “It’s another opportunity to get people from outside the region here--that’s half the battle.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Colleen Landkamer, NACo; Kevin Evanto, Allegheny County

Image courtesy of NACO


The Library fuses eclectic fare and a love of literature

The Library, a new restaurant with a literary twist, opened this month at 2304 East Carson St. Housed within a four-story building that also includes owner Jeff Brungo’s office and residence, The Library features a first-floor dining room, two second-floor bars and an outdoor patio.

Brungo worked with Pittsburgh-based artists to develop the unique theme. “It clicked across the board—it’s the perfect concept,” says Jesse Best, 29, who created original artwork for The Library, including a massive wooden jungle sculpture. Brian Holderman designed The Library’s catchy Website, logo and promotional materials. The artists designed tabletops using recycled atlases, sheet music and book and magazine covers. “They’re conversation pieces,” says Best.

“I wanted something the Southside did not have for my age group. We want to keep it fun and relaxing with the theme, and geared toward young professionals” says Brungo, 42, who has worked in the restaurant business for twenty-three years. “We tried to keep it classy and go along with the architecture.”

Executive chef Steve Harlow created an “American eclectic” menu, which features creatively dubbed cuisine such as meat dish “The Slaughterhouse Five Minus Two,” cheese plate “Of Mice and Men” and a pasta entree named after Hunter S. Thompson. 

“The location is fantastic, near the newer development,” says Best. “There’s great access near SouthSide Works and the Birmingham Bridge.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Jeff Brunga; Jesse Best


Image courtesy of Brian Holderman


LA Fitness to open three Pittsburgh area locations

LA Fitness International will open its first western Pennsylvania locations in three Pittsburgh area sites. The 45,000 square-foot fitness centers will be located on William Penn Hwy in Monroeville’s Miracle Mile Shopping Center, on Rte. 51 in Pleasant Hills’ Southland Shopping Center and on Washington Pike in Bridgeville’s Great Southern Shopping Center.

“These are like super stores, if you will; it’s their largest prototype and they’re coming into Pittsburgh in all three locations,” says Samuel Zamias, president and CEO of Johnstown-based Zamias Services, developer/owner of the properties. Each location will feature a full line of exercise equipment, swimming pool and racquetball courts. “LA Fitness boasts some 10,000 members per unit--that’s what they believe Pittsburgh will do.” The health club also offers personal training, kids programs and full court basketball.

Three fifty-year-old properties will be demolished in order to build the fitness centers. “In the original design, these were JCPenneys, who vacated and went to the malls, and then a variety of tenants were put in,” says Zamias. “LA Fitness saw the opportunities in terms of these vacant places and were up for doing this for a while.”

“All three will open in March 2008 at the latest,” says Zamias. “With any luck, they’ll open during the fall.” Construction is expected to begin within 60 days. "We intend to use a Western Pennsylvania contractor. We try to keep things local, and Pittsburgh is a great base for general contractors."

Zamias says that the privately-held LA Fitness operates 14 locations in Pennsylvania and 188 nationwide.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Samuel Zamias


Karma Boutique celebrates grand opening at SouthSide Works

Karma Fashion, located at 2737 East Carson St. in SouthSide Works, is hosting a grand opening on March 22nd. The 1,500 square-foot boutique carries more than 20 clothing lines, including t-shirts, dresses and jeans by DIESEL and handbags by Kooba.

Karma founder Kim Jones hatched ideas for an upscale boutique while completing an internship at Creative Marketing Plus in NYC. After studying business and marketing at the University of Pittsburgh and being impressed by the “up and coming” SouthSide Works, Jones opened Karma. To select designers, Jones travels to industry shows in NYC; she hopes to add Los Angeles and Milan to her itinerary.

“New people are always coming in," says Jones, 21. The shop’s clientele includes young professionals and college and high school students. 

Jones worked with architect Bill William and contractor John Paul Busse on Karma’s design. “It’s very sleek and sophisticated,” adds Jones, who says that SouthSide Works provided her with funds to complete work on the tinted concrete floors and white, minimalist walls.

