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Haunted History: Senator John Heinz History Center

Before it was the Senator John Heinz History Center, 1212 Smallman St. in the Strip District had a much more chilling legacy.
 
No, we’re not talking ghost stories. Well, not yet.
 
In the late 1800s, the building hosted The Chautauqua Lake Ice Company, which stockpiled ice harvested from New York lakes and shipped to Pittsburgh via railcar. 
 
This ice company, which delivered ice to residents in the days before refrigeration, burned down in 1893 and continued operation as The Chautauqua Lake Ice Company. 
 
Unfortunately, the worst was not behind the ice company. The second reconstructed building caught fire in 1898-- and this time it was more serious.
 
Museum Project Manager Lauren Uhl called it a “spectacular fire.” However, the building was reconstructed a third time and stood for good in the same year, 1898.
 
“People have refrigerators and they don’t need ice so much anymore,” Uhl said about the 1950s as she walked me through the site’s history.
 
The ice warehouse closed in 1952 and was sold to Adelman Lumber Company. Uhl said the building served as warehouse space until it was acquired by the Heinz History Center, which opened in 1996.
 
“We wanted something that reflected Pittsburgh’s industrial history,” Uhl said about what made the old ice warehouse an attractive museum space.
 
The building’s history is not lost in the modern museum. Uhl noted intact exposed brick, open space, metal doors, windows and beams from its original warehouse use.

“I’ve always felt in some ways that our building is our best artifact,” she said. 
 
The 1898 fire is also remembered at the History Center through office urban legends and ghost stories.
 
"Our security guards here are definitely prone to spreading tall tales,” said Brady Smith, senior communications manager at the history center. “Whether they’re true or not is up to whoever is listening!"
 
Staff, nighttime security guards and visitors have claimed that supernatural activity happens on the fifth floor, reporting strange sounds and apparitions interacting with exhibits.
 
"I’ve personally never heard [or] seen any ghosts in my four years here, for whatever that’s worth," Smith said.
 
Uhl agreed that she had never experienced anything supernatural at work.
 
“It’s a terrific building and I love working here,” she said, noting the site and the Strip District's significant role in Pittsburgh’s history.

"Ghosts or not, it’s a great place to work,” Uhl added with a laugh.
 
 
Source:  Lauren Uhl, www.heinzhistorycenter.org, Brady Smith

Heinz History Center opens new Museum Conservation Center

The Senator John Heinz History Center opened its new Museum Conservation Center last week, providing Pittsburgh with a place to bring heirlooms -- from family Bibles to photographs -- for professional services and advice on caring for antiques.

By appointment, trained staff will provide visitors with information on how to preserve their treasures, including works of art, photographs, wedding dresses, and furniture. The Museum Conservation Center also connects visitors with conservators should their heirlooms require professional repair.
 
With the opening of the new Conservation Center, the History Center becomes one of the first museums in the nation to provide professional conservation services directly to the public.
 
“It’s a place where visitors can link with professional services and seek advice,” said Barbara Antel, Conservation Services Manager.
 
The Conservation Center provides visitors with access to the same quality assessment and treatments that the museum provides for its own collections. 
 
The center is also an education resource. It opened to the public with a hands-on workshop focusing on preserving paper documents. Experts provided tips on how to best preserve birth certificates, passports, letters and other materials.
 
“The process of conservation is to preserve an object from further deterioration,” Antel said about the center’s educational efforts.
 
The next family archives workshop is Nov. 22. A “Holiday Heritage Workshop,” discussing care for delicate ornaments, linens and antique china, will be held Dec. 11.
 
In addition to conservation services, the nine-floor LEED-certified green building also houses the History Center’s collection of more than 32,000 artifacts. The new 55,000-square-foot storage space features Smithsonian-quality lighting, temperature, humidity, pest control and security.
 
The Conservation Center is located behind the History Center in the Strip District at 1221 Penn Ave. and is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, primarily by appointment.
 
 

Pittsburgh Public Market hosts first-ever Food Swap

From spicy wing sauce to eggs laid by backyard hens, if it's homemade or homegrown, it's up for grabs at the city's first-ever food swap.

The Pittsburgh Public Market and Good Food Pittsburgh’s Emily Catalano are hosting the Pittsburgh Food Swap on Saturday, Sept. 20 from 2-4 p.m. at the market.
 
Catalano says that the city has played host to smaller canning and themed swaps in the past, “but this is something that is a little more than canned goods.”
 
She says she first got the idea for while living in Philadelphia, where she attended food swaps. She was delighted to see the community come together — while some goods were made by professionals, the majority were shared by home chefs.
 
“It was a really awesome community feeling,” she said. 
 
When it comes to what foods can be swapped, almost anything goes. In Philadelphia and with swaps she's attended, Catalano saw homemade truffles, jam, extracts, cookies, whiskey, marshmallows and ravioli.
 
So what can’t be swapped?
 
“No Oreos,” Catalano said with a laugh. She also asked that any questionable homemade goods stay in the home pantry.
 
All food must be individually packaged. Containers of soup are great, but don’t bring a pot. Participants must sign a waiver that their food is safe for family, friends and neighbors to enjoy. She suggests labeling food with safe-to-consume-by dates.
 
Catalano said she went on a spicy kick for the swap and is contributing wing sauce, pickled jalapenos and bread and butter pickles. She said others who have signed up are bringing eggs from backyard hens, strawberry plants and baked goods.
 
Only those sharing items can participate in the swap, and attendees must register for this free event online. The swap begins at 2 p.m. with mingling and sampling; after 30 minutes of greetings and tastings, the swap commences.
 
Catalano said contributors should bring samples for others to try. It works like this: Bring 15 packages of cookies, leave with 15 different items from other swappers. Catalano suggested bringing 10 to 15 items to trade.
 
Sometimes you don’t get everything you want. "But most of the time, you end up getting a pretty decent haul,” Catalano said.

 

TBT: Bar Marco's hot history

It’s no surprise to patrons of Bar Marco that the building has a storied past. In case one misses the “No. 7 Engine Company” emblazoned above the restaurant’s entrance, relics of its 19th century foundation are seen in the tile walls and embellished tin ceiling.
 
The site served as a firehouse — hence the Engine Company — from 1860 to 1949, according to Bar Marco owner Robert Fry. He explains that the building was the last firehouse in the city to stop using horses to pull fire wagons. Fry says the modern entrance of Bar Marco was once the back of the firehouse, where the horses would pull up.  In 1905, the building was reoriented to face Penn Avenue. 
 
There are a few links to the firehouse’s Antebellum history that the customer does not see when visiting Bar Marco. An old hose shaft provides a ladder to the roof and there are bricked in tunnels in the wine cellar that are connected to other original buildings throughout the Strip. According to Fry, these tunnels are rumored to be part of the Underground Railroad.
 
When the Engine Company ceased operation, it became an Iron Workers’ Union Hall — the inspiration for the name of Bar Marco’s second-floor events space, The Union Hall. The building then served as offices before becoming the Firehouse Lounge and Embry.
 
The site began operating as Bar Marco in fall 2011. But before the restaurant opened its doors in January 2012, Fry and his team worked to restore the building’s history.

They pulled down dry wall and a drop down ceiling, renovated floors and brought the site back to its original glory.  
 
“We just did everything we could to bring everything back to its natural beauty,” Fry says.

Source: Robert Fry

The Neighborhood Flea debuts Sunday in the Strip

A new artisan marketplace is coming to the Strip District. The Neighborhood Flea will feature vintage clothes, repurposed furniture, crafts, food trucks and more at its inaugural market Sun., July 27.
 
Carrie Nardini, organizer of The Neighborhood Flea, started the I Made It Market seven years ago. She and Stephanie Sheldon, who she met through I Made It Market, were inspired by urban flea markets such as the Brooklyn Flea, and started The Cleveland Flea last year with Ohio community development organization St. Clair Superior.
 
Nardini says she and Sheldon worked together in Cleveland to bring farm fresh produce, mid-century collectibles from furniture to housewares, clothing and handmade goods to The Cleveland Flea.  
 
“[It was] a cool experience to be able to bring all of these small businesses together into one space,” she says. Nardini added that this experience helped her branch out of the homemade circuit she usually works with in Pittsburgh.
 
She says she sees a lot of potential in Pittsburgh for this kind of bazaar because of the pride the city has in its neighborhoods.
 
“The act of shopping at the flea encourages dialogue and neighborly exchanges," she says. "Meet the vintage aficionado whose plates remind you of Sunday dinner at your grandmother’s. Learn about the woodworker who forages the fallen trees of your favorite park. Sip the city’s finest coffees and eat the best mobile food [the] community has to offer.
 
The flea will start as a monthly event in the Strip, but Nardini says she hopes to see it expand to other Pittsburgh communities. The market will be hosted monthly in the parking lot across from Marty’s Market until winter.
 
Nardini says this is not the sort of dusty, overstock “flea” many associate with the word. Instead, The Neighborhood Flea is a curated arts event.
 
“The Neighborhood Flea is a vibrant, pop up urban marketplace offering an inspired shopping experience in Pittsburgh's historic Strip District,” she says.  “[It] is a celebration of the craft and time of vendors who make and curate fine collections. In bringing together top-quality vendors and discerning customers in an urban setting, a new neighborhood magically emerges.”
 
Nardini explains that visitors to Neighborhood Flea can expect a wide range of vendors specializing in vintage clothing, home goods, locally made bath and body products, handcrafted items, foods and “strong brews.”
 
Some vendors that have already signed on for July 27 kickoff include Red Pop Shop, Natrona Bottling Company, PGH Taco Truck, A-Boss Opticians (specializing in vintage frames) and Royal Establishment. Wigle Whiskey and Marty’s Market are also participating in the event.
 
Nardini describes these businesses as “hidden treasures [from] all around the city” that Neighborhood Flea is bringing together in one place.
 
The Neighborhood Flea is located at 2300 Penn Avenue in the parking lot across from Marty's Market. Pop up dates are currently set for July 27, August 24  and September 28 from 11 AM - 4 PM. For more information, follow The Neighborhood Flea on Facebook at facebook.com/neighborhoodflea.
 
Source: Carrie Nardini

New bake shop in the Strip offers custom cakes and bacon cinnamon rolls

Dulcinea Bakeshop will open its doors Sat., June 14 in the Strip district. The bakery located at 2627 Penn Ave is next door to Savoy restaurant and one of several shops to recently find a home in the Strip on Penn Avenue toward Lawrenceville. 
 
“I think the Strip and Lawrenceville are just going to connect at some point,” Tabrina Avery, Dulcinea owner, says with a grin about the expanding neighborhood.
 
Avery, a Le Cordon Bleu Pittsburgh graduate, says she is excited to start a business in the Strip and is trying to support neighborhood shops. The bakery will offer La Prima coffee and Opening Night Catering’s Harry Ross and Jean Ross
have been helping Avery navigate opening a new business — she has a history of baking wedding cakes for the catering company.
 
Avery has worked as a baker for a couple of other Pittsburgh restaurants since she moved to the city in 2007. Dulcinea is her first independent venture.
 
 “I was a huge fan of Don Quixote as a kid, Dulcinea was the woman he fell in love with and it kind of always stuck with me,” Avery says about choosing a name for her shop.
 
Wedding cakes and cakes to order will be a part of Dulcinea’s menu.  Avery says she will have specials that change weekly and will focus on breakfast style baked goods for the menu. She says the bakery will offer savory quiches, danishes (including a cardamom flavor), pound cake, cake by the slice and even bacon cinnamon buns.
 
“My cinnamon buns are out of this world,” she says with a laugh. Avery adds that she likes to focus on pure flavors when baking. She says, “I like to take simple classics and elevate them.”
 
The grand opening will be from 10AM to 5PM Saturday.  Avery will feature her house dulce de leche cake for the occasion.
 
Source: Tabrina Avery

Pittsburgh Public Market to open shared commercial kitchen this summer

The Market Kitchen at the Pittsburgh Public Market, a shared-use commercial kitchen, is set to open this summer.  Located on the campus of the Public Market in the Strip District, The Market Kitchen will be available to both market vendors and local chefs.
 
Kelly James recently came on as the kitchen manager for The Market Kitchen and addressed a group last week at a Farm to Table lunch and learn focusing on small business development. Many attending the event were interested in learning about the shared, commercial kitchen.
 
“I come here, to this project, as a chef,” James said to the group.
 
She shared her own experience of opening and running the Sugar Café in Dormont. Though the business closed, James says she learned how to help other entrepreneurs navigate the competitive food industry and consider other business models — instead of the traditional, and costly, brick-and-mortar store.
 
“I get to help other people in small businesses avoid the pitfalls,” she says.
 
The Market Kitchen is an economical way for startups to begin their business. James says that by having a space that provides a state-of-the-art kitchen — and is up to code ­­­­— entrepreneurs have the opportunity to start small, get noticed and grow into a shop. 
 
“We’re a nonprofit, so we are here to help people start,” James says.
 
She says a yearly membership of $100 and a $17.50 hourly rate for use of the kitchen — a nominal price compared to most new business costs — will provide Market Kitchen members with the opportunity to utilize the space and have access to Public Market customers. Members can schedule to access the kitchen 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
 
This access to the Public Market is flexible. For extra costs, one could become a vendor; or, it could be as simple as providing samples to market patrons for product exposure.
 
James says she began accepting applications for the kitchen last week. Applicants must be businesses with proper food safety certifications. Fledgling and seasoned chefs are both welcome to apply, and those getting in on the ground floor will have priority, first-come, first-serve kitchen scheduling.
 
“Whether you are just starting out on the path or looking to expand and grow your food business, our goal is to provide you a service that is economically superior to building or leasing your own commercial facility. We offer a unique direct line to success with access to a retail space to sell and market your product within Pittsburgh Public Market. Pittsburgh’s historic Strip District is a perfect place to spread your wings,” the Public Market’s website states.

In addition to entrepreneurs, James says caterers, food truck owners, cart vendors, established restaurants seeking more space, bakers and personal chefs may find the kitchen attractive for its professional appliances and secured storage.
After this kitchen is completed, the market may build a second kitchen. James calls this demo-kitchen “phase two.” She says this installation will provide opportunities for cooking classes and events.
 
The Market Kitchen is expected to be open July 1, 2014, or a few weeks earlier in June. She invites those interested to follow construction progress on the Public Market’s website.

Source: Kelly James, the Pittsburgh Public Market

Creamery now offering locally made ice cream in the Public Market

Last month, Family Farms Creamery in the Pittsburgh Public Market used their local dairy products and other ingredients from the market, or the Strip District, to whip up something new — locally crafted ice cream.
 
Larry Neskey, Family Farms manager and ice cream maker, and Family Farms owner Nathan Holmes explain that their creamery is sourced by a family of local farms that process their own yogurt, cheese and milk.
 
Their ice cream is made with these ingredients and the products from a veritable Strip District scavenger hunt. Neskey says the creamery strives to “source as locally as possible.”
 
The fig balsamic flavor is made with balsamic from The Olive Tap, which sells gourmet olive oils in the Public Market. Blackberry swirl is the fruit of Clarion River Organics. Mon Aimee Chocolat in the Strip’s product is present in the chocolate ice cream and other flavors with chocolate chips and chunks. Penzeys Spices’ peppermint was used to create the peppermint chip.
 
These flavors aren’t your usual ice cream options. Even the vanilla isn’t plain.
 
Staple flavor, Landlocked Vanilla Bean, was crafted by creating a vanilla extract with Wigle Whiskey’s Landlocked spirit — the distillery’s interpretation of rum. Family Farms has also carried a whiskey peach flavor using Wigle’s product.
 
“I like to look at it like a microbrewery,” Neskey says about playing with flavors. He added that there will be certain flavors like the Landlocked Vanilla always on tap, but other experimental flavors will cycle through.
 
Speaking of beer, East End Brewing Co., also a vendor in the Public Market, can be found in the creamery’s Black Strap Stout ice cream.
 
Neskey and Holmes say they focus on using local ingredients and trying to be creative. They are currently playing with goat cheese and bleu cheese ice cream recipes and other flavors requested by customers — they took suggestions from patrons when they launched the ice cream.
 
If you aren’t into ice cream, that’s OK. The Public Market location has a dairy-free sorbet available.
 
The ice cream is currently available $6.00 a pint, or by the scoop at the Public Market and Sewickley Farmer’s Market. Neskey and Holmes say their ice cream will be available this summer at other markets where Family Farms is a vendor, Market Square Farmers Market, the market at Phipps Conservatory and Southside Farmers Market.
 
Source: Family Farms Creamery, Larry Neskey, Nathan Holmes

Milkman Brewing Company to open brick-and-mortar spot in the Strip

Pittsburgh’s Milkman Brewing Company will open a brick-and-mortar location next month at 2517 Penn Avenue in the Strip District.  The brewery is an addition to the revitalized 2500 block that also hosts the newly opened Kindred Cycles full service bike shop — near the new Pittsburgh Public Market location.
 
Milkman Brewing co-owners Justin Waters, Jamie Rice and Kyle Branigan met at a home brew event in 2010 and have been brewing beer together ever since. Rice and Waters say Milkman Brewing has “bounced around,” making appearances at events and festivals, but that they are excited to have found a home in the Strip. 

Their May opening will bring a spot to fill up your growler. Patrons can choose old favorites such as the Dahntahn Brahn Ale (brown ale), Peppercorn Rye (made with a variety of peppercorns and rye grain bale) and The Mean Ass Hank (an Irish Whiskey-oaked DIPA) or try one of the new brews they are planning.

Eventually, Waters and Rice say they hope to host events at the new brewery.
 
While there is no grand opening date yet, the milkmen invite locals to stay apprised on opening news by following them on Facebook and Twitter.
 
In the mean time, Waters and Rice noted Milkman has three upcoming events: a tasting at Bocktown in Robinson on April 25, a tasting at Bocktown in Monaca on April 29 and a beer dinner at Tender in Lawrenceville on April 30.
 
 
Writer: Caroline Gerdes
Source: Milkman Brewing Company, Justin Waters, Jamie Rice

New bike shop in the Strip aims to make pedaling around PGH more accessible

Kindred Cycles, the new full service bicycle shop in the Strip District, will open next week. The closest bicycle shop to the center of Downtown Pittsburgh and three blocks from the Strip District Trail, Kindred Cycles specializes in commuter and folding bikes as well as repair and maintenance.

Owners Katharine Jordan and Aaron Stein have a mission of love and support for people using pedal power. With more than a decade of combined professional experience wrenching, they see an opportunity to include average Pittsburghers in the growing bike-riding community.

“More and more people are realizing that biking puts a smile on your face. The best trip is one that I would have used my car for,” gushes Aaron. “When you bike you see the neighborhood differently.”

Kindred Cycles hopes to grow with the riding community by promoting accessibility for new riders through programs like Positive Spin, partnering with local businesses, and eventually organizing classes and group rides.

“We want to encourage the average Pittsburgher to bike by giving everyone access to a friendly and inclusive community-driven bike shop,” Katharine summarizes.

Kindred Cycles fits like a true spoke in Pittsburgh’s continuing transportation evolution. Last month, Mayor Bill Peduto gave the opening address at the National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C. and announced that the PeopleForBikes Green Lane Project selected Pittsburgh to develop protected bike lanes. The Pittsburgh Bike Share Partnership will start this summer. The David L. Lawrence Convention Center will host the Pro Walk/Pro Bike/Pro Place National Conference in the autumn.
 
Writer: Adam Schøtt Hovne
Sources: Katharine Jordan and Aaron Stein

Eat + Drink: Wigle's 92 Neighborhoods series, a beer dinner at the Frick and vegan food in Aspinwall

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

Wigle launching neighborhoods series
It’s a busy time for the folks at Wigle Whiskey. Later this month, their aged rye will become the first Wigle product to hit shelves in Pennsylvania’s state stores. Though Wigle may be expanding their reach, the family-owned distillery hasn’t forgotten its mission to bring whiskey to Pittsburgh.

On Friday, March 21, Wigle will host the first installment of its 92 Neighborhoods Series with an evening focused on the history, food, art and culture of East Liberty.

“We have so many great partners in East Liberty. It’s a neighborhood ripe for celebration,” says Wigle co-owner Meredith Grelli. “Our goal is to have one of these every month with a different neighborhood with the goal of celebrating each neighborhood in the city.”

Kevin Sousa will be on-hand with food from his East Liberty restaurants, Station Street Food and Union Pig & Chicken, and will talk about his approach to starting fresh businesses in East Liberty.

“I’m going to give a short presentation and then it’ll be an open discussion,” he says.

Local merchants Olive & Marlowe, which recently moved from the old Pittsburgh Public Market into a new retail space in Indigo Square, will also attend, along with a plethora of East-Liberty-related organizations.

As for the fare he’ll be serving up, Sousa is holding off on planning a menu until he has a better idea of what the weather will be like.

“If it’s chillier, it will lean more toward the barbecue end,” he says.

Tickets to the East Liberty celebration at Wigle cost $20 and are available through the distillery’s website.

Café at the Frick holding craft beer dinner
The Café at the Frick, the on-site restaurant at the Frick Art & Historical Center and one of Pittsburgh’s hidden gems, will hold a craft beer dinner on Thursday, March 20.

The Café will stage one seating, at 7PM, and pair beers from Fat Head’s in North Olmstead, Ohio with a five-course tasting menu prepared by the Frick’s Executive Chef Seth Bailey.

“We will be pairing each course with a different Fat Head’s beer selection,” Bailey says, adding that among the courses, diners can expect a shrimp crème brûlée with a sweet onion sugar.

Tickets for the dinner are $70, which includes both tax and gratuity. You can purchase them by calling 412-371-0600.

Randita’s expanding to Aspinwall
Randita’s Grill, the Saxonburg-based vegan restaurant and catering service which has become immensely popular since its humble food-truck beginnings in May of 2012, will open a second location in Aspinwall this year.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Meredith Grelli, Kevin Sousa, Seth Bailey

Walnut Capital bringing Homewood Suites to the Strip District

Walnut Capital has had a hard time finding the right use for the retail/restaurant space at 1400 Smallman Street in the Strip District so they’ve opted to tear it down and start over. The local developer is currently demolishing the on-site structure and will build a Homewood Suites in the space next to Lidia’s Pittsburgh.

“This is a really great new use for the space. The market could use a hotel and it’s going to complement Lidia’s,” says Walnut Capital’s Greg Perelman, adding that demolition should take about another two weeks. “We’re over the toughest part right now.”

The 150-room hotel to the Strip, right on the edge of Downtown, is a new model from Hilton, designed to cater mainly to business travelers. It will be the first Homewood Suites within the city. A second location is slated to open in Robinson this summer.

Pittsburgh-based builder PJ Dick will handle the construction, and Walnut Capital will partner with Concord Hospitality, which will manage the hotel.

“The market in Pittsburgh for limited-service hotels is pretty tight,” Perelman says. “It’s a very strong market right now. I think we’re close enough to downtown and the convention center, and it gives people an alternative.”

Once demolition is complete, Perelman says, the construction on the hotel should take about 18 months.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Greg Perelman

Eat + Drink: A barleywine festival, a writer in the kitchen, mac & cheese fallout and more

‘Hell with the Lid Off’ celebrates 10 years at Kelly’s
Kelly’s Bar and Lounge will host its 10th annual Hell with the Lid Off Barleywine Festival on Saturday, March 8, with sessions running from 1 to 4 p.m. and 5 to 8 pm.

Hell with the Lid Off offers participants the chance to taste more than 100 different barleywines, about 35 of which will be available on draft.

“From what we understand, it’s the only festival of its kind in the country and it’s here in Pittsburgh,” says Kelly’s General Manager Deirdre Kane. “We have barleywines dating back to 2004 and some from breweries which are no longer in production. It’s some really rare stuff.”

Tickets for Hell with the Lid Off are $75 and available both at Kelly’s (located at 6012 Penn Circle South) and through Showclix.

Hal Klein: Journalist, Cook, Renaissance man
“I kind of came of age in California and I miss eating really good Mexican food,” says local food writer Hal Klein. “A lot of people think that Mexican food is really just tacos and burritos, but it goes way beyond that.”

Klein will trade his pen for an apron next week when he hosts Bar Marco’s March 10 edition of No Menu Monday. Though he’s done it twice before, Klein says he expects this go to be something of a departure from his prior outings.

