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Local architect's home featured in Dwell magazine

The Lawrenceville home of Andrew Moss, president of mossArchitects, and Michelle Yanefski, an electrical engineer, is featured in the July/August issue of Dwell magazine.
Moss says he and his wife Yanefski sent Dwell images of the home some time ago. They are being featured in the magazine for their “budget driven,” “modern” home.
Moss and Yanefski designed the space together.

“We worked to have a modern home,” Moss says. He adds that it is a unique experience to design a house based on one’s own lifestyle. “It’s a great opportunity to design your own home.”
He explains that the materials used to build the home were distinct and reminiscent of Pittsburgh’s industrial past — for example, the house’s metal siding. Another noteworthy aspect of the Lawrenceville abode is how it’s sited, according to Moss. The house is not part of a series of row houses, like much of the neighborhood.
“It’s an honor,” Moss says about being featured in Dwell. “I also think it’s a great thing for Pittsburgh.”
In conjunction with Moss’s mention, Dwell is running a Pittsburgh City Guide online with tips from Moss. Butler Street businesses Cure and Who New? in Lawrenceville are on the list alongside Pittsburgh institutions such as the Andy Warhol Museum.  
Source: mossArchitects, Andrew Moss 

Throwback Thursday: The Church Brew Works

For more than 17 years, The Church Brew Works has been a Lawrenceville watering hole that attracts Pittsburghers from near and far. It’s obvious that the building was not always a brewery — in fact, that is a part of the Brew Works’ namesake and its charm and appeal.
St. John the Baptist Church on Liberty Avenue was built in 1902 by twin brothers Louis and Michael Beezer with John Comes as lead architect, according to Sean Casey, The Church Brew Works owner.  Beezer, Beezer and Comes were employed to design the church, rectory, school and convent.
“Catholics would build [the] church first,” Casey said. “Pay [the] debt, and raise funds and build a school and convent next.”
He added that the rectory would be built last, St. John’s was constructed in 1923.

This team of architects were known as some of the period’s best craftsmen. They produced the church’s most loved details like the hand-painted cypress beams on the high vaulted ceiling, the intricate glass windows and the campanile.
St. John the Baptist survived a fire in 1915, both World Wars and the Depression. When the Diocese of Pittsburgh underwent a major reorganization in 1993, after years of declining congregations and financial constraints, the Lawrenceville church had to close its doors.
In 1996, The Church Brew Works revitalized the site after three years of dormancy. Casey said he was inspired to open a brewery in the space out of appreciation for its architecture and “experience having been in some legacy brewpubs in Germany that have been around for two hundred years.”
The legacy of St. John was considered during its transition into The Church Brew Works. Their website details the “painstaking effort” that was taken to preserve the church’s glory.
Mini pews were constructed from the church’s original benches for guest seating, and the excess oak from shortening the pews was used to build the bar. The original Douglas Fir floors were uncovered and restored after being hidden under plywood for decades. And, the blue apse is perhaps The Church Brew Work’s most iconic detail.  This classic altar is now the heart of the Brew Works as it houses its steel and copper tanks.

This post is part of a “Throwback Thursday” series highlighting Pittsburgh’s revitalized historic buildings.

Writer: Caroline Gerdes
Source:  Sean Casey, Patty Goyke, The Church Brew Works

Food & Wine magazine spotlights Pittsburgh twice

Last week, Food & Wine magazine named Justin Severino, chef and owner at Cure in Lawrenceville, the People’s 2014 Best New Chef, Mid-Atlantic region.
“We're obviously thrilled,” Severino said. “It's always great to be recognized for your hard work, and it feels really good to win as a Pittsburgh chef going up against some of the big names from Philly and DC.”
Severino and Cure have won a myriad of honors. Severino was a 2014 James Beard Foundation award nominee for Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic and he was awarded Pittsburgh Magazine Star Chef 2013. In 2012, Cure was named one of the Top 50 Best New Restaurants by Bon Appétit magazine. The restaurant was also selected as one of Pittsburgh Magazine's 25 Best Restaurants in 2012.  
This time, patrons were the judge. Foodies were invited to vote for their favorite chefs on Food & Wine’s website. Severino was selected by popular vote.
“The Pittsburgh community has been wonderful, and this win would have been impossible without them,” he said. “It's very gratifying to see Pittsburgh start to get some national recognition as a real food city. It's deserved it for a while — we couldn't do what we do at Cure, or any of the city's other great restaurants, without a strong community of sophisticated diners.”
Food & Wine also recently recognized Café Phipps at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens as one of the top museum resta urants in the country. Food & Wine noted the café’s green mission.The article states, “Chef Stephanie Gelberd often sources ingredients from the conservatory's edible garden.”
Richard Piacentini, Phipps Executive Director, said the café tries to stay as “green as possible” while also “serving great food.”
He said the restaurant composts, does not sell bottled water, uses real or compostable silverware and serves local (sometimes fresh from the garden) and organic food. The Café Phipps is a three star green certified restaurant — one of two certified green restaurants in Pittsburgh, according to Piacentini.  

Writer: Caroline Gerdes
Source: Justin Severino, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

52nd Street Market will open Saturday

The 52nd Street Market, a joint effort of Deirdre Kane and Dora Walmsley to bring a locally sourced corner grocery store to Lawrenceville, will open its doors on Saturday.

Located at 601 52nd Street in the space which years ago housed the Bloomfield Market, the 800-square-foot store will bring fresh, organic produce and other locally produced items to Lawrenceville. Its owners hope it will become hub in the community.

“Right in the very beginning, we’re just going to be a grocer,” says Kane, who first met Walmsley while volunteering in Lawrenceville’s community gardens. “We won’t be selling made-to-order sandwiches or coffee just yet, but we’ll have some pre-packaged items.”

Kane says she hopes the market will have its coffee and on-site kitchen services functioning for customers within the next month. The market passed its health inspection on Monday and will get its first inventory tomorrow. Much of its produce will come from Saxonburg-based Frankferd Farms, but Kane and Walmsley are also using other local vendors, such as Turner Dairy Farms, Zeke’s Coffee and the North Side’s Mueller’s Hardware for dry goods such as laundry detergent and cat food. Additionally, Kane and Walmsley have reached out to Greenfield Gardens, which both say makes some of Pittsburgh’s best local pickles.

“We’re going to do a really soft opening first. Once the weather clears, we’re going to have a big party,” Kane says. “It’s sort of amazing how it’s all coming together.”

Follow the 52nd Street Market on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Deidre Kane

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

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

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

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

If not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Justin Strong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For updates, follow Dishcrawl Pittsburgh on Facebook and Twitter.

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Colleen Coll

A ceramics studio is Lawrenceville's latest get

Dan Kuhn grew up in the Allegheny Valley, and the roots his ancestors planted here run so deep, he knew he’d wind up back in Pittsburgh one way or another.

“I came back to Lawrenceville because one side of my family started a small business in town,” Kuhn says. He’s referring to ancestor Edward Frauenheim, who founded the Pittsburgh Brewing Company in 1861.
Now after years spend in California and New York, he’s back and looking to provide Pittsburgh with a place for all things pottery.

Kuhn has rented the 3,000-square-foot space at 158 41st Street in Lawrenceville — an old mechanic’s garage from the 1930s — and is turning it into Ton Pottery, a full studio and gallery space which will aim to serve and grow Pittsburgh’s ceramics community.

Ton will offer everything from ceramics classes for kids, adults and families to services for local artists, such as open studio time, kilns, glaze mixing and to a place for local potters to showcase and sell their work.

“It’s a pretty diverse group of people, and we really want to get them exposure,” Kuhn says. “We’re also going to offer services for local potters. We want to extend professional services to people who might not have the facilities to do these things.”

Ton will start with eight potter’s wheels and eventually build up to 12. In addition to throwing, the facility will offer hand-building space and will be available to rent for parties and other social events. Ton Pottery will hold its grand opening on February 22 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Kuhn says classes are on schedule to begin March 1st.

“When people think pottery in Pittsburgh, I want them to say, 'I’m going to Lawrenceville! That’s where it’s all happening,'” he says.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Dan Kuhn

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

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

Eat + Drink: Kelly's new hours, an unusual seasonal beer and more

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

Kelly’s offering lunch service
Kelly’s, the decades-old East Liberty happy hour-mainstay, is known for its cocktails, ambience and baked mac & cheese. Now, after years of catering exclusively to Pittsburgh’s nightlife, the bar and lounge has expanded its hours and is open daily at 11:30 a.m., offering full lunch service.

“We have the same menu all day long, but we’ll be running daily lunch specials as well,” says Kelly’s general manager Deirdre Durant, adding that the specials will feature pot pies made from scratch which will change week-to-week, and sandwiches, including a lamb burger with pickled red onions.

Lunch isn’t an isolated incident, either. The bar will remain open until its usual 2 a.m. daily closing with happy hour running unchanged from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

An unexpected seasonal beer
Many beer drinkers tend to prefer hoppy beers during periods of warmer weather. But as he’s wont to do with just about everything, Roundabout Brewery’s Steve Sloan has created another stellar hybrid beer which bends convention.  

Called New Zealand Summer Winter Warmer, it combines an English-style winter warmer — a strong ale with heavy and sweet malt flavors — with a generous but not overwhelming amount of New Zealand hops. After all, our winter is their summer.

The result is a balanced, seasonal ale which is likely to satiate both malt fans and hopheads — something previously not thought possible.
Prohibition dinner at Tender
Eighty years ago tomorrow, the United States ratified the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, repealing Prohibition. To commemorate the occasion, Tender Bar + Kitchen is celebrating with a Repeal Day dinner featuring spirits from Laird & Company, America’s oldest commercial distillery.

Tickets for the event are $65 and include a four-course meal and cocktail reception with Lisa Laird, the distillery’s ninth-generation owner. For more information or to buy tickets, check out the event page.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Deirdre Durant

Eat + Drink: A heavy dose of holiday spirits and more

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

Larkin leads the way on Allegheny River Libation Trail
It seems that craft breweries, distilleries and wineries just recently started popping up in Pittsburgh.

Well don’t look now, but there are 15 such independent producers along the Allegheny River corridor alone. That’s why Bill Larkin, who with his wife, Michelle, owns and operates Arsenal Cider House in Lawrenceville, is leading the charge in establishing the Allegheny River Libation Trail.

“I pulled everybody together from a certain geographical area and we just had a meeting,” Larkin said. “I think it’s remarkable that there are so many producers in such a small area. I think it’s something that should be exploited.”

The coalition’s first order of business will be to produce a brochure, highlighting all of its members and their proximity to one another. Larkin says that since a lot of the producers already support each other— many order their ingredients together in bulk to save on shipping costs — so this kind of cross-promotion makes sense.

Of the 15 breweries, distilleries and wineries in the neighborhoods along both sides of the Allegheny — from Millvale and Lawrenceville, all the way up through the Strip District and the North Side — 13 intend to participate in what Larkin views as a loose confederation of businesses.

“I don’t think anybody wants to make this an official organization,” he says. “We’re all pretty busy, and I don’t think anyone wants that kind of commitment.”
Stay Tuned Distillery opens in Munhall
One distillery you won’t find on the libation trail, simply by virtue of its location, is the Stay Tuned Distillery, which opened earlier this month.

Located at 810 Ravine Street in Munhall, Stay Tuned specializes in finishing whisky and gin made from spirits distilled at the Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville, Virginia. The local operation houses their rectification facilities, a retail shop and a tasting bar.

“We finish their rye and their single malt, and we make our own gin,” says co-owner LeeAnn Sommerfeld.

Though not yet available for sale, Stay Tuned’s PathoGin is made from a barley base and contains more citrus and floral flavors than most mass-market gins. Its rye and single malt whiskys will both be ready in time for the holiday shopping season.

Music at Marty's Market
The folks at Marty's Market are forever finding new ways to make use of their outstanding space. This Friday will mark the first installment of the Music at Marty's series, which will feature local Latin musician Geña. The event will run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and include music, freshly prepared Latin cuisine and a Q&A with the musician. Tickets are $15 and may be purchased on the market's website.
Cocktail viewing party
Hey Bartender,” Douglas Tirola’s documentary examining New York City’s craft cocktail culture through the eyes of two skilled mixologists, will screen tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Downtown’s Harris Theater as a part of the Three Rivers Film Festival.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Bill Larkin, LeeAnn Sommerfeld

Eat + Drink: Constellation Coffee, Reverse Keg Ride, farmer markets wind down

Eat + Drink is Pop City's weekly roundup of epic local nomz.

Constellation Coffee arrives at Penn & Main
Amy Weiland worked as a barista at Tazza D’Oro in Highland Park for more than three years, all the while wanting to open her own shop. When she walked by the vacant space at 4059 Penn Avenue in Lawrenceville, she knew she’d found something special.

Serving coffee from Annapolis-based Ceremony Coffee Roasters, Weiland opened Constellation Coffee last week.

“I wanted to go with something from the east coast,” Weiland said of her roaster choice. “Whenever I was doing samplings from different roasters, Ceremony just blew every other roaster out of the water. All their coffees have nice balance and flavor, and all are light to medium roasts.”

Constellation will go for a diner-style vibe. In addition to serving up mainly espresso-based drinks, it serves up slices from the Pittsburgh Pie Guy.

Within the next few weeks, Constellation will have new painted signs and furniture designed to make the space more cozy. Weiland says she hopes to add more retail business and coffee classes in the coming months. Constellation Coffee is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

East End’s Reverse Keg Ride on for Saturday
The East End Brewery will hold its annual Reverse Keg Ride — a bike trek from the OTB Bicycle Café on the South Side to the Brewery’s home in Larimer — this Saturday.

The annual event celebrates the moving of an empty keg of East End’s Pedal Pale Ale from OTB back to the brewery, and ends in the ceremonial tapping of the first keg of its Snow Melt Ale. Registration is available through the event page on East End’s website and costs $20 per rider, with a $25 fee for late registration. The ride is limited to 300 participants and note:  there won’t be a day-of registration.

The convoy will depart OTB at 4 p.m. and arrive back at the brewery around 5:30.

Market Square will host final farmer’s market of the season tomorrow
A smattering of Halloween events will help mark the end of the season for the Market Square Farmer’s Market tomorrow.
Daycare centers will conduct trick-or-treating around the market, booths will be extra spooky and vendors will adorn their favorite Halloween costumes. DJ Soy Sos and local singer-songwriter Jess Sides will provide the daytime entertainment, and instructors from the Arthur Murray Dance School on Sixth Street will do three 10-minute performances during lunch hours.

It will mark the final 2013 installment for the popular Downtown market, which this season, attracted between 8,000 and 10,000 visitors each week.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Amy Weiland, Scott Smith

Carnegie Robotics expanding into new Lawrenceville facility

Carnegie Robotics, a for-profit outgrowth of the robotics program at Carnegie Mellon University which has operated from a trio of spaces since its inception, will move into a large new space in Lawrenceville next spring.

“It’s a bit of a long project but we’re remodeling a new facility and moving into that,” says John Bares, the company’s president and CEO, adding that the structure would contain new engineering and production facilities.

The 100-year-old Heppenstall Building, located at 4501 Hatfield Street and owned by RIDC, includes three-and-a-half acres of property and will be refitted to suit the company’s needs using various teams of contractors. Its 29,000 square feet will be expanded both through adding floors to the current warehouse and and the addition of a sub-building.

“It’s significant,” Bares says. “We’re spread across three different facilities today. It gives us an instant doubling of facility space and square footage, so that’s wonderful.”

Carnegie Robotics develops technology used in agriculture, mining and defense work. Its primary goal centers around developing robots which can make decisions based on sensory perception.

“We’re on a consistent march and here to stay,” says Bares, who added that while the company looked at space in the greater Pittsburgh area outside the city limits, it settled on the old Lawrenceville warehouse to both stay close to its current partners and to the Carnegie Mellon Campus.

“There’s a huge advantage to us to remain in the city,” he says. “It’s where the great talent is.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: John Bares

Eat + Drink: A harvest dinner at Six Penn, a new sub shop Downtown and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City’s weekly roundup of local food news.

Downtown gets new sub shop
Penn Station East Coast Subs, which offers hot and cold sandwiches in a fast-casual atmosphere, will open its third Pittsburgh location at 808 Liberty Avenue in Downtown.

The new shop is the latest franchise installment from father-son team Denny and Jon Keidel and partner John Adams. They also own locations on Centre Avenue in Shadyside and William Penn Highway in Monroeville.

Lawrenceville juice bar opening new location
Embody Natural Health, the Upper Lawrenceville juice and smoothie spot from Aimee Woods, will open a second location in Wexford later this month.

In addition to juices and smoothies, the new location will offer nutrition and lifestyle counseling services as well as yoga and fitness classes and acupuncture workshops.

“It’s really been developing and we’re adding on,” says Embody’s Rachel Miller.

Juice Up 412 to hold free tasting
Juice Up 412, the East Liberty-based juice bar which operates out of The Livermore, will hold a free tasting on Monday from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. Eat + Drink profiled Juice Up 412 back in August, and highly recommends trying them out if you haven't already.

Six Penn hosts harvest dinner
To celebrate eight years in business, Six Penn Kitchen will host a special five-course harvest dinner tomorrow evening at 6:30 p.m.

The menu, which will include appetizers, cheese and dessert courses, is headlined with entrees of buttered scallops and mussels served with a local corn broth, as well as a short rib course with popcorn grits, grilled squash and port demi-glace.

The dinner is $75, or $50 without wine pairings. Reservations are required, and can be made by calling 412-566-7366.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Rachel Miller

Eat + Drink: Wigle introducing a rum, the Brooklyn Brewery Mash comes to Pittsburgh and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City's weekly look at all that's good in local food.

Wigle will release a honey spirit this month
Wigle Whiskey, Pittsburgh’s most popular purveyor of local spirits, will take its first step outside the whiskey realm next Thursday, October 17th, when it releases Landlocked — a rum-type spirit crafted from local, organic buckwheat honey.
When Wigle started kicking around the idea of rolling out a new spirit, they knew they wanted it to be something innovative. Most rum is made from sugar cane or types of molasses.

“A great Pennsylvania alternative to those is honey,” says Wigle’s Meredith Grelli. “We could think of no more exemplary honey to western pa than buckwheat honey. It has a distinctive, earthy quality to it. We started experimenting and playing around, and we really liked what we came up with.”

Wigle had patrons participate in blind taste tests with its new concoction going against similar spirits already on the market. After about six months of tooling around with a recipe, they knew they had something special.

“We knew it was time to take it to market when we were beating out industry leaders in taste testing,” Grellis says.
Wigle will hold two sessions from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., and from 8 p.m. to 10 pm. Tickets for both sessions are available through their website.

Brooklyn Brewery brings its MASH to Pittsburgh
The Brooklyn Brewery is taking its show on the road. From October 22-27, the Brooklyn Brewery Mash — a five-day festival of parties, pop-up dinners and most of all, beer.

The Mash will be headquartered at Lawrenceville’s Industry Public House, and will feature events there for the first four days of the festival, including beer and cheese pairings, experimental beer tastings and various other specials.

Other events, including as a multi-course, beer-centric dinner, a farmer’s market workshop and a found footage screening will take place at locales around the city, including the Farmers at Firehouse Market, the Regent Square Theater and a host of different restaurants.

A full schedule of Brooklyn Mash happenings is available on the event’s website.

Duquesne’s Red Ring gets all-season patio
The Red Ring, Duquesne University’s signature restaurant at 1015 Forbes Avenue, will open an enclosed outdoor patio, starting tomorrow. The patio will be able to accommodate 46 customers between seven dining tables and nine cocktail tables.

The area will be lined with a full-length cloth awning and feature clear, roll-down vinyl along the perimeter. Radiant heaters for use during cold weather will make the space usable year-round.

Worth tasting
Love the flavors of fall but dislike big chain coffeeshops? Pop City heartily recommends heading to Marty's Market, where the coffee bar is serving up Maple & Clove lattes. They're incredibly delicious.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Meredith Grelli

Yo Bro brings socially conscious fashions for little dudes to Lawrenceville

Marybeth Mahoney and Lori Sipes are moms on a mission. That mission: introduce a trendy line of boys’ fashions that helps raise money for charity.

“We wanted to design something affordable and cool,” Sipes says. “A lot of children’s clothing stores are 75 percent girls’ clothing and 25 percent boys’, but the boys’ designs tend to be kind of cheesy.”

Late last year, they launched Yo Bro Apparel. And what started as an exclusively internet business has taken root at 3818 Butler Street in Lawrenceville. Yo Bro launched its first brick-and-mortar operation as a pop-up store, which ran from January of last year to February of this year. It became a permanent fixture earlier this month.

“We decided that we wanted to do something where we could donate portions of profits to children’s charities. We wanted to do something that allowed us to give back,” Sipes says.

For the rest of this year and most of next year, Yo Bro will donate 10 percent of its profits to the Noah Angelici Hope Foundation. After that, it will contribute to a different children’s charity during the spring/summer and fall/winter seasons.
Yo Bro is also among a host of Pittsburgh businesses featured in the PBS documentary series “Start Up,” which will air in Pittsburgh later this year.

“We do all the designs ourselves, and it’s all imprintable apparel,” says Sipes, adding that they get their materials from American wholesalers and employ a local screen printer. “We’re kinda scrappy and trying to do everything ourselves.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Lori Sipes

Eat + Drink: Peet's Coffee in Pittsburgh, Cocktail Week, America's largest native fruit

Eat + Drink is Pop City's weekly glance at the finest in local epic nomz.

Peet’s Coffee coming to Pittsburgh
Peet’s Coffee & Tea, the San Francisco Bay area-based coffee roaster and retailer whose coffee has a near-religious following on the west coast, is set to open its first Pittsburgh stores.

Peet’s will take over the locations of the former Caribou Coffee shops in Oakland, the South Side, Brentwood and the Waterworks Mall, near Aspinwall.

According to Gary Wilson, a principal with the development firm of Langholz Wilson Ellis, which owns the site of the recently closed Caribou Coffee in Oakland, the developers are in the process of approving plans now. Wilson did not give a timetable for the Oakland location’s opening.

Peet’s products aren’t entirely new to the region. Giant Eagle has carried various Peet’s blends for several years.

Eat + Drink heartily recommends giving the House Blend a shot. Fans of darker roasts are likely to enjoy the full-bodied Major Dickason’s Blend.

Pittsburgh Cocktail Week
A cadre of bars and restaurants will participate in the first annual Pittsburgh Cocktail Week, which will run from September 16th through the 22nd.

Cocktail Week will include everything from tequila classes at Verde to ice-carving sessions at The Livermore, will run from September 16th through the 22nd.

A list of Cocktail Week events, still being updated, is available on the event’s website.

Paw paw tasting
The paw paw is often described as a cross between a banana and a mango. It’s the largest edible fruit native to the United States, yet most people have never even heard of it. Andy Moore is looking to change that.

“It’s native to 25 or 26 states in the eastern United States, and it’s virtually unheard of,” Moore says. “How does something that’s this ubiquitous get overlooked?”

Moore, a former Pop City staffer, is looking to answer that question and others, as he travels around the country to research the history of the paw paw for a book he’s working on. To help raise money to finance his research and travels, Moore will host a paw paw tasting event Thursday, September 19th at 7:30 p.m. at Buena Vista Coffee on the North Side.

Attendees will learn about the paw paw, and have the opportunity to sample a variety of paw paw-inclusive foods, including ice cream, cupcakes, and the raw flesh of the fruit itself.

Those attending will also receive paw paw seeds from which to grown their own paw paw trees, and Moore plans to raffle off a pair of paw paw trees to one lucky participant.

Tickets for the event are $40 and may be reserved by calling 407-967-3519, or e-mailing Moore.

You can follow his paw paw adventures on Twitter @thepawpawbook.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Gary Wilson, Andrew Moore

Meet Hop Farm, Lawrenceville's newest craft brewery

Lawrenceville will get its second craft brewery of the summer within the next two weeks when Hop Farm Brewing Company opens the doors to its 4,700 square-foot space at 5601 Butler Street.

“This is the first time I’ve done this,” says Hop Farm founder Matt Gouwens. “It’s a big undertaking.”

Gouwens, who worked as a web and graphic designer before deciding to start a brewery, has been operating as a home brewer for the last five years, growing different varieties of hops in his yard.

When he decided to go commercial, he knew he couldn’t grow all of his own hops, and wanted to add a local spin to his product.

“I thought, ‘why not get a farmer involved in this?’” says Gouwens.

Hop Farm’s hops will come from an actual hop farm that’s currently being set up in Cranberry Township.
When he opens for business later this month, Gouwens says he’ll have a selection of three beers — a saison, a nut brown and naturally, an IPA.

“Our plan after that is getting into a Russian Imperial Stout and aging it in some bourbon barrels,” says Gouwens.

Hop Farm’s beers will initially be available only in growlers, but Gouwens says he will begin canning them once the government approves his label.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Matt Gouwens

New single-screen movie theater will cater to Pittsburgh's film buffs

Brian Mendelssohn has always dreamed of opening an old-timey movie theater. When he came across the space at 4115 Butler Street in Lawrenceville, he knew he’d found his location.

“When this building came along, it felt so right,” says Mendelssohn, a principal with Lawrenceville’s Botero Development. “It’s a single-screen neighborhood movie theater, as if we were opening this up in the 1920s. It’s going to have an intimate feel with modern amenities. We’re trying to imagine what it would look like if Bette Davis designed it.”

Construction is about 65 percent complete on Row House Cinema, a single-screen theater for all breeds of film buffs, which is slated to open in December.

In addition to modern amenities such as stadium seating, a state-of-the-art sound system, completely digital projection and gourmet concessions, the theater will have something entirely new to Pittsburgh.

The adjoining building will house sister business Atlas Bottle Works, which Mendelssohn aims to make “the best beer store in Western Pennsylvania.”

Moviegoers will have the option of buying draft beer at the theater’s concession stand or choosing from the expansive selection next door. Atlas Bottle Works will start out carrying 500 varieties of beer — no macrobrews — and the selection will expand from there.

As for the theater, don’t go to Row House expecting any first-run movies.

“We’re trying to do a new business model we’re calling marathon programming,” Mendelssohn says. Screenings at Row House will revolve around genres, themes and directors. Showings, he says, will occur in back-to-back marathon format (like a single-day “Lord of the Rings” marathon), or over the course of several days, and will touch on everything from sci-fi, horror and zombie films to popular directors, such as the Coen Brothers and Alfred Hitchcock.

The theater, which will seat about 90 people, will also host Q&A and discussion sessions with people from all reaches of the movie industry.

Row House Cinema is currently staging an indiegogo campaign to help cover the costs of installing its picture and sound systems, and rewards for donors, which include choosing movies to be screened, show that local movie fans’ voices will be heard when it comes to programming.

“The community will have a strong influence about who we are and what we’re doing,” Mendelssohn added. “If we had a tagline,” Mendelssohn says, “it would be, ‘Like Netflix, only curated.’”

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Brian Mendelssohn

Remaking Cities Congress will convene in Pittsburgh this October

Twenty-five years ago, urban planners, architects and civil engineers from around the country and the world convened in Pittsburgh with the specific aim of addressing the problems facing historically industrial cities in a post-industrial world.

The gathering, called the Remaking Cities Institute, involved days of closed-door meetings, idea exchanges and ultimately, a set of recommendations and principles for industrial cities around the world to set about pulling themselves out of their post-industrial funk.

From October 15th to 18th, the organization, now called the Remaking Cities Congress, will gather 300 of the world’s leading urbanists here once again to review what worked, what didn’t and to issue a new list of recommendations which will inform and guide the next generation of urban planning policy for post-industrial cities from Pittsburgh to Germany’s Ruhr Valley.

“There were policy recommendations, and people walked away from [those sessions] and said, ‘we’re going to see how these affect our urban centers,’” says Pam Wigley, the director of media relations for Carnegie Mellon’s College of Fine Arts, who is helping to organize the congress. “The delegates have closed-door sessions on urban planning. They vote, they make decisions on policy, research and economic impact, among other things.”

Pittsburgh has benefitted from several of the recommendations put forth by the last gathering, including making substantial efforts to reclaim riverfronts and redevelop brownfields. Other involved areas, such as Detroit, have had substantially less success.

The congress’s honorary chair, Charles, the Prince of Wales, attended the 1988 conference in Pittsburgh, but this time will send a delegate in his stead and deliver his address via a videotaped message.

“Prince Charles has always had an interest in urban development and community planning,” Wigley says.

In addition to a series of invitation-only sessions, the congress will include several speakers such as Richard Florida and The Brookings Institute's Bruce Katz, as well as a host of tours and mobile workshops which will showcase various aspects of Pittsburgh's resurgence as case studies in post-industrial redevelopment.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Pam Wigley

Grocery store with focus on local produce coming to Lawrenceville

Starting in October, a new joint venture between two neighborhood residents will bring organic, locally-sourced food to Upper Lawrenceville.

The 52nd Street Market will hearken back to the days of the neighborhood corner grocery while offering residents a local option for healthy food and produce.

“We really do want people to feel like it’s their corner store,” says Dora Walmsley, one of the market’s co-owners.

Walmsley, who works for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, met co-owner Deirdre Kane while working on Lawrenceville’s organic community gardens.

The market will occupy the first-floor space at 601 52nd Street, which years ago was a corner grocery called Bloomfield Market. Walmsley and Kane were looking for a location when they learned that the building had just been sold to real estate development firm PA Wealth Builders, which initially planned to use the space for its offices.

When Walmsley and Kane approached Jon Perry from the firm about using the first-floor space for a market, he was eager to help.

“He believed in our vision,” Kane says. “He believed in local food economy and remodeled the building for us at no extra charge.”

Walmsley and Kane hope to cull as much of their stock as possible from local farms and community gardens. Eventually they hope the market which is scheduled to open in mid-October, could be supplied by its own small farm.

“We hope to acquire land to have a little farmette,” Walmsley says. “The farmette will supply the market, which will hopefully sustain both the market and the farm.”

In addition to produce, the market plans to offer a selection of prepared foods, soups, salads and a coffee bar with a seating area.

“I decided Lawrenceville was not only going to be my home, but my future,” Kane says. “I really wanted to be a part of the neighborhood fabric.”

Kane and Walmsley plan to launch a crowdfunding campaign soon to help cover some of the costs of opening the market. For updates and information on how to get involved, visit the Facebook page.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Dora Walmsley, Deirdre Kane

Lots of Green Bike + Bus Tour now bigger and better and ending in a party

For the second straight year, Growth Through Energy + Community Health (GTECH) will host a BikeFest event highlighting neighborhood efforts to make Pittsburgh greener.

The Lots of Green Bike + Bus Tour, which will take place on August 10th, offer participants bike tours of seven and 32 miles, as well as the option of a 90-minute bus tour for those less inclined to ride.

To expand upon last year’s bike tour of new and innovative community green space, GTECH has partnered with Grow Pittsburgh to make the event even bigger.

“Most of the projects that will be highlighted are former vacant lots — spaces that have been transformed into community green spaces,” says GTECH’s Sara Innamorato.

The tours will begin at 9 a.m., and leave from GTECH’s offices at 6587 Hamilton Avenue.

“If you look at the route, a lot of the gardens are in neighborhoods with high levels of vacancy,” Innamorato says. “There are these green efforts happening in the community and there are people who really care about them and want to make them better.”

The tours include stops at community gardens and parks in city neighborhoods such as Garfield, Greenfield, the South Side, East Liberty, Homewood and Larimer, and areas just outside the city, including Braddock, Wilkinsburg, Homestead and Millvale.

When the tours conclude, participants will meet back up at GTECH’s offices for a party, featuring food from local vendors such as Marty’s Market, My Goodies Bakery and Rob’s Awesome Italian Ice, drinks from Commonplace Coffee, and beer donated by East End Brewing Company.

The Tech Shop will be on hand with a bike-themed demo, and Carnegie Library of Braddock’s Print Shop will be doing custom screen printing.

Tickets for Lots of Green are $10 and may be purchased through Showclix. For more on 2013 BikeFest, visit its website and check out Pop City’s expanded coverage.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Sara Innamorato

Eat + Drink: Proper Brick Oven & Tap Room gearing up for August opening

Proper Brick Oven & Tap Room set to open in late August
The space that generations of Pittsburghers knew as Tambellini Seventh Street Ristorante will re-open its doors late next month as Proper Brick Oven & Tap Room.

“We completely gutted the space,” says Suzanne Hrach, owner of the new venture. “All substantial construction is complete.

In addition to 30 craft beers on tap, 20-plus wines by the glass, house cocktails and signature snacks, Proper Brick Oven & Tap Room will feature thin-crust, artisan-style pizzas with house-made mozzarella and seasonal toppings.

Proper’s pizza dough, a sourdough-based starter that rests for three days after it’s made, comes from a recipe which Hrach’s boyfriend has worked to refine for more than a year.

Hrach has enlisted Lynette “LBEE” Bushey, formerly of Verde Mexican Kitchen and Cantina,  as Proper’s executive chef.

The menu is designed to emphasize the quality of the ingredients.

“Less is more,” says Hrach.

Tambellini’s, a Pittsburgh institution for more than 60 years, closed its doors in February.

Roundabout Brewery opens with a bang
Steve Sloan’s Roundabout Brewery on Butler Street in Lawrenceville had a hectic first two weeks in business.

When it initially opened its doors on the afternoon of Friday, July 12, lines to get growlers of beer filled the brewery’s foyer, extended out the door and wrapped around the building.

“That first week was really nuts,” Sloan says.

Sloan said that when he opened, he estimated that he had enough beer brewed to last a few weeks. By the end of last weekend, his supply of HyPA and Ginga Wheat were all but depleted.

Sloan anticipates having both beers available again within the week, but didn’t imagine he’d have any trouble keeping up with demand.

“If we have to go out and get another fermenter, we can do that,” Sloan says. “That’s where the bottleneck in the process is.”

Social plucks Kuhn away from Bar Marco
Mixologist Chris Kuhn has left Bar Marco to become the bar manager for Social at Bakery Square.

Kuhn’s cocktails include new takes on old favorites, such as the Brooklyn Bridge (Manhattan) and new concoctions, such as the Bourbon Blast (bourbon, grapefruit, maple syrup, bitters).

In addition to 16 beers on tap and 28 canned beers, Social will also offer fresh, house-made sangria which Kuhn will rotate weekly.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Suzanne Hrach, Steve Sloan, Chris Kuhn

Pittsburgh Brewing Company names Brian Walsh new CEO

Uni-World Capital, the private equity firm that owns the Pittsburgh Brewing Company and all of the Iron City Brands, has tapped career beverage executive Brian Walsh to run the iconic local operation.

He succeeds interim CEO Rob Matteucci, who had served in the role since May.

“Brian was the ideal candidate,” Scott Porter of Uni-World says. “He has a strong beer-specific background, a strong background in understanding and working in local markets, and he has a lot of experience in the Pittsburgh area specifically.”

Walsh spent the past six years as president and CEO of the Long Trail Brewing Company in Bridgewater Corners, Vt. During Walsh’s tenure at Long Trail, the microbrewery increased its shipment volume by 123 percent and more than doubled its revenue. Walsh also oversaw Long Trail’s acquisition of the Otter Creek Brewing Company and its Wolaver’s Certified Organic brands in 2010.

\Walsh is no stranger to the Pittsburgh beer market. Prior to taking over Otter Creek, he served as a regional vice president with Labatt USA, during which he managed Rolling Rock’s relationship with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh was also part of his territory while working as a regional sales manager for Guinness.

“[Walsh] understands the importance of Iron City to the Pittsburgh community and how to translate that into profitable, sustainable growth,” Porter says. “The Pittsburgh community wants Iron City to succeed. We want this brand to succeed and we want to do it the right way.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Scott Porter

Eat + Drink: Roundabout Brewery, Social at Bakery Square and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City’s weekly exploration of new offerings in local gastronomy.

A new brewery in Lawrenceville
Roundabout Brewery, Pittsburgh’s newest creator of small-batch craft beers, will open its doors for the first time on Friday.

The brainchild of Steve and Dyana Sloan, Roundabout occupies the space at 4901 Butler Street in Lawrenceville, formerly a welding studio and tire store.

Steve, who holds a master’s degree in chemistry and has worked at more than a dozen breweries in the United States and Germany, was most recently the brewery manager at the Church Brew Works in Bloomfield.

His initial offerings will include Black Possum (a dark steam beer), Hy-PA (an IPA-pale hybrid session ale), Ferdl Weiss (a traditional German-style wheat beer), Ginga Wheat (an American-style wheat beer flavored with ginger, lemon and local honey) and The Commoner (a mild ale made from New Zealand hops, German malt and American yeast).

Sloan said that at first, Roundabout will only offer growlers of its craft beers, but that he soon hopes to expand the space to include a tasting area with seating.

Though the Sloans have been working entirely by themselves the last five months to finish the space, Steve said that he’s had a lot of help from other local craft breweries, such as the East End Brewery and the Arsenal Cider House, which have loaned him equipment.

“I couldn’t have done it without them,” Sloan says.

Roundabout will hold its soft opening Friday and Saturday from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Social brings gourmet pizza and beer to Bakery Square
Bakery Square will get its first sit-down restaurant and bar when Social, a new venture from Walnut Capital, opens Monday.

Social will offer a wide array of salads, appetizers and sandwiches, and will specialize in a variety of gourmet pizzas.

“We’re taking bar food to the next level,” says Edana Muldoon, Social’s general manager. “We’re trying to make it as much of a scratch kitchen as possible.”

Social’s bar will feature 32 taps and a selection of 28 more beers, and Muldoon says she hopes the restaurant can be a both a lunch and happy hour destination for employees and patrons in Bakery Square.

“There are about 1,000 employees here,” Muldoon says. “We went to offer them another alternative, and we want to offer them some alcohol."

In addition to its indoor space, Social will have an outdoor seating capacity of about 50 people.

Paris 66 to hold Bastille Day celebrations
East Liberty French bistro Paris 66 will celebrate Bastille Day with 12 full hours of food and festivities on Sunday.

In addition to its normal Sunday brunch service from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and a prix fixe dinner menu from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., the bistro will host an outdoor, all-you-can-eat buffet featuring mussels, frites and crepes from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m.

From 4 p.m. until 9 p.m., the outdoor area will be converted into a 1920s-style Parisian soiree, complete with music and dancing.

In addition to commemorating the 224th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, the celebration will be the debut event for new Paris 66 chef Franck Lacaille.

While the outdoor activities will be open seating, reservations are recommended for both brunch and dinner.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Steve Sloan, Edana Muldoon

Eat + Drink: TAPPED pop up beer garden, pop up dinners and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City's weekly look at seasonal deliciousness.

