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Pop-up chocolate shop keeps mouths watering in Shadyside

Just before Christmas, Chocolate! featuring Jacques Torres Chocolate, a pop-up shop in Shadyside, opened its doors boasting holiday goodies. But this pop-up hasn't disappeared into the night. Chocolate! featuring Jacques Torres Chocolate will continue to see Pittsburgh through all the big chocolate holidays: Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter.
The seasonal chocolate emporium was launched by Pittsburgh native Lissa Guttman, who recently moved back to Pittsburgh after a 10-year stint in New York City. While there, she worked with award-winning pastry chef and Food Network personality Jacques Torres to launch a line of highly successful chocolate boutiques in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
“I loved the food scene in New York, but I missed the soulfulness of Pittsburgh,” Guttman said. “So, I decided to fuse the two. I also love the idea of creating whimsical shopping experiences -- unexpected retail destinations that last for a season or two, but create fun moments and leave customers craving the next incarnation.”
Guttman said she wanted to bring her love for chocolate and Jacques Torres quality products back to her hometown. She added that Torres was excited to expand his brand beyond New York -- Pittsburgh is the first city outside New York to carry the line. Guttman said Pittsburgh has proven to be a great market for premium goods.
The store’s mouth-watering offerings range from holiday favorites to exotic creations like chipotle-infused “wicked hot chocolate.” Guttman said products also range from kid-friendly to adult-friendly, including chocolate-covered cereals and nuts to chocolate ginger.
“Everything is chocolate,” she said of the "here today, gone tomorrow" shop featuring both large edible gifts and snacks.
Guttman added that the pop-up model was used at all eight of Torres’ New York chocolate stores. She said her seasonal shop could grow into something more.
“I could see myself doing a lot more of these in various neighborhoods or on trucks,” Guttman said, adding that, for the time being, she is focused on getting to know Shadyside.
Chocolate! featuring Jacques Torres Chocolate will remain open through Easter at 813 Copeland Way.
Source: Lissa Guttman

Gifts and Greens Market is back with custom holiday decor and artisan gifts

For holiday decor that smells as good as it looks, head to the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens' annual Gifts and Greens Market on Dec. 4, 5 and 6 at the Phipps Garden Center in Mellon Park. 
The market provides a large assortment of fresh, aromatic specialty greens -- like incense cedar, magnolia branches, pepperberry and eucalyptus -- for holiday decor and one-of-a-kind wreaths made to order.
“What makes it really special is that we have our master gardeners set up” to craft custom wreaths on-site at the market, said Phipps adult education coordinator Gabe Tilove.
Shoppers can choose from pre-made wreaths, garlands, swags and door charms, or purchase a custom piece made by Phipps' expert design team from a beautiful collection of ribbons and ornaments. All proceeds will support Phipps' education and outreach programs.
Complementing the greens sale is a holiday boutique showcasing festive decorations from paper-white narcissus bulbs to amaryllis kits. Guest vendors will be on site until 3 p.m. each day of the sale. 
Offering everything from natural beauty products to terrariums, Artemis Botanicals, greenSinner and Urban Baroque will be selling wares in a “cheerful, low-stress atmosphere.” By shopping the Gifts and Greens Market, customers can beat the crowds of conventional malls and keep purchases local.
“You’re supporting local artisans that live in your community,” Tilove said. “It’s about supporting creativity in your city.”

Free and open to the public, the market will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. The Phipps Garden Center is at 1059 Shady Ave., Shadyside.
Source: Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Gabe Tilove

Five shippable Pittsburgh gifts for the holiday season

Cyber Monday kicked off the online holiday shopping frenzy, but that doesn't mean you have to abandon your support of local businesses as you finish up your gift giving.

For those of you who love to shop online and love to shop local, several Pittsburgh darlings have made it easy to do both. Check off these hometown gifts that will travel for the Pittsburgh expats on your list:

1.  Primanti’s Sandwiches
Primanti Bros. made the news in October with the announcement that you could now ship the “almost famous” Pittsburgh sandwich anywhere in the Unites States. For $109, you can send four French fry-laden sandwiches cross-country. Choose from pastrami, capicola or a combo pack; the sandwiches are delivered deconstructed with separately packed meat, bread, slaw, fries, cheese, tomato, hot sauce and a Primanti’s tee.
2. WildCard’s Pittsburgh merchandise
That’s right, WildCard stationery and gift shop in Lawrenceville now has an online storeWhile the Internet shop is still growing, many Pittsburgh products are ready to ship in time for the holidays, from Lil' Pierogi onesies to Pittsburgh tees to a Yinzer dictionary.
3.  The Enrico Biscotti Company’s goodies
Enrico’s in the Strip offers an online bakery that will ship their authentic biscotti and pastries to the Pittsburgher who couldn’t make it home for the holidays. Send a big red tin of Italian pastry or a biscotti gift basket!
4.  Penn Mac imported cheese
You don’t have to be on Penn Avenue to enjoy Pennsylvania Macaroni Company’s famous imported cheese counter. Penn Mac’s global selection is available online and guarantees that “cheeses are cut fresh the same day the order is shipped.”
5. Prantl’s Burnt Almond Torte
Named the country’s best cake by The Huffington Post, Prantl’s will ship their burnt almond torte anywhere in the country. This delicate cake encrusted in crunchy, candied almonds would make a great dessert course at any holiday dinner.

While searching online for the perfect gift to send to friends and family near and far, keep in mind these local options that can ship anywhere in the country.

Google to expand its Pittsburgh presence in Bakery Square 2.0

Google confirmed long-running speculation on Monday when it announced that it will expand its Pittsburgh presence. According to a company-issued statement, Google has signed a lease on 66,000 square feet of additional office space across from its current Penn Avenue location in Bakery Square 2.0, the new residential and commercial development from Walnut Capital.

The California-based tech giant opened its first Pittsburgh office in 2006 and currently occupies 140,000 square feet of space in the former Nabisco factory at Bakery Square.

“Google has expressed their commitment to growth in Pittsburgh. They see Pittsburgh as a market worth expanding in, and it’s a place both they and their employees are happy to be,” says City Councilman Dan Gilman, whose District 8 includes the site of Bakery Square 2.0.

The new offices will include a skywalk across Penn Avenue, linking Google’s new offices to its existing ones. While there has been no indication of the number of jobs Google’s Pittsburgh expansion could potentially create, the addition will push Google’s Pittsburgh operations over 200,000 square feet. According to the company, Google’s local offices work on its search functions, ads, shopping and core engineering infrastructure.

“It’s clear that this corridor is becoming a high-tech industry corridor with retail there to support it,” Gilman says. “It’s going to continue to grow into Larimer and Lemington and Homewood. This is a fine location looking for any company looking to grow in Pittsburgh. What Google has consistently said is that as long as they continue to find the talent, they’re going to continue to grow in Pittsburgh.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Dan Gilman

Eat + Drink: Fish, fireplaces, macarons by mail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein

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

Eastside III and $52 million East Liberty Transit Center moving ahead together

The planned Eastside III development will be centered on a new $52 million transit center and will include more than 360 apartments and 50,000 square feet of retail.

A project of Mosites Co., the $65 million transit-oriented development will complete the 14-acre Eastside development which began in East Liberty over a decade ago.

Mosites' earlier developments have brought large retailers such as Whole Foods and Target to the neighborhood. Now, rather than seeking more big-box retailers, the latest phase will be built for smaller stores complimentary to the new residential units proposed for the site.

Steve Mosites says his company is excited about building community in the larger context, as well as at the development site.

"With 360 apartments, it's a community within itself," he says.

The new multi-modal transit center will include a new bicycle parking garage, pedestrian links, and a hub for nearly 1,000 daily bus departures and arrivals. A new connection to Shadyside will be constructed via a pedestrian bridge.

Last June, the City received a $15 million TIGER IV grant for the planned East Liberty Transit Center. The transit center is being developed in a partnership between the Port Authority of Allegheny County, the URA, and Mosites. 

The URA board voted last week to sell a portion of vacated Shakespeare Street to Mosites for $1, which completes the site assembly necessary to begin development of both projects. Bids for the transit center’s development could begin as early as this summer, while the Eastside III project is expected to break ground by mid-2014.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source:  Steve Mosites

Bakery Square 2.0 will break ground, $100 million mixed-use development

Bakery Square 2.0, a $100 million, mixed-use development adjacent to the former Nabisco factory, is set to break ground.  Developers Walnut Capital and partner RCG Longview Fund have officially closed on the purchase of the former Reizenstein School and surrounding property.

Demolition of the former school has begun, allowing construction to commence on phase 1 of the development. The plan calls for several office buildings along Penn Avenue, with up to 400,000 square-feet of office space; 55 rental townhomes; and the construction of several interior roads and bike paths.

The development site is located across the street from Bakery Square, a $100 million redevelopment of the former Nabisco factory and several new structures. Tenants there include Google, UPMC, the Software Engineering Institute, various retail  and restaurants, and a hotel.

Construction of the first apartment building is expected to begin in March, with an opening date of June 2014.  The five-story building will include 175 apartment units and underground parking.  Rents are expected to range from $900 to $1,000 per month.

Earlier this month Walnut Capital announced it was dropping plans to develop 20 single-family homes in favor of a second apartment building, which will be similar in scope to the first.

A $2 million federal grant, secured by Mayor Ravenstahl and the URA will be used to help prepare infrastructure at the site. 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Gregg Perelman

Mansions on Fifth celebrates grand opening as 22-room boutique hotel

The Mansions on Fifth, a 22-room boutique hotel, celebrated a grand opening yesterday along with the complete restoration of the McCook Reed House. It’s the culmination of a seven year historic restoration process that has given new life to a pair of unique Pittsburgh homes.

Mary Del Brady, who owns the Mansions with husband Richard Pearson, says they are eager to share these historic spaces with the community.

“We feel more like stewards than owners,” Brady says.

The homes, which are Elizabethan Revivalist and Tudor styles, were built between 1900 and 1906 by industrialist and lawyer Willis F. McCook on what was then Millionaires Row.  According to Brady, McCook also helped build the nearby St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The buildings’ most recent owners vowed to only sell to someone who would restore them.  Pearson, a developer and preservationist, had long admired the mansions. When they went up for sale, he and Brady jumped at the opportunity.

“You can’t ever rebuild a building like this again, and that’s the magic of it,” Brady says.

The hotel was restored consistent with Secretary of Interior standards.

The main McCook House, a 30,000-square-foot, solid granite structure, was opened to guests last year.  In addition to 13 guest rooms, this building contains most of the Mansions’ public rooms, including the grand hall and staircase, the Oak Room, library, as well as a wine cellar and fitness room. 

The Mansions feature a gallery specializing in 18th and 19th century European art (Gallery Werner), and has begun to host live music.  The hotel is also available for weddings and other special events.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Mary Del Brady

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

Steel Cactus Mexican Restaurant and Cantina opening in Shadyside

AMPD Group, the entertainment management group behind Diesel Lounge, Local Bar + Kitchen, and Delanie’s Coffee, is set to open Steel Cactus Mexican Restaurant and Cantina in Shadyside. 

The 3,400-square-foot restaurant will be the group’s sixth concept, and the fourth to open within the last year. 
Co-owner Adam Desimone is calling the concept funky, authentic Mexican, with a made-from-scratch menu featuring tacos, ceviche, burritos, and a variety of salads and entrees.  And saying true to the name, the restaurant will serve fried cactus, and a number of other accompanying cactus preparations.

The restaurant is located in the second story space above Victoria’s Secret on Walnut Street, and has been completely remodeled.  Desimone says they wanted to open the space to the street as the former restaurant space had previously been boxed in.  Now, three-quarters of the space opens with NanaWall windows and a balcony-railing system.

And on top of the restaurant, a 2,400-square-foot roof deck has been added, with layered, semi-private levels, and an island bar at the center.  Desimone says the deck space will be ideal for accommodating groups, and could be rented out in full.

The restaurant received a $150,000 Pittsburgh Business Growth Fund loan and a $5,000 storefront renovation grant from the URA, to assist with opening costs and renovations. 

Desimone expects Steel Cactus to be open by the end of July.  The restaurant will offer lunch and dinner, with a limited late-night menu.   The group has plans to add weekend brunch service in the near future.

In addition to the new restaurant in Shadyside, AMPD is opening a seventh concept called Sky Bar, which will be located above Diesel Lounge via a separate entrance on E. Carson Street.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Adam Desimone

Pittsburgh's first on-street bicycle corrals coming to South Side, Shadyside

How many bikes can fit in the space of one car?  At least a dozen, as will soon be shown on East Carson Street when the city installs its first bike corral on the South Side next week.

Last Friday, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced that the city's first on-street bicycle parking would be located at OTB (Over The Bar) Bicycle Café.  The corral, at 2518 East Carson Street, will replace two vehicle parking spaces with infrastructure to accommodate between 24 and 30 bicycles.

The project was first initiated by OTB owner Mike Kotyk in 2009.  He says although the City was very supportive from the beginning, because Carson Street is a PennDOT road, they had to work through that organization's lengthy process of documentation and permitting.

Kotyk says that in addition to increasing the opportunity for business, the corral will work, much like bike lanes, to encourage more people to cycle, and feel confident on city streets.

“The more bicycle infrastructure that the city has, the more people are going to feel safe cycling, and feel that it's a bike friendly climate,” Kotyk says, “Where they have the ability to park their bike [and] feel safe and comfortable that it's going to be there when they get back.”

And on the same day, City Councilman Bill Peduto announced a second project located in Shadyside, at the intersection of Walnut and Bellefonte.  This bike corral will also be on-street, and is expected to accommodate between 6 to 12 bikes.

Funding for the corral was approved by City Council last November.  They are expected to be installed by August or September, depending on the design and approval process.

According to Peduto, the idea for the corral came from the Shadyside Chamber of Commerce, a neighborhood organization, after identifying a need for increased bicycle parking in the neighborhood.

Another group, Shadyside Action Coalition, has also been involved in the process, and hopes to promote Shadyside as an eco-friendly community.

“I think the fact that the community chose the premiere location, the very center of the business district, shows how important it is to them to have bike parking, and how much they want to be able to promote it as part of the Shadyside experience,” Peduto says.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Mike Kotyk; Bill Peduto

Franklin West converts Ronald McDonald Houses to apartments in Shadyside

The Franklin West property group has recently completed the restoration and renovation of two Queen Ann Victorian homes in Shadyside, now offering a total of 21 apartment units.  This project brings their work in the neighborhood full-circle, as the homes are located across Shady Avenue from the company's first-ever renovations, completed nearly 50 years ago.

Caroline West says her family-owned company has prided itself on home-to-apartment conversions in Shadyside that blend with existing, historic buildings and single-family homes.

“In converting [these buildings] to apartments we tried to respect all the original historic characteristics, such as the tall windows, the tall doors, the high ceilings,” West says.  “Both buildings have been completely modernized, yet it still from the outside looks like exactly what it is--a gracious, old Victorian.”

Both homes, built circa 1880, are former Ronald McDonald Houses, and had offered residences there from 1970 until 2008, when Franklin West purchased both buildings.  The foundation was able to continue operating from Shady Avenue until its new location, within the Lawrenceville Children’s Hospital, was completed.