“The first one was a challenge because I’d never cooked in a restaurant kitchen and I’d never cooked for that many people before. The second time, I felt like I was really in the zone and knew what I was doing. This time, I’m cooking things on a much bigger scale,” Klein says. “It’ll be a challenge, but it will be pretty cool.”

Among his offerings, the self-taught cook is planning two soups, carnitas, refried beans, pickled vegetable and stuffed poblano peppers.

“I think culinary school is a really good thing, but I think a lot of chefs will tell you that the best education that they got was working in kitchens with other chefs,” Klein says. “Be organized, take a deep breath, have good help.”

Mac & Cheese Now! Redux
Eat + Drink’s glance last week at the Pittsburgh macaroni and cheese scene caused something of a stir on the old Internet.

E-mails and tweets poured in with omitted gems, including offerings from Salt of the Earth, Winghart’s, Union Pig & Chicken, Tartine and Blowfish BBQ.

Pittsburgh mainstay Kelly’s and the upstart Independent Brewing Company nearly came to blows via Twitter over the question of mac supremacy, but cooler heads prevailed.

Sewickley Soup Crawl
The third annual Sewickley Soup Crawl will take place on Saturday, March 15 from noon to 3 p.m. in Sewickley Village. This year’s special guest will be actor Larry Thomas, best known for his portrayal of The Soup Nazi in the 1995 Seinfeld episode of the same name.

For more information, visit the Soup Crawl’s website.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Deirdre Durant, Hal Klein

City, Buncher agree to explore other plans for Strip District produce terminal

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto announced Friday that the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Buncher Co. agreed to a six-month hold on Buncher’s plans to develop a section of the Strip District which includes the produce terminal building on Smallman Street.

Buncher’s proposal involves demolishing the western third of the building, but Peduto has met with company executives regularly since taking office in January in an effort to find an option that would see the building preserved.

“What six months does is allow us to put together a viable economic plan for the adaptive reuse of the terminal building,” Peduto says. “If we can find other options that would help to see their development occur, help to preserve the terminal building and create an adaptive reuse for it, we’re going to pursue it, and Buncher is willing to be a partner in helping us get there.”

In addition to preserving the building, the city would like to see Smallman Street completely refurbished from the David L. Lawrence Convention Center to St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, including making the stretch more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists and transforming the area into Pittsburgh’s answer to Seattle’s Pike Place Market or Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal. According to Peduto, it’s just one section of the Allegheny Green Boulevard and Allegheny Riverfront Vision, plans the city would like to implement.

The agreement, which allows the city to work with other developers in trying to find a solution which both preserves the terminal and meets Buncher’s need for access to the site of its planned $450 million Riverfront Landing project, does not usurp Buncher’s option to buy the building from the URA for $1.8 million. Any equitable solution, Peduto says, will involve access to the site through the terminal.

“Even the preservation community understands that would be a condition by which the preservation of the building could happen,” Peduto says. “Even with that, it opens up the terminal building in a way that you have different pods, and those pods could be of different uses, from housing to commercial to other options that are kind of cutting edge. With all those proposals that are out there, the critical part of the next six months is showing the financing.”


Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Bill Peduto

Eat + Drink: Beard award nominees, the local mac & cheese scene and more

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

Pittsburgh has two Beard nominees
For the fourth year in a row, Pittsburgh will have some skin in the game when the James Beard Awards are announced on March 19th.

Downtown’s Butcher and the Rye is one of 25 semifinalists for “Outstanding Bar Program,” and Justin Severino, the chef and owner of Cure in Lawrenceville, is one of 20 semifinalists for “Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic.”

More than 600 culinary professionals vote annually on the awards, which recognize excellence in cuisine, culinary education and culinary writing in the United States.

Previous Pittsburgh semifinalists in the “Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic” category include Legume’s Trevett Hooper in 2013 and Kevin Sousa, then of Salt of the Earth, in 2012. Salt was a semifinalist in 2011 for “Best New Restaurant.”

Pittsburgh’s Best Mac & Cheese
It used to be so easy. When asked where to get the best in the ultimate comfort food, Pittsburghers could quickly respond “Kelly’s.”

While the East Liberty lounge is still very much on the list, now there’s a conversation to be had.

Meat & Potatoes
offers a mac & cheese made with chorizo and pulled pork. Its sister restaurant, Butcher and the Rye, one-ups it with a sophisticated combination of taleggio, fontina, chevre, cheddar and parmesan.

SMOKE, the popular Homestead (soon-to-be Lawrenceville) taco joint, takes a consistently delicious yet experimental position and has served up everything from a Caprese-style mac with buffalo mozzarella, grape tomatoes and basil to a version with chorizo, swiss and gorgonzola.

Newest to the scene is Independent Brewing Company, which touts East End Brewing’s Smoked Porter to go along with cheddar, gouda and fontina cheeses.

Do any of these knock Kelly’s out of the top spot? Are there any we missed? Let us know what you think.

March Dishcrawl
The next edition of Pittsburgh’s Dishcrawl will take place on Tuesday, March 25 and will feature four locations in Pittsburgh’s most famous-for-its-food neighborhood, the Strip District. February’s sold-out Dishcrawl took diners around Downtown last week, stopping at Sharp Edge Bistro, Six Penn Kitchen, La Cucina Flegrea and Perle.

Writer: Matthew Wein


Bar Marco launching The Wine Room in March

“In the service industry, if you’re a server or an owner or a manager and you go to another restaurant, they’ll usually send out a free dish or something like that,” says Bar Marco co-owner Bobby Fry. “But if you’re a chef, they’ll cook for you.”

Making that experience more accessible is the premise behind The Wine Room — a 10-seat, no-menu dining room located in the fully-finished wine cellar at Bar Marco.

A seating in The Wine Room — which includes food and wine pairings — will be the joint work of Chef Jamilka Borges and sommelier Sarah Thomas, who have spent the last several months fine-tuning their senses of each other’s palates.

“We took a trip to Chicago where we ate the same things and drank the same wines and started training to understand each other’s descriptions,” Borges says. “She can’t taste every single thing that I’m sending, so she’s really trusting on my description of aesthetic or salty or warm.”

Beginning in March, The Wine Room will host two seatings a night, Wednesday through Saturday. The first, a 6:15 p.m. pre-dinner seating for $55, will consist of four small courses. The 8 p.m. dinner seating costs $125 and will treat diners to Borges and Thomas teaming up on between eight and 12 courses.

Because reservations for The Wine Room are pre-paid and include tax and gratuity, Fry says diners need only focus on what’s in front of them.

“It’s the whole idea of making dining a full sensory experience, walking through the dining room and meeting the people you’re going to be dining with, then getting escorted downstairs,” Fry says. “You’re going through our kitchen — our home. There isn’t this weird disconnect between you and the server or you and the chef.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Bobby Fry, Jamilka Borges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For updates, follow Dishcrawl Pittsburgh on Facebook and Twitter.

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Colleen Coll

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Tim Russell, George Haritos

Developments to watch from the new administration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein

Eat + Drink: Fish, fireplaces, macarons by mail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Michael Lotenero, John Zerrer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Bill Larkin, LeeAnn Sommerfeld

Eat + Drink: A new Downtown spot from Spoon, bottles of rum and much more

Spoon chefs preview dishes for new Downtown restaurant
Grit & Grace, the new Downtown venture from Spoon Executive Chef Brian Pekarcik and Chef de Cuisine Curtis Gamble, previewed several new dishes during No Menu Monday this week at Bar Marco. We sampled the pickled dates with apple, pear and manchego cheese, the dim sum trio comprised of Hamachi sashimi, Ahi tuna crab rolls and soba noodles with shitake mushrooms and orange-chili vinaigrette, and a salmon entrée served with crispy pretzel bread pudding, braised cabbage and pickled mustard seeds.

The pork larb and curried goat also went over extremely well. Grit & Grace, which will occupy the space at 535 Liberty Avenue formerly held by Taste of Dahntahn, plans to open next month.

The perfect gift for your favorite rum drinker
As we hinted at in an item last week, Maggie’s Farm Rum, Pittsburgh’s newest hand-crafted spirit, will be available to the public for bottle sales only the day after Thanksgiving. Made from Turbinado sugar cane, the French West Indies-style white rum will retail for $28 per bottle.

After Black Friday, Maggie’s Farm will go back to dealing exclusively with local bars and restaurants until owner Tim Russell finishes construction on the distillery’s tasting area and cocktail bar.

Oysters all over
Oysters are all the rage right now and there’s no shortage of places to get them:

Mullaney’s Harp & Fiddle
in the Strip District will host the 10th annual Guinness Oyster Festival on Saturday starting at noon. In addition to fresh oysters on the half-shell, the menu will feature fried oysters and oyster stew.

Salt of the Earth
, Kevin Sousa’s flagship eatery in Garfield, has been serving different varieties of oysters on the half-shell as a part of its Tuesday late-night menu since May. The best part? They’re only a dollar apiece.

Recently opened in East Liberty, Bar Marco offshoot The Livermore is now offering an oyster happy hour from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Like Salt’s, they’re only a dollar each.

Yiddish food? Where else?!
Nu, the modern Jewish bistro from the owners of Pamela’s, is now open for lunch and dinner service at 1711 Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill. We stopped by for lunch last week and found an absolute revelation in the smoked brisket chili, served with sour cream, shredded cheese and pickled red onions.

The Jewbano — a sandwich featuring thick-cut corned beef, brisket and fried pickles among other things, was delicious, as was our half of the salmon burger topped with lox and capers.

The matzo ball soup was a little on the salty side, but be warned: Nu has taken a side in the light and fluffy versus heavy and dense knaidlach debate, entrenching itself firmly on the side of matzo balls which will sink right to the bottom.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Tim Russell

After a long, strange trip, Maggie's Farm Rum is open for business

When we checked in with Tim Russell in August, he was a ventilation system away from starting production on Maggie’s Farm Rum out of his distillery on Smallman Street in the Strip District.

With all of his equipment in place, all Russell needed to open for business was federal approval of his label from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. ATF is notoriously nitpicky when it comes to approving alcohol labels, often requiring applicants to make multiple revisions and resubmit to what can be a month-long process.

Russell submitted his third iteration in September. Then, the government shut down.

With his label in limbo, Russell found his entire business on hold. The Washington Post took notice, making Maggie’s Farm the lead item in a feature on how the shutdown impacted people outside the federal workforce. That feature led to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a congresswoman from Texas, telling Russell’s story on the floor of the House.

Last Friday, about two weeks after the 16-day shutdown ended, Russell got word that his label was approved, allowing him to open for business.

“Initially, because of limited quantities, I’m just going to make it available to bars and restaurants,” Russell says, adding that he’ll likely open to the public once the cocktail bar and tasting room areas of his space are ready in the next couple of months.

“I might do a Black Friday thing where I’d open up bottle sales to the public whether the tasting room is done or not,” he says.

Russell will do a tasting of Maggie’s Farm Rum tonight from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Bocktown Beer & Grill in Robinson. You can follow the distillery’s progress on Facebook and Twitter.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Tim Russell

Pittsburgh Public Market reopens in new location

Forced from its space in the old produce terminal and into a new, greener, climate-controlled building, the Pittsburgh Public Market is back up and running at 2401 Penn Avenue, following a soft opening last Wednesday.

“We did the soft opening because the merchants depends on the money as income, but we also thought it was important to get it open,” says Becky Rodgers, executive director of Neighbors in the Strip. “When you go in there, you’ll still see people working on their booths.”

The new Public Market features 25,000 square feet of space, about 10,000 square feet of which are rentable, rendering it just about the same size as the market’s old location, but with greater capability.

The East End Brewery is back to hosting its regular growler hours there, now with eight taps on hand — double the number it had in the old space. Olive oil merchant The Olive Tap will occupy an 1,800-square-foot space in the new building and the market is bringing in several new vendors, including yet-to-be-revealed cheese and wine vendors.

“There are a lot of great merchants in there right now,” Rodger says, adding that she expects around 20 businesses to occupy the space during the week in the market's first year, with more coming in just on weekends.

The new Pittsburgh Public Market will hold a grand opening at the end of November. Until then, the market will maintain the regular hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Becky Rodgers

Eat + Drink: tacos, pierogies and all kinds of beer!

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

Casa Reyna opens taco stand
Here’s a new game to play with your friends: how far down any one stretch of Penn Avenue do you need to travel before finding a place to buy a great taco?

Whatever the answer was, the distance just got shorter. Casa Reyna, the restaurant sister of Nic DiCio’s Reyna Market in the Strip District opened up a taco stand outside its 2031 Penn Avenue space. The stand will be open daily from 10 a.m. to about 7 p.m., depending on business, year-round.

First annual Pittsburgh Pierogi Festival
A host of local restaurants will converge at South Shore Riverfront Park this Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. to present the inaugural Pittsburgh Pierogi Festival. Vendors will include Bar Marco, BRGR, Franktuary, Marty’s Market and more. Admission to the event is free and all vendors will be cash-only.

To learn more about the first annual Pittsburgh Pierogi Festival, check it out on Twitter or visit its Facebook page.

Pumking at D’s
For those in in the full swing of fall, D’s Six Pax and Dogz in Regent Square will fill its massive tap room with a vast selection of pumpkin beers starting Friday. In addition to pumpkin beers already on tap, D’s will roll out Southern Tier Pumpking not only from this year, but cellar-aged kegs from the previous three years.

“We’ll also have the Southern Tier Warlock, which is a stout made with Pumking. There’ll be a bunch of other pumpkin beers but it’s really about the Pumking,” says D’s Beer Czar Justin “Hootie” Blakey.

Penn Brewery wins at the Great American Beer Festival
Penn Brewery’s Chocolate Meltdown, a chocolate stout which the brewery plans to release this winter, took home a bronze medal at the Great American Beer Festival this month.

“It was an old homebrew recipe of mine. I brought it in and we scaled it up,” says Nick Rosich, one of Penn’s brewers. “We get all our chocolate from Besty Ann over here in West View. We use that in the kettle, and we use quite a bit of lactose to bring out that milky creaminess. It’s a chocolate milk stout.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Justin Blakey, Nick Rosich

Space at 1100 Smallman will be 59 new rental units

The Strip District is re-emerging as a residential neighborhood and developer Brian Schreiber is the latest to get in on the action.

Schreiber and his Shadyside-based Schreiber Real Estate will construct a 59-unit apartment building at 1100 Smallman Street, right where the Strip meets Downtown. The structure, which will stand six stories, will encompass a building Schreiber currently owns at the address in addition to an entirely new structure.

“It’s really within the central business district, so it’s well-suited to people who work there,” Schreiber says.

The complex Schreiber is currently calling 1100 Smallman will contain about 60,000 square feet. About two-thirds of the building will be one-bedroom units, and the other third will be comprised of two-bedroom apartments. Each unit will have one bathroom per bedroom. 1100 Smallman will include on-site parking, exercise facilities, a partial roof garden, community rooms and outdoor deck areas.

Art Lubetz’s Front Studio Architects will serve as the designing firm. The parties haven’t yet agreed on a contractor, and Schreiber says he’ll likely choose a leasing agent by the middle of next year. Schreiber says he anticipates rents at 1100 Smallman to range between $1,400 and $1,800 per month. Lubetz is also designing the condos at nearby 1135 Penn, which will be ready offer significant tax credits and will be ready in a few months.

1100 Smallman will not touch any part of Schreiber’s nearby properties, including the buildings housing popular restaurants Eleven and Lidia’s Pittsburgh

The apartment building is scheduled to be completed by either late winter or early spring of 2015.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Brian Schreiber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Meredith Grelli

Eat + Drink: Pamela's owners launching 'modern Jewish deli,' Legume's new lunch hours and much more

Eat + Drink is Pop City's weekly look at all the news that's fit to eat and/or drink.

Pamela’s founders bringing an old-world Jewish deli to Squirrel Hill.
An eat-in, modern Jewish deli will open in Squirrel Hill next month. Nu (from the Yiddish interjection for “well?” or “so?”) will occupy the space formerly held by Pamela’s sister restaurant Aji Picante at 1711 Murray Avenue, which held its last dinner service on Saturday night.

In addition to new twists on traditional Jewish fare, such as homemade pickles and matzo ball soup, Nu will smoke and hand-carve all its own meats. It will also have its own line and workspace, rather than share a kitchen with Pamela’s, as Aji Picante did. The sit-down restaurant will retain Aji’s outdoor seating, but won’t have any cases, nor will it sell deli meats.

“It’s going to be a little upscale looking, but not expensive,” says Pamela’s co-owner Gail Klingensmith, adding that executive chef Kelsey Sukel and co-owner Pam Cohen’s sister Rise’ will operate the restaurant.

“This is a family passion. It’s a slice of Americana, and it’s our history,” says Klingensmith, adding that Nu, which she projects will open around October 15th, will probably operate 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. “We’re old girls, but we can still make it to eight.”

Legume now open for lunch
The popular, locally sourced Oakland bistro has begun a lunch service that will run from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The menu, which will change every day, will include small plates, sandwiches and salads. Also, we hear the chocolate mousse cake is a legitimate slice of heaven on Earth.

“Steel Town” filmmakers holding fundraiser at Bar Marco
Steel Town,” a live-action, short film currently in pre-production that tells the story of the Homestead Steel Strike, will host a fundraiser and live table read at Bar Marco next Wednesday, October 2nd, at 6 p.m.

Carnegie Mellon alumni Nick Hurt and Yulin Kuang wrote the screenplay, and Hurt will direct when principal photography begins in November. The fundraiser’s host committee includes city councilmen Bruce Kraus and Bill Peduto, as well as State Representative Erin Molchany.

You can RSVP for the event by calling Producer Dan Vetanovetz at 937-243-1518, or e-mailing steeltownmovie@gmail.com. The producers of “Steel Town" are also operating a Kickstarter campaign that has just nine days remaining.

Pittsburgh Opera will perform at Downtown Farmers’ Market
Puccini, Rossini and Bizet aren’t varieties of mushrooms, but they’ll nonetheless be featured during each of the next three Market Square Farmers’ Markets.

The Pittsburgh Opera will perform tomorrow, October 3rd and October 10th between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., to celebrate the arrival of fall and the Opera’s 75th season. Lunchtime concerts have long been a staple of Market Square, and this marks the Opera’s first appearance in the series.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Gail Klingensmith, Dan Ventanovetz

Eat + Drink: The 61B Cafe, Smorgasburgh, an end-of-summer dinner

Eat + Drink is Pop City's weekly news roundup on the food scene.

61B Café opens in Regent Square
The long-awaited sister store of Squirrel Hill’s popular 61C Café opened in Regent Square last Wednesday. The 61B Café, which sits on the bus line of the same name, is located at 1108 South Braddock Avenue in the space which formerly held Katerbean, which closed last November.

The 61B Café’s opening, which was supposed to occur last spring, was delayed due to a prolonged remodeling process. The café is open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Smorgasburgh: Pittsburgh's first food-exclusive flea market
A plethora of coffee shops, restaurants, markets and specialty grocers will take part in Smorgasburgh, a pop-up food market in the Strip District on September 21st.

Organized by Michael McAllister and Kit Mueller and based on the food-exclusive Brooklyn flea market (minus the "h"), Smorgasburgh will take place in the parking lot across from Marty’s Market at 2301 Smallman Street, and run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“We do kind of see it as something that we can do every four to six weeks,” McAllister says, adding that he thinks there will be another one organized before Thanksgiving.

Participants include: The Crested Duck, Meat & Potatoes, Marty’s Market, Olive & Marlowe, Klayvon’s Ice Cream, Wild Purveyors, Bluebird Kitchen, The Pop Stop, Bedillion Honey Farm, Good L’Oven Bakery, Tamari, The Livermore, Pastitsio, Drew’s Pie Supply, Franktuary, Fukuda, Espresso a Mano and Zeke’s Coffee. The event is BYOB, but PortaKeg will be on-hand with beer from Full Pint.

Low Country Boil at Bayardstown tonight!
Urbanist Guide is teaming up Chef Kate Romane of Highland Park’s e2 for an old-fashioned Lowcountry shrimp boil tonight at Bayardstown Social Club in the Strip District. The traditional southern summer sendoff will include shrimp, corn, potatoes, sausage and Old Bay, along with salad, tomatoes, green beans, bread and a house-made hot sauce. The event is BYOB. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased through Showclix.

Oktoberfest at Penn Brewery
The Penn Brewery, located in Troy Hill, will host its annual Oktoberfest celebration both this and next weekend. 

It will run from 5 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, and from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays. 

For a complete schedule of events, visit the brewery's website.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Michael McAllister

Eat + Drink: Spirits in the Strip and a Party at the Pier

Eat + Drink is...well, this week, it's just about drinks.

Wigle Whiskey will introduce organic bitters

After just a year of hand-crafting small-batch spirits, Wigle Whiskey will launch its first line of bitters next month with a September 13th release party at their distillery in the Strip District.

Chris Kuhn of Social at Bakery Square and Wes Shonk of Meat & Potatoes outgrowth Butcher and The Rye have each created specialty cocktails designed to showcase Wigle’s first two varieties of bitters, Aromatic and Rosemary Lavender. Both will be available at the party, along with small plates and a very particular kind of art exhibit.

“The Allegheny Highlands Botanical Art Society has illustrated all of the botanicals that we used in the bitters,” says Wigle co-owner Meredith Grelli. The society’s works will be on display, as will some of the actual plants Wigle used to craft the bitters, thanks to the Phipps Conservancy.

Grelli says that because the federal government treats bitters as a category apart from other alcohol products, an entirely different set of “nice, easy standards” applies. While bitters typically include certain chemicals, such as dyes or acids, Wigle’s bitters are entirely organic.

“Since we’re using whole, real botanicals, it’s been a six-month process of their lab doing tests to certify that people wouldn’t be able to drink it on its own,” Grelli says.

Wigle plans to release two new varieties of bitters in the Spring of 2014.

Maggie’s Farm Rum distillery coming to the Strip District
Between whiskey makers, wineries and breweries large and small, what more could Pittsburgh possibly want from its alcohol culture?

“There’s nobody making rum or brandy here right now,” says Tim Russell. “I don’t think there are any good American-made rums available to people in Pennsylvania. The state stores have the Caribbean products, and that’s about it.”

Russell is aiming to change that. His company, Allegheny Distilling, LLC, is set to begin making Maggie’s Farm Rum within the next month in his distillery at 3212A Smallman Street.

“Right now, the equipment is in place. I need to get a small ventilation system for my still,” says Russell, who’s already been approved for state and federal permits. “Other than that, we should be able to start production in a couple of weeks.”

Russell says production at Maggie’s Farm will start with white rum, but that he hopes to also produce a few varieties of brandy. He also says that within the next few months, he hopes to add a cocktail bar and a tasting room to the distillery.

Riverlife's Party at the Pier
Looking for something fun to do next Friday? Riverlife is hosting its annual Party at the Pier at the North Shore Riverfront Ampitheater.

The evening of dining, drinking and dancing features fresh local food, signature cocktails and music from DJ Espy. There will be 20-minute boat rides aboard the Gateway Clipper at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., as well as firedancing performances. 

If you're looking to get to one more great party on the water before summer's over, we heartily suggest checking this out.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Meredith Grelli, Tim Russell

Remaking Cities Congress will convene in Pittsburgh this October

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Pam Wigley

1135 Penn Condos offer significant tax credits to buyers

The space at 1135 Penn Avenue in Downtown, behind Eleven and vacant for the last five years, will soon house five  condominiums.

Designed and co-developed by Front Studio Architects in conjunction with construction firm MM Marra, 1135 Penn will feature five full-floor units, each consisting of at least 2,000 square feet.

According to Art Lubetz, a principal with Front Studio, buyers of units at 1135 Penn are eligible for tax credits under the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Act (LERTA), which offers 10-year abatements of up to $250,000 of the improved assessed value of a unit. This could save prospective buyers as much as $60,000.

Additionally, Allegheny County is also offering three-year abatements on the first $86,750 of each unit’s value.

The existing structure, which formerly housed a poultry slaughterhouse, dates to 1917 and will be outfitted with heating and cooling units in each condo, high-performance acoustic windows, bare brick walls and indoor parking spaces.

“The top floor has a large roof terrace, and the other two have terraces in the front of the building, which faces south,” says Lubetz.

Two of the units are already sold. Once Front Studio and Marra sell a third, they’ll begin construction, which they anticipate will take about five months.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Art Lubetz

Eat + Drink: Klavon's reopens with PSU ice cream, Hello Bistro expands, Nakama food truck and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City's weekly exploration of the best in local food news.