TAPPED pop up beer gardens return for second year
TAPPED, the pop up beer garden project from Epic Development that launched last summer, will return this year with three installments. "Each one is going to take on its own kind of persona," Epic Development's Michael McAllister says.

The first TAPPED event will take place in East Liberty on June 22, and is designed to be a celebration of that neighborhood's revitalization."All of us are passionate about the area and excited about the trajectory of East Liberty," McAllister says.

Joining last year's participants Full Pint Brewing and Bar Marco will be Table Magazine and Braddock's The Brew Gentlemen. A host of food trucks will also be on hand, including FranktuaryBRGR, the PGH Taco TruckThe Pierogi Truck and Lomito, a new venture from the owners of Fukuda.

July's TAPPED event will take place Downtown and highlight the area's arts and culture scene."We will have some fun little twists we're going to keep under wraps until a couple weeks before," McAllister says.

The August event will occur in Upper Lawrenceville and feature local bands and DJs. "It'll be a really fun cap to the summer season," McAllister says.

Pittsburgh Public Market to host monthly Around the World pop up dinners
Chef Mya Zeronis
 will prepare and host the first in a series of Around the World Pop Up Dinners on Friday, August 9 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Pittsburgh Public Market. The evening, which will open with Zeronis teaching guests quick lessons on how to make fresh juices, vegetable summer rolls and homemade pickles, will conclude with a vegan-friendly five-course meal.

Zeronis, who sells some of her prepared foods at Lean Chef En Route in the public market, says that she’s always enjoyed pop up dinners. “Even if I were to own a restaurant, I’d want to do this monthly,” she says.

Tickets for the dinner are $35 and available through the Pittsburgh Public Market.

Former Eleven pastry chef starts anew as a chocolatier
Pastry chef Shelby Ortz, who previously spent six years in kitchens at Big Burrito establishments Soba and Eleven, has struck out on her own and started Lux Artisan Chocolates.

Her confections consist of four different bars, including a black fig and pistachio bar, and 12 kinds of bon bons, all with fillings made from scratch — her favorite contains almond, cherry, coconut and caramel.

For Ortz, it’s a career change that arose out of necessity. After she and her husband, also a chef, had a baby last year, Ortz needed to cut her schedule down from the 50-plus hours a week she’d been working.

Lux Artisan Chocolates are available at Mon Amiee Chocolat in the Strip District, Bryant Street Market in Highland Park and Feast on Brilliant in Aspinwall.

Marty's Market expands hours
Marty’s Market in the Strip District has expanded its hours and introduced breakfast service. On weekdays from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., the market’s cafe will offer breakfast sandwiches, brioche French toast and gluten-free sweet polenta among other offerings. The market itself is has extended its weekday service by two hours and will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m..

Burger 21 coming to Pittsburgh in 2014
Burger 21, a gourmet burger franchise from the owners of The Melting Pot, will expand into Pennsylvania next year with a restaurant in Cranberry. Chad Brooks, owner of eight Qdoba restaurants in the Pittsburgh area, will operate the franchise.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Michael McAllister, Mya Zeronis, Shelby Ortz

Eat + Drink: Carnegie Coffee, Casa Reyna, the return of Vincent's Pizza and more

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

-  The Carnegie Coffee Company, a new coffee shop combined with an existing pharmacy in an old post office in Carnegie, will open to the public on June 15, and hold its grand opening on June 22.

Husband-and-wife-team Ashley Comer and Greg Romeo, who own The Medicine Shoppe in Carnegie, will move that business into the old Carnegie post office at 132 East Main Street.

“We really wanted to model our business after a European–style coffeehouse,” Comer says. “We want it to be a destination, and we wanted to give the people in Carnegie their own place.”

The 2,500-square-foot shop, which will be the first in western Pennsylvania to offer Illy Italian coffee, will also serve pastries from local bakeries and food from Sausalido in Bloomfield.

-  Casa Reyna, the product of three years’ effort from Reyna Foods owner Nicola DiCio, held its soft opening last Friday. The 72-seat Strip District restaurant next door to Reyna Foods on Penn Avenue offers authentic Mexican cuisine, focusing on dishes specifically paired with a variety of house-made tortillas. Casa Reyna also offers a vast selection of tequilas and Mexican beers.

-  Vincent’s Pizza Park in North Braddock, which closed in May of 2012 after more than 50 years in business, will reopen on June 16. Toni Zollner, the daughter of restaurant founder Vincent Chianese, has spent the last year updating and renovating the building, which includes the installation of a new neon sign that closely resembles the original.

-  Franktuary’s Lawrenceville location is now serving brunch on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The menu, which will change weekly, includes locally farmed breakfast sausages served in buns made from waffle batter, a breakfast take on poutine and pancakes made with a gluten-free brownie batter, as well as a selection of breakfast cocktails.

On several Sundays throughout the summer, 15 percent of the restaurant’s sales will go to one of several local community organizations.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Ashley Comer

Eat + Drink: Outdoor dining spots and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City's roundup of restaurant and food news.

Cure, Chef Justin Severino’s Lawrenceville restaurant, has obtained a liquor license. While the restaurant will offer a full-service bar, its full menu of wines and specialty cocktails won’t be ready for another few weeks. “Right now, they’re just testing some stuff out,” says restaurant spokesperson Gita McCutcheon.

- A new addition to Pittsburgh’s food truck scene, the PGH Crepes cart sets up at the corner of Penn Avenue and 20th Street on weekends and makes its way around town during the week.

“We really like the carts in general. We think it speaks well the entrepreneurial spirit of Pittsburgh,” says Leigh White of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. “It’s a new twist on things, and a nice compliment to the many restaurants downtown.”

To find the crepe cart, follow it on Twitter @pghcrepes.

Waffalonia, the Squirrel Hill-based makers of Belgian-style Liège waffles, will open a kiosk in Schenley Plaza in mid-May.

And now that the weather is good, it’s time to dine outdoors. Here are some of the latest openings:

Make Your Mark Artspace & Coffeehouse in Point Breeze opened its serene back patio last week.

The garden portion of Pusadee’s Garden in Lawrenceville is ethereal and lovely.

The partially re-done patio at Kelly’s Lounge in East Liberty is open, as is the spacious back patio at Lawrenceville’s Round Corner Cantina.

Marty’s Market in the Strip has tables around the outside of its corner location, as well as stools at its garage-door coffee counter.

Orange chairs adorn the patio at Verde Mexican Kitchen & Cantina.

The Porch in Oakland has some of Pittsburgh’s best outdoor seating, and plenty to go around with school out for the summer.

Biddle’s Escape, a coffee shop tucked away off the main drag in Regent Square, has a spacious and tree-shaded deck.

And Il Pizzaiolo, in both Market Square and Mt. Lebanon has outdoor spaces. In the Mt. Lebanon location, the charming terrace in the back just opened and in Market Square, you'll find tables outside the new location next to Starbucks.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Gita McCutcheon, Leigh White

Eat + Drink: open-air Sienna Mercato; Andys Wine Bar on the street; Embody Natural Health

- A three-level, multi-restaurant concept known as Sienna Mercato is coming to Downtown Pittsburgh’s Cultural District.

Owners of Market Square’s Sienna Sulla Piazza have recently bought the former Trombino building at 942 Penn Avenue, and plan to build a glass-enclosed, rooftop dining space on the building’s top level. The enclosure will be retractable, creating an open-air dining space in warm weather.

Each floor in the project will be a separate restaurant concept, which owner David Gilpatrick says will be unique from each other, as well as Sienna Sulla Piazza. Chef Matthew Porco, also of the Market Square restaurant, will lead the Sienna Mercato project.

Gilpatrick says each restaurant will be sit-down, casual dining, and each floor will feature a bar.

- Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week (PCBW), a celebration of the region’s local brewing culture, continues this week until Saturday, April 27th. The festivities include beer tastings, exclusive PCBW releases, dinner pairings at local restaurants, and brewer meet-and-greets.  For more information visit the PCBW website.

- Andys Wine Bar has taken it to the streets. Located in Downtown’s Fairmont Hotel, the bar has added sidewalk dining and a lunch menu of international street food, including ramen, sushi, bánh mì, and more. Andys continues to feature live jazz in the hotel’s lobby, Tuesday through Saturday, every week.

- Embody Natural Health, a juice cafe and studio, will mark its first year in Lawrenceville with a celebration this evening from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. The cafe offers fresh, organic juice and smoothies, and features sidewalk seating.

Owner Aimee Woods also offers healthy food at her shop that is ready-made and available for take-out, what she calls healthy convenience food. Among other items, Embody now offers sushi from Penn Avenue Fish Company.

Woods also provides health coaching at the studio, helping clients plan for individual lifestyles. Yoga, juice cleanse, and other services are also available.

Writer: Andrew Moore

Locomotive Lofts opening soon in Lawrenceville, 34 new market-rate apartments

Locomotive Lofts, a residential adaptive-reuse of the former H.K. Porter Co. building, is on track to open May 1st in Lawrenceville. Developer Ernie Sota says the project is the most state-of-the-art apartment complex in the neighborhood.

Locomotive Lofts LP is a partnership between Sota and Tony Rodriguez. Paul Rodriguez is the project architect.

Located at the corner of 49th and Harrison Streets, Locomotive Lofts includes 34 market-rate apartment units, and was designed to achieve LEED Gold Certification. Each unit features numerous energy efficiency measures, such as LED lighting, web-based thermostats, and Energy Star appliances. Sota says units have been air-tested and are draft-free.

The former office building was once home to H.K. Porter Co., a manufacturer of compressed air locomotives. Total redevelopments costs were $5.4 million.

One- and two-bedroom units range from $1,050 to $1,850, and secure, off-street parking is also available.

Sota says green landscaping and the integration of art and natural materials was done to create a warm feeling at the redeveloped site. A sculpted entry wall features the fossil-like image of plants, created by pressing bamboo into wet stucco. And several site walls feature a combination of custom railing and weathering steel panels.

Sota Construction Services recently achieved LEED Platinum Certification for its own office building, earning the most LEED points ever awarded to a project in Pennsylvania, and the fifth-highest score in the entire LEED system worldwide. Sota is also responsible for developing Pittsburgh’s first net-zero home—a home that generates as much energy as it uses annually—on the South Side.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Ernie Sota

From Etsy to a storefront: Garbella's handmade goods and gear

In just a few short years Amy Garbark has turned a screen-printing hobby into a thriving storefront business.

Garbella, Garbark's hand-screen-printed apparel, accessories and home goods line, began as an Etsy store in 2006 but now boasts distribution in over 50 stores across the country, and locally in boutiques like Lawrenceville's WildCard. In May Garbark is moving production to a storefront in Lower Lawrenceville, a building she has recently bought with her husband, Stephen Cummings.

 "I've always been a maker," Garbark says, "In 2008 I set up a little studio in my basement, and started from there."

Garbark's first foray into screen-printing began with an I Bike Pittsburgh t-shirt, made just for herself and friends, at Artists Image Resource (AIR). But the shirt became popular with other cyclists in the city, and remains a top seller. Other designs include P is For Pierogi baby onesies and bibs, a line of women's and men's clothing, clocks made from reused bicycle parts, as well as kitchen items and tote bags.

With exposure at The Handmade Arcade and I Made It! Market craft shows Garbella continued to grow, and in 2008 it became her fulltime job. As the business grew and production slowly took over her living space, Garbella clearly needed a home of its own. In preparation for her first wholesale industry tradeshow last August, Garbark moved production to a small storefront in Morningside.

But when the space in Lawrenceville became available—a small, 1,000-square-foot, one-story commercial structure amidst residences—it offered Garbark an opportunity to create a custom production facility suited to Garbella’s specific needs. Garbark is working with JCI Development to raise the flat roof, create storage space, and install skylights that will add an abundance of natural lighting.

Garbark and Cummings have lived in Lawrenceville for several years. "I am excited to bring my business back here and be able to easily walk or ride my bike to work," Garbark says.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Amy Garbark

Eat + Drink: Tender Bar + Kitchen; Notion now open; Redbeard's; The Pub Chip Shop

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

- Tender Bar + Kitchen will celebrate a grand opening next Friday, April 5th. The restaurant features a “Gatsby-era atmosphere,” regional American cuisine, and a craft cocktail list.

Renovations to the restaurant’s historic building—the former Arsenal Bank—unearthed artifacts such as bank checks from the 1890’s, a pair of handmade stone dice, and a vault alarm system, whose 1930’s electronics will be on display in the restaurant.

Tender is the second concept from Verde Mexican Kitchen & Cantina proprietor Jeff Catalina.  The menu includes regional dishes such as lobster rolls, meatloaf, and shrimp and grits. Tender is located at 4300 Butler Street, Lawrenceville. 412-402-9522.

- Notion has reopened in East Liberty. Chef-owner David Racicot closed the original Oakmont eatery in late 2011 with plans to bring the restaurant to a more central location in Pittsburgh. The smaller, 28-seat space is located at 128 S. Highland Avenue, near the neighborhood's many popular dining destinations, including BRGR, Abay Ethiopian Cuisine, Paris 66, and more.

- Piper's Pub owner Drew Topping is opening a new United Kingdom-style fish-and-chip shop called The Pub Chip Shop. The menu will include pasties, a stuffed British pastry, and other U.K. take-out fare.  It will be located in the adjacent Victorian storefront to Piper's Pub, at 1830 E. Carson Street. 

- Redbeard's  on 6th Sports Bar and Grill is opening soon in Downtown Pittsburgh, at 144 6th Street. It is a second location of the original Redbeard’s, which has served Mount Washington for more than 20 years.

Redbeard’s replaces the former Palazzo Ristorante, and is adjacent to Six Penn Kitchen. The Roberto Clemente Bridge is just one block away, which connects pedestrians to PNC Park on Pirates game days.

Writer: Andrew Moore

Eat + Drink: Matteo's now open; Salud Cuban-American; raw vegan at Marty's Market

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

Matteo's has opened recently on Lawrenceville's Butler Street, serving Italian cuisine with an emphasis on seafood and steak.

Matteo's is the project of husband and wife duo Matt and Andrea Cavanaugh. Chef Matt Cavanaugh has worked for the past 15 years in the region's dining scene, including Redbull Inn in Robinson Township, and Sarafino's in Crafton. This is the Cavanaughs' first restaurant.

The restaurant’s interior was renovated for Matteo's and seats up to 38 in the dining room. A full-service bar seats an additional 12.

Cavanaugh says assistance from the Urban Redevelopment Authority—including writing a business plan and securing loans—was instrumental in the restaurant's opening.

Matteo's is located next to Pageboy Salon & Boutique at 3615 Butler Street. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. 412-586-7722.

- A new Cuban restaurant is opening soon, also in Lawrenceville.

The owners of Salud Cuban-American Restaurant and Lounge hope to be open by the beginning of next week. Chef and co-owner Radames Magro says the cuisine will feature traditional Cuban entrees, with sides like plantains and yuca, homemade empanadas and papas rellenas, as well as fusion items with classic American fare.

Magro, who was born in Cuba, previously catered events in the area. Magro and co-owner Terry Hircik have been planning Salud for the past decade, he says.

A local muralist will soon depict scenes from Cuba in the restaurant's dining room. Magro says live music and salsa dancing are planned for the lounge space, where the bar will specialize in mojitos, Daiquiris, and other Cuban drinks.

Salud is located in the former Salac's bar, at 4517 Butler Street. 412-605-0233.

- If you've ever wondered how to make great-tasting raw, vegan, and gluten-free meals, a new event at Marty's Market aims to teach you how.

"Raw food artists" Joni James and Daniel Lewis are teaching weekly classes at the organic food market, titled "Raw Possibilities." Attendees will get instruction on making simple yet creative meals from raw vegan ingredients.

Classes are held each Sunday, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., and Monday, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.  For more information, and to register, visit Marty's Market's website.
Writer: Andrew Moore

Unifaun, Rather Ripped, new record stores in Lawrenceville

Unifaun Records opened last week in Upper Lawrenceville, the second record shop to open in the neighborhood in just two months.

Located at 5417 Butler Street, the shop is owned by recent Brooklyn-transplant Larry DeMellier.  Unifaun specializes in rock, jazz, and Americana, as well as soul, prog, psych, and other “record collecting” genres, DeMellier says.

DeMellier had worked in New York City’s music industry ever since graduating from Syracuse University in 1997.  Having spent time at Sire, London, and Warner Bros. Records—and at record shops in high school and college—DeMellier amassed a sizeable record collection, and a passion for the hobby. 

But as that industry began to downsize, DeMellier looked to Pittsburgh—where his family has migrated—for a new opportunity.  He believes Pittsburgh’s music history, live music scene, and record collecting culture make it a place where record shops can still thrive.  “I believe there’s room for all of us,” he says.

In addition to vinyl, DeMellier’s collection of 60’s and 70’s non-commercial posters—used to promote an album’s release—are on display throughout the shop.  The music inventory consists primarily of used vinyl and CD’s, but DeMellier expects to carry new vinyl releases in the near future.

Unifaun’s storefront location had been vacant for the past five years, but was most recently an auto-parts store.

And another shop, a new incarnation of Rather Ripped Records, has opened recently at 4314 Butler Street.  It’s a new life for the shop which first opened over 40 years ago in Berkeley, California, and hosted album signings for bands like the Clash, Blondie, and Sonic Youth.

Lawrenceville’s third record store, 720 Records, opened on Butler Street two years ago.  Located at 4405 Butler Street, 720 specializes in hip-hop, soul, and jazz, and also serves as a performance space, café, and clothing shop. 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Larry DeMellier

Pittsburgh Paragliding instructor is first to speedfly from Machu Picchu

Last month Pittsburgh resident Jon Potter became the first person to speedfly from the top of Peru’s Machu Picchu.  The flight, which is like paragliding but much faster, wasn’t permitted and afterward involved hiding from authorities in the jungle for several hours.

Having conquered one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Potter is back to a tamer pursuit: teaching paragliding to Pittsburghers.

Last fall, Potter launched Pittsburgh Paragliding with lifelong friend Adam Schwartz.  Since opening they’ve taught the sport to over a hundred folks in the hills of Allegheny County.  For $195 students get two hours of instruction, which Potter says is ample time to learn to fly.

“I have never had someone who wasn’t able to fly,” he says.  “It’s relatively easy to start out.”

Paragliding is free flight using a parachute that’s large enough to actually gain lift.  According to Potter, a flyer can stay in the air for hours at a time.  With speedflying, a flyer can only go down, and at very high speeds.

The business is the only of its kind in Western Pennsylvania.  Schwartz and Potter are licensed through the United States Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association.  All equipment for gliding or flying is provided, except for boots, which students should be comfortable running in.

Lessons typically take place in Hampton Township, but locations are subject to change based on wind conditions.

Unpredictable wind conditions are one of the main reasons speedflying from Machu Picchu, which descends from 7,970 feet above sea level into a steep canyon, is considered so dangerous.  A previous paragliding attempt from Machu Picchu was successful, but according to Potter, he was the first to speedfly from the heritage site.

“There’s something to be said about doing something first,” he says.  “It’s like the bread and butter of what paragliding is all about, being able to do something so monumental.”

Potter is also co-operator of Not Another Hostel, in Lawrenceville.  The donations-based hostel opened last summer, and is the only accommodation of its kind in Pittsburgh.  The University of California, Berkley is currently studying the hostel’s pay model.

Click here to watch a video of Potter's speedflight off Machu Picchu.
Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Jon Potter

The Row at 38 will bridge old and new with renovated and newly built homes in Lawrenceville

The Row @ 38 is bringing old and new Lawrenceville together under a single new project.  Located north of Butler Street (near Coca Café), E Properties and Development is renovating three existing homes and constructing three new houses to fill in the gaps of this neighborhood block.

The older homes, built over 100 years ago, will be updated to include modern amenities and open floor plans.  Façades will offer reference to the neighborhood’s historic character, however an added third floor, which is set back from the street, will feature modern building materials including corrugated metal and cement board siding.

“It was very important for us to create something that was contextual in the neighborhood, but unique enough to stand out,” says Emeka Onwugbenu, of E Properties. 

The new home construction will have a more complete modern look, and will include off-street parking and rooftop decks.  And both options—renovation or new—will allow buyers a high level of customization and involvement in the design process.

In 2012 the Lawrenceville Corporation issued an RFP to find a developer for two empty parcels on 38th Street.  E Properties was selected for the project, but then expanded its scope by reaching out to adjacent property owners on the block to acquire four more parcels.

Renovation of the three existing homes has begun, and is expected to be complete by the end of March.  Onwugbenu hopes to break ground on the new construction in April. 

Renovated homes—one of which is already spoken for—will be listed at $250,000, and new construction at $375,000.

E Properties is behind several other developments in the Lawrenceville area, including E @ 36, a renovation of three townhomes on 36th Street.  Croghan’s Edge, an infill development on Penn Avenue’s 3400 block, won an AIA Pittsburgh architecture award in last year’s Design Pittsburgh celebration.

Moss Architects, designers of Croghan's Edge, have joined E Properties again for The Row @ 38.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Emeka Onwugbenu

Shops at Doughboy get $250,000 grant, boosts redevelopment of important city square

It has been decades since Lawrenceville’s Doughboy Square was a vibrant urban center.  But with a $250,000 grant to the Shops at Doughboy, a planned mixed-use development, redevelopment there has been given another boost.

The Allegheny County Redevelopment Authority last week awarded the community infrastructure and tourism grant to the $7 million, 48,000-square-foot project. 

The Shops will be adjacent to the Roberto Clemente Museum at the intersection of Penn Avenue and Butler Street.  Central Real Estate Holdings, a partnership between October Development and Senko Construction, is the developer. 

The URA, which has been heavily involved in redevelopment of Doughboy Square, requested the grant from the county.  The funds will be used for site work ahead of construction, which is expected to begin next spring.

The URA’s Paul Svoboda calls the site a “100% corner” that is important not just to Lawrenceville, but to the entire city.  The intersection is a gateway between Lower Lawrenceville and the Strip District.

Though the project has been reviewed by a number of neighborhood organizations, designs and renderings are yet to be finalized. 

Because of a slope at the site, parking will be integrated below the Penn Avenue street grade, accessible from the building’s rear.  Retail will front the street, with residential units above. 

Svoboda praises the developers for taking an early financial risk in acquiring the site, and for working with local stakeholders to ensure the design is amenable to all parties.

“There’s some risk that they took, but the rewards are going to be big,” Svoboda says.  “Not only for them, but for the whole city.”

Svoboda says recent investments in the square are making good on priorities outlined years ago in blueprints such as the Allegheny Riverfront Vision Plan, which called for an intense focus on Doughboy Square.

Shops at Doughboy is building on the momentum of several other projects in the square.  In the 3400 block, the Doughboy Square Townhomes development, which was completed last year, brought five single-family infill homes to the neighborhood. 

And at 3431 Butler Street, the planned Doughboy Apartments is a four story, mixed income and mixed use building that includes 39 apartment units and 17,000 square-feet of first-floor commercial space.  

Writer:  Andrew Moore                                                                                            
Source:  Paul Svoboda

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

PLAY Arcade and Lounge planned for Lawrenceville, open house preview this Saturday

When PLAY Arcade and Lounge opens its doors to the public it will be unlike other nightlife destinations in Lawrenceville.  Rather than offering a menu of carefully crafted cocktails or locally sourced produce, PLAY is specializing in hand-made games of the past.

PLAY is the brainchild of sculptor Adam Shreckhise, who has personally designed and built the arcade’s many games.  The space features miniature golf, skeeball, darts, Whack-a-Mole, and more, presented in a lounge or coffeehouse-like setting.

“It’s set up as either an alternative to, or an accompaniment to, going out to restaurants, going out to bars,” Shreckhise says.  “Something a little out of the ordinary to do while you’re hanging out with your friends or meeting new people.”

Everything at PLAY was built by Shreckhise himself, including the many gears and motors which animate the games.  As an artist, Shreckhise describes his latest work as “electro-mechanical, pseudo robotic sculpture,” a style that has worked well for interpreting classic arcade games.

In the future, Shreckhise says he’d like to call on local artists to submit proposals for games that they’d like to build, or adaptations to existing ones.

Shreckhise plans to operate PLAY as a BYOB establishment.  An entrance fee will be charged, allowing guests unlimited access to games.

Due to pending requests from the city’s zoning board, Shreckhise has postponed the lounge’s opening to this spring.  However, this Saturday, November 3rd, an open house and fundraiser will be free and open to the public, from 6 to 10 p.m.  Saturday’s event will not be BYOB, but Shreckhise is hoping to pair with other local establishments to offer food and drinks.

PLAY is located at 5258 Butler Street in Upper Lawrenceville.  412-345-1367.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Adam Shreckhise

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

Digital cinema, bottle shop planned for Butler Street in Lawrenceville

A former convenience store in Lawrenceville may soon become an independent theater and craft beer shop.

Botero Development is planning a 72-seat digital theater and bottle shop, to be located in the former Star Discount building at 4115 Butler Street.  Developer Brian Mendelssohn plans to remake the building’s first floor and basement into a theater specializing in classic films.

According to Mendelssohn, although there were once three cinemas in Lawrenceville, the neighborhood has been without a theater since the 1960’s. 

Rather than showing the latest blockbuster, the theater will curate films based on what Mendelssohn is calling marathon-based programming.  He says this could mean a series of films from directors like Alfred Hitchcock or Wes Anderson, a Lord of the Rings marathon, or even a showing of classic ‘80’s comedies. 

Mendelssohn says the initial investment in digital theater equipment will be considerable, but he expects the community to support the endeavor.

“I think this movie theater and the bottle shop fit right into what Lawrenceville has become and what our identity is,” he says.

In addition to the theater Mendelssohn plans to build an accompanying bottle shop within the building, allowing theater goers to purchase beer and drink beverages during films. The bottle shop will specialize in craft and import beers, both in draft and bottle form.

Mendelssohn says the shop will not have a bar-like setting; rather its experience will be more like visiting a winery.  He plans to host tastings, brewer talks, education sessions, and paring events.

“We really want to create a whole community celebrating local beer,” he says.

Botero is seeking special zoning exceptions related to parking configurations.  The board will make a decision within the next 45 days.  Pending approval, Mendelssohn expects to begin construction in December, and to have a grand opening for the theater and bottle shop next September.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Brian Mendelssohn

The Frown Crown boutique now open in Lawrenceville, illustrator Matt Gondek

Like many independent illustrators and designers Matt Gondek spent much of his time working from home.  Too much time in fact. To change his lifestyle, Gondek has opened a new urban boutique and design studio, The Frown Crown, in Upper Lawrenceville.

“I wanted to get out of my house and talk to people throughout the day,” Gondek says.  He hopes to use the shop as a meeting place for clients, as well as a place to build connections in the community. And while the shop functions as a regular clothing boutique, Gondek is in a back studio working on various illustrations, some of which will end up in his Jock n’ Roll clothing line in the new shop.

It wasn’t until Gondek participated in a pop up shop event that he realized the potential benefits of a brick-and-mortar space. The 2 Week Street Boutique, hosted by Fe Gallery this past May, drew a very positive reception. 

Inspired by that success, he sought a new permanent space. Now, he hopes the boutique will help other local designers gain more recognition.

In addition to clothing, the shop features prints from local artists, national underground brands, as well as Gondek’s own artwork, illustrations, and vinyl figures.

Gondek, who was named Pittsburgh Magazine's Best Local Artist in 2011, says his work is geared toward younger people, and is bold, colorful, and cartoon-like. “I try to put something on a shirt that gets people’s attention quickly and is recognizable,” he says.

The Frown Crown is located at 5179 Butler Street, next to Remedy Restaurant and Lounge, and is open noon to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Matt Gondek

Hatfield + Home to bring new homes to Lawrenceville, one block from riverfront

Construction of Lawrenceville’s newest housing development, Hatfield + Home, is now underway.  A mix of detached homes and duplexes, the project will bring a total of 14 new units to  Hatfield Street, approximately one block from the Allegheny River.

The development is located within the planned Allegheny Riverfront Green Boulevard corridor.  Lauren Byrne, of Lawrenceville United, says this project builds momentum for that long-term plan, allowing residents and business owners to see goals fulfilled in the short-term.

“Right now there's a lot of planning to reconnect our community and all of the great things happening there with the riverfront, and to reestablish that connection,” Byrne says.   “This specific housing project is one of the first things we actually see happening that's able to do that.”

The development will include a mix of six different plans, with two and three-bedroom units offered from the mid-$200,000 to high-$300,000 range.

Exteriors will feature brick with metal sheathing, HardiePlank lap siding, and glass.  Developer Bob Mistik says the idea is to tie the design to the history and character of Lawrenceville but also to make a statement about the neighborhood’s future. Architects Perfido, Weiskopf, Wagstaff + Goettel designed the project.

The development site was assembled by the URA with support from Mayor Ravenstahl’s office.  The URA also provided a $200,000 grant from its Pittsburgh Housing Construction Fund.

Hatfield + Home will be built in two phases.  The first phase, which is underway, will include six units scheduled for completion early in 2013. 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Lauren Byrne

Allegheny River Green Boulevard plan moving forward, Strip and Lawrenceville redevelopment

The Allegheny River Green Boulevard is beginning to take shape.  At last week's public meeting, project leaders unveiled specific information about the corridor's future, including a detailed six-mile bicycle/pedestrian path alignment.

The uninterrupted bicycle path is set to run along  Allegheny Valley Railroad's freight corridor between Lawrenceville and the Strip.  

But while AVR continues to pursue commuter rail service in this area, Green Boulevard leaders want to move some aspects of the project forward sooner rather than later.

"We'd love to see new transit options in there, but we also want to move some elements of the plan forward before that," says Lena Andrews, URA senior planning specialist.  "We don’t want to wait for that to happen."

At the meeting, consultants presented test scenarios for Lawrenceville's 43rd Street master plan, which included passive recreation space along the river between 43rd and 48th Streets and a mix of riverfront townhomes and multi-unit buildings.

In the Strip District, consultants recommend future developments to include a 95-foot setback from the river.

Andrews says community members in attendance were supportive of the boulevard project, particularly for the bicycle/pedestrian trail and commuter rail options, but also were eager to see improvements in storm water infrastructure.

Possible funding sources for the project were discussed, and included special assessment districts, tax increment financing, corporate sponsorship, and contributions from foundations.

Andrews says another possibility for making the project financially feasible is to reduce the development's parking requirement.

A reduced parking requirement should make sense for the Green Boulevard.  One of the project’s goals is to reduce the city’s dependence on automobiles by increasing transit options and by providing a safe and direct bicycle corridor.

"It makes a huge amount of sense, and that's the point of building all this new infrastructure…to enable people to live a little less dependently on the automobile,” Andrews says.  “To have a district where the parking requirement is a little bit lower, that not only has benefits for the environment but it makes it cheaper to build, too."

The last public forum will be held later this year in November.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Lena Andrews, URA

Abandoned pool? Create an EcoBeastie.

What's a community to do with an abandoned pool ?
That was the challenge for the Leslie Park Pool Collective (LLPC) in Lawrenceville looking to reconceive the space for the abandoned pool site. Seeking help, they contacted the Urban Design Build Studio at Carnegie Mellon.  In the fall of 2010, the two groups started working together on ideas and framework for a project with a design process focused on community. The ultimate request was for a lower maintenance, interactive design to be used day and night, 365 days a year, using LED lighting.
The result is a self-sustaining spray pool with LED lighting known as the Puriflume Splash Pad Play Space--otherwise known as EcoBeastie.
“Because pool infrastructure is difficult to maintain, the city of Pittsburgh and other post industrial municipalities have been looking to alternative recreational facilities that offer relief from heat but don’t require substantial resources to maintain,” says John Folan, director of UDBS.
After various community and stakeholder meetings,  it became clear that a spray park was the most viable option for the Leslie Park Pool. Proposals for the space focused on passive closed-loop water treatment systems.
What they came up with--EcoBeastie--is capable of many things, thanks to the help from 11 CMU students who were selected to work on the project under Folan’s direction. Final plans incorporated everything from a water harvesting system and slow sand filtration beds to ultra-violet sterilization so that all water from the spray park can be captured from rainfall, treated on site, and never leave the site, says Folan. 
That's crucial because pollution problems are often associated with structures that have excess water, over-flowing sewers and contaminating spaces. Not in EcoBeastie!
The venture was funded by multiple grants from the Ford Motor Company, the Alllegheny County Department of Economic Development, and AutoDesk, as well as private donors. 
The aesthetics of the 14-foot long mechanism, mounted on a trailer for mobility, are “open to the imagination of the individual,” Folan says of the inventive and grand blue and orange structure.  It is designed so onlookers can interpret the project as they see fit, encouraging creativity.
The unveiling of the creation took place last Thursday at Carnegie Mellon and it will be traveling to various spots around Pittsburgh.  The next chance to see it will be on August third and fourth at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.
Writer: Emily Shields, Pop City intern
Source: John Folan, Urban Design Build Studio

Pittsburgh's only hostel now open in Lawrenceville

Pittsburgh's first hostel in several years is now open in Lawrenceville.  Yet the establishment's name, Not Another Hostel, offers the first clue that it's slightly unconventional.

A project of John Potter and Steph Bercht, the hostel operates on a donations-based, pay-it-forward model where guests are encouraged to support the initiative with contributions, but aren't required to. Because, as Potter says, your stay has already been paid for.

Potter says the idea for Not Another Hostel developed during the course of the couple's own travels, informed by both good and bad hostelling experiences.  But the pay-it-forward model grew from a question Potter had been truggling with: Are people basically good, or not?

“In our last trip, we just had an overwhelming amount of people who would invite us into their homes, complete strangers, and I finally came to the conclusion that yes, I am positive, people are good,” Potter says.  “And I wanted to show that and pay back what I was given.”

The hostel's location is not available over the internet (it's about a block from the Children's Hospital, Potter says), and potential guests are vetted through their social media presence.  The website provides a contact form and a direct phone number to reach Potter.

Potter admits the current experience is something between couch surfing and hostelling.  The three-story home can accommodate up to 4 guests (comfortably), and features an information desk with maps and guides, basic amenities, and loaner bicycles.

Potter says the Pittsburgh Hostel Project, which is still seeking to re-establish a traditional hostel in the city, has been supportive of Not Another Hostel.  The city’s last hostel, Pittsburgh International Hostel, was located in the Allentown neighborhood, but closed in 2003. 

In the past two weeks the hostel has hosted around 25 guests, with visitors from Europe, Asia, and South America.  About half have paid for their stay.  But Potter says that’s not the point.

“It's really about hospitality as it should be, and not just about making money,” he says.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  John Potter

Tender Kitchen & Bar planned for former Arsenal Bank building in Lawrenceville

The former Arsenal Bank building in Lawrenceville may again handle tender, this time in the form of a restaurant.  The owners of Verde Mexican Kitchen in Garfield are planning a new concept for the space on Butler Street, called Tender Kitchen & Bar.

“We get the name from the building itself, as a storied institution that exchanged legal tender for many, many decades,” says owner Jeff Catalina.   “We adopted the name Tender, and are having some fun with it.”

Catalina is calling the planned eatery a “classic American cocktail lounge,” with a menu that emphasizes regional American cuisine. 

Catalina says he and wife Erin had already planned to bring multiple restaurant concepts to Pittsburgh, but that the idea for Tender was largely influenced by the historic structure. The concept adapted itself to the space, he says.

Catalina’s vision for the restaurant is Gatsby-esque, with influences from the prohibition era, and a balance of modern construction and finishes.  The building, built in 1887, currently retains many original details, and 14-and-a-half foot ceilings. 

The restaurant will seat between 90 and 100 guests.  Moss Architects, who were also responsible for the design of Verde, will work with the Catalina’s again at Tender. 

The menu will borrow dishes from regional styles across America, such as pierogis from Pittsburgh, Cincinnati Chili, San Francisco sourdoughs, Maine lobster rolls, and a playful take on MoonPies from Chattanooga, Tennessee.

As for drinks, Catalina says he envisions Tender filling the classic cocktail void left by the closing of Embury in 2011. The bar will feature homemade soft drinks, bitters, infusions, and syrups.

Pending zoning approvals and the purchase of a liquor license, Catalina says the restaurant could be open by December.  The restaurant will be open for dinner six days a week.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Jeff Catalina

Tapped, pop-up beer gardens coming to a vacant lot near you

Pay attention to vacant lots in the East End, as they might come alive overnight.  A partnership between Epic Development and the Strip District restaurant Bar Marco is transforming unused parcels of land into pop-up beer gardens throughout the summer in East Liberty, Lawrenceville, Downtown, and the Strip District.

The first pop-up event, called Tapped, was held this past Saturday in the Strip.  Epic Development founder Michael McAllister says he got the idea for these pop-up beer gardens while attending school in Washington D.C., where similar events were taking place.

“The whole idea is to take a site that's inactivated and turn it back over to the community,” McAllister says.

Epic and Bar Marco are seeking to partner with landowners who want to gain exposure for an upcoming development project, or with folks who are simply willing to activate an unused space.  McAllister says it’s an opportunity to build community and connections within a neighborhood.

Saturday’s Tapped event was held on a lot adjacent to Bar Marco’s restaurant on Penn Avenue.  Food was provided by the Franktuary food truck and Lucy’s banh mi sandwich cart, with beer from East End and Full Pint breweries.  The event lasted from 11 a.m to midnight, with DJ’s, bacci courts, and a block party atmosphere.

After moving back to Pittsburgh, McAllister says he noticed a large number of entrepreneurs taking risks with out-of-the-box businesses, especially with exciting, food-related endeavors.  He sees these pop-up parties as a way to continue building excitement for the local, small-business community.

McAllister says the events will be planned organically, and will take a grassroots approach to promoting each pop-up party.
The next pop-up party will take place within the next month in Lawrenceville, at a location yet to be determined.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Micahel McAllister

Mixed-use development to bring housing, retail to Doughboy Square; renovated homes in Sheraden

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has voted to approve two projects that will bring new residences and retail or office space to the Lawrenceville and Sheraden neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, including apartments in Doughboy Square and the Neighborhood Stabilization Program in Sheraden.

The Doughboy Apartments, located in the 3400 block of Butler Street, is a mixed-used development in Lawrenceville that will include 39 residential units and approximately 17,000 square feet of first-floor commercial space. 

The infill project will be located amongst a mix of old and new structures, like The Clemente Museum’s historic Engine House 25, and newly constructed townhomes on Butler Street.

“Right now, most of this property is vacant land, so it'll provide an attractive building to anchor a pretty strategic location in the corridor,” says Tom Cummings of the URA.  “It will bring additional residents to the community that will help to bolster the main street shopping district.”