Architect Kevin Wagstaff of Perfido, Weiskopf, Wagstaff, and Goettel, designed the renovations of both buildings, 500 and 512 Shady Avenue.  A mix of one- and two-bedroom apartments, with rents ranging from $1300 to $1890, each unit features high-efficiency appliances, washer/dryer, and central heat and air conditioning.

Of the company’s properties, which total near 1,000 units in the greater Pittsburgh area, West says the work on Shady Avenue is exemplary of Franklin West’s commitment to maintaining historic properties.

“It’s an example where through creative reuse we are able to preserve the charm and character of the neighborhood--why people want to come and live in Shadyside,” she says.  “We have really focused on maintaining buildings…[that] still have viable use and a desire in the neighborhood.”

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Caroline West

Pittsburgh has more bridges than any other city, adds Eastside Pedestrian Bridge to the list

Pittsburgh can claim more bridges than any other city in the world, and will now add one more elevated span to the list.  The Eastside Pedestrian Bridge, a project of the URA, opened last week, connecting the Ellsworth shopping district with the Eastside development in East Liberty.

East Liberty Development, Inc. (ELDI) initiated the effort to build this structure, which is equal parts functional amenity and public art.

Skip Schwab, ELDI director of operations, says that while undertaking a community outreach and planning process, residents expressed a desire to have better connections between East Liberty and Shadyside.

The community wanted the new bridge design to be more open, and to have a safer feeling than the existing structures which cross the busway, Schwab says.

And in order to finance the planning and engineering of the bridge, ELDI raised funds from the private sector, including numerous foundations and individuals, to supplement the project’s budget.

Artist Shelia Klein designed the artistic elements of the bridge.  Thousands of glass sequins adorn the structure, and were made at the Pittsburgh Glass Center in the nearby Friendship.  Railings for the bridge were salvaged from the 31st Street Bridge, and restored by Keystone Metals in Larimer. 

Schwab says the bridge is part of a broader effort to repair pedestrian infrastructure lost during urban renewal of the 1960s.

“Everything that we're trying to do is to not only just rebuild the connections, but to do it in a way that is much more pedestrian friendly and accessible,” Schwab says.

The total project cost was $1.5 million, and included street lighting and sidewalk improvements in Shadyside, and was designed by SAI Consulting Engineers.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Skip Schwab, ELDI

Lululemon Athletica opens in Shadyside

Lululemon Athletica, a hip, yoga-inspired athletic apparel company, opened in Shadyside last Friday. The retailer makes clothing designed for yoga, running, dancing, and other sweat-inducing activities. The opening celebration included a series of in-store yoga classes taught by Darcy Lyle and Jesse Bueno.

The company chose to open a store in Pittsburgh because it’s an active, healthy community, and a good fit for the Lululemon brand and stores, says spokesperson Tracy Keough.

The fabrics used by Lululemon are wicking, which means they pull moisture away from the skin, spreading evenly throughout the fabric and evaporating quickly.  Keough says the clothes are built by athletes for athletes, using feedback focusing on fit, function and technical performance.

Designs are available for both men and women. Keough says the fabric blends are not only good for athletic pursuits, but they’re beautiful too.

Lululemon was founded in 1998 by Chip Wilson, a Vancouver veteran of the surf, skate, and snowboard business.  According to company lore, Wilson wanted to design a technical athletic fabric that was more appropriate for yoga than common cotton fabrics.  The designs he developed were successful, and sparked an “underground yoga clothing movement.”

Keough says her company seeks to create authentic relationships in communities, and is grassroots focused.  The Shadyside store hopes to be a local source for information on yoga, running, fitness, health and goal-setting.

Located at 5518 Walnut Street, in Shadyside, Lululemon Athelitca is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.  412-687-3592.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Tracy Keough

Eden Restaurant opens in Shadyside, features raw, vegan items

The restaurant Eden has opened in Shadyside, and has stated its mission simply: to bring the freshest food possible.  The new eatery replaces the former Juice Box Café, but is a project of the previous owners, Albert Polanec and Chef Hilary Zozula.  

Zozula says the new restaurant was opened in order to focus on healthy foods and the health of people, with equal emphasis on building community as well as meals.  

“We just wanted people to feel good about what they're eating,” Zozula says.  She says she wanted to create a restaurant where customers come in knowing that everything is nutritious and high quality.

Zozula says raw-vegan is the epitome of healthy food because all ingredients are pure, and no nutrients have been cooked out.   And as a chef, creating meals without the use of heat is both challenging and rewarding.

“It’s the most fun that I've ever had with food because you get to see this product that was just a vegetable or a piece of fruit and you mix it with these other ingredients, and all of a sudden it turns into something else,” Zozula says.

Starters include tomato tartar, with basil, lemon, and zucchini, and an apple, celery, mint, cucumber gazpacho.  Entrees include a BBQ mushroom wrap, Tomato Napoleon, with sweet corn, sunflower seed, and basil, and a cashew cream curry with red ginger rice, avocado, and yellow squash.   

The lunch menu, however, is not exclusively raw, and does include meat.  Those items are also available during dinner hours.

This Saturday, Eden will launch their new fall menu with a $10 Menu Tasting event.  Dinner will coincide with an exhibit by photographer Arvin Clay.  Starters include spiced cabbage slaw, sweet walnut paté, and a beet and apple salad.  Entrees include pumpkin curry, squash noodle Pad Thai, and a kale, tomato, mushroom, pizza.

Keeping with the focus on raw and fresh foods, Eden features fresh juices and smoothies, made from 100% real fruits and vegetables.

Zozula says she hopes to have created a setting for raw food that is equal to any other fine dining experience.  “Except instead of the food just being good, it’s insanely healthy,” she says.

Eden, located at 735 Copeland Street, is open Monday, and Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for lunch, and 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. for dinner; Sundays, brunch from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. BYOB.  412-802-7070.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Hilary Zozula

Shadyside Nursery creates aquaponic greenhouse, organic food system

Pittsburgh's newest nursery, Shadyside Nursery, is utilizing aquaponic and vermiculture techniques to raise fish and heirloom vegetables. Located one block north of the Ellsworth Avenue, the nursery is hoping to fill a niche in the local food movement by using sustainable and organic practices.

Co-owner Bill Brittain says Shadyside Nursery is one of a few for-profit aquaponic enterprises in the nation. Aquaponics is a system that combines aquaculture and hydroponics in a symbiotic relationship, which allows for conservation of resources and energy.

Brittain and partners Matt Bogel and brother Michael Georges built an aquaponic greenhouse capable of raising 1,500 tilapia, and that currently produces between 100 and 200 pounds of herbs. The system is stocked with young fish which should be ready for sale by March of next year.

The tilapia eat worms, excess produce from nursery beds, and even odd items like stale bagels from the Bagel Factory. Byproducts from the aquaculture then become vital nutrients for the growing plants, which include four types of basil, mint, and French oak leaf lettuce.

The nursery sells heirloom produce grown in raised beds to Spak Brothers Pizza in Garfield, Bryant Street Market, and Mediterrano. And Brittain says the nursery also receives food waste from these restaurants for their vermiculture composting system.

Shadyside Nursery replaces a more conventional nursery that had existed on the same site. In the fall, the nursery will sell pumpkins, and later Christmas trees from Indiana County. And the aquaponics will continue year-round.

Brittain says the nursery plans to raise heirloom tomatoes in the greenhouse throughout winter, with piped heat from compost, and a rocket stove fueled by wood.

Shadyside Nursery, 510 Maryland Ave, Shadyside, 15232. Tuesday to Sunday, 10a.m. to 7p.m.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Bill Brittain, Shadyside Nursery

Construction begins on pedestrian bridge between East Liberty and Shadyside

The Urban Redevelopment Authority began construction this week on the $1.5 million pedestrian bridge that will connect Shadyside and East Liberty at the intersection of Ellsworth Avenue and Spahr Street.

URA Executive Director Rob Stephany says it is one of the first artist-designed pedestrian bridges in the state and will offer a more direct connection between the neighborhoods. With Negley and Highland Avenues the only connectors the public was forced to take longer routes. "It's a really thoughtful way to connect economic systems, as well as neighborhoods," he says.

Scheduled to open December 27, the bridge will be bike and pedestrian friendly. The URA is working with SAI Consulting Engineers and Frank J. Zottola Construction Inc. on building the bridge. Pittsburgh-born artist Sheila Klein designed the bridge, with assistance from Heinz Endowments, while the Office of Public Art worked with the communities to negotiate infrastructure. PennDOT is the lead funder for the project.  Once constructed, the bridge will be dedicated to the City of Pittsburgh.

Stephany explains the bridge will feature a number of artistic touches such as restored historic handrails and medallions from the Pittsburgh Glass Center. By connecting the shops on Center and Ellsworth Avenues, the bridge will create an intimate bond between the two, he adds.

In addition, Stephany says the URA seeks to make the biggest off-site impact it can. "It's a game-changer from a system standpoint," he says. It will change the way shoppers shop by giving them more options that are easily accessible.

During construction, Ellsworth Avenue between Spahr St. and Lamont Place will be closed to traffic in both directions. It will be open to local and business traffic only from Maryland Avenue to Spahr Street and to local traffic only from Shady Avenue to Lamont Place.

Spahr Street will be open to local and business traffic only from Alder Street to Ellsworth Avenue, and traffic northbound on Spahr Street will only be able to make a left hand turn onto Ellsworth Avenue. (westbound).

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Writer: Alex Audia
Source: Rob Stephany, URA

Image courtesy of the URA

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

Mad Mex location coming to Shadyside, now hiring

¡Comamos! Mad Mex is opening a new location this April, bringing California-Mexican fare to Shadyside.

"We've always wanted to do a Mad Mex in this part of town. Oakland is great--it's the first and the heart and soul of Mad Mex, but it's tiny," says Bill Fuller, executive chef at Big Burrito Restaurant Group.

As the seventh location in the Pittsburgh area (and the tenth overall), it is the first Mad Mex to feature a mezzanine, private party rooms and valet parking. With Moss Architects of East Liberty heading up the design, the architecture focuses on steel, wood and art. One unique feature is the Hufcor bi-fold door, which will open the restaurant to the street during nice weather.

Mad Mex Shadyside is also currently hiring. They are looking to fill back-of-house positions, such as cooks, but they are also looking to fill some server positions.

Serving wholesome California-Mexican food, Mad Mex offers a variety of dishes. From burritos and enchiladas to wings and vegetarian options, anyone can find a satisfying meal. "Mad Mex is a really fun place to get something to eat and some cocktails, and it's also not a bad place to grab a meal with the kids. We feel like this part of town is great for all that," adds Fuller.

The South Highland Avenue location is set to open April 11. It will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

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Writer: Alex Audia
Source: Bill Fuller, Big Burrito Restaurant Group

Photograph copyright Alex Audia

The Mansions on Fifth luxury historic hotel in Shadyside opening in March

The Mansions on Fifth, a luxury 23-room hotel located in two restored historic homes on Shadyside's Millionaire's Row, has launched a new website offering the public a sneak peek into the rooms and facilities scheduled to open next month.

"There's just surprises everywhere. Our tag-line is 'where luxury meets legacy' and that's what we really want to do for our guests. We're going to have butler-level service," says Mary Del Brady, co-owner of The Mansions on Fifth. "Part of the experience is that every room is different. We were able to do some really different things up on the third floor, including building some two-level lofts. All of our rooms are oversized. This is not a typical hotel in any respect."

When Pop City last covered the project in 2007, mother and daughter owners Mary Del and Jennifer Brady, and Mary Del's husband Richard Pearson were gearing up to renovate the 20,000-square-foot building at 5105 Fifth Avenue and 7,000-square-foot building at 925 Amberson Avenue, which were built in 1905 for Henry Clay Frick's lawyer. Since then, they've worked with Jendoco Construction Corporation and Landmark Design Associates to restore the buildings, using sustainable techniques and material reuse whenever possible. Much of the original woodwork and stained glass has been preserved.

The owners performed extensive interior redesign with the help of J.A. Lott, and the large rooms each come with unique furniture blending the historical and contemporary, complementary iPads and flat-screen tv's, and luxury bathrooms. The Grand Hall will be available for private events, with catering from The Common Plea. Visitors can dine in The Oak Room, which will serve rare cognacs and whiskeys, as well as light fare made from local, organic ingredients.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Mary Del Brady, The Mansions on Fifth

Image courtesy of The Mansions on Fifth

Is fro-yo the new cupcakes? Sweetlix, Razzy Fresh serve the sweet stuff

Hard hitting question: Are cupcakes passe? Sure, they're still delicious, and always will be, but as far as trendy confections go… Have Pittsburgh's fickle sweet teeth moved onto frozen yogurt?

We're still hooked on bike-sized carb-bombs from Dozen, Vanilla, CoCo's and even Gahnt Iggle, but this city is certainly embracing the healthy, tart fro-yo trend. Karmic in Shadyside and Sweet Berry in Oakland have been doing their thing for about a year, and now Razzy Fresh in Squirrel Hill and Sweetlix, Downtown, join the mix with their own mixes of fat-free yogurts and both decadent and guilt-free toppings.

Razzy Fresh opened about a month ago at 1717 Murray Ave. The shop features multiple yogurt flavors (plain tart, cheesecake, passionfruit), is self-serve, and is priced by weight.

Sweetlix opened at 820 Liberty Ave. last week in a previously vacant storefront owned by the Cultural Trust. The sleek yogurt shop, with a Pinkberry-inspired interior, features a daily plain yogurt and a revolving special flavor. Sweetlix is owned and operated by wife and husband Genalle Passanante and Rob Day -- the same folks who own and operate Pittsburgh Popcorn Company and also, yes, the Bikram Yoga studio in the Strip District, where Passanante teaches.

"My husband and I like to travel, and whenever we see things that Pittsburgh doesn't yet have, we want to bring those things here," says Passanante.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Genalle Passanante, Sweetlix

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Juice Box Cafe: Fresh, healthy, veggie-friendly eats and drinks in Shadyside

Juice Box Cafe is the kind of place at which an omnivore would be hard pressed to find a dilemma.

The new eatery and juice bar features a selection of vegetarian and even vegan and raw salads and wraps, tons of made-to-order fruit and veggie juices and smoothies, and even some ham and turkey options for the meat-eaters in the midst. Ingredients are fresh and whenever possible local, courtesy of Frankferd Farms in Saxonburg, Pa.

Juice Box Cafe opened mid-April at 735 Copeland St. in Shadyside, next to Girasole and Mercurio's Mulberry Creamery. The lower-level location has some outdoor seating -- a treat in the city. And its vibrant interior -- painted pineapple yellow, tangerine orange and kiwi green -- bursts with eye-catching local art, many of the canvases created by cafe employees. There's the permanent collection splashed across one wall -- Warholesque fruit prints by master juice-maker/artist Sarah Wojdylak, whose glass terrarium installation was a hit at the recent GA/GI Festival -- and the other wall hosts a revolving selection of local works. The local wall is booked up to September.

Juice Box is owned Al Polanec, who also owns local tech company Blue Archer, which does web design, development and marketing.

Juice Box has only been open a few weeks, but already has the feel of a neighborhood staple. Polanec's a Shadyside resident, and Juice Box manager Marsa Lowerison worked for years at the Starbucks just across the street. She sees many of the same customers now, plus some new ones, including nearby Apple store employees, who Lowerison says are in Juice Box just about every day for lunch.