Klavon’s Ice Cream Parlor reopening
Klavon’s Ice Cream Parlor, a Strip District mainstay, will hold a soft open on Sunday in celebration of National Ice Cream Day.

New owners Jacob and Desiree Hanchar won't make many changes to the place, but one will be notable: they've switched to ice cream from the Penn State Creamery, making Klavon's the only establishment in Pittsburgh to serve the internationally reknowned treat from State College.

“We’re keeping the menu as close to the same as possible,” Jacob Hanchar says. "We’re going to try to keep the phosphates, but they won’t be available during the soft open."

It will be the first day of business since former owner Raymond J. Klavon died of cancer in January. His family sold the building to the Hanchars in late June.

"We gave the place a fresh coat of paint. Other than that, we haven’t done a lot to the shop," Hanchar says. "We’re going to promote companies that are from Pittsburgh, local confectionary makers. We really want to keep the roots and the karma as authentic as possible.”

Hello Bistro expands to the South Side
Eat’n Park Hospitality Group’s Hello Bistro opened its second Pittsburgh location last week, this one at 1922 East Carson Street on the South Side.

The menu emphasizes fresh specialty burgers and salads, includes a variety of bottled beers, and offers a few of Eat’n Park’s mainstays, such as its potato soup and Smiley cookies.

The first Hello Bistro location opened last summer in Oakland, and Eat’n Park is planning a third location for Downtown.

Nakama to debut food truck
Nakama Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar, which has already expanded across the city with express locations in each of the city’s major sporting venues and Carnegie Mellon University, is launching its first food truck.

The truck, custom-painted by South Side artist Danny Gardner, will feature traditional Japanese hibachi, seasonal sushi rolls, noodle dishes, fried rice and fresh salads, as well as daily specials.

The truck will debut Thursday in Schenley Park as part of the festivities surrounding the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix.

To find the Nakama food truck around town or check its daily specials, you can follow the truck on Facebook or Twitter (@nakamafoodtruck).

Planet Goodness brings organic options to the Alle-Kiski Valley
For more than a year, Stephanie Riedel, Jake Roach and Sue Ziegenfus have been working to revive the former grocery store at 1012 First Street in North Vandergrift, and turn it into an organic grocery store.

On July 27th, Planet Goodness will open to the public, bringing healthy and organic food to the suburbs northeast of Pittsburgh.

“Always good for the earth in the end is our main concept,” Riedel says. “We really are excited to be bringing the organic and natural food supply to the valley. There’s a lot of folks here who need and want better food choices.”

Planet Goodness will start off relatively small, occupying just 1,560 square feet of the building’s 2,500 square-foot first floor. But Riedel says that plans to keep expanding immediately after opening include a classroom and a recycled garden area.

“We want it to be something of a community hub,” Riedel says. “The thing about rural folks is they want a place to congregate.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Jacob Hanchar, Stephanie Riedel

Eat + Drink: Skybar, Taverna 19, digging on vegan food

Eat + Drink is Pop City’s weekly glance at the lastest happenings in the food scene in Pittsburgh.

A new bar on Carson Street? This one has a twist.

Skybar
, a new rooftop bar and lounge space located at 1601 East Carson Street, opened last week.

The seventh venture from Adam DiSimone’s AMPD Group, Skybar boasts Pittsburgh’s first-ever rooftop bar and swimming pool, four private rentable cabanas, and food delivery from sister restaurant Local.

The rooftop pool is open during the bar’s daylight hours, and at night, is covered by a transparent platform, making it part of the lounge area.

Skybar is open to the public, but requires either a ticket or reservation on weekends. Ticket prices for varying degrees of access at Skybar range between $10 and $1,000. DeSimone says there won't be a cover on weekdays, but there's only one way to skip any possible lines.

"A membership guarantees you access any time you want," DeSimone says. 

Taverna 19 set for mid-July opening
Pittsburgh will get a monstrous addition to its outdoor dining scene next month when Taverna 19, a Greek restaurant and bar, opens at 108 19th Street in the Strip District.

Specializing in Greek and Mediterranean fare, the 20,000-square foot spot will feature belly dancers on Wednesday through Saturday evenings and a nightclub space on its upper level, bottle service in VIP areas and walls lined with flowers and herbs grown for use in house cocktails.

Taverna 19 will also offer brunch service on Saturday and Sunday.

Stroll the Strip offers a little bit of everything
From a food standpoint, Pittsburgh has no more eclectic neighborhood than the Strip District. Tomorrow night, the second annual Stroll the Strip event will turn the district into a neighborhood party, offering participants a chance to sample nearly all of it.

From 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Stroll the Strip invites participants to wander between the event’s 20 host locations — from Wholey Seafood to the Society for Contemporary Craft — and experience all the Strip has to offer in food, drink and art. 

Participants may walk between locations or take advantage of the Pittsburgh Tour Company’s double-decker bus, which will be circulating around the area and stopping at various locations.

The evening will conclude with an after part at Cruze Bar. Tickets to Stroll the Strip are available through ShowClix for $45, or may be purchased at the door for $55.

Randita’s Grill brings vegan fare to Saxonburg and beyond
Last May, Randy Cinski started Randita’s Grill — a food truck specializing in vegan cuisine that popped up everywhere from Washington’s Landing to outlying towns such as Cranberry and Butler.  When a storefront came open in Saxonburg earlier this year, she jumped at the opportunity to establish a permanent location.

“People were asking us to open a restaurant,” Cinski says. “It’s been jumping ever since."

Randita’s Grill, located at 210 West Main Street in Saxonburg, offers lunch and dinner service on Tuesday and Thursday, and lunch exclusively the rest of the week.  When she’s not in the restaurant, Cinski is likely out with her truck, spreading the word that eating well and eating healthy are not mutually exclusive.

“I want to help people figure out how to eat healthy,” Cinski says, adding that her clientele ranges from strict vegans and organic food enthusiasts to people looking to make significant changes in their diets and lifestyles. “Sometimes, I don’t think people even realize what they’re eating is vegan,” she says.

Cinski points to BBQ seitan wraps, African peanut stew and vegan meatball sandwiches as being among her most popular items, and says that she uses local ingredients and materials wherever possible.

“That sometimes dictates my menu,” she says. “We try really hard to buy from local people, right down to our eco-friendly disposable materials.”
 
Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Becky Rodgers, Randy Cinski, Adam DeSimone

Eat + Drink: AVA moving to Oakland, Wigle Whiskey expands, Syrian cuisine in Squirrel Hill and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City’s weekly dive into the world of local consumables.

AVA Bar & Lounge moving to Oakland
AVA Bar & Lounge, which announced last week that it would close its location on South Highland Avenue in East Liberty and seek a new space, will move to 304 North Craig Street in Oakland in August.

The new spot, formerly Luna Bar, will allow AVA to expand to two floors and offer a parking lot for its customers at the corner of Craig and Center Avenue.

"It's just a better market for us," says AVA owner Justin Strong. "It's where we started."

Strong says the space's second floor will host AVA's events, such as jazz and open mic nights. The first floor will be a bar and lounge area.

Strong has launched a campaign on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo, seeking to raise $35,000 in the next four weeks to help cover AVA's moving costs make the transition to the new location as seamless as possible.

Naya brings Syrian cuisine to Squirrel Hill
Radwa Ibrahim, who formerly owned Middle Eastern restaurant Tyma’z in the North Hills, has moved her operation to 2018 Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill.

Her new venture, Naya, offers Syrian-style home cooked food along with her versions of Middle Eastern favorites, such as falafel, babaganoush and stuffed grape leaves.

Ibrahim, who opened Naya earlier this month, said that many of her regular Tyma’z customers have already made the trek into the city to continue enjoying her cooking.

Wigle Whiskey expanding to the North Side
Wigle Whiskey, the Strip District-based distiller of local and organic spirits, has purchased a warehouse in the Spring Garden section of the North Side and will begin converting it into a barrelhouse.

“We were quickly running out of room, so we’ve been searching for a space for a while,” says Wigle’s Meredith Grelli. “The building fit all our needs and we love the neighborhood.”

The space, which occupies about 10,000 square feet at 1055 Spring Garden Avenue, is the former home of the Balestreire Produce Company. It will house Wigle’s barrels of aging spirits, its innovation lab and a state-of-the-art whiskey garden, thought to be the first of its kind in the country.

“We imagine it as this seasonal kind of space where we’d have community events and small concerts, and the garage would become kind of a bar area,” Grelli says.

Architectural firm Edge-studio will design the new space. Wigle has hired contractor Marty Marra to undertake the construction. Grelli says they hope to open the space in the summer of 2014.

North Side Sandwich Week kicks off
Thirteen locally owned and independent restaurants are taking part in the second annual North Side Sandwich Week, which started yesterday and will run throgh June 23.

Elks Lodge #339 will host a sold-out sandwich sampler event tomorrow evening, at which attendees and celebrity judges will crown a new sandwich king or queen.

Each participating restaurant will hang a Sandwich Week banner, and customers can use their smartphones to scan QR codes in order to vote for their favorite sandwiches.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Justin Strong, Radwa Ibrahim, Meredith Grelli

Lot 24 luxury apartments open in the Strip District

A brand new 96-unit luxury apartment building in the Strip Distrct held its grand opening last Thursday.

Lot 24
, located at 2404 Railroad Street, is the second joint venture from McCaffery Interests, Chuck Hammel and Bob Beynon, who renovated and opened the Cork Factory Lofts in 2005. MI-Home, a McCaffery subsidiary, will manage the building.

“This was a different type of situation because with the Cork Factory, it was an existing building. Lot 24 is entirely new.” says McCaffery’s Pamela Austin, adding that its red brick and corrugated metal exterior serve to create an industrial feeling that compliments the neighboring Cork Factory and blends in well with the aesthetic of the Strip District.

Antunovich Associates of Chicago designed the building, and California-based hospitality designer Intra-Spec fashioned the interior. Pittsburgh-based contractor Massaro Corporation completed construction on the building in December 2012, and it was fully leased within six months.

Lot 24 offers studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments in a variety of sizes and floor plans, and its amenities include a swimming pool, a spa, concierge service, a fitness center, a club room and building-wide WiFi.

Austin says that while the Cork Factory drew a diverse crowd of people, from young professionals to downsizing empty-nesters looking to downsize, Lot 24 is designed to skew young.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Pamela Austin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Ashley Comer

Bayardstown Social Club offers shared space for grilling and get togethers in the Strip District

Do you wish you had a backyard? A space for summer grilling? Maybe just good outdoor party to go to? Not only does the Bayardstown Social Club in the Strip District offer all those things, it aims to change the way Pittsburghers socialize.

The brainchild of Pittsburgh innovation firm Deeplocal, the combination shared outdoor space and social club offers members a place to grill, drink and talk in atmosphere that’s open, yet intimate.

The idea grew out of Deeplocal’s weekly office cocktail hour.

“The parks are great, but they’re more about families. They’re not really for socialization,” says Deeplocal’s Nathan Martin. “If you live in the city and you don’t have a yard, you can go there and have a casual social experience and meet people.”

After just a month of planning and work on the 5,000-square-foot vacant lot, Deeplocal employees and volunteers transformed it into a space that’s distinctly young, but with an old-fashioned twist.

The club plans to designate certain hours as “adult swim” — cell-phone free time, which it will enforce with cell phone jamming equipment. Laptops are banned entirely.

Bayardstown will also schedule some of the popular local food trucks to come by and offer members dining options.

"We want to promote some of the local businesses," Martin says. "Franktuary has come down and sold kits for grilling."

Martin says this summer’s club activities will include live acoustic music, shared mix-tape sessions and urban camping.

Membership costs $10 per month and is limited to 250 members. At the end of every month, the club will clear its membership roster and reopen its rolls to the public. Non-members may attend with members for $5 per evening.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Nathan Martin

Eat + Drink: The Livermore, Pitaland and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City’s weekly round-up of news you can consume with your mouth.

-  The creators of Bar Marco in the Strip District have secured the space at 126 Highland Avenue for The Livermore, a new coffee and cocktail joint. It will fill the space previously occupied by The Waffle Shop, an art space/restaurant/internet reality show which started as a Carnegie Mellon class project and lasted four years before closing in July 2012. Livermore is scheduled to open in late June.

-  Lucy Nguyen’s banh mi cart, a seasonal favorite in the Strip District, is back up and running in the parking lot next to Bar Marco. From spring to late fall, Nguyen, who spends winters in her native Vietnam, makes sandwiches of marinated and grilled chicken or pork topped with all manner of herbs and pickled vegetables.

-  Pitaland in Brookline, a Mediterranean bakery and caterer, recently finished renovations to its space and has added an on-site café. Open Monday through Saturday, the café offers breakfast until 11 a.m. and lunch and dinner options until 7 p.m.

-  The café at Sunny Bridge Natural Foods, a specialty grocery store in McMurray, recently unveiled a new catering menu. The café’s chef, Patty Caputo, designed the menu to include dishes made from local beef, chicken and eggs, as well as vegetarian and vegan items. The menu is augmented by selections from the store’s gluten-free bakery, says Sunny Bridge owner Gina Snyder.

-  For the fifth straight year, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens will host a farmers’ market. Farmers at Phipps, part of the conservatory’s healthy food and sustainability initiatives, will run every Wednesday from 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., and offer customers a wide variety of locally grown organic produce from local farms.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Gina Snyder

WindStax opens new plant in the Strip District

When he started WindStax, a wind turbine manufacturing company, Pittsburgh native Ron Gdovic had a design idea and a two-garage space in Apollo.

As soon as it was time for his company to expand, he knew wanted to move back into the city — particularly into an old building.

The new ones “just don’t have any soul,” he says.

The roughly 4,000 square-foot former aluminum factory at 3220 Smallman Street in the Strip District did the trick. Now, Gdovic and his crew have finished setting up shop and started producing some of the most innovative wind turbines on the market.

“We like to promote craftsmanship,” Gdovic says, adding that his shop uses locally-sourced and environmentally-friendly materials in nearly all aspects of production.

The turbines come in columns of 20 and 40 feet and contain just three moving parts. They are made of okoume plywood and held in place with frames built almost entirely out of locally-produced PVC piping and nylon bolts. The batteries the turbines charge are regulated by electronic systems that are also made locally and powered through small solar panels on the tops of the columns.

What makes Gdovic's turbines special is their durability, extremely light weight, and low cost per watt of power. Because they're relatively inexpensive — some can be had for as little as $7,500 — they’re practical for both commercial and residential use.

“Most can power a house for days without wind,” Gdovic says.

While most of WindStax’s business has come from commercial clients such as energy companies, Gdovic says that his new factory has spurred local interest, and that he is talking to potential local clients about harnessing wind power in the city, especially along the rivers.

Learn more about WindStax at their Open House at the factory on May 31.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Ron Gdovic

Eat + Drink: Outdoor dining spots and more

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Gita McCutcheon, Leigh White

Upcoming mayoral forums address design, planning and public policy and greenspace

How will Pittsburgh’s next mayor ensure that public policy makes good design and planning central to the City’s growth?

That is one of several questions to be asked of Pittsburgh’s mayoral candidates at an upcoming forum to be hosted by the Design Center in Downtown Pittsburgh.

“The next mayor will provide leadership on community and economic development across the city,” says Stephen Glassman, president and ceo of the Design Center. “It is important for people interested in good design and planning to hear each candidate’s vision for Pittsburgh’s future, and equally important that our voices be heard by the candidates.”

Glassman says Pittsburgh is at an important inflection point, and with the proper visionary leadership can continue to not only expand its economic base, but provide a model for best practices to the rest of the country.

Each candidate will make the case for why he is capable of providing that leadership, as well as answer additional questions prepared by the Design Center.

Questions will also be taken from audience members, on topics ranging from blight and vacant properties, to historic preservation, riverfronts and multi-modal transportation.

Candidates Bill Peduto, A.J. Richardson, Jack Wagner, and Jake Wheatley are confirmed to participate in the forum, according to the Design Center. It will be moderated by Diana A. Bucco, vice president of The Buhl Foundation.

The Mayoral Candidates Forum on Design, Planning, and Public Policy will take place on Wednesday, May 8th, at Point Park University’s GRW Auditorium in University Center at 414 Wood Street, Downtown. It will run for 90 minutes, beginning at 6:00 p.m., with a reception to follow.

To RSVP call 412-281-0995, or e-mail design@judith-kelly.com.

And tonight, the Pittsburgh Greenspace Alliance and the League of Women Voters are hosting a mayoral forum on the importance of greenspace in the city. Candidates will be asked to discuss their plans as mayor for the expansion and integration of greenspace in Pittsburgh, including parks and trails. 

The Candidates’ Forum on Greenspace takes place at 6:00 p.m.tonight at the Heinz History Center, 1212 Smallman Street, in the Strip District. For information and to RSVP, click here.


Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Stephen Glassman

Penn A Caster Loft Offices want to rock the Strip

An office building in the Strip District is getting a rock and roll makeover. Its exterior walls will soon be wrapped in the likeness of a giant, backlit guitar as the building formerly known as 3030 Penn Avenue becomes the Penn A Caster Loft Offices.

Tusk Development bought the 24,000 square-foot building late last year and wanted to give it a new identity. So when co-owner Jim Genstein returned from a trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, they were inspired to give it a new guitar-centric theme.

In addition to the exterior changes, an interior lobby has been redeveloped and now features a guitar touchscreen that controls a video wall and streaming music. Lami Grubb Architects is the project architect.

The three-story building was built in the early 1900s as a warehouse and stored salt as well as the horse-driven carriages that drove goods to and from the nearby Allegheny River.

Genstein’s partner Andy Schaer says the office space is ideal for a tech or creative services company. The loft offices feature brick walls and exposed beams, as well as abundant natural light.

The building is wired for any tech company’s needs—including battery backup for uninterrupted power—and could be built-out to meet tenant needs. The site also includes over 100 parking spaces.

The name Penn A Caster is derived from the Fender Telecaster guitar, which has been played by countless musicians including Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, and George Harrison.

Schaer expects the new guitar-clad facade to be complete within the next eight weeks.


Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Andy Schaer

Pittsburgh Public Market will relocate to Penn Avenue, more than double in size

The Pittsburgh Public Market is moving to a new location in the Strip District and will double in size to nearly 25,000 square feet.

The market's new home, at 2401 Penn Avenue—directly across the street from Mullaney's Harp and Fiddle—is at the fringe of the Strip District's busy retail core. Cindy Cassell, of Neighbors in the Strip, believes the market will help draw pedestrian traffic into new areas, as well as build connections with Lower Lawrenceville.

Other nearby businesses have begun to enliven the street, including restaurants like Bar Marco and Savoy.

The building will be air-conditioned, and will feature new infrastructure for food preparation. Cassell says a commercial kitchen is also in the works, and expects it to be operational within a year of opening.

Although the building is currently a nondescript cement structure, Cassell says NITS, which operates the market, is planning to add new doors and windows among other facade improvements. Aesthetic changes, including murals, are also under consideration.

The market will leave its current location in the Pennsylvania Fruit Auction & Sales terminal this summer. Disruptions to the historic building are planned as part of The Buncher Co.'s riverfront development.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Cindy Cassell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eat and Drink: Butcher and Rye downtown and Gaucho Wood-fired Grill in the Strip District

Eat + Drink is Pop City's roundup of Pittsburgh's food scene
 
Having turned away dozens of potential patrons night after night, Meat & Potatoes owners have announced they will open a second location nearby, Butcher and Rye, this June across from Heinz Hall in the former Palate space.   
 
“Every time I walked by Palate, I thought it would be nice (to reopen the space),” says Tolga Sevdik, co-owner with Richard DeShantz of Meat & Potatoes on Penn Avenue. “It’s such a great location.”
 
The new restaurant will seat 85 and feature a menu similar to the popular gastro pub, with perhaps slightly smaller plates. Sticking with a winning formula, it will specialize in classic cocktails, bourbon and rye. The Meat and Potatoes sous chef will move over to the new location, which promises the same farm-to-table fare that has made Meat & Potatoes an award-winning favorite.

The bar will remain on the mezzanine level with some renovation to create a more appealing front entrance. Shantz and Sevdik also plan to open a third casual dining restaurant, Pork & Beans, in Lawrenceville later this year.
 
In more casual dining, Pittsburgh’s first Argentinian parrilla has opened, Gaucho Parrilla Argentina Wood-Fired Grill at 1607 Penn Ave. in the Strip District.
 
Chef and owner Anthony Falcon, a native of Brooklyn, NY, was previously the executive chef and food and beverage director at Southpointe Country Club. Falcon says the restaurant was inspired by his Argentinian father and uncle who took one look at the Strip District and said:
 
“You gotta open something down here. You’ll sell 100 chickens a day.”
 
Located in the former Big Mama’s, Falcon has created a cozy and casual stand-and-eat and take-out spot with a sizzling selection of hearty grilled dishes, steak and vegetable  sandwiches, sausages, chicken and fish.
 
The concept is working. Since opening two weeks ago, lines have been winding out the door with patrons drawn by the smoky flavors of the hickory wood-burning fire.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Tolga Sevdik, Butcher & Rye; Anthony Falcon, Gaucho

Eat + Drink: Inca Peruvian downtown; D.J’s Butcher Block; La Palapa Mexican Cuisine; and more

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


•  AJ's Inca Peruvian Restaurant opened this week in Downtown Pittsburgh at 500 Liberty Avenue.  Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken is the star here, along with a variety of other Peruvian dishes.  The restaurant is located in the former Cuzamil space, just outside Market Square.  Open Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday, noon to 8 p.m.  412-642-6606.

•  In North Oakland, Legume has re-launched its adjoining bar space under the name Butterjoint.  The word refers to a type of brickwork masonry known for its simplicity and elegance.  Chef Trevett Hooper says it’s a metaphor for how food is prepared at Legume, and now at Butterjoint.

Hooper says the redesigned bar menu—with fare such as pierogies and burgers— now offers substantial meals at a lower price than in the restaurant.  He hopes it will allow Legume’s loyal customers to visit more frequently.  It’s the same quality meat and produce, he says, just with a more straightforward preparation.

The space itself has been reconfigured to provide a more comfortable dining experience.  A weekly variety show, featuring music, comedy, spoken word and magicians, is held on Tuesdays.  And bar manager Will Groves was brought on to revamp the beer and cocktail menu.  214 North Craig Street.  412.621.2700.

•  D.J.’s Butcher Block Specialty Sausage and Meats opened recently in Bloomfield, a small storefront shop offering fresh, cured, and smoked sausage, grass-fed beef, as well as local chicken and turkey.

For the past three years, owner/butcher D.J. Smulick, a former chef at Café Sam, has offered products at various farmers markets.  Smulick sources a majority of meats from local vendors, and seeks to offer high quality products that remain affordable. 

D.J’s also stocks a small selection of local cheese, eggs, pickles, mustards and jellies.  Smulick doesn’t want to become a grocery store, he says, rather he’s just offering a few products that complement the meats.  4623 Liberty Avenue.  412-621-3100.

Also in Bloomfield, multiple sushi restaurants have opened, including Ginza (412-688-7272), at 4734 Liberty Avenue.  And more recently, Fukuda Sushi, which is BYOB, opened in the former Stagioni storefront, at 4770 Liberty Avenue.  And on Sundays, Chef Matt Kemp offers an evening menu at East Liberty’s AVA Lounge.  412-377-0916.

•  La Palapa Mexican Cuisine is the latest food purveyor to join the growing list of vendors at the Strip District’s Pittsburgh Public Market.  Friday through Sunday La Palapa will offer a variety of tamales, quesadillas chilangas, chiles rellenos, frijoles charros, enchiladas, and desserts including flan.    412-992-7206.

Also in the Strip, the Thin Man Sandwich Shop is opening soon at 50 21st Street, in the former 21st Street Coffee and Tea location.  Owners and chefs Dan and Sherri Leiphart have previously worked at Isabela on Grandview, the former Le Pommier, and Lidia's Pittsburgh.  The Leipharts are aiming to bring their classically trained experience to a more relaxed and casual atmosphere. 

•  Wilkinsburg has been a dry borough for the past 80 years.  But now, the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation (WCDC) is pushing for a ballot referendum to allow liquor licenses in the community.  It’s cited as a tool for economic development, as alcohol sales could help draw hotels, fine dining, and other entertainment options to the borough.  Visit WCDC’s website to learn more.