The URA approved a $1.4 million Pittsburgh Development Fund loan, and a $100,000 Urban Development Fund loan for the project, as well as a request for multifamily financing bonds up to $10 million from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. The total development cost of the project is $13 million.

Developer Ralph A. Falbo, Inc. is partnering with architect Chip Desmone, whose architecture firm is headquartered in the historic Pennsylvania National Bank building in the center of the Doughboy Square.

The apartments will be one- and- two-bedroom units, with basement-level parking.  A majority of the apartments will be market rate, while 20 percent will be offered as affordable housing.  Cummings says neighborhood organizations are very supportive of the housing mix panned for the project.

And in Sheraden, seven abandoned homes will be acquired, rehabilitated, and sold to owner-occupants through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP). 

In January the URA received a $333,400 NSP III grant from the federal program, and PNC Bank has stepped forward to provide $500,000 in acquisition construction financing.

Three of the seven homes, located on Bergman Street, have been acquired, with construction to begin within the next month.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Tom Cummings, URA

Lawrenceville infill developments closing gaps in the neighborhood; Franktuary coming to Butler

The Croghan's Edge development in Lawrenceville broke ground less than one year ago on Penn Avenue.  Six months later, a vacant lot had been transformed into a stylish new townhouse, and its first tenants moved in.  Now, all four townhouses have been built and sold, and the final owners have just moved in. 

The project is just one of several infill developments in Lawrenceville that are helping to close the remaining the gaps in this neighborhood's urban fabric.

On Butler Street, the Shannopin's Edge development is near complete with phase I of a project that is bringing four new apartments and two new storefronts to former vacant lots in the 3800 block.

The first, 2,100-square-foot storefront was built for a restaurant, and developer Kris Senko says he has found a tenant in the popular Franktuary hot dog shop.  In addition to a more recent Franktuary food truck, the eatery has served lunch from the basement of Downtown’s Trinity Cathedral since 2004.  They plan to open their second location at Shannopin’s Edge by year’s end.

Phase II of the project will begin later this July, and includes a second, 1,350-square-foot storefront, and two more 1,650-square-foot, market-rate apartments. 

And at the prominent Doughboy Square intersection of Penn Avenue and Butler Street, October Development is nearing completion of five townhomes, the first of several new projects in the area.  Developers plan to break ground soon on a mixed-use building adjacent to the Roberto Clemente Museum, also on Butler.

Following the success of Croghan’s Edge, Emeka Onwugbenu says his company, E Properties and Development, has become confident in other development opportunities in Lawrenceville.  Onwugbenu says he is working closely with neighborhood organizations, and is collaborating on several other infill projects.

In addition to scattered single-family home renovations, E Properties is planning a four-story mixed-use building at the intersection of Butler and 38th street (adjacent to Piccolo Forno), which will include 12 apartment units, and first-floor retail and parking;  and renovations to a series of three row houses on 36th street.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Kris Senko; Emeka Onwugbenu

We Do (Take Two) mass vow renewal, PopUp! Pittsburgh event to recommit in/to Upper Lawrenceville

In two weeks, Lawrenceville's many lovers will recommit to each other and to the 10th Ward in a mass vow-renewal ceremony.  The event is the latest edition of Leadership Pittsburgh Inc.’s PopUp! Pittsburgh series, this year titled, "We Do (Take Two), -- An Upper Lawrenceville Love Story."  

If the event sounds a bit strange, that's the point, says Danielle Tyson of LPI.  Part of a leadership development class, the event is intended to draw in residents from various parts of the city in order to highlight Upper Lawrenceville's unique character.

Activities will include a performance by the neighborhood's own Slim Forsyth and his New Payday Loners, providing music from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.; a premier of a documentary highlighting Upper Lawrenceville; and games, and food and drink donated by Upper Lawrenceville restaurants.  And like many a Pittsburgh wedding, the event will make an attempt at Pittsburgh's Largest Cookie Table, with attendees encouraged to bring a dozen or so to add to the count.

The mass vow renewal will begin at 2:30 p.m., on May 19th, and will be conducted by State Senator Jim Ferlo.  You can register ahead of time at www.popuppittsburgh.com.

This year’s event was created following a series of brainstorming sessions conducted by the LUMA Institute, and a period where participants immersed themselves in the neighborhood, getting to know its residents’ stories and the neighborhood’s nuances.

Tyson says PopUp! Pittsburgh allows off-the-radar places to gain wider exposure through these large group events.

"We look at communities who are kind of on the cusp...that have potential," she says.

PopUp! Pittsburgh is now in its fourth year.  Past events have included Pop Up! Uptown, Up on the Hilltop, and Pop Up! Spineview.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Danielle Tyson

Industry Public House, Lawrenceville's newest restaurant and bar, now open

Craft beer, quality whiskey, and American comfort food are the offerings of Lawrenceville’s newest bar and restaurant, Industry Public House

The restaurant takes its name from the neighborhood’s industrial legacy, and has developed a décor to match.  The interior features exposed brick, machinery throughout, Edison bulbs, and tables made of steel I-beams and butcher-block tops.  Located in a former retail space on Butler Street, Industry's large interior seats up to 100.

Manager Adrian Van Balen says Industry’s menu gives a gourmet twist to classic comfort food.  Starters include a black stout onion soup; pork, lobster, and pot roast sliders; a variety of flat-breads; and wild boar bacon.  Other offerings include salads and sandwiches, as well as a 12 oz ribeye, lobster mac and cheese, and pan seared salmon.

And like other gastropubs, Industry puts a lot of energy into creating a unique menu of burgers, like the Farm House, with shaved honey glazed ham and a fried egg; the Worker Burgher, with red onion marmalade, caramelized wild mushrooms, and mozzarella cheese; and the Caribbean Burgher, a blend of fresh pork, chorizo sausage, with a jerk a BBQ baste and sweet pineapple calypso mojo.

Industry’s owners also operate Elixir Ultra Lounge, and 1311, a sports bar, both on the South Side.  Executive Chef Wade Chambers joins the restaurant after his most recent position at The Porch at Schenley, in Oakland.

The bar has 40 craft beers on tap, 60 in bottle, and just as many varieties of whiskey.  The Industry Public House IPA and Industry Copper Ale are brewed exclusively for the restaurant by Full Pint Brewing Company, of North Versailles, PA. 

Van Balen says he hopes Industry will stand out for its unique, hand-crafted cocktails, including the popular Smoke Stack, which infuses wood smoke in whiskey, along with a list of other industrial-themed drinks like the Blast Furnace, Tesla’s Coil, and Robber Barron.

Industry Public House is located at 4305 Butler Street, in Lawrenceville, and open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Adrian Van Balen

Lawrenceville's Paint Monkey offers art-as-entertainment group sessions

Lawrenceville’s newest business, Paint Monkey, wants to tap into the creative juices of Pittsburgh’s many latent artists.  Located within the Ice House Studios, this “art as entertainment,” do-it-yourself venue equips would-be painters with instruction and materials, while attendees are encouraged to bring friends, imagination, and a bottle of wine.

Groups of 8-30 choose a painting type from an online catalog.  In the studio, all materials are provided--including aprons--and artist Joe Groom walks you through each step, painting along with the group in 2-3 hours sessions.  

Groom says Paint Monkey is like a personal version of PBS’s Joy of Painting, except a lot more fun.  Music plays in the background (you can bring your own iPod), and you’re welcome to bring food and drink.  And unlike in your living room, it’s ok if a few drops of paint land on the former ice-warehouse’s concrete floors.

Groom says that although many people haven’t painted since they were kids, once the first stroke touches canvas, it all comes back.

“People are creative,”  he says, “you just got to give them an opportunity to get it going.”

Groom says the point of Paint Monkey is less about developing impeccable skills, than it is about entertainment, and being creative in a social environment.

Paint Monkey accommodates all group types, including kids’ birthday parties, senior citizen groups, office co-workers, or even a candle-lit date night.

Paint Monkey is co-owned by Groom and Mary Lou Bradley.  The recently-engaged couple moved to Pittsburgh from Central Florida last October.  Mary Lou grew up in Pittsburgh’s Overbrook neighborhood, but has lived in New York and Florida for the past 30 years.

For a Pittsburgh native, whose notions of the city were informed by years of industrial decline, Bradley was excited and surprised by the city’s transformation, and by the opportunity it could now offer her.

“I don’t think we could have done this anywhere else,” she says.

Bradley and Groom enjoy exploring the revitalized city, and feel especially at home in Lawrenceville’s creative community.

Paint Monkey sessions range from $35 to $45, and offer a reduced rate for kids.  They plan special events, such as Paint Your Pet, and are able to bring Paint Monkey on the road.

Paint Money, 100 43rd Street, Studio 212. Lawrenceville. 412-770-4923.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Mary Lou Bradley, Joe Groom

Cure restaurant opens in Upper Lawrenceville; Wild Purveyors soon to follow

The latest restaurant to open in Upper Lawrenceville is Cure, a project of Chef Justin Severino.  Severino, an accomplished chef who has worked in kitchens throughout California, is best known in Pittsburgh as the former Executive Chef of Elements Cuisine in Downtown.

Cure is an intimate, neighborhood restaurant with a small menu, offering what it describes as "local urban Mediterranean" cuisine.

While living in Santa Cruz, California, Severino opened a small charcuterie shop called Severino’s Community Butcher, where he produced traditional cuts of pork using locally-sourced whole hogs.  

Severino brings much of that previous experience to Cure, and he remains committed to ethical farming practices and humane animal husbandry.  In addition to regular dinner service, Severino even plans to host hog butchering classes, as well as traditional wine tasting events.

The menu features plates such as sunchoke soup, with venison chorizo, kale, goat cheese, and crispy shallots; a cassoulet with boudin blanc, duck, smoked chicken, and pork belly; and beef cheeks with apple cider, gnocchi, mushrooms, and a celery root puree.  

And  on the same block, Wild Purveyors plans to open their storefront location at 5308 Butler Street in March.  

Brothers Cavan and Tom Patterson are best known among chefs, as wholesalers of foraged food and fresh, local produce.  But when the new shop opens, those small-production items and elusive wild goods will now be available to the general public.

The new shop will offer local, organic produce, cheese from 20 different Pennsylvania creameries, a wide range of local meats, and, of course, seasonal wild edibles, including morel, chanterelle, and black trumpet mushrooms, wild watercress, elderberries, raspberries, ramps, and pawpaws.

“We’ll be offering everything that’s coming up in abundance,” Cavan Patterson says.

In addition to quality sourced goods, Wild Purveyors plans to sell house-made items such as sauerkraut and kimchi, and to host wine, beer, and cheese pairing events on Friday and Saturday evenings.

The shop will maintain a rustic character, making use of reclaimed barn wood and butcher block counters.  Patterson says the store will remain open late, until 9 p.m., six days a week.  

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Cure; Cavan Patterson, Wild Purveyors

Wild Stuff pop-up vintage sale, Saturdays only in Lawrenceville

(Note: Due to a technical glitch, this story didn't appear on the home page last week so we are running it again this week,)

Wild Stuff, a new pop-up vintage sale, opened in Lawrenceville on Saturday.  A partnership between Wildcard, Botero Development, and Zombo Gallery, the Saturday-only event features a range of items including original art, clothing, tiki glasses, vintage typewriters, scavenged building materials, and furniture. 

Brian Mendelssohn, of Botero Development, says he and his fellow collaborators were brainstorming uses for the vacant storefront when they identified a common thread: basements, closets, and warehouses filled with vintage and historical items, and works of art.

Mendelssohn says because Botero Development acquires many historic buildings in Lawrenceville, he has accumulated a plethora of items, such as historic light fixtures, cast iron bath tubs, and other random building supplies, that are currently in demand.

“We want everything to go to a good home as opposed to throwing it away,” Mendelssohn says.

Wildcard hosts an annual vintage sale at their Lawrenceville boutique, but are able to display many more items in the Wild Stuff storefront.  Since 2009 Wildcard has sold the city’s best in handmade goods, such as t-shirts, stationary, buttons, and greeting cards.

And although Zombo Gallery officially closed a year and a half ago, Zombo still has many works of art (offered here at lower prices), vintage musical instruments, plus tons of music and mixes from the Zombo’s Record Party radio show. 

Located at 4300 Butler Street in the former Arsenal Bank building, the sale will continue on Saturdays only, from 11a.m. to 7p.m., through March 31st.

Mendelssohn says a long-term tenant will take over the space after the final Wild Stuff sale.

And although billed as a Pop-Up Vintage Sale, Wild Stuff is not to be confused with Project Pop-Up: Downtown, an initiative between the Mayor and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership which is transforming vacant storefronts into active art installations, stores, and eateries.  

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Brian Mendelssohn, Botero Development; Matthew Buchholz, Wildcard

Movie inspired by Lawrenceville progressive dinners soon to be filmed there

A new film titled Progression, inspired by the Lawrenceville Urban Pioneers Society Dinner, will be filmed in the neighborhood beginning in March. 

Written and directed by Gab Cody and Sam Turich, the narrative film takes place over the course of an evening, and will focus on three different couples as they wander through the homes and streets of Lawrenceville.

Cody says the film will be driven by conversations and the behavior of people, not by special effects or action sequences.  “Rather a world of people at dinner tables having funny conversations,” she says.

Which is how Cody perceives the LUPS Progressive Dinner.  That event is in its 27th year and has grown from 12 participants to 150.

Cody and Turich moved to Lawrenceville from New York City four years ago.  Three months after moving in they participated in the progressive dinner, and were able to meet “so many great, quirky, weird, strange, funny, hilarious, smart people that we were delighted that we'd chosen to live in Lawrenceville,” Cody says.

“It’s a really magical night in which you are thrust into situations with strangers but often times in their homes,” Cody says.  That type of encounter can be unusual, she says, but is always filled with interesting social interactions and conversations, where friendships develop, and even romance can bloom.

Which is why Cody decided it would be a great setting for a movie of this kind.

Cody and Turich's previous short film, Mombies, was also set in Lawrenceville.  Pageboy Salon & Boutique owner Rachel Vallozzi, who starred in Mombies, will design costumes for Progression, and Cody is reaching out to restaurants and chefs in the Pittsburgh area to design the film's food. 

Filming is scheduled to take place between March and July, and Cody hopes to have a local premier as early as next fall.

Fat Beckett, a play written by Cody and directed by Turich, is currently in production by the Quantum Theatre, and runs through December 18th at the Old School House in Lawrenceville.

And a Kickstarter campaign has launched to help finance the film.  Visit that site here.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Gab Cody

Panello Boutique opens in Lawrenceville

Panello Boutique has opened on Butler Street in Lawrenceville, just in time for the holiday shopping season. The shop features women’s clothing from small and independent designers, including jackets, blazers, jeans, accessories, and handbags.

Manager Emily Slagel says items at Panello are offered at a lower, more affordable price point than many other boutiques. Most clothing items are under $100, and jewelry, both new and vintage, ranges between $14 and $75.

Owner Cara Moody, who co-owns Jupe Boutique in the South Side, was looking for a new space to expand. It was another Lawrenceville business owner, Alissa Martin, of Pavement, who alerted her to the open retail space on Butler, and encouraged her to open a shop there.

Slagel says Panello will try to keep the same hours as other shops on the street, and that area businesses try to help each other succeed.

“We’re really trying to build it into a shopping district and a community,” she says.

In addition to clothing and jewelry, Panello is currently carrying screen-printed iPad cases, and Pittsburgh-themed t-shirts designed by Julie Dinardo.

Panello is located at 3703 Butler Street, replacing the former Sugar boutique, which closed this past summer.

Next week Moody is planning a shop-local event with the customer review site Yelp, and will offer refreshments to guests, from 4 to 8 P.M.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Emily Slagel, Cara Moody 

Emerging art gallery and performance space, 3634 Penn Avenue, to hold an opening Saturday

From the street, 3634 Penn Avenue seems like any other nondescript, underused building.  But once inside, beyond the red brick and glass-block windows, the space reveals itself as a haven for visual and performance art.

The building, which Monk McAllister leases, was once a former home brewing supply store.  With the help of the building’s owner, Monk transformed the store into a wide-open gallery and performance space comprising the entire first floor, and an upstairs living space.

Monk grew up in Pittsburgh, but left for New York City in 1977.  When family drew him back just a few years ago, he wanted to have an impact on the local arts scene. Through his arts venue he began to meet interesting people and a side of Pittsburgh he wasn’t previously aware of.  

Monk says developments in Pittsburgh’s art scene, like Penn Avenue Arts District and the monthly Unblurred Art Crawl, are great additions to the city, and he credit’s local nonprofit organizations and the work of individuals for these changes.

“It's almost as if the art scene in Pittsburgh has picked itself up by its own bootstraps,” he says.

But Laurie Trok can attest to the impact Monk himself has made.  A Pittsburgh-based artist, Trok says Monk gives local artists ample time and space to develop ideas.

“This is a very different gallery experience than any gallery I’ve ever shown in before,” Trok says.  “Monk is willing to work with you and take time to see your vision through, and he has a similar vision with you.”  

Trok’s latest show, titled “don’t go back to sleep,” will be on display at 3634 Penn Avenue, from December 10th through January 7th.  A reception will be held this Saturday, the 10th, from 7 to 11 p.m. featuring a live music performance at 8 p.m.

Trok says her abstract work is a bit like electronic music, in that she borrows from other things, remixing or reinventing found objects.  

“I like the idea of taking things that are nothing to anyone anymore…and making art out of them,” Trok says.

Although the space is sometimes known as Morris Levy Gallery or Monk’s Place, Monk likes to refer to the gallery simply by its address, 3634 Penn Avenue.

For more information: 412-681-0154.

Writer:  Andrew More
Source:  Monk McAllister, Laurie Trok

Weigh in on transit, river access, trails and more at the Green Boulevard public meeting Thursday

A public meeting will be held in the Strip District tomorrow allowing residents to weigh in on the Allegheny Riverfront Green Boulevard Plan.

As the first of several public meetings, attendees will have a chance to learn about the project’s progress, as well as how to provide feedback on the corridor’s design and plans.  A series of interactive activities will generate information on how residents currently use the corridor, and how they’d like to use it in the future.

The Green Boulevard is a planning project looking at a six mile stretch of rail right-of-way between Downtown, Lawrenceville, and beyond.  The goal is to transform the existing rail corridor into a multi-modal green boulevard with river and park access, bicycle and pedestrian trails, and passenger rail service, in addition to freight traffic.  

Lena Andrews, URA planning and development specialist, says planning for this corridor is important because Lawrenceville and the Strip District are growing, but the infrastructure is lacking and in disrepair.

“In order for things to keep moving there needs to be new infrastructure in that area,” Andrews says.

The Green Boulevard is a continuation of the Mayor Ravenstahl’s Allegheny Riverfront Vision Plan, which was released earlier this year.  Planning for the boulevard is supported by a $1.5 million grant funded by HUD and DOT, and will continue through March 2013.

Allegheny Valley Railroad, a company who controls much of the rail right-of-way, recently received a $350 million commitment to develop a passenger rail service, which would include the Green Boulevard corridor.  Andrews says both plans are integrally related, “but we just need to make sure [the passenger rail] is part of a larger citywide vision.”

Andrews says earlier research showed a huge lack of open space and infrastructure needs in the corridor, and that the Green Boulevard could solve those problems by providing a new form of mobility, new connections to downtown and Oakland, and address storm water runoff.

“All of the things that the Riverfront Vision plan pointed out were really lacking in the Strip District and Lawrenceville, this right-of-way has an opportunity to help to solve,” Andrews says.

November 17, 6 to 8 p.m. at the Society for Contemporary Craft, 2100 Smallman St. in the Strip District.  For additional information, contact Lena Andrews, 412.255.6439.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Lena Andrews

Spaces Corners bookshop opens in Lawrenceville, showcases small press photo books

Spaces Corners, a bookshop, gallery, and project space, opened last week in Lawrenceville’s Ice House studios.  The 425-square-foot shop is focused primarily on photography, with an emphasis on photo books published by independent presses.  An opening celebration will be held on November 4th.

Melissa Catanese, who owns and operates the shop, moved back to Pittsburgh this past spring after spending several years in New York City.  She had only lived in Pittsburgh for one year previously, but the city made an impression on her as a place supportive of experimentation.  This type of support isn’t widely available in other cities, she says.

“There’s a lot of opportunity, lots of grants for artists, lots of available space.  Everything about it right now” is supportive, notes Catanese.  “You have room to breathe and to be able to realize the dream that you have.”

Catanese says she wanted to share the phenomena of photography through the photo book with Pittsburgh because there wasn’t anything like Spaces Corners.  The shop is sponsored in part by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The books featured at Space Corners are published in small numbers, usually between 500 and 1,000 copies in an edition.  And many of the books aren’t available through online retailers like Amazon, Catanese says.  In addition to photography, the shop also features artists’ books, zines, and monographs.

The open house celebration on November 4th will feature refreshments, and an exhibition of work by local photographer Ed Panar.  Panar’s photo book, Animals That Saw Me, will be published in November by The Ice Plant, a small press in Los Angeles, followed by a book signing at Spaces Corners.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Melissa Catanese

Shannopin's Village gets $439,000 URA loan, project moves forward

Shannopin’s Village, a project planned for Lawrenceville’s Butler Street, has received a much needed loan from the Urban Redevelopment Authority.  The $439,000 loan will assist in construction of the infill development project, and is met with a $63,000 Streetface grant.

Developer Kris Senko says after several years of planning, this loan from the URA fills a crucial financing gap and will allow the project to move forward.

“Without Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and the URA this just wouldn't have happened,” Senko says.  “That was the biggest piece to the whole puzzle for us.”  

The project consists of two new buildings, at 3810 & 3822 Butler Street, each featuring up to two commercial storefronts and two rental apartments.  A new street, Shannopin Lane, will be constructed between the two buildings.

The 1,350-square-foot apartments will include two bedrooms, one and a half bath, and off-street, rear parking.  The first-floor commercial spaces will be designed for restaurant, office, or retail space.  Original plans called for a series of additional town homes, but the project has been scaled back to include the Butler Street structures only.

Senko says his development team has worked closely with the Lawrenceville Corporation and Lawrenceville United, and that those relationships helped facilitate the URA loan.

The facades of Shannopin’s Village have been designed to fit the historical context of existing structures on Butler Street, which made the project eligible to a Streetface grant from the URA.  

Senko says excavation of the Shannopin’s Village site will begin later this month, with an expected project completion date of spring 2013.

In addition to this project, Senko Construction is currently partnering with October Development in the construction of Doughboy Square’s new townhouse development.  

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Kris Senko

Preserve Pittsburgh Summit to engage over 300 students with historic preservation

This Friday over 300 students from Pittsburgh-area schools will participate in the Third Annual Preserve Pittsburgh Summit.  Hosted by the Young Preservationists Association (YPA) of Pittsburgh, the event will take place from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Heinz History Center in the Strip District.

YPA President Dan Holland says the event is designed to teach young people what it takes to bring old buildings back to life, and to encourage engagement with historic structures in their own schools and communities.

“Our goal is to get young people reengaged in the community, and to help shape a better future in their respective communities,” Holland says. “We want Pittsburgh to be a center for youth activity and innovation.”

The year’s theme is Change and Continuity. As part of the summit, seven different tours will lead participants through the Strip District, Lawrenceville, and Downtown Pittsburgh.  Holland says these tours will showcase historic properties that have both changed and remained the same through preservation.

The tours are organized by themes, including food, waterfront, loft housing, bridges, Main Street Lawrenceville, and a downtown walking tour.

Holland says he hopes the summit can instill within young people the confidence and the ability to do similar type restoration projects in their own community.  He hopes students can become motivators for restoring historic properties.

“If they go back to their neighborhood and they see that there's a vacant building, they will then be able to say, this building doesn't have to be torn down, it can actually be restored,” Holland says.

Keynote speakers include State Senator Jim Ferlo, city council members Patrick Dowd and Natalia Rudak, and Felicia Mayro, Director of the Neighborhood Preservation Center in New York City.

Tours are currently full, but $10 tickets to the lunch are still available.  For more information contact the YPA: 412-205-3385.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Dan Holland

Locomotive Lofts on track in Lawrenceville

A new adaptive-reuse apartment project is set to take shape in Lawrenceville.  The Locomotive Lofts project, located at the corner of 49th and Harrison Streets will create 34 market-rate units in this former industrial site.

“It’ll definitely be the most state of the art apartment complex in Lawrenceville,” says project developer Ernie Sota, citing security, energy efficiency, balconies, and off-street parking.  The project will be a complete renovation with new construction, designed by architect Paul Rodriguez.

Sota says Locomotive Lofts LP will aim for LEED gold certification.  Solar photovoltaics will be used on the roof, along with HVAC heating and cooling systems, and LED lighting. 

Sota and partners paid $150,00 for the 20,000 sq. ft. former office building.  The project is expected to cost $5 million to develop.  The building was once home to H.K. Porter Co., a manufacturer of compressed air locomotives.

Financing for the project is to be finalized soon, with construction on the units beginning in the fall. Sota says his team has worked closely with Lawrenceville United and the Lawrenceville Development Corporation, and that the community has been very supportive.

Last year, Sota developed Pittsburgh’s first net-zero home on the South Side, a home that generates as much energy as it uses annually.  Although Locomotive Lofts isn’t expected to achieve net-zero, Sota says this building will use only about 25% of the energy in a typical apartment building.

Sota believes renters understand energy efficiency equals a lower cost of living, but also that there are certain human comforts in green building techniques. 

“All these things lead to a more enjoyable, healthier lifestyle,” Sota says.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Ernie Sota

Image Credit:  Paul Rodriguez Architect

Gastropub Alchemy N Ale opens in Upper Lawrenceville

A new gastropub, Alchemy N Ale, has recently opened in Upper Lawrenceville. Located in the former Mama Rosa building, owner David Santa says gastropubs are simply pubs which specialize in serving high-quality food.

Gastropubs first appeared in England during the mid-1990s, challenging the concept of conventional bar food, and remodeling classic pub interiors for a more trendy setting. And Santa says he has done this exact thing with an established dining space in Pittsburgh.

"We took it and revamped it," Santa says, "Exactly what I think a gastropub is--taking an old pub and putting a new spin on it...making it fresh, cool, and new again. And we've definitely raised the bar on what food should be."

The menu includes fish and chips, an Alchemy N Ale burger, lobster deviled eggs, steak frites, and crab stuffed pierogi. Sunday brunch, including county-fried chicken and biscuits, espresso cured salmon, and a protein heavy Irish breakfast, is served with a Mimosa or Bloody Mary.

Santa says the atmosphere is similar to a turn-of-the-century, English-style, rustic pub. Reclaimed barn wood is used on walls, as well as the custom-made furniture.

Santa has owned night clubs and lounges in Pittsburgh and Fort Lauderdale, but this is his first restaurant. He is joined by Chef Patrick MacFarlane, formerly of the Tribeca Grill in New York City.

Santa has worked in other neighborhoods throughout Pittsburgh, but says he is happy to be a new addition to Lawrenceville.

"It's a breath of fresh air, it's just very nice to be wrapped with a great group of people here in Lawrenceville," he says.

Alchemy N Ale, 5147 Butler Street, Lawrenceville, 412-252-2156, Wednesday - Sunday.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: David Santa

nanoGriptech joins emerging technology hub in Lawrenceville

The growing technology hub in Lawrenceville has just added another new business. nanoGriptech, LLC announced last week that they would be expanding their operation to the RIDC Chocolate Factory building in the Lawrenceville Technology Center.

nanoGriptech was founded by Carnegie Mellon University professor Dr. Metin Sitti in 2009, as a spin-off from the university. The 2,408 square-foot space will primarily be used as office and laboratory.

"Lawrenceville is a great and developing area for high-tech start-ups like ours," Sitti says. "The Chocolate Factory is a great new building with both office and manufacturing infrastructure, which is a great positive for us to hopefully expand in this space in the future."

The company's work is inspired by animals and insects commonly found in nature. The unique climbing ability of geckos and insects are due to micro and nano-scaled foot-hairs--abilities that nanoGriptech hopes to synthesize and recreate for new, innovative purposes.

At their space in Lawrenceville, nanoGriptech will aim to develop and mass-produce repeatable polymer adhesives for a variety of product applications.

RIDC President Donald Smith says this expansion to Lawrenceville reflects that neighborhood's emergence as a community that attracts the young talent which is fueling these start-up companies.

"I think this reflects the emerging Pittsburgh economy where university driven spin-outs are making up an increasing proportion of the companies...and it's not just an Oakland phenomenon," Smith says. "And this is just the latest in a long line of successions that I think shows that the regional strategy is paying dividends."

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Donald Smith, Metin Sitti

Croghan's Edge in Lawrenceville to bridge history with modern townhouses

When it came to naming a new development of townhouses in Lawrenceville, Emeka Onwugbenu decided to put the question to neighborhood residents. And so after conducting a naming contest in partnership with Lawrenceville United, the sloping, island-like parcel of land on Penn Avenue came to be known as Croghan's Edge.

The townhouses, which are designed by mossArchitects, will feature a combination of corrugated metal, cedar wood, and cement siding facades. E Properties and Development held a groundbreaking ceremony at the site on Tuesday.

Onwugbenu says the triangular, sloping site was initially viewed as a challenge from a design perspective, but that they were able to engage mossArchitects to overcome that. "We turned what seemed like site problems into opportunities," Onwugbenu says.

"Working with moss, they kind of created this box-like feel to it, where they pushed, pulled, and stretched different levels of boxes to create townhouses you've not seen in Lawrenceville before," Onwugbenu says.

The interior spaces will be in keeping with a contemporary/modern feel, Onwugbenu says, including nine-foot ceilings on all levels, designer kitchen layouts, and granite countertops. E Properties expects the homes to be move-in ready by September.

The name Croghan's Edge refers to George Croghan, who was know as "the king of the traders." One of the area's first settlers Croghan built his home in the vicinity in the 1760s, long before modern Lawrenceville was conceived.

The new homes will be located in a part of Lawrenceville which hasn't seen as much redevelopment activity as the bustling Butler Street corridor. Onwugbenu hopes this transformation of an under-utilized space into new and unique housing is a trend that other builders will follow.

The development is breaking ground in more ways than one, and "speaks to the next level of growth in the area," Onwugbenu says. "I feel Croghan's Edge is the continuation of the renaissance [and] rejuvenation of Lawrenceville."

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Emeka Onwugbenu, E Properties and Development

Pedal Pittsburgh showcases design and architecture with one-of-a-kind city bike ride

What better way to enjoy Pittsburgh's great neighborhoods and architecture than on a bike? That's the goal of Pedal Pittsburgh's 18th annual ride scheduled for Sunday, May 22.

A fundraiser for the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh (CDCP), the various bike rides will all begin and end at SouthSide Works. Attracting more than 2,000 riders each year, it's the only ride of its size within the city limits says Jennifer Fox, director of administration at CDCP.

"It's not about the first one to the finish line," she explains. "It's really about a leisurely ride that's going to take you past some fantastic views and places." With routes ranging from six to 60 miles, and many refreshment stops along the way, riders and families of all skill levels can take part.

The six routes travel through the South Side, Northside, Lawrenceville, Squirrel Hill and Mount Washington, giving cyclists--especially those who travel the entire 60 miles--a great way to experience the city and its neighborhoods, says Fox.

One group joining the ride is Team East End Brewing Company and OTB Bicycle Café (EEB/OTB). The first 50 riders to RSVP for their team will get half of their registration covered for the event and a Team EEB/OTB t-shirt.

This year, Fox explains, CDCP will have activities for riders at its rest stops to showcase what good planning and design brings to communities.

Over the past 10 years Fox has coordinated Pedal Pittsburgh, she says they have consistently seen more people get involved. "It's amazing to see that many people on bikes," she adds.

Registration begins at 6:30 a.m. at SouthSide Works, with the first group of riders taking off at 7 a.m.

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Writer: Alex Audia
Source: Jennifer Fox, CDCP

Eight neighborhoods receive Elm Street funds from URA

Pittsburgh now boasts more Elm Street districts. Manchester, Central Northside, Troy Hill, Lawrenceville, East Liberty and the South Side Slopes were all deemed Elm Street districts by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, with Mt. Washington and Bloomfield-Garfield receiving overdue funds.

As a complement to its Mainstreets Program, the Elm Street Program focuses on the neighborhoods surrounding Mainstreet districts, says Elm Street Program Coordinator Josette Fitzgibbons. Recipients of the funds must focus on five areas: clean, safe and green; neighbors and economy; design; image and identity; and sustainable organizations.

Each community is given funds for a one-year Elm Street planning process, says Fitzgibbons, which Mt. Washington and Bloomfield-Garfield were late in receiving. Both neighborhoods were designated as Elm Street districts in 2009, but due to state budget cuts the funding was not available.

Bloomfield-Garfield has its plan ready, say Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation Deputy Director Aggie Brose and its resident Elm Street Coordinator Kathryn Vargas. They plan on using funds for vacant lot and street cleanups, outreach and community groups. "The residents feel ownership over the planning and outcome," says Vargas, adding that she hopes more residents will get involved as plans develop further.

Mt. Washington will use its Elm Street funds to engage residents and increase curb appeal by cultivating growth, development and community investment, says MWCDC Executive Director Chris Beichner. "It will help us to attract a different population of our community to become involved," adds Program Manager Greg Panza.

Fitzgibbons says it is unknown whether the usual five years of operational funding that take place after year one will occur, depending on the state budget.

For now, it's important to work together to create stable plans that include both community programs and initiatives like streetscape improvement, she says. "It's the combination of the human and the bricks and mortar together that make it a successful program."

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Writer: Alex Audia
Sources: Josette Fitzgibbons, URA
               Chris Beichner and Greg Panza, MWCDC
               Aggie Brose and Kathryn Vargas, BGC

Lawrenceville cyclists have a new outlet at Love Bikes

When he returned to Pittsburgh in 2005 after studying art in England, Nicholas Brungo worked on bikes at REI. And now, six years later, he opened Love Bikes in Lawrenceville.

The tiny 400-square-foot store is mainly a service shop at the moment, but Brungo sells Charge Bikes and hopes to sell custom bikes in the future.

He chose Lawrenceville because his grandmother lived there, so he was familiar with the area and saw its transformation over the years. The neighborhood is flat and has a good riding population, he thought, but no bike shop. "I knew a lot of people that lived here that rode bikes and had nowhere to go that was close," he says.

He found the raw space off 44th Street behind Arsenal Lanes, and thought it would be a good place to provide commuters with everyday repairs. Eventually, Brungo would like to host events with other biking organizations in the area, such as Bike Pittsburgh.

Love Bikes is located at 212 1/2 44th Street. It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m.

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Writer: Alex Audia
Source: Nicholas Brungo, Love Bikes

Photograph copyright Alex Audia

Lawrenceville Corporation's microgrant program supports local business and events

The Lawrenceville Corporation (LC), along with its Mainstreets Committee, announced six upcoming events to receive funds for its 2011 Community Event Microgrant Program.

In its 14th year, Art All Night will be the Microgrant Program's first event, which is coming up at the end of April. Others that received funds include the Lawrenceville Blossom Tour, Hand(Made) in Marriage, the Artists' Studios Tour, the Hospitality House Tour and the Joy of Cookies Cookie Tour.

Ranging from $100 to $1,500 per project, these events are meant to achieve the three major goals of neighborhood revitalization: attracting new visitors and customers, contributing to Lawrenceville's long-term growth and community organizations working together to create positive change.

"We want people to feel like they can get engaged easily," says Patrick Bowman, marketing and communications coordinator at the LC. "They're in a community that supports their ideas and supports a greater approach to community and civic involvement."

As of 2008, the LC reached graduate status in the Urban Redevelopment Authority's Mainstreets Pittsburgh program and gained the ability to enact special projects like the Microgrant Program, says Bowman. Other projects include neighborhood marketing initiatives and a sign grant program that helps businesses with new signage.

"It's all about making the Lawrenceville business district and the community a great place to come," adds Bowman.

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Writer: Alex Audia
Source: Patrick Bowman, Lawrenceville Corporation

New Kaleidoscope Cafe in Lawrenceville has something for everyone

Former Café du Jour co-owner Dan Robinson left Pittsburgh three years ago for an extended journey covering 26 countries. Many of the flavors Robinson experienced in his travels can be found on the menu of his newest restaurant Kaleidoscope Café, housed in the former River Moon Café space in Lawrenceville.

"People say that you can't have something for everyone, but I tend to disagree. You can come in here for dinner and you can spend $8 or you can spend $58. It all depends on what you want," says Robinson, who opened Kaleidoscope Café in mid-November with co-owner Erin Mangan. The menu is self-described as "American eclectic", forgoing the trendy Post-It Note-sized carte in favor of a large selection of creatively adapted sandwiches, salads, pastas, and entrees. Robinson's mention of the price range wasn't an overstatement, the $7.50 Memphis BBQ Burger sounds as good as the $23 pan seared Basa.

Kaleidoscope has done away with the white tablecloths from the River Moon Café days. "As far the décor goes, all my tabletops will be made by different artists, and you can actually buy them if you want. The interior is meant to be kind of funky. We have an exploding kaleidoscope on the wall made from foam insulation," says Robinson.

Kaleidoscope Café is located at 108 43rd Street. Their hours are Tuesday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Dan Robinson, Kaleidoscope Cafe

Photograph copyright John Farley

City introduces 20 year Allegheny Riverfront Vision Plan

While the neighborhoods adjacent to the Allegheny River have undergone a heavy transition from industrial zones to thriving commercial districts in the last two decades, their connection to the river itself was lost long ago following the advent of industrialism, leaving a large swath of land underutilized and ecologically impaired. On Monday, the City released its sweeping 77-page, 20-year Allegheny Riverfront Vision Plan, designed to reorient the city toward the riverfront and generate new transit systems, housing, and businesses.

Since 2009, Mayor Ravenstahl and the City of Pittsburgh, Riverlife, and the URA have been working with consultants Perkins Eastman Architects to develop the multi-phase plan that covers 6.5 miles of sustainable development along the Allegheny riverfront from Downtown through Highland Park. The plan incorporates several major redevelopment projects already on the table, such as the proposed Green River Boulevard project, which entails a new commuter rail line, riverfront commercial and residential development, and environmentally-minded landscaping. Another component includes Buncher Co.'s redevelopment of the Terminal Produce Building on Smallman Street, as well as the construction of new residential buildings. A proposed trolley and new bike lines would better connect the Strip to Lawrenceville and take the traffic burden off of Butler Street, Smallman Street, and Penn Avenue.