Juice Box is open seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Juice Box's menu features good-for-you staples with good-tasting surprises. The garden salad comes with avocado, cilantro and sunflower seeds; the smoked tofu salad is dressed in a sweet, spicy curry; and the go-to fake meat is mock tuna rather than a customary beef or chicken option. Smoothies and juices get silly-to-say names, such as the Berry Manilow (almond milk, strawberry, banana, chocolate) and the Pretty In Pink (red grape, apple, lemon). The almond milk is made right on the premises (refreshing rather than heavy, sweet). And, for the perfectly sinful antidote to all the wholesome fruits and veggies, chocolate-chip cookies are baked fresh daily.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Marsa Lowerison, Sarah Wojdylak, Juice Box Cafe

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Restored Mellon Park walled garden readies for spring opening, art dedication

After one of the harshest winters in Pittsburgh history, the city's parks are once again in bloom. The nearly 50 inches of snow have melted, and the muddy ice is turning to lush greenery.

Mellon Park, the 35-acre park that spans Fifth Avenue in Shadyside, is seeing more changes than usual this spring. After undergoing an extensive $500,000 restoration that broke ground in July 2009, Mellon's Walled Garden is almost ready for its official opening.

The garden, which dates back to the 1920s, saw improvements--designed by LaQuatra Bonci landscape architects--to its main entry and seating areas. Eighteen new trees, 174 new shrubs and hundreds of flowers have been planted in the garden, which is often used for wedding events, and a new public artwork has been installed. Many elements of the garden have been in place since the fall, says Susan Rademacher with Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, but the garden will remained fenced off until late May so the grasses can fully establish.

The art installation by Brooklyn-based Janet Zweig in memory of Ann Katherine Seamans will include twinkling "stars" imbedded in the lawn in the precise pattern that glowed over Pittsburgh at the time of Seamans' 1979 birth. A "starmap" depicting the constellations will be included on a plaque that's part of a new overlook area. Of the 150 stars, 96 have already been sponsored at $500 each; the rest are still available for sponsorship.

The artwork dedication and the grand opening of the garden are scheduled for June 12.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Susan Rademacher, parks curator, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

Photograph of Manhattan Blue dwarf iris courtesy of Melissa McMasters, Pittsburgh Park Conservancy

Bakery Square update: $150M mixed-use center develops East End in new direction

Bakery Square is shaping up near the corner of Fifth and Penn Avenues, transforming the former Nabisco factory into a mixed-use center that is quickly filling up with retailers and big-name corporations and institutions.

Google recently announced it's moving its Pittsburgh headquarters into 40,000 square feet of the $150 million development. The build-out is being designed by Strada, and the offices are expected to open in May. This announcement has increased demand for the already in-demand office space, says Jeremy Kronman with CB Richard Ellis.

"We had 220,000 square feet, and now we're down to 110,000--half the space we had before Google's announcement. And Bakery Square doesn't even open till May. This is all pre-leasing," says Kronman.

Bakery Square already houses offices for the University of Pittsburgh's Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology, which moved into its space in mid-December. Other committed companies include the 110-room Marriott SpringHill Suites hotel (already booking conferences for June and July); the 41,550-square-foot Urban Active fitness center (opening summer 2010 with a full-size indoor pool, and currently signing new members); and local chain Coffee Tree Roasters, which is constructing an outdoor café area (just one of several outdoors areas in Bakery Square).

Other retailers are still under wraps--Walnut Capital has confidentiality agreements with major prospects--but rumors of Pottery Barn and Anthropologie are swirling, and Kronman confirms companies in "that genre of retailers" will be moving in.

Bakery Square, developed by Walnut Capital and designed by Astorino, is pursuing LEED Silver--or higher--certification. Its eco-conscious assets include user-friendly features such as showers for bike commuters, and construction choices, such as re-using parts of the old factory building as fill for the site. Additionally, Bakery Square is reshaping not just the Nabisco brownfield, but also the surrounding areas--the project includes a redevelopment of the Fifth and Penn Avenue intersection (including turning lanes and widening the street), and the creation of a Penn Avenue bike lane.

"The East End is already a residential destination with housing all over Shadyside, and a retail destination with Whole Foods and Trader Joe's and now the Target that's under construction. The area never quite had that corporate presence, and that's what Bakery Square is doing," says Kronman. "Oakland is surrounded by an island. It's grown down Second Avenue, and now it's growing in the other direction. The lineup of office tenants is going to include some of the largest corporations in the U.S. and some of the largest regional education groups, too."

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Jeremy Kronman and Andrew Miller, CB Richard Ellis; Todd Reidbord, Walnut Capital

Photograph courtesy of Walnut Capital

Yoga Flow opens third studio, offers free classes in Shadyside

It may sound melodramatic to say yoga saved your life, but for Yoga Flow founder Dominque Ponko, it's hardly an exaggeration.

"Six years ago I had a seizure out of nowhere. They took me to the hospital and found I had a brain tumor," says Ponko, a former gymnast. "It's alive now, not benign, but my body is getting healthier. I needed yoga desperately in my life at that point, I needed it in the spiritual sense. But I couldn't afford to take classes, so I got certified to teach, and I could take classes for free.

"I was sick and tired of feeling sorry for myself, so I decided to make myself heal. I knew that yoga would lead me on the path to healing. By combining yoga with holistic medicine, I have changed my life."

Ponko started practicing and teaching yoga in 2002, and in 2006 opened her first studio--Yoga Flow--in Murrysville. A second studio followed in Aspinwall in 2007. And now, Ponko is opening her third location, in Shadyside--and more importantly, her tumor has stopped growing and her seizures have stopped as well.

"The brain tumor and seizures were a blessing," says Ponko. "It changed my life. I would never have these three yoga studios and these wonderful teachers in my life had I not gotten sick. In that way yoga is healing me. I am using yoga as a tool. I am empowered by this, and determined to be seizure-free and 100 percent brain tumor-free."

Yoga Flow, which specializes in heated vinyasa, is set to open its Shadyside location in late January or early February (updates can be found on the studio's website). The earthy, green-walled studio, which fits about 50 students, is located at 5433 Walnut St., directly above J. Crew. The entrance on Bellefonte Street.

The studio will offer 16 yoga classes by five different teachers each week, and will offer free classes to the public for its entire first month of business. Even after that first month, all new students get three classes free.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Dominque Ponko, Yoga Flow

Photograph courtesy of Yoga Flow/copyright Laura Petrilla

Avenue B freshens up Centre Ave. with creative, elegant cuisine

Sometimes you can judge a restaurant by its cover. The mural on the side of Avenue B's storefront promises vibrant, farm-fresh flavors with a dash of urbane polish, and that's exactly what Avenue B provides.

The American-style bistro is now open at 5501 Centre. Ave. in the former spot of Istanbul Grille, which re-opened in October in Lawrenceville as a full restaurant, coffeehouse and performance space at 4130 Butler St. (the former Your Inner Vagabond).

Avenue B opened in late November for dinner, and just last week started its lunch service.

The bistro is the work of husband-wife team Chris and Jennifer Bonfili. Chris served as the inaugural executive chef at the Red Room, 134 S. Highland Ave. in East Liberty, where he reconnected with Jennifer, an old high school friend. The couple now lives in Shadyside with their two young children, ages 1 and 2.

The Bonfilis worked on finding the right location for their restaurant for about a year. They gutted the place--removed the drop ceilings, wood paneled walls and dated ceramic floor tiles--and rebuilt a space that seduces with easy sophistication. Chris Bonfili says Avenue B's decor and menu were guided by the same ideals: "Urban but rustic. A focus on simplicity. Warm and inviting."

A small seasonal menu makes the backbone of Avenue B's offerings, and daily specials are splashed across massive chalkboards that adorn the exposed brick walls. Staples include meatloaf with a blistered tomato jam, and a fish and chips unlike any greasy pub fare (a wild-caught striped bass is prepared tempura or pan-seared, and served atop fingerling potatoes and a Napa slaw). Specials change often, and have included such standouts as roasted beet risotto with crispy chevre, and steak frites with Brussels sprouts. Desserts, including decadent homemade ice cream, are whipped up by in-house pastry chef Lisa Young, formerly of the Red Room, who also works at CoCo's Cupcakes on Ellsworth Avenue.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Chris Bonfili, Avenue B

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Razzy Fresh brings West Coast-style frozen yogurt to Squirrel Hill

James Chen has lived all over the United States, all over the world. He moved from southeastern China to New York in the mid-'80s, and spent the last couple decades in Rhode Island, then California and, most recently, Iowa, where he owned and operated a successful Chinese buffet.

In spring of 2009, Chen decided to move to Pittsburgh with his wife and young son. He had resolved to open a trendy, Cali-style frozen yogurt shop in a U.S. city with an as-yet untapped market. And, after visiting everywhere from Boston, Mass. and Ithaca, N.Y, to Columbus, Ohio and Penn State, Chen determined Pittsburgh is that ideal market.

Chen plans to open Razzy Fresh, at 1717 Murray Ave. (the previous spot of A & A Mailing Services) in Squirrel Hill by the end of December 2009. He says he picked Pittsburgh because "the economy feels strong and the customer base feels right. Squirrel Hill has a lot of pedestrian traffic and a lot of young people in the neighborhood year-round, even when the universities are not in session."

Razzy Fresh's 700-square-foot shop is located a couple storefronts down from the flagship Dozen. Razzy Fresh features DIY toppings, and a bright, cheerful interior designed by Squirrel Hill architect Allen Dunn, who has his offices above Pamela's on Forbes Avenue. South Side-based design firm ocreations created Razzy Fresh's logo and branding.

Razzy Fresh joins several other established frozen treat purveyors in Squirrel Hill, including Baskin-Robbins, Cold Stone Creamery, Ben & Jerry's and Rita's Italian Ice, all of which are located within a block radius of Razzy Fresh.

One of Pittsburgh's other options for Razzy Fresh's tart, Pinkberry-style yogurt is Karmic Yogurt. The shop is located at 713 1/2 Filbert St. just off Walnut Street, in Shadyside. Karmic, which Pittsburgh native Matt Yang opened in spring 2009, is closing for the winter on Dec. 16, and will re-open in March.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: James Chen, Razzy Fresh; Shawn O'Mara, ocreations

Image courtesy of Razzy Fresh

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

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

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

Penhollows expands boutique in Shadyside home design district

Penhollows, a gift and home accessories boutique that opened in October 2007, has added furniture to its offerings. The owners of the Shadyside shop took over the next-door storefront, which was vacant after being occupied for 30 years by a florist, and turned it into what they're branding a "Design Center."

The Design Center, which opened mid-September at 244a S. Highland Ave., has a small but chic selection of sofas, chairs, tables, rugs, lighting and more from vendors including Lee Industries, Duralee Fabrics & Furniture, Dash & Albert, Merida Meridian and Visual Comfort. The shop, which offers individualized consultations, features new merchandise, as well as vintage pieces from estate sales and auctions. Coming soon is a second-floor area with antiquarian books, rare prints and collectable china. The feel of the Design Center and the original Penhollows location next-door is "very New England with a bold stroke of New York," according to its owners.

The Design Center is operated by Anna Klahr, a Pittsburgh native who's back after 12 years of interior design experience in New York City.

"This part of Shadyside is shockingly different than when I left," says Klahr, who now resides in the neighborhood. "If feels more like Brooklyn or Manhattan. You can park your car once, and walk everywhere you'd want or need to be."

Klahr and Penhollows owner Roger Guzik say Highland Avenue could be considered Shadyside's home furnishing district, where Walnut Street's focus is fashion. Penhollows' neighbors include Weisshouse, which has long offered contemporary interiors; River House Antiques for eclectic finds; Arhaus for a variety of classic furniture and accessories; Shaherazad for antique and old oriental rugs and textiles; and, just down the street and around the corner on Penn Circle, Le Tapisseur for designer fabrics and trims.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Anna Klahr and Roger Guzik, Penhollows

Photograph courtesy of Penhollows

The Dog Stop: All-in-one canine care in the East End

When Jesse Coslov moved back to Pittsburgh, he didn't know what to do with his dogs. In Dallas, where he worked in commercial real estate, Coslov would pamper his black Lab and Yorkie with daycare while he was at the office. But when he returned to his hometown, Coslov found no Pittsburgh providers were offering similar services--within city limits--to what he, and his canine friends, were used to.

The solution? Do it himself. With longtime friend and now-business partner Chris Kane, Coslov came up with the idea for The Dog Stop, a total-care, "cage-free" dog facility.

Located in a former warehouse in an industrial area at 1140 Washington Blvd., The Dog Stop features more than 17,000 square-feet of clean, safe, climate-controlled space. The facility, which opened in late August, provides boarding, daycare, grooming, bathing and self-wash services, and a retail area. In the future, The Dog Stop will offer neighborhood pick-up and drop-off points for daycare. There's also a 4,000-square-foot outdoor space, and a 3,000-square-foot indoor dog park with limited evening and weekend hours for when the weather fails to cooperate with your dog's exercise needs.

Coslov, a longtime volunteer with the Animal Rescue League, says the key to a successful experience for the dogs is to let them play the day away rather than confining them to cages.

"We had 75 dogs in the first three week, and not one single accident in the boarding area," says Coslov. "At night the dogs just pass out from exhaustion."

Coslov and Kane chose this particular East End location, they say, because of its proximity to Shadyside, Squirrel Hill, Point Breeze, Oakmont, Churchill, Highland Park and Fox Chapel, from where the majority of their customer base comes.

The Dog Stop is veterinarian insured and licensed.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Jesse Coslov and Chris Kane, The Dog Stop

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Shadyside businesses promote shopping locally

Spend $100 locally, and $68 of it returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. Spend the same amount at a national chain and only $43 stays within the community. Spend that online, and nothing comes home.

The 3/50 Project, a national consumer citizenship initiative that encourages shopping at locally owned independent stores, launched in March 2009 based on these facts. The project now is being adopted and promoted in Pittsburgh by a group of Shadyside business owners led by Jill Rubenstein of Footloose, 736 Bellefont St. Rubenstein, who swears she can tell you by "one whiff of the leather" if a shoe is "good" or not, is a third-generation shoe merchant whose grandfather started an independent shoe store in 1936. She says this level of personalized expertise is what can be lost by shopping in the big box stores and online.

"Pick three independent businesses you'd hate to see disappear, spend $50 per month and save your local economy," explains Rubenstein. "If half the employed U.S. population did this, it would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue."

The group of 21 Shadyside merchants bought a full-page ad in Whirl Magazine, distributed flyers at the Annual Shadyside Sidewalk Sale earlier this summer and will spread the word at the annual Arts Festival on Walnut Street on Aug. 29-30.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Jill Rubenstein, Footloose

Photo copyright Caralyn Green

Mellon Park garden gets $500K makeover, public artwork

The Mellon Park Walled Garden broke ground over the weekend on an historic renovation that includes a new piece of public art.

The 200-by-120-foot garden is a central space in the 35-acre Mellon Park that spans Fifth Avenue in Shadyside. It is used for weddings, during events such as A Fair in the Park and Bach, Beethoven and Brunch, and as an intimate public retreat for families in the surrounding areas, says Laurie Anderson with Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.

The garden, which dates back to 1935 and was last updated in the late 1980s, is a classic work of landscape architecture by Vitale and Geiffert, and contains sculpture by Edmond R. Amateis. The space, which features a central rectangular lawn, is anchored at one end by a flagstone terrace and fountain, and enclosed on three sides by brick and stone.