 
Writer:  Andrew Moore     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
Writer:  Andrew Moore                                                                                            
Source:  Paul Svoboda

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre expansion underway, $10 million development

The Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) is in the midst of a $10 million expansion to double the size of the school, and a recent land purchase at 2930 Liberty Avenue brings their total footprint to over 60,000 square feet.

Executive Director Harris Ferris says the goal is to build a campus environment in the Strip District.  The new parcel, which is adjacent to the theatre, now provides ample land to build an annex building and three new studios, as well as increase parking capacity on the south side of Liberty Avenue.

The current expansion is the third phase of the School Expansion Plan.  PBT’s Board of Trustees approved the $850,000 purchase price at its July 10 meeting.

In 2010, PBT opened Byham House, a student residence, in the rectory of the former St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Lawrenceville.  And last year, the school expanded its PBT Studios reception area.

With the newly acquired space, PBT’s fourth phase of development includes the construction of a new, 16,000-square-foot building.  Although still in its design phase, the structure will be an annex of the current building, located to the rear of the campus.

Parking will eventually be shifted to the 2930 Liberty Avenue lot, where Ferris says the space will either be surface or multi-level parking, depending on funding.  Either way, he says it will be beautifully landscaped.

“The idea is to create a visual and dynamic presence on Liberty Avenue,” Ferris says.   He also hopes a campus environment that spans both sides of the avenue can help to mitigate traffic.

PBT’s school serves over 800 students of diverse ages, in addition to housing a professional company of 27 dancers.  Ferris hopes the expansion will also help to serve the growing interest in community-based programs.

““That’s kind of an eclectic campus,” Ferris says.  “But it’s unified around our image and our aspirations for the art form.”
 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Harris Ferris

Crested Duck Charcuterie to expand, USDA certification in Beechview

Crested Duck Charcuterie, the Beechview-based meat market and deli, is expanding to become a USDA certified facility.  The planned upgrades will allow the French-inspired charcuterie to ship out of state, and supply large chains such as Giant Eagle.  And according to owner Kevin Costa, it will also be an opportunity for him to give back to the region’s small-scale farmers.

“The small farmers have made my business what it is,” Costa says.  “They have supported me and supplied me with a really good, quality product.  So if I can help them out I don’t know why I wouldn’t.”

According to Costa, there are just a few USDA certified processing facilities in the region.  He says they’re not always easy to work with, nor do they give farmers many options in terms of gourmet products.

Costa says farmers are losing customers because they can’t provide certain custom cuts and higher-end products, especially around the holidays.  He hopes that with the new certification, Crested Duck can help to meet that need.

The shop will offer farmers a full range of nitrate-free meats, including bacon, sausage made with farm-grown produce and many other specialty cuts and orders.  Although similar products are already offered through Crested Duck, the certification will expand the shop’s capacity and distribution means. 

In order to complete the necessary upgrades, Costa launched a Kickstarter campaign that was successfully funded last month.  In addition to USDA certification, the campaign will aid in expansion of its Beechview retail service, including a new Sunday brunch and occasional evening dinners.

Crested Duck also remains a mainstay at the Strip District’s Pittsburgh Public Market.  412-892-9983.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Kevin Costa

Eat + Drink: Charcuterie and cocktails; 90-second wood fired pizza; yogurt and more

This week in Pop City's Eat + Drink roundup:

- Nicky's Thai Kitchen, the popular Allegheny West Thai restaurant, will be opening a new location downtown, at the corner of Penn Avenue and 9th Street.  Sinful Sweets by Christopher George is also planned to open in the adjacent storefront at 901 Penn Avenue.

- The Strip District’s Bar Marco has announced it will team up with Chef Justin Severino, of Cure, every Monday for charcuterie, cheese, and cocktail pairings.  The weekly events will be menu-free, with custom-made cocktails built for guests based on personal preferences.  Cocktails, with small charcuterie and cheese tastings, will be $10.  Bar Marco, 2216 Penn Avenue.  412-471-1900.

- Stone Neapolitan Pizzeria at River Vue is now open.  The restaurant features an Italian imported wood-burning oven and promises a 90 second cooking time.  Located in the ground floor of the recently opened RiverVue apartments, the pizzeria is across the street from downtown’s Point State Park.  Also on the menu are house-made mozzarella, Italian sodas, draft and bottled beer, as well as made-to-order salads and sandwiches.  300 Liberty Avenue, Suite 100.  412-904-4531.

- Yogli Mogli, a franchise of the national chain, opened recently on Washington Road in Mt Lebanon.  The eatery is a self-serve yogurt shop that features classic flavors with unique parings such as blueberry acai, and pomegranate raspberry tart.  Toppings range from mango, lychee, and peaches, to cookie dough, walnuts, and granola.  695 Washington Road, Mount Lebanon.  412-207-2291.

- Mrs. Jean’s Southern Cuisine has moved to a new location at Hosanna House, 807 Wallace Ave., Wilkinsburg.  The restaurant also recently finished taping an episode for Chef Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.  412-723-2015.

- The South Side’s Carson Street Deli has reopened after closing briefly for renovations to the sandwich shop and craft beer store.  In addition to bottled beers from local breweries and specialty imports, Carson Street Deli now features 20 taps.  The deli hosts weekly beer samplings Wednesdays, from 6 to 8 p.m.  1507 E. Carson Street.  412-381-5335.


Writer:  Andrew Moore

Eat + Drink: Wild Purveyors Market Stand; Benjamin's Burger Bar; soul food and mobile food

- The Wild Purveyor’s Market Stand is now open in Upper Lawrenceville.  An evolution of the wholesale wild-foods business started by brothers Cavan and Tom Patterson, the market features local Pennsylvania cheeses, meats, and produce, as well as an assortment of seasonally foraged foods.  Currently in stock: chicken of the woods and hen of the woods mushrooms.

And the Second Annual Pittsburgh Picklefest will take place at the market this Saturday.  The event is presented by Crested Duck Charcuterie and Slow Food Pittsburgh.  5308 Butler Street, Lawrenceville.  412-206-WILD.

-  Benjamin’s Western Avenue Burger Bar is scheduled to open tonight in Allegheny West.  The restaurant is operated by Paul Tebbets, co-owner of Toast! in Shadyside, and the former BRiX Wood Fired Wine Bar, which the new restaurant replaces. 

BRiX closed its doors earlier this year after difficulties with a zoning permit for its wood-fired pizza oven.  The burger bar will be similar in concept to BRiX while swapping pizza for burgers.  Benjamin’s is located at 900 Western Avenue in the Northside.

-  Fredrick’s Soul Food is now open Monday through Saturday on Smithfield Street, in Downtown Pittsburgh, serving breakfast at 6:30 a.m.  Fredrick’s specializes in chicken and waffles, ribs and wings, yams, greens, and mac & cheese. 

Fredrick’s is owned by Larry Ross.  Ross says the menu consists of family recipes, and his kitchen staff is headed by his daughters Maya and Seaera.  412-232-1900. 633 Smithfield Street.  6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

-  Sal’s City Deli is opening soon in downtown, and will feature made-to-order sandwiches, fresh salads, and homemade soups.  It will be located at 245 Seventh Street, next to the Benedum Theater in the Cultural District.

-  In addition to locations in East Liberty and Cranberry, BRGR’s gourmet burgers are now available to downtown lunch crowds via The BRGR Food Truck.  From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. it will be parked at Grant Street and Forbes Avenue, Monday through Friday.  It also makes regular appearances in the Strip District, on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at 21st Street and Penn Avenue.

-  Another newcomer to Pittsburgh’s mobile food scene is Oh My Grill, a specialty grilled-cheese themed food truck.  724-996-3955.
 
 Click here for more information about food trucks in Pittsburgh.


Writer:  Andrew Moore

Eat + Drink: Piccolo Forno to Garden Theater; Stagioni farm dinner; Mac Diner now open; and more

 Eat + Drink is a new occasional section of Development News focusing on restaurant and bar happenings in Pittsburgh.


-  Restaurateur Domenic Branduzzi, of Lawrenceville’s Piccolo Forno, has announced plans to open a second establishment in the Central Northside.  The restaurant, which will likely be named Il Giardino—a tribute to its historic setting—will occupy the former Garden Theater space, and will be a key component in the block’s long-awaited redevelopment. 

Il Giardino joins Nakama Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar, which announced plans earlier this year to open in the former Masonic building, also on North Avenue.  The block-wide redevelopment is a project of Zukin Realty.

Branduzzi hopes to be open by late summer, 2013.  Construction at both restaurant sites is expected to commence simultaneously.

Branduzzi says the space will be larger than his current restaurant, at 4,000 square feet, and will likely feature a rear patio.  Like Piccolo Forno, the restaurant will include a wood-fired pizza oven, with the addition of a pizza bar.

-  In the South Side, Stagioni will be hosting a family-style farm dinner at their restaurant next Tuesday, September 25th.  The dinner will feature produce from Pittsburgh’s Knotweed Urban Farm, a CSA and cooperative farm in Stanton Heights.  The four-course meal begins at 6:30 p.m. and is $35.  2104 E. Carson Street, South Side.  412-586-4738.

Truth Lounge celebrated a grand opening last week.  The upscale restaurant and cocktail bar replaces the former Café Allegro at 51 S. 12th Street in the South Side’s Bedford Square. The menu focuses on small plates, as well as craft cocktails and high end wine.  412-381-9600.

21st Street Coffee has relocated to a new storefront space in the Strip District, at 2002 Smallman Street.  The cafe is now next door to Kaya.  "No, we aren't changing the name," their website reads.

Mac Diner is now open in Allison Park, a breakfast-all-day eatery serving nine varieties of mac and cheese.  Open 7 days a week, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.  4848 Route 8, Allison Park 15101.  724-939-7434.


Writer:  Andrew Moore

Kelly O's Diner now open in the Strip in modern, updated building

Kelly O's Diner has opened in the Strip District, serving breakfast seven days a week.  It is the second location for the diner which has been serving the North Hills for the past eleven years. 

Owner Kelly O'Connor says she had been looking to open a second location in the city, and most recently in the Strip District, for many years.  But then recently everything fell into place.  “It almost felt like fate," she says.

Located at 100 24th Street, Kelly O’s replaces the former Jo Jo's Restaurant in a building that had once been an automotive garage.  The diner is adjacent to the Otto Milk Condos and across from Marty’s Market.

Due to an earlier fire, O'Connor says the interior was partially demolished when she took over the space.  She needed to rebuild the kitchen and bathroom, as well as install new electric, plumbing, and HVAC.

Kelly O's flooring is finished with the diner's signature black and white tiles, and its walls are wrapped in sparkling diamond plate.  On the building's exterior, O'Connor covered the entrance side in a stainless steel facade, providing a modern twist on the diner look, she says.  The remaining exterior walls will be covered in murals.

O'Connor has been working with the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Women in Business for the past three years. The school provides expertise to entrepreneurs in the city, assisting with drafting business plans and providing a business attorney, among other services. 

O'Connor says was attracted to the Strip District for its diversity, and because of its concentration of independently-owned businesses.

"The fact that you’re surrounded by a bunch of small business that make this one really big business community, I think that's awesome," she says.

In keeping with the Strip's tradition, Kelly O's opens early for breakfast, at 5 a.m., Monday through Saturday, and at 7 a.m. on Sunday, and closes at 3 p.m.  412-232-EGGS.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Kelly O’Connor

Wigle Whiskey to host Modern Tar & Feathering, will soon unveil new distilled spirits

To celebrate this year’s anniversary of the Whiskey Rebellion--which occurred near here in 1794--the Strip District's Wigle Whiskey plans to tar and feather its patrons.  But don't worry, while the distillery might make its rye whiskey much like it was done in 18th Century, their process for tarring and feathering is much more humane.

The event is a collaboration between the Mattress Factory, Attack Theater, Society for Contemporary Craft, Toonseum, Carnegie Library and the Carnegie Science Center.  Each organization will “tar and feather” attendees, with guests will voting on the most inventive method.  The winning organization will receive use of the distillery for an evening.

But why tar and feather?  Meredith Grelli, co-owner of Wigle, explains that historically Europeans and Americans have protested taxes this way, and that local tax collectors were once tarred and feathered by Pittsburgh distillers.

Along with art-related tar and feather activities, food will be provided by the Pittsburgh Taco Truck, Franktuary, and the Goodie Truck.  And Bar Marco will host an afterparty with $5 Wigle cocktails.

In addition to this weekend's event, Wigle is preparing to release several new distilled spirits. 

In October, Wigle will unveil its first traditional Genever gin, and will be one of only two distilleries in the nation currently offering that spirit, Grelli says. 

And Wigle hopes to have a new line of bitters available before the holidays, with experimental flavors such as lychee or honeysuckle. 

"We hope to just keep innovating and introducing people to new spirits, to lost gems of distillation," Grelli says.

Grelli says since opening Wigle has become a destination for whiskey lovers, with enthusiasts traveling from as far as Scotland and Costa Rica, and from throughout the nation.  She expects the momentum of craft distilleries to continue growing.

"The craft distilling environment and the industry is really where craft beer making was probably 20 or 30 years ago,” she says.  “So we're really at just the start of this.”

Wigle Whiskey is open for cocktails and tastings Wednesday through Sunday.  Tours of the distillery can be booked through their website


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Meredith Grelli

Luke Wholey's Wild Alaskan Grille now open in the Strip

To many, the name Wholey's is synonymous with the Strip District.  And with the opening of Wild Alaskan Grille, Luke Wholey is hoping to build on that legacy by offering a full-service restaurant that fittingly serves high-quality seafood.

Located at 2106 Penn Avenue, one aspect of the new eatery will seem familiar to regulars of Wholey’s Fish Market: Luke himself. 

For the past three years, Wholey has served grilled sockeye salmon outside the market that his grandfather established over a hundred years ago.  And Wholey will once again be on grill duty, standing beside his six-foot-wide, cast-iron grill.

"I'm out here seven days a week, manning the grill," he says.  "Cooking has always been a passion of mine, and it's a lot of fun for me to be out here serving my customers."

Wholey’s sidewalk salmon special ($12) is served over rice with grilled zucchini and roasted red peppers.

Inside, the restaurant features a full-service kitchen and menu.  The space is a repurposed warehouse that plays well on the Strip’s legacy and the Wholey name.  It currently seats 150 on the first floor, but will accommodate up to 300 guests once the second level is complete.

Nautical décor features prominently throughout the rustic interior, including work by local artists, fish mounts, and handmade tables of reclaimed electric cable spindles.

Wholey will be missing from the grill in the coming weeks, but he has a good excuse for his absence.  He will be competing in the Great American Seafood Cook-Off in New Orleans.

Wholey, a lifelong fisherman, plans to catch eight yellow perch in Lake Erie, and ship them live to New Orleans, where he will prepare them for the competition on August 11th. 

A hopefully victorious Luke Wholey will celebrate a grand opening at his restaurant on August 15th.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Luke Wholey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Lena Andrews, URA

Marty's Market, Emilia Romagna, and R Wine Cellar now open in the Strip District

A string of openings have come to the Strip District, including the new Italian restaurant Emilia Romagna; Marty's Market; and R Wine Cellar.

Marty's Market, a specialty food store and café, held a soft opening on Saturday, giving shoppers a glimpse of the new market that replaces the former Right By Nature at 2305 Smallman Street.

The market is one-third smaller than the former grocery store, and specializes in locally grown and organic foods. But Marty's seeks to distinguish itself as a unique retail experience, starting with design.

Renovations to the space include three glass garage doors--which open to the downtown skyline--two kitchen areas, and a coffee bar.  Owner Regina Koetters says transparency, from the kitchen to the street view, was a guiding principle in the market’s design.

Marty’s cafe, which seats up to 45, serves made-to-order meals from a menu that changes daily.  The cafe is also planned to serve as a community kitchen of sorts, with tastings and cooking demonstrations by local chefs and amateurs alike.

-  Just a few blocks away Emilia Romagna will celebrate its grand opening this Friday.  The restaurant is a project of Chef Jonathan Vlasic, of the Allentown restaurant Alla Famiglia, and Peters Township’s Arlecchino.

The menu features dishes inspired by those regions of Northern Italy, as well as popular dishes from the proprietors’ other two restaurants.

Located at 108 19th Street, the space will also introduce a new nightclub to the Strip--V Ultra Lounge--which will also open on Friday.  The lounge will occupy the building’s second floor and balcony, and will feature a limited menu of antipastas, burgers, and sushi.

The lounge and restaurant are a project of Vlasic, Vince Isolde, and Chef Cory Hughes.

R Wine Cellar has opened at 2014 Smallman Street, selling house-made wines.  The cellar, a family owned urban winery, currently has four reds and four whites available, including oaked and un-oaked Chardonnays.

Although juices are currently brought in from elsewhere, all wines are fermented, blended, and bottled on site.  And several wines are made using grapes from the Lake Erie Region, including the white Traminette ($12) and the Lake Erie Red ($13).

Owner Steve Russell says they chose this location because they wanted to be in the middle of the developing Strip District.

"We think the potential here in the future is very strong," he says.

Koetters agrees, and says it’s an exciting time to be part of the Strip District, and recognizes that each new businesses is a boon to the neighborhood.

“We’re fortunate to be enjoying a great time in the Strip,” she says.  “There’s a lot of stuff going on… [and] I want Marty’s to be a vehicle to encourage more investment in the Strip.”


Writer:  Andrew Moore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Micahel McAllister

Changes coming to the Strip: Wholey's warehouse redevelopment; Smallman Street study

Big changes are coming to the Strip District, as two iconic buildings are being readied for major renovations, streetscape improvements are planned, and businesses expand.

A massive warehouse, formerly used by Wholey’s  Market, and still best known for the store’s affixed neon logo, will soon be redeveloped into Class ’A’ office space.  Monroeville-based developer Sampson Morris Group plans to build 225,000 square feet of new LEED-certified office space, and over 120 indoor parking spaces for tenants.

The 7-floor, concrete structure is currently windowless, however new facades will include massive window cut-outs, giving the former cold-storage structure its first-ever openings.  Renovations will add new elevators, heating and cooling systems, and other amenities.

Designed by Desmone & Associates Architects, the building will offer loft-style office spaces, in a style architect Eric Booth calls “converted warehouse chic.”

In other Strip news: Last Thursday, the URA approved a $250,000 grant to the city to help pay for design work related to the Smallman Street corridor.  This work will establish baseline documents of existing conditions, and is tied to the Buncher Company’s planned partial demolition and renovation of the historic Produce Terminal.

The Buncher Company’s current plan is to build a road connecting Penn Avenue to the Allegheny Riverfront, where the developer will build a mixed-use development on 55 acres of land it owns behind the Produce Terminal.

The Smallman Street design work will begin to address necessary changes to accommodate the increased numbers of new residents and traffic that the Buncher development would bring.

And finally, Parma Sausage Products, Inc. is expanding to an adjacent space on Penn Avenue.  The former Fudgie Wudgie shop will be used by Parma as an improved, more aesthetically pleasing space for retail and wholesale customers.  Parma, established in the Strip in 1954, offers salami and dry-cured products, as well as fresh and cooked meats.

And Carhops Sub Shop is the latest restaurant to open in the Strip District, offering cheesesteaks, pizza, and Italian sandwiches.  Relocated to the Strip from the South Hills, Carhops is open Monday through Saturday, 10 to 6 p.m.  1806 Smallman Street, Strip District.  412-904-4774.
 

Writer:  Andrew Moore

Marty's Market, a destination food store, to open in the Strip

Marty’s Market, a new specialty food market and café, will be open this spring in the Strip District.  Owner Regina Koetters says the market will be right-sized, sourcing products from farms and other producers within a 150-mile radius.

Koetters moved to Pittsburgh in 2008 to be a part of the region’s redevelopment, and because she was impressed by the city’s offerings.  It is in that vein that she hopes to create a community gathering place centered around food, and describes the market as a community minded business.  

“I didn't see any need to go beyond the community to get something going,” Koetters says.  “Instead, I wanted a business that celebrated what already exists in Pittsburgh's community, and furthered it in some way.”

Marty’s is located in the former Right By Nature space, but Koetters is quick to say customers should not expect a similar supermarket concept.  

“I’m certainly building on what was great about Right By Nature, but Mary's Market is quite different in concept and function,” she says.  

Marty’s will only occupy 2/3 of the former tenant’s space.  In addition to specialty foods, the market will stock pantry staples, like flour, sugar, and salt.

None of the produce at Marty’s will have been treated with chemicals or pesticides, nor any meat with hormones or antibiotics.  Koetters wants customers to enter the market and not have to worry about those issues, and to know that the products here are of high quality.

“It allows the [customer] to focus on the product, the flavor, the freshness, and what they want to do in their kitchen, as opposed to reading labels the entire time they're in the store,” she says.

In the coffeehouse and café section of the shop, well-known chefs and amateur cooks will be held in equal esteem.  Koetters hopes to develop a menu and product selection that will celebrate Pittsburgh’s diverse communities, while bringing people together around food.

Koetters is currently searching for an executive chef to run the café at Marty’s Market.

“I think I'm building a really cool playground for someone who knows how to do stuff with food,” she says. “I’d love that person to show up and just have a great time, and unlock the potential that I’m creating here.”


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Regina Koetters

Bar Marco now open in the Strip, European-style wine bar and restaurant

Bar Marco has opened in the Strip District after nearly 6 months of remodeling work in the former No. 7 Engine Co. building.  The historic space has been transformed into a European-style wine bar and restaurant, with an emphasis on communal dining and a menu designed for sharing.

Bobby Fry, one of four co-owners, says the remodeling was done to bring the space back to its original beauty.  Floor tiles have been removed, dry-wall torn down to reveal classic subway tile, and a drop ceiling has given way to an original tin installation from 1905.

The first floor's symmetrical design is intended to encourage conversation among strangers, and create a sense of comfort.  A large bar seats five to six, and opposite, a drink rail lines the window facing Penn Avenue.  In between are three large communal tables, with combined seating capacity at 40.  All furniture was designed by co-owner Michael Kreha, and built in-house, with welding provided by Gray's Welding of Braddock, PA.

Bar Marco is the first dining project of four childhood friends--Justin Steel, Kevin Cox, Fry and Kreha.  Each left various professional careers, coalescing in Pittsburgh around a shared passion for food and drink.

The menu, which Fry describes as European bar food, will change on a regular basis, but recently featured “snack” plates like patatas bravas, arancini, frico, and a duck BLT; and large entrees, also meant for sharing, such as chicken enchiladas, baked caponata, and ribeye with chimichurri.

Bar Marco offers a range of small production wines, and inventive mixed drinks, such as a tequila gimlet featuring house-made lime cordial, and the Bar Marco Manhattan, made with orange bitters.

The second floor, while still a work in progress, is used as an art gallery and private event space.

Bar Marco opens at 5 p.m. and is open late, serving their full menu until 2 a.m., Wednesday through Saturday.  2216 Penn Avenue, Strip District.  724-875-2738.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Bobby Fry

Vietnam's Pho expands in the Strip; new source for banh mi in Pittsburgh

Vietnam's Pho is expanding in the Strip District, adding an Express Bar adjacent to the main restaurant space, featuring banh mi sandwiches, bubble tea, and salad and sushi bars.

Tom Nguyen, co-owner and chef, says when an adjacent restaurant space became available, he and partner Gina Trinh decided to expand because so many customers were asking for those Vietnamese hoagies. 

For banh mi lovers, this is exciting news. Banh mi, (a Vietnamese sandwiches of marinated meats or tofu, pickled vegetables, jalapenos, and herbs on baguette) are increasing in popularity in Pittsburgh. 

Lucy Nguyen (no relation) has served these sandwiches from a sidewalk grill for many years, but spends her winters in Vietnam.  With Vietnam’s Pho’s new Express Bar, these sandwiches will be available year-round.

Nguyen says he is surprised that so many Pittsburghers have been asking for the Vietnamese sandwiches, and that this demand is the whole reason for the expansion.

Nguyen says he personally favors light salads for lunch, which is why he included the salad bar.  Pasta, potato, and tuna salads are included, but also Vietnamese-style preparations, like papaya, lotus, and green mustard salads.  Meals are weighed, and paid by the pound.

At the sushi bar, which seats seven, a chef will prepare rolls in front of the customer.  Rolls include avocado, cucumber, tuna, eel, and California, among many others.

Fruit smoothies, teas, and bubble teas feature tropical fruits like passion fruit, kumquat, mango, as well as peach, honeydew, and other fruits.  And there's even one made from durian, a fruit still considered quite peculiar among American tastes.