The plan includes a lengthy list of initiatives to be implemented in different phases, such as the creation of new tax credits to aid potential developers, improvement of the sewage overflow system to clean up the river, the reintroduction of native plant and animal species, a focus on developmental "hot spots" like Lawrenceville's Heppenstall Plant, the repurposing and maintenance of several historic structures, and the movement of Strip District and Lawrenceville industry to a new site near the 62nd Street Bridge.

The initial phases laid out in the Allegheny Riverfront Vision are predominantly public projects to be initiated by the URA and the City of Pittsburgh in collaboration with a 16-member steering committee, with the assumption that these projects will quickly draw in private investment for the later and less concrete parts of the plan.

An event is being held to celebrate the plan on March 14 at 6:30 p.m. in The Roberto Clemente Museum at 3339 Penn Avenue.

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Writer: John Farley
Sources:  Joanna Doven, press secretary for the Mayor's Office

From industry to community: Rethinking the Allegheny riverfront

The Allegheny Riverfront Vision plan hosted its final community meeting last week to address development of the 6.5-mile stretch between the Strip District and Highland Park.

Perkins Eastman has been working for more than a year on the still in-progress masterplan, under a $350,000 contract from the URA.

The plan makes suggestions for the City of Pittsburgh and Buncher Co.'s joint strategy to redevelop some 80 acres of riverfront land. The City could combine parcels of its own -- including with Produce Terminal in the Strip -- with industrial properties Buncher owns. Construction could start in the Strip in 2013, with the 40 undeveloped acres behind the Produce Terminal. The City and URA will spend some $20 million in capital funds to remediate the site and prepare it for redevelopment. A 1,000-unit development -- five buildings of 200 units each -- has been proposed.

Perkins Eastman envisions a new way of looking at riverfront parcels, says principal Steve Quick.

"In the past, the riverfront has been seen as a place for industry. We're looking at it now as a community-oriented place with a mixture of uses, including residential and business and low-impact industry, like the robotics and software coming out of the universities," says Quick.

The Perkins Eastman plan aims to maintain the character of the "neighborhoods on the rebound," as URA executive director Rob Stephany described the Strip, Lawrenceville and Morningside at Thursday's meeting.

Quick, with Senator Jim Ferlo, assuaged fears that this redevelopment project is anything like Soffer's SouthSide Works, which Quick calls a "standalone type of development." "We are looking for something that will spur development, something more inborn in the communities," Quick says.

Perkins Eastman suggests to:

- Add parking facilities.
- Restore the natural slope down to the river to get people closer to the water.
- Transform the Allegheny Valley Railroad into a pedestrian-friendly green path.
- Anchor the Produce Terminal with the in-development public market on one end and the Society for Contemporary Craft on the other, with restaurants and professional spaces in between.
- Capture all stormwater for storms of one inch or less (more than half the storms in Pittsburgh) through green roofs, pervious ground surfaces and trees.
- Increase the tree canopy coverage in the Strip District and Lawrenceville to about 40 percent. There are currently only about 200 trees total in the study area.
- Create bike/ped connections.
- Take into account the Allegheny Valley Railroad's planned commuter line between New Kensington and Arnold through Oakmont into Downtown.
- Create a new "Golden Triangle" by connecting Downtown and Lawrenceville, and eventually Oakland, via a trolley system that stretches, initially, between the Convention Center to 40th and Butler Streets, which Quick says needs to be more of a "civic center" than an "auto-oriented corner."

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Steve Quick, principal, Perkins Eastman

Image courtesy Allegheny Riverfront Vision plan


Neighbor Teaze: Growing Steel City T-shirt line laughs with, not at, yinz guyz

Fashionista Julia DiNardo was born and raised in Pittsburgh, and now splits her time between her here and New York City, which offers a few more opportunities for the style industry-ambitious than does Steel City. DiNardo teaches and advises fashion students at NYU's Gallatin School, has worked with GQ, Redbook, Liz Claiborne and J.Crew, and has her own website, FashionPulseDaily.com.

DiNardo had her own eponymous sportswear label for awhile, but about five years ago, nostalgia drove DiNardo to try something new -- T-shirts. She was holding a trunk show at Sugar Boutique during Lawrenceville's 2005 winter Cookie Tour, and the boutique asked if she'd be interested in creating something wearable and gifty. DiNardo -- who at the time had no experience working with tees, graphics or screenprinting -- was loving and missing Pittsburgh's neighborhoods from afar, so came up with the first two Neighbor Teaze -- Lawrenceville and the South Side.

Five years later, she's still coming up with tees. Each tee features a snappy slogan and an accompanying image. For instance, Squirrel Hill reads, "Keepin' it Kosher Since 1927," and Point Breeze is "Frickin' Fabulous Since 1903." The all-purpose "Pittsburgh" one, with its yellow bridge graphics, reads, "446 Bridges, 3 Rivers, & 1 Dahntahn Since 1758."

The line now includes 15 neighborhood-specific tees, including the Strip District shirt ("Stimulating the Senses Since 1915"), which was just released a week-and-a-half ago at the inaugural Pittsburgh Flea. The Heinz History Center is even keeping a shirt from the first printing in its permanent textiles collection.

DiNardo says she releases a new shirt every three to four months (Mt. Lebanon may be next), and is always looking for grassroots input, as well as interns. Future plans include a photo submission project (email an image of yourself in a tee; get a discount); a short video, in mid-May, of people discussing what they think makes the Strip District so special; and even a message board where people can post personal stories about their neighborhoods.

DiNardo maintains a Neighbor Teaze web store, and the tees can be purchased locally at Jupe Boutique, Sugar, the Picket Fence, CoCo's Cupcake Cafe, the Mattress Factory and more.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Julia DiNardo, Neighbor Teaze

Image courtesy of Neighbor Teaze

Pageboy Salon & Boutique: One-of-a-kind, head-to-toe styles for ladies 'n' gents

CLP receives nearly $500,00 in grants Lawrenceville's got a new salon and boutique -- all in the same storefront.

Pageboy Salon & Boutique, 3613 Butler St., promises to meet customers' every style need, from tip to toe. Dana Bannon's got her chic little salon on the back, and in the front, Rachel Vallozzi's got racks and racks of handpicked and reconstructed vintage, as well as stuff by independent and local designers, including all sorts of accessories for women and, yes, men.

Vallozzi had her own Pittsburgh boutique, Kharisma Vintage Fashions, from 2002 to 2006, but has been focusing for the last few years on wardrobe styling and personal shopping, as well as her line Buttercup Blues, which will continue to be available at the nearby Wildcard. Bannon, who's got seven years experience as a hair stylist, lost her job at a Shadyside salon not too long ago, and says, "I allowed myself one day of pity, then I called Rachel."

The longtime friends found the perfect space for Pageboy in the former location of Accezzorize boutique. The 1,200-square-foot property -- leased from A-1 Realty's Lee Gross -- has "good bones," as Vallozzi explains: Brick walls, exposed ductwork and high, tin ceilings set the stage for furnishings from Retro on 8th and custom-designed racks (made from doors salvaged from Construction Junction) that hold everything from macho leather bombers to "upcycled" vintage frocks made modern with a few changes to hemlines, sleeves and buttons. Taking the confusion out of vintage shopping, clothes are labeled by measurements rather than arbitrary sizes, so perfect fits are ensured. Customers' measurements are even kept on file for future visits.

Bannon, who opened the salon by-appointment only before the boutique's official Tuesday opening, says not a single one of her hair customers has left Pageboy without buying something from the boutique -- "They browse while their hair processes." Similarly, many of Vallozzi's clothing shoppers end up booking appointments with Bannon.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Rachel Vallozzi, Dana Bannon, Pageboy Salon & Boutique

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Larry, Larry, how does your garden grow? Blossom Tour celebrates Lawrenceville

CLP receives nearly $500,00 in grants Lawrenceville is hosting its fifth annual Blossom Tour this weekend -- a warm-weather counterpart to the neighborhood's mega-successful Joy of Cookies winter tour. The free event celebrates the arrival of spring, and also the neighborhood's thriving business corridor.

The Blossom Tour runs Fri., April 16 to Sun., April 18 and involves 24 participating businesses along Butler, 43rd, 44th, Hatfield and 50th Streets. Businesses will distribute flower and herb seeds, and offer Blossom Tour specials, sales, raffles, garden tips and demonstrations. This year's tour has five newcomers: Common Thread, Body Shop Tattoo & Apparel, Wildcard and Pageboy Salon & Boutique and Cavacini Garden Center, which offers a wide variety of gardening and landscaping services and products.

"What's fun about many new businesses in Lawrenceville is that they sell unique and alternative apparel," says Maya Haptas Henry from the Lawrenceville Corporation.

Common Thread, as well as the recently opened Ambiance Boutique, benefits charity through resale shopping; Body Shop Tattoo sells body apparel in addition to body art; Wildcard sells creative accessories, tees and garments (including funky Pirates gear) in addition to its cards and crafts; and Pageboy Salon & Boutique sells custom vintage and DIY creations… as well as trendy haircuts.

These new businesses join Lawrenceville shopping mainstays such as Sugar, Pavement, Divertido and Equita.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Maya Haptas Henry, Lawrenceville Corporation

Image courtesy Lawrenceville Corporation

Fighting urban blight with letterpress printing: Real estate the Art Noose way

When most people want to buy a house, they turn to the bank. When Art Noose wants to buy a house, she turns to the internet.

After 14 years in the San Francisco Bay Area and a short stopover in Buffalo, NY, Art Noose--yes, that is her name--moved to Pittsburgh on a whim in fall 2007, and she's looking to stay. "I realized I want to live in city where people are excited about being here," she says. "That's what makes Pittsburgh different than other cities."

There are tons of vacant homes in Upper Lawrenceville, where Art Noose now resides as part of the New York Times-noted Cyberpunk Apocalypse writers' collective--and many of the properties start at just $4,000. So Art Noose posted a video to online funding platform Kickstarter stating, "I wanna buy a house, and I need your help."

In about a week, the project's already got 41 backers, and has almost $2,000 toward the $4,000 total goal. People are also offering nonfinancial assistance, such as carpentry skills.

"I come from this DIY background where things are done by having benefit shows and bake sales. And when a house is $4,000 it's actually possible to buy it with a bake sale, or a many bake sales," Art Noose says. "You have to get creative with fundraising."

Art Noose wants a house not only as a personal home, but also as a studio space. She's produced her zine Ker-bloom! entirely on a letterpress printer for some 13 years, and is looking for a space where she can settle in with all her equipment, and also educate folks who want to learn the craft, which has been around since the 15th century.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Art Noose

Image courtesy of Art Noose/Kickstarter

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre breaks ground on student housing in Lawrenceville

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) broke ground last week on the Byham House, its new dormitory in Lawrenceville that will host up to 16 high-school aged students as well as one full-time resident advisor.

PBT acquired the building in November 2009 for under $300,000. Renovations are anticipated to cost more than $600,000. Jendoco is the general contractor, and the project is designed by Fukui Architects, where one of the architects is also a parent to a PBT School student.

The project will integrate, for the first time, a sustainable housing component into the PBT School. Currently, out-of-town PBT students stay with host families throughout the city. Of the 21 current fulltime high school students, 16 are from out-of-state, says Aaron Rinsema with the PBT School.

"The students and their family recognize that the PBT School is a destination institution where they can advance their ballet training," says Rinsema. "The student housing continues to advance the concept that Pittsburgh, as a city, is a destination place for so many great artists and athletes."

The three-story, 7,000-square-foot property is located at 3501 Liberty Avenue, less than one mile from the PBT studios in the Strip District. The building was the former rectory for St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, which is now the Church Brew Works restaurant. The property has been used for many years as housing for social services organizations, including Familylinks, says Rinsema

PBT hopes to complete renovations in time to house students for its 2010 Intensive Summer Program, which begins in June.

The dormitory is part of a $1.5 million capital project, which incorporates other organizational enhancements and is funded by a $750,000 allocation from the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, and matched by contributions from Allegheny Regional Asset District, The Byham Charitable Foundation, The Adams Foundation, The Wagner Family Charitable Trust, and anonymous funders.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Aaron Rinsema, PBT School operations director

Photograph courtesy of PBT

Bike Pittsburgh expands offerings in new art-deco Lawrenceville office

Lawrenceville's Doughboy Square has a new resident. Bike Pittsburgh has relocated its offices from a shared space on the South Side to a two-story art-deco building at 3410 Penn Ave.

The lease started on February 1, and Bike Pittsburgh is now about 85 percent finished with the relocation, says Executive Director Scott Bricker.

The nonprofit is excited to be in not just a larger office, but also in an office that is more easily bikeable and walkable for many of its 1,100 members. The 1,300-square-foot building is located at the gateway to Lawrenceville, with easy access to the Strip District, Downtown, Lawrenceville and Bloomfield.

The building is recognizable as the former iconic Turner Detective Agency--the sign of which now resides upstairs at Bike Pittsburgh's office. Before housing the Turner Detective Agency, the building was occupied by the Junction Coal and Coke Company.

Bike Pittsburgh, which has been around for about eight years, operated for the previous five years out of the River Walk Corporate Centre on the South Side, in a 1,000-square-foot space shared with two other nonprofits (Friends of the Riverfront and Allegheny CleanWays).

"We were limited in what we could do with that space," says Bricker. "We simply outgrew it."

The new office will enable Bike Pittsburgh to host events like movie screenings, speakers and gatherings, and to better accommodate volunteer nights and large meetings.

Upcoming Bike Pittsburgh happenings include a public hearing on the City's proposed bike parking ordinance on March 9, and participating in the National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C. on March 9-11.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Scott Bricker, executive director, Bike Pittsburgh

Photograph courtesy of Bike Pittsburgh

Lawrenceville's Doughboy Square could see $30M commercial, residential development

With its striking statue and historic architecture, the Penn Avenue entrance to Lawrenceville is one of the grandest neighborhood gateways in the whole city. Yet Doughboy Square, as it currently stands, lacks much of the revived vigor of Lower Lawrenceville just a block down Butler Street.

The area, however, could soon be the site of a $30 mixed-use development spearheaded by October Development, which has been instrumental in reviving the North Side's Deutschtown (still known to many as the East Allegheny neighborhood). At a community meeting last week held at Enginehouse 25 on the Square, October Development leadership--along with the Lawrenceville Corporation and Lawrenceville United--presented the plan, which includes new residential, commercial, office and senior housing space along Penn Avenue between 34th and 35th Streets.

The plan, which will be done in several phases, will include about 25,000 square feet of retail, 40,000 square feet of office space, five to 30 residential units and lots of off-street, tree-lined parking.

The development team includes Bob Baumbach (residential architect), Ralph Murovich, Sr. (commercial architect), Grant Street Associates (commercial agents) and Coldwell Banker (residential agents). Al DePasquale of October Development said Dollar Bank is financing the project.

As for a timeline, DePasquale said they could start building in three to six months, but could not yet commit. Construction will depend on October Development's ability to acquire certain properties, and also on community feedback. Many community members expressed excitement about a collective vision for developing Doughboy Square, but would like to see more attention go into the design--they would like to see architecture with a "wow factor" that integrates into the area's historic aesthetic, and also speaks to Pittsburgh's role as a leader in innovative, green building.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Al DePasquale, October Development

Image of previous Doughboy Square plan courtesy of Lawrenceville Corporation, Pfaffman + Associates

Community encouraged to help shape redevelopment of vacant Lawrenceville pool

What was once a lively neighborhood resource is now a big, empty hole in the ground--but in that emptiness, the community sees potential for once-again greatness.

The Leslie Park Pool in Lawrenceville closed in 2003. Sixteen Pittsburgh pools were decommissioned that year. Some, such as Polish Hill, have reopened, and others, such as Troy Hill, have been converted in spray parks. But Lawrenceville's Leslie Park Pool has sat vacant above Butler Street next to the Allegheny Cemetery since shuttering.

Neighborhood residents Susan Englert and Deborah Knox are now spearheading an initiative to re-imagine and redevelop the pool. Inspired by the decommissioned McCarren Park Pool in Brooklyn being used as a concert venue and undergoing renovations to restore it as a swimming facility, Englert decided to stage a one-time event at the Lawrenceville pool over the summer. The inimitable Accordion Pool Party attracted lots of attention for the site, and also involved a clean-up that resulted in about 600 pounds of trash being pulled from the property.

Councilman Patrick Dowd and Duane Ashley, then-director of Pittsburgh Parks and Recreation, encouraged the friends to pursue revitalization beyond the party. "They sat us down and said you can't just do a one-time event," says Englert. "They said the pool had been largely forgotten because it sits so far back from the street, but now people will pay attention and care. They insisted we take it in front of a committee and get to support and attempt to develop it into something that will be a year-round community resource."

Two community meetings--with about 30 attendees each--took place in January, and another two are scheduled for February. The steering committee, which includes seven architects, hopes to have concrete plans by next year, and open the pool as its new use a year from then

Ideas for reuse include: Mini-golf, a flea and farmers market space, an outdoor cinema, and a wedding and events venue. There's also the option of using the pool, quite simply, as a pool (whether that means covered and heated, or retrofitted with a pool insert, or something else altogether remains to be determined).

The next Leslie Park Pool meetings are: Feb. 17, 6:30-8:30 p.m. St. Matthew's/St. Kieran Hall, 5322 Carnegie St.; and Feb. 21, noon-2 p.m. at the Stephen Foster Center, 286 Main St.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Susan Englert and Deborah Knox

Image courtesy of Susan Englert

Eye Candy optical boutique features one-of-a-kind handmade frames

Lawrenceville's got a new boutique, and it's pretty darn easy on the eyes.

Opening in early November, Eye Candy, at 5126 Butler St., provides full optician services as well as customized fittings and the choice of about 500 handmade glasses frames.

Where most opticians' offices and eyewear retailers resemble medical suites, Eye Candy feels more like a designer boutique. The walls are a rich raspberry and floors a polished wood, Regina Spektor's latest piano-pop album plays softly in the background, and a decadent chandelier illuminates the shop, which is filled not with severe institutional furniture, but with delicate vintage pieces that harbor frames unlike anything you'd find at a chain.

Eye Candy sells what optician Katie Bulger calls "elite" eyewear lines: Lafont from Paris, Grotesque from Germany, Oliver Goldsmith sunglasses from London and Hoffmann natural horn that will hold up over the years far better than anything plastic (can you say "sustainability?"). Eye Candy's frames are hand-cut filigree, colorful layered plastics and heavy plastic cat eyes, and there's even a children's corner, inspired by owner Monica George Krasinsky's young son. Frames start at around $300, and can run well over $1,000 a pair. Eye Candy provides full optician services, and is planning to add an opthamologist (the owner's husband, actually) a couple days a week down the line.

Eye Candy's frames are not lined up for customers to handle at their will. Instead, they're tucked away. Sit, have a cup of something steamy, and tell optician Katie Bulger what you want. She'll pull what you think suits you, and even some surprises. Bulger, a board-certified optician with 10 years experience, has also owned and operated Sugar boutique, at 3703 Butler St., for the last three years. She sees Upper Lawrenceville now as what Lower Lawrenceville was four years ago: On its way up, filled with emerging galleries, bars and boutiques, with room for more.

In part, that's why Monica George Krasinsky opened Eye Candy. The fulltime nurse anesthetist has always loved designer eyewear, so there's that, but also, she wanted to get in on the Lawrenceville action. She bought the building where Eye Candy is located, totally renovated it, and opened Eye Candy. There's still a storefront available next to Eye Candy (though Bulger hints there might be an announcement soon about a retailer moving in), and of the two freshly rehabbed one-bedroom apartments upstairs, one is still available for rent.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Katie Bulger and Monica George Krasinsky, Eye Candy

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Annual Joy of Cookies tour: Shop locally, eat locally in Lawrenceville

Lawrenceville's annual "Joy of Cookies" cookie tour is back on Butler Street, uniting local business with sweet teeth around the city.

"Tour" may be too structured a term for what the event really is, though: It's less of a guided excursion, and more of a four-day long, neighborhood-wide festival that celebrates treats of the culinary and consumer kinds.

The cookie tour is about providing a mall alternative to holiday shoppers. Participating shops, galleries and eateries include established Lawrenceville staples (Piccolo Forno, Arsenal Bowling Lanes, Divertido), as well as newer establishments (Espresso a Mano, Wildcard, Ambiance Boutique). Each of the 21 participating shops will feature a different cookie baked by Bernadette Ogurchak of Heaven's Scent Pastries in Forest Hills.

The tour is also about promoting Lawrenceville's business district as an eating, drinking and shopping destination.

"Many people come to the neighborhood for the cookie tour, and then come back to their favorite places," says Nadia Diboun with the Lawrenceville Corporation. "Over the past 10 years, we've seen an increase of sales during the cookie tour. It promotes the neighborhood regionally."

The tour began in 1997 as a holiday open house at Jay Design Soaps & Gifts, and has grown to a business district-wide event that organizers anticipate will draw more than 3,000 attendees.

The tour occurs Thurs., Dec. 3 through Sun., Dec. 6. Special events on Saturday include a trolley running the expanse of Butler Street from 34th to 55th Streets, as well as the Cookie Mall bake sale 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at St. Augustine's Church, at 37th and Butler Streets. The bake sale, organized by the Lawrenceville Rotary, benefits local community groups, including Friends of the Lawrenceville Library, Lawrenceville United and St. John Neumann School.

The Joy of Cookies Cookie Tour is sponsored by the Lawrenceville Corporation, the Mainstreets Pittsburgh program, PNC Bank, UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh City Paper, Lawrenceville Rotary and the Joy of Cookies Cookie Tour Planning Committee.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Nadia Diboun, Lawrenceville Corporation

Photograph courtesy of Nadia Diboun

PBT, CLO purchase properties for housing students, building sets

Two major Pittsburgh arts institutions announced last week they have purchased properties to ensure the continued success of their endeavors. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) has acquired a property in Lawrenceville that it plans to convert to student housing, and Civic Light Opera (CLO) has purchased a modern industrial building in Springdale it plans to use for set construction and storage.

PBT's new building is at 3501 Liberty Ave., about a half mile from PBT's Strip District studios. The building was purchased for under $300,000, and will receive about $600,000 worth of renovations, says Harris Ferris, PBT's executive director. Future dormitory is part of a $1.5 million project to increase the school's capacity and its ability to complete internationally for the most talented students.

The project will integrate, for the first time, a sustainable housing component to the PBT School. Currently, out-of-town PBT students stay with host families throughout the city. Of the 34 high school students enrolled in PBT's fulltime program, 15 are currently housed with host families.

PBT's new property was the former rectory for St. John the Baptist Church, which is now the Church Brew Works restaurant. The three-story, 7,000-square-foot building will be renovated to create housing for as many as 16 high-school-aged students, plus a full-time resident advisor. PBT hopes to complete renovations by June 2010.

PBT's other future development plans, according to Ferris, include making improvements to the facility at 2900 Liberty Ave., such as new studio floors, expanded parking, exterior landscaping and even a conditioning area for Pittsburghers looking to use dance as a method of core training.

The PBT building acquisition is funded by a $750,000 allocation from the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, which was matched by contributions from Allegheny Regional Asset District, the Byham Charitable Foundation, the Adams Foundation, the Wagner Family Charitable Trust and anonymous funders.

CLO's new property is a 68,000-square-foot building at 997 Sherosky Way in Springdale that it purchased for $1.1 million. The property, which was formerly home to Fortco Plastics, will house CLO's Construction Center. Occupancy is expected by the end of March 2010.

CLO has bee, leasing a space for about a dozen years at 403 Bingham St. on the South Side for set construction and storage. It maintains its administrative offices Downtown in the Benedum Center, where it also puts on most of its performances.

"The decision to own rather than lease gives us that much more security as we move forward," says Jim Mercer, general manager of CLO. "We don't see it as growth, though, because its impact on the budget will be neutral. It's not going to cost us any more on an annual basis to own rather than lease."

Tom McCaffrey, SIOR, an industrial broker with Grant Street Associates, represented CLO in the transaction. Gene Galiardi and Scott Long of Pennsylvania Commercial Real Estate represented the building's owner.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Harris Ferris, PBT; Jim Mercer, CLO; Tom McCaffrey, Grant Street Associates

Photograph of Mame production courtesy of CLO

Zombo adds vintage, locally designed fashions to visual art offerings

Michael Devine is a busy guy. Better known as DJ Zombo, he has a radio show on WRCT-FM 88.3; he spins at weddings and special events as well as bars and clubs around the city; he originated Arsenal Lanes' Rock 'n' Bowl night; he custom screenprints T-shirts, bumper stickers and business cards in his at-home studio; he plays in a garage rock band with his wife Julie; he runs Zombo Gallery, which is booked up through March 2011; and now, he's going to be running a fashion boutique called Wear It Clothing Co. within the Lawrenceville gallery space.

How does he do it?

"I don't watch TV and my social life is my work," Devine says. "That, and Pittsburgh is a city where you can afford your dreams."

Devine moved from Ohio to Pittsburgh in 2001, then bounced around the country (Seattle, El Paso, Portland) with wife Julie before returning to Pittsburgh in 2006 and opening Zombo Gallery at 4900 Hatfield St. in Lawrenceville's Ninth Ward. He bought the 200-something-year-old building for less than $50,000 ("the price of a mobile home on the West Coast"), worked on renovations with contractor John Popinksi, and now uses it as a true live-work space. The first floor has the gallery as well as massage therapy offices (both Michael and Julie are certified); the basement's where's the screeprinting shop is; and the couple lives on the second and third floors.

The gallery now doubles as a fashion boutique. All current show artwork will remain on display during store hours, and all clothing racks will be wheeled out for art opening and closing receptions. Devine says he was inspired to create Wear It Clothing Co. after being approached by Kendall Bieselt who works at the nearby Remedy Restaurant and Lounge.

Wear It Clothing Co. features affordable, retro and locally designed men's and women's clothing and accessories by a variety of local designers and collectors. There are 10 racks, each rented to a different vendor. Wares include modified vintage by Buttercup Blues, corsets by local seamstress Zoe Collins, newer retro stuff by Amanda Manol (who runs Spookshows at the Thunderbird Cafe) and, of course, screenprinted tees by Devine.

Zombo Gallery will host a grand opening for the Wear It Clothing Co. on Thur., Nov. 12 at 6 p.m.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Michael Devine, Zombo Gallery/ Wear It Clothing Co.

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Hostel territory: Group works to bring affordable travel lodging to city

Pittsburgh attracts about 4 million visitors a year, and many of these visitors are looking for affordable accommodations.

Most hotels cost about $100 a night, says Katherine Camp, which can be a lot for budget-conscious travelers. These travelers used to have the option of checking into the Pittsburgh International Hostel, in the city's Allentown neighborhood, but that facility closed in 2003 due, in part, to problems with its size (too large) and location (too far removed from hotspots).

The Pittsburgh Hostel Project is trying to bring back the hostel option. Led by Camp (a planner at East Liberty Development, Inc.), her fellow CORO classmate Tony Lodico, Sarah Papperman and Venture Outdoors program coordinator Lora Woodward, the organization formed about a year ago with the mission to "provide high-quality, community-oriented accommodations, allowing budget-minded travelers to enjoy Pittsburgh." The Pittsburgh Hostel Project held a successful fundraiser at the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern in July 2009, and has more than 600 Facebook fans. But it's still trying to find its footing regarding what the organization should look like, and more importantly, what the hostel should look like and where it should be.

"A hostel is a lagging, not leading, indicator of a successful young neighborhood," says group organizer Lodico. Allentown, therefore, many not have been the best spot for such a facility, but Lawrenceville or the Strip District--with their bustling nightlife and easy access to public transportation--could be.

The group hosted a potluck Sunday night to encourage dialogue and find new directions. About a dozen participants attended, ranging from group organizers, to developers pitching properties and strategies, to Burgh-based travel junkies offering up anecdotes and suggestions for the kind of place they'd want to stay.

What emerged over shared cookies, pie and pita was the idea that a hostel offers a very unique service to a city. It attracts a different kind of traveler (one who'd be more eager to try an Iron City at Gooski's than a martini as Olive or Twist, perhaps), and through its communal spaces, it engages these travelers in different kinds of conversations than those most hotel-goers have with their concierge.

Most mid-size Rust Belt cities, with the exception of Cleveland, do not have hostels, the Pittsburgh Hostel Project organizers say, so it could be up to Pittsburgh to lead the way.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Katherine Camp, Tony Lodico and Sarah Papperman, Pittsburgh Hostel Project

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

With 200 additional racks, city nearly doubles bike parking spaces

With no bike racks available, cyclists are often forced to chain their transportation to signs, fences, parking meters and even, yes, trash cans.

"We shake our head when we have to lock to a trash can, and joke, 'Ah, the indignity of bike commuting,'" says Bike Pittsburgh director Scott Bricker.

Now, with the addition of 200 more bike racks throughout the city, dignified bike parking opportunities will just about double, says Bricker. Each rack has parking for two bikes, meaning that there will be 400 more bike parking spaces throughout Pittsburgh.

The City officially launched the Small Business Bicycle Rack Program last week with the installation of a rack in front of Enrico Biscotti in the Strip District. The Small Business Bike Rack Program was created through a collaboration of Bike Pittsburgh and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's Taking Care of Business Districts Program, which " aims to revitalize business districts through targeting City services and providing resources for small business owners and the residents who frequent those neighborhood lifelines," according to the City.

The City will install bike racks in the Strip District, Bloomfield, South Side, Polish Hill, Squirrel Hill, Carrick, Lawrenceville, Friendship, Garfield, Shadyside and Brookline, and will install more upon request and evaluation. Businesses can request bike racks online at www.city.pittsburgh.pa.us. Requests will be assessed by the City's Bike Ped Coorinator.

The bike racks are in the same style as the original Bike Pittsburgh Three Rivers model, designed by Wall-to-Wall Studios and made locally by Red Star Ironworks. The new racks were manufactured by Dero Bike Rack Co., from Minneapolis, Minn for $251 per rack. The total cost of the bike rack program is $25,100 and will be paid for from the City's Taking Care of Business budget which consists of $850,000 in grant money from the state Department of Community and Economic Development. Bike Pittsburgh donated 100 racks through support from Richard King Mellon Foundation and William Benter Foundation.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Scott Bricker, Bike Pittsburgh; Joanna Doven, City of Pittsburgh

Photograph courtesy City of Pittsburgh

Etsy in the flesh: Crafts, cards and kitsch create a wild rumpus at WildCard

For the Pittsburgh shopper with a keen eye for unique, handmade goods, sporadic craft fairs like I Made It Market and Handmade Arcade have long been the solution. Now, those craft-hounds have a permanent destination in Lawrenceville's latest boutique, WildCard, which opened in late October.

WildCard, masterminded by Shaler native and Lawrenceville resident Rebecca Morris, specializes in cards, paper and stationary, as well as bags, buttons, jewelry, T-shirts, books, craft supplies and more. Plus, there's original and vintage art on display and for-sale.

Morris, who has a background in city government, left Pittsburgh for a few years ago to learn the retail ropes at Paper Boy in Chicago. She says she and her husband both wanted to "get a new perspective, and bring it back to Pittsburgh."

The look and feel of the shop in-and-of itself is a work of art. Located at 4209 Butler St., half a block down from the freshly re-hatched Istanbul restaurant, WildCard's interior is as dynamic as its merchandise. Designed and constructed by Andrew Moss at mossArchitects and Morris' husband, Brian Mendelssohn, of Botero Development, the space features impossibly high ceilings (original tin, of course), exposed brick walls and distinctive flooring solutions--the back of the ground-level shop is made of wood joists relocated from the upstairs area, and the front floors are essentially wooden beams sliced thin and arranged like tiles. The effect is simultaneously organic and innovative.

Mendelssohn has created two two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartments above the shop, which are renting for $1,900 a month. Almost 15 percent of the building materials were reused from the building itself, and the residences contain many other green features, as well as roof-decks with clear views to Downtown.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Rebecca Morris, WildCard; Brian Mendelssohn, Botero Development

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Port Authority to change routes and fares, expand service to in-demand areas

Port Authority of Allegheny County announced approval last week of plans that will change the way Pittsburgh uses public transportation.

Yes, some routes are being cut, and yes, some fares are being raised, but Heather Pharo from Port Authority explains how these changes are being put into place to increase ridership and efficiency. Duplicate and underused routes are the only ones being eliminated; and these cuts, she says, are enabling Port Authority to add trips, increase hours of operation and simplify service for the routes are in-demand. Just 0.04% of routes are being totally eliminated; nearby alternatives exists for the other 10.1% that are being cut, according to Port Authority.

"The Port Authority system hasn't seen real service changes since the beginning," says Pharo. "We've had the same route system in Allegheny County for decades. Certainly Allegheny County has changed, the population has shifted. The purpose of the plan is to better match service to demand to serve people where they live today."

Some of brand-new routes include busses connecting neighborhoods that are up-and-coming and heavily student-populated with key centers of work and play. Lawrenceville, for instance, figures heavily into the new route plans. A new bus will connect Lawrenceville to the Waterfront at Homestead, with stops along the way in Bloomfield, Squirrel Hill and Shadyside; another a new bus will connect Lawrenceville directly to Oakland, which will enable students to live in the area rather than around campus; and yet another bus will travel directly between Shadyside and the South Side, without the traditional transfer in Oakland.

Other route changes include the introduction of rapid busses, described by Pharo as "like a light rail on rubber tires," between Pittsburgh's major employment centers, Oakland and Downtown, and to and from the airport (when you're trying to catch a flight, that 28X stop at Robinson Town Center can be a real time-suck, says Pharo).

In terms of the fare increase, the $2 base fare in Zone 1 will not change, and the Zone 2 fare will increase from $2.60 to $2.75. Transfers will cost 75 cents (up from 25), and prices of monthly and annual passes will rise.

Fares will increase starting January 1, and the other changes will start to go into effect in March 2010.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Heather Pharo, Port Authority of Allegheny County

Photograph courtesy of Port Authority of Allegheny County

Your Inner Vagabond coffeehouse reborn as flavorful Istanbul restaurant

Your Inner Vagabond has been a unique venue for Lawrenceville since it opened at Butler and 42nd Street almost two years ago. The Middle Eastern coffee and tea creations and globe-spanning cuisine have been only part of the appeal; the BYOB "coffeehouse and world lounge" has also maintained an ever-changing roster of community and arts events, from bellydancing performances to board game gatherings to late-night concerts.

So when owners Andrew Watson and AJ Schaeffer made it known they were looking to sell the business, Istanbul Grille owner Coskun "Josh" Gokalp and manager Mindy Adleff knew they stumbled upon the perfect opportunity. Gokalp's been operating his Downtown grab-and-go Istanbul Grille location as his only location since this spring, when he shuttered his Shadyside spot. He was looking to expand to a sit-down space, and Lawrenceville, where manager Adleff lives and the couple spends much of their time, seemed (and still seems, they say) like the best place to do that.

Gokalp took over Your Inner Vagabond mid-October and renamed it Istanbul. Istanbul, much like Your Inner Vagabond before it, operates as a hybrid eatery and performance space, and is still BYOB. Much of the original decor remains, including the back "harem" room with the stage. The front room, which used to be full of sofa seating and low tables, is now an official dining space with tons of comfortable booths. The menu changes daily, and features Turkish delights such as a creamy mushroom and pea salad with dill, a subtle baba ganoush, a whole goat and grilled eggplant with the slightest hint of mint. Coffee comes from Fortunes in the Strip District, and Adleff says she's looking to add more global beverages, such as bubble tea and Vietnamese coffee. The space doesn't have a full kitchen, so Gokalp makes everything fresh Downtown, and the food is finished and served to-order in Lawrenceville.

Gokalp, who's originally from Turkey, moved to Pittsburgh from New York City about four years ago, and says he couldn't be happier here.

"In Pittsburgh, people are still hungry for everything," Gokalp says. "Pittsburgh is growing fast and there are niches to be filled."

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Coskun Gokalp and Mindy Adleff, Istanbul

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Highland Park home renovations embody green living at its most luxurious

Homeowners Nathaniel Glosser and Lissa Rosenthal want to show Pittsburgh that green living doesn't just feel good; it can also look great.

When the then-couple decided to renovate their Highland Park home--which has been in Glosser's family since 1942--they knew they wanted the renovations to be as eco-conscious as possible to reflect their personal and professional passions. Rosenthal's a PR specialist who worked as the first development director of the Pittsburgh Glass Center, and Glosser is a community activist most recently involved in the Three Rivers Climate Convergence around the G-20 summit.

"We were looking to make a healthy house for individuals living there and for the planet," says Glosser. "Homes are routinely built with materials that use toxins, which contribute to a variety of illnesses. So that's one part of it. It's also that we have one planet and we're using it up, and if we don't make some changes we're going doing to see terrible climate change and deforestation."

The renovations, designed by architect Stuart Horne of Seigle, Solow & Horne, were completed between 2006 and 2007 with the help of Lawrenceville-based Artemis Environmental Building Products.

The five-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath home balances the best in green living technology with the most up-to-date in opulence. Luxury touches include a first-floor open plan; a gourmet kitchen with a 14-foot island and Italian glass tile wall treatments; a three-story glass sculpture by Pennsylvania artist Ben Cunningham; and an extra deep air-jet bathtub.

In terms of green elements, there are far too many to name, but some standouts include the use of sustainable and eco-friendly materials such as formaldehyde-free bamboo, Paperstone (a soap-stone-like material made of recycled paper and organic resins) and Isynene (an environmentally friendly closed-cell co-polymer foam used to insulate the exterior and interior walls and ceilings). All the heating and cooling is energy-efficient, of course, and all products used are formaldehyde-free with zero to low-levels of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. And the main roof is made of eco-friendly synthetic tiles from DaVinci Roofscapes, with a 50-year warranty.

The home is located at 1422 Greystone Dr., on a quiet cul-de-sac near Highland Park's Bryant Street commercial district, and is listed at $589,000 through Coldwell Banker.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Nathaniel Glosser, Lissa Rosenthal

Photograph courtesy Nathaniel Glosser and Lissa Rosenthal

Design Pittsburgh shines spotlight on year's best architectural achievements

"Architecture is the most public of all art," says Anne Swager, executive director of AIA Pittsburgh.

It's art in which we live, work and play. Art that occupies every corner of our city, and the curves that crawl around the region. It's art that is tied to the past and the future, that at its best, is innovative and inspirational. It's art that has positioned Pittsburgh as a global leader in sustainability and green building.

Architecture is integral to Pittsburgh's growth, development and beauty, and its stars--the people and places that inspire and shape the city--are being honored at Design Pittsburgh, AIA's annual event.