The $500,000 first phase of the project includes restoration and improvements to the Walled Garden, including the main entry, seating, trees and perennial flower beds, as well as art by Brooklyn-based Janet Zweig, who collaborated with landscape architects at LaQuatra Bonci and lighting designer Hal Hilbish on a memorial piece in honor of Ann Katherine Seamans. As the garden was Annie's favorite place to watch the stars emerge from the night sky, softly glowing circles of light representing stars will be imbedded in the lawn in the precise pattern over Pittsburgh at the time of Annie's birth.

"It's very subtle," says Frederick R. Bonci with LaQuatra Bonci. "By day, people are going to be able to realize the garden's historic beauty, and at night, it will be a striking effect with the lawn being a mirror to the stars above."

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and the City of Pittsburgh Department of Public Works are co-managing the project, which should be complete in November 2009. The garden is expected to re-open to the public in spring of 2010.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Laurie Anderson, development director, and Laura Cook, marketing communications coordinator, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy; Frederick R. Bonci, principal, LaQuatra Bonci

Image courtesy Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

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

Relocation and renovations for Cheryl W, Dina Ellen women's boutiques

Good fashion never goes out of style, but old storefronts and aesthetics certainly do.

That's why two area boutiques--Cheryl W and Dina Ellen--have revamped the looks that established both as chic Pittsburgh staples more than a decade ago.

This month, Cheryl W closed shop on Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill, where the accessories and gift boutique had operated for 12 years. Cheryl W relocated last week to 6736 Reynolds St. in Point Breeze, a 375 square-foot, second-floor space above Make Your Mark coffeehouse. The boutique and café now share an entrance, which is an unconventional arrangement, admits owner Cheryl Chotiner, but mutually beneficial.

"Our lease was up and we decided it was time to do something different," Chotiner says. "Point Breeze is really cool and hip with some amazing eateries, but there aren't a lot of retail stores. We're trying to set the precedent."

The intimate, pastel-pink shop is filled with elegant trinkets--from scarves and handbags to jewelry and photo frames--and features delicate mural work by Pittsburgh artist Jennifer Rempel.

Chotiner also does business through the ThatGirlIs.com, which features many of the same wares as her brick-and-mortar store, but is accessible to clients outside of Pittsburgh.

Dina Ellen boutique, 817 S. Aiken St. in Shadyside, just finished its first major renovations since opening 16 years ago, and is hosting a grand re-opening with extended hours and discounts today. The remodeled two-story, 2,000-square foot showroom, designed by J. Sullivan Co. in Oakmont, features softer lighting, darker wood fixtures, and new ceilings, clothing racks, countertops, carpet, tiles and paint.

"We've freshened up everything," says owner Dina Ellen, whose goods include Frye boots, Me&Ro jewelry, Nicole Miller dresses and more. "We want our customers to know that we're here, and we don't plan on closing anytime soon."

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Dina Ellen; Cheryl Chotiner, Cheryl W

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Downtown County Office Building to get green roof

The County Office Building will become the first municipal building in Allegheny County to construct a green roof. The 8,400 square-foot, energy-efficient rooftop garden will reduce heating and cooling costs as well as stormwater runoff that can pollute Pittsburgh’s rivers. As part of the same project, planters in the Courthouse Courtyard will be converted into rain gardens with drought-tolerant native plants.

“Pittsburgh has a problem with storm water management,” explains Indigo Raffel with Conservation Consultants, Inc., which built a green roof on its LEED Gold-certified South Side facility. “The more green roofs and rain gardens we have, the more landscapes we have to absorb the water, so the less water goes into sewer systems and then rivers.”

There is no cost estimate yet for the project, as the county is currently seeking bids. Kevin Evanto, spokesperson for Country Executive Dan Oronato, says roof construction should be under way by September and complete by the end of the year, and Courtyard construction should be complete by the end of the summer.

Other notable Pittsburgh buildings with green roofs include Hamerschlag Hall at Carnegie Mellon University, the Heinz 57 Center, the Highmark Building, UPMC Montefiore, the Children’s Museum and Giant Eagle Market District.

Upcoming green roof projects include the John P. Robin Civic Building at 200 Ross St., Downtown, which is still in its funding stages, and Phipps Conservatory’s Center for Sustainable Landscapes, which is seeking LEED Platinum certification, according to Aurora Sharrard of the Green Building Alliance.

County officials are considering future green roof projects at the Kane Regional Centers and Shuman Juvenile Detention Center, both of which feature flat roofs perfect for this type of development, says Evanto.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Kevin Evanto, Allegheny County director of communications; Indigo Raffel, education services, Conservation Consultants, Inc.; Aurora Sharrard, research manager, Green Building Alliance; Janie French, watershed programs manager, 3 Rivers Wet Weather

Image courtesy Allegheny County

Expedient Communications builds multi-million dollar North Side data center

Expedient Communications has set up a multi-million dollar data center and office space in Allegheny Center on the North Side.

In late September, Expedient moved into the 18,000-square foot data center, created under the supervision of Pittsburgh-based Etzel Engineer and Build, Inc. This month, Expedient relocated its administrative headquarters from Norfolk, Va. to the 10th floor of Two Allegheny Center. These changes have meant new hires for the company, including additional engineers, several accountants and a new CFO.

Expedient previously operated an area facility in Greentree, which it essentially “filled up,” according to VP Jon Rosenson, of Shadyside. “So if we wanted to expand further in Pittsburgh, we had to find a new, additional facility.”

The North Side made sense, Rosenson said, because of its convenience for Downtown clients and its accessibility for out-of-town customers coming in from the airport. Also, Allegheny Center is particularly desirable for telecommunications or data-related businesses and call centers, Rosenson says, because it is on a dual grid from Duquesne Light, and offers affordable, large spaces with high ceilings and floors that can bear heavy loads. The former retail mall also houses offices for XO Communications, Switch and Data, Zayo Bandwidth, Peatec, Cavalier Telephone and ATT, which was the first major carrier to move into the location in 1995, according to Rob Omecene in Allegheny Center’s management office.

“The major gateways to the internet in Pittsburgh run through Allegheny Center,” says Rosenson.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Jon Rosenson, vice president of strategic initiatives, Expedient Communications; Rob Omecene, Allegheny Center

Image courtesy Expedient Communications

Soergel Orchards expands with North Hills natural food store

Soergel Orchards has always been invested in good food. The Wexford family farm was founded in the mid-1800s, established its current market concept in the 1970s and is expanding once again with Naturally Soergels.

The 1,600-square foot natural food store, located in a converted wagon shed on the same property as the existing market, adds a selection of more than 1,500 gluten-free, casein-free, peanut-free, dairy-free, soy-free, organic and natural food products to Soergel’s range of artisan breads and desserts, local produce, packaged gourmet goods and Pennsylvania wines.

 “I have celiac disease and ulcerative colitis, and have multiple food sensitivities. I don’t eat gluten, soy, dairy or meat,” says Naturally Soergels founder Amy Soergel, a Shadyside resident who recently completed her master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Pittsburgh. “There was no natural food store in the North Hills, just products scattered throughout Giant Eagle. Now people don’t have to travel around the city to find good food they can eat.”

The Soergel family worked with Kelly Construction on the $125,000 space, which makes ample use of Amish-cut wood from surrounding areas, and prominently features a crystal chandelier.

“It has a shabby chic feel,” says Soergel. “I want the space to feel comfortable to people to come in and ask questions and learn about organic foods, and how to eat healthfully and locally.”

Naturally Soergels is now open and is hosting its grand opening on May 30.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Amy Soergel, Naturally Soergels

Photograph copyright Tracy Certo

Banksville pizzeria opens second location in Wexford shopping center

Banksville’s Azzeria is bringing its combination brick oven pizzeria, osteria and gelateria concept to Wexford.

The BYOB Banksville Road restaurant, which has attracted legions of fans, has opened a 2,600-square foot location in the Village at Pine, 2000 Village Run Rd. The shopping center, developed by Dominic Gigliotti, features 300,000-plus square feet of retail space anchored by a Giant Eagle.

“It’s a new kind of center that tries to create an urban community feel,” says Azzeria co-ower Gary Matson. “The restaurant dovetails nicely with the playground of a townhouse community. It’s a uniquely idyllic setting.”

Matson and co-owner Mike Hren launched the restaurant’s original incarnation, My Brick Oven, in 2006 at 3025 Banksville Rd., and in October 2007, switched over to the Azzeria name and approach.

Azzeria’s flagship model sounds complicated in theory, but makes sense to anyone who’s traveled the Pennsylvania turnpike: There’s an “inbound” location and an “outbound” one directly across the street from each other. Both are owned and operated by the same company, and both serve from the same menu. The inbound site is open to morning commuters exclusively as a drive-thru coffee and breakfast spot, and the original location, built in an old coal mine, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The new Azzeria occupies just one space, though, and features the same menu as the original—wood-fired pizzas and paninis, soups and salads, smoothies, gelato from Shadyside’s Mulberry Street Creamery and coffee from the Strip District’s La Prima. Uncommon options include a greens ‘n’ beans pizza, fire-roasted chicken chili and breakfast paninis.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Gary Matson, Azzeria

Image courtesy Azzeria

Family House opens $4.5M University Place facility

Family House has opened its fourth location at the University Club building, located at 123 University Place in Oakland. The nonprofit organization provides an affordable “home away from home” for critically ill, out-of-town patients and their families.

The 48-room facility hosted its ribbon-cutting ceremony last week, and will begin accommodating guests in mid-May.

Family House now occupies the top four floors of the eight-floor building. The University of Pittsburgh, which purchased the historic site in 2005 for $3.2 million, will operate the remaining floors separately as a day conference center.

Family House’s $4.5 million renovation project began in January 2008. Designstream Architectural Studio, located on the North Side, was responsible the renovations, and Massaro Corporation acted as construction manager on the project.

Before opening the doors to its University Place facility, Family House had 115 rooms available among its three existing locations in Oakland and Shadyside. On a daily basis, the organization was forced to turn away as many as 30 eligible families due to lack of space. The University Place facility will support the needs of an additional 4,600 guests annually.

With this growth, though, comes the need for additional community support, says Family House Executive Director Christie C. Knott.

“We’ll be taking care of close to 13,000 people a year with the opening of this house,” says Knott. “We have only 13 full-time staff members, so we’re always looking for more volunteers, especially now.”

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Christie C. Knott, Family House; Kevin Turkall, principal architect, Designstream Architectural Studio

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

Schoolhouse Yoga expands with new SouthSide Works location

Schoolhouse Yoga is opening a new center at 2737 E. Carson St in the SouthSide Works. The 1,500-square foot studio is in the street-level storefront previously occupied by Karma Fashion boutique.

The opening, scheduled for this weekend, marks Schoolhouse Yoga’s fourth site. Other studios are located in the Strip District, Squirrel Hill and Shadyside.

After being approached by the owner and manager of the SouthSide Works four months ago, Schoolhouse owner Leta Koontz decided to open a studio at the live-stay-play development to serve the needs of people who work in the area, as well as residents of the complex’s condos and future guests at the in-progress hotel project.

Schoolhouse joins Breathe Yoga Studio, 1113 E. Carson St., and Amazing Yoga, 1506 E. Carson St., as the South Side’s third yoga facility.

Koontz notes that Schoolhouse, which was founded in 2002, schedules some unique classes to try set itself apart from competitors.

“We offer Ashtanga and Kundalini classes in addition to more conventional Yoga 1 and Yoga 2,” she says. “We also offer prenatal, mommy-and-me and kids’ classes, which are so popular we have people driving in from the suburbs to attend.”

Schoolhouse’s South Side studio is not Pittsburgh’s only new yoga center. Sterling Yoga, 2889 Glenmore Ave. in Dormont, is hosting its grand opening celebration this Saturday. Sterling Yoga offers classes for children through seniors, as well as specialized workshops including hula hoop dance and reiki exchange.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Leta Koontz, Schoolhouse Yoga; Sterling Painton, Sterling Yoga

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

$15M Market House Condos debuts model unit, spolights green roof

Life at one of the city's most centrally located condos means no more late night runs to the corner store for milk or eggs.

Nearly 75% occupied, Shadyside’s Market House Condominiums is gearing up to debut its new “green-facing” model unit. Only 14 condos are left within the 54-unit building—which is conveniently nestled between a 12,000-square-foot green roof and a LEED-certified Giant Eagle Market District—at 5570 Centre Ave.

The reduced promotional price for the 1,730-square-foot model—which faces Centre Ave. and the property’s green roof—is $360,000. Planted with hearty colorful sedum and designed by Garland Roofing and Felix Cardella, the sustainable feature helps lower heating and cooling costs, increase the roof’s life span and reduce storm water run off.

Designed by TK Architects, the 80,00-square-foot project was developed by Francesca Rossi of Echo Developers. Perlora furnished the model units, while Kolano Design created the common space. What makes the five-story building a one-of-a-kind Pittsburgh property is its location above a100,000-square-foot Giant Eagle Market District, which achieved LEED-Silver certification for interior finishes.

“We’re open six days a week on site, and we’re seeing an influx of traffic. Pittsburgh is remaining steady. We have a really good mix of people in the building—a lot of first-time home-buyers,” says Courtney Rosenthal, with Howard Hanna. “Because of the location, which is one of the building’s  best amenities, we have a number of people who work at the hospitals and universities.”

Remaining condos—ranging in size from 1,630 to 1,826 square feet—feature two bedrooms, two bathrooms and two balconies, and are priced between $345,000 to $423,000. All units feature oversized windows, sliding glass doors and a terrace or balcony.

Buyer incentives include first-time homebuyer tax credits, Howard Hanna’s Worry Free Home Buying program, condo upgrades, and reduced parking fees.

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Courtey Rosenthal, Howard Hanna Real Estate Services

Image courtesy Marc Mondor, Evolve Architecture

Just say fro-yo: Karmic Yogurt first to bring tart sensation to Pittsburgh

The fro-yo craze sweeping NYC and Los Angeles has finally made its way to Pittsburgh. Fans of the delicious and nutritious tart treat served up at places like Pinkberry and Red Mango will now be able to satisfy their cravings at Karmic Yogurt, set to open in Shadyside in mid-March.

“My first experience with tart frozen yogurt was in New York. When I came back to Pittsburgh, there was nothing like it here,” says Karmic owner Matt Yang, a Pittsburgh native who previously worked for a large consulting firm. “I just really like it, and looked for a replacement here. From the due diligence I did, and what I saw with Pittsburgh getting more healthy, the trend is definitely viable.”

Located at 731 1/2 Filbert St. off Walnut, the 250-square-foot shop will launch with three flavors—the Karmic (creamy and tart!), a customer-chosen flavor of the month and its signature green tea, made from 100% Matcha imported from Shizuoka, Japan. “We’re perfecting it now. A lot of places use artificial green tea flavoring. Ours is what’s used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies,” adds Yang, 27.

The low-cal sensation (read: less than one gram of fat and 32 calories per ounce), which originated in South Korea, is full of healthy probiotic cultures. Karmic’s impressive menu of fresh toppings includes blackberries, kiwi, Oreos, and granola. Patti Chan designed the shop's colorful logo.
The renovated shop features new walls, countertops, tiled floors, and outdoor seating. “It’s a great for space for us to start out it with; it has a small business feel,” adds Yang, who also space shopped in Squirrel Hill and Mt. Lebanon. “It’s my first business and first time away from the corporate world.”