Vietnam's Pho has been serving the beef noodle soups that are its namesake, among many other Vietnamese dishes, for the past three years in the Strip.

In celebration of their grand opening, items at the Express Bar will be 10% off for the first two weeks. 

Vietnam’s Pho is open 11 A.M. to 9 P.M.; the Express Bar opens earlier, 9 A.M. to 7 P.M.
1627 Penn Avenue, Strip District. 412-281-8881.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Soruce:  Tom Nguyen, Gina Trinh

Little Bangkok Thai restaurant opens in the Strip

The Strip District can now add Thai cuisine to its ever-expanding list of diverse restaurants, as Little Bangkok celebrated a grand opening on Monday. 

Owned by Drew Kessler and Chef Pornpen Thammasaroret, the 60-seat restaurant occupies one-half of the former Sunseri Jimmy & Nino Co. space on Penn Avenue.

Thammasaroret moved to Pittsburgh from Nakorn Pathom, Thailand three years ago, and has worked as a chef at Benihana in Greentree.

Thammasaroret was able to build relationships with customers at that restaurant, where cooking is done tableside.  When customers would ask her where she was from, and learned that she was Thai, they encouraged her to open a shop of her own, cooking the food she was most familiar with.

And so she did.  Thammasaroret says everyone in the Strip District, including neighboring restaurant and shop owners, have been incredibly kind and supportive. 

Thammasaroret says she didn't have to train to become a chef of Thai cuisine because she grew up with it, watching her mother and aunts cook it in the home. 

“I was born with it,” she says with a laugh.

According to Thammasaroret most menu items at Little Bangkok would be eaten in the home in Thailand, but the Bangkok Basil, Pad Phet, and Pad Thai dishes on the menu are especially typical of home cooking.

Thammasaroret says she chose the Strip District because it’s close to everything she needs, and she hopes to use the freshest ingredients every day.

In the near future, Thammasaroret would like to serve traditional Thai breakfast on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, which includes light soups and a Thai-style omelet.

Little Bangkok in the Strip, 1906 Penn Avenue, 15222.  412-586-4107.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Pornpen Thammasaroret

Wigle Whiskey grand opening this Friday, first distillery in Pittsburgh since prohibition

Wigle Whiskey celebrates a grand opening this Friday, offering the public a chance to taste the first Pittsburgh-distilled spirit since prohibition.

Eric Meyer, co-owner of Wigle Whiskey, says the celebration will include a three-in-one tour: a walk through the production space and the entire whiskey process, from grain to bottle; a history of the Whiskey Rebellion, as told through the distillery’s namesake Philip Wigle; and a tasting room primer on how to drink whiskey.  

A whiskey cocktail will kick-off the tour, followed by a tasting of white, un-aged rye and wheat whiskeys.

Since Wigle is new, don’t expect any aged, dark whiskey just yet.  For now, the available whiskey will be un-aged rye (think tequila), and un-aged wheat (buttery and smooth, similar to a wheat beer), both of which Meyer describes as clear, interesting spirits, good for mixing.

“I think people will be pleasantly surprised by how they taste,” he says.

But for those who can’t wait for the traditional aging process, Wigle will soon offer do-it-yourself kits: a bottle of white whiskey and a small, oak barrel.  Meyer says these smaller barrels significantly reduce the aging time, and a dark spirit can be ready in 2-3 months.

Although this Friday’s event is sold out, tours of the grain-to-bottle facility will continue every Saturday and Sunday through December.  Groups are limited to eight participants; register here.

Still pending a label approval from the federal government, Wigle Whiskey will soon be available for purchase online through the state liquor stores, with shipping to your home or nearest state store.

In the meantime, the best way to sample Wigle Whiskey will be the weekend tours ($20), which begin at 2 P.M. on Saturdays and Sundays.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Eric Meyer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Lena Andrews

Sand Presso, Korean-style coffee and sandwich shop, open in the Strip

Sand Presso Coffee and Sandwich Bar, where lattes and espresso are served alongside bulgogi (marinated Korean barbecue) and chicken teriyaki sandwiches, opened recently in the Strip District.

After practicing law together for nearly 20 years, David Kim and Mark Goldstein decided to open this Penn Avenue shop together, located in the storefront below their law office.  Part of a chain that has over 50 locations in Korea, this is the first Sand Presso in the United States.  Kim’s parents, Mr. and Ms. Kim, run the day-to-day operations of the shop.

One reason for opening Sand Presso was to serve as a model for immigrants coming to the United States looking to open a business. Their law firm, Goldstein & Associates, LLC, specializes in immigration and business law.

When entrepreneurs open shops like Sand Presso, it’s not only good for supporting a family, but it contributes valuably to the region, Goldstein says.

“It’s also good for job creation in Pittsburgh,” because each new business will create jobs for U.S. workers, he notes.

Entrepreneurs in different countries have already expressed interest in opening additional Sand Presso shops in the Pittsburgh area.  But international business aside, he says the most important detail is the quality of the food and the coffee.

The shop offers cappuccino, espresso, latte, and regular coffee, among other options.  Teas, fruit smoothies, and hot chocolate are also available.  Along with the bulgogi sandwich are bibimbap -- a traditional Korean dish of rice, vegetables, and egg -- egg salad sandwiches, and other daily specials.

Sand Presso is open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.  1125 Penn Avenue, Strip District, 15222.  412-315-7428.


Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Mark Goldstein

Bar Marco, European-style eatery and wine bar, coming to Strip District

Bar Marco, a new European-style eatery and wine bar planned for the Strip District, held an "Under Construction" party last Friday with live music, art exhibits, and complimentary food and drinks.  The event offered a brief taste of what is to come from Bar Marcos, as well as the work to be done.

Owned by four childhood friends—Justin Steel, Michael Kreha, Kevin Cox, and Bobby Fry—the Greensburg-Salem High School graduates hope to create a warm and lively atmosphere influenced by the wine bars of Italy and Spain.

“It should be a real community centered space, with lots of conversation when you come in,” vinyl records playing, and hearty street food, Fry says.

Menu items will include what Fry calls Bar Marco’s specialty, arancini—fried rice balls, often stuffed with mozzarella cheese—sausage and meatballs over polenta, fresh roasted vegetable salads, and paninis.  Fry says the eatery will source from Strip District and Pittsburgh vendors, including Parma Sausage and the Crested Duck Charcuterie. 

The bar will replace the Firehouse Lounge, and Embry, in the former No. 7 Engine Co. building.  Renovations for the new space include the removal of partitions and the tented deck which had been constructed on the building's eastern wall. In place of the deck, Fry says a cast-iron courtyard is planned, to feature grapevines, an herb garden, and outdoor seating.

Fry and Kreha have both recently returned to Pittsburgh from New York City.  The two friends had considered opening a wine store in that city, but encouraged by the rapidly expanding food scene in Pittsburgh, decided to start a business here instead.

Fry says each partner brings a different skill set to the project.  Kreha, who has worked as a designer and architect, is designer and general contractor for the building’s renovations.  Cox and Fry will both have management roles, as well as kitchen and bartending duties.  And Steel will be the restaurants chef.

The group plans to open the first floor of Bar Marco by mid-November.  For more information call Bobby Fry: 724-875-2738.
 
Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Bobby Fry

Preserve Pittsburgh Summit to engage over 300 students with historic preservation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Dan Holland

Residences at the Strip continues riverfront living

Another residential loft project is planned for the Strip District.  Last week the Urban Redevelopment Authority approved a $1 million Proposal Development Funding loan to Cork Factory developers Chuck Hammel and McCaffey Interests, Inc., which provided the necessary funds to move the project forward.

Residences at the Strip, as the project is being called, will be a continuation of the successful Cork Factory lofts at 2349 Railroad Street.  The Residences project will consist of new construction on a vacant lot between 24th and 25th Streets. 

Mayoral Spokeswoman Marissa Doyle says this project is a continuation of Mayor Ravenstahl’s vision for the Strip District.

“We've seen the success of the first phase of the Cork Factory, so we're very excited about this opportunity to build on it,” Doyle says.  “Something like this really furthers the mayor's vision to connect residents to the riverfront, which has been an ongoing mission of ours.”

The Residences will consist of a four-story building and 96 residential housing units.  Total projects costs are expected to be $18 million.

Doyle links the Residences project with the renovated Otto Milk Building, the original Cork Factory, and the future Buncher riverfront development.  She says these projects are part of Pittsburgh’s Third Renaissance, which is different than those of the past because of the deliberate focus on neighborhoods.

“It really shows a positive shift in the Strip District neighborhood and we really look forward to this new development project building on that momentum,” Doyle says.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Gigi Saladna, URA; Marissa Doyle


Wigle Whiskey brings distillation back to Pittsburgh

The first whiskey distillery since prohibition is set to open in Pittsburgh. Wigle Whiskey, located on Smallman Street in the Strip District, hopes to bring modern innovations to the classic beverage, while respecting the rich tradition of Pennsylvanian distilleries.

"Our challenge is Pittsburgh's challenge," says Eric Meyer, who co-owns Wigle Whiskey with his father, Mark Meyer. "We want to embrace the past but we also have to adapt to the modern age that we live in."

Wigle Whiskey will be a grain to bottle distillery, using only local, organic grains. Meyer says tours of the distillery will be given, allowing customers to taste, touch, and smell the whiskey in all stages of production.

Wigle has partnered with EDGE studio and MM Marra Construction to design and build an environment that will be welcoming for whiskey newcomers, Meyer says. Bright orange, green, and blue colors are used in the distillery, as a direct contrast to the dark hues often found on mainstream whiskey labels.

Although whiskey is most often associated with Kentucky, Meyer says the Pittsburgh region played an important role in developing the beverage, as evidenced by the Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s. Paying homage to that history, Wigle Whiskey is named after Philip Wigle, an important figure in the whiskey-tax uprising.

The building which houses the distillery was most recently an engine repair shop. But years ago, the warehouse was connected via an underground tunnel to the Phoenix Brewery just across Smallman Street. Meyer says in this way, the building is returning to a historical use.

The family-owned business will also serve as a museum of the Whiskey Rebellion, told through the experiences of Philip Wigle. Tours of the distillery will be given Thursday through Sunday.

Meyer hopes to be fully operational by the fall, once the necessary federal and state permits have been received.


Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Eric Meyer, Wigle Whiskey




Floral company greenSinner grows sustainable cut flowers

In the world of cut flowers, being environmentally conscious can be a difficult task. Flowers are often sprayed with chemicals and flown half-way around the world before a florist can turn those petals into a tasteful arrangement. But Jimmy Lohr and Jonathan Weber are hoping to change that, at least a little, by locally sourcing as many flowers as possible for their new greenSinner floral & garden company.

Weber says finding a variety of local flowers is easy this time of year in Pittsburgh. In addition to their own small-scale growing operation, many regional farms grow flowers and sell to a local distributor. But then there are some flowers, like roses, that Weber says still need to be imported.

"We try to be as green as we can, but we sin when we must," Weber says.

Eventually, greenSinner would like to have a permanent flower-farming operation of their own. But in the meantime, they're making use of underused lawns belonging to friends, family, and local businesses, as well the Healcrest Urban Community Farm in Garfield.

To extend their growing season, greenSinner is looking to utilizing hoop houses and green houses, but also encourage the use of evergreens and potted plants in place of cut flowers during winter months.

In addition to their floral business, Weber says greenSinner hopes to organize a sustainable events community in Pittsburgh, in order to expand green practices to more facets of event planning.

greenSinner is a vendor at the Pittsburgh Public Market, where they sell potted plants, cut flowers, and other garden items. They do flowers for weddings, for homes, Mother's Day bouquets, and flowers for hotels, restaurants, and salons, changing arrangements every two weeks.

See them in the Strip, 2100 Smallman Street; Fridays 10am - 6pm, Saturdays 9am - 5pm, Sundays 10am - 4pm. 412-532-6107.


Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Jonathan Weber


The BeerHive opens craft beer bar in Strip

The BeerHive is Pittsburgh's newest source for craft beers. Owned by three brothers, John Patterson, Will Patterson, and Joe Robl, the BeerHive aims to not just be a bar though, but to fill the craft beer retail market in the Strip District.

"Everybody comes to the Strip to get their finer meats, cheeses, and breads," John Patterson says, "why not get a fine beer to go with dinner that night?"

In addition to their retail selection, the BeerHive offers twelve beers on tap, an extensive bottle list, and a full bar-menu of house-made foods.

The BeerHive is planning to host Texas Hold 'Em tournaments, open mics, and acoustic shows in the coming months. And on their second-story level, a rotating gallery of art called The Buzz features local Pittsburgh artists.
.
And if you want to bring the party home, BeerHive offers mix-and-match six packs, and growlers of any draft beers. In each six pack, you buy only four bottles and get the next two free.

Patterson says within their first four weeks of opening, they have realized a lot of business comes from tourists seeking local products in the Strip, including beer.

"When people come to Pittsburgh they want to drink Pittsburgh beer," Patterson says. "We have a lot of really awesome breweries, and they seem to keep popping up. They make really fine products, and so it's a chance for us to support them, too."

In the next month or so, Patterson says he and his brothers hope to begin serving breakfast on weekends, including Wings and Waffles, mimosas, and craft-brewed breakfast stouts.

Patterson says opening the family-run business has been a lot of work, but that he enjoys working with his brothers. "That's when we are at our best," he says, "when we are working together."


The BeerHive, 2117 Penn Avenue (located in the former Saloon in the Strip building), 412-904-4502

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: John Patterson

Soup Nancys are hot and cold in the Public Market

Despite warm June weather the Soup Nancys are attracting an early following for their homemade soups at the Pittsburgh Public Market. And although they're offering inventive hot meals, on a recent Saturday a bowl of chilled spring pea and mint soup was a lesson in how to eat cool in the summertime.

Owners Linzee Mihalcin and Sara Raszewski made their debut in the market just two months ago. Their soups change frequently, but recent selections include artichoke bisque, Thai hot and sour, shitake egg drop, and sweet potato with roasted peppers and lime.

Raszewski says they place a heavy emphasis on locally sourced ingredients, and often feature produce from fellow Public Market vendors such as Goosecreek Farms, Morning Dew Orchard, and the Berry Patch.

The two began planning Soup Nancys just over a year ago. Raszewski says the business model of the Public Markets allows entrepreneurs an option for starting a business without needing large amounts of start-up capital.

And Raszewski is as eager to see the Public Market succeed as she is her own business. "I think Pittsburgh needs something like this," she says. "It's a more low risk way to start a business."

Mihalcin says for a new business, being in the market might actually be a better option than owning your own space. "You can't really beat the traffic in here," she says. "You might have your own store front, but you won't have the foot traffic."

Linzee's husband, Matt Mihalcin, built their vending space at the market using butcher block counters, and other light-colored woods. The space is warm and welcoming, and pulls people in for conversations.

"We're good at cooking and entertaining," Mihalcin says. "It's like somebody's home kitchen."

"I'd say we're pretty darn good home cooks," Raszewski says.

Soup Nancys are at the Pittsburgh Public Market, in the Strip District, Friday 10-6, Saturday 9-5, and Sunday 10-4.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Linzee Mihalcin and Sara Raszewski

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

Dreadnought Wines introduces new multimedia classroom and educational opportunities

Dreadnought Wines, the Strip District's purveyors of gourmet wine from around the world, has just finished construction on a new classroom space within their store at 2013 Penn Avenue, and will be expanding their famous wine classes for novices and veterans alike with exciting new multi-media tools, added programming, and certification opportunities.

"The new space will hold 33 students in classroom style, but we can configure it for whatever a particular instructor wants," says Deb Mortillaro, co-owner of Dreadnought Wines. "We'll have a 62" flat screen television for PowerPoint demonstrations and instructional videos. We'll also have our wine display with wine from different regions up against the wall."

The room will enable added daytime classes for the public, as well as private corporate events. The first session in the new room will be the Young Wine Makers class tomorrow evening from 6 to 8 p.m. for $50, where a wide variety of innovative blends and varietals made by the next generation of wine enthusiasts will be sampled and discussed. Click here to view the calendar of upcoming classes, taught by the seasoned expertise of Mortillaro and co-owner Mike Gonze, as well as a number of guest expert lecturers.

In addition to the expanded class offerings, Dreadnought is working with WinePicks on an iPad app that will display their current selection of wines with detailed information about each bottle. In the near future, they will plan to offer a program to qualify people for the prestigious Wine and Spirits Education Trust Certification.

"The Wine and Spirits Education Trust is a group out of London and they have several levels of certifications. We're discovering that because the sophistication of the restaurant business here in Pittsburgh is really rising, this qualification is going to become more and more important in the restaurant industry," says Mortillaro.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Deb Mortillaro, Dreadnought Wines

Photograph copyright John Farley

City introduces 20 year Allegheny Riverfront Vision Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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


From industry to community: Rethinking the Allegheny riverfront

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perkins Eastman suggests to:

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

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

Image courtesy Allegheny Riverfront Vision plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Julia DiNardo, Neighbor Teaze

Image courtesy of Neighbor Teaze


21st Street Coffee and Tea caffeinates and educates at new Three PNC Plaza spot

It's not that your coffee is bad. It's just that you don't know better. Yet.

21st Street Coffee and Tea wants to help.

The independent coffee bar opened its new Downtown space a couple weeks ago in the ground floor of Three PNC Plaza, Pittsburgh's newest mixed-use high-rise. And owners Luke and Alexis Shaffer are busy getting Downtown caffeine-seekers up to speed. Everything is made-to-order, including that regular ol' cup of Joe. Customers can order by bean type (all Direct Trade), and by preparation method (pour-over, Chemex, espresso machine or the super hi-tech Clover).

Orders are more like conversations. Noticeably absent from the dialogue are phrases like "sugar-free frozen caramel mocha with extra whipped cream." Instead, the Shaffers discuss filters, temperatures, how long to let black tea steep versus green, the farms from which the beans come, and how coffee, when grown, roasted and served expertly, tastes more like a naturally sweet fruit than the astringent stuff you drip brew in your kitchen before full consciousness.

The Shaffers, who started 21st Street when they returned to Pittsburgh from New York City, are both former engineers. They bring the same precision and seriousness of constructing a bridge to constructing the perfect cup of coffee.

21st Street maintains its flagship location (established 2006) on 21st and Smallman Streets in the Strip District, and before opening the Three PNC spot, served coffee in the Frick Building, Downtown.

Like its Strip location, the Downtown 21st Street serves a selection of baked goods from Priory Fine Pastries on the North Side and Colangelo's in the Strip. The small street-level Downtown storefront -- with light blue walls and polished concrete floors -- faces a concrete courtyard that edges Fifth Avenue and Larrimor's clothing store, which recently relocated to One PNC Plaza. Architect Todd Demangone assisted the Shaffers with their design concept.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Luke and Alexis Shaffer, owners, 21st Street Coffee and Tea

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green


The kind of bug you wanna catch: Pittsburgh Flea launches in Strip District

CLP receives nearly $500,00 in grants Pittsburgh's massive citywide outdoor flea market is opening this weekend.

The Pittsburgh Flea will run 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Sunday from April 18 through Nov. 14, 2010 at 21st and Railroad Streets in the Strip District.

Pittsburgh Flea founder Janis Surman says the response to the weekly market has been overwhelming.

"Everyone just keeps gushing, 'Thank you, thank you.' You would think I just fed a starving nation," Surman says. "It's flea frenzy. There's been so much interest. We've got more than 230 vendors for opening day! I'm wait-listing vendors."

Surman says many vendors have committed to being anchors for the season, but weekly tables are still available for $40 each Sunday. There are also special package rates available.

Shoppers can expect antiques and crafts, from original art to reconstructed home furnishings, from vintage tees to all-natural cosmetics and beauty products

And, of course, there will be food and drink. Look for La Peri Dolci biscotti and macaroons, Thai food from Highland Park's Smiling Banana Leaf, Fudgelicious, Mercurio's Mulberry Creamery, T Hill's Smokehouse BBQ & Grill, Franktuary hot dogs, Goodie Truck treats, and more. DJ J. Malls from Title Town Soul & Funk Party & Jerry's Records will be spinning tunes on Sunday, too.

The Flea's neighbor in purpose and location, Pittsburgh Public Market, is expected to open this summer in the Produce Terminal on Smallman Street between 18th and 19th Streets. That market will host about 42 vendors of fresh produce, prepared foods and crafts, and will be open Friday through Sunday each week. It will also include space for cooking demonstrations and community events.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Janis Surman, Pittsburgh Flea

Image courtesy Pittsburgh Flea


Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre breaks ground on student housing in Lawrenceville

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph courtesy of PBT


Enrico Biscotti to open Highland Park location

Come spring, Highland Park might as well be called the "Enrico's district" of the city.

Already a gathering spot for coffee-lovers thanks to Amy Enrico's Tazza D'Oro, the neighborhood is now welcoming Enrico Biscotti (no relation) to its Bryant Street business corridor. The Strip District staple plans to open its secondary location the first weekend in March at 5904 Bryant St., previously occupied by restaurant Reynolds on Bryant.

The location is across the street from Thai darling the Smiling Banana Leaf, and from where Point Brugge owner Jesse Seager is completing a $2.5 million property renovation with plans to open his Park Bruges bistro in the spring.

Chef Kate Romane says Enrico Biscotti is still deciding exactly how to use its new space, which seats about 50 and will include a bit of outdoor dining once the weather warms up. The location will definitely sell its namesake biscotti and be open for weekend brunch, and its ample kitchen will be the site of much wholesale baking and Flying Biscotti Catering work. The location's basement area may be used as a banquet room, and also in some capacity for Carlo's Garage Winery, which currently operates out of the Strip District's garage.

Though Enrico's Highland Park location will not officially open until March, it already opened its doors during last week's blizzard. For two particularly snowbound days, the cafe set up a sort of high-class soup kitchen, serving neighbors free, fresh helpings of homemade focaccia, beans and greens, and soup (pasta e fagioli, lentil veal, carrot ginger). The response was better than anticipated, says Romane--some 60 folks showed up to welcome the new eatery, finding out about it through Facebook, Twitter and word-of-mouth alone.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Kate Romane, Enrico Biscotti

Photograph courtesy Enrico Biscotti


Pittsburgh Flea to bring food, crafts, finds to Strip District starting in April

Pittsburgh is getting a massive outdoor urban flea market this spring.

Pittsburgh Flea will start April 18 in the Strip District, at 21st and Railroad Streets. The event will run every Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Nov. 14, 2010--rain or shine.

The market will host about 120 individual vendors selling antiques, collectibles, handcrafted jewelry, vintage clothing, art and fresh produce and artisanal foods.

Pittsburgh Flea founder Janis Surman says the market will appeal to Pittsburghers' desire for things that are good for the environment and their personal finances. The market will present shoppers with fun, frugal opportunities to reuse and repurpose goods, from mid-century furniture to toys from their grandfather's youth, and to explore some of the region's food and craft finds.

Lots of vendors have already committed to the seasonal event, says Surman, including Franktuary, Zum Zum Pierogies, Mercurio's Mulberry Creamery gelato, Pretzel Crazy confectionery-covered carbs, My Goodies vegan bakery and The Goodie Truck. And to tempt your wallet: Third-Day Luxury Soaps & Healing Gardens, Joyful Noise Studio art, vintage recycled birdbaths by Foxglove Woodland Studio, Catherine's Creations jewelry and many more.

Surman was recently laid off from a high-ranking corporate position after 17 years with AT&T, and found herself looking for that "what's next" thing. She decided to offer a service that could provide a livelihood for herself as well as other small business owners, entrepreneurs and artisans.

"In this economy I see a flea market in the Strip as a win/win for everyone," says Surman. "Flea markets are a little economic engine all their own. I've always loved the quirky stuff you can find at flea markets, not to mention the prices. And I was shocked when it hit me that Pittsburgh didn't really have a centrally located, downtown flea market. The time has really come."

Surman decided to hold the Pittsburgh Flea in the Strip District because it is so centrally located, and is already a weekend destination for locals and visitors alike. The flea is also going to be held quite close to the Produce Terminal (on Smallman Street between 18th and 19th Streets), where the Pittsburgh Public Market will open this spring. That market will host about 42 vendors of fresh produce, prepared foods and crafts, and will be open Friday through Sunday each week. It will also include space for cooking demonstrations and community events.