This year's competition features submissions in the categories of architecture, architectural detail, interior architecture, open plan, regional & urban design, landscape architecture and "timeless," a grouping for projects built in the last 25 years. Though the winners will not be announced until Thursday night, nominations include Astorino (Children's Hospital), DRS (Duquesne University Power Center), EDGE studio (CMU's Tepper School of Business addition), Bergman, Walls & Associates/Strada (Rivers Casino), moss Architects (the Silver Top House on the South Side) and Perkins Eastman (East Liberty's green vision).

This year's Design Pittsburgh will also honor Rebecca Flora with a Gold Medal, a special award bestowed to a non-architect who makes a difference in the region. Past winners have included Teresa Heinz, and Children's Museum Executive Director Jane Werner. Flora, a founding member of the Green Building Alliance, now serves as senior vice president of education and research at the U.S. Green Building Council. She is credited with changing the culture of Pittsburgh to recognize and celebrate sustainability, says Chip Desmone, president of AIA Pittsburgh and principal at Desmone & Associates, which was voted "Best Architect of 2009" by the readers of Pittsburgh Magazine.

Design Pittsburgh includes an exhibit that is open to the public Oct. 20 and 21 at the August Wilson Center, as well as a juried competition, a People's Choice Award and a gala and ceremony on Thurs., Oct. 22.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Anne Swager, AIA Pittsburgh; Chip Desmone, Desmone & Associates

Photograph of Children's Hospital courtesy of AIA Pittsburgh

J'eet brings Cali cool to Children's Hospital corner of Lawrenceville

Crepes may very well be replacing cupcakes as Pittsburgh's food trend du jour.

Paris66, which opened in East Liberty over the summer, attracts crowds morning, noon and night for its authentic French fare; Crepes Parisiennes packs both its Shadyside and Oakland locations for its savory and sweet treats; and now J'eet, which opened late last week, is bringing French-infused California cafe cuisine to Lawrenceville.

The cafe, at 4200 Penn Ave., balances cozy and chic with no-nonsense dishes (sandwiches, salads, crepes and coffee) and a casual, tongue-in-cheek vibe that's accessible to Wi-Fi-seeking neighborhood residents as well as the on-the-go Children's Hospital crowd from across the street. The ingredients are fresh and predominately local, and the combinations, by chef Kevin Olmstead, are sophisticated. For instance, the turkey sandwich features smoked Gouda and fig jam, and there's a dessert crepe made with mint, honey and candied walnuts.

J'eet's sunlit space was vacant for about two decades before cafe owner Marc Stern completely renovated it. The Pittsburgh native, who worked as an actor in California for many years before boomeranging back, added plumbing (there was none), a garage-front facade, gleaming hardwood floors and a full--if compact--kitchen, and is planning on a back deck by the spring. And J'eet, a play on Pittsburghese for "did-ya-eat," is presided over by a whimsical mural of what may very well be a donkey-headed, book-toting hipster, painted by Stern's brother and sister-in-law, who own area staple the Brillobox a couple doors down on Penn.

The brothers now share an office over the Brillobox, and Marc credits Eric's Brillobox success as encouragement in first restaurant venture. But the real inspiration, Stern says, is Lawrenceville itself, which is located at the intersection of so many of Pittsburgh's up-and-coming neighborhoods, and is home to some of the city's most creative, food-loving types, including Stern himself.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Marc Stern and Kevin Olmstead, J'eet

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Asylum Coffee House: Uptown's first caffeination destination

The Uptown neighborhood now has its first coffee shop, a sign of the potential growth and community to come.

Asylum Coffee Bar, which opened Saturday morning at 1919 Forbes Ave., serves coffee and espresso drinks, teas and some uniquely Pittsburgh treats.

The cafe originally announced its opening in July, but delayed several months due to zoning issues that have now been resolved.

Asylum uses beans from Iron Star Roasting Company, the wholesale branch of the Coffee Tree, which has locations in Squirrel Hill, Shadyside, Fox Chapel and Mt. Lebanon. Asylum's menu also features prepared wraps, sandwiches and salads, including vegan options; baked goods and desserts from the rapidly expanding sweets empire Dozen Bake Shop; Spanish pies by Pittsburgher Daniel Aguera, who also sells his pies at Espresso A Mano in Lawrenceville; and water and energy drinks by Pittsburgh-based GIVE, which donates $.10 from every can or bottle to a charity.

Asylum's 700-square-foot space, which includes a sidewalk patio and garage-front, feels more of-the-moment bar than typical corner cafe. It's got a 40" LCD HDTV and a wall-mounted gas fireplace. The walls are exposed brick, the floor poured concrete and the coffee bar a sleek metal. Pieces by local artists are on display and for sale.

Asylum is connected to River City Flats, a 32,000-square-foot, 12-unit residential loft building owned by Asylum co-founder Chip Fetrow. Fetrow acquired and renovated the former linen factory in 2003. All apartments are currently occupied and rent for $750 to $1,050 per month.

"This neighborhood doesn't have a lot of residents, and most coffee chops survive on pedestrian traffic," says Fetrow. "But the Fifth and Forbes corridor sees thousands of people driving to Downtown for work every day, so we're planning on doing curbside service down the line to reach those customers."

General manager Matt Hoover, who lives in a loft above the coffee house, says Asylum is not just for commuters--it's a "safe haven of sort" for Uptown residents, including himself.

"In a neighborhood like Uptown, people are looking for somewhere to come together and bring about ideas of change and revitalization," says Hoover. "They need a meeting place, and we want to be that place."

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Matt Hoover, general manager, co-founder, and Chip Fetrow, co-founder, Asylum Coffee Bar

Photograph courtesy of Asylum Coffee House

Dean Supply provides products for restaurant pros, home chefs

The Strip District--Pittsburgh's irrefutable "foodie" destination--now has another spot for those who love to cook and eat.

Restaurant supply company Dean Supply opened in June, and hosted its grand opening over the weekend at 3300 Penn Ave., on the Lawrenceville-side of the Strip District, across the street from vintage shop Hollywood Rag, which opened last month.

Dean Supply offers thousands of items, such as closeouts, china, glassware, flatware, party supplies, paper products, janitorial supplies, kitchen utensils, smallwares and new and used equipment. It is open to the food service industry as well as the public, and provides free customer parking--a rarity in the Strip.

"After one visit, you'll never both going to a 'party store' ever again. The low prices and high quality guarantee that your parties will be kicked up a notch," says Cindy Helffrich from Neighbors in the Strip. "It's also a great place to spice up your dinnerware affordably, and to equip your home kitchen in a professional manner."

Dean Supply features a 10,000-square-foot showroom, and has created 21 new jobs. Dean Supply is always accepting applications from qualified individuals, says co-owner Matt Cozza.

Dean Supply is owned and operated by brothers Craig and Matt Cozza, and Dennis Savinda. It is located in a property that previously housed a restaurant supply shop. That business--Lewis Brothers--was founded in 1937 and closed about a year ago. Unlike Dean Supply, Lewis Brothers was not accessible to the public. The Cozza brothers did extensive renovations to make the space more visitor-friendly. Dean Supply still employs many of Lewis Brothers' experienced managers and staff.

Dean Supply has a license through Dean Supply of Cleveland, which enables the store to purchase items at a significant discount over retail prices, and pass the savings onto the customers, says Cozza.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Cindy Helffrich, Neighbors in the Strip; Matt Cozza, Dean Supply

Photography copyright Caralyn Green

Ambiance boutique: Consignment with a cause comes to Lawrenceville

For the fashionista with a conscience comes Ambiance, Lawrenceville's latest unique boutique, which also has locations in Regent Square and Oakmont.

The consignment shop, located at 4735 Butler St., offers high-end labels at affordable prices. It opened late-September in a 2,200-square-foot space--with glossy hardwood floods and classic tin ceilings--formerly occupied by The Framery, which moved within the past year to 3627 Butler St. in Lower Lawrenceville.

Kelly Pezze, Ambiance's director of retail operations, says most goods are priced at 50 to 75 percent off retail, but hints there are even better deals to be found--a $2,500 John Galliano gown for $350, for instance.

And the best part? Ambiance is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bethlehem Haven, a nonprofit organization that supports homeless women through emergency shelter, transitional housing and medical, dental, obstetrics and mental health services; and provides employment services to women in the Pittsburgh area.

Bethlehem Haven purchased the original Ambiance consignment shop in Regent Square in 2004 as a social enterprise. That shop was so successful that in 2006, Bethlehem Haven opened a second location in Oakmont. And about six months ago, Bethlehem Haven made the decision to open a third shop in Lawrenceville, which Pezze says feels like "a secret little place in the city with all the best boutiques and restaurants." Where the Oakmont location features homewares in addition to its extensive women's clothing and accessories offerings, the Lawrenceville location includes a menswear section (standouts: Hermes ties, Gucci boots, cashmere).

After paying consignment costs and overhead fees, all revenue goes directly to Bethlehem Haven. Since opening almost six years ago, Ambiance has provided about $30,000 to the nonprofit.

Cheap and for a good cause? This is guilt-free shopping at its finest.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Kelly Pezze, director of retail operations, Ambiance

Photography copyright Caralyn Green

New York-based wind power company opens Lawrenceville offices

Green energy company EverPower has opened its mid-Atlantic headquarters in Lawrenceville.

EverPower, which was founded in 2002, describes itself as "a developer of utility-grade wind projects, seeking to acquire and develop large scale projects."

The 6,600-square-foot offices are located in the second floor of the Chocolate Factory, a 71,000-sqare-foot Regional Industrial Development Corporation (RIDC) property on 43rd Street across from the Ice House Artist Studios, where the Lawrenceville Corporation relocated in August. Other tenants of the Chocolate Factory include Seegrid Corporation and RedZone Robotics. Both the Ice House and the Chocolate Factory are in close proximity to Carnegie Mellon University's National Robotics Engineering Center, making this area of Lawrenceville an innovation hub, while Butler Street blossoms into an eating, shopping and nightlife destination.

At an open house celebration on Monday, EverPower CEO Jim Spencer, a Pittsburgh native, said the company expanded to the Pittsburgh market for several reasons, including access to top engineering talent at Pitt and CMU; the low cost of doing business and of living for employees; and the city's central location to key wind farm projects in Johnstown, Pa., Ohio and upstate New York.

"We see strong opportunities for future partnerships leveraging the regional interest in building up a clean economy with Pittsburgh as the hub," Spencer said.

Spencer said EverPower currently employs six at the Chocolate Factory office, and will expand to 15 within the first year of operation, with plans to employ as many as 35.

At Monday's event, U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Allegheny Conference Executive Vice President Kathryn Zuberbuhler Klaber welcomed EverPower as a new leader in a city that is already committed to sustainable energy solutions.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Philip Cynar, Allegheny Conference on Community Development; Jim Spencer, CEO, EverPower

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Hollywood Rag: Buy, sell and trade in the Strip District

In the last five years, 3232 Penn Ave. in the Strip District has been filled with cubicles, paintings and, now, vintage clothing. All under the same ownership.

Buy-sell-trade shop Hollywood Rag opened, under the tutelage of Josh Freedman, in late August in a 750-square-foot space on the Lawrenceville edge of the Strip District.

When Strip District resident Freedman first got into the Penn Ave. space, he was running Freedman Capital Group, a mortgage brokerage firm that employed 17 and closed between $4 and $6 million a month across the U.S. The economy being what it is, Freedman shut down and let everyone go in August 2008, and decided to convert the office into an art gallery. Freebird Gallery hosted one show in October 2008. The show--by Emmeric James Konrad, who painted all the tables and walls at Lawrenceville's Remedy Restaurant and Lounge--sold out.

After executing the Freebird Gallery concept, Freedman set off on a cross-country trip, hitting all the major cities, and getting ideas for what to do next. The one thing that popped out?

"All major cities have great vintage shops," says Freedman.

Taking inspiration from thrift chain Buffalo Exchange, Freedman converted the once-office, once-gallery into Hollywood Rag, the kind of place where high-quality clothes and accessories are cheap and plentiful, and you can turn a profit on your gently worn wardrobe. Right now, Freedman's giving store credit on goods, but will start to deal in cash in a few months.

Down the line, Freedman sees himself establishing a cool laundromat-café, inspired by San Francisco's BrainWash, in the vacant storefront next door.

"Right now, there's no connection between the Strip and Lawrencville," says Freedman, who's trying to change that.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Josh Freedman, Hollywood Rag

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Beautification project blooms in vacant properties

Artist Bob Ziller got sick of looking at what he calls "eyesore" properties in key locations around town, so he decided to do something about it--beautify them.

And when Ziller was trying to decide how to spruce up these abandoned and neglected properties, he turned to local fellow Andy Warhol for inspiration. Warhol's recognizable Flowers--both buoyantly cheerful and deeply meaningful for the city--now embellish the boarded up windows of two vacant buildings, and will soon brighten up more.

On his own, Ziller has beautified properties in Uptown and Lawrenceville--at the foot of the Birmingham Bridge, and at the corner of 40th and Butler Streets, respectively. And now that his Pittsburgh Beautification Project has received a Sprout Fund Seed Award, Ziller is reaching out to community development groups for approval for more properties, and getting the communities involved in the quick, cost-free public art projects.

Ziller is holding events where participants will be painting Warhol's Flowers on donated chipboard (reused from the Sprout Fund's Hothouse party), which will be premeasured to fit the windows of buildings slated for beautification. The paintings will then be professionally installed to full City Code in time for the G-20 summit.

"The G-20 is a good incentive for community groups," says Ziller. "I had this in mind before the G-20, but the summit has provided the kind of push the city needs to make some changes that make Pittsburgh more presentable to outsiders."

Painting parties will be held at the former Red Star Iron Works garage at 4800 Penn Ave. in Friendship/Garfield, at the following times: Fri., Sept. 4, 7 p.m.-midnight; Sat. and Sun., Sept. 5-6, noon-6 p.m.; and Sat. and Sun., Sept. 12-13, noon-6 p.m.

For questions, suggestions or to participate, please email Bob Ziller or call 412-606-1220.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Bob Ziller, Pittsburgh Beautification Project

Photograph courtesy Pittsburgh Beautification Project

Little Flea market buzzes on Butler Street

On the corner of 36th and Butler Streets in Lawrenceville, card tables are stacked high with costume jewelry and beaded handbags, little bits of porcelain and yarn and paper recycled into cards and magnets. Lamps without bulbs, toys, dresses in pretty prints, and bikes that could carry you up the hill, into Bloomfield, and then anywhere from there. People mill about, sipping coffee from the nearby shops and nibbling treats from the parked Goodie Truck. Dogs pull on leashes, and there's talk of where to go for brunch and what time the bowling alley opens.

The Little Flea, which started Sat., Aug. 8, is taking what's already so good about Lower Lawrenceville (the art, the people, the food), and bringing it to the streets.

The weekly flea market runs 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., weather-permitting, and is a project of Equita, a locally-owned, ethically-conscious gift shop at 3609 Butler St.

"We wanted to have another venue in the neighborhood where people could meet one another, and also make some extra money in what is a challenging economy," says Sara Parks with Equita, which operates a web shop in addition to its brick-and-mortar store.

The three-year-old company will be celebrating its one year anniversary in its street-front retail space at the end of September. Previously, the shop operated its online business from the Ice House Artist Studios, the redeveloped warehouse at 100 43rd St. in Lawrenceville.

Parks says the Little Flea could run year-round, depending on how successful it is within the coming months. She points to the Aspinwall flea market as inspiration for the Little Flea. That market runs 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Sunday in the municipal parking lot along Freeport Road near Center Avenue.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Sara Parks, Equita

Photograph courtesy Little Flea

Art crawls further down Penn Ave. with Fast>>Fwd Gallery

Craig Freeman Smith and Joseph Materkowski never intended to open an art gallery. But then, when they were browsing Craigslist for a space to do some painting, they came across 3700 Penn Ave., a preexisting storefront gallery previously used as Penn Gallery, and as a studio by media artist Bill Shannon.

The lighting was in place, the walls were clean and white and the 500-square-foot location was perfectly situated on Penn Avenue between Lawrenceville and the Strip District. It's further down than Penn Avenue's main arts district, which runs along the Garfield/Friendship divide, but Fast>>Fwd Gallery is very much a part of that initiative.

The gallery participates in Unblurred First Friday events, and even hosted its opening through Unblurred on Aug. 7. The first show, a group exhibition called "Debut," features small paintings and drawings by many of Freeman Smith's peers from California University of Pennsylvania (he graduated from Cal U with a BFA in painting in December 2008, and Materkowsky graduated from the New York Academy of Art with an MFA in painting, too). The next show, called "Lots of Pulp," will feature works on paper by artists in Pittsburgh and New York, and opens Sept. 4.

"Having your own gallery helps you in the art world," says Freeman Smith. "It lets people know you exist and helps you promote other artists."

One artist Fast>>Fwd is unexpectedly promoting is Obama "HOPE" poster creator Shepard Fairey, who installed murals throughout the city (including on the 37th Street side of the corner gallery) in anticipation of his October show at the North Side's Andy Warhol Museum, where Freeman Smith also works.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Craig Freeman Smith, Fast>>Fwd Gallery

Photo copyright Caralyn Green

Espresso a Mano: Lawrenceville's new caffeination destination

Lower Lawrenceville's got a new addition to its bustling business district--Espresso a Mano.

The café, which opened mid-July at 3623 Butler St., is truly a labor of love for Dormont resident Matt Gebis, who not only owns the shop, but also operates it almost entirely on his own.

In Italian, Espresso a Mano means "Espresso by Hand"--and that's exactly what you'll find behind its garage-front facade. Gebis, a former University of Pittsburgh Italian instructor, spent five years learning the coffee craft at Strip District staple La Prima before deciding to create his own café in the 1000-square-foot space not far from Tamari and the Round Corner Cantina, both of which also opened this summer along Butler Street.

Gebis' approach is simple: Focus on the coffee. The decor is understated (a vintage bar rescued from a Slovakian social hall in Donora, Pa. takes up the large part of the room), and the eats are basic (a few fresh, highest-quality baked goods from Enrico Biscotti and Colangelo's Bakery, both in the Strip).

"There are four principals to good coffee," says Gebis. "The machine, the blend, the grind, and the hand. Of those four, the hand is perhaps the most important."

Espresso a Mano uses beans from La Prima as well as Counter Culture, a direct trade-certified roaster based in Durham, NC. The espresso is even a special blend Gebis developed while at La Prima.

Other nearby coffeehouses include Crazy Mocha and Your Inner Vagabond, both of which are on the other side of 40th Street.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Matt Gebis, Espresso a Mano

Photo copyright Caralyn Green

Tours explore historic Downtown, expand to neighborhood main streets this fall  

Pittsburgh's buildings have stories to tell. Sometimes, we just get too caught up in the daily grind to listen.

The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation (PHLF) is helping is reconnect to our urban environment. The organization has long hosted walking tours of Downtown Pittsburgh, and now--this fall--they'll be adding other neighborhoods to the repertoire.

Previous Downtown walking tours this summer have focused on Grant Street, Market Square, the Penn-Liberty Cultural District and more. During the month of August, PHLF is hosting free tours every Friday at noon of the historic Fourth Avenue and PPG Place area. One of 18 National Register Districts in the city, Fourth Avenue showcases buildings designed by more than a dozen distinguished architects, in styles from Greek Revival to Post Modern, constructed between 1836 and 1983. Reservations are not necessary, but are recommended.

The Downtown walking tours project, which occurs from May through October, has been running for about 20 years. This year is the first year PHLF will also be hosting Saturday walking tours through Pittsburgh's other neighborhoods, including Mt. Washington, Friendship/Garfield, Lawrenceville, the Strip District, Bloomfield and East Liberty.

This new program, presented in cooperation with the Urban Redevelopment Authority and Mainstreets Pittsburgh, will begin the Saturday of Labor Day weekend and continue throughout the fall.

"We hope tour-goers will leave with a better appreciation for the built environment; not just the old, but also the new," says Mary Lu Denny with PHLF. "We're looking to show history and preservation in these areas, but also development. We hope to bring some attention to neighborhood businesses, so that people will go back to them as customers."

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Mary Lu Denny, Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

Photo courtesy Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

Squirrel Hill center the first in region for Latino families

The Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU) has opened the first center to cater to Latino families in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

The Latino Family Center, which has a membership of some 50 families, opened in July at the corner of Murray and Phillips Avenues in Squirrel Hill, a block down from the new Crazy Mocha. The center, which has two staff members and a three-year budget of $300,000, runs with the help of grants from Allegheny County and the Heinz Endowments.

The facility is accessible by five bus lines and is convenient to areas with large Latino populations, such as Beechview, Oakland and Lawrenceville, says Sarah McCluan with AIU.

"About a year ago a group of Latino families approached the county and proposed a family center," says McCluan. "At that time AIU had 11 family centers in the county, but none specifically geared toward Spanish-speaking families."

According to census figures, there were more than 25,000 people of Hispanic or Latino origin in Pittsburgh metropolitan area in 2007, and Latinos make up the fastest growing demographic in the state. The Hispanic Center on the North Side helps area Latinos, but is focused primarily on career services for adults. The Latino Family Center, however, reaches out to all ages. It offers English literacy programs for parents and kids, advice on health care resources, parent support groups and more.

"Services are family-driven, and depend on what families need," says McCluan. "The point of the center is to help families be strong and successful, stay intact and raise healthy children."

Writer: Caralyn Green

Source: Sarah McCluan, Allegheny Intermediate Unit

Dozen Bake Shop expands with North Side, Downtown locations

Taking over and transforming Pittsburgh's bakery scene? Piece of cake!

Three-and-half years after opening its first location in Squirrel Hill, Dozen Bake Shop now has four sites throughout the city: the original on Murray Avenue; the Lawrenceville sit-down café, which opened January 2008; and now, spots in the Andy Warhol Museum on the North Side and in Downtown's Cultural District.

"What we do and how we do it is very contemporary, very modern, very cosmopolitan," says co-owner James Gray. "We use a lot of organic and local ingredients, which people are really craving right now, and everything is made in our Lawrenceville kitchen and delivered to our other shops."

Dozen celebrated its takeover of the Warhol café last week. The café, which is open to the public--not just museum patrons--had been run by big Burrito since 2001. big Burrito will continue to cater events, says Betsy Momich with Carnegie Museums.

Fresh off the Warhol opening, Dozen is set to open its retail spot within the next week at 807 Liberty Ave., in the Cultural Trust's new Arts Education Center, which will begin offering community classes this fall. The 22,000-square-foot Arts Education Center, an historic renovation of 805-807 Liberty Ave. designed by Thomas Harley Architectural Firm, will feature three floors of programming and retail space, including classrooms, dance studios, a multipurpose room and an art gallery run by Kurt Shaw, says Janis Burley Wilson with the Cultural Trust.

Dozen's 250-square-foot Downtown spot will feature a similar aesthetic to its other shops, but will be the smallest one yet, and with no seating. Gray says the shop will cater to Downtown workers as well as event-goers, with to-go sandwiches, salads, soups, boxed lunches, platters and desserts, including Dozen's signature cupcakes. The shop will serve drip coffee and tea, but no espresso drinks, so as not to compete with the nearby Crazy Mocha.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: James Gray, Dozen; Betsy Momich, director of corporate communications, Carnegie Museums; Janis Burley Wilson, vice president of education and community outreach, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

Children's Hospital focuses on families with playrooms, sibling center

The $625 million Children's Hospital, which opened to patients this May in Lawrenceville, celebrated another milestone last week--the completion of a deluxe, extended-hours playroom funded by the Mario Lemieux Foundation (MLF).

The 1,400-square-foot playroom is located on the sixth floor, off a vast atrium that opens to the Healing Garden, a rooftop patio with views of Oakland's skyline. The playroom is part of the 20,000-square-foot Family Resource Center, which is "the largest space dedicated to families at any children's hospital, anywhere," according Andrew Urbach, M.D., with Children's Hospital.

The brightly colored playroom, the biggest of the hospital's 13, is outfitted with toys appropriate for ages 3-to-11, as well as a calming fish tank, intricate mosaic work and a cushy entertainment corner complete with a flat screen TV, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii. A Teen Lounge caters to older patients and their siblings. The playroom's look, feel and functionality are the result of efforts of OM Workspace, Astorino and Architectural Clay Products.

"Our fundamental goal in building this hospital campus was to transform pediatric care in our region to focus on kids and their families," says Dr. Urbach. "The Lemieux family saw the need for greater family support, and provided us with everything a child and their family could need in a time of stress."

The playroom is the 14th in the region through MLF's decade-old Playroom Project. Since its inception, the Playground Project has spent more than $850,000 on new construction and ongoing maintenance of Austin's Playrooms (named after Mario's son), says Nancy Angus with MLF.

The Playground Project is currently working on five upcoming facilities, in addition to the first-floor Children's Hospital Sibling Center, which is scheduled to open August 1.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Andrew Urbach, M.D., medical director of Clinical Excellence and Service, Children's Hospital; Nancy Angus, executive director, Mario Lemieux Foundation

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Mt. Washington aims to rename, revitalize city's newest regional park

Mt. Washington's Grand View Scenic Byway Park, which was created in December 2005 and deemed the city's fifth regional park in April 2007, is working to reinvent itself.

The park is currently being promoted in a five-episode short film series that's screening at Cinema in the Park and online, and is the subject of a "Name that Park!" competition through VisitPittsburgh. The contest ends in August, and a new name will be released this fall.

"One of the problems in creating a new park is helping people identify the space as a park," says Ilyssa Manspeizer with Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation (MWCDC). "Grand View Scenic Byway Park says a lot about the front end, but doesn’t really speak to all the park's aspects. We don't want to be known as that forgettable park with the long name on the hill; we want to be known as that jewel in Pittsburgh's crown that we really are."

The distinctive view-side of the park sees more than a million visitors a year, says Manspeizer. The challenge, then, is to get some of those visitors into other parts of the park--a goal of short film series The Grand View Scenic Byway Park: One Wild Urban Adventure, created by Glee Club Productions with Pittsburgh Filmmakers, MWCDC and the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Glee Club Productions is a new multimedia production company that includes members of band The Jilted Brides, who moved from Australia to Lawrenceville last year.

MWCDC recently launched a website redesign, which features a very cool panoramic photo of Mt. Washington, including the expansive Grand View Scenic Byway Park, by Pop City photographer Brian Cohen.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Ilyssa Manspeizer, Ph.D., Parks Manager, Mount Washington Community Development Corporation; Nicole Skeltys, Glee Club Productions

Picture: Mount Washington Park, part of the Grand View Scenic Byway Park
Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

Tamari's Latin-Asian fusion sizzles on Butler Street

Tamari, at 3519 Butler St., is now open.

The long awaited Asian-Latin fusion restaurant is owned and operated by Allen Chen, who grew up in the restaurant business alongside his father Mike, who owns a variety of spots throughout the region, including Shadyside staples China Palace and Sushi Too.

"I love the energy and the vibe down here with all the independent businesses," says Chen of Lower Lawrenceville. "It's what Shadyside used to be 25 years ago."

Tamari, which seats about 100, was originally slated to open in 2007, but was delayed due to zoning issues.

Chen rents from Lawrenceville developer Lee Gross's A-1 Reality, and enlisted Downtown-based Fukui Architects and Jeff Fullard Construction to help transform the space. Chen says he's put "somewhere in the high six figures" into creating Tamari's unique atmosphere.

A handful of tables occupy the street-level courtyard; the first floor offers relaxed sit-down and bar seating; the second floor houses a sleek lounge that's all dark wood, metallic accents, plush corners and specialty cocktails (lychee mojitos, green tea cosmos and more); and a second-floor deck provides a picturesque view of Downtown.

Tamari's Asian and Latin flavors marry in dishes like the Peking Duck quesadilla with charred Serrano pepper hoisin; the Korean skirt steak fajita with Asian slaw; and fish tacos with tempura jalapeno. The menu, helmed by chef Roger Li previously of the North Side's now-shuttered New Moon Fusion Restaurant, includes small plates, entrees, maki, ceviche, robata -- which Chen describes as "skewered and grilled Japanese tapas" -- and desserts prepared by Dozen, which is opening its Downtown location later this month.

"It's nice to have two new Asian restaurants bookending Butler's business district," says Maya Haptas with the Lawrenceville Corporation. "Tamari is a destination on one end, and Pusadee's Garden recently opened on the other end in the former space of Sweet Basil and La Filipiniana."

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Allen Chen, Tamari; Maya Haptas, business district manager, Lawrenceville Corporation

Photograph of Allen Chen and Chef Roger Li copyright Brian Cohen

Group greens Pittsburgh's concrete jungles, first to use new tree technology in Pa.

While the national average for similar-sized metropolitan areas is one street tree per every two people, Pittsburgh's average is one per 11, says Danielle Crumrine with Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest. And the average drops dramatically in neighborhoods like the Strip District, Lawrenceville, East Liberty and Homewood, where there is one tree per every 22 people, for example.

Friends is working with TreeVitalize, a statewide public-private partnership, in an effort to plant one million trees by 2012. Pittsburgh's goal is 20,000, and in its second year of participation, has reached about 3,500.

Friends' recent work includes community education sessions and schoolyard greening initiatives, as well as plantings in East Liberty and Downtown.

For its East Liberty project, Friends received a $10,000 grant from the Alliance for Community Trees and national Home Depot Foundation to plant six trees last week at the Sojourner MOMS house, which provides housing and services for homeless, single women struggling with addiction, and their dependent children.

"The next step is to work with adjacent property owners to get them to plant trees in their front yards so we can restore the street's tree line," says Crumrine. "It's so important because trees improve air quality, energy efficiency and stormwater runoff, and increase neighborhoods' safety and property values."

This week, Friends is finishing its Downtown project -- 10 trees in front of the new August Wilson Center at 980 Liberty Ave. With support of the Center and Richard King Mellon Foundation, Friends is using Silva Cell technology to manage stormwater and prevent soil compaction. This is the first time Silva Cell technology will be used in Pennsylvania, Crumrine says.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Danielle Crumrine, executive director, Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest

Image courtesy Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest

GTECH gardens vacant lots, creates green jobs for students

Now in its third year of operation, GTECH Strategies is revitalizing Pittsburgh's vacant lots and brownfields through bioenergy gardens, and cultivating a green workforce in the region.

The nonprofit plants crops, generally sunflowers, which transforms unused land into community spaces, improves soil quality and produces oil for biofuels. GTECH has not yet produced enough oil to sell commercially, but is looking to increase output and sell its product to local vendors in the future, says Chris Koch with GTECH.

GTECH, which stands for Growth Through Energy & Community Health, is doubling its neighborhood acreage this season. Previously, the nonprofit converted about 12 acres of vacant land in the region, with six of those in Hazelwood's 180-acre Almono Brownfield, and six in neighborhoods such as East Liberty, Lawrenceville and Larimer.

This spring, GTECH planted in New Orleans, its first activity outside the region. New project investments this summer include: 500 Jeanette St. in Wilkinsburg, where GTECH planted on half a 10,000 square-foot site being developed by Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation; and a two-acre site at Fifth Avenue and Jumonville Street in Uptown. Additionally, GTECH is in talks to plant in Millvale and Homewood.

Through a partnership with the Student Conservation Association, GTECH will create 12 jobs this summer, a continuation of last year's pilot program. GTECH also partners with Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board on a Green Jobs Advisory Board that brings together between 20 and 30 groups on a monthly basis.

"In the past two years, a green workforce has gone from an unknown concept to something at the forefront of a federal mandate," says Andrew Butcher with GTECH. "The more people exposed to sustainable education, training and experience, the more this sector will continue to grow."

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Chris Koch, COO, and Andrew Butcher, CEO, GTECH

Image courtesy GTECH Strategies

$90K lighting, $800K townhouses completed along Penn Ave. in East End

The East End Partnership has announced the completion of two notable projects: Three townhouses at 5000 Penn Ave., and lighting along Penn Avenue between Children’s Hospital and the Allegheny Cemetery entrance gates.

According to Sarah DiLeo with Friendship Development Associates, Inc. (FDA), the Cemetery Row lighting is the first completed project recommended in the Penn Avenue Corridor Master Plan, which outlines goals and guidelines for the 2.25-mile stretch between 34th Street and Penn Circle West.

The $90,000 lighting initiative, designed by Hilbish McGee Lighting Design, was offset by a $60,000 grant awarded by Duquesne Light. Twenty-three low-wattage lights were mounted on more than a half mile of cemetery wall, according to designer Rick McGee.

“The up-tree lighting contributes to public safety, and at the same time creates an interesting ambiance for pedestrians between the hospital and arts district,” says Maya Haptas with the East End Partnership, an alliance between Bloomfield, East Liberty, Friendship, Garfield and Lawrenceville.

The three new townhouses are located at the intersection of Penn Avenue and Gross Street, just a few blocks from the cemetery. Designed by Friendship-based Hammer-Mann Designwerks, the $800,000 project was constructed on a previously unoccupied lot. Of the homes, which are energy-efficient and are priced from $185,000 to $208,000, one has sold, one is under agreement and one is still available, says DiLeo with FDA

A lighting dedication will be held 5:30 p.m. Friday, followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the townhouses. The event is part of Unblurred, a monthly program that celebrates Penn Avenue’s art, music and performance options.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Sarah DiLeo, marketing & communications coordinator, Friendship Development Associates, Inc.; Rick McGee, Hilbish McGee Lighting Design; Maya Haptas, business district manager, Lawrenceville Corporation, co-manager, East End Partnership

Image courtesy Lawrenceville Corporation

Nearly $50K awarded to Garfield, Mt. Washington for residential revitalization

Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has authorized Garfield and Mt. Washington’s community development corporations to receive state-funded Elm Street grants.

Elm Street is the residential companion to the Mainstreets program, which focuses on neighborhood business district revitalization. Both are part of the Department of Community and Economic Development’s New Communities Program.

Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation was allocated $20,400 for use in Garfield, and Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation was allocated $25,000. Both neighborhoods were approved for their Planning Year, which does not guarantee full five-year funding. Within the upcoming year, the neighborhoods are expected to develop implementable goals and strategies for their proposed Elm Street districts, says Josette Fitzgibbons with the URA.

Elm Street’s other neighborhoods—East Liberty, North Side, South Side, Lawrenceville and Friendship—have used funding for a variety of projects, including residential façade grants, street trees, sidewalk repairs, trash cans, block watches, alleyway lighting and acquiring and demolishing problem properties.

“This part of Garfield has seen some new investments coming in around the fringes, but not in the heart,” says Richard Swartz with Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation. “We want to use the Elm Street program to get residents more optimistic about the future and investing in their communities.”

Greg Panza, with Mt. Washington CDC, says Elm Street funding will branch the Mt. Washington and Duquesne Heights districts, and also attract new property buyers once area senior citizens vacate their homes to move into the senior housing facility being built at the neighborhood’s former South Hills High School site.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Josette Fitzgibbons, Mainstreets/Elm Street coordinator, URA; Richard Swartz, executive director, Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation; Greg Panza, program manager, Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

Boys & Girls Club breaks ground on $2.5M Lawrenceville location

The Boys & Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania broke ground Friday on a $2.5 million facility for its Youth Enterprise Zone program. The program, founded in 1999, currently runs its social venture business activities out of several Lawrenceville facilities. The new building will house all Boys & Girls Club workforce development training services under one roof.

“At Boys & Girls Club we utilize a lot of national models that have already been field tested. This is something we’re starting in Pittsburgh that we anticipate being adopted around the country,” says Mike Hepler with the Boys & Girls Club.

The Youth Enterprise Zone Mini-Mall and Training Center, on the 52nd block of Butler Street in Lawrenceville, will be near both the Boys & Girls Club administrative offices and Career Connections Charter High School, which feeds a large number of paid teen employees into the program.

The 22,000 square-foot facility, which will serve at least 200 teens per year, has been in the planning stages for two years, and will seek LEED Silver certification. The two-floor center, with design contributions by New Products Concept and Design Group out of New Jersey, will feature classrooms and offices, as well as a street-level, teen-managed food service and retail area open to the public.

“Not all young adults who go through this program are going to become business owners,” says Hepler. “But whatever they do, they’re going to take these workforce skills with them.”

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Mike Hepler, president and CEO, Boys & Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania

Image courtesy URA

Along the Allegheny: major urban waterfront project underway

A major urban waterfront effort is underway along the Allegheny River.

Master planning for the redevelopment of the Allegheny Riverfront was kicked off last week at a former industrial site located at 62nd and Butler Sts. in Lawrenceville. The comprehensive effort—designed to reconnect the river with surrounding neighborhoods—represents a partnership between the Department of City Planning, Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and Riverlife.

Once home to Tippins International Inc., the 21-acre complex—which sat vacant until the URA purchased and demolished the property this year—the former steel site is now ready for development.

A consultant team led by Perkins Eastman has begun a $350,000 visioning process for a 6.45-mile segment of the riverfront which stretches from the convention center to Highland Park, and includes a small under-developed section of the river’s northwest bank.

“The process is arranged to be very transparent and participatory. It’s a level of focus and community involvement that sets a great precedent for future planning,” says Lisa Schroeder, with Riverlife. “The very comprehensive nature of this process will connect the global thinking that came through the vision plan for Pittsburgh’s riverfronts to currents needs and wants of residential and commercial constituents along the river and to state-of-the-art environmental technologies for reclaiming and greening urban lands.”

The 12-month project will create linkages between the river and Downtown, become a precedent for other riverfront communities and serve as a key amenity for future development. Throughout 2009, community members will participate in design discussions, public meetings and recreational opportunities, including kayaking, biking, Dragon Boat, and urban hike activities. The first public meeting will occur in July.

The planning team also includes Urbanomics, GSP Consulting, Cahill Associates, Viridian Landscape Studio, Continental Conservation, Trans Associates, and Clear View Strategies. The project will be incorporated into the City’s comprehensive riverfront master plan, slated for completion in 2010.

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Lisa Schroeder, executive director, Riverlife; Megan Stearman, Public Information Officer/Mainstreets Pittsburgh Development Specialist, Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh

Image courtesy Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh

Art All Night expected to bring thousands of art fans to Lawrenceville

This weekend, Lawrenceville will host the twelfth annual Art All Night, a non-juried art show that is both free to attend and free for artists to participate. Last year's show drew nearly 10,000 attendees and featured work by over 800 artists and performers. Art All Night was recently named a finalist for the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council's People's Choice Award, and this year's event is expected to draw another large crowd.

Since the first Art All Night in 1998, the event has been totally volunteer-driven, organized by residents of Lawrenceville. "It's amazing that that such a large event can remain grassroots," says Maya Haptas of Lawrenceville Corporation, which acts as fiscal agent for the event. "There are volunteers that help every year and there are always new people joining to help out."