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Matt Yang, Karmic Yogurt

Image courtesy Karmic Yoghurt

Hey Betty! moves vintage boutique to new location, just two doors down

For over 20 years, Sandra Lawton and Michel Ferrucci have kept Shadyside stylishly in the past. Their vintage clothing store Hey Betty! is filled with carefully curated pieces from the seventies and earlier. Now located at 5890 Ellsworth Ave, just two doors down from its previous location, the new store features a more select offering specializing in jewelry and handbags.

Lawton’s husband Keith Belles is a jewelry designer and three years ago he teamed up with Lawton and Ferrucci to open WAX Jewelry Design Studio at the corner of Ellsworth and Spahr. Named for the lost wax method of metal casting, the studio specializes in limited edition and custom-made high-end pieces in platinum, gold, sterling and precious stones.

“After getting WAX up and running we considered letting Hey Betty! go out of business, but this store is in our soul,” says Lawton. So rather than close their doors, they downsized and moved from a 1200 square-foot space to one with only 800.

This marks the third home of Hey Betty!, which opened 21 years ago on Shady Ave. where it spent its first seven years. “The new space reminds me of the building we started out in with its big windows and wood floors. We’ve got everything on one level now so we can better serve our customers and the smaller space has forced us to offer a more exclusive selection,” says Lawton. “If you don’t know exactly what your customers want after 20 years you shouldn’t be in business anymore.”

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Writer: Lauren Urbschat
Source: Sandra Lawton, Hey Betty

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

$230M Baum-Liberty Crossing goes before zoning board, seeks public input

On Nov. 18, DOC Economou, the developers of the Baum-Liberty Crossing complex on the former Don Allen Auto City site, held the latest in a series of community meetings about the proposed project. While the 84,000-square-foot development is in Bloomfield, its proximity to Shadyside and Friendship has given residents from all three neighborhoods reason to stay abreast of the planning process. 

“This is not a community development project but the developer has been proactive in reaching out to the community well in advance. They have made a conscious effort to maintain the residential quality of the location,” says Henry Pyatt of Friendship Development Associates.

Traffic is the major public concern and an independent study prepared by Trans Associates Engineering Consultants, recommending a series of optimized signal timings and reconfigured turning lanes, was the focus of the Nov. 18 meeting.

"We are working with multiple community groups to build a public-private partnership for community betterment by adding to the quality of life and the economic vibrancy of the area," says Christine Fulton of DOC Economou.

The mixed-use development, set to have a seven-story hotel with retail space on first and second floors, condos on sixth and seventh floors, and 330 underground parking stalls, goes before the Pittsburgh Zoning Board of Adjustment to request variances for height and maximum floor area ratios on Dec. 4 at 9:50 a.m. The meeting takes place at 200 Ross St. and is open to the public. Ground breaking is still yet to be determined.

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Writer: Lauren Urbschat
Sources: Henry Pyatt, Neighborhood Planning Manager, Friendship Development Associates; Christine Fulton, VP Public Finance and External Relations, DOC Economou

Image courtesy DOC Economou

Toast! kitchen and wine bar brightens up Shadyside's Baum Blvd. corridor

Toast! kitchen and wine bar, Shadyside’s latest dining destination, is welcoming patrons at 5102 Baum Blvd.

Owners Chet Garland and Paul Tebbets, who met at Sewickley’s Andora Restaurant, transformed the former Baum Vivant—which the pair describes as "70s retro"—into a rustic modern setting. Redesigning the interiors, Garland and Tebbets opened up the space, exposed beam ceilings, and added fireplaces and French doors, gray tile and a California poppy-inspired palette.

“It was one of Pittsburgh’s best restaurants for thirteen years, but never updated. We brightened it up. People think we did a lot of construction,” says executive chef Garland. “The downstairs emulates a wine country tasting room. Upstairs are warm earth tones and maple stained hardwood. It’s like having a nice dinner in someone’s dining room—intimate but spacious.”

Garland attended culinary school at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, and worked as executive sous chef at Richmond’s award-winning Jefferson Hotel. Tebbets, who has worked locally as wine director at Soba and Eleven, learned from master chef Dominique Filoni at Savona on Philadelphia’s Main Line.

“We brought our metropolitan tastes and dedicated palates back to Pittsburgh to fill a gap that’s needed for forward-thinking independent restaurants,” adds Tebbets. “People are moving back to Pittsburgh because they can afford to live well here and it’s friendly.”

Toast features 105 wine selections, with 30 served by the glass. With 1,000 square feet per floor, the two-story eatery seats 60. “I wanted a simple elegant menu that wouldn’t intimate my dad,” adds Garland, who has accounts with local farmers. “Our menu evolves every week. Ideally, people will remember the time they had.”

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Chet Garland and Paul Tebbets, Toast! kitchen and wine bar

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

AIA Pittsburgh announces 2008 design awards, spotlights regional projects

Recognizing the year’s outstanding architectural achievements and marking the culmination of Design Pittsburgh 2008, AIA's local chapter announced its annual awards on Oct 30.

Sixteen awards, selected from 93 submissions by an out-of-town jury, were presented in the following categories: Architectural Detail/Craftsmanship; Open Plan; Regional & Urban Design; Interior Architecture; Landscape Architecture; and Architecture.

The Silver Medal—AIA Pittsburgh’s highest accolade and last given in 2005—was awarded to Pfaffmann + Associates for designing the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania’s Meadowcroft Rockshelter. “The Silver Medal is given only at the discretion of the jury. It’s for something considered to be the building of a decade,” says Anne Swager, with AIA Pittsburgh. “Meadowcroft was built with a sense of reverence for the site. One of the most compelling juror comments was that in essence, this project created a cave without mimicking a cave.”

Honor awards went to Bohlin Cywinski Jackson/LZT/Larson Design Group for the University of Illinois' Thomas M. Siebel Center for Computer Science, and to Rothschild Doyno Collaborative for The Excavation of Mellon Hall at Chatham University.

The Design Alliance Architects received an award for the Eastside Phase 2 Master Plan. “The jury felt the architecture of Eastside was of merit, not just the plan,” adds Swager. “The buildings are friendly on a pedestrian level and relate to the parking and a variety of purposes.”

David J. Roth won the Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania People’s Choice Award for designing the Animal Friends Water Garden & Shelter. “There’s such a wide range of project sizes and clients,” adds Swager. “I really like the jewel-box effect of this year's smaller projects.”

To view a complete list of AIA Design Awards, go here.

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Anne Swager, executive director, AIA Pittsburgh

Image courtesy Massery Photography, Inc.

National PARK(ing) Day debuts in Pittsburgh, precedes Land Trust Alliance Rally

Move over meter maids, there’s a new use for parking spaces. Come Friday, the number of parks in town will rise dramatically, thanks to the Pittsburgh debut of National PARK(ing) Day.

Created in 2005 by San Francisco art collective Rebar, the annual nationwide event showcases temporary parks created in public parking spaces. Promoting the need for more parks in urban centers, the grassroots green-minded effort spawned 200 new parks in 50 cities around the globe in 2007.
Creative green spaces will promote biking, cultural organizations, and urban park development in Pittsburgh. With more than 20 parks (and counting!) planned, projects include an art installation in Schenley Plaza, REI spaces at SouthSide Works and a collaborative Charm Bracelet park on the North Side. One highlight includes an ARL Wildlife Center park complete with an owl and turtle on Copeland St. in front of Shadyside’s Starbucks.

“It’s turned out to be a great success. Pittsburgh is catching on to this early—it’s a young event,” says Emily Craig, with Riverlife, which co-organized the event. “We’ve generated interest. I cannot image that it wouldn't happen next year.”

Mayor Ravenstahl’s 4th Ave. space near the City-Council Building will feature a Bike Pittsburgh park, while event co-organizer Councilman Dowd also donated his spot to the cause. To support the event, The Public Parking Authority of Pittsburgh is granting a variance for participating spaces.

In conjunction with the 2008 Land Trust Alliance Rally—America’s largest land conservation training and networking event—taking place in Pittsburgh Sept. 18-21, five Convention Center spaces will be transformed into a park.

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Emily Craig, Riverlife

Image courtesy National PARK(ing) Day

$1.5M loft-style apartment property opens in Shadyside, nearly 100% occupied

Shadyside’s latest loft-style apartment welcomed its first tenants last week at 521 Shady Ave.

Designed by Perfido, Weiskopf, Wagstaff & Goettel, the $1.5 million project represents two decades of planning for residential property management firm Franklin West, Inc.

Located blocks from Shadyside’s Walnut St. and S. Highland Ave. commercial districts, the three-story elevator building houses 12 one-bedroom apartments, 11 of which are rented. Units range in size from 615 to 743 square feet and feature a washer/dryer, bamboo floors and silver-finish appliances. The 11,000-square-foot building includes three interior and nine exterior parking spaces. Contractor was RDC Construction, Inc.   
The property sits adjacent to firm founder Frank West’s first developments—Second Empire homes that he renovated as multi-family apartments. The property will soon feature a memorial to West sculpted by his cousin Jim, known for creating Mt. Washington’s “Point of View” statue of George Washington and Seneca leader Guyasuta. Plans for 521 Shady also call for work by Regent Square-based stained glass artist Glenn Greene.

Caroline West says that the building’s tenants represent more than 6 different countries and include employees of UPMC, Bayer and multinational corporations, as well as university scholars. “Shadyside’s become the Georgetown of Pittsburgh. The diversity of this area has increased tremendously—you see that in terms of families settling here,” adds West, who says new landscaping includes ornamental trees, shrubbery and grasses. “The building sits high up and is set back. We really tried to respect the neighborhood.”

This month, Franklin West will close on its acquisition of the Ronald McDonald House property at 500 Shady Ave., which will become a residential building after the charity relocates to Children's Hospital's new campus.

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Caroline S. West, general counsel, Franklin West, Inc.

Image courtesy Franklin West, Inc.

Hip kids' boutique joins Shadyside's Ellsworth Ave. commercial district

The latest business to join Shadyside’s other commercial district is The Tiny Dot—the first tenant in a new building located at 5871 Ellsworth Ave.

Described by first-time business owner and new mom Shelley Pieklik as “more boutique than kid’s store,” the 1,000-square-foot shop blends design and practicality. “We direct the shopping experience more to moms than children,” adds Pieklik, who says the Dot is unique in carrying clothing for infants up to children’s size six. “I was looking to dress my daughter in kid-friendly, stylish and fun clothing, but not cutesy—a kid’s version of what I like."

Declaring her anti-lace sensibility, not to mention a disdain for baby headbands, Pieklik—who found herself looking beyond the ‘burgh when outfitting her one-year-old Dottie—is putting her extensive retail experience to work. Pieklik spent six years with Ann Taylor on Walnut St., and worked as store manager for Cole Haan.

With expertise from contractor Raymond Surace, Pieklik designed the shop’s décor, which features bright citron hues, hardwood laminate flooring and sleek white fixtures. “I’m excited to be in this area at this time. It still has an independent boutique vibe and is a close-knit supportive environment,” adds Pieklik, 28. “The response has been fantastic. I thought we’d need to lay more groundwork with people.”

With lines from around the globe, including California, Sweden and Japan, The Tiny Dot carries Lola et Moi, Egg and Avocado and Kate Quinn Organics. Also featured are handmade shoes by Chickpea Kids, European Haba Toys and natural baby care products by Erbaviva.

The Tiny Dot’s grand opening is Sept. 10 from 6-9p.m.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Shelley Pieklik, The Tiny Dot

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

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

Franklin West completes renovation of historic Shadyside property, rents units

Residential property management firm Franklin West has completed renovations of a historic property located at 6018 Walnut St. at the corner of Stratton Lane in Shadyside.

After sitting neglected for years, the 1890s-era Victorian property, which was converted to an apartment building 50 years ago, has undergone a complete renovation. Amenities include new maple hardwood floors, kitchens with stainless steel and silver-finish appliances and high-efficiency central heat and air conditioning.

Located  blocks from Shadyside’s Walnut St. and S. Highland Ave. commercial districts, the two-bedroom apartments feature high ceilings, wood trim and original stained glass. The building’s first floor unit includes an outdoor patio area.

With construction recently completed, the 4,100-square-foot building is already 100% occupied with new tenants who moved in August 1. “We have about 400 apartments in Shadyside and we pretty much have everything rented up—we’ve had a great season,” says Holly Rubinoff, with Franklin West, which oversaw the project. “The majority of our renters are from the graduate schools, or are people doing residencies and fellowships. We also have some attorneys who work Downtown, and professors.” Rents in the building range from $1,570 to $1,700.

Franklin West—which manages more than 800 properties in Shadyside, Butler, Oakmont, and Gibsonia—is also completing work on a new 12-unit residential development on Shady Ave. The building is expected to be ready for occupancy September 1.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Holly Rubinoff, Franklin West, Inc.

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

Chatham University to expand further, establish Pittsburgh Eastside campus

Just six weeks after receiving the 388-acre Eden Hall Farm Campus in Richland Township, Chatham University is poised for further expansion.

To accommodate significant growth in terms of its academic programs and enrollment, Chatham is purchasing a 250,000-square-foot office building located at 6585 Penn Ave. at the corner of Washington Blvd. Providing much-needed programming space as well as the capacity for long-term growth, Chatham's new Eastside campus will be located near a number of new East End development projects including the 495,000-square-foot mixed-use Bakery Square, now under construction along Penn.

The University’s Interior Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Physician Assistant Studies degree programs will initially occupy 47,150 square feet of the building's leasable space. The move will allow Chatham's growing degree programs to further expand while freeing up classroom space for undergraduate and graduate programs at the University's Woodland Rd. campus in Shadyside. Remaining space will be leased to the building's current occupants.

University President Esther L. Barazzone says that Chatham’s enrollment growth, which has quadrupled since 1994, will reach a record high of 2,100 this fall.

To meet an increased demand for both undergraduate and graduate housing at Chatham, the University has also purchased the 10-unit Haber Apartment Building in Shadyside. Located across from Chatham's existing apartment complexes at the corner of Fifth and Maryland Aves., the Haber building will serve as graduate student housing. The acquisition follows the University's purchase one year ago of the Pelletreau Apartments located at 5826 Fifth Ave. 

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: President Esther L. Barazzone and Paul Kovach, Chatham University

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

Chatham University receives 338-acre Eden Hall Farm estate, plans new campus

Chatham University has received the most significant donation in its 139-year history.

The university has been granted the 388-acre Eden Hall Farm, the Gibsonia-based summer estate of the late Pittsburgh philanthropist Sebastian Mueller. The gift will allow Chatham to establish a new Eden Hall Farm Campus in Richland Township and expand its academic and environmental programs for 2,000 students and the North Hills community.

The donation from the Eden Hall Foundation—a nonprofit that focuses on improving social welfare, health and education—includes agricultural and forest land, the Mueller's former home, a conference center with guest rooms and a dining facility, a barn and caretaker home, and several small structures.

Approximately ten times the size of Chatham's historic 39-acre Shadyside campus, Eden Hall Farm was created by Mueller—one H.J. Heinz Company’s first executives—as a place of renewal for working women.