Surman has worked closely with Neighbors in the Strip to ensure that the Pittsburgh Flea and the Pittsburgh Public Market do not replicate services, but instead, work together to create an economic and entertainment hub in the Strip District.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Janis Surman, Pittsburgh Flea

Image courtesy of Pittsburgh Flea


Heat Nightclub aims to make Strip District all-night clubbing destination for all

The Strip District's welcoming its newest nightlife destination, Heat Nightclub, which hopes to host fun-lovers of all sorts.

The nightclub will feature an 18-and-over section to appeal to students from Pittsburgh's numerous college campuses, as well as two stories of 21-and-over drinking and dancing for gay and straight club-goers alike, says club director Ryan Skyy. Since Pittsburgh's oldest gay and lesbian nightclub Pegasus Lounge closed a couple months ago, Skyy says Pittsburgh's nightlife has been lacking. So why not create a new club that cuts across preconceived barriers? Pittsburgh's ready, Skyy says, for Heat's male and female go-go dancers, and drag queen-emceed talent competitions.

"We're doing some things that are pretty progressive for Pittsburgh," says Skyy, a musician who worked at Station Square's Bar Room with other members of Heat's new management team. "The club motto is, 'Wear what you want; be who you want.' We want Heat to be the club for everybody, to bridge between the gay bar scene and the straight bar scene. "

In addition to appealing to Pittsburghers across spectrums of sexuality and age, Heat also hopes to appeal to both early birds and all-night party people. The club plans to open a Nakama-style sushi restaurant and lounge on its first floor, and hopes to get its after-hours license by late April.

"The Strip District used to be the place to be, but it kind of died down," says Skyy. "But the Strip is going through a renaissance right now. We realized there are a lot of developments happening in the area, a lot of high-end lofts, the Right By Nature, the Pittsburgh Opera building. We see a future for nightlife in the Strip, and want to get in on it."

Heat, at 108 19th St. between Smallman Street and Penn Avenue, is described by its management as an upscale, L.A. or Los Vegas-type club with posh, all-white décor accented with pops or red and visual projections. The 1,200-person capacity nightclub is opening in the spot previously occupied by Pure and Moto nightclubs.

Heat hosted a New Year's Eve preview party (through only word-of-mouth and guerrilla marketing, it attracted more than 800 club-goers), and is celebrating its grand opening Fri., Jan. 29 with hosts Ruthie and JD from MTV's The Real World.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Ryan Skyy, Heat Nightclub

Photograph courtesy of Heat Nightclub



Tree Tender course returns: Get in on greening Pittsburgh one street tree at a time

Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest is bringing back its popular Tree Tender course, which has certified more than 600 stewards in its three years of existence.

Registration is now open online for the 2010 course, which starts in mid-February and costs $40. A reduced rate option is available.

The course will offer sessions in the Strip District, Larimer, Greenfield, Mt. Washington and Riverview Park. The sessions will train residents in tree biology, structure and function, and teach the basics of tree planting, pruning and care. After completing the course, Tree Tenders can work in their communities to plant, care for and prune young trees.

Pittsburgh had about 30,000 street trees in 2005, the year of the most recent inventory. More than 3,000 of those trees have been removed due to disease, vandalism or neglect, and thousands more are at risk of being removed if they do not receive much-needed care. Organizations such as Friends and TreeVitalize (a partnership of several organization, including Friends, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, DCNR, the city and the country) are working to preserve and replenish the urban forest, and they rely on volunteers--such as trained Tree Tenders--to do much of the community work.

Caitlin Lenahan, with Friends, says Pittsburgh residents stand to benefit in numerous ways from investing in tending to their neighborhoods' urban forests: Other than just beauty, Lenahan points to studies that say street trees slow down and calm traffic, making streets safer. Also, streets with trees have higher property values, which impact not only home sales, but also retail sales--customers are willing to pay more for goods and services when there are street trees. Additionally, street trees have a huge impact on the environment--Pittsburgh in particular, with its sewage overflow, can benefit from fewer hard surfaces and more landscaping that absorbs stormwater, Lenahan stresses.

Treevalize has planted about 4,500 trees since 2008 with the help of nearly 2,000 volunteers. The goal is to plant 20,000 trees by 2012. To meet that goal, about 2,500 trees must get planted this spring in the Pittsburgh area, says Lenahan. Programs like Friends' Tree Tenders course help make possible that goal.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Caitlin Lenahan, education and outreach coordinator, Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest

Photograph courtesy of Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest


Last piece of funding approved for $1.3M Strip District public market

The Strip District is one step closer to getting its long-awaited public market.

Last week, the Urban Redevelopment Authority approved a $100,000 grant that will help make improvements to the market's future site at the Produce Terminal on Smallman Street between 18th and 19th Streets. The URA grant is the last piece of funding for the project, which is totaling about $1.275 million.

The Pittsburgh Public Market is designed by Indovina Associates Architects, which also designed the Otto Milk Building Condominiums. The market will occupy about 6,500 square feet of the now-raw warehouse space. Renovations will include adding electricity, ceiling fans and heating, lighting and security systems. Glass garage doors have also been proposed, and are awaiting historic review approval. These improvements should get underway in February, and the market is expected to open in late April or early May, says Cindy Cassell with Neighbors in the Strip, which has been working on bringing the idea to fruition since 2001.

"Large public markets really are local landmarks in most cities," says Cassell. "The Strip District has a lot of products a public market has, but when you're in a privately owned property, it's different. In a public market, we'll have community programming spaces so we can do demonstrations, classes and cultural celebrations."

The Pittsburgh Public Market will have space for 42 vendors, ranging from fresh and prepared foods to arts and crafts to local, seasonal produce. So far, vendors will include: 21st Street Coffee and Tea, Elysian Fields Farm, Pittsburgh Candy Buffet, Tracy's Treats natural skincare products and more. The market will be open Friday through Sunday each week.

Pittsburgh Public Market is being made possible through funding through the URA, a Department of Community and Economic Development Grant from Rep. Don Walko and Governor Rendell, a federal Health & Human Services Grant (the market will create about 100 new jobs, including jobs for low-income individuals), the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development, the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh, and the Richard King Mellon Foundation.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Cindy Cassell, economic development and market manager, Neighbors in the Strip

Image courtesy of Indovina Associates Architects


A place for smiles: Eat'n Park constructs first LEED-built restaurant in city

Eat'n Park has announced it's breaking ground this month on a new Fox Chapel restaurant. The location, which is scheduled to open May 2010 in the Waterworks shopping plaza, will be the first LEED-built restaurant in the city of Pittsburgh, and the second in Allegheny County, according to Eat'n Park officials.

The restaurant's design will feature outdoor seating and a drive-up window. Green elements include Energy Star equipment, recycled building materials and a solar reflective roof that minimizes heat gain, as well as lots of natural light, energy-efficient lighting and parking spots reserved for carpooling and low-emissions vehicles.

Eat'n Park is shooting for LEED Silver certification, and potentially reaching for Gold, depending on costs, says Andy Dunmire, vice president of design and construction. This will be Eat'n Park's first LEED-built restaurant; however, others have been retrofitted with green elements, says Dunmire.

Green building design is just one component of Eat'n Park's green initiatives, says Jamie Moore, Eat'n Park's director of sourcing and sustainability. The company has taken other eco-friendly steps, such as eliminating placemats to reduce waste; seeking local and artisanal produce, dairy, meats and baked goods (working with Harvest Valley Farms in Gibsonia and Parma Sausage in the Strip District, among others); and converting fryer oil into biodiesel fuel (since 2004, almost 120,000 gallons have been converted).

For 2010, Eat'n Park is focusing on expanding recycling efforts, which means more recycling dumpsters at more locations. Eat'n Park is also working with students at Duquesne University's Sustainable MBA program to determine the carbon footprint of several restaurant locations, says Moore.

The Eat'n Park Hospitality Group was founded in 1949 as a family car-hop, and now includes Eat'n Park Restaurants, Parkhurst Dining Services, CURA Hospitality and Six Penn Kitchen.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Andy Dunmire, vice president of design and construction, and Jamie Moore, director of sourcing and sustainability, Eat'n Park

Image courtesy of Eat'n Park Hospitality Group


PBT, CLO purchase properties for housing students, building sets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph of Mame production courtesy of CLO


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green


With 200 additional racks, city nearly doubles bike parking spaces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph courtesy City of Pittsburgh


Strip District sees new historic loft apartments, condo groundbreaking

Residential living is flourishing in the Strip District with the opening of a new loft apartment building and the groundbreaking on new historic condominiums.

31st Street Lofts, located at 3080 Smallman St., features 14 for-rent loft units in a former schoolhouse. The building, which was constructed in 1871, last served as an educational facility in 1934, and has been used as a warehouse and as Crucible Steel Company's administrative headquarters over the years. In 2000, it was purchased by Bonn and Art McSorley, who leased its spacious showrooms to interior design and decorative accessory retailers. The McSorleys then made the decision to convert the building into housing. The $3 million renovations were designed by architect Vince Finizio, and Bridges Construction served as the contractor. Prices go from $1,350 for a one-bedroom to $1,575 for a two-bedroom. Two apartments have been rented, and a grand opening celebration will be held Nov. 10.

The nearly 40,000-square-foot, four-story building (with a full basement that includes a wine cellar) features original hardwood floors, 12-foot-high ceilings, in-unit laundry facilities and green elements such as Energy Star appliances, non-VOC paints, energy-efficient lighting and bike racks. Each unit is different: Some have bathrooms where fireproof concrete vaults used to be, others have two levels of lofted space and all have views packed with distinctive Pittsburgh landmarks (Polish Hill's church, Downtown's skyline, the Allegheny River).

Bonn McSorley says most interest, so far, has come from young professionals and empty-nesters who are "tired of suburban living" and ready to reconnect with the city and one another.

In addition to the 31st Street Lofts, the Otto Milk Condominiums are adding to the Strip District's residential options. Construction broke ground earlier this week on the $19 million rehabilitation of the historic Otto Milk Building at 25th and Smallman Streets. The structure was built in 1865 and formerly housed to two brewing companies and the Otto "Milk" Company. It will be transformed into 56 condos and two commercial spaces by developer Jack Benoff, president of Solara Ventures, which previously rehabbed 17 condos at 941 Penn Ave., Downtown.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Bonn McSorley, 31st Street Lofts; Joanna Doven, city of Pittsburgh

Photograph courtesy 31st Street Lofts


Tazza D'Oro and 21st St. Coffee expand to Carnegie Mellon and 3 PNC

Both Tazza D'Oro and 21st Street Coffee and Tea are expanding by collaborating with high-profile Pittsburgh institutions.

Tazza D'Oro, which has established a deep-rooted coffee culture in Highland Park, is opening its second location at Carnegie Mellon University's new Gates/Hillman Center. The cafe is celebrated for its locally sourced and vegetarian food, and single-origin coffees prepared by highly trained baristas. The spot in CMU's $98.6 million computer science center, which was dedicated in September, will employ 10 new baristas (who were hired and trained over the summer) and seat about 80 people. It is expected to open the middle of next week.

21st Street will open its third location on the ground floor of Three PNC Plaza, Pittsburgh latest high-rise, which will house PNC and Reed Smith law offices, as well as luxury condos and the four-star Fairmont Hotel. The independent coffeehouse, which focuses on no-nonsense, high-quality beverages (direct-trade coffees, organic teas, local milk and more), maintains its flagship location at 21st and Smallman Streets in the Strip District, as well as a coffeebar in the Frick Building, Downtown. Owner Luke Shaffer says he and his wife Alexis submitted a proposal to PNC back in March 2008, and found out in May 2009 their proposal had been accepted over at least a dozen other interested parties, including national names.

The 600-square-foot PNC location will have seating for about a dozen customers. It is still under construction, and Shaffer anticipates opening in December.

Three PNC is such an ideal location for 21st Street, says Shaffer, because it is so accessible to all those who work, live and play Downtown.

"The area is really shaping up," says Shaffer. "The Fairmont Hotel is going to be the nicest hotel in the city, there are so many condos around and high-end retailers like Larrimor's are going in, too. There is a lot of competition in that area in terms of places you can go to purchase something called 'coffee,' but as we've learned in the Strip, each is unique, with its own followers and own niche."

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Luke Shaffer, 21st Street Coffee and Tea

Photograph of Tazza D'Oro shaping up on CMU's campus courtesy of Tazza D'Oro


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


Changes in store for upper, lower Squirrel Hill

Squirrel Hill, like any neighborhood, is changing.

The business corridor along Forbes and Murray Avenues is seeing some longstanding shops go out, and new shops going in; and plans are shaping up for revitalization along the lower portion of Murray Avenue, closer to Forward Avenue and the Parkway exit.

It was announced last week the Barnes & Noble bookseller, which occupies two floors at 1723 Murray Ave., will be closing this winter. The large store was an anchor of sorts for the business district, and had shared that block with Panera Bread, which closed last month and is currently vacant. Some new businesses for the area include: independent denim retailer Zipper Blues in the former spot of Cheryl W boutique (now in Point Breeze), a frozen yogurt shop near the flagship Dozen location, and an art gallery on Forbes Avenue.

Further down Murray Avenue, change is under way in the form of a "Gateway" study commissioned by the Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition (SHUC). The $12,000 study completed last year--by Strip District-based architecture/urban design firm Rothschild Doyno Collaborative and landscape architecture firm Pashek Associates--highlights the important role this area plays in welcoming people into the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, and makes recommendations on improving pedestrian safety and wayfinding, incorporating public art, and adding new lighting and greenery. The study was made possible through a grant from the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh.

"Squirrel Hill is one of the most stable neighborhoods in the city. It's a great example of how neighborhoods should be," says Steven G. Hawkins with SHUC. "The business district is within walking distance of a great number of homes, and there is a variety of housing types, which creates a diverse population. After all these years, it's time to do something to make the entrance better represent the neighborhood."

Currently, a mural is being completed on the side of Alan's Pet Shop at 2229 Murray Ave., and SHUC is looking at adding bike racks and trash cans, and has made a request to Councilman Doug Shields to include new street lights in the 2010 budget. SHUC is also working to plant between 40 and 50 trees along Murray Avenue in the spring as part of the TreeVitalize program.

The "Gateway" study's most significant component is a proposed median with trees and lighting on Forward Avenue between the Parkway and the major Murray Avenue intersection. Plans for that construction project are still in design and funding, and years from completion.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Steven G. Hawkins, Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition

Image courtesy of Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition


Connections made for cyclists along city streets, county trails

Pittsburgh is getting a lot more accessible to cyclists thanks to bike markings in the city streets, and trail completion along the Great Allegheny Passage.

The goal, says Scott Bricker with Bike Pittsburgh, is to create a citywide network so cyclists can navigate between where they live, work and play without getting behind the wheel.

About a week-and-a-half ago, Forbes Avenue--just east of Carnegie Mellon University up to Murdoch Road--got designated bike lanes as well as shared lane markings, or "sharrows," where the street is not wide enough or there is a steep downhill. The area also features new curb bump-outs, which slow traffic. The Forbes Avenue bike markings connect some existing bike lanes--those striped over the summer on Beacon and Wightman Streets, as well as the bike lanes on Schenley Drive and Beechwood Boulevard. Plans, according to Bike Pittsburgh, are to continue the markings through Frick Park and up to S. Braddock Avenue.

Other new markings include those along Penn Avenue in the Strip District, which received its sharrows connecting Penn to Liberty Avenue's bike lanes in August.

"What we're seeing now is the result of some concentrated efforts from Bike Pittsburgh and the city's bike/ped coordinator and traffic engineers to try to get some paint on the pavement and get work done before the weather changes," says Bricker. "We're trying to create a unified bike transportation system around the city. The idea is that one day they'll all connect."

Until about two years ago, Pittsburgh's only bike lanes were in and around the parks, says Bricker. But bicycles, he says, are more than recreation--they are also transportation, a way to get around the city efficiently and, increasingly, safely.

For those looking for recreational cycling, the Great Allegheny Passage is another step closer to completion. On Friday, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato opened the newest stretch of the 335-mile biking and hiking trail that stretches from Downtown's Point State Park to Washington, D.C. The newest stretch is a mile-long length of trail in Duquesne, Pa. that includes a 60-foot tunnel. With the opening of this new stretch, trail users will be better able to use the Riverton Bridge, a 1,200-foot span that carries the Great Allegheny Passage across the Monongahela River between McKeesport and Duquesne.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Scott Bricker, Bike Pittsburgh; Kevin Evanto, Allegheny County

Photograph courtesy of Bike Pittsburgh


Dean Supply provides products for restaurant pros, home chefs

The Strip District--Pittsburgh's irrefutable "foodie" destination--now has another spot for those who love to cook and eat.

Restaurant supply company Dean Supply opened in June, and hosted its grand opening over the weekend at 3300 Penn Ave., on the Lawrenceville-side of the Strip District, across the street from vintage shop Hollywood Rag, which opened last month.

Dean Supply offers thousands of items, such as closeouts, china, glassware, flatware, party supplies, paper products, janitorial supplies, kitchen utensils, smallwares and new and used equipment. It is open to the food service industry as well as the public, and provides free customer parking--a rarity in the Strip.

"After one visit, you'll never both going to a 'party store' ever again. The low prices and high quality guarantee that your parties will be kicked up a notch," says Cindy Helffrich from Neighbors in the Strip. "It's also a great place to spice up your dinnerware affordably, and to equip your home kitchen in a professional manner."

Dean Supply features a 10,000-square-foot showroom, and has created 21 new jobs. Dean Supply is always accepting applications from qualified individuals, says co-owner Matt Cozza.

Dean Supply is owned and operated by brothers Craig and Matt Cozza, and Dennis Savinda. It is located in a property that previously housed a restaurant supply shop. That business--Lewis Brothers--was founded in 1937 and closed about a year ago. Unlike Dean Supply, Lewis Brothers was not accessible to the public. The Cozza brothers did extensive renovations to make the space more visitor-friendly. Dean Supply still employs many of Lewis Brothers' experienced managers and staff.

Dean Supply has a license through Dean Supply of Cleveland, which enables the store to purchase items at a significant discount over retail prices, and pass the savings onto the customers, says Cozza.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Cindy Helffrich, Neighbors in the Strip; Matt Cozza, Dean Supply

Photography copyright Caralyn Green


Construction association completes renovations of new headquarters

It's a tired saying, but it doesn't make it any less true: You've got to practice what you preach.

And as Master Builders' Association (MBA) members are responsible for 90 percent of the square footage of LEED-certified buildings in the Greater Pittsburgh region, it was time for MBA to go green.

The contractor association has completed renovations of its new Green Tree headquarters, and is expecting to receive LEED Gold certification, the second highest rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. Green elements include a sophisticated air ventilation system, motion sensors to reduce energy consumption and new exterior walls and windows for proper insulation.

The two-story, 10,000-square-foot building at 631 Iron City Drive was designed by Strip District-based Rothschild Doyno Collaborative, and the contractor was F.J. Busse Company, Inc., which Jon O'Brien with MBA says has a "forte in interior build-outs." The project was 100 percent union-built, and finished on time, says O'Brien.

MBA purchased the building in 2007, after about 30 years in a property it owned at the corner of Poplar Street and Noblestown Road that is now occupied by a Rite Aid. MBA employees moved into the new offices in May 2009 after extensive renovations to the building that was originally constructed in the 1970s.

"We totally gutted it down to the steel," says O'Brien. "We wanted a state-of-the-art building our members and industry in general would be proud of. We wanted to show the region in the appropriate way."

The first floor houses MBA nonprofit Christmas in July and its three staff members, as well as a large conference center that can seat up to 80. The second floor houses offices for six MBA employees.

MBA will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house celebration on Thursday from 3:30 to 8 p.m.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Jon O'Brien, Master Builders' Association

Photograph courtesy Master Builders' Association


Park(ing) Day transforms car spots into public spaces

Some of the city's parking spots are getting new occupants come Friday. Gone will be the quarter-chewing gas guzzlers, and in their place… Sod. Potted plants. Benches. Bocce. Suits reading newspapers, and lunch-breakers debating Steelers strategy.

With the intention of raising awareness about the importance of public spaces, Park(ing) Day is temporarily transforming some of Pittsburgh's parking spots into public parks.

This will be the second year Pittsburgh is participating in the annual, one-day international event that started in San Francisco in 2005.

Last year, more then 20 parks were created in various neighborhoods by artists, activists and citizens. Highlights included a bike rental area by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Councilman Patrick Dowd and Bike Pittsburgh's Scott Bricker; a sod-covered car in Oakland by artist Sean Derry; and a five-spot space (with a makeshift bocce court) at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, donated by the Trust for Public Land, which was hosting its conference during the event.

"Imagine how different the city would be if we used parking spots for parks instead," says Andrea Lavin, an event organizer. "In New York they were able to close down Times Square and make it pedestrian. They took back the space from the cars and give it back to the people. The event is about acknowledging that the best way to build cities is not to build them for cars, but for the multiple ways people get around."

Interested participants are urged to contact event organizers. This year's Park(ing) Day is organized by the Mattress Factory, the Office of Public Art and the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh.

A map of park locations will be posted on Park(ing) Day's blog the day of the event.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Andrea Lavin, Community Design Center of Pittsburgh; Emily Craig, Mattress Factory

Photograph courtesy Timothy Burak


Hollywood Rag: Buy, sell and trade in the Strip District

In the last five years, 3232 Penn Ave. in the Strip District has been filled with cubicles, paintings and, now, vintage clothing. All under the same ownership.

Buy-sell-trade shop Hollywood Rag opened, under the tutelage of Josh Freedman, in late August in a 750-square-foot space on the Lawrenceville edge of the Strip District.

When Strip District resident Freedman first got into the Penn Ave. space, he was running Freedman Capital Group, a mortgage brokerage firm that employed 17 and closed between $4 and $6 million a month across the U.S. The economy being what it is, Freedman shut down and let everyone go in August 2008, and decided to convert the office into an art gallery. Freebird Gallery hosted one show in October 2008. The show--by Emmeric James Konrad, who painted all the tables and walls at Lawrenceville's Remedy Restaurant and Lounge--sold out.

After executing the Freebird Gallery concept, Freedman set off on a cross-country trip, hitting all the major cities, and getting ideas for what to do next. The one thing that popped out?

"All major cities have great vintage shops," says Freedman.

Taking inspiration from thrift chain Buffalo Exchange, Freedman converted the once-office, once-gallery into Hollywood Rag, the kind of place where high-quality clothes and accessories are cheap and plentiful, and you can turn a profit on your gently worn wardrobe. Right now, Freedman's giving store credit on goods, but will start to deal in cash in a few months.

Down the line, Freedman sees himself establishing a cool laundromat-café, inspired by San Francisco's BrainWash, in the vacant storefront next door.

"Right now, there's no connection between the Strip and Lawrencville," says Freedman, who's trying to change that.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Josh Freedman, Hollywood Rag

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green


Art crawls further down Penn Ave. with Fast>>Fwd Gallery

Craig Freeman Smith and Joseph Materkowski never intended to open an art gallery. But then, when they were browsing Craigslist for a space to do some painting, they came across 3700 Penn Ave., a preexisting storefront gallery previously used as Penn Gallery, and as a studio by media artist Bill Shannon.

The lighting was in place, the walls were clean and white and the 500-square-foot location was perfectly situated on Penn Avenue between Lawrenceville and the Strip District. It's further down than Penn Avenue's main arts district, which runs along the Garfield/Friendship divide, but Fast>>Fwd Gallery is very much a part of that initiative.

The gallery participates in Unblurred First Friday events, and even hosted its opening through Unblurred on Aug. 7. The first show, a group exhibition called "Debut," features small paintings and drawings by many of Freeman Smith's peers from California University of Pennsylvania (he graduated from Cal U with a BFA in painting in December 2008, and Materkowsky graduated from the New York Academy of Art with an MFA in painting, too). The next show, called "Lots of Pulp," will feature works on paper by artists in Pittsburgh and New York, and opens Sept. 4.

"Having your own gallery helps you in the art world," says Freeman Smith. "It lets people know you exist and helps you promote other artists."

One artist Fast>>Fwd is unexpectedly promoting is Obama "HOPE" poster creator Shepard Fairey, who installed murals throughout the city (including on the 37th Street side of the corner gallery) in anticipation of his October show at the North Side's Andy Warhol Museum, where Freeman Smith also works.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Craig Freeman Smith, Fast>>Fwd Gallery

Photo copyright Caralyn Green

Espresso a Mano: Lawrenceville's new caffeination destination

Lower Lawrenceville's got a new addition to its bustling business district--Espresso a Mano.