The opening party will debut new dresses by Nicole Miller. Featured lines include Free People, Joie and Rebecca Taylor. Open seven days a week, Karma is one of a few stores in Pittsburgh to carry Gwen Stefani’s L.A.M.B. brand. Prices range from $20 for tops and $70 for dresses, to $500 for coats and $600 for suits.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Kim Jones


Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene


Tri-county airport partnership wins NAIOP development award

The Tri-County Airport Partnership (T-CAP) received a “Supporter of Development” award from NAIOP Pittsburgh, the local chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties, at the organization’s annual banquet on March 1st. T-CAP was recognized for efforts that led to the creation of 2,000 acres of shovel-ready land near the airport. “This celebrates pubic private partnerships that are developed through things like T-CAP,” says NAIOP’s executive director Leo Castagnari. “We now have enough infrastructure for developers to come in and offer a product.”

Ken Zapinski, program manager for transportation and infrastructure with the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, says that “T-CAP has been instrumental in working with legislators” on transportation projects, such as completing the Parkway West’s interstate designation, constructing missing I-79 ramps, and tracking work on the Turnpike's Findlay Connector.

Created in 2003 after the Urban Land Institute determined that the airport's lack of business sites was an obstacle to economic growth, T-CAP is a partnership between Allegheny, Beaver and Washington counties and the Airport Authority. “T-CAP is an amazing effort of distinct entities that could be fighting over jobs and opportunities, but they realize that if we collaborate, then it’s going to work,” adds Castagnari, who says that “the great news about US Airways” was announced just after T-CAP was selected. In recent years, more than $2 billion has been invested in infrastructure around the airport.

NAIOP’s ten awards recognize efforts of individuals and organizations, such as renovation and speculative building projects. The banquet also featured a presentation about new regional business and technology parks.


Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Leo Castagnari; Ken Zapinski

Image courtesy of NAIOP


County's Human Services Department receives $12M HUD grant

Allegheny County's Department of Human Services (DHS) has received a $12-million Continuum of Care grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to fund housing, services, and long-term programming for homeless individuals and families. The grant is part of the County's ten-year plan to create 1,000 housing units and combat homelessness.

“It’s getting much more competitive, so it’s significant that we got everything we asked for,” says DHS director Marc Cherna. “It’s very successful this year.” Part of more than $1.2 billion in Continuum of Care grants awarded to local programs, the federal dollars also support job training, counseling, and heath and child care.

The grant will be distributed among 38 DHS service providers and 397 housing units, and will include 193 family units and 194 individual units. In its role as grant administrator, DHS will provide fiscal and operational oversight and will conduct regular site visits with all service providers. "We are excited to turn this grant award into real services and real places to live for our County's neediest individuals and families," says Cherna.

“The priority is to create permanent housing and transitional support for people who are temporarily or chronically homeless,” adds Cherna, who says funds will be used over the next three years for new construction, renovations and rental housing projects. "This is a critical funding source that we will utilize to help homeless individuals and families gain housing."

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Marc Cherna

Image courtesy of Department of Human Services


City-wide community art gallery project set to launch

The Pittsburgh Community Gallery Project, a new month-long city-wide art program for families, kicks off on March 3rd and 4th. Children and families are invited to participate in free programs at Hill House Association and the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, and along Penn Ave. and E. Carson St., where hands-on art, writing and puppet activities will actively engage families in the city's neighborhoods. The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh will also host complementary programs.  

Artwork created by Pittsburgh youth will be exhibited at all participating sites. “This is an opportunity for families to come out and support programs their kids have been, in and learn about what the city offers,” says Lissa Rosenthal with Pittsburgh Roars, who is overseeing the project. “We're hoping that by this time next year, every neighborhood in the city will be participating.”

Located at 2629 E. Carson St., in a 1,486 square-foot space donated by The Soffer Organization, The South Side Community Gallery is organized by the Silver Eye Center for Photography. Writing, architecture and collage activities will be led by Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, The Brashear Association and Joseph-Beth Booksellers. Featured activities include Irish storytelling, Meet the Architect, Pop Art portraits, and Pittsburgh Trivia.