Chatham University president Esther L. Barazzone says the Eden Hall Farm campus—which will become Allegheny County’s largest university campus—will serve as a living laboratory for a broad range of studies. "As the alma mater of environmentalist Rachel Carson, we think that Eden Hall Farm will enable us to advance environmental education through specific additions to our curriculum," adds Barazzone.

The Eden Hall Farm campus will provide Chatham with new opportunities for growth at a time when the university’s 440 full- and part-time faculty and staff are outgrowing its Shadyside campus. In recent years, Chatham University—which offers 23 masters level and four doctoral level programs for women and men—has quadrupled its enrollment and launched online degree programs.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Esther L. Barazzone and Paul Kovach, Chatham University

Image courtesy Chatham University

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

Stevenson building in East Liberty is fully leased, set to welcome Pizza Sola

The Stevenson building, a 24,000-square-foot property located at the corner of S. Highland Ave. and Penn Circle, is fully leased.

In December, Fifth Third Bank opened a 3,900-square-foot branch in the building, while Family Resources occupies 14,000 square feet on the property’s top two floors. On March 28, building owner and developer Jim Aiello, Jr. will open a 1,700-square-foot Pizza Sola on the building’s first floor.

Aiello, who purchased the property from Ed Dardanell two years ago, invested $500,000 in building improvements and the new pizzeria. Improvements include the installation of new windows and heating and cooling systems, and maintaining original columns and architectural elements. Pizza Sola features the building’s original terrazzo floors. Devlin Architecture designed the Fifth Third branch; contractor was Allegheny Construction Group. Architectural drawings for Pizza Sola were created by J. Sullivan Company and Dick Jaynes. Shop contractor is Whistler Construction.

Aiello attributes part of the project’s success to its central location at the border of East Liberty and Shadyside. “What Mr. Mosites has done has been a Herculean effort and a first-class job. A lot of smart people are investing their money there,” adds Aiello. “Shadyside and Friendship have always had the lure for people to live. Tying it all into the busway as an all-encompassing package will solidify its future.”

In July, Aiello will open a third Pizza Sola at 114 Atwood St. in Oakland. The  2,400-square-foot Oakland eatery will be twice the size of Pizza Sola’s South Side location, and will feature seating for 59 people.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Jim Aiello, Jr.

Professional office development coming to Bloomfield's Liberty Ave. corridor

On March 11, ground was broken on a new development located along the 4800 block of Bloomfield’s Liberty Ave. corridor. Situated across the street from West Penn Hospital, the project will likely house medical-related tenants. The 18,655-square-foot property will feature four stories along Liberty Ave. and five floors along Mitre Way.

Developer Dan Albanese, who works at CJ Hoffman Agency, points to the project’s design by Arthur Lubetz as a highlight. “Arthur  has a national reputation. He’s well known and a charm to work with. He just celebrated forty years in business,” adds Albanese, who greatly admires Lubetz’s vision. “It’s going to stand out and have that wow factor. It will take the coldness away from just being a new structure in the middle of an older traditional main street.”

The brick and glass building, developed within the context of the street’s seven-story hospital and small rowhouses, will feature exterior copper lighting and a copper stairwell structure that will collect daylight. A metal wire screen set 6 inches out from the building’s facade will be covered with ivy. Contractor is Marra Construction. The project will be completed in one year.

Demolition on the site’s two existing properties, which Albanese purchased about two years ago, has begun. “A lot of options opened up when I had the chance to buy two buildings—the possibilities were there to make the project better. We’ll build to suit to whoever comes in,” says Albanese, who is currently seeking tenants. “I was born and raised in Bloomfield. It’s always been a good core neighborhood. Now, with new money and new blood coming in, it’s ready for the next step.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Dan Albanese

Image courtesy Lubetz Architects

$5.5M restoration of historic S. Millvale Bridge unveiled, new bike-ped lane opened

On Feb. 11, after a $5.5 million restoration and rehabilitation project, the historic 80-year-old S. Millvale Ave. Bridge was reopened for motorist and pedestrian traffic.

Located in central Bloomfield, the 510-foot bridge spans the Martin Luther King, Jr. East Busway and Norfolk Southern Railroad, providing a crucial link between the city's Baum Blvd. and Liberty Ave. commercial corridors, as well as into Oakland.

The project included strengthening the bridge's deteriorated superstructure, replacing concrete decks, railings and period lighting, and installing a crash barrier, protective fencing and handrails. Lead paint on the bridge was removed, and a coat of high-performance urethane paint, which is expected to provide decades of protection, was applied. The forest green color of the handrails, light fixtures and facia beams was selected to complement the medium gray used on the bridge's underside. To replicate the look of the 1928 handrails, the bridge's new handrail panels were precision cut from three-fourth inch steel plates.

To improve conditions for area cyclists, the bridge will soon be home to shared lane markings, similar to those now found along Bloomfield’s Liberty Ave. business district. The bridge also boasts more bike-friendly “share the road" signage and drainage grates.

Pittsburgh's Department of Public Works oversaw the rehabilitation in partnership with project designer, HDR and construction contractor, Brayman Construction. SAI Consulting Engineers provided construction management and inspection services.

The project, which was supported by PennDOT and the Federal Highway Administration, is expected to extend the functionality of the bridge to at least 2050.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Pat Hassett, Department of Public Works; Alecia Sirk and Joanna Doven, City of Pittsburgh; Scott Bricker, Bike Pittsburgh

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

New pedestrian bridge, transit-oriented development coming to East Liberty

Pedestrians, residents and commuters will soon have creative new choices for navigating East Liberty’s streets and shops.

A much-anticipated pedestrian bridge that will connect East Liberty to Shadyside is the subject of a community meeting on Jan 30 at Reizenstein School. The meeting will start at 5:30 p.m. at 129 Denniston Ave.

Bridge artist Sheila Klein will unveil 3-D design renderings, facilitate a dialogue about her conceptual approach and present past work. Kim Baker, the City’s manager of public art, will take questions. The Washington state-based artist—who hails from Pittsburgh—is designing the 87-foot bridge, which will sit 23 feet above the ground and link Ellsworth Ave. to Eastside.

Artists have designed bridges in counties around the globe, and in U.S. cities such as Tucson, Atlanta and Tacoma. “It’s exciting to have an artist work with architects and engineers on the bridge. We believe it’s the first time it’s happened in Pittsburgh or Pennsylvania,” says Baker, who expects Klein to establish partnerships with local organizations. “There’s potential for working with the Glass Center on pieces incorporated into the bridge. It’s exactly the kind of thing we want to do.”

In other East Liberty news, Port Authority and a public-private redevelopment team lead by Eastside developer The Mosites Company are exploring a joint venture—the first of its kind for the transit agency—to help foster revitalization in East Liberty. Central to the plan is converting Penn Circle back to two-way traffic. A transit-oriented development near the MLK, Jr. East Busway could include links to new retail, traffic pattern improvements, public parking, and better connections to Shadyside and Oakland.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Kim Baker, City of Pittsburgh; Port Authority of Allegheny County

Image courtesy of Office of Public Art

$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

$230M mixed-use development planned for Pittsburgh's Baum-Liberty corridor

A $230 million mixed-use development is planned for the former Don Allen Auto City site on Baum and Liberty Aves. Spanning three city blocks along a major Shadyside-Bloomfield corridor, the four-phase project will feature 150 for-sale condos, a 120-room hotel, 408,000 square feet of retail and 300,000 square feet of office and medical space.

“It’ll be a true lifestyle center with a cinema, health component and grocery,” says Phil Hugh, with DOC-Economou, who just last month announced its plans to bring a $48 million mixed-use development to SouthSide Works, and expects to break ground on both projects by April. “I don’t think it gets much better than this location. It’s across from UPMC and Hillman Cancer Center, and blocks from the new Children’s Hospital. I'm from Pittsburgh and we’re very passionate about the direction the city is heading in. This is one of those places where change is good.”

The seven-acre project, which will seek LEED certification, will feature masonry exteriors, covered pedestrian walkways, outdoor pavilions, and street scape improvements. “We’re very cognizant of the impact on the community. A phased and coordinated development is essential. All of our developments are in center city locations and have mixed-use components,” adds Hugh. "We’re taking advantage of the heritage of the Bloomfield-Shadyside area. It will be in the Italianate style, traditional in nature, and will improve the triangular park and green space."

DOC-Economou is purchasing the site for more than $18 million from the Voelker family, owners of Don Allen. The project is expected to create 1,000 construction jobs and up to 800 full-time and part-time jobs.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Phil Hugh and John Economou, DOC-Economou

Image courtesy DOC-Economou

$113M mixed-use Bakery Square project receives $10M TIF

Bakery Square, a $113M mixed-use project planned for a former Penn Ave. Nabisco facility, has received a $10 million tax increment financing package (TIF). On Dec. 17 Pittsburgh City Council voted to award the TIF to the 495,000-square-foot project, which is under development by Walnut Capital Partners.

“The tax financing allows us to do the office component. There really is a need for more office space in this corridor. We already have quite a bit of interest in it,” says Anthony Dolan, with Walnut Capital, of the project's 216,000 square feet of office space. “We’re anxious to move forward. One of the pieces of the puzzle is to foster continued development in the core of East Liberty. Two-and-a-half million of the TIF will go back to the City for redoing the intersection near the bus loop.”

The TIF package will also support necessary infrastructure improvements on roads and traffic signals. "It's a very important step for the project and for the revitalization of the surrounding community, and will help with converting Penn Circle back to two-way traffic," says Robert Rubenstein, with the URA.

Bakery Square also calls for a 110-room SpringHill Suites hotel, which is outside the TIF district. “Our intent is to start full-blown construction during the spring of 2008,” adds Dolan, who also emphasizes the importance of the project's 850-space garage. “You really need more of a daytime population in that corridor. The quantity and quality of restaurants can’t survive without that." The 6.5-acre project will also house 135,000 square feet of retail and a 41,000-square-foot fitness center.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Anthony Dolan, Walnut Capital; Robert Rubenstein, URA

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

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

designspace gears up for grand opening, to debut flowerbar in Shadyside

A new floral design studio is taking shape in Shadyside. After working with Tim Condron Designs for five years, Bill Chisnell purchased the business launched designspace at 5505 Centre Ave.

Chisnell created a modern “flowerbar,” complete with 30-foot slate and granite bar and hot pink proscenium curtains. “People slow down and rubber neck as they pass,” says Chisnell of the shop’s facelift. The space features a 1,500 square-foot showroom, 3,000 square-foot storage area and loft-style offices.

After attending Parsons School of Design, Chisnell worked for NYC event guru Robert Isabel. At 19, he was profiled by CNN’s style maven Elsa Clinch, and offered a job in L.A. with Merv Griffin.

designspace carries high-end crystal, candles and soaps, along with and eclectic housewares like hand-carved moose heads. “Anything you buy for someone can be filled with flowers. Whether it’s a soup tourine or silver wine bucket, it’s a keepsake for life."

Part boutique, part lounge, designspace invites patrons to soak in the atmosphere, peruse books and meet with staff. Chisnell, 29, hopes the concept will help people appreciate the art form. “It’s the only bar in Pittsburgh you won’t get in trouble for stopping in after work. Instead of alcohol you get flowers—the glasses are vases,” says Chisnell, who boasts an impressive client list that includes the Hillmans, UPMC and museums, clubs and hotels.

designspace will host flowerbar "happy hours" as well as children’s events. “Kids can make candy topiaries, Easter baskets with Swarovski crystals or over-the-top holiday stockings. We’ll have wine and cheese for mothers,” says Chisnell, who is working on the much-anticipated opening of the Carnegie Museum’s dinosaur wing.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Bill Chisnell, designspace

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

New 3,000 sf green veterinary medical facility opens in Shadyside

A veterinary center with a dream to be green has opened in Shadyside. Located at 5875 Ellsworth Ave., East End Veterinary Medical Centre is run by doctors Andrea Cangin and Ken Fisher.

After commuting to offices in Butler and the South Hills, the Squirrel Hill residents recognized a need for additional animal care options in the city, and pursued the chance to work closer to home.

Designed by evolve EA, the 3,000 square-foot facility houses exam, treatment and surgery rooms, waiting areas and a small office. “It was an empty shell. There wasn’t even a floor,” says Cangin, who strives to run an environmentally friendly practice. “From the standpoint of construction, they used recycled drywall and they recycled wood and cardboard. Our faucets have flow control features; all of our lighting is fluorescent. We have digital x-rays with no chemicals, and we’re a paperless practice.”
Cangin, who consulted with the Green Building Alliance and researched project designs in Veterinary Economics Magazine, is unaware of other veterinarians in the nation who have designed green private practices. “To our knowledge, we’re the first in the region. We’ve been trying to figure out if we can get LEED certified. It’s something we feel passionate about. The technology is there and we wanted to do everything we could afford. A lot of it was having a good architect who could listen to us and knew what we wanted.”

The center—which offers Saturday hours—already has 250 clients. “Pets are becoming more like family members. People are willing to spend much more on their pets,” adds Cangin, who says the practice serves many young cat and dog owners.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Dr. Andrea Cangin, East End Veterinary Medical Centre

Photograph copyright © Brian Cohen

Oh Yeah serves up organic ice cream, fresh fare in Shadyside

Oh Yeah, a new shop located at 232 Highland Ave. in Shadyside, is giving Pittsburghers permission to eat ice cream for breakfast.

Featuring organic ice cream and a dazzling array of palate bending toppings, Oh Yeah is Pittsburgh’s only eatery specializing in Woo City products, known for their Amish cream, high Omega-3 content and unrefined sugars. “It’s an outstanding company—the best producer of organic,” says owner Ethan Clay, who caught the ice cream bug while working in Boston cafes during college. “The concept is the new American morning—an alternative to grease.” After working in a Houston shelter following Hurricane Katrina, Clay returned home to Pittsburgh and launched what could be called the city’s first ice cream boutique.
Clay, who invested nearly $60,000 in the property's transformation, oversaw a complete renovation of the 900 square-foot shop, which features countertops made from bowling alleys and truck tire floors. “We definitely raised the property value,” says Clay, who built a new patio and entrance, installed energy efficient glass doors and fluorescent lights, and culled recylced materials from Construction Junction.

Oh Yeah's impressive "mix-ins" menu includes 95 unexpected toppings like fresh ginger and wasabi peas. Specialties include a “fire nuts” and butter pecan concoction, and chocolate ice cream topped with habanero peppers. “You can custom craft your own flavor. I’ve never considered myself a cook, but I see myself as a chef here,” says Clay, 26, who hopes to add a waffle and pancake bar this winter. Open seven days a week, the dog-friendly shop also carries vegan ice cream, fat-free sorbets and free trade coffees and teas.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Ethan Clay, Oh Yeah

Photograph copyright Jonathan Greene

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

Schoolhouse Yoga expands, prepares to open two new Pittsburgh locations

Pittsburgh’s largest yoga studio is preparing to open two new locations in September. Schoolhouse Yoga will open new centers at 330 Grant St. Downtown and at 5417 Walnut St. in Shadyside.

With 200 students each month and successful operations in Squirrel Hill and the Strip District, Schoolhouse is responding to a citywide demand for additional yoga programming. After being approached by Steve Zelicoff, founder of Shadyside Center for Health, Schoolhouse owner Leta Koontz decided to open a studio within The Grant Club, a new fitness center planned for the Grant Building's first floor. “The building owners want to offer amenities to tenants and classes geared toward Downtown workers,” says Koontz.