The café, which opened mid-July at 3623 Butler St., is truly a labor of love for Dormont resident Matt Gebis, who not only owns the shop, but also operates it almost entirely on his own.

In Italian, Espresso a Mano means "Espresso by Hand"--and that's exactly what you'll find behind its garage-front facade. Gebis, a former University of Pittsburgh Italian instructor, spent five years learning the coffee craft at Strip District staple La Prima before deciding to create his own café in the 1000-square-foot space not far from Tamari and the Round Corner Cantina, both of which also opened this summer along Butler Street.

Gebis' approach is simple: Focus on the coffee. The decor is understated (a vintage bar rescued from a Slovakian social hall in Donora, Pa. takes up the large part of the room), and the eats are basic (a few fresh, highest-quality baked goods from Enrico Biscotti and Colangelo's Bakery, both in the Strip).

"There are four principals to good coffee," says Gebis. "The machine, the blend, the grind, and the hand. Of those four, the hand is perhaps the most important."

Espresso a Mano uses beans from La Prima as well as Counter Culture, a direct trade-certified roaster based in Durham, NC. The espresso is even a special blend Gebis developed while at La Prima.

Other nearby coffeehouses include Crazy Mocha and Your Inner Vagabond, both of which are on the other side of 40th Street.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Matt Gebis, Espresso a Mano

Photo copyright Caralyn Green

Tours explore historic Downtown, expand to neighborhood main streets this fall  

Pittsburgh's buildings have stories to tell. Sometimes, we just get too caught up in the daily grind to listen.

The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation (PHLF) is helping is reconnect to our urban environment. The organization has long hosted walking tours of Downtown Pittsburgh, and now--this fall--they'll be adding other neighborhoods to the repertoire.

Previous Downtown walking tours this summer have focused on Grant Street, Market Square, the Penn-Liberty Cultural District and more. During the month of August, PHLF is hosting free tours every Friday at noon of the historic Fourth Avenue and PPG Place area. One of 18 National Register Districts in the city, Fourth Avenue showcases buildings designed by more than a dozen distinguished architects, in styles from Greek Revival to Post Modern, constructed between 1836 and 1983. Reservations are not necessary, but are recommended.

The Downtown walking tours project, which occurs from May through October, has been running for about 20 years. This year is the first year PHLF will also be hosting Saturday walking tours through Pittsburgh's other neighborhoods, including Mt. Washington, Friendship/Garfield, Lawrenceville, the Strip District, Bloomfield and East Liberty.

This new program, presented in cooperation with the Urban Redevelopment Authority and Mainstreets Pittsburgh, will begin the Saturday of Labor Day weekend and continue throughout the fall.

"We hope tour-goers will leave with a better appreciation for the built environment; not just the old, but also the new," says Mary Lu Denny with PHLF. "We're looking to show history and preservation in these areas, but also development. We hope to bring some attention to neighborhood businesses, so that people will go back to them as customers."

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Mary Lu Denny, Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

Photo courtesy Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

Pop-up shop: Pittsburgh Popcorn Company expands with second location

A year-and-a-half after establishing their gourmet popcorn shop in the Strip District, Genalle and Rob Day have opened a second site--a 1,500-square-foot spot at 822 Liberty Ave., in Downtown's Cultural District, near the new Dozen.

The Downtown location of the Pittsburgh Popcorn Company offers the same products at the original--freshly popped corn by the bag or tin in flavors such as Chunky Chocolate Caramel, Real Wisconsin Cheddar and Movie-Style Butter. There are eight different flavors at any time, and free samples. The popcorn is made in small batches all day long, and never sits longer than 20 minutes before reaching customers.

While the Strip District location has more of a vintage movie theatre feel, the Days went for carnivalesque Downtown. There are vintage toys, blown-up photos of Kennywood rides from the 1950s and a lighted carnival sign from the Strip's Hot Haute Hot.

"We had a lot of customers coming to the Strip from Downtown during their lunch breaks for corporate gifts and office parties, so we decided to bring the popcorn to them," says Genalle Day, an Overbrook native and Duquesne University graduate who met her husband Rob while working at a popcorn shop in New York City.

The couple now lives in the Cork Factory, close to both their Strip District and Downtown locations, which Ganelle says is "key in making this all happen."

Writer: Caralyn Green

Source: Genalle Day, Pittsburgh Popcorn Company


County unveils $26.8M high-tech crime lab, morgue

Allegheny County's crime lab and morgue facilities have been upgraded to a nearly 80,000-square foot building at 1520 Penn Ave., on the Downtown side of the Strip District.

The building, which once housed county offices, had been vacant for many years, says Kevin Evanto with Allegheny County.

The new $26.8 million Medical Examiner Facility is one of just 361 accredited crime labs in the country, and the first accredited county lab in Pennsylvania. The facility, which officially began operation over the weekend, will provide forensic, analytical and medical testing services to law enforcement agencies throughout the County.

Previously, the morgue was located in a century-old building Downtown, and the crime lab was in the basement of the County Office building at 542 Forbes Ave., also Downtown. Pittsburgh had long outgrown those "cramped and antiquated" facilities, according to County Medical Examiner Dr. Karl Williams.

The new facility puts the city's pathologists, scientists and ballistics experts under one roof, which--combined with the center's increased space and new, high-tech features--is expected to improve efficiency and productivity.

The new complex may look plain on the exterior, but is "better than, more interesting and more real than CSI" on the inside, said Dr. Williams at a media tour on Friday. Features include: a 24-hour evidence drop-off area; on-site vehicular processing; an indoor firing range; 4,300 square-feet of high-density storage; a unique forensic laboratory that allows for automated DNA extraction through robotics; and 75 security cameras throughout building.

The building also uses natural lighting, an automated lighting control system and a system that re-circulates unused water to help reduce energy costs.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Kevin Evanto, and Dr. Karl Williams, medical examiner, Allegheny County

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

County unveils $26.8M high-tech crime lab, morgue

Allegheny County's crime lab and morgue facilities have been upgraded to a nearly 80,000-square foot building at 1520 Penn Ave., on the Downtown side of the Strip District.

The building, which once housed county offices, had been vacant for many years, says Kevin Evanto with Allegheny County.

The new $26.8 million Medical Examiner Facility is one of just 361 accredited crime labs in the country, and the first accredited county lab in Pennsylvania. The facility, which officially began operation over the weekend, will provide forensic, analytical and medical testing services to law enforcement agencies throughout the County.

Previously, the morgue was located in a century-old building Downtown, and the crime lab was in the basement of the County Office building at 542 Forbes Ave., also Downtown. Pittsburgh had long outgrown those "cramped and antiquated" facilities, according to County Medical Examiner Dr. Karl Williams.

The new facility puts the city's pathologists, scientists and ballistics experts under one roof, which--combined with the center's increased space and new, high-tech features--is expected to improve efficiency and productivity.

The new complex may look plain on the exterior, but is "better than, more interesting and more real than CSI" on the inside, said Dr. Williams at a media tour on Friday. Features include: a 24-hour evidence drop-off area; on-site vehicular processing; an indoor firing range; 4,300 square-feet of high-density storage; a unique forensic laboratory that allows for automated DNA extraction through robotics; and 75 security cameras throughout building.

The building also uses natural lighting, an automated lighting control system and a system that re-circulates unused water to help reduce energy costs.

Nello Construction Company performed general contracting services, Astorino was the architect and DCK Worldwide worked as construction manager.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Kevin Evanto, and Dr. Karl Williams, medical examiner, Allegheny County; Billy J. Hinton, director of business development, Nello Construction Company

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Group greens Pittsburgh's concrete jungles, first to use new tree technology in Pa.

While the national average for similar-sized metropolitan areas is one street tree per every two people, Pittsburgh's average is one per 11, says Danielle Crumrine with Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest. And the average drops dramatically in neighborhoods like the Strip District, Lawrenceville, East Liberty and Homewood, where there is one tree per every 22 people, for example.

Friends is working with TreeVitalize, a statewide public-private partnership, in an effort to plant one million trees by 2012. Pittsburgh's goal is 20,000, and in its second year of participation, has reached about 3,500.

Friends' recent work includes community education sessions and schoolyard greening initiatives, as well as plantings in East Liberty and Downtown.

For its East Liberty project, Friends received a $10,000 grant from the Alliance for Community Trees and national Home Depot Foundation to plant six trees last week at the Sojourner MOMS house, which provides housing and services for homeless, single women struggling with addiction, and their dependent children.

"The next step is to work with adjacent property owners to get them to plant trees in their front yards so we can restore the street's tree line," says Crumrine. "It's so important because trees improve air quality, energy efficiency and stormwater runoff, and increase neighborhoods' safety and property values."

This week, Friends is finishing its Downtown project -- 10 trees in front of the new August Wilson Center at 980 Liberty Ave. With support of the Center and Richard King Mellon Foundation, Friends is using Silva Cell technology to manage stormwater and prevent soil compaction. This is the first time Silva Cell technology will be used in Pennsylvania, Crumrine says.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Danielle Crumrine, executive director, Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest

Image courtesy Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest

Pittsburgh Opera shares $8M Strip District space with Attack Theatre

Dance company Attack Theatre is moving from its Garfield warehouse into Pittsburgh Opera's $8 million Strip District facility, at 2425 Liberty Ave.

Attack's six-month lease is set to begin July 1, and to be reviewed in November.

The move benefits both the Opera and Attack Theatre, which has outgrown its administrative and rehearsal space at 4805 Penn Ave.

Not only will the Opera secure additional income through renting out unused rooms, but Attack Theatre will conserve resources, too.

"We will likely save at least $10,000 in the first six months of this next fiscal year," says Donna Goyak with Attack. "And in spending less time doing our own facility maintenance, we'll have more energy to focus on things directly related to our artistic mission."

The dance company, which was founded in 1994 and performs in venues throughout the city, spent four years in its 4,000 square-foot Penn Avenue location, and before that, two-and-a-half years at 937 Liberty Ave., Downtown. Rebecca Himberger with Attack says the company will miss the relationships it has developed in the East End, but is looking forward to the high ceilings and spacious, unobstructed interiors in the Opera's 42,000 square-foot facility, which opened last year. Additionally, Attack has provided the Opera with choreography and dancers for past performances, and is enthusiastic about deepening that relationship.

"What excites us is the possibility of further artistic collaboration," says Debra Bell with the Opera. "Seeing each other and sharing ideas on daily basis... One never knows what can come from that."

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Donna Goyak, general director, and Rebecca Himberger, marketing and education manager, Attack Theatre; Debra Bell, director of marketing and communications, Pittsburgh Opera

Image courtesy David Bachman/Pittsburgh Opera

Cork Factory wins national Award of Excellence for urban land use

The Cork Factory can add another accolade to its already-long list of triumphs. The Strip District’s riverfront, mixed-use development has won a 2009 Award of Excellence from the Urban Land Institute (ULI).

The 297-unit luxury apartment complex, which opened in May 2007, maintains a 98-percent occupancy rate. It features unique outdoor amenities including a marina, as well as more than 43,000 square feet of retail space, anchored by Right by Nature organic grocery and Cioppino Seafood and Chophouse.

The ULI Award for Excellence is among the land-use industry’s most prestigious honors. It recognizes the full development process of a project, rather than just its architecture or design. Criteria include leadership, community contributions, innovations, public/private partnerships, environmental protection and financial viability.

This year’s 10 award winners were chosen from nearly 150 entries.

“The Cork Factory was built in 1910 and abandoned in 1974. The land and the buildings sat in ruin for three decades,” says property manager Debbie Roberts. “The success of this project has changed the entire makeup of the Strip District.”

Since the Cork Factory opened, residential living space in the Strip has tripled.

“More residents means more eyes on the street, more people shopping here. It has a strong economic impact on the entire area,” says Becky Rodgers of Neighbors in the Strip.

This is an unprecedented third time the Cork Factory’s developer McCaffrey Interests has received an Award for Excellence. Previously, the company has been recognized by ULI for properties in Chicago, Ill. and Arlington, Va.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Debbie Roberts, McCaffery Interests; Becky Rodgers, Executive Director, Neighbors in the Strip



Sixth annual Walk and Dine offers catered tour of Downtown living

With its sixth annual Walk and Dine event, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP) is taking the tired pub crawl concept, and giving it a sexy real estate spin.

This year’s guided “lifestyle tour” of six Downtown residential properties gives participants the chance to sample an array of living opportunities in the Golden Triangle. Properties include model units as well as occupied spaces, and range from luxury high-rise apartments to historic renovation projects. All price-points will be represented, from the Century Building, which offers $500-per-month studios, to Three PNC Plaza, which features $500,000 condos with green and sustainable design elements.

Tour-goers will also get to taste the area’s culinary offerings, as each stop features sips and nibbles from a different Downtown restaurant, including Capital Grille, Steelhead Brasserie and August Henry's.

Patricia Burk, with PDP, says that for the 3,000 people living Downtown—and the 8,500 residents of the 2-square mile greater Downtown area—convenience is key.

“People are sick of living in their cars. They want to be close to work and the places they play,” Burk says. “They want to have more time to do the things they want to do, rather than waste an hour-and-a-half each day in traffic.”

Tickets for this year’s May 20 event went on sale May 1. The tour begins and ends with cocktails and desserts at the Hilton, just steps from Point State Park. A VIP option is available, which includes a private opening reception at the Strip District condo of Pittsburgh-born actor David Conrad.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Patricia S. Burk, VP of Housing and Economic Development, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership

Image courtesy Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership

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

Neighbors in the Strip receives $12,600 grant for residential pilot program

Neighbors in the Strip (NITS) has received a $12,600 grant through Mainstreets Pittsburgh—a business district revitalization program run by the Urban Redevelopment Authority—to implement its Vacant Upper Floors pilot program.

The initiative hopes to stimulate growth in the Strip District by creating housing opportunities in un-used or underutilized upstairs spaces of commercial buildings. This pilot program is the first step in developing a dual living/working community in the Strip’s designated Mainstreets program area, which runs between 13th and 23rd Sts. along Penn Ave., and between 16th and 21st Sts. along Smallman St. The pilot will divide the funding equally among three to-be-determined properties. Each property owner will receive services through Lawrenceville-based Next Architecture to determine feasibility and estimated costs of conversion.

This program is similar to, though unaffiliated with, one being carried out Downtown by Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP). That $3.5 million program will provide gap financing to Downtown building owners and developers who want to convert up to eight floors of upstairs space into residential units. PDP’s project will provide loans for up to 50% of a total project’s cost, or $75,000 or $500,000 per residential unit, whichever is less. PDP hopes to close on four projects in 2009.

Josette Fitzgibbons, with Mainstreets Pittsburgh, says the Strip District is a key neighborhood in a city-wide movement because its mixed commercial-residential development would provide much-needed diversity in housing options.

“An apartment above a store in the Strip would attract a very different crowd than a condo in Market Square,” says Fitzgibbons.

Becky Rodgers of NITS says this project is so important to the Strip District’s growth because “when you bring in more residential, it supports existing business and makes it easier to attract new businesses. Just as importantly, it strengthens 24-hour safety and security in the neighborhood.”

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Becky Rodgers, NITS; Josette Fitzgibbons, Mainstreets Pittsburgh

Image courtesy Siram Bala

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

Allegheny Riverfront takes shape with selection of Perkins Eastman design team

A master plan designed to link the Allegheny Riverfront with ten city neighborhoods is one step closer to fruition.

On March 12—after reviewing 24 submissions culled during an RFP process—the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) board selected a team led by Perkins Eastman to craft a comprehensive plan for a key portion of the underutilized riverfront.

Targeting a 6.45-mile segment of the Allegheny’s southeast bank—stretching from the Convention Center to Highland Park—the project's goal is to transform inaccessible riverfront land into a series of interrelated districts. Work on the $350,000 project will take approximately 12 months. The resulting blueprint will serve as a model for the city’s comprehensive riverfront master plan, slated for completion in 2010.

One of Pittsburgh’s most underutilized riverfront stretches, the area also extends through Lawrenceville, Morningside and a portion of the Northside. Characterized by long parcels of flat land with direct river access and adjacent residential communities, the riverfront currently houses distribution, parking and industrial uses. The master plan will also address ecological concerns, community engagement, economic development activities, and land use and transit recommendations.

Perkins Eastman—a firm with local and international experience in urban design and planning—was unanimously selected by a steering committee consisting of staff from the URA, Department of City Planning, and Riverlife, along with property owners, developers, and community representatives. The multi-disciplinary design team also includes firms with expertise in market assessment, environmental and infrastructure planning, and traffic and transit analysis. 

The team is expected to make recommendations for sustainable design practices, walkable infrastructure, stormwater management, and on-site energy production.

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Megan Stearman, Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh



S & D Delicatessen a new haven for Polish food lovers

Dorota and Slaomir Pyszkowska are true entrepreneurs. First generation immigrants from Poland, they moved to Scottdale, PA seven years ago to open a construction business and raise their four children. They started coming into Pittsburgh to attend St. Peters Polish mass and after listening to the local Polish community, they discovered a gap in the market.

“People we met told us there were few places to get good Polish food and even fewer places to buy Polish products,” says Pyszkowska. This was all the impetus they needed. S & D Polish Delicatessen opened two weeks before Christmas on Penn Ave. between 22nd and 23rd. “We considered both Carson Street and Squirrel Hill but we decided that the Strip District was by far the best spot for any kind of ethnic food market,” says Pyszkowska. “So many people of so many different nationalities come down and do their shopping here in the Strip but until now there was no place for Polish people.”

The 1500 square-foot store offers hard to find Polish products like fresh sauerkraut, sausages, European juices and chocolates and the deli offers hot lunch from 11am-2pm and seats about 20. Lunch offerings include Hunter’s Stew made with white cabbage, sauerkraut and kielbasa, pork stew with dumplings, halushki, stuffed cabbage, and of course pierogies. For dessert, try crepes with fresh farmers cheese, yum.

The deli is still a work in progress and the Pyszkowskas are always open to the needs of their customers. “People keep asking us about offering Polish classes or hosting events. We want this to be a place were Polish people get the things they can’t find anywhere else.”

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Writer: Lauren Urbschat
Source: Dorota Pyszkowska, Owner, S & D Delicatessen


Pittsburgh Cares celebrates MLK Day with two unique community events

Pittsburgh Cares offers two unique ways to celebrate Martin Luther King Day this year. On Saturday, Jan. 17 from 11am-1pm for $20 per person, you can take part in one of seven Neighborhood Diversity Crawls. Crawls take place in the West End/Mt. Washington, Lawrenceville, Bloomfield/Friendship, South Side, Regent Square, Strip District, and Oakmont and include a narrated tour, sampling of various traditional foods and beverages, exploration of locally owned businesses, and fun facts like who Lawrenceville is named for and what Oakmont claims as the largest in the country.

“Last year we lead one tour to four different places throughout the city, but this year we wanted to highlight Pittsburgh’s diverse neighborhoods and help boost the local economy at the same time,” says Kristin Brown with Pittsburgh Cares.

In addition, Pittsburgh Cares has teamed up with Manchester Craftsmen's Guild to host their MLK: Celebrate the Dream event. On Monday, Jan. 19 from 10am-12pm, more than 350 youth and adult volunteers will design and construct upwards of 75 "diversity shelves." The wooden bookcases will be adorned with words and images from the Civil Rights Movement and will serve as a platform for initiating dialogue around race relations, community organizing, volunteerism, and diversity. From 12-1pm local performing artists will showcase their talents as the volunteers unite in celebration of Dr. King's dream for a community that respects and embraces diversity.

“After the event our volunteer groups will present the shelves filled with books to local schools so the discussion of diversity continues throughout the year.”

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Writer: Lauren Urbschat
Source: Kristin Brown, Pittsburgh Cares


Thinking outside the bean: La Prima brings crêpes & coffee model to Strip District

La Prima Espresso Company has added a new specialty and retail space to its roster.

Last weekend, the independently-owned company opened Crêpes Napoleon and Josephine at 2107 Penn Ave. in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. Specializing in sweet and savory crêpes like turkey and Asiago, Nutella and banana and even guava and cream cheese—along with La Prima’s signature Italiano-style espressos and cappuccinos--the 800-square-foot shop is named for the parents of proprietor Sam Patti, and features seating for 35.

“It’s an asset that I wanted to do something with—a chance for me to own my own space,” says Patti, who purchased the property in 2006. “In many ways, crêpes reflect what we do with espresso—they’re made to order in front of customers.”

Patti worked with architect David Roth and Bart and Meda Rago of Renaissance Remodeling to transform the former Subway. “We wanted to do a better job educating people about buying beans,” adds Patti, who plans to offer fresh squeezed orange juice and vegetarian crêpes. “It was important for us to open in time for Christmas. There’s no limit to what you can do with crêpes.”

Currently Pittsburgh’s only fair trade and organically certified roaster, La Prima also operates a 3,000-square-foot facility at 20th and Smallman, an espresso bar at 205 21st St. and a kiosk at Carnegie Mellon. Patti, who founded La Prima in 1988, says the company has experienced a 10% annual growth rate. From Sept. through April, La Prima—which sells beans to about 100 regional businesses—offers First Saturday roaster tours.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Sam Patti, La Prima Espresso Company

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen





$9M 941 Penn welcomes first residents, $8M Otto Milk Condos 25% sold

941 Penn Avenue Residences is welcoming its first occupants, while pre-sales at Otto Milk Condos have reached 25%.

941 Penn—Downtown’s first condominium to receive the city’s Enhanced LERTA 10-year post-assessment tax abatement—welcomed its first residents on Nov. 12. Condo owners like Todd and Dorna Palcic, expected to save $60,000 in 10 years, were greeted by Mayor Ravenstahl. With 17 condos ranging in size from 1,350 to 3,000 square-feet, the $9 million project features a glass exterior, nine-story atrium, terraces, and historic masonry.

“Our demographic spans four decades age-wise. We have people from Seattle, Kuwait—all over the world” says project spokesperson Kathy Wallace. “They’re the first buyers Downtown to have this benefit applied to their property.” Enhancing existing LERTA and Act 42 tax abatement programs, the legislation is spurring development Downtown and in 26 neighborhood growth zones.

Jack Benoff of Solara Ventures, developer of 941 Penn, is also redeveloping the Strip District’s Otto Milk building as a 56-unit condominium. Located at 2501 Smallman St., the 120,000-square-foot project will feature a pet washing facility, gym, courtyard, and business center. With site clean-up and demolition underway, the $20 million project is expected to be completed in late 2009.

Ranging in size from 800 to 3,600 square feet, condos are priced between $183,000 and $1.3 million. “We want a first-time buyer price range. Within 500 feet, you can go to a neighborhood pub, deli, club or high-end restaurant,” adds Benoff, who is working with Indovina Associates Architects on both projects. “We’re restoring the tower back to its original look. We’re keeping the majority of the existing structure and adding a contemporary connecting building.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Jack Benoff and Kathy Wallace, Solara Ventures, IV, LLC

Image courtesy Solara Ventures, IV, LLC





Right By Nature natural foods market opens at Cork Factory commerical space

With tomorrow’s much-anticipated opening of Right By Nature, Pittsburghers craving natural foods will have a new shopping destination.

Centrally located at Smallman and 23rd Sts., in the Strip District’s Cork Factory retail complex, the 22,000-square-foot natural foods market carries hundreds of products, including homemade baked goods and made-by-scratch prepared foods, and houses a comprehensive nutrition department and bakery/cafe.

Market owner and operator Bob Stone says he will buy direct whenever possible to keep prices affordable. “We’re going to make good healthy eating available to everyone,” says Right By Nature’s business manager, Peggy McGarry, who teaches in Carlow University’s MBA program.

Store partners have pledged to donate a portion of daily sales to seven area charities following the Nov. 20 opening. Right By Nature is also hiring employees via Educational Data Systems, Inc., which places low-income job seekers. McGarry says the store has hired 100 people in the past two weeks.

With free indoor parking with elevator access directly into the store and curbside pick-up services—Right By Nature expected to draw shoppers from around the Strip, Downtown, Northside, Hill District, and Lawrenceville.
 
Stone, who returned to Pittsburgh after 25 years working as director of purchasing for top national organic produce companies such as Albert’s Organics, Wild Oats Markets and Goodness Greeness, started his career loading a huckster’s truck in the Strip.
 