The event is funded in part by Lawrenceville's Main Streets Program. Main Streets Pittsburgh is a project of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, designed to bring new customers to local business districts. According to Hapas, Art All Night has been an extremely successful in bringing new visitors. "People come to the show that might not have visited before, and then come back later," she says. "It's a springboard for getting involved in the neighborhood."

In addition to art, Art All Night will feature live music, performances, and interactive art activities for both children and adults. This year's Art All Night begins Saturday night and will run until 2 p.m. Sunday, at the brand new red warehouse at 35th and Smallman St.

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Writer: Rob Cullen
Source: Maya Haptas, business district manager, Lawrenceville Corporation

Image courtesy Art All Night

$625M Children’s Hospital celebrates completion with ribbon-cutting ceremony

We have all eagerly watched the construction of Children’s Hospital’s colorful new campus rising above Lawrenceville at the corner of 45th St. and Penn Ave.

On April 16 at 11 a.m., after seven years of planning and construction, the new campus will celebrate its completion with a ceremonial ribbon-cutting. Last weekend, more than 6,000 people turned out for the hospital’s open house last weekend to enjoy unprecedented access to the hospital. The hospital officially opens May 2.

“The campus is built from the ground up to be paperless. It has the technology backbone to support all of the advances we're bringing,” says Dr. Steven Docimo, with UPMC. “It’s a departure for us from the physical plant where we've been working, which has been too small for years. Technically we've been very advanced, but we’ve had to work around our infrastructure.”

With nine floors dedicated to inpatient and outpatient care, the 296-bed facility features private rooms with overnight accommodations for parents, 13 operating suites and a 300,000-square-foot research facility. The hospital’s 20,000-square-foot family resource and activity center is among the largest of its kind on the planet.

Designed by Astorino, The $625 million facility houses an atrium, childcare and fitness centers, a 75,000-square-foot administration building, and three parking garages. The hospital will start seeing outpatients April 20. A highly choreographed move of 150 inpatients will occur May 2.

Designed as a  green campus with two LEED-certified buildings, the environmentally-friendly hospital features a healing garden, green education program for staff, patients and visitors, and highly efficient systems and technologies.

“Our electronic health records are so advanced. People want to look at our new processes and are very interested in the new hospital and its design,” adds Docimo, who says the new facility is already helping to attract top-notch fellowship candidates and researchers.

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Image courtesy Children's Hospital of UPMC

Writer: Jennifer Baron

Source: Dr. Steven Docimo, vice president of medical affairs, and Marc Lukasiak, manager, media relations, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC

Dozen heads Downtown: homegrown bake shop plans Cultural District location

This summer Downtown’s Cultural District will get a lot sweeter.

Three years after opening its first location in Squirrel Hill, Dozen Cupcakes will add a third operation to its burgeoning bakery business in July--a 235-square-foot retail shop at 807 Liberty Ave. Housed within a Cultural Trust property that’s under renovation, the shop will feature Dozen’s signature mix of rustic and modern interiors, with butcher block countertops and beadboard finishings.

“The retail space will act as a conduit between the Downtown market and the Lawrenceville bake shop, where we do all of the production,” says owner James Gray, 35, who expects Downtown’s Dozen Bake Shop to be popular for box lunches, platters, office parties and luncheons. “It really suits the location and the market.”

Gray had previously considered expanding into Highland Park. “We’ve known for a while that we wanted to tap into the Downtown market. This particular location is a small step for our Downtown presence,” adds Gray, who partners regularly with arts organizations and nonprofits. “You could potentially see another Dozen or two in the market.”

Downtown patrons will be able to order from Dozen’s full line of sandwiches and desserts. Located near the Harris Theater and Crazy Mocha, the new location will also feature cakes and soups.

“For economic reasons, we did a bit of restructuring at the end of last year. By doing so, we came out much better on the other side,” adds Gray, who plans to expand Dozen’s Squirrel Hill operation. “We were able to maintain the level of what we do. Ultimately, that will be the factor that spurs Dozen’s expansion.”

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: James Gray and Andrew Twigg, Dozen Bake Shop and Dozen Cupcakes

Photograph of James (left) and Andrew (right) copyright Brian Cohen

Rock Shop: Backstage Guitars opens its doors in Lawrenceville

With its eclectic mix of art, design and fashion boutiques, Lawrenceville has emerged as one of Pittsburgh’s hottest shopping districts. Now, new shop Backstage Guitars is helping to make the neighborhood a hub for musicians at 4123 Butler St.

Operated by guitarist and first-time business owner Jake Miclot, Backstage Guitars specializes in handcrafted music equipment and lines new to the Pittsburgh market. After touring for years with Erie-based band Represent, Miclot turned his passion for guitar playing into an innovative business model.

“We want the store to have a boutique feel and also be accessible to beginners. We’re introducing a lot of new lines to the city,” says Miclot, 23. “We don’t have a lot of typical guitar store stuff. We wanted the companies to have a creative, forward thinking mindset—that’s what we’re trying to do with the store.”

The Shadyside resident worked with architect Chris Larvey and Marra Construction to renovate the once-abandoned 1,600-square-foot space, which features 25-foot cherry and glass cabinets, soundproof lesson rooms and wall-mounted drum displays.

Tired of Guitar Hero and ready for the real thing? Backstage’s Rock Band Academy—which has trained kids ages 8 to 45—teaches students to play in bands, compose songs and perform originals. Nine-week sessions culminate with a concert at Hard Rock Café. Backstage also provides full-service equipment repair and carries an extensive inventory of accessories.

“It’s exciting to be a part of this neighborhood—it really makes sense and is needed,” adds Miclot, who now plays guitar in Death Right.

Backstage’s specialized inventory includes Bad Cat amplifiers, pedals made in Denmark and New Zealand, and Ludwig drums. Also carried are British made Hiwatt amps, Larrivee acoustic guitars, and hand-painted Sparrow guitars.

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Jake Miclot, Backstage Guitars

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

Allegheny Riverfront takes shape with selection of Perkins Eastman design team

A master plan designed to link the Allegheny Riverfront with ten city neighborhoods is one step closer to fruition.

On March 12—after reviewing 24 submissions culled during an RFP process—the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) board selected a team led by Perkins Eastman to craft a comprehensive plan for a key portion of the underutilized riverfront.

Targeting a 6.45-mile segment of the Allegheny’s southeast bank—stretching from the Convention Center to Highland Park—the project's goal is to transform inaccessible riverfront land into a series of interrelated districts. Work on the $350,000 project will take approximately 12 months. The resulting blueprint will serve as a model for the city’s comprehensive riverfront master plan, slated for completion in 2010.

One of Pittsburgh’s most underutilized riverfront stretches, the area also extends through Lawrenceville, Morningside and a portion of the Northside. Characterized by long parcels of flat land with direct river access and adjacent residential communities, the riverfront currently houses distribution, parking and industrial uses. The master plan will also address ecological concerns, community engagement, economic development activities, and land use and transit recommendations.

Perkins Eastman—a firm with local and international experience in urban design and planning—was unanimously selected by a steering committee consisting of staff from the URA, Department of City Planning, and Riverlife, along with property owners, developers, and community representatives. The multi-disciplinary design team also includes firms with expertise in market assessment, environmental and infrastructure planning, and traffic and transit analysis. 

The team is expected to make recommendations for sustainable design practices, walkable infrastructure, stormwater management, and on-site energy production.

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Megan Stearman, Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Cares celebrates MLK Day with two unique community events

Pittsburgh Cares offers two unique ways to celebrate Martin Luther King Day this year. On Saturday, Jan. 17 from 11am-1pm for $20 per person, you can take part in one of seven Neighborhood Diversity Crawls. Crawls take place in the West End/Mt. Washington, Lawrenceville, Bloomfield/Friendship, South Side, Regent Square, Strip District, and Oakmont and include a narrated tour, sampling of various traditional foods and beverages, exploration of locally owned businesses, and fun facts like who Lawrenceville is named for and what Oakmont claims as the largest in the country.

“Last year we lead one tour to four different places throughout the city, but this year we wanted to highlight Pittsburgh’s diverse neighborhoods and help boost the local economy at the same time,” says Kristin Brown with Pittsburgh Cares.

In addition, Pittsburgh Cares has teamed up with Manchester Craftsmen's Guild to host their MLK: Celebrate the Dream event. On Monday, Jan. 19 from 10am-12pm, more than 350 youth and adult volunteers will design and construct upwards of 75 "diversity shelves." The wooden bookcases will be adorned with words and images from the Civil Rights Movement and will serve as a platform for initiating dialogue around race relations, community organizing, volunteerism, and diversity. From 12-1pm local performing artists will showcase their talents as the volunteers unite in celebration of Dr. King's dream for a community that respects and embraces diversity.

“After the event our volunteer groups will present the shelves filled with books to local schools so the discussion of diversity continues throughout the year.”

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Writer: Lauren Urbschat
Source: Kristin Brown, Pittsburgh Cares

Lower Lawrenceville gets a fresh new website and a new name to boot

Most neighborhoods are lucky if they have one website. Lawrenceville now has two or three depending how you count.  The newest and by far the cutest one focuses in on Lower Lawrenceville, freshly re-branded as LoLa, and the growing number of unique boutiques and eateries on Butler between 34th and 39th street.

“This project was the culmination of an ad hoc group of business owners who wanted to better market themselves,” says Maya Haptas of the Lawrenceville Corporation. “They came to us for administrative and project management support but the initiative is all their own.”

The collective effort was spearheaded by Dozen Bake Shop Owner James Grey and his partner Andrew Twigg, who designed the site as an interactive hand drawn map of the neighborhood. “There is not a single national chain here and we wanted the design to reflect that,” says Twigg.

“As business owners, we’ve been pushing for a more appealing pedestrian experience on Butler,” says Grey “The website allows potential customers to familiarize themselves with the neighborhood before they come down.”

Dozen Bake Shop just celebrated its one-year anniversary as a LoLa resident but its impact on the neighborhood has been much bigger than its cupcakes.

 “The folks at Dozen have made a huge impact, they’re non stop and drive me to be more creative and accountable in the redevelopment of this neighborhood,” says Senator Jim Ferlo whose office is in the 35th block of Butler. “While this was a separate initiative of the business community here it goes hand in glove with the master community development plan Lawrenceville we’re about to unveil.”

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Writer: Lauren Urbschat
Sources: Maya Haptas, Main Street Coordinator, Lawrenceville Corporation
James Grey, Owner, Dozen Bake Shop and Senator Jim Ferlo

East End Food Co-op considers expansion into other Pittsburgh markets

The East End Food Co-op (EEFC) is currently involved in a major market research study of Allegheny County. The EEFC’s current location at 7516 Meade St. in Point Breeze has been in business since 1986 and does about $7.5M in annual sales. “Our store is successful, but its size and lack of adequate parking have prompted discussions about where to go from here,” says Rob Baran, general manager. “I initially considered moving the current store to a larger location but a cost analysis showed it would be just as expensive to open a second location and the potential for profit was much greater with two stores.”

Funded by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), the market study will specifically focus on Lawrenceville and Carnegie but will also analyze potential locations throughout the city. “We’re at a point now where we are committed to expansion, but we want to be sure about the markets we enter into,” says Baran. “Carnegie has a lot of potential with its proximity to 79 and 279, because not only do with have members in Green Tree and Mt. Lebanon, but West Virginia and Ohio too.”

The EEFC is also engaged in conversations with city and state officials about a new model of smaller convenience based stores for under-served neighborhoods in need of local, healthy groceries.

“Our growth is part of a national trend.  The National Cooperative Grocers Association, which has 110 members with 140 locations, actually outgrew Whole Foods this year. Co-ops have a solid business model and our success benefits the whole community.”

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Writer: Lauren Urbschat
Source: Rob Baran, General Manager, East End Food Co-op

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

$125M research center opens at Children's Hospital's new Lawrenceville campus

Marking the first completed phase of its $625 million Lawrenceville campus this morning, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC opened the new John G. Rangos Sr. Research Center.

Named to honor John G. Rangos Sr., who has contributed more than $8 million to support key research into childhood diseases, the $125 million center houses space for 70 principal investigators, a flexible state-of-the-art conference center and a diabetes research laboratory. Also housed within the 10-story center is the Richard King Mellon Foundation Institute for Pediatric Research.

Designed to support biomedical research in fields including genomics, immunology and neuroscience, the 300,000-square-foot facility fosters a shared research environment and features extensive natural light. The center's open laboratory floor plan includes offices and conference rooms arranged around a glass perimeter.

“We have the fastest growing pediatric research program in the county. The building is designed to foster collaboration and new ideas,” says Roger Oxendale, with Children’s Hospital. “It will bring researchers together to share what they’re thinking about and doing in their labs, and will also help us be good stewards of the research infrastructure.”

Children's Hospital is seeking LEED-certification for the new 10-acre complex, which is designed by Pittsburgh-based Astorino. Contractors are Barton Malow, PJ Dick and Hunt Construction. Opening festivities are set for the first weekend in April.

Head of Chambers Development Company, Rangos was appointed to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation’s Board of Trustees in 2001, and has provided $6 million in gifts to the center. Center director is David Perlmutter, MD, physician-in-chief at Children’s Hospital and chair of UPMC's department of pediatrics.

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Roger Oxendale, CEO, Children’s Hospital and president, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation; Marc Lukasiak, coordinator, media relations, Children’s Hospital

Image courtesy Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC

Award-winning fair trade boutique opens new space in Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville

Pittsburgh’s favorite fair trade boutique has a hip new home.

After two years operating in Lawrenceville’s Ice House Studios, Equita has moved into a high-profile storefront at 3609 Butler St. Being part of Lawrenceville’s central commercial district is critical to the boutique’s mission and ongoing growth.
“We want to have a main street presence to expand our role in the community and be a part of the growing vibrancy,” says Sara Parks, with Equita. “We see ourselves as an ethical general store, adding green consulting services and a broader range of products. All sorts of people want to shop green for different reasons.”

The 1,000 square feet shop, formerly La Vie Gallery, will soon sell furniture, introduce a line of designer clothing from Norway and formalize its wedding and gift registries.

A labor of love for young entrepreneurs Amanda Parks, Sara Parks and Michael Solano-Mullings—who returned to Pittsburgh after working around the world—Equita has emerged as the region’s premier fair trade boutique. Ethically sourced from independent eco-centric designers and Fair Trade cooperatives in 40 developing countries, as well as from Native American enterprises, women's initiatives and family farms, Equita’s inventory features hand-selected products for the body and home, as well as gourmet coffees chocolates and vegan-friendly goods.

Garnering national press from Travel+Leisure, Domino and CNN.com, Equita just received Pittsburgh Magazine’s 2008 “Best Of” fashion award. Parks, who says the Butler location is already attracting new customers, is excited that Asian restaurant Tamari, and a new Mexican restaurant, are slated to open nearby.

To celebrate Fair Trade Month, Equita will host a grand opening on Oct. 18.

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Sara Parks, owner, Equita: Essentials for Ethical Living

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

Luke & Eloy Gallery joins Lawrenceville's Butler St. commercial district

Lawrenceville’s 16:62 Design Zone is about the get even artsier.

The latest gallery to join the neighborhood’s thriving Butler St. commercial district is Luke & Eloy. Named for the patron saints of painting and metalsmithing, the gallery is headed up by German-born jewelry designer Brigitte Martin.

Part of the continued revitalization of the eclectic corridor, the 400-square-foot gallery is located at 5169 Butler, near several up-and-coming businesses, including a pottery studio, spa and Big Brothers Sisters headquarters.

Combining Martin’s expertise in metalsmithing and passion for fine art, Luke & Eloy will feature new work by multi-media artists from around the globe. Opening Sept. 27, the gallery’s inaugural exhibition, Lost Spaces, features paintings and cardboard sculptures by German artist Artemis Herber. Martin will also sell her own line and offer custom jewelry services and jewelry design classes in the gallery’s workshop.

Martin, who lived in Squirrel Hill for six years before moving back to Germany, and then later to Cleveland, says settling down in Pittsburgh was always a top priority for her family. “We jumped at the chance to come back to Pittsburgh,” adds Martin, who used to work from her home in Mt. Lebanon. The designer, who regularly combs stores like Home Depot in search of unexpected materials, works with a wide range of precious and semi-precious metals, including gold, silver, brass, and aluminum.

“Everybody said I should check out Lawrenceville—things have changed so dramatically there since I left. I like the entrepreneurial can-do attitude and artsy atmosphere,” adds Martin, who is renting space from Wylie Holdings. “The next big development surge is going to be in Lawrenceville. The business community is phenomenal and incredibly cooperative.”

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Brigitte Martin, Luke & Eloy Gallery

Image courtesy Luke & Eloy Gallery

Redevelopment plans progress for key Lawrenceville brownfield sites

Two key Lawrenceville brownfields are poised for redevelopment.

Plans are in the works to bring new housing to a 55,230-square-foot site located across the street from the 14-acre former Heppenstall Steel complex owned by the Regional Industrial Development Corporation, while remediation is set to begin at the 62nd St. Industrial Park.

On Sept. 11, the URA Board of Directors voted to enter into a four-month option agreement with Urban Villages and Botero Development, who propose building 46 for-sale units on the site—Lawrenceville’s largest available footprint—which includes properties at 4620 Hatfield St. and 54 46th St.

The project—which will seek LEED certification and incorporate green space and public art—would include townhomes, flats and lofts priced between $130,000 and $325,000. mossArchitects and Sota Construction Services will design and build the units.

Near the 62nd St. bridge, a 19-acre brownfield acquired by the URA in August will undergo remediation and demolition by Monaca-based Tom Sipes. Future plans include creating a topographic map, coordinating master site planning and completing necessary infrastructure work. Warehouse operations currently located in central Lawrenceville may be relocated to the former Tippins International Inc. site. The complex, accessible via Rtes. 8 and 28, and the PA Turnpike, may also become a public boat launch site.  

“It’s riverfront property that’s not being utilized. It’s the next big brownfield development in a neighborhood that’s really transforming,” says Paul Alessio, with the URA. The project is expected to relieve traffic congestion along Lawrenceville’s Butler St. corridor. Alessio says the URA will sell scrap steel from the site for about $1.3 million, which will cover the $950,000 clean-up cost. The site’s two properties currently house Allegheny Valley Railroad and Allegheny Marina.

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Paul Alessio, project manager, URA; Joanna Doven, communications, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl

Image courtesy City of Pittsburgh



Bike 'burgh: city-wide cycling, pedestrian initiatives get a boost

Pittsburgh is poised to become a lot more bike and pedestrian friendly.

On August 11, the city unveiled “the four e’s” of a new cycling and walking initiative—engineering, education, enforcement, and events—aimed at implementing a broad spectrum of traffic and infrastructure improvements that will help promote cycling and walking as viable, economical and safe modes of transportation and recreation.

Encouraging coalitions with advocacy group Bike Pittsburgh, the project also calls for enforcing traffic laws designed to protect cyclists and pedestrians and increasing bike/ped awareness.
The announcement coincided with the hiring of Stephen Patchen, who on August 4 began as Pittsburgh’s Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator—the first position of its kind in Pennsylvania.

“This looks at everything through the lens of cycling and pedestrian activities, and also transit. It's about having that mix, and a series of networks aligned, so we can have a strategic direction,” says Councilman Dowd, who hopes to see high-visibility signage, commuter partnership programs and broad policy directives. “Education underscores the whole thing. This can help us reinvent the infrastructure of the city.”

Dowd says the city is already considering adding a bike lane to East Liberty Blvd. Specific measures include designated and marked bike routes, a stolen bike recovery program, and reinvestment in Pittsburgh’s steps and stairways. In 2010, Pittsburgh will apply for Bicycle Friendly Community Status from theLeague of American Bicyclists.

Among the initiative’s extensive list of possibilities are tax credits for businesses that provide cycling facilities, changes in driver’s manuals that emphasize bike/ped safety, showcase events that close city boulevards to vehicular traffic, and bike accommodations in Parking Authority lots.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Patrick Dowd, Pittsburgh City Council District 7

Photograph copyright Jonathan Greene

$5M PNC investment to fund LCCC's urban economic loan fund

PNC Bank has invested $5 million in Landmarks Community Capital Corporation's (LCCC) Urban Economic Loan Fund, which provides short-term flexible financing at below market rates to nonprofit organizations leading community revitalization projects.

Designed to help LCCC leverage additional investment, the fund will support projects with clear community benefits, such as affordable housing, commercial and neighborhood development and property acquisitions for nonprofits.

“We have two loan requests that’d be a perfect fit for our partnership with PNC, one in Westmoreland County in Downtown Greensburg, and one in Pittsburgh’s Hill District-Oakland area,” says Dr. Howard Slaughter, Jr., with LCCC. “We’re very excited about both possibilities. These are nonprofit organizations that have a great track record for succeeding in the communities in which they serve.”

Slaughter says the Greensburg project will involve the restoration and acquisition of properties, while funds for the Hill District will assist with the redevelopment of an existing building and a new location for a nonprofit organization. “It’s a very broad assessment area—the Pittsburgh MSA and at least six surrounding counties,” adds Slaughter, who, along with PNC’s Stephanie Cipriani, stresses the fund’s reach.

“This is a regional initiative that’s focused on communities that have been forgotten,” adds Cipriani, who expects to see the first project underway this fall. “Our focus is to give back to those communities and help with early stages of development.” PNC’s lead investment marks the first financial institution commitment to LCCC's Urban Economic Loan Fund.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Dr. Howard Slaughter, Jr., CEO, Landmarks Community Capital Corporation; Stephanie Cipriani, Vice President, Community Development Banking, PNC Bank

Image courtesy Landmarks Community Capital Corporation




Wai Wai Chinese Cuisine welcomes diners along Bloomfield's business district

Wai Wai Chinese Cuisine—the latest restaurant to open along Bloomfield’s central business district—is welcoming diners at 4717 Liberty Ave.

Owned by longtime restaurateur Wai Lam and her husband Mike Wang, the 2,400-square-foot eatery seats 48 people. Lam—who also owns Dollar Magic at 4715 Liberty—comes to Wai Wai with 17 years of experience, including running restaurants in Canonsburg, the South Side and Brentwood.

Inspired to create a modern twist on traditional Chinese dining, the couple designed Wai Wai after refurbishing a former Domino’s. “We wanted a new updated style, to get away from the old look. My husband and I enjoy making the business comfortable and affordable for customers,” says Lam, who chose a contemporary interior in lieu of conventional Chinese décor. She also streamlined her menu. “Menus in most Chinese restaurants are overcrowded with hundreds of items. We made ours simple and easy to read, with dishes people are the most interested in. We prepare everything here—the food tastes so much better from scratch.”

Taking its name from the Chinese word for tasty, Wai Wai is already drawing a steady lunch crowd and filling catering orders for universities. “We're near a lot of houses and hospitals. We look forward to more business with Children’s and West Penn,” says Lam, who hired six people and expects to add additional staff. “There’s a lot of walking traffic. We haven’t even done advertising yet.”

Beyond Bloomfield, Lam says she would definitely consider opening additional restaurants: “Once we're settled here, we’ll have more ideas. We might go back to the traditional style for the next one—like the original Chinese restaurants in California.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Wai Lam, Wai Wai Chinese Cuisine

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

$3.3M invested in affordable housing and mixed-use projects across city and region

Eleven low-income housing projects received a total of $3.3 million from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh (FHLBank) on April 7.

The affordable housing grants will fund the construction or rehabilitation of 604 much-needed units located throughout the city and region. The projects are being spearheaded by sponsors who will also assist with serving homeless, elderly and mentally and physical disabled populations.

“Our grants are allocated each year through two competitive funding cycles. These projects target lower income households and individuals, meet our priorities and are financially viable, and show the capacity to build in a timely manner,” says John Bendel, with FHLBank. “This makes a broad range of housing available. Some are part of a community development process larger than the project itself. Physical improvements and good solid structures can make a positive change and impact everything around them.”

Among the recipients is the 85-year-old Centre Ave. YMCA located in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, which is adding 20 rooms and renovating 77 existing units. In Pittsburgh, housing and mixed-use projects were also funded in Lawrenceville, East Liberty and on the North Side. Housing and community development projects were also funded in Braddock, East Hills, New Brighton, and Clairton.

Crossroads Meadow, a 51-unit 3.58-acre project in Ebensburg, will feature 10 one- and two-story properties. As part of the Homeowner Rehabilitation Program, ten homes in Allegheny County will undergo substantial structural and aesthetic improvements. Hosanna Industries will use fund to develop 100 homes for low-income families in Allegheny and Butler counties.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: John Bendel, Director of Community Investment, FHLBank

Image courtesy Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh

Bloomfield redevelopment project to house 30,000 sf office space, green features

A former Roth Carpet showroom located at 4035 Liberty Ave. in Bloomfield is being converted into a 30,000-square-foot office property that aims to benefit both the neighborhood and environment.

“Professional office space is the best use for its floor space, and is appropriate for the economy that’s being generated around both hospitals,” says David Light, who along with his father Harvey, is developing the project. The property, which includes three connected buildings that were formerly used for light manufacturing, warehouse and sales space, will provide tenants with floor plates ranging in size from 1,200 to 5,000 square feet.

A new addition will house a flex space for tenants, and a meeting space, pavilion and rooftop garden for the community. “It solves a function of the building and benefits the community. My dad has been a stakeholder and a property holder in Bloomfield for twenty-five years. We want to provide a gathering space for the neighborhood,” adds Light, who is discussing ideas for a green parking lot with the Green Building Alliance and Senator Ferlo. “We’re committed to pursuing sustainable design solutions. We’re looking to keep the overall historic feel and update it with green design elements.”

Additional green features planned for the development include parking for bikes, high-efficiency vehicles, carpoolers, and Flexcar. The Lights also intend to clean the property’s façade and create a more centralized lobby. “We’ll address the gateway presence it has at the border of Lawrenceville and Bloomfield, to reactivate that part of Liberty.” A design team will be assembled at the end of March.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: David Light

Photograph copyright Jonathan Greene

$402K in Mainstreets Pittsburgh funds awarded to 12 neighborhood business districts

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), in partnership with the PA Department of Community and Economic Development and the City, have awarded $402,500 in Mainstreets Pittsburgh funds to twelve neighborhood business districts.

Funds must be used to support activities that revitalize local business districts, stimulate economic growth and impact targeted areas via measurable criteria. Mainstreets districts are also eligible for technical assistance provided by the URA, PA Downtown Center, Community Design Center of Pittsburgh, and Community Technical Assistance Center.

“The six-year program moves communities from reliance on public funding to a more diverse funding structure, so they can become more self-sustaining through a variety of mechanisms,” says Megan Stearman, with the URA. “Neighborhoods are selected because of their readiness—they have existing organizations in place, can steward new programs and have been through community planning.”
Grants will support community events in Hazelwood, marketing efforts in the West End, a visioning plan in Mt. Washington, and the Clean, Green & Screen initiative in Friendship. “Many neighborhoods are thinking about the built environment in terms of crime prevention,” says Stearman. “The South Side is managing the success they’ve had, and Lawrenceville is in the unique position to learn from that.” South Side and Lawrenceville—both in the final phase of Mainstreets—are launching neighborhood beautification strategies.

As the URA’s new Mainstreets Pittsburgh coordinator, Josette Fitzgibbons will manage relationships with district awardees and funders, and develop educational programs for neighborhood organizations and businesses. Since 2002, Mainstreets districts have stimulated $94 million in total investment, recruited 558 new businesses and created 3,200 new jobs.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Megan Stearman, URA

Image courtesy Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh

URA seeks development proposals for Lawrenceville site, new housing expected

The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh is seeking development proposals for parcels located at 4620 Hatfield St. and 54 46th St., the largest footprint currently available for new housing in Lawrenceville.

The 55,230-square-foot site sits between a dense residential neighborhood and the 14-acre former Heppenstall Steel complex, which is owned by the Regional Industrial Development Corporation (RIDC), and is being redeveloped for robotics and advanced manufacturing uses. Nearby are Carnegie Mellon’s 100,000-square-foot National Robotics Engineering Consortium, and a former chocolate factory, which houses SEEGRID Corporation, and has been converted into light industrial and commercial space. Part of Lawrenceville’s vibrant 16:62 Design Zone, the area is home to Ice House Artist Studios, two grocery stores and new restaurants.

“Hatfield Street is the dividing line between residential and what was formerly industrial. There are not a lot of places in Lawrenceville where you have a clear site for sizable residential development that can offer a product missing in the market right now, which is a new house. There’s an opportunity to do something cool in terms of deisgn,” says Kelly Hoffman, with Lawrenceville Corporation, which has created design guidelines that call for projects that relate to the existing housing stock and enhance the streetscape. “We’re thinking attached townhouse style—two- or three-story single-family homes.  I think we're going to get a good response. We've expressed a preference for green elements. There’s no other new construction in Lawrenceville.”

Hoffman says the site can accommodate approximately 30 units. With a median home price that has risen by sixty-four percent since 2005, central Lawrenceville is second only to the South Side in home appreciation in the past decade. Proposals are due April 1.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Kyra Strausman, URA; Kelly Hoffman, Lawrenceville Corporation

Image courtesy URA of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville neighborhood unveils new signage, identity campaign

Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood—recently featured in The New York Times—has unveiled “History in the Remaking,” a new identity campaign spotlighting its independent and eclectic eateries, boutiques, galleries, and venues.

The $115,000 project includes the installation of five custom-made signs, two benches and 50 trashcans. Central to the locally grown effort is a new logo that conveys Lawrenceville’s historical character and creative metamorphosis. Designed by Lawrenceville resident Paul Schifino, the logo won a 2007 Pennsylvania Downtown Center award.

“People have something to rally behind. The majority of people who live and work here are evangelists, and know it’s at the forefront of doing interesting things. We’re reflecting everyone’s pride,” says Jennifer Kent with Lawrenceville Corporation.

Large gateway signs, depicting the logo in textured metal and fabricated by Lawrenceville-based McKamish, are being installed on Butler St. and Penn and Liberty Aves. A 38-foot sign will be installed in front of greenery at 40th St. Inviting metal benches and trashcans have been installed at 51st and Butler Sts. Twenty of the project’s 50 trashcans are in place. “It’s a good opportunity for public art, so it does double duty. Lawrenceville is all about keeping streets clean. We have a prototype—hopefully other neighborhoods will do this too.”

The project includes billboards, banners, promotional t-shirts and window decals, and a new website created by Lawrenceville-based Group 2 Design, Katy D. Design and art:product. “The website tells stories from people who love Lawrenceville. It’s authentic—which is the neighborhood,” adds Kent. “It would have cost more to buy off-the-shelf products or use national vendors. We’re reinforcing our identity at a lower cost.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Jennifer Kent, Lawrenceville Corporation

Image courtesy Lawrenceville Corporation/16:62 Design Zone

Mt. Washington CDC to unveil first comprehensive business district master plan

A new business district master plan is being unveiled by the Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation (MCDC) at a public meeting on Feb. 11.

Residents, business and property owners and developers are invited to attend the 7:00 p.m. meeting at Mt. Washington Senior Center located at 122 Virginia Ave.

The plan, which will be adopted by the end of February, marks Mt. Washington’s first comprehensive main street vision, and was supported by a $10,000 grant from Community Design Center of Pittsburgh.

Encompassing Shiloh St. and parts of Southern, Virginia, Boggs, and Bailey Aves., the plan calls for redevelopment projects, capital improvements and landscape enhancements. “We want get this out in front of the larger development  community—the idea is to come to an agreement about what kind of development can comfortably expand our business district, and attract developers. Through design, we can help people visualize what those developments can be,” says Panza. “There’s a lot of opportunity up here to make an investment and be profitable, with someone who has a good grasp of the main street model.”

At the meeting, master plan designer Pashek Associates will share 3-D models, photographic simulations and aerial plans created via Google Earth.

“We don’t have a long thoroughfare like Carson or Butler; we have loosely connected business district segments. This plan defines the beginnings, ends and gateways, and how to connect them and make it more of a cohesive village. Our topography is in our DNA, which makes us unique,” says Panza. “It’s critical to have community input. We intersect with perhaps Pittsburgh's largest tourist attraction and are ripe for development.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Greg Panza, MWCDC

Image courtesy Mount Washington Community Development Corporation

Grand View Scenic Byway Park expands with Allegheny Land Trust purchase

In the largest private land purchase added to a Pittsburgh park in decades, the Allegheny Land Trust has acquired an 11.3-acre parcel that will become part of the 228-acre Grand View Scenic Byway Park. The wooded parcel, which overlooks Rte. 51 and the West End, brings the park’s total acreage to 239.

With state and foundation support, the Allegheny Land Trust purchased the parcel for $200,000 from a private owner. Within six months, the parcel will be transferred to the City with restrictions to keep the land as permanent green space. Its stewardship will be managed by the Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation (MWCDC).
“Our conservation easement will make sure the natural features are protected. It’s a typical urban hillside with obligatory stuff like construction debris. It will be cleaned up and made more presentable so that people walking through the woods can enjoy the sights and sounds of nature,” says Roy Kraynyk, with the Allegheny Land Trust. “What’s unique about Pittsburgh’s wilderness, is that the topography creates little hideaways and it’s so close to the Point,” adds Kraynyk, who says that a trailhead and parking area will be created. Additional plans call for installing interpretive signage, restoring native trees and controlling erosion.

“Community residents originally put together all of the parcels identified as potential great additions to the park,” says Ilyssa Manspeizer, with the MWCDC, who is working with a variety of partners to acquire additional small and large parcels for the park. This spring, the community will formally dedicate the long-awaited Duquesne Heights parcel during a park celebration.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Roy Kraynyk, Allegheny Land Trust; Ilyssa Manspeizer, MWCDC

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

$200K in state aid to fund Pittsburgh's first comprehensive city planning initiative

The PA Department of Community and Economic Development has released $200,000 to fund The Strategic Community Planning in Pittsburgh Project, the city’s first comprehensive and coordinated plan.

To identify common strengths, challenges and issues, more effectively allocate limited resources and jumpstart neighborhood improvements, the project will combine the city’s 90 neighborhoods into 16 sectors. Next steps will involve gathering data such as population, physical conditions and amenities, in order to create a snapshot of Pittsburgh's 90 neighborhoods.

“It’s the first of its kind, and will be phased out over four years. We need to work toward a common goal and vision. This has been expressed by a lot of community groups,” says city planning director Noor Ismail.

A consortium of government agencies, technical assistance providers, and foundations will conduct studies to ascertain best scenarios for community development. Neighborhood stakeholders will develop a vision for individual sectors, so that business districts, parks and transportation corridors are used more effectively. The plan will also address infrastructure, economic development, housing, and mixed-use and conservation projects.

“A lot of other parallel planning efforts will feed into this—there needs to be some streamlining. For example, infrastructure does not end in one neighborhood. We need to look at wider areas,” adds Ismail, citing the city’s new bike-pedestrian and ADA efforts. “We’re an older built-out city. There’s a connotation that planning is not necessary anymore but it’s tied into quality of life.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Noor Ismail, Pittsburgh planning director

Image courtesy Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development

$200K in state aid to fund Pittsburgh's first comprehensive city planning initiative

The PA Department of Community and Economic Development has released $200,000 to fund The Strategic Community Planning in Pittsburgh Project, the city’s first comprehensive and coordinated plan.

To identify common strengths, challenges and issues, more effectively allocate limited resources and jumpstart neighborhood improvements, the project will combine the city’s 90 neighborhoods into 16 sectors. Next steps will involve gathering data about population, physical conditions and amenities, in order to create a snapshot of the 90 neighborhoods.

“It’s the first of its kind, and will be phased out into four years. We need to work toward a common goal and vision. This need has been expressed by a lot of community groups,” says city planning director Noor Ismail.

A consortium of government agencies, technical assistance providers, and foundations will conduct studies to ascertain best scenarios for community development. Neighborhood stakeholders will develop a vision for individual sectors, so that business districts, parks and transportation corridors are used more effectively. The plan will also address infrastructure, economic development, housing, and mixed-use and conservation projects.

“A lot of other parallel planning efforts will feed into this—there needs to be some streamlining. For example, infrastructure does not end in one neighborhood. We need to look at wider areas,” adds Ismail, citing the city’s new bike-pedestrian and ADA efforts. “We’re an older built-out city. There’s a connotation that planning is not necessary anymore but it’s tied into quality of life.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Noor Ismail, Pittsburgh planning director

Image courtesy Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development

Dozen Cupcakes expands with second Pittsburgh location, doubles capacity

One year after opening its first location in Squirrel Hill, Dozen Cupcakes is expanding its bakery business and catering operation. On Jan. 26, Dozen Bake Shop will open at 3511 Butler St. in Lawrenceville.

The 1,300-square-foot bakery—twice as large as Dozen’s Murray Ave. space—includes café style seating for 30 and free Wi-Fi. Located in a renovated rowhouse owned by developer Lee Gross, the space features a light yellow and baby blue color scheme, exposed brick and mismatched antique furniture. “It’s an open kitchen concept, a rustic approach to a bakery café. People can see every detail of the production, which is exciting,” says owner/baker James Gray.

Expanding upon its current model, the new bakery's Sunday brunch will feature local produce and herbs from Grow Pittsburgh. Dozen will also carry scones, sour cream cinnamon rolls, key lime tarts, and pies. “We want to provide Pittsburgh with a new bakery experience found in larger cities. Lawrenceville is considered one of the hot spots of Pittsburgh. We wanted to be in an area where other business have that kind of vitality and mentality,” says Gray, 33, who is excited that Tamari restaurant will soon open on Butler. “Lawrenceville offers the reasonable, paced growth we’re looking for. Pittsburgh has been very good to us. There’s been such a loyal following.”

The new space will allow Dozen to expand its catering operation. “We’re hoping to increase that to fifty-percent of our overall operation, and take a large portion of our catering to Lawrenceville,” adds Gray, who often bakes 1,400 cupcakes per day.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: James Gray, Dozen Cupcakes and Dozen Bake Shop

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

$149.3M expansion project at Butler Memorial Hospital receives $13.4M from state

A $149.3 million expansion project at Butler Memorial Hospital has received $13.4 million in state aid. As part of Pennsylvania’s Infrastructure and Facilities Improvement Program, the hospital will annually receive $670,000 for the next 20 years.

The multi-phase project calls for a new seven-story acute care tower, the renovation and expansion of outpatient facilities and an emergency room and road improvements. Additional work involves upgrading the hospital’s electronic medical record system. A new inpatient tower is being built at the hospital’s existing East Brady St. complex, while outpatient delivery sites will be located throughout the region. The tower is expected to be completed during the winter of 2009.