Offering classes at 7:30 a.m., at lunch and after work, the 400 square-foot site will be Downtown’s first yoga studio to welcome walk-ins. “It will be the only facility Downtown where you don’t need a membership fee,” says Zelicoff, of the building’s fully equipped fitness center, which will cater to the Grant Building's 800 tenants, as well as to Downtown employees and residents. “You can walk in and have a session with a trainer.”

Schoolhouse’s 1,500 square-foot Shadyside location will feature a 500 square-foot studio, as well as a boutique specializing in yoga gear, apparel, and videos. Koontz plans to offer 20 classes per week, including weekend classes and Friday night partner yoga. “We’ve definitely expanded since 2002. We’re able to offer more of a variety of classes, because the school has grown and more people are interested,” adds Koontz, who has added pre-natal, Kundalini and therapeutic yoga, as well as meditation classes.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Leta Koontz, Schoolhouse Yoga; Steven Zelicoff, Shadyside Center for Health

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

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

Reaching the 45% occupancy mark, Cork Factory celebrates grand opening, awaits new retail

The Cork Factory, located at 2349 Railroad St. in the Strip District, has reached forty-five percent occupancy and has completed work on the property’s final development phase--an outdoor courtyard, pool and fire pit.

In May, work will begin outside the Cork Factory on a river wall and walk along the adjacent Allegheny River. The project will take 90 days to complete. The final phase of exterior developments will involve constructing a marina for Cork Factory residents, which should be completed by the fall.

“We’ve been so popular with people new to Pittsburgh,” says Debbie Roberts, who manages the Cork Factory’s 295 loft-style apartments. “Our residents are empty nesters from the suburbs who are tired of household chores, young professionals working downtown and people from out of state." Roberts credits resident referrals and word of mouth recommendations as effective marketing tools. She sites the building’s location, amenities and modern units set within a turn-of-the-century industrial landmark as selling points. “It’s the raw appeal--the basic design of the apartments.”

Throughout May and June, the Cork Factory will host grand opening events, such as "The Sprit of the Strip” in partnership with Neighbors in the Strip. Themed events include pet, “walk and dine” and PUMP festivities.

Next up for the Cork Factory is the completion of the development’s 47,000 square-foot retail space and parking garage, located on Smallman St. Seventy-five percent of the one-floor property is now under contract with commercial tenants.

Writer: Jennifer
Source: Debbie Roberts, McCaffery Interests

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

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

The Mansions on Fifth Avenue Bed & Breakfast Inn planned for Shadyside

Two prominent Pittsburgh mansions will house a new Shadyside inn. The $6.5 million project is being spearheaded by proprietor Jennifer Brady and her stepfather Richard Pearson, president & CEO of BioSpace Development Company.

Located at 925 Amberson Ave. and 5105 Fifth Ave., the properties were built in 1905 and 1906 by Carpenter and Crocker for Henry Clay Frick’s lawyer Willis McCook. The 7,000 square-foot Tudor and 20,000 square-foot Elizabethan properties will feature twenty-two guest rooms. Landmarks Design Associates and Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation have created preliminary designs. Brady is committed to integrating sustainable restoration practices; renovations will meet National Park standards. “When the National Trust was here for the convention, they highlighted the greening of old buildings,” says Brady. “My step-dad specializes in the adaptive re-use of older buildings.”

The site will host the Young Preservationists Association’s fifth anniversary party on May 25th. “They like to have parties in spaces that aren’t up ad running yet – it’s a perfect fit,” says Brady, who sits on the group’s board. “The buildings are in amazing condition. They’re eligible to be on the National Register.” Major landscaping upgrades will be completed and serpentine driveways will be added.

“When I was I ten, I told my mother I wanted to run a B&B. It’s a life-long dream,” says Brady, who has event planning experience. She hopes to begin restorations in June; the project will take 18 months. “You will experience upscale, high-quality service--the grandeur of some of Pittsburgh’s most prominent buildings.” Brady, 29, is working with her mother, entrepreneur Mary Del Brady. “I was born and raised in Pittsburgh. Now I can help save buildings that would have been torn down.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Jennifer Brady

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

Grand View Scenic Byway receives regional park designation

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

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

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

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

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Ethan Raup, MWCDC

Image courtesy of MWCDC

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Sean Brady, Venture Outdoors

Image courtesy of Venture Outdoors

French Tart opens second Pittsburgh location

The French Tart, a bakery with a fresh European flair, has opened a second location at 731 Filbert St. in Shadyside. After a successful first year in Mt. Lebanon’s Virginia Manor Shops, owner Valerie Navarre saw a market for healthy treats in the city. The 300 square-foot bakery celebrated its grand opening on March 31st.

“I’ve been researching the Shadyside area and had a feeling the customer base was receptive to healthier foods and international flavors,” says Navarre, a native of Paris, who moved to Pittsburgh in 2005. “We have a good base in Mt. Lebanon, and see that new customers are interested.”

Specializing in tarts of all sizes and flavors, including apricot, coconut and kiwi, the bakery also carries quiches, cream puffs and organic breads. “I couldn’t find the desserts and flavors I was used to. The ingredients are very simple. It’s what you get at home--all natural, no mixes,” says Navarre, a self-described non-baker with a business background, who hired chefs from The Pennsylvania Culinary Institute and Art Institute. “I enjoy tasting foods and leave the baking to professionals.”

“I’d love to try the South Side and downtown; it's a very a nice city,” says Navarre of expanding the French Tart. “It’s going so well. People are already coming back for their croissants. It’s really heartwarming.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Valerie Navarre, The French Tart

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

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

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

State pledges $1M toward redevelopment of Nabisco site

Bakery Square, a major brownfield redevelopment in East Liberty, has received a $1M grant from the state. Gov. Rendell released the Growing Greener II funds on Feb. 9 to pay for cleanup of the 495,000 square-foot former Nabisco plant. The Regional Industrial Development Corporation of Southwestern Pennsylvania will use the grant, along with $335,000 of its own funds, to remove asbestos, PCBs, lead-based paint and other hazardous materials from the site. Development plans for the 6.5-acre area call for 223,000 square feet of office space, 165,000 square feet of retail and a 120-room hotel.

“This project stands head and shoulder above many others,” says Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty. “The Governor is making a particularly substantial investment in a beautiful structure that will come back into productive use as a community asset.”

Funding for Bakery Square comes from the state’s Industrial Sites Reuse Program, which finances remediation of industrial sites in order to spur redevelopment of blighted land. “We’re not just cleaning up something from the past, we’re building something that will go from lifeless to something dripping with life and activity,” says McGinty.

McGinty says the state funds will help to leverage private investment required to move the project forward. “Bakery Square offers access to a large market because more than 350,000 people live within five miles of this site." The project is expected to create 1,600 new jobs.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Kathleen A. McGinty

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

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

Construction on $10M Lofts on Baum to start in February

Construction is set to start in February on new lofts at 5848 Baum Boulevard in East Liberty. Developed by Crossgates, the project is located near Whole Foods and EastSide, within the core of Shadyside’s expansion into the Baum-Centre corridor.

The eight-story project will feature 28 one- and two-bedroom units ranging from 1,005 to 1,517 square feet. A number of brand new features, including penthouses, a top-floor glass enclosed exercise facility and a 16-by-30-foot roof deck have been added to the project’s final design. Two 2,318-square-foot penthouses will feature three bedrooms, 3 1/2 bathrooms and covered terraces. The property will also feature a gated outdoor pet area.

“We have people interested from as far away as California,” says Brian Galley with Howard Hanna, who has begun pre-sales. “A lot of people are coming back to the city from suburbs like Fox Chapel and Mt. Lebanon.”

Pittsburgh-based Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff + Goettel designed the building and Meadeworth Interiors, located on Penn Circle West, is the interior designer.

“There’s been real public demand for the one-bedroom units with Shadyside views.” Galley says this interest led to the creation of additional one-bedroom lofts that start at $209,000; penthouses start at $579,000. "Everything is with within walking distance," says Galley of the project's central East End location.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Brian Galley

Image courtesy of Crossgates Realty

Massaro Corporation constructing $5M aviation facility, upgrading historic Shadyside church

Pittsburgh-based Massaro Corporation has been awarded contracts for AvPorts Atlantic Aviation and Shadyside Presbyterian Church. Located at 300 Horizon Drive in Moon Township, the AvPorts project involves constructing a new 30,000-square-foot hangar to accommodate 12 private and corporate aircrafts. The $5M project will more than double the facility’s capacity and serve the region’s growing demand for private air travel.

“We’re excited  because it’s our third project with this client and is further development along the Parkway's Airport corridor, where we also own real estate,” says Steven Massaro. “We’re thrilled to see additional amenities for businesses in that corridor.” Expected to be completed in May, the project  features a 7,000-square-foot terminal that will house office space, U.S. Customs and commercial charter screening. TKA Architects is designing the facility.

Massaro is also overseeing interior restorations at the 140-year-old Shadyside Presbyterian Church  located at 5121 Westminster Place. The $1M project involves up-grading existing mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. “It’s a beautiful historic structure that needs a lot of work,” says Massaro. “It’s in an area that’s always been a good urban growth area.” Work on the
30,000-square-foot church, which also houses a daycare facility, is slated to be complete in April.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Steven Massaro, VP for business development, Massaro Coporation

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

New Shadyside cafe blends art of cupcakes with pittsburgh pride

During business trips, designer Shea Mullen saw the cupcake craze sweep the nation at NYC's Magnolia and L.A.'s Sprinkles. Enamored, Mullen was determined to created a design-savvy, homespun version of the concept.

This week, Mullen opens CoCo’s Cupcake Café at 5811 Ellsworth Avenue, along with partner Dennis Steigerwalt, a Mt. Washington resident and president of Steigerwalt Capital, LLC.   

Susie Treon, formerly of the Cafe at the Frick and named Best Pastry Chef by Pittsburgh Magazine, Nick Torina, a recent Pennsylvania Culinary Institute graduate and Krissie Frank, fresh from a stint at a French organic farm, teamed up to create CoCo’s menu. In addition to what Mullen dubs the “four basic, nostalgic types,” CoCo’s will carry specials such as eggnog, gingerbread and vegan cupcakes.

The 2,000 square-foot café features a patio, concrete floor, white oak interiors created by Kevin Kauffunger and a steel railing designed by metalsmith Chad Fedchick. Its walls will feature cupcake-themed works by local artists.

“We’ll be open late as an alternative to the bar scene,” says Mullen, a Regent Square resident whose company Good Chemistry has designed products for American Eagle and Barney's. “Ellsworth is going to rock at night--I think it’s what Walnut used to be.”

CoCo’s plans to host art events, launch a “cupcake couture” line and may turn its basement into a dessert bar. Sweet.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Shea Mullen

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

Mooi brings organic children's couture to Eastside

On Dec. 14, mooi will celebrate its grand opening in the new EastSide development at 5932 Penn Circle South. The 1,500 square-foot shop is Pittsburgh’s first  children’s organic boutique.

Located on EastSide’s upper deck, mooi--named for the Dutch word for beautiful—carries clothing, crib mattresses and baby products, from dresses made from recycled pillowcases to bedding by Egypt’s Under the Nile. Prices range from $5 for toys to $200 for suede coats.

Owners and Fox Chapel residents Jill Uhryniak and Emma Gosden, both Medrad employees, hope to attract Whole Foods patrons wanting to transition from organic foods to organic clothing. After shopping for organic children’s products in Europe, Uhryniak wanted to bring the concept to Pittsburgh. “The more I talked to people, the more I realized there was a market here.”

The EastSide construction caught Uhryniak’s eye awhile back; she loved the location and developer Steve Mosites was excited about her concept. “They’ve been incredibly supportive--their flexibility has been amazing for getting things done.” The shop received working capital from the URA and plans to apply for LEED certification as a business. 

Uhryniak worked with Kolano Design on the shop’s interior, which features eco-friendly bamboo floors, natural wood cases and colorful photographs of children modeling mooi products.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Jill Uhryniak

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

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

Borders celebrates grand opening during Eastside open house

From Dec. 8 through Dec. 10, Borders celebrates the grand opening of its new Pittsburgh location. The two-story 24,000 square-foot bookstore is located at 5986 Penn Circle South in the new Eastside development. Developed by The Mosites Company, Eastside is hosting an open house on Dec. 8.

“We’re serving a very diverse audience—the store will evolve as we see what events the community thinks are important.” says Borders’ spokesperson Rae Whitfield. The store shares its new Eastside digs with Starbucks, a LEED-certified PNC, Walgreens and Pennsylvania Wine & Spirits. The building shell was designed by The Design Alliance Architects; San Francisco-based URS designed the interior store layout. The building is designed to LEED standards.

Opening events include family scavenger hunts, Pittsburgh trivia contests and live music. Featured entertainment includes musician Joe Grushecky, cartoonist Joe Wos and author Dave Crawley. Customers will have opportunities to win $250 Borders gift cards and Sony MP3 players, and learn about year-round community benefit days and educational discounts.

“I’ve never seen so much excitement as I have about East Liberty,” says Whitfield, who feels the additional businesses in Eastside are complementary. “The stores match us very well—we’re all already working well together.”

With five superstores in the region, the Michigan-based Borders operates more than 1,300 stores and employees more than 34,000 people worldwide. Borders Eastside will employ 50 people.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Rae Whitfield

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

Picket Fence boutique opens in Shadyside

On November 18, The Picket Fence opened its second location at 5425 Walnut Street. The 850 square-foot boutique is run by Point Breeze native Maureen Staley, who along with her sister Jennifer and mother Patti, also manages the shop’s Oakmont location. “We wanted an urban location to carry a more hip clothing line,” says Staley of Shadyside shop. “When the opportunity for the Walnut space came up, we jumped on it.”

The boutique carries an extensive collection of funky and classic children's clothing not commonly found in area shops. Catering to all ages, the shop also sells designer diaper bags, cashmere sweaters adorned with beadwork and bath and body products. Featured items include enamel housewares by Miami-based TK, yoga gear by Hard Tail and lucite jewelry.

“Other businesses have been welcoming and positive,” says Staley of Walnut Street. “Everyone is excited that we’re a local boutique.” Staley, an artist who teaches in Carnegie Mellon University’s pre-college program, worked with husband Miki Szabo, a woodworker, on shop renovations. Szabo installed teak flooring, re-painted walls and constructed tables using recycled doors from Construction Junction. Jennifer Rempel painted the shop’s wall stencils.

On Dec. 9 and 10, the shop hosts a trunk show featuring the San Francisco-based Tea Collection, a line carried only by Picket Fence. The boutique’s extended holiday hours begin on Dec. 11.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Maureen Staley

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

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

Green Building Alliance tour of Shadyside Giant Eagle showcases sustainable design

On Dec. 1, The Green Building Alliance will host a tour of the new Shadyside Giant Eagle located at 5550 Centre Avenue. Led by Marc Mondor, the project’s green building consultant, the tour will spotlight the supermarket’s sustainable design features and technologies, such as skylights and air quality sensors.

The tour is rare opportunity for people to visit the store’s 12,000 sf vegetated roof, the largest of its kind in Pittsburgh. In a University of Pittsburgh and 3 Rivers Wet Weather study, the green roof represents a local example of nationwide research to monitor water, temperature, weather and solar absorption.