The market follows the Aug. 15 opening of Cioppino Seafood. Chophouse. Bar., also located in the Cork Factory’s retail property. The remaining 11,050 square feet may house a hardware store, salon, dry cleaner, or smoothie shop.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Bob Stone, president and director of operations, and Peggy McGarry, business manager, Right By Nature; Becky Rodgers, Neighbors in the Strip

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.

$8M Pittsburgh Opera space fully occupied, hosts open house in Strip District

With a 42,000-square-foot dynamic new home in the Strip District, the Pittsburgh Opera is poised to expand its programming, capacity and reach.

Located ay 2425 Liberty Ave., the $8 million project features offices, 4,000 square feet of rehearsal spaces, costume, wig and make-up shops, and a kitchen. Designed by IKM, the renovation is seeking LEED certification, and incorporates the site’s exposed brick interiors, 150 historically accurate windows and original metal fire safes. A new wrap-around metal, neon and LEED sign was designed by Bill Kolano. Contractor is Massaro Corporation.

Long before the Opera transformed its industrial interiors, the block-long facility was a site of innovation and invention. The space was built in 1869 as George Westinghouse’s original air brake factory, while during the 1980s, it housed RedZone Robotics, where machines that helped clear the Chernobyl disaster site were manufactured.
 
“Rather than squeezing into something, we can play with the space and make it work for us. Its flexibility allows us to experiment,” says Christopher Hahn, with Pittsburgh Opera, who hopes the storefront design will attract Saturday shoppers. “We’ll be so much farther ahead in our rehearsal process, that we’ll be able to do bigger and better things.”

Hahn, who plans to pipe “opera muzak” into the parking garage, says visiting singers from around the world have already been impressed with the Opera’s new digs. After fully occupying the building on Sept. 22, the Opera is hosting a free open house on Oct. 4., with family-friendly concerts, improv performances and behind-the-scenes tours.

With ticket sales up from last year ,the Opera has raised $5.8 million to support the quiet phase of its capital campaign.

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Christopher Hahn, general director, Pittsburgh Opera

Image courtesy Pittsburgh Opera

$30M production studio poised to give Pittsburgh film industry a big boost

It may be premature to dub it Rustbelt Hollywood, but Pittsburgh’s largest film production studio is now underway.

Actor and Mogul Mind founder John Yost is spearheading the 330,000-square-foot project, which encompasses a 10-acre parcel and four properties located between 31st and 32d Sts. in Pittsburgh’s Strip District.

The $30 million project, called Mogul Mind Studios, will feature 10 sound stages, offices, screening rooms, and rental, manufacturing and post-production facilities. Calling the complex a “one-stop shop equipped to handle student films all the way up to King Kong,” Yost says the site will also house a bar/lounge and full craft services.

Yost expects the first phase to be ready by spring 2009 and aims to
have up to 500 people working seven days per week at the facility. “We’ve identified forty-six different revenue streams,” adds Yost, who met with execs from Miramax and Lionsgate for input. “Films have been coming here since the 1940s. I saw an opportunity that no one was addressing.”

A Penn Hills native, Yost says the site’s post-production facilities will increase revenue from films shot on location here. The site will also house Mogul Mind’s offices and offer university outreach programs. “We want to teach students the business of show business and give them a landing place here,” adds Yost, who hopes to tap into the robust community of Pittsburgh natives working in the film industry in L.A. and NYC.

Dawn Keezer with the Pittsburgh Film Office says the industry generated $150 million for the region last year. “John’s project is desperately needed for long-term sustainability,” adds Keezer. “With one of the best tax credit programs in the country, we’re a force to be reckoned with—Pittsburgh’s really on the map.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: John Yost, Mogul Mind, LLC; Dawn Keezer, Pittsburgh Film Office

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

Projects in Pittsburgh, Washington County to receive preservation awards

Projects in Pittsburgh and Washington County have been selected to receive 2008 Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Awards.    

Established in 1979, the awards acknowledge individuals and organizations the display excellence in the field of historic preservation, reflect the state’s diverse heritage and make significant community contributions.

Awards are selected by a seven-member peer-review panel that represents a cross-section of geographical areas and disciplines, including architects, archaeologists and preservationists. “Everybody comes from a different place. It’s a testament to the fact that you’ve been recognized by peers—that’s key,” says Mindy Crawford, with Preservation Pennsylvania.

A commercial/industrial award will be presented to McCaffery Interests for its redevelopment of the Armstrong Cork building in Pittsburgh’s Strip District, which transformed a former industrial complex into a 297-unit, mixed-use loft property. Designed by Antunovich Associates and Charles Uhl, the project included extensive remediation, masonry restoration and matching of original windows. “This is one of the best examples of turning industrial buildings into great spaces. It’s done so successfully,” adds Crawford. “The project keeps in mind what its history is.”

An archaeology award will go to The Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania for the Meadowcroft Rockshelter, North America’s oldest human habitation site. “Their new enclosure and interpretation encourages more people to visit and also protects it,” adds Crawford, of the facility designed by Pfaffmann + Associates.

Rep. Thomas Tangretti
of Westmoreland County will receive a Leadership in State Government award for his promotion of historic preservation as a community revitalization tool. “He’s been a champion for establishing a state credit for historic buildings,” says Crawford.
 
Awards will be presented Sept. 18 during a public ceremony at the Pennsylvania Capitol.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Mindy Crawford, executive director, Preservation Pennsylvania

Image courtesy Preservation Pennsylvania

Cioppino brings new dining, shopping options to Cork Factory, Strip District

With the much-anticipated opening of Cioppino on Aug. 15, Cork Factory residents and visitors to Pittsburgh's Strip District have a new dining, shopping and socializing destination. During its first three days, Cioppino attracted more than 400 patrons.

In a concept that blends restaurant, bar and market, the new 10,400-square-foot commercial space features restaurant Cioppino—which also boasts a cigar bar—and il Mercato deli.

Featuring Tuscan-tinged American cuisine created by executive chef Greg Alauzen, Cioppino offers full dinner and small plate menus at both its restaurant and cigar bar. Restaurant-goers can choose between one of Cioppino’s dining areas, seasonal outdoor seating or private party room, which accommodates 40. On Saturdays—catering to the Strip’s shopping crowd—Cioppino's bar serves a special lunch menu.

Equal parts Old World Tuscany and contemporary chic, Cioppino—designed by DRS Architects—features a warm earth tone and scarlet red palette, dark mahogany, leather seating, penshell light fixtures, and pressed tin ceilings. In a nod to the development’s neighboring urban lofts, Cioppino’s bar features cork panels and perimeter windows with skyline views.

Conveniently located within Cioppino’s 10,400-square-fooot space is also the Italian-style il Mercato, which carries traditional, breakfast and specialty sandwiches, to-go fare and baked goods. Specializing in gourmet Artisan and imported cheeses and high-quality deli meats, il Mercato also provides catering.

“We love the Strip District. It’s a neat concept and a great location for bringing Downtown back to the Strip. Everyone’s raved about the food so far,” says PIPA Group partner David Lamatrice, who owns Cioppino along with Chuck Hammel, Tom Trimm and Angelo and Joe Lamatrice. The group—known for its work running Amante and Clark Bar and Grill—are currently considering new venture opportunities in western Pa.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: David Lamatrice and Dana Santucci, PIPA Group/Cioppino

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen




Hardware Lofts project plans 32 for-sale units for Pittsburgh's Strip District

A new residential development that bridges Downtown and the Strip District is taking shape within a former equipment warehouse at 1221 Penn Ave.

Located steps from Sushi Kim, Two Louie’s Market and the Heinz History Center, the nine-story Hardware Lofts will feature approximately 32 for-sale condos ranging in size from 850 to 2,100 square feet. Designed by Rob Indovina, the modern loft-style units will feature balconies, 11-14-foot ceilings, basement storage and floor-to-ceiling windows.

Developers Luke Katich, Mauricio Czonstkowsky and Corey Cumiskey— all under age 27—expect to close on the 1920s-era property in a few months. “The Strip is in a prime position for the Downtown workforce. People are migrating to the city now. There’s going to be a market for this,” says Katich, a Fox Chapel native who studied business and economics at The College of Wooster. “We’d like to do more projects in the Strip District. It’s a fantastic spot.” Their first effort as KCC Development, the trio is currently looking into LEED certification for the project.

Situated adjacent to a vacant lot, the 45,000-square-foot project will also feature a roof deck, first-floor restaurant and covered drop-off area. Parking leases will be available at the new Grant Street Transportation—
slated to open in September—which will house the expanded Greyhound terminal and a 1,050-car garage.

Units will be available for occupancy in late 2009. A 10-year tax abatement program as well as first-time homebuyer rates through the Urban Redevelopment Authority are available. Unit prices will start in the mid-200's; penthouse units will sell for approximately $800,000.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Luke Katich, KCC Development and Hardware Lofts

Image courtesy KCC Development

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

Sampson Morris Group to redevelop Wholey's Building in Pittsburgh's Strip District

Monroeville-based Sampson Morris Group is making preliminary plans to redevelop Wholey’s cold storage building located at 1501 Penn Ave. in Pittsburgh’s Strip District.

Company president Michael Morris says that mixed-use options have been considered, but that a residential use is planned. “We have the ability to do warehouse, office and/or residential. We’re favoring for-sale condos,” adds Morris, who expects the project to feature up to 140 units and 200 indoor parking spaces. “There might be a small amount of retail.”

The firm is under agreement to purchase the 330,000-square-foot, seven-story property. “We’re working through the structural analysis, due diligence and designs, and talking to with the city,” adds Morris, who says condos will range in size from 800 to 1,200 square feet.  “It’s a phenomenal location. We can attract people who want to walk to the Cultural District or the Strip on Saturdays. Access to the building is terrific.”

Morris is working with Chip Desmone and Eric Booth of Lawrenceville-based Desmone & Associates Architects on preliminary designs. The redevelopment calls for installing windows, stair shafts, elevators, and garbage shoots.

Built in 1930 as a cold storage building, the concrete double-walled property contains a three-foot exterior structure. “There’s a lot of demo work required. We’re going to use the entire building. It’s very doable, and will be one of the quietest buildings on the block,” adds Morris, who has looked at cold storage loft conversion projects in Kansas City and Chicago. “It’ll appeal to all sorts of individual architectural tastes—the soft loft look, exposed brick, and the more urban sophisticated look. We’ll be able to build it out in various degrees.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Michael Morris, president, Sampson Morris Group

Branding, growth announced at Rothschild Doyno Collaborative, projects receive PHFA funds

At a June 19 open house, Rothschild Doyno Architects unveiled a branding campaign, named associates and spotlighted project milestones at its new Strip District offices.

Now called Rothschild Doyno Collaborative, the firm also launched a new website organized around themes of people, process and place. “The name change reflects a reality. We’re no longer simply an urban design firm, or simply architecture,” says principal Ken Doyno.

The firm’s new associates, all under 35, speak passionately about collaboration and individual growth. “Learning to collaborate with people has been one of the biggest gains,” says Geoff Campbell, 33 who relocated from San Francisco. “The sketchbook process is opened up to the entire firm—it’s been an area of great growth.”

In May, three Rothschild Doyno Collaborative-designed projects received PHFA funding. New associate and graphics coordinator Kate Tunney is working on designs for a redevelopment of South Hills High School, which calls for 99 rental units and a 7,000-square-foot commercial space. “It’s a growing area in our firm—both multi-unit housing and large-scale projects like Federal Hill,” adds Tunney, who cites the firm’s River’s Edge of Oakmont design as a milestone. The mixed-use project will feature 169 for-sale units and 18,000 square feet of retail. “We’re also doing a lot of work with Chatham University and nonprofits.”

Overseeing construction detailing, new associate Jeff Kalina is working on designs for the 102-unit York Commons in Lawrenceville and a 53-unit Senior Housing Building in Braddock, wih construction expected by 2009.

Rothschild Doyno Collaborative just submitted a LEED-Gold application for the recently unveiled Sarah Heinz House. Its work on the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Wayne County resulted in the country’s first LEED-Gold church.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Ken Doyno, Kate Tunney, Geoff Campbell and Jeff Kalina, Rothschild Doyno Collaborative


Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

Two Louie's Market opens in Pittsburgh's Strip District, draws Downtown workers

Two Louie’s—a new market located at the edge of The Strip District—is already drawing regular patrons and lunch crowds.

Bridging Downtown with The Strip at 1233 Penn Ave., the new market is a labor of love and a family affair for co-owners and wife and husband team Lisa and Rich Kasenic.

“This was my dream but none of it would have happened without them—it’s been a family effort,” says Lisa Kasenic, whose father Tony Aubrecht puts in countless hours at the market. The 1,600-square-foot market features refinished hardwood floors, exposed brick, outdoor bistro tables, and a tin ceiling. Rich Kasenic created the market’s stainless steel counters, while Lisa’s uncle worked on the shelving.

“I spent a lot of time looking in the city. This is the perfect location. We’re the first and last place people pass each day because the parking lots are near us,” adds Kasenic, an accountant by trade who’s worked for GNC and Grubb and Ellis, and has always hoped to run a mom-and-pop deli. “We have built-in crowds with the offices and lots of business from the bus station construction. It's a neighborhood on the cusp of development. We’re filling a niche."

Currently serving salads and breakfast and lunch sandwiches, Kasenic plans to add homemade soups and hot lunch entrees to the menu. Open six days a week, Two Louie’s also carries Tom Friday’s Market, Marburger Dairy, and Nicholas Coffee Company products. Kasenic says the addition of basics like toiletries, paper products and canned goods have been popular with area patrons.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Lisa Kasenic, Two Louie's Market

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

DCI, Inc. receives $7M from state, brownfield projects awarded $1.75M from EPA

Development Capital Investors, Inc. (DCI) has received $7 million to fund commercial, industrial and mixed-use projects in underserved Southwestern Pennsylvania communities, including blighted areas, Keystone Innovation Zones and brownfields.

Part of Building PA—a $150 million state fund that must be matched by private investors and foundations—the initiative provides “mezzanine” capital, or gap financing, to developers revitalizing existing buildings. The funding to DCI was the largest of last week’s awards.

“Our focus is on providing equity that not only generates income, but also creates jobs and benefits local economies,” says Tad Imbrie, with DCI, which has provided assistance to the Cork Factory and Bridgeside Point II and is seeking state support for Bakery Square. “Without innovative tax structures and DCED programs, these projects wouldn’t move forward. Bridgeside was one of the country's earliest brownfield sites, and was instrumental in creating what’s there today.”

In other brownfield news, five Southwestern Pennsylvania communities received $1.75 million from the EPA to help to revitalize former industrial and commercial sites. Recipients include the Pittsburgh North Side Industrial Development Co., Washington County Authority, Cambria County Redevelopment Authority, Johnstown Redevelopment Authority, and Clearfield County Economic Development Corp.

"Each of these grants is the result of a true partnership among
government at all levels, private sector lenders and developers, and
members of the community,” says Donald Welsh, with the EPA. “Cleaning up contaminated sites is now easier and faster. The possibilities of reuse are endless. Former brownfield sites in the Mid-Atlantic region are now new homes, businesses, schools, municipal facilities, stadiums, parks, and riverfront promenades."

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Tad Imbrie, Development Capital Investors, Inc.; Donald Welsh, EPA Regional Administrator, Mid-Atlantic Region

Image courtesy USEPA - Region 3

Cork Factory announces natural foods market and wine bar, leases 70% of retail

This summer, the Cork Factory will welcome Right By Nature Natural Foods Market along with Cioppino Seafood. Chophouse. Bar., the first anchor tenants in the development's retail property, located at 2439 Railroad St. in the Strip District.

The 10,471-square-foot restaurant/bar will be owned and operated by local partners PIPA Group, who will also open the Il Mercato market in the space. The decision to bring a 22,026-square-foot natural foods grocery store to the Cork Factory reflects a national trend toward a health-conscious retail environment. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the organic market has grown at a pace of 20-25 percent per year. In 2001, the total value of organic products was approximately $20 billion.

“As a specialty store with a certain niche, it’s really an extension of the Strip District. The Strip's history is known for a variety of grocer needs. It pulls from places like the South and North Hills and Squirrel Hill. People come in on weekends to do specialty shopping,” says Jared Imperatore, with Grant Street Associates, who handles retail leasing for the property, which is now 70% full. “I live in the Penn Garrison and am so excited about this store opening. From the real estate side, the Strip District is really growing.”

The remaining 11,050 square feet may house a hardware store, hair salon, dry cleaner, or smoothie shop. "We have eight to ten additional, very strong destination oriented prospects," says Katie Plistcott, with developer McCaffery Interests.

The Cork Factory, which features 295 rental lofts and opened in May of 2007, is now at ninety-one percent occupancy. A full-service marina will open on the development’s riverfront property by June.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Jared Imperatore, Grant Street Associates; Katie Plistcott, McCaffery Interests

Image courtesy McCaffery Interests

Young entrepreneurs open gourmet popcorn company in Pittsburgh's Strip District

Gourmet popcorn has landed in Pittsburgh. Sharing a passion for artisan crafted popcorn, wife and husband team Genalle and Rob Day—who met while working at a $15 million popcorn company in Times Square—have opened The Pittsburgh Popcorn Company at 209 21st. St. in the Strip District.

“We wanted to do our own recipes and décor, and make it more cheeky. The Strip is where people go for food, and tourists know to come here,” says Genalle Day, 28, an Overbrook native. Her husband Rob, 30, a Queens native, developed popcorn flavors in New York. “There used to be popcorn stores Downtown—people are nostalgic about it.”
 
The only store of its kind in the city, the 850-square-foot shop specializes in gourmet flavors like Rocky Road, Garlic Parmesan and Smacker Jacks. The young entrepreneurs, who pop 150 gallons of popcorn a day, test each recipe and invite patrons to watch the process. The shop’s rustic décor features a faux tin ceiling, French doors, concrete countertops, and a signature 1920s green stove. During summer, the shop will sell smoothies and Italian sodas and add outdoor seating.

The pair, who live in the nearby Cork Factory, hope to partner with area nonprofits. “Pittsburgh is a comfortable place to live. It has everything New York has. We can afford to have the life we want to have here,” says Day, a former Duquesne Tamburitzan who founded NYC’s World Dance Theatre. “A lot of people think they can’t start a business. We got a small business loan and made it happen. Neighbors in the Strip has brought a whole new layer—everybody’s been great.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Genalle Day, The Pittsburgh Popcorn Company

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

$402K in Mainstreets Pittsburgh funds awarded to 12 neighborhood business districts

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), in partnership with the PA Department of Community and Economic Development and the City, have awarded $402,500 in Mainstreets Pittsburgh funds to twelve neighborhood business districts.

Funds must be used to support activities that revitalize local business districts, stimulate economic growth and impact targeted areas via measurable criteria. Mainstreets districts are also eligible for technical assistance provided by the URA, PA Downtown Center, Community Design Center of Pittsburgh, and Community Technical Assistance Center.

“The six-year program moves communities from reliance on public funding to a more diverse funding structure, so they can become more self-sustaining through a variety of mechanisms,” says Megan Stearman, with the URA. “Neighborhoods are selected because of their readiness—they have existing organizations in place, can steward new programs and have been through community planning.”
 
Grants will support community events in Hazelwood, marketing efforts in the West End, a visioning plan in Mt. Washington, and the Clean, Green & Screen initiative in Friendship. “Many neighborhoods are thinking about the built environment in terms of crime prevention,” says Stearman. “The South Side is managing the success they’ve had, and Lawrenceville is in the unique position to learn from that.” South Side and Lawrenceville—both in the final phase of Mainstreets—are launching neighborhood beautification strategies.

As the URA’s new Mainstreets Pittsburgh coordinator, Josette Fitzgibbons will manage relationships with district awardees and funders, and develop educational programs for neighborhood organizations and businesses. Since 2002, Mainstreets districts have stimulated $94 million in total investment, recruited 558 new businesses and created 3,200 new jobs.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Megan Stearman, URA

Image courtesy Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh

Rothschild Doyno Architects goes for LEED-Gold in new Strip District home

After 19 successful years in Regent Square, the architect firm of Rothschild Doyno is moving—and doubling its space—into a renovated bus garage at 2847 Penn Ave. in Pittsburgh's Strip District.

"We're very sensitive to the catalytic effect that positive development can have in a neighborhood," says Rothschild, who emphasizes the project's collaborative nature. "The glass windows give peeks into office activities and our conference room is a storefront. We're showing the process of architecture and design."

The 7,000-square-foot space features natural light on all four sides, 18-foot ceilings and a flexible floor plan with collaboration alcoves and a print center encased in translucent fiberglass. Giving physical form to a creative process, the building's exterior metal panels feature reproduced pages from the sketchbooks of the 13-member firm. 

"It's a living lab of our environmental commitment,” says Rothschild who notes the use of PPG spectrally selective glass and the concrete floor stained with a soy-based product from ARTEMIS, and compares the building's use of natural light to that of a sundial.

“The interior has a different feel than a typical office. It's cleaner, healthier and brighter—the next generation of office environment," he adds. The first project to receive the URA’s new low interest loan program for LEED buildings, it will seek  LEED-Gold certification.

The 15,000-square-foot lot includes a 50-foot side yard, which will house a garden and indoor-outdoor workspace. Says Doyno, "It's time for our buildings to be better citizens from an environmental standpoint. We're trying to do everything we can to play a role in the revitalization of Pittsburgh's main streets."

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Dan Rothschild and Ken Doyno, Rothschild Doyno Architects

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

Pittsburgh Opera to move into new $8M Strip District space in April

Come April, the Pittsburgh Opera will have a new home at 2425 Liberty Ave. In December, the Opera purchased the two-story Strip District property for $2.5 million. Constructed in 1870, the former Westinghouse Air Brake Building will more than double the Opera’s space.

“We anticipate having 42,000 square feet of finished space. We looked throughout the entire city and at many buildings in the Cultural District. We’re trying to improve our current situation and accommodate frequent orchestra and choir rehearsals,” says Ellen Sheppard, with Pittsburgh Opera, which is currently housed in a 16,000-square-foot space Downtown, and rents rehearsal space in the Benedum. “We have one very small, limited rehearsal space. We wanted to control our own space. As the Cultural Trust is more successful in filling its hall, scheduling that space becomes more difficult. We also need space for storing sets.”

Part of an $8 million project, the Opera’s new digs will feature a 4,000-square-foot rehearsal space, as well as administrative and programmatic space. The property’s open interiors and horizontal orientation are ideal for the organization. “There’s more public accessibility and visibility. It’s very community centric—storefront opera is a phrase that’s come up. We envision making it event-friendly for receptions and rentals,” adds Sheppard. “We’re taking a historic building and putting it back to a vibrant use. We’re often rehearsing late at night. We hope to add a small, versatile black-box space.”

The Opera, which has raised $3.4 million from foundations, corporations and its Board of Directors, is completing renovations and expanding the property. Project architect is IKM; contractor is Massaro Corporation. The Opera will announce a public campaign in May and host open house events in September.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Ellen Sheppard, Pittsburgh Opera

Image courtesy Pittsburgh Opera

Cork Factory leases 70% of retail space, adds upscale wine bar and specialty grocer

The Cork Factory has leased seventy percent of its retail space in the Strip District. Among its first retail tenants will be an upscale 10,000-square-foot wine-cigar bar and restaurant, and a 22,000-square-foot specialty grocery store.

The new shops will be located directly across the street from the lofts at 2349 Railroad St. Both tenants will open during the spring of 2008; construction will begin immediately.

The bar-restaurant and grocer are owned by Pittsburgh-based groups that will be announced shortly. “They’re solid groups with partnerships in place and very strong backing. We're bringing in a high-quality grocer, a local operator who has been in the business for twenty-five years. It’s extremely exciting,” says Katie Pliscott, with McCaffery Interests. “They’re at the pinnacle of the excitement of Downtown’s revitalization, both in residential and now the rebirth of retail. They feel that this is a prime location, and that shopping is already established here. They think this will be a catalyst for the Strip.”

The Cork Factory, which features 295 rental lofts and opened in May of 2007, has reached eighty-seven percent occupancy. Plans are underway to bring a full-service marina to the development’s riverfront property.

“We’d love to see a spa, cookware shop and dry cleaner. We’re talking to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board about a spirits shop,” adds Pliscott, who says the remaining 10,000 square feet of retail may be divided. “We have ample parking, the built-in cushion of 300 residents at our doorstep, plus the surrounding neighborhoods.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Katie Pliscott, McCaffery Interests

Image courtesy McCaffery Interests