“The grant is gratifying because it gives us the sense that the state has a real appreciation of our community-based  mission," says John Righetti, with Butler Health System. "If you plan effectively to provide what communities truly need, everybody wins.”

As part of the expansion, Butler Health System purchased the Morgan Building and 8.5 acres of land—located at the intersection of Rtes. 422 and 68, just east of the hospital’s existing Brady St. campus—for $7.53 million. The site is being converted into an outpatient delivery facility that will house diagnostic testing, physicians’ and administrative offices and a cardiac center. Project architect for the outpatient facilities, which are slated to open during the summer of 2008, is Butler-based Burt Hill.

HGA of Minneapolis and Columbus-based DesignGroup are designing the new inpatient campus. The expansion project, which is expected to create more than 500 new jobs, will help free up space for inpatient and emergency care.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: John Righetti, Butler Health System

Image courtesy Butler Memorial Hospital

Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville neighborhood energized by creative new cafés, venues

A new coffeehouse with an other-worldly aura is enlivening a corner of Lawrenceville. Located at 4130 Butler St., Your Inner Vagabond Coffeehouse & World Lounge (YIV) is headed up by wife and husband team, AJ Schaffer and Andrew Watson.

The pair concocted the idea during a cross-Europe cycling trek that landed them in Morocco, where they “scoured the souks” for everything from Berber inkwells to leather cushions. After moving to Pittsburgh and being inspired by local groups like Zafira Dance Co., the couple chose Lawrenceville, ending their “four-year search for a place to open a permanent coffeehouse.” Aiming to “connect people to their own sense of wandering and exploration,” YIV fuses an Eastern sensibility with diverse fare and electic concerts.

Housed within a 96-year-old building, the 3,500-square-foot space features a performance stage and 11-foot ceilings. Patrons are lulled by inviting low couches, rich fabrics and hundreds of cozy pillows.

“We fell in love with our space because of its size and location smack-dab in the middle of Lawrenceville. There are a slew of eclectic home and clothing shops, art galleries, music venues and restaurants,” says Schaffer, who is excited that Dozen Cupcakes and Tamari restaurant will soon open their doors nearby. “There was a great write-up on Butler Street in The New York Times about the neighborhood being one of the last bastions of non-corporate, independently-owned businesses in America.”

Part contemporary coffeehouse part posh lounge, YIV carries coffees and teas from around the globe, offers free WiFi, and hosts film screenings. Schaffer sums up the result of extensive renovations, “We’ve turned our place into a Turkish harem.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Andrew Watson, Your Inner Vagabond Coffeehouse & World Lounge

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

AIA Pittsburgh announces 2007 Design Award winners

Winners of AIA Pittsburgh’s 2007 Design Awards were announced on Oct. 25, during the organization’s annual event celebrating architectural excellence. Award categories include architecture, regional and urban design , interior design, open plan, and architectural detail.

“This is the second year we’ve done it Downtown. It’s a great way to make it more public,” says Becky Spevack, with AIA. To spotlight Downtown development, the event was held in an unfinished space at 933 Penn Ave.

Rothschild Doyno Architects
received three awards, while EDGE
was presented with two honors. Lubetz Architects received an award for the Squirrel Hill Library, an accolade that came as Arthur Lubetz celebrated his 40th anniversary in the field.

The Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens Tropical Forest, designed by IKM Inc., received a green design citation. EDGE studio received an award for their interior design of the New Hazlett Theater. An excellence award was presented to V 24 / 7 / 365, a public art installation on Strawberry Way Downtown designed by studio d’ARC. For architecture, Strada won a certificate of merit for their Hermitage Master plan, and an honor award for their addition and renovation at the Mifflin School.

Every year, a panel of judges is organized in a different U.S. city. This year, architects from Boston selected 14 winners from 98 submissions. “We often focus on institutional and educational buildings—people working in the community. A lot of the firms are very community based,” adds Spevack, who says that sustainable design is also a focus.

For a complete list of winners, as well as jury comments, go here.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Becky Spevack, AIA Pittsburgh

Image courtesy of Bradd Celidonia

Bike Pittsburgh publishes city's first bicycle map in 15 years, features local artist

With the new Bike Pittsburgh map, sharing the road just a got a lot easier. In case you’ve lost track, Pittsburgh’s last bicycle map was published 15 years ago during the city’s “Sophie” era.

Featuring cartography created by East Liberty-based tech company DeepLocal, the map is designed for commuters and urban explorers alike. What makes the map stand out are its visually compelling Chris Ware-like illustrations designed by Glen Johnson. Collaboration was nothing new to the team, as Johnston attended CMU with Bike Pittsburgh’s executive director Scott Bricker and DeepLocal founder Nathan Martin.

“You’re not going to find a map like this anywhere in the country. It’s a snapshot in time. We gathered bike maps from all over the country and dissected each one. Most communicated through icons and diagrammatic representations,” says Johnson, 30. “Chicago’s map was the best example. We took what they did and dealt with it more creatively—put in more useful, readable information without overcrowding things.” The result features a comic book-like layout, aerial and close-ups views, a consistent color scheme, and narrative elements that teach bike safety tips.

"We wanted to make the educational parts fun, that’s why we took the graphic novel approach, which is unique," says Bricker. Responding to Pittsburgh’s anti-grid topography, the maps identifies major hills, landmarks and trails, as well as hazardous roads. With an advocacy bent, the map provides information on how to lobby for safer streets. This winter, Bike Pittsburgh will launch an interactive online version.

The project was supported by a $49,200 grant from The Heinz Endowments. To download the map, go here, or pick one up at local bike and coffee shops. Be sure to grab two—one to use and one to frame.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Glen Johnson; Scott Bricker, Bike Pittsburgh

Image courtesy of Bike Pittsburgh and Glen Johnson

Allegheny County unveils vision for regional parks, commits $1M to effort

Allegheny County has launched a major initiative that will boost the redevelopment of its nine regional parks, which span 12,000 acres.

Designed to expand regional recreational opportunities, the County Parks Action Plan includes the creation of the Allegheny County Parks Foundation, which will raise private funds for nine parks and a proposed riverfront greenway. The County has directed $1 million from its capital budget to start the foundation, and has committed to matching future funds. Public-private partnerships will be established to help operate the parks’ major amenities and attractions.

Last summer, a study conducted by the American Institute for Leisure Resources recommended park upgrades. “We're looking at about sixty million dollars worth of maintenance and upgrade projects. If we get the foundation to raise thirty million that the County would match, that would take care of our existing backlog—everything from fixing park shelters and tennis courts to repaving trails,” says Kevin Evanto with Allegheny County. “There are a lot of opportunities for capital improvements, increasing usability and programming. We want the foundation and donors to be creative." The County is looking at national destinations like Oglebay Park as models that serve diverse audiences and generate revenue.

The County will issue RFPs for the adaptive reuse of the North Park Boathouse, Hartwood Stables, South Park Fairgrounds, and Boyce Park, and will hire the National Golf Foundation to review park golf courses. During community meetings, the public will be invited to provide input on park needs.

In May of 2006, the County announced plans for the 452-acre Botanic Garden of Western Pennsylvania, an amenity which is expected to draw more than 300,000 annual visitors.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Kevin Evanto, Allegheny County

Image courtesy of Allegheny County

Iron City Brewing Company opens for business, invests $4.1M in modernization

Iron City beer is flowing again in Lawrenceville. The new Iron City Brewing Company (ICB) has opened its doors at 3340 Liberty Ave.

New owners Unified Growth Partners have installed a new management team and provided financial backing. Formerly called Pittsburgh Brewing Company, ICB has adopted the name the brewery was originally founded under in 1861.

ICB is investing $4.1 million in capital improvements. “A major project is to modernize with a new automated keg filling system. Also, we’re moving from a 1950’s coal fired boiler to a gas boiler. It’s a tremendous savings, and will be more of a green facility,” says Tim Hickman, ICB’s new president. “There’s a lot of plant maintenance—a laundry list of little things.” The brewery is also rebuilding its pasteurizer, cleaning the Ober Haus and replacing equipment.

After running at half production for eight months, ICB has resumed full operations with 102 employees. “We’d love to recall close to 148 employees,” adds Hickman, who says the brewery’s goal is to sell 327,000 barrels in 2008, which would be a thirty-percent increase over 2006.

To promote its well-known Iron City and Augustiner products, ICB is stepping up its branding efforts. “We want to get into the craft brew market in 2008,” adds Hickman, who says brew master Mike Carota has been with ICB for 31 years. “We’re looking at our packaging to make sure it comes from recycled products.”

The 146-year old brewery boasts a number of beer industry “firsts,”  from brewing the first American lager, to introducing the first twist-off cap, snap top can and aluminum bottle. “We'd love to make it a destination place for folks from out of town,” adds Hickman, who says the brewery is open for tours.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Tim Hickman, ICB

Photograph copyright © Brian Cohen

SUGAR Boutique expands into Shadyside with second Pittsburgh location

Less than one year after taking the reins at Lawrenceville’s premiere independent boutique, shop owner Katie Bulger is set to spread some SUGAR into another Pittsburgh neighborhood.

On September 1st, Bulger will open a second SUGAR boutique at 5890 Ellsworth Ave. in Shadyside. Bulger is working with Dave Jurgensen on renovations of the 650 square-foot shop.

“Shadyside is the shopping mecca--there’s no denying it. I’m excited about Ellsworth because it’s more independent companies, small businesses and galleries. It’s a good fit for what I carry,” says Bulger, who already feels an affinity with Shadyside’s more edgy business district. “It’s going to be a great mix. The businesses are very proactive--they want to succeed.” To plan for SUGAR’s expansion, Bulger hired a PR writer/event planner.

Pittsburgh’s second dose of SUGAR will feature a new look for the company. Describing her Lawrenceville shop as “home grown and woodsy,” Bulger says the Shadyside shop will feature stainless steel decor and an industrial feel.

Specializing in emerging designers such as Kelly Lane and Saint Grace, SUGAR features hand-picked wares and accessories from Pittsburgh’s top designers, as well as couture from across the country. Upcoming events include a Rare Plum trunk show and a t-shirt launch party by local designer Icarus.

Recently named one of Pittsburgh’s "Fifty Finest" influential bachelorettes by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Bulger uses couture to benefit worthy causes through her fashionCURES initiative.

SUGAR on Ellsworth will host a grand opening on October 12th.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Katie Bulger, SUGAR

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

Housing renovation project breathes new life into Bloomfield properties

A new residential project has transformed three single-family homes in Bloomfield. Seeing an opportunity to support housing in one of the city’s central neighborhoods, no wall productions has purchased and renovated  properties on Pearl St., Garnet Way and Edmund St.

The three-story homes feature two bedrooms and two bathrooms, as well as
new windows, electrical systems and central air conditioning. “We took the classic Bloomfield row house and updated it, not just the stuff that makes it a sexy loft space, but completely renovated them for people who like loft style living,” says Francisco Escalante, with no wall productions, who says the homes are available for rent or sale. “We opened up the stairwells that divide the living and dining rooms, and created a more interesting flow into the kitchens. We built a loft style space on the third floor to capture that as usable bedroom space and got rid of drop ceilings.”

Homes feature new bathrooms and kitchens, contemporary color schemes, refinished wood floors, and French doors that lead to decks. Homes are selling for $185,000. Rental prices range from $850 to $1,500.

“Bloomfield has that iconic Pittsburgh neighborhood style. You can still get a 50-cent coffee, a really good cannoli or go to Starbucks. It’s within walking distance to a really interesting commercial district and it’s stable--that’s something we look for in a neighborhood,” says Escalante. “Bloomfield is uniquely positioned, not just because of the hospitals, but because it's convenient for people affiliated with Pitt, with all of the ancillary stuff going on. We certainly think the market is there and are targeting houses in the area.” For more information, e-mail info@nowall.com.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Francisco Escalante, no wall productions

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

$3M Shannopin's Village to bring new townhouses, commercial space to Lawrenceville

Plans are being finalized for the construction of Shannopin’s Village along the 3800 block of of Lawrenceville’s bustling Butler St. corridor.

Shannopin's Village will feature two new commercial buildings, two rental apartments and eight high-end townhouses. Each 1,350 square-foot storefront will feature a 1,350 square-foot second-floor apartment. The project will also include the construction of Shannopin Lane, a new street that will run perpendicular to Butler St., in between the Village's two commercial buildings.

“The foot traffic is a plus. In between the two Butler buildings will be the entrance to the new development,” says Sandy DeTemple, with Prudential Preferred Realty. "I am committed to the project and as a Lawrenceville resident, committed to the neighborhood.”

The 1,800 square-foot townhouses will feature two and three bedrooms, 3 ½ bathrooms, integral garages, and decks. Townhouses, which will be located along both sides of Shannopin Lane, will sell for $300,000. Architect Cherie Moshier is designing Shannopin's Village to complement the architectural character of Lawrenceville.

Project developer and contractor is Sansom and Senko Real Estate.
Shannopin’s Village is the company’s first Lawrenceville project. “They're very excited about Lawrenceville and wanted to pay homage to the neighborhood by researching its history, which is why the name was chosen,” says DeTemple, of the project’s namesake, a Native American chief who once lived in the area. The project is expected to break ground by October 1st.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Sandy DeTemple, Prudential Preferred Realty

Image courtesy of Prudential Preferred Realty

$500K grant to help Children's Hospital build innovative wellness center

Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation has received a $500,000 grant from General Nutrition Centers (GNC) Live Well Foundation to support the construction of a $1 million family wellness center for its new $575 million campus now under construction in Lawrenceville.

The center will feature an on-site gym, exercise classes and recreation facilities for hospital staff and patients' families. "I’m not aware of other children's hospitals that are doing this. A number of hospitals have smaller facilities or fitness programs for staff to use during off hours. The focus here is specifically on a fully equipped fitness center," says Roger Oxendale, president & CEO of Children's Hospital. "We have a lot of kids who are chronically ill and may be in the hospital for a month or longer. The fitness center will give parents the ability to get away and clear their heads, while at the same time having the assurance that their children are right next door. We believe it will be a big benefit."

Located in the Plaza Building, which will also include the hospital's daycare facility and family housing, the wellness center will feature workout areas for group and individual exercise, free weights, circuit training equipment, an evaluation room for fitness assessments, and locker/shower facilities. "The building adjoins our mid-site garage and garden for those who want to be outdoors before or after a workout," adds Oxendale, who says the center is among the first of its kind in the nation.

Children's Hospital is seeking LEED certification for its new 10-acre complex, which is expected to open in 2009.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Roger Oxendale, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh

Image courtesy of Children's Hospital

Zombo Gallery takes Lawrenceville by storm, hosts inaugural exhibition

Located at 4900 Hatfield St., Zombo Gallery is the latest arts venue to join Lawrenceville’s eclectic array of commercial and cultural destinations. Part of a venue that also houses a screenprinting studio, novelty shop and offices, the 800 square-foot gallery is spearheaded by Michael “Zombo” Devine, a nationally known DJ, novelty product designer and entertainer.

Zombo Gallery opens on July 13th with the inaugural exhibition Squaresville, featuring pop art paintings by Pittsburgh-based cartoonist, illustrator and writer Wayno, whose work has been featured in The New Yorker, Entertainment Weekly, and The New York Times.

The 5,000 square-foot building also houses a massage therapy business run by Zombo’s wife Julie, as well as the couple’s residence. Built in the late 1800s, the three-story property features exposed brick, cherry stained bead board and laminate wood flooring. “I’m going for mid-century modern--a lot of open space. I got this entire building for the price of a mobile home in a bad area in Portland,” says Zombo, who lived in Oregon in 2006, and in Pittsburgh from 2000-2003. The gallery's 50s-era, mint green and burgundy sign announces the venue’s “See it, Hear it, Wear it, Own it” manifesto. “The place looks like a hipster funeral home,” says Zombo, of the gallery’s coffins, crushed red velvet drapes, and torch lamps.

In lieu of a commission, Zombo asks each artist to design a commemorative t-shirt to sell in his shop. “The building is the pay-off,” says Zombo, who purchased the property for $115,000 and invested an additional $45,000.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Michael Devine, Zombo Gallery

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

$950K Blackbird Artist Studios welcomes new tenant, reaches 50% occupancy

Borelli-Edwards Gallery has leased five first-floor spaces in Lawrenceville’s Blackbird Artist Studios located at 3583 Butler St.  The gallery, which is hosting an opening on June 29th, carries sculpture, paintings, assemblages, and Japanese prints by artists from the tri-state region.

“I decided that if I wanted to be a serious gallery, I needed to be in the city. I looked all over and kept coming back to Lawrenceville,” says Joy Edwards, who for twenty-nine years ran the gallery in McCandless. “I like its proximity to the city and that it’s in the Design Zone. I like the community feeling here. There’s a good artistic vibe.”

Architect Keith Cochran worked with Edwards to design the spaces. “I want to be the preeminent gallery for regional art, to help raise people’s awareness of buying a one-of-a-kind piece that has the soul of the artist,” says Edwards, who represents artists who exhibit nationally. “As the art world moves out of New York City a bit, artists are moving to other areas. Pittsburgh has been called the San Francisco of the East," he notes, adding, "There’s also a lot of creative thinking going on in the robotics and medical fields.”

Kelly Hoffman with the Lawrenceville Corporation anticipates that Blackbird's ten artist studios will be fully leased in a few months. “Joy's business will complement the many artists, designers, and arts-related businesses that are located in Lawrenceville.” Developed by Artists and Cities, Inc., Blackbird also features 15 owner-occupied residential units. Studio d'ARC
designed the $950,000 project; contractor was Sota Construction Services, Inc.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Joy Edwards, Borelli-Edwards Gallery; Kelly Hoffman, Lawrenceville Corporation

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

Pittsburgh opens first inter-neighborhood bike lane, plans new trail signage

Pittsburgh’s first inter-neighborhood bike lane opened on June 18th. A collaborative project between the City and non-profit Bike Pittsburgh, the five-foot lane runs alongside Liberty Ave. from Baum Blvd. to Ligonier St., and is identified with on-street, stenciled markings.

The project also calls for a bike lane along Greenfield Rd., which runs from Hobart St. to the Greenfield Bridge, and directional signs to lead cyclists from Schenley Park to Frick Park.

“There's mometum now--this is just the beginning. We're tyring to get these throughout the city,” says Bike Pittsburgh’s executive director Scott Bricker, who is working with engineering firm Trans Associates to identify additional streets for striping. Bike Pittsburgh, which has more than 500 members, received a $36,000 grant from R.K. Mellon to support the project. “Cyclists want to feel safer. It’s a tool to educate motorists and encourage more people to ride. The more iconography on the streets, the better.” The city has already received sixty calls and e-mails in support of the lanes. “They’ve never received such support before.”

To make Pittsburgh’s 22 miles of riverfront trails more accessible, the city will also install 89 new signs to direct cyclists to riverfront trails and motorists to free trail head parking lots. The $52,000 project is supported by a Federal Transportation Enhancement Grant. Signs are being fabricated by Verona-based Bunting Graphics. The circular blue signs will feature a red rim, light blue bicycle silhouette and white text. Landesberg Design provided design assistance, as part of a  partnership between the City, Riverlife Task Force and Friends of the Riverfront.

To support these projects, the City will hire a full-time bike-ped coordinator, who will oversee Pittsburgh's Pedestrian Improvement and Bicycling Plans, and advise officials on pedestrian and cycling needs as they relate to infrastructure projects. The coordinator will also work on streetscape and traffic improvements and trail expansion.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Scott Bricker, Bike Pittsburgh; Joanna Doven, City of Pittsburgh

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

Asian Influences next up to join Lawrenceville's business district

New antique shop Asian Influences plans to open in mid-September at 3513 Butler St. in Lawrenceville’s design district. Owner Susan Fisher is renting the 1,750 square-foot space from Lawrenceville-based developer Lee Gross of A-1 Realty.

With a focus on Asian antiques from the mid-1800s, the shop will carry furniture, porcelain collectibles and Japanese Satsuma pieces. “I’ve always leaned toward buying Asian things,” says Fisher, who travels regularly to Ohio, Florida and Maryland to stock her inventory.

Shop highlights include a rosewood altar table inlaid with pink and blue mother of pearl, bamboo chairs and a Victorian-era scroll table. Furniture prices will range from $200 to $2,000; porcelains will sell for between $20 and $700. Asian Influences will also carry vases, lamps and coffers. Artwork, including oil paintings, woodblock prints and travel posters, will also be a focus.

“I don’t know of other places like this here. There really is something for everybody,” says Fisher, who works with Oakmont-based furniture restoration artist Ron Boscia.

For Fisher, who attended Parsons School of Design in New York City and worked on Wall Street for 18 years, Asian Influences is her foray into running a business. “I'm so pleased by how cooperative and supportive people are in Lawrenceville; it’s a wonderful thing to be a part of. It was amazing to find this kind of space for the price,” says Fisher, whose shop is located next door to Tamari, a new Asian-Latin fusion restaurant.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Susan Fisher, Asian Influences

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

YPA unveils region's top preservation sites, celebrates 5th anniversary

The Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh (YPA) unveiled its “Top Ten Best Preservation Opportunities” list at the group’s fifth anniversary celebration on May 25th.

The list calls attention to endangered properties that show potential for reuse and highlights the economic value of historic preservation. “We really wanted to do a list that would be different, not just endangered places, but where we see potential. It shapes our thinking on historic places,” says Dan Holland with the YPA, who is currently working to secure preservation grants for the National Negro Opera House in Homewood. “These are strategic and purposeful awards. Community revitalization should start with historic resources."
For the first time, the YPA identified two Washington County sites. The Coyle Theater in Charleroi, West Overton Museums in Scottdale and Pittsburgh’s former Morningside School were also recognized.

Sandee Gertz Umbach, founding executive director of Washington Community Arts and Cultural Center, won the YPA’s emerging preservation leader award. “She’s a magnet for revitalization in Washington. While we have these top ten sites, it is the people and demographics that matter,” says Holland.

To select winners, the YPA looks at architectural and historical significance, project feasibility and community interest. “It takes a huge amount of teamwork. We’re trying to encourage donors to invest in these projects.” Next fall, the YPA plans to launch technical assistance programs for  individuals, business owners, community-based organizations, and local governments.

Holland cites the Union Project and Armstrong Cork Factory as examples of preservation success stories. Of 54 sites the YPA has identified since 2003, only one is considered a loss.
Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Dan Holland, YPA

Image courtesy of YPA

Cool Space Locator spotlights Pittsburgh's hottest spaces

Cool Space Locator (CSL) shines a spotlight on Pittsburgh’s hottest spaces during its June 1st "Cool Down" awards party.
Founded in 2005, the bi-annual event highlights the role that compelling architecture, design and communities play in strengthening urban life.

This year, CSL established five criteria to guide the decision-making process: community connections, creativity, historical inspiration,  adaptive reuse and the people behind the places. “We wanted to give people a better idea of what specifically we focus on,” says Keren Shefet with CSL, which assists business owners and non-profit leaders with locating creative spaces. “Cool creative spaces need to inspire the people working in them. A lot of spaces need to connect with communities.”

Winners include the Blacksmith Studio on the Northside, Uncommon Grounds in Aliquippa and The Union Project in East Liberty. New this year is an award for two communities, Bellevue and Braddock, neighborhoods recognized for stimulating economic revitalization along business districts.

To further plug cool spaces, the event will take place at The Meter Room, a former warehouse located in Sheraden. Spearheaded by local artist John Ross, The Meter Room provides residential, work and performance space for artists. “Our event for him is like a coming out party. It brings him more attention,” adds Sheret, who says the awards promote urban revitalization by calling attention to unique workspaces located in walkable neighborhoods.

A panel of community leaders, including architect Ken Doyno and Malik Bankston of The Kingsley Association, assisted with selecting 10 winners from 48 submissions. The event is sponsored by Mellon Financial Corporation and the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Keren Shefet, CSL

Image courtesy of Cool Space Locator

$3M grant to support innovative family resource center at new Children's Hospital

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation has received a $3 million grant from the Eden Hall Foundation to support the 20,000-square-foot Elsa M. and Alma E. Mueller Family Resource Center.

The facility, which will serve more than 18,000 people, will be part of the hospital's new $575M, 10.2-acre Penn Ave. campus set to open in April 2009. The award is one of the largest single gifts granted by the Pittsburgh-based Eden Hall Foundation. Designed as a town square and offering a variety of non-medical services for inpatients and their families, the center will be one of the largest of its kind in the nation and the first of its kind in western Pennsylvania.

"What's significant about this space is that it's really designed for the ease and comfort of families. A lot of thought and effort was given to the overall stay of families--that's the concept," says DeAnn Marshall, COO of the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation. "The rooftop healing garden will be six stories up, with with amazing views of the city." To plan the center, architects from Astorino and hospital experts conducted exptensive interviews with patients, families and staff. "Families told us they wanted a more home-like environment."

The Family Resource Center will be located on the sixth floor of the new Clinical Services Building, and will be linked to the hospital’s chapel, activity atrium, healing garden, and libraries. The center will also provide access to a family learning lab, young adult resource center, in-hospital school classrooms, and 24-hour playroom.

Named one of 20 Child Health Research Centers by the National Institutes of Health, and a top pediatric hospital by U.S. News & World Report, Children’s Hospital provides care in more than 500,000 annual patient visits.

Source: DeAnn Marshall, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation 

Image courtesy of Children's Hospital

Smart Growth Conference to convene downtown on May 18

"Focusing Growth for Regional Prosperity,” the 7th annual Smart Growth Conference, will take place on May 18 at the Omni William Penn Hotel.

The free conference features keynote speaker Don Chen, executive director of Smart Growth America, a national advocacy coalition that promotes preservation of open space and farmland, reinvestment in existing communities, affordable housing and transportation alternatives.

Attendees will be invited to respond to a draft of Project Region, a long-range transportation and development plan being developed by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission. "This is an opportunity for the public to give input on the plan," say Court Gould, executive director of Sustainable Pittsburgh. "This plan will have a real impact on the face of the region, how we will grow and develop, whether we will continue to sprawl outwardly or focus on our existing communities.”

Participants will hear progress reports from three community committees created at last year's conference: leveling the field for redevelopment, promoting regionalism and transportation funding. The event will also feature a Q&A with state, regional and local leaders.

Project Region: The Southwestern Pennsylvania Growth Plan, which must be adopted by July, aims to make regional planning processes more transparent, maximize infrastructure, and integrate transportation, job creation and economic competitiveness within a plan for regional growth.

“In light of the city's recent top livable city award, this plan will address important quality of life issues for the future. We're at an important point where the plan will steer growth and development for the next 30 years,” says Gould.

To register, go here.

Road to 2010 symposium to address region's major construction projects

The region’s major construction projects, set to occur over the next three years, will be addressed at the “Road to 2010 Symposium.” The free event takes place on May 16 at the downtown Westin and is organized by Navigant Consulting, an international firm with a downtown office.

Government officials and industry experts will share information about building plans with area construction, engineering and design communities. Sessions will address construction issues relating to infrastructure, higher education, and private and public sector development. “There’s so much development money coming in with gaming and the North Shore. The synergies between different areas will impact the labor market and the lives of all Pittsburghers,” says Jeff Burd with BreakingGround, event co-sponsor. “What an exciting time to be here. We’re at the beginning of a large wave of work.”

Jack Mascaro of Mascaro Construction Company will chair a panel featuring Joseph Fink, associate vice chancellor for facilities management at the University of Pittsburgh. Transportation officials, private developers and non-profit leaders will also participate. Major city developments, such as The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s RiverParc and the new arena, will be spotlighted.

“It’s meant to demonstrate what's coming up, facilitate discussions about what the needs are, and make sure that people understand the full breadth of the region’s three-year climate,” says Burd, a session moderator. “Four out of five experts feel we’re not going to have sufficient skilled labor. We'll need to facilitate people coming here.” Burd feels the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. markets could be a source for labor. “We’re bringing in decision makers who are in charge of funding to make it a high-level event and tie everything together.” To register, call 412.454.4100.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Jeff Burd, BreakingGround/Tall Timber Group

Image courtesy of Navigant Consulting, Inc.

Howard Hanna ranks high on REAL Trends' national list of top real estate firms

Howard Hanna Real Estate Services has received three high rankings by REAL Trends, the country’s leading publisher of residential real estate analysis. Based on 2006 production, Howard Hanna was named the country’s sixth largest firm for closed transactions and fifth largest for both sales and settlement services. 

“When you consider how hot the markets have been in California, Florida and Arizona, and here's a home grown company in Pittsburgh, it’s pretty impressive,” says Steve Murray, editor of Denver-based REAL Trends, which collects data from 800 leading brokerage firms. “This is the highest ranking they’ve ever attained."

Murray would not be surprised to see the company enter new markets. “We are actively looking for quality acquisitions of real estate companies and expanding our mortgage, title and insurance businesses with adding new locations in 2007,” says Howard W. “Hoddy” Hanna, III, chairman and CEO of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services.

Howard Hanna was also recognized as the nation’s third largest privately owned real estate firm; in 2006, the company completed 52,555 closed and settlement service transactions. “In a year that was down in overall real estate sales, it is gratifying that Howard Hanna went against the market and had another up year,” says Hanna. “The real estate market in Western Pennsylvania is of strong value, and will continue to be, with three to five percent appreciation in the next two years. This will create housing appreciation in our region to be in the top 10% nationally.”

With more than 3,600 employees, Howard Hanna has 120 offices in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and West Virginia. This year, the company is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Steve Murray, REAL Trends

Image courtesy of Real Trends

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

Tamari restaurant to join bustling Butler Avenue business district

Tamari, a restaurant with a passion for Asian and Latin cuisine, is in the works at 3519 Butler St. The 3,000 square-foot eatery is the vision of Allen Chen, who grew up in the restaurant business alongside his father Mike, who owns China Palace and Sushi Two.

With a capacity of 85, Tamari will feature a courtyard, open grill and second-floor deck and lounge. “That courtyard drew me to the space. The building is unique. It’s a nice advantage to have outdoor seating options which are so limited in Pittsburgh,” says Chen, who rents the building from Lawrenceville developer Lee Gross. “That end is taking off. You’re seeing more boutiques opening up. Five years ago, who would have thought they’d be building $300,000 condos in Lawrenceville?” Chen is following the construction of Children’s Hospital with anticipation. “That’s the catalyst for everything. It's going to pick up so much steam with the hospital. Then you have some of old Pittsburgh with younger professionals and the art galleries. It’s a nice mix.”

Downtown-based architect Felix Fukui, who is relocating his firm to Butler St., is working on Tamari’s design. “We’re going to set the more free flowing Latin influence against Asia’s more regimented culture, to play off of both,” says Chen, who developed a love for Latin cuisine while living in Mexico. Tamari will be Pittsburgh’s restaurant to serve the grilled skewered dish called robota yaki. “We’re going to do more innovative sushi rolls. A lot of this will be new to Pittsburgh. I plan on letting people experiment. I’m shooting for a fusion. We’re blending Asian and Latin techniques. A component to any culture is its food.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Allen Chen, Tamari

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

Butler Street business owners get creative to boost local economy, lure visitors

Businesses along Lawrenceville’s Butler St., Penn Ave., and 43rd St. are teaming up to boost the local economy and promote environmental awareness. During the Blossom Tour on April 20-22, boutiques, design shops and studios in the neighborhood’s burgeoning business district will celebrate Earth Day by handing out free seed packets and neighborhood maps.

Fourteen eclectic merchants, including Accezzorize and La Vie--who both landed in Lawrenceville in November--will each provide different packets, encouraging visitors to collect all 14 and plant flower gardens. “Many people who visit Lawrenceville once, for an event like the Blossom Tour, tell us that they never knew there was so much in Lawrenceville, and they typically come back to shop, dine, visit, even to move here. These businesses understand the value of promoting Lawrenceville as a whole, not just one or two shops,” says Jennifer Kent with the Lawrenceville Corporation.

Coordinator Mary Coleman, who runs Gallery on 43rd St., has seen foot traffic and business increase with past events. “The business district is more than just Butler. The hook is with the flower seeds. People will want to collect as many as they can, so they’ll go to all of the shops and walk past others.” The Lawrenceville resident, who opened her 800 square-foot gallery thirteen years ago, has built a customer base that extends to Ohio and West Virginia. “We’ll be drawing from everywhere—the North and South Hills, Aspinwall and Fox Chapel.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Mary Coleman, Gallery on 43rd St.; Jennifer Kent, Lawrenceville Corporation

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

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

New townhouses coming to Lawrenceville

Phase two of the Penn Avenue Townhouses project is underway in Lawrenceville. Construction is expected to begin within two weeks on two new townhouses located at 3514 and 3518 Penn Ave.

The new units will be sold at a market rate of approximately $180,000. Financing for the $400,000 project is provided by the URA and Dollar Bank. During the project's first phase in 2005, three new townhouses were constructed along Penn Ave.

“This is part of an overall strategy to provide a high-quality product and attract homeowners to the area,” says Kelly Hoffman, real estate manager with the Lawrenceville Corporation, the project developer. “We are really excited to start the construction of two brand new townhouses on Penn. The first phase of this development was extremely successful and these two houses will sell quickly.”

Project architect is Southside-based Hanson Design Group; contractor is George Gallagher and Son. The 1,820 square-foot, three-story townhouses will feature three bedrooms, 1½ bathrooms, front porches, and basements. Buyers will have the option to finish a third floor at an additional cost.

“Lawrenceville has fantastic shops, restaurants and all of the amenities of city living. This is a great location for someone working at the new Children's Hospital, or for someone who wants to be in a great neighborhood,” says Hoffman.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Kelly Hoffman, Lawrenceville Corporation

Image courtesy of Lawrenceville Corporation

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

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

Under new management, Sugar Boutique celebrates grand reopening, launches fashion for a cure events

Sugar Boutique, located at 3703 Butler St. in Lawrenceville, is hosting a grand reopening celebration on April 13th. The event marks the 750 square-foot boutique’s new ownership under Pittsburgh native Katie Bulger.

To coincide with the reopening, Sugar is launching a new branding campaign. Pittsburgh-based designer and photographer Jason Hewitt created the boutique’s new website, print ads and mailers. “It’s about the lifestyle of indulging in sugar,” says Bulger, who managed Eyetique for six years.

Bulger’s vision for Sugar includes a fashion-with-a-conscience-mindset. “I’ve joined forces with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society; we’re going to do a lot of “fashion for a cure” events to raise money for research.” Sugar’s first trunk show, set for May 12, as well as monthly events, will donate proceeds to the society’s local chapter.

Featuring emerging and independent local, national and international designers,the shop is currently showcasing Kelly Lane, whose made-in-Pittsburgh line, Clothing With Color, has drawn national attention. Additional designers include Santa Cruz, California-based Filly Designs and Australian designer Jody B. Wise, who works out of Los Angeles.

“People have been amazing here, so welcoming and friendly” says Bulger of the Butler St. business corridor. “It’s artistic and up and coming. I like being in on the ground floor.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Katie Bulger

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

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

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

Professional gilder brings art of gold leaf to Lawrenceville

Professional gilder Emilie Cohen has opened a new gold leaf studio at 3353 Ligonier Street in Lawrenceville. Built in 1900, the artist’s 1,600 square-foot property features a first floor studio, basement workspace and two loft apartments, one of which is available for rent. After purchasing the property in 2005, Cohen oversaw its complete renovation, including installing bamboo floors. “My guiding principle was natural light and color.”

An interest in the long-term care and preservation of gilded objects prompted Cohen to design a refurbished studio. She was sold on the location.  “Lawrenceville has the cache of being an artsy, funky place that piques people’s curiosity," she says.
Cohen’s clients include museums, galleries, auction houses and private collections, such as the Frick Art and Historical Center, the Duquesne Club and the Royal York Auction Gallery. Her commissions include the restoration of 17th-century gilt candelabra, 19th-century furniture and 20th-century wooden sculptures. “I want to create heirloom legacies for families to treasure; I’m looking for ways to train people’s eyes to the beauty of gold leaf.”

One of approximately 1,000 artisan craftsmen in the U.S. who work with 22 and 23-karat gold leaf in fields such as sign painting, antique restoration and fine arts conservation, Cohen was mentored by master gilders in Washington, D.C. “I’ve grown from framing fine art to gold leaf conservation to working with carvers in Nepal who use 5,000-year-old traditions," she notes.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Emilie Cohen

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

County announces 65-acre expansion of North Park

On Dec. 14th, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato announced plans for a 65-acre addition to North Park. Currently a brownfield adjacent to the 3,010-acre park, the land will serve as a collection site for material dredged from North Park Lake and will then be converted to park and recreation space. Dredging of the lake will begin in 2007.

“This is a critical piece of property for the North Park Lake dredging project,” said County parks director Andy Baechle. “We wouldn’t be able to move forward without this land.”

The Richard King Mellon Foundation donated half of the $460,900 cost to purchase the land; funds from Growing Greener II, a voter-approved $625-million bond issue, will cover the remainder. At the end of December, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy will act as the fiscal agent for the purchase of the land.

“This is another successful example of Allegheny County converting brownfields into  greenfields,” said Onorato. “This former industrial site will not only allow us to perform the critical dredging project to return North Park Lake to its former glory, but it will also add acres of recreational and green space to the park.”

Located in Hampton Township and one of nine County-operated public parks, North Park features a nature center, golf course, pool, and skating rink.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Office of the Allegheny County Chief Executive

City to buy back tax liens on 11,000 parcels in $6.5M deal

On Dec. 7, Mayor Ravenstahl announced that the City of Pittsburgh will buy back tax liens on 11,000 parcels of property currently unoccupied and undeveloped. Part of the Mayor’s plan to assist Pittsburgh neighborhoods with revitalization and economic development efforts, the $6.5 million deal will be financed through the city’s general fund and is expected to be completed by the end of March 2007.

“Our neighborhoods can no longer be neglected,” said Ravenstahl.  “Now, properties previously unavailable for re-development because of their high tax-liens, can finally be developed. This has been the hurdle we faced over  and over again.”

The deal with Capital Asset, a subsidiary of MBIA Inc., the Armonk, New York-based bond insurer, was negotiated in partnership with the Pittsburgh Public Schools and Water and Sewer Authority. From 1996 through 1999, the city sold tax-liens on 14,000 parcels to Capital Asset Research Corporation for $64 million. 

“This plan reflects one of my top priorities for the New Year: the need to shift our mindset from one of managing decline to one of building a Pittsburgh for the future,” said Ravenstahl. "We talk about bringing our neighborhoods back, we talk about reinvesting in our neighborhoods. This is unprecedented; it's something that will give us control."