Supported by The Grable Foundation, the month-long project will culminate with a catalog showcasing projects generated by each neighborhood. “We have wonderful collaborations with nonprofits and for-profit entities,” says Rosenthal. “We hope this will be a big annual event.” For a full schedule of activities and locations, go here.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Lissa Rosenthal; Sylvia Ehler

Image courtesy of Pittsburgh Community Gallery Project



City appoints first Director of Economic and Community Development

In order to more effectively manage economic growth and implement a citywide neighborhood revitalization policy, the City of Pittsburgh has created its first director of economic and community development position. City planning director Patrick Ford, whose professional experience combines private and public sector development work, was appointed by Mayor Ravenstahl on Feb. 19th. The city hopes that the new position will help reduce the duplication of work and streamline development related services.

“We must be more proactive in reaching out to the business community, especially our small businesses, by providing tools they need to grow and flourish,” says Mayor Ravenstahl.

Charged with bringing accountability, customer service and transparency to the permitting and planning departments, Ford will work on development projects with the city’s building, public works and code-compliance departments, as well as with the URA, Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, and Parking and Housing Authorities. Ford will also be responsible for strengthening ties to local growth sectors, such as university and healthcare partners. In his position as planning director, Ford designed a more expedient zoning review and approval process for city projects and reinstated the practice of assigning staff planners to each of Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods.

As part of the restructuring, Noor Ismail, previously the city’s assistant director of strategic planning, has become head of city planning. As a planning consultant in Florida, Ms. Ismail won State Excellence Awards for her work on the Palm Beach Boulevard Community Plan and the Charlotte County SR 776 Corridor Plan.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Office of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl


Workshops educate homeowners about green building options

The Community Design Center of Pittsburgh (CDCP) and Green Building Alliance are teaming up to present “The Green Scene for Homeowners,” a new series of workshops designed to promote green building and design principles in home renovation.

On February 7th, “The Hip & Healthy Home” will teach homeowners how to use salvaged, environmentally responsible and healthy building products.  Representatives from Construction Junction and ARTEMIS Environmental Building Products will provide an overview of green materials available for residential use. The workshop at Construction Junction will also instruct homeowners how to make responsible and rewarding long-term investments in their homes.

“We’re demystifying green design for homeowners,” says Tara Merenda, RenPlan program director with the CDCP. “Our mission is to empower homeowners so they understand there are options.” Merenda says the CDCP regularly fields calls from homeowners interested in reducing energy costs and recycling building materials.

The workshop is presented in conjunction with the CDCP’s RenPlan program, which connects homeowners to affordable consultations with architects, landscape architects and interior designers.

In 2007, the CDCP plans to release a fact sheet and resource guide on residential green building. “All of the organizations I know involved in good design are experiencing growth and doing intensive outreach to homeowners--it’s trickling down to the individual,” says Merenda. “The community is recognizing the value in good design.”

To register, visit www.gbapgh.org or call 412-431-0709.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Tara Merenda


Image courtesy of CDCP


City business districts awarded $400,000 in Mainstreets funding

The following city neighborhoods have received Mainstreets Pitsburgh Program grants to support the revitalization of their business districts: Bloomfield Business Association; East Liberty Quarter Chamber of Commerce; Friendship Development Associates; Hazelwood Initiative; Lawrenceville Corporation; Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation; Neighbors in the Strip; Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership; and South Side Local Development Company.
    
Supported by the PA Department of Community and Economic Development and Community Development Block Grant funds, the program provides between $10,000 and $55,000 for revitalization activities that include promotion, design, organization and economic restructuring.

“We require participating merchants and organizations to provide additional private funding or funds from memberships and events,” says the URA's Robert Rubenstein who administers the program which represents a $2 million investment in city neighborhoods.

Each year, the URA invites all city business districts to apply to the program which includes a planning year, five fully funded years and an exit year. “Sustainability is part of the conversation from day one; we’re trying to be proactive and set up a national model,” says Alecia Sirk with the URA. Sirk credits Mount Washington, the Strip District and Friendship for showing new leadership and generating neighborhood excitement. “Our folks in the program are ridiculously high achievers," she says. “Pennsylvania is the state with the second highest funding for main streets."

Adds Rubenstein, ”Over the coming months we’ll see additional initiatives by Mayor Ravenstahl to reinforce neighborhood districts that need organizational support."

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Robert Rubentein; Alecia Sirk

182 South Side Articles | Page: | Show All
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