“Giant Eagle isn't afraid to try new things—they’re a very well run company,” says Mondor, principal at evolveEA. The 79,000 square-foot market was designed by a team that included McCormick Architects and Mascaro Construction.

Among its numerous energy saving strategies are photometric skylights that dim fluorescent bulbs in relation to natural lighting. A filtration system brings cleaner air into the building, and all housekeeping products are Green Seal compliant. The store provides cooking oil to Steel City Biofuels for use as an alternative energy source.  

The project hopes to obtain LEED-CI (Commercial Interiors) certification, becoming the nation’s second market of its kind, says Mondor who worked on the Brunswick, Ohio Giant Eagle—the world’s first LEED-certified supermarket. Mondor is also working with Giant Eagle to green its GetGo chain.
Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Mark Mondor, evolveEA

Image courtesy of evolveEA

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

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.

$10.5 M South Shore Riverfront Park, Hot Metal Pedestrian Bridge underway

On Oct. 26, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) held a groundbreaking for South Shore Riverfront Park and Hot Metal Pedestrian Bridge, two new major amenities coming to the South Side. The $10.5 million, four-year project will reconnect the South Side to the riverfront via trails, docks, water taxis, and five acres of landscaped urban green space.

In 2000, the URA began working on the park with Soffer Organization, the South Side Local Development Corporation, and government and philanthropic leaders. “We are proud and honored to be part of riverfront redevelopment,” says Soffer's Christine Fulton. “This extraordinary park is a great amenity for all of Pittsburgh-- it’s a link in the system.”

The new park, designed by Environmental Planning and Design, has already attracted American Eagle Outfitters to choose the area for its new headquarters.“The park will link to trail systems throughout the city,” says John Coyne with the URA.

The pedestrian bridge will connect the Pittsburgh Technology Center to the South Side and create links between the 10-mile Three Rivers Heritage Trail and the Great Allegheny Passage, a 150-mile trail that will eventually link to Washington, DC.  Brayman Construction will build the bridge and Trumbull Corporation will oversee its management and inspection.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: John Coyne, URA; Christine Fulton, Soffer Organization

Image courtesy of Environmental Planning and Design

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

Royal Caribbean spices up East Liberty

East Liberty will soon welcome a Caribbean restaurant to its growing mix of amenities. Owner Owen Ben Crownie plans to open Royal Caribbean at 128 South Highland Avenue before Halloween.

Located between Baum Boulevard and Centre Avenue, the 1,600 square-foot BYOB restaurant will seat 40 and feature authentic Caribbean fare, such as Jamaican jerk chicken, vegetable patties, and its signature roti and rum cake.

Crownie, who received a $5,000 loan from East Liberty Development, Inc. to launch the business, is remodeling the property himself, adding ceramic tile, bamboo detailing and a Caribbean décor.

“I had a restaurant in the area but sold it in 1995. People always suggested I re-open because no one could duplicate the quality,” recalls Crownie, a native of Jamaica. “I’ve had so much feedback and can’t wait to open.”

A graduate of Point Park University, Crownie moved to Pittsburgh from Brooklyn in 1977.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Owen Ben Crownie

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

Atria’s coming to Schenley Plaza

Last week, Pittsburgh’s Historic Review Commission approved the design and layout for an Atria’s at Schenley Plaza in Oakland.

The restaurant will be located at the corner of Forbes Avenue and Schenley Drive, currently a fenced-in area. The project is expected to break ground by the end of 2006.  

Melissa McMasters, communications coordinator with Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy (PPC) says the two-story building will have a glass "window on the park feel.” Desmone and Associates Architects created the design.

“It will be oriented to the park, with outdoor dining and upstairs patios,” says Pat McDonnell, owner of Atria’s and a principal with Restaurant Holdings, LP.

“It’s an area that attracts people from all over the county,” says McDonnell. “With all the venues--from universities to Heinz Chapel to museums—there are so many reasons to be there.”

The 10,000 square foot, 300-capacity restaurant will serve lunch and dinner.  McDonnell, who purchased the restaurant from original owner Nick Atria in 1998, says the Schenley Plaza location will be the ninth in the region.

Source: Pat McDonnell, Restaurant Holdings, LP; Melissa McMasters, PPC

Photograph copyright © Joshua Franzos

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

Collective effort to shape development of “Bakery Row” begins

A stretch of Penn Avenue between Fifth Avenue and East Liberty, dubbed “Bakery Row,” is the subject of a community meeting on October 4, at 7 p.m. Co-sponsored by the Shadyside Action Coalition (SAC) and East Liberty Development, Inc. (ELDI), the meeting is being held at Calvary Church at 315 Shady Avenue.

An address by councilman Bill Peduto will be followed by discussions facilitated by Maureen Hogan and break-out sessions on topics such as future plans for Reizenstein School and Bakery Square, a mixed-use development that will bring condos, a small hotel, offices and retail to the 495,000 sf Nabisco building.

“All of a sudden there are a bunch of huge parcels that might become available. We are going to educate folks on the nature of these sites,” says Rob Stephany, director of commercial development with ELDI.

Participating architect Rob Pffafmann hopes to engage community stakeholders, Mellon Park users and Point Breeze, Shadyside and East Liberty residents. “We want people to understand how the place came to be. This will reflect both a reality check and what neighbors want.

“We all thought Giant Eagle and Reizenstein would be there forever,” says Pfaffmann, who describes the area as East Liberty’s Strip District. “Now, Reizenstein is up for sale and Ellis is doing a master plan. This is a great opportunity to extend the success of downtown East Liberty and the Baum-Centre corridor.”

Public transportation and traffic patterns are a core issue. “In terms of how East Liberty is or is not connected to Shadyside, the bus way was always sort of the Berlin Wall of the two neighborhoods,” says Pfaffmann. “The advent of Whole Foods and EastSide is starting to knock down that wall.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Rob Pfaffmann, Pfaffmann + Associates and Rob Stephany, ELDI

Image courtesy of ELDI

Palm Place settles into larger location, begins expansion

Palm Place, a boutique specializing in Lilly Pulitzer products, moved from
Walnut to 732 Filbert Street on September 9th and is starting an expansion.

The new location adds 900 square feet, allowing the boutique to expand its lines of clothing, shoes, jewelry and
bedding. The $500,000, two-story addition will provide wheelchair access, staircase and mezzanine to the 2,000 square-foot shop.

Palm Place, which carries a number of labels, is the only Lilly Pulitzer Signature Store in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.

Smith, who operated wind surfing businesses in Venezuela before returning to his hometown, purchased the property in July and is working with architect Harry Levine and contractor Dale Hummel.

"We are making it more appealing by incorporating a residential look to blend into the neighborhood," says Smith, who will integrate shuttered windows, palm and white birch trees and pink stucco to tie in with the Palm
Beach-inspired wares.

"Shadyside is one of the few areas in the country where chain stores and independent businesses mesh well. It works because our independent stores are high-end and our chains are unique," says Richard Rattner, president ofthe Shadyside Chamber of Commerce.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Ted Smith, Palm Place and Richard Rattner, Shadyside Chamber of

Photograph copyright © Jennifer Baron

UPMC develops preliminary plans for Baum Boulevard site

UPMC is developing preliminary plans for expanding its Shadyside presence at a Baum Boulevard site.

Preliminary concepts for new medical offices and an outpatient services facility were recently presented to the Shadyside Action Coalition and Baum Center Corridor Initiative.

Plans involve multiple parcels of land and a four-story, 280,000 square-foot property occupied by Family Health Center and Boston Market at 5200 Baum.
Owned by UPMC, the land also has several open parking lots.

A project timetable has not been established. Ideas include connecting the new facility via a pedestrian bridge to an eight-story, 240,000-square-foot addition planned for UPMC’s Shadyside Hospital located at 5230 Centre Avenue.

“The site is right near our Shadyside hospital and Hillman Cancer Center. It is an obvious cluster,” says Wendy Zellner, associate director with UPMC’s News Bureau.

The area identified by UPMC is located in the Shadyside-Bloomfield area across Cypress Street from Hillman Cancer Center, which is on Centre Avenue.

“This is part of UPMC’s broader expansion in Shadyside and the Baum-Centre corridor,” says Zellner, who added that, despite other published reports, the Cancer Center is also looking for additional space, but in a different location.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Wendy Zellner, UPMC

100,000 square-foot Giant Eagle Market District opens doors on Centre Avenue

Giant Eagle’s Market District celebrates its grand opening on June 29. Located at 5550 Centre Avenue, near the burgeoning EastSide corridor, the 100,000 square-foot market will employ 300 people, many of whom are trained food specialists and chefs. A second Market District also opens this week at 7000 Oxford Drive in Bethel Park.

Open 24 hours, Market District will carry thousands of natural and organic products, fresh flowers and plants, and Artisan breads and baked goods. Market District will also house a café, bank and pharmacy.

“People ask, ‘is this an answer to Whole Foods?’ One key difference is that it is a foodie’s paradise combined with one-stop shopping. You can do your weekly shopping, get unique things no one else sells and basics like detergent or grape juice,” says Dick Roberts, spokesperson for Giant Eagle.

The only U.S. supermarket to carry Brazilian churrasco, the store will also feature specialty meats like Italian ham, French pork, dry aged steak and harder to find game including duck, quail and pheasant.

A 1,400 square-foot cheese cave and emporium will stock more than 500 varieties of domestic and international cheeses, while a dedicated Kosher section, designed with input from area rabbis, will carry prepared deli items and frozen products from Israel.

“It is really a true food aficionado’s paradise,” says Roberts.

The market will serve as a venue, presenting celebrity chef cooking classes, led by such noteworthy figures as Rick Bayless and Sara Moulton, demos and tastings, and live music.

“This will become a destination location,” adds Roberts.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Dick Roberts, Roberts Communications

Photo copyright © Jonathan Greene

The Vikings have landed in Shadyside

The Midnight Sun shines on Shadyside thanks to gallery owner Jeanette Morgan. Opened at 731 ½ Filbert Street on May 13, Sweden Kaffe and Arts Shoppe features artwork and crafts, specialty coffees and handmade gifts.

Morgan, who migrated to shop owner after teaching in Duquesne University’s School of Business, moved to America in 1958 from rural Sweden. Half-Pakistani and half-Swedish, Morgan has worked as a consultant with the Pentagon and NASA. She was drawn to Shadyside because “there is something about its ambience that reminds me of the Gamlestan,” the historic section of Stockholm.

“In a way, Pittsburgh is so cosmopolitan, People here love ethnic things. I am meeting loads of Swedes. There is also a Scandinavian American Society," says Morgan.

Morgan inherited a collection when her uncle passed away, leaving behind an extensive inventory of paintings and lithographs spanning the 1940s-1990s.

Gift items include whimsical “Viking girl” t-shirts and jewelry, painted wine glasses, and Little Earth purses adorned with Swarvoski crystals. Prices range from $20 to $220. Morgan makes the signature “habohus,” wooden horses painted in the Swedish folk style.

The shop, located between the Ivy and Bellefonte parking lots, serves strong Swedish kaffe, pepparkakor cookies and chocolates and cheese. Offering Viking birthday parties along with alfresco seating, the shop celebrates “midsommar” on June 24th.  

Morgan is already taking special orders for sought-after items such as clogs and Christmas decorations. “I love the way Swedes brighten their days with innovative arts and crafts,” says Morgan.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Jeanette Morgan, owner, Sweden Kaffe and Arts Shoppe

Photo courtesy of Sweden Kaffe and Arts Shoppe

$15 million dollar Market House Condos sells 27 of its 54 units

Located at 5570 Centre Avenue in Shadyside, the new Market House Condominiums have sold 27 of its 54 units. TK Architects of Kansas City and Mascaro Construction of Pittsburgh created the 80,00 square-foot building.

The only residential property of its kind in Pittsburgh, the condos are uniquely situated above a Giant Eagle. The grocer, currently under renovation, reopens in June. The full-service metropolitan market will include a dry cleaner, bank, pharmacy, and photo lab.
Condos include one bedroom/one bathroom 850-1800 square feet units, and two bedroom/two bathroom 1200, 1600 or 1800 square feet units. Local furniture company Perlora designed the units, while Kolano Design created the common space.

“The space is very clean and bright. Every unit has incredible views. The architecture has longevity,” remarks Bill Krahe, managing partner with Echo Real Estate Services Company.

Amenities include a fitness center, library and guest suite. The building’s brick, metal and glass structure is integrated within environmentally friendly and energy efficient elements including a rooftop garden, wind power and skylights.

Tenants enjoy close proximity to restaurants, galleries and boutiques and can purchase indoor or outdoor parking space. "We have a broad range of tenants, from younger to older, single to married, professionals, doctors and graduate students and some new to Pittsburgh,” notes Krahe.

An open house featuring tours of Market House model units takes place on Thursday, June 1, 4:30 -7:30 p.m.

Source: Bill Krahe, managing partner, Echo Real Estate Services Company

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

New 6000 square foot office condo building planned for Baum corridor

Walnut Capital announced the planned construction of a new, 6,000 square foot office building for office condos at the corner of S. Millvale and Baum Blvd., next to the building owned by the same company which is now leasing and ready to occupy.

The three-story office building will be the second phase of the project, said Tony Dolan of Walnut Capital. “There’s not a lot of office condos in this market, let alone the Baum corridor,” he said, adding that they know the demand for office condos in this market is is high.

The two existing buildings, once single-family residents that were converted to offices, will be razed in the fall and construction will start soon after. Architect David Morgan of Morgan and Associates will design the building. A contractor has not yet been named.

Meanwhile, at the one-story retail building next door also owned by Walnut Capital, Aspen Dental, Super Cuts and a drycleaner will be opening followed by Qdoba in mid-May then a Verizon store sometime in June.

Photo copyright © Jonathan Greene

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

Walnut’s luxury condos on Shady-Oakland border have sold fast

The walls aren't even up, but the condos in Walnut Capital’s new Metropolitan building are selling fast.

The Metropolitan, located on North Neville Street at the Oakland-Shadyside border and designed by architectural firm Astorino, will be among the most expensive and amenities-packed new residences in the city. Apparently, there’s a call for it: Walnut Capital managing partner Gregg Perelman says that “over 40 percent” of the building’s 42 units have been sold already. Occupancy is planned for spring 2007.

Such a quick rate for a new project “is pretty special. There are a lot of condos around town, but it’s because of the building and the location and the amenities,” he says.    

The individual units will feature balconies, floor-to-ceiling windows and luxury appliances. The building itself will offer guest suites, a catering kitchen, individual wine lockers, underground parking and a fitness center with exercise classes and even an “endless pool” -- like a treadmill for swimmers.

Prices are $499,000 and up, says Perelman.

Many buyers have been East Enders, he says, selling houses in Squirrel Hill or Shadyside. Some are upgrading from other condos.

Such fast sales at the top of the market beg the question of whether there are many more who would snap up luxury condos. “We knew there was a pent-up demand for a luxury building like this,” Perelman says. “Now, I’m not saying I could [sell] 100 of these. I don’t know how deep the market is, but every few years I believe you can absorb 30 to 40 units.”

Source: Gregg Perelman, Walnut Capital managing partner
www.metshadyside.com; www.walnutcapital.com

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