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Mayor Luke Ravenstahl

Rachel Carson Homestead launches centennial events

On Dec. 5, the Rachel Carson Homestead Association (RCHA) launched its 2007 Centennial Celebration. Designed to highlight Carson’s environmental legacy and southwestern PA’s leadership in environmental, conservation and eco-tourism initiatives, the year-long celebration of the author, scientist and Springdale native will feature major events throughout the region.

Recently named leading environmental campaigner of all time by the U.K. Environment Agency, Carson is credited with founding the green movement after publishing Silent Spring in 1962. “This is where the base of who she became was started--current day environmental organizations trace back to her,” says Patricia DeMarco, RCHA's executive director, who calls Carson a “Pittsburgh icon.”

The centennial will spotlight Carson’s hometown and encourage people to consider all aspects of a green lifestyle. “We’re trying to propagate her ideas and philosophy,” says DeMarco, who hopes the centennial will educate people about creating a permanent footprint of sustainability, as well as how to achieve full functionality for area rivers.

The RCHA and local partners will present a birthday block-party, programs about global warming and sustainable agriculture, and a symposium at CMU. Activities will include plays, concerts and films, a national women’s health conference and a groundbreaking for a new downtown monument to Carson.

In April, the RCHA will announce a legacy challenge encouraging individuals, businesses, institutions and government to make permanent, measurable changes in behavior and policy that promote Carson’s environmental ethic.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Patricia DeMarco

Image courtesy of the Rachel Carson Homestead Association

Onorato signs landmark riverfront park legislation

On December 1, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato signed legislation to support the development of a 128-mile long riverfront park along the Allegheny, Monongahela, Ohio and Youghiogheny Rivers.

Last month, County Council members David Fawcett and Jim Burn introduced the countywide park proposal. On November 21, Council unanimously approved an ordinance that authorizes County officials to start acquiring properties and begin the park's mapping, design and engineering phase. Touching more than half of Allegheny County’s 130 municipalities, the amenity will become the world’s longest urban linear park.

“Once you connect the trails, the usage of the parks will go up enormously,” says Fawcett, who has received more positive e-mails about the park than about any other topic since Council was created in 2000. “Cyclists, joggers and commuters can get from one place to another without interruption.”

New amenities will include picnic sites, athletic facilities, fishing areas, and rock climbing spots. “There's a focus on waterfront development throughout the world,” says Fawcett, citing examples like Chicago, Chattanooga and Vancouver. “Ours could be the most spectacular and largest, because you have the greatest length of waterways.”

Though funding information has not been released, Fawcett says there is “expression from a lot of different sectors for funding, which is in line with this being economic development, not just another park.”

Three County departments—Parks, Public Works and Economic Development--will undertake the project, which is expected to exceed $100 million and take several years.

“This follows Chief Executive Dan Onorato’s plan to develop our brownfield and riverfront sites as part of his economic development plans," says Dennis Davin, director of Allegheny County's Department of.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: David Fawcett; Dennis Davin

PHFA announces $1.5M excellence in design initiative

The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) has launched a new
$1.5 million Excellence in Design Initiative (EDI). Unprecedented nationally, the demonstration program will reward design excellence and encourage statewide architectural, engineering and construction standards in affordable housing.

Qualifying submissions may be eligible for design grants made payable to the development team’s architect. Teams may include for-profit and non-profit developers, architects and community development organizations.

“We’re looking for creative, functional designs that integrate green building if possible,” says PHFA’s executive director Brian Hudson. “We’d like to incorporate some of these designs into our ongoing work.” Funds may be used to support affordable housing and mixed-use developments that include rehabilitation and new construction.

The Community Design Center of Pittsburgh (CDCP), Community Design Collaborative of AIA Philadelphia and Penn State University’s Hamer Center will assist with reviewing submissions and conducting site visits. Applicants must attend a training seminar in Harrisburg on December 1; funds will be distributed based on amounts required by best projects.

“It's an opportunity to demonstrate that quality design results in added value,” says Jason Vrabel with CDCP who says local governments must provide matching funds. “I’ve met with the URA and they are prepared to partner on this.

“I’m hoping we see projects with strong community development angles,” he adds.  “It’s a very innovative opportunity to set a statewide precedent for housing agencies--we think it could become a national model.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Brian Hudson; Jason Vrabel

Image courtesy of PHFA

Duquesne University hosts business technology conference

On Nov. 28, Duquesne University’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and School of Business Administration will team up to present the region’s first Pennsylvania Business Technology Conference. The event will focus on how businesses can use technology to improve profitability and productivity.

“Technology changes so rapidly—corporate and business worlds have a hard time keeping up with how it can improve performance,” says SBDC director Mary McKinney. “We’re presenting technologies that are most able to assist businesses with growth.”

Keynote speaker Dan Miklovic, of the leading technology research firm Gartner Inc., will predict the next three years’ hottest technology issues. U.S. Congressman Mike Doyle will discuss how technology can support community revitalization. A roundtable discussion will feature representatives from Google, Oracle, Summa Technologies, and iGATE.

“While small and medium-sized businesses are very open to adopting new technologies, they often lack what’s needed to take new resources to fruition,” says Ken Saban, with Duquesne’s School of Business Administration. “We looked at technology’s impact on business performance and found there wasn’t a neutral platform for people to get unbiased information.”

More than 100 people are expected to attend. “It’s an opportunity to connect business owners and managers and with technologists,” says Saban. “People will walk away with critical insights.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Mary McKinney; Ken Saban

Image courtesy of Duquesne University

Equita celebrates grand opening in Lawrenceville

A new Lawrenceville shop is bringing shopping with a conscience to Pittsburgh. Equita, which means fairness in Italian, opens Nov. 24 at 100 43rd Street in the Ice House artist studios. Opening festivities will celebrate National Buy Local Day and will feature tastings of coffee, tea and chocolates from Ghana and the Ivory Coast.  

Siblings and Pittsburgh natives Sara and Amanda Parks founded the independent business with Amanda’s husband Michael Solano, a Costa Rican native. “Pittsburgh is unique because it’s possible to start something here--people tend to be more supportive,” says Sara.

Targeting ethically-minded consumers, Equita carries Fair Trade, organic and green products from thirty countries for the body and home. Products are hand-selected from skilled artisans, farmers and cooperatives in developing countries. The shop also features wares made in North America by Native American enterprises and women's initiatives.

After traveling and working in Ecuador, Argentina and Costa Rica, the sisters, who between them have graduate degrees in environmental policy and international development, chose Lawrenceville, where their grandmother grew up. “It’s a central location. We like the character of the neighborhood and the grassroots development here,” says Sara. Amanda concurs, “Lawrenceville is a working class neighborhood, an enclave for artists and conducive to small business.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Sara and Amanda Parks

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

Area organizations host transportation funding forum

On November 16 at 8:00 a.m., The Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Leadership Pittsburgh, Inc. and Sustainable Pittsburgh will present Transportation Funding for Our Region's Prosperity, at the Omni William Penn Hotel downtown.

Timed to follow the November 13th release of the Governor's Transportation Funding and Reform Commission’s final report, the free forum will educate the public about the report’s content and provide a Q&A with transportation officials. Larry King, PennDOT’s deputy secretary for planning, will review key findings and recommendations.

“Transportation--and in particular public transportation--are critical to the region’s sustainable development,” says Court Gould, executive director of Sustainable Pittsburgh. “To have public transportation facing annual funding shortfalls is not a position of competitiveness for our region.”

Panelists include Stephen Bland, CEO of Port Authority and Jim Roddey, a member of the Transportation Funding and Reform Commission, who will provide perspectives about solving the funding crisis and strategies for implementing recommendations.

“We’re not just fixated on funding alone--funding should be used to entice additional reforms, such as tying investment in transportation to community revitalization,” says Gould.

“Southwestern Pennsylvania needs to come to a consensus voice and approach--we need our elected officials in Harrisburg to grab this in the name of economic development," says Gould. “Here’s an opportunity to put the Governor’s Keystone Principles for Smart Growth to work, and be smarter about how to leverage those dollars."

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Court Gould, Sustainable Pittsburgh

Boyce Park to undergo $1 million renovation

Boyce Park Ski Area, one of nine public parks operated by Allegheny County, is undergoing a $1 million renovation and improvement project. Built in the 1960s, the 1,096-acre park at 675 Old Frankstown Road in Monroeville serves 13,000 visitors annually.

Renovations include the construction of a new snowtubing attraction and two new magic carpet lifts. Existing chairlifts will be upgraded in order to meet new state regulations. “We’re hoping this generates more attendance,” says Tom Donatelli, director of Public Works for Allegheny County. ““The more family activities we can bring in, the better it is for the park.”

Pashek Associates, a Northside-based landscape architecture and community planning firm, is designing the park’s snowtubing facility, a popular attraction at national parks and resorts. Strip District-based CDM is providing geotechnical assistance. Renovations are expected to be completed by August of 2007.

“It’s going to provide a new venue and serve another demographic of the community,” says John Buerkle with Pashek Associates. “We hope more families will go there together.”

The project is funded by the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Allegheny County, the Allegheny Regional Asset District, and a voter-approved bond issue.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Tom Donatelli, Allegheny County; John Buerkle, Pashek Associates


Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership hosts North Shore Connector session

On November 9, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP) will host an information session for the public about the North Shore connector. Construction on the 1.2-mile expansion of Pittsburgh’s 25-mile light rail transit system begins in late November and is slated to conclude in 2011.

The free event is from 10 a.m. to 12 noon on the 31st floor of the Regional Enterprise Tower, located downtown at 425 Sixth Avenue. Port Authority and construction representatives will provide a project overview, construction timeline and detour plans.

“This demonstrates the momentum that downtown has,” says Lucinda Beattie, vice president of transportation with the PDP, which is co-sponsoring the event with Port Authority and Sustainable Pittsburgh. “So much is happening over the next couple of years--getting information is key.”

Beattie says the Port Authority is working to design detour routes that are sensitive to upcoming downtown events. “If people know ahead of time what to expect, they can make adjustments.” Construction will initially close the Tenth Street Bypass and later impact the Gateway area.

Port Authority is hosting a second public session on November 9 from 5 to 7 p.m. on the fifth floor of the Heinz 57 Center located downtown at 345 Sixth Avenue.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Lucinda Beattie, PDP

Image courtesy of PDP

Allegheny Places seeks public input

From Nov. 8-15, Allegheny Places—the County’s first comprehensive plan--is holding community input sessions on issues ranging from housing and jobs to transit and the environment.

Launched in May by County Executive Dan Onorato and the Allegheny County Economic Development planning division, Allegheny Places is working to set county-wide policies for land development, conservation, and economic initiatives, via a public process that involves government, businesses, non-profit organizations and citizens, including the City of Pittsburgh.

Manager Marilyn Gelzhiser notes that Allegheny is by far the biggest county in the state to do this. "It’s a plan for the entire County--everyone has to be a partner for implementation.”

By developing a framework for how the County grows,  the plan aims to more efficiently guide investments by public and private interests, optimize resources, and attract more new residents. Meetings, which will occur throughout the County, will feature presentations on a preliminary future land use plan. The public will view maps and participate in break-out sessions. Meeting data will be shared via the project’s website. Allegheny Places will issue a final draft in early 2007, followed by a six-month adoption process.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Marilyn Gelzhiser, Allegheny County Department of Economic Development

Image courtesy of McCormick Taylor, Inc.

Green Building Alliance receives major funding, launches regional initiative

Southside-based Green Building Alliance (GBA) has received $1 million from Pennsylvania’s Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority and $250,000 from The Heinz Endowments to launch a regional initiative that utilizes green building manufacturing to stimulate regional economic development. Funds will allow GBA to expand its staff and possibly relocate its offices.

“We’re the first in the U.S. to launch this type of initiative,” says GBA’s executive director Rebecca Flora. “We can now put infrastructure and programming in place in order to grow this industry in our region.”

GBA’s mission is to integrate environmentally responsible and high performance design, construction and operating practices into the regional market. “We’ve established leadership in this market--we had an early start in green building, with our existing industry base and university research," she says.

Flora says next steps include formalizing key partnerships in order to strengthen existing companies, support start-ups and new product development and recruit firms interested in relocating to the area. “My job is to show the economic value of green building. We are absolutely and uniquely positioned to make that argument,” says Flora. “We will clearly be hard to beat--we can truly make this a green region.”

GBA has identified 1,820 building product firms in western PA. “It’s an opportunity to promote companies already doing it and help others retool products once they understand how big this market is," Flora says.

She hopes to educate the public sector about what she calls "connecting the dots between green building, jobs and the economy.” “It’s a major industry trend--this adds another layer of the market.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Rebecca Flora, GBA

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

Onorato, Ravenstahl establish county-city efficiency committee

On October 19, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato and Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced the formation of a Citizens Advisory Committee on the Efficiency and Effectiveness of City-County Government.

Charged with developing cooperative strategies for increasing government effectiveness and saving money, the independent, nonpartisan committee will hold its first meeting in the next three weeks. “There’s an honest interest in making things more effective,” says Megan Dardanell, an Onorato spokesperson, “If this works with our two biggest entities, then maybe it will continue.”

Onorato cites the consolidation of city-county 911 procedures, fingerprinting operations and municipal courts as examples of successful cooperation.

“A full city-county merger might come up--they are welcome to discuss and propose this,” adds Dardanell. “There is no pre-conceived notion of what  should be looked at—anything is on the table.”

University of Pittsburgh chancellor Mark Nordenberg will serve as committee chair, with Kathleen McKenzie, Allegheny County deputy manager and Yarone Zober, City of Pittsburgh chief of staff as vice chairs.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Megan Dardanell, office of the Chief Executive

PA pledges $25 million for Point State Park

On October 11, Governor Rendell released $25 million from Pennsylvania’s capital budget for the restoration and improvement of Point State Park.

Set to being this fall for completion in late 2007, phase one includes infrastructure and amenity work, such as constructing a four-acre lawn and stage pad as well as new landscaping, benches and lighting and wireless Internet access.

“The whole park will be renovated,” says Christine Novak with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

Contractors are S.E.T. Inc., Lone Pine Construction and Power Contracting Company. Pressley Associates, Inc., Landscape Architects developed the park’s master plan.

In collaboration with DCNR, Riverlife Task Force and Allegheny Conference on Community Development developed a 2004 master plan, with significant public input, that addressed the deteriorating park.

“This was unique for us--it let the community play a role,” says Novak. “We’re trying to accommodate different types of users.”

Phase two includes creating cycling paths, water steps to the rivers, and new connections between the Park and the Three Rivers Heritage and Great Allegheny Passage Trails.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Christina Novak, press secretary, DCNR

Image courtesy of Riverlife Task Force

Trader Joe’s to celebrate grand opening

On October 27, Trader Joe’s opens the doors to its first Pittsburgh location, a 10,500 square-foot store at 6343 Penn Avenue in East Liberty.

The much-anticipated opening will kick off with a ceremonial lei cutting and will feature product demos and food tastings. 
The store’s festive décor combines traditional cedar-covered walls, Hawaiian-inspired elements and local flare. Its design pays tribute to Pittsburgh’s beloved bridges with large models and murals of the city at night. Built in the 1900s as a post office, the building features 20-foot ceilings and 16-foot windows.

"We’re eager to be part of the neighborhood,” says Alison Mochizuki with Trader Joe’s. “There are a lot of foodies in Pittsburgh.”

Known as a “store of stories,” the company’s reputation is built on distinctive products, great deals and a light-hearted atmosphere. Considered “traders on the culinary seas,” employees don signature Hawaiian shirts and offer insightful product background.

“They’ve been a pleasure to do business with--from operations to real estate to in-store personnel,” says Lori Moran of Ballymoney & Company, Inc., developer of EastSide Village, where the grocery is located.

The store carries domestic and imported products including artisan breads, Arabica bean coffees and frozen entrées, along with basics.

To maintain low prices, Trader Joe’s purchases directly from manufacturers and sells its 1,000 items under a private label. Popular favorites include Trader Darwin's vitamins, Trader José's salsas and Trader Giotto’s sauces. 

Introducing a dozen new items weekly, Trader Joe's employs buyers who scour Europe, South America and Asia for unique products at great values. Thousands of items are tasted annually to identify products for both “culinary adventurers and microwave aficionados.”

Pittsburghers can soon expect Trader Joe’s now-legendary “Fearless Flyer” in mailboxes. Dubbed a cross between Consumer Reports and Mad Magazine, the often-irreverent newsletter highlights products and recipes.

Founded in 1958 in Los Angeles, Trader Joe’s has 260 stores in 22 states.  

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Alison Mochizuki, Trader Joe’s; Lori Moran, Ballymoney & Company, Inc.

Photograph copyright © Lori Moran

Guyasuta Fellowship hosts transportation summit

To address issues facing statewide transportation, Pittsburgh’s Guyasuta Fellowship, a young citizens’ forum tackling regional issues, is hosting an on-air summit to be broadcast live on WQED-TV on October 26 at 8 p.m.

The summit will engage citizens and regional leaders in a discussion about transportation funding, priorities and planning.

“The idea is to open up this issue to people’s living rooms throughout the region,” says Guyasuta Fellow Joshua Punchur.

The event features program fellows, along with representatives from city council, Port Authority, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, and the Pittsburgh Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers, who will share perspectives about highways and bridges, bike infrastructure and public transit.

The public is invited to participate through phone calls and online exchange. “We’re looking at transportation in a comprehensive manner,” says Punchur.

Beginning on October 20, WQED’s website will post discussion questions designed for public input. Following the summit, public recommendations will be gathered via e-mail and a transportation blog.

“We hope to stir up conversation around these topics,” says Punchur. 

Program fellows will submit a final report to city council and others in November. 

Created by Councilman Peduto in 2002, the fellowship annually welcomes 100 young Pittsburghers to meet with leaders in specific fields throughout a ten-month period.

“It’s critical in these discussions that you give young people the chance to participate--they are going to have to live with and pay for these decisions,” says Peduto.

Source: Bill Peduto, City Council; Joshua Punchur, Guyasuta Fellowship

Forum spotlights opportunities for regional businesses in China

On October 12, more than 120 people attended the U.S. Chamber of Commerce forum China Business 2006: Expanding Opportunities for U.S. Companies downtown.  

Designed to advise regional businesses on export and investment opportunities in China, the forum featured Li Hiyan, China’s counselor for economic affairs and Mike Byrnes, senior advisor with Yuan Associates.

“This signifies how serious we are about exporting to China,” says Joe Fawkner with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “China is in the midst of market reform and Pittsburgh’s strong companies can offer services.”

Fawkner suggested that PNC could provide banking services and that Westinghouse could assist with energy resource development.

“There’s an incredible need in China for environmentally friendly technologies,” says Fawkner. “Pittsburgh is a model of how effectively a city can be cleaned up.”

Co-organized by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, the Pittsburgh forum, one of eight nationwide, provided business owners with opportunities to network with trade reps and learn from success stories. 

“This the first time we’ve promoted better awareness of China’s business environment. It’s cutting edge,” says Fawkner. “We targeted cities that reflect more of the reality in America.”

In Pennsylvania, Fawkner sees a growing interest in trade and investment in China. He cites local companies already invested in China, such as PPG and Fairfield Scientific, as examples.

China is Pennsylvania’s fifth largest export market; since 2001, exports to the country have risen 238 percent. In 2005, Pennsylvania exported $933 million in goods and services to China.

As a follow-up to the forum, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development is organizing a trade mission to China in 2007.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Joe Fawkner, associate director, Northeast Asia, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Allegheny Conference on Community Development

Image courtesy of Allegheny Conference on Community Development

Pittsburgh to host 2,500 for National Preservation Conference

On October 31-November 5, Pittsburgh hosts the National Preservation Conference, the country’s premier educational mechanism for historic and community preservation.

Presented by The National Trust for Historic Preservation, with support from partner Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation (PHLF), the event presents strategies for protecting and restoring historic structures and communities.

“We’ll have planners, advocates, preservationists, municipal officials and leaders in community revitalization from across the county,” says Cathy McCollum, PHLF’s chief programs officer.

Over 2,500 participants are expected to attend fifty educational sessions to learn from best case studies and approaches. Author, historian and Pittsburgh native David McCullough will present the keynote address.

Pittsburgh was chosen because of its historic sites, livability and surrounding countryside. The conference will utilize Pittsburgh as a laboratory for exploring current issues surrounding preservation and revitalization, including green building practices.

Thirty site visits--including Manchester, Station Square, the Hill District, and Ambridge--will investigate neighborhood and downtown revitalization, affordable housing, Brownfields, transportation, and tourism.  

“The host city becomes the workshop for participants,” says McCollom. “We'll be out and about in the city.”

New this year are free public events. These include an address by PHLF president Arthur P. Ziegler, Jr on October 31 at 5:30 p.m. at the Byham Theater, a premiere of local filmmaker Ken Love’s documentary Saving Fallingwater on November 4 at 1:45 p.m. at the Hilton and an Exhibit Hall and Old House Fair on November 1-3 at the Hilton.

The public is invited to join Mayor Ravenstahl, Senator Ferlo and the URA for a reception at the City County Building on October 31 at 7:30 p.m.

“National conferences are usually rolled out with a lot of sameness,” says McCollum. “From the beginning, we wanted this to be different.”

Planners worked with the African American Preservation Alliance to address diversity in preservation and PHLF awarded 100 local scholarships.

Two thousand people have registered for the conference and organizers are hoping for a record turnout. To register, go here.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Cathy McCollom, PHLF

Image courtesy of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Green building events will help set national agenda

Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Association (PHLF) and Green Building Alliance (GBA) will present two events that examine green restoration and building on Oct. 30-31 as part of the Greening of Historic Properties National Summit.

The events will occur in conjunction with the National Trust for Historic Preservation Conference in Pittsburgh Oct. 31-Nov. 5.

A free Town Hall Meeting on Oct. 30 at 5:30 p.m. at the Heinz History Center brings green building and historic preservation experts together to share strategies for integrating the goals of both disciplines. The meeting will solicit public input and announce the formation of a national green building planning team. Meeting outcomes will be reported during November’s 2006 Greenbuild conference in Denver.

“Green-building issues are helping to create new alliances among preservationists, environmentalists, conservationists, clean water activists, and others,” says Cathy McCollum, PHLF’s chief programs officer. “The result may be an influx of young people into preservation.”

On Oct. 31 at the Convention Center, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) presents "Using LEED" for new construction on historic projects, a workshop that will cover methods for leveraging LEED concepts into historic projects, green strategies and modifications necessary for sustainable design, and tips for achieving LEED compliance. Green building case studies and resources will be shared.

Conducted by leading green building practitioner Ralph DiNola, the workshop targets industry professionals who wish to enter the rapidly growing green building market and learn more about USGBC’s LEED for New Construction Green Building Rating System. Architects, manufacturers, engineers, developers, contractors and government officials are encouraged to register.

A national green building leader, the Pittsburgh region features 13 newly-constructed buildings and nine historic renovations that have achieved LEED Certification.

To register for the Town Hall Meeting, go here. To register for the USGBC workshop, go here.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Cathy McCollom, PHLF; Ryan Snow, GBA

Image courtesy of PHLF and GBA

$575 million Children’s Hospital seeks LEED certification

Children's Hospital is seeking LEED certification for its new $575 million, 10-acre campus, now under construction along Penn Avenue between 44th and 45th Streets.

“We hope to achieve gold status for our research center and silver for our hospital,” says spokesperson Eric Hess. The campus features high efficiency mechanical and electrical systems, reuse of existing structures and paperless management. Green amenities include an atrium, healing garden and bike racks.

“We are one of the country’s first green pediatric facilities," says Hess. "This is at the top of the list of regional construction projects. There is nothing else this size."

Astorino is the project architect. Contractors are Barton Malow, PJ Dick and Hunt Construction. “The impact on the community is enormous.” says Hess. “We are creating many new jobs and an unprecedented, high-quality design.” The new campus is expected to create 791 new full-time jobs.

Children’s Hospital will complete construction of its utility plant this fall. Its 230,000 sf John G. Rangos Research Center will be complete by fall of 2008, and the entire campus will be finished in 2009.

The large-scale program includes both renovations and new construction. Two new parking facilities are now complete and a third garage, with 1400 spaces, is under construction. 

Existing 130,000 sf and 75,000 sf buildings will house hospital faculty and administration. A renovated 13-story structure will contain family services and likely become the new home of Ronald McDonald House.

The main hospital includes 550,000 of new construction and 350,000 sf of renovated space, and will feature nine floors of state-of-the-art clinical, outpatient and inpatient services.

The project is expected to greatly impact the commercial district along Penn Avenue which has vacant buildings available.  “Our employees are very interested in Lawrenceville," says Hess.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Eric Hess, Children’s Hospital

Image courtesy of Children's Hospital

New condos and office space coming to Bloomfield

A 47,000 square-foot property located at 4035 Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield is currently being developed as new condominium and office space. Formerly a Roth Carpet showroom, the building will feature a two-story, 16,000 square-feet office property and a four-story, 26,000 square-foot space for up to 15 new condos. The building will be full accessible and feature indoor parking.

“We will do a green building, and it will have roof gardens and patios,” says Light, who adds that they are working with Pittsburgh-based Artemis for green building products and they are considering LEED certification.

Developer/contractor Harvey Light envisions medical tenants for the leased space, an addition he feels will complement UPMC’s recent expansion into the Bloomfield area.

“Children’s Hospital is here and that is really driving the neighborhood,” adds Light, a Squirrel Hill resident, who also owns the Drake-Liberty Building and property in Oakland.

 “As much as two billion dollars could be invested in Bloomfield, primarily by UMPC,” says Randy Strothman of the Bloomfield Business Association. “We have sixteen projects, some in the recent past, some present and some in the future. This is an epicenter of change,” he adds.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Harvey Light, developer and Randy Strothman, Bloomfield Business Association

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

$14 million Liberty Park to bring 124 new units to East Liberty

Phase one of East Liberty’s 11-acre Liberty Park is expected to be completed during October 2007. The 35,000 square-foot development features 16 buildings and 124 new townhouses and apartments. The project includes market rate and subsidized housing in a variety of buildings and styles.One-, two- and three-bedroom apartments and townhouses will range from 1000 to 2575 square feet.

Located at 6201 Broad Street, Liberty Park’s central hub is a three-story, mixed-use development housing management offices, community space and a fitness center.

Stephen Ponter of Devlin Architecture is project architect and the contractor is Mistick Construction. The developer is McCormack Baron Salazar and landscape architect is LaQuatra Bonci Associates.

 Liberty Park is bordered by Broad Street and Larimar and Collins Avenues and involves the revitalization of Station Street, a public street lost during urban renewal.

“The intent is to reinstall the traditional neighborhood fabric. There are sidewalks throughout to maintain a neighborhood feel,” says Stephen Ponter.

“Its uniqueness is that the buildings are not homogeneous. This is something the community wanted,” says Ernie Hogan, director of residential development with East Liberty Development, Inc. (ELDI).

In 2003, UDA created Liberty Park’s initial visioning and master plan. East Liberty’s Coalition of Organized Residents reviewed the plan, selected a developer and attended design charettes.

“We have always wanted to create mixed communities and provide housing opportunities for all East Liberty residents. We are opening this site back up,” says Hogan.

Sixty families have applied to live in Liberty Park. In partnership with S&A Homes, ELDI will develop 70 single-family homes as part of its final phase next year. Phase two begins this fall.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Stephen Ponter, Devlin Architecture, and Ernie Hogan, ELDI

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

Blackbird artist studios and residential units take flight

To celebrate the completion of Blackbird Artist Studios, the city’s innovative open studio-residential project, the Lawrenceville Corporation is hosting a reception for Pittsburgh's arts and economic development communities.  

The open house, which takes place on June 8, 4-7 PM at 3583 Butler Street in Lawrenceville, will showcase the new visual arts center while highlighting opportunities for artists and the project’s contributions to the region's creative economy.

Artists interested in leasing space and community members interested in this new development are encouraged to attend.

Blackbird Artist Studios feature ten loft-style units available for rent that range from 414 to 550 square feet. The three-story building also houses 15 owner-occupied residential units with 14 of the 15 already sold. The Studios offer green, affordable work/sell space to professional artists in a neighborhood known for its active arts community and  vibrant business district.

“Our goal is to have artists creating work in their studios and invite the public to observe on a regular basis,” says Lisa Pilewski, manager of operations and outreach with the Lawrenceville Corporation. Viewers can ask questions about the artistic methods and materials and purchase work directly from artists.

A new economic opportunity for artists as well as a new arts experience for the region, Blackbird Artists Studios is in the city’s thriving 16:62 Design Zone, and is positioned to become a visitor destination as well as an economic engine driving the area’s growth.

Lawrenceville Corporation is now accepting tenant applications from artists hoping to introduce their work to a larger audience and participate in the creation of this new arts venue.

Writer: Jennifer Baron

Source: Lisa Pilewski, Manager of Operations and Outreach, Lawrenceville Corporation

Photo copyright © Jonathan Greene

Pittsburgh ranks among Top 10 Smart Cities

Pittsburgh ranked in the Top 10 of “50 Smart Cities" according to a survey by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. The ranking, with Pittsburgh listed number nine, was based on housing prices, economic vitality, and lifestyle factors such as public education, health care, the local arts scene and recreational facilities.

"The Kiplinger ranking sends a powerful statement about the attractiveness of our region. The strengths of southwestern Pennsylvania -- including our low cost of living, short commuter time, excellent health care and access to world-class culture and arts -- mirror the attributes that many businesses and families seek when identifying a place to relocate," says Jim Rohr, chairman of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, and chairman and CEO of PNC Financial Services Group.

The survey, which was both objective and subjective, took into consideration economic vitality and overall quality of life, as well as where people would want to live, fun and affordability.

Since being named Rand McNally’s “#1 Most Livable City” in 1985, Pittsburgh has consistently been recognized for its affordability and appeal as a place to live.

The entire list of 50 Smart Cities will be published in the June 2006 issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and will feature individual profiles of each of the top 10 cities, including Pittsburgh. As an on-line supplement, Kiplinger.com will host slideshows of the top 10 cities; the rolling hills, three rivers, gleaming skyline and majestic bridges of southwestern Pennsylvania will be featured for Pittsburgh. Additionally, there will be a slideshow for each city showcasing local homes that recently sold for $300,000 to $600,000.

Nashville, TN ranked number one on the Kiplinger Personal Finance magazine list followed by Minneapolis/St. Paul, Albuquerque, NM, Atlanta, Austin, TX,Kansas City, MO, Asheville, NC, Ithaca, NY, Pittsburgh and Iowa City.

Source: Allegheny Conference on Community Development and affiliates

Pittsburgh ranked # one in sustainability study

Pittsburgh has captured the number one spot in a national sustainability study. SustainLane, a web site dedicated to sustainability issues, has published a 2006 U.S. City Rankings Study which looks at many sustainability issues, including use of local food. With a population of just under 350,000, Pittsburgh leads U.S. cities in its use of local food, boasting seven farmers markets. That’s two per 100,000 people, and all of them accept food stamps.

In addition, the city also features a notable number--188--of community gardens.

Pittsburgh also tied for third place for the number of LEED (Leadership in Environmental & Energy Design) rated buildings per capita, with six LEED-certified and twenty-nine LEED-registered buildings as of April 2005. Those buildings include the world’s first Gold LEED -certified David Lawrence Convention Center, the AIA Pittsburgh award-winning Children’s Museum, PNC FirstSide Center, the CCI Center on the Southside, CORO Center for Civic Leadership and the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center.

Rebecca Flora, executive director of the Green Building Alliance expects another 15 buildings to become certified this year, which may propel Pittsburgh back into the number one spot.

Source: SustainLane `

New City Planning Commission planning away

April marks the second month of regular business for the six new members and two veteran re-appointees of the city planning commission.

New mayor Bob O’Connor appointed six new members to the all-volunteer, nine-person body, retaining community activist Thelma Lovette of the Hill District and E. Paul Dick of Oakland, a retired hospital administrator. One seat remains vacant. Like the old commission, the new group has several lawyers but, with the departure of John Martine, no architects. Members serve six-year terms and are charged with making recommendations to city council on zoning, major development proposals and redevelopment plans.

The new members are:
  • Chair Wrenna Watson of the Hill District, former city magistrate and Court of Common Pleas candidate
  • Vice Chair Kyra Straussman of Squirrel Hill, president of the nonprofit Cool Space Locator
  • Barbara Ernsberger of Shadyside, attorney and chair of the City Democratic Committee
  • Barbara K. Mistick of Shadyside, executive director of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
  • Monte Rabner of Point Breeze, an attorney
  • Todd Reidbord of Squirrel Hill, attorney and principal of Walnut Capital
Meeting schedule, agendas and minutes can be found at http://www.city.pittsburgh.pa.us/cp/html/planning_commission.html.

Source: City of Pittsburgh Planning Commission

Two sisters open Pavement, a chic shoe boutique in Lawrenceville

For several years, sisters Alissa and Jessica Martin  wanted to open a business together. They considered a Downtown hot-soup cart – an idea that had “a certain romance,” Jessica says – or a dog-friendly café next to Frick Park to be called “Bark in the Park.”

“We had all these ideas,” Jessica recalls, “but we thought, ‘What is Pittsburgh not providing for us?’ We’d like a place to buy cool shoes.”

Last week, the Martin sisters opened Pavement, a chic shoe boutique, in a storefront at 36th and Butler streets in Lawrenceville. Pavement’s niche will be smaller brands that are hard to find or unavailable at other local shoe stores -- styles the Martins were snapping up during New York visits, or buying online.

Much of their stock is from international lines like Palladium from France, Camper from Spain and Miz Mooz from Israel; a popular U.S. brand is FarylRobin. Styles range from high stacked heels (surprisingly comfortable, Alissa insists) to gladiator sandals to walk-all-day ballet flats, but they’re just carrying women’s shoes for now. “We did our research: Women had on average 34 pairs of shoes, men had four,” Alissa says. 

Prices range from about $55 to $150.  

3629 Butler Street, 412-621-6400. Tue.-Fri. 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Saturday 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Sources: Alissa and Jessica Martin

Photo copyright © Tom Altany

Blackbird Lofts project gets $50,000 from URA – and is almost complete

The Urban Redevelopment Authority approved another piece of funding for the Blackbird Lofts project in Lawrenceville, a $50,000 Community Development Investment Fund Grant. The money will help the nonprofit Lawrenceville Corporation acquire a share of the Blackbird building, at 36th and Butler streets, from the Artists and Cities nonprofit, which is phasing out of operation.

The Lawrenceville Corporation’s share of the building will be developed as an innovative art studio/retail hybrid, explains executive director Kate Trimble.

The LC’s space will be divvied up into about 10 studios of 400-500 square feet each. “We’ll jury in professional artist tenants on the basis of artistic merit,” Trimble says.

The studios -- meant for working, not living -- will be open for public browsing and buying. “It’ll be a really unique facility,” Trimble says. “There’s no place [in Pittsburgh] where you can come in and see artists in their natural habitat, interact with them and take home a piece of art.”

While the construction of the new Blackbird building is now complete, the interior is expected to be finished in a few months. 

The for-rent artists’ studios will occupy about two-thirds of the Blackbird’s first floor. Sharing the ground floor will be the Pittsburgh Dance Connection, which bought the remaining third. Fifteen market-rate, loft-style condos –- most of which have already sold for $99,000 to $385,000 –- make up the building’s second and third floors.

Source: Kate Trimble, executive director, Lawrenceville Corporation

Photo copyright © Tom Altany

$240,000 awarded to five neighborhoods to support Elm St Initiative

Last week, the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority gave its official go-ahead to release about $48,000 each to five neighborhoods in the state-funded Elm Street program.

The Elm Street initiative – part of the Department of Community and Economic Development’s (DCED) New Communities Program – funds the residential equivalent of the “Main Streets” program for business districts. Last year, the neighborhoods completed a year of planning; for the next five years, they’ll be funded to implement their plans.

“Healthy communities aren’t just businesses,” commented Kim Graziani of the North Side Leadership Conference at the March 9 URA board meeting. The North Side is one of the grantees; their program will focus on the residential areas to either side of East Ohio Street. “We’re looking at the gateways to the community, and working with Allegheny General [Hospital] and Giant Eagle.”

Some of the funded activities include: planting street trees, installing trash receptacles, installing porch lights to existing houses, demolishing alleyway houses, repairing sidewalks, providing low-income homeowner sewer grants, tree removal and other landscaping activities.

The other four Elm Street neighborhoods are: East Liberty, Friendship, the South Side (to focus on the South Side Slopes) and Lawrenceville (focusing on Upper Lawrenceville).

Source: Urban Redevelopment Authority board meeting, March 9, 2006.

Living history: Pittsburgh historic neighborhood tours go online next month

If your relatives visiting Pittsburgh have already logged more miles on the Mon Incline than a pair of teenage lovebirds, you’ll be glad come April.

Next month, organizers in seven city neighborhoods – Bloomfield, Lawrenceville, Mount Washington, Oakland, The Strip, North Side and South Side – will debut their newly crafted historic neighborhood tours online at www.pittsburghneighborhoodtours.com.

According to the South Side Local Development Corporation’s Amy Camp, the featured restaurants, galleries, bookstores and local miscellanea will be the sorts of places where locals and tourists alike can strike up lively conversations and gather great material for their blogs … and even the odd travel diary.

Rather than tours focused on a single neighborhood, the self-guided tours will be theme expeditions, such as “Real Pittsburgh Food,” “Arts Big and Small,” “Literary Pittsburgh,” and a tour of the local soundscape called “Pittsburgh Roars.”

The project was funded with a $50,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. According to Camp, the grant was one this year largest, and the first for promoting neighborhood tourism, as opposed to marketing large cultural institutions.

Another novel strategy is presenting the tours primarily online, rather than in printed brochures that visitors would have to write away for. “We found that visitors will do some researching online, then make a quick decision about whether to go and where to go,” Camp says.

The project, which the neighborhood groups developed with the assistance of the Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, will target “heritage tourism” enthusiasts, but also the much larger group of Pittsburghers who are hosting out-of-towners. “There’s a term: VFR’s,” Camp says. “Visiting friends and relatives. We borrowed the term ‘kitchen concierge’ from New Orleans. You can look at these tours sitting around the kitchen table, saying ‘What do you want to do tomorrow?’”

Source: Amy Camp, South Side Local Development Company

Photo copyright © Tom Altany

Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau, www.visitpittsburgh.com;
South Side Local Development Company, www.southsidepgh.com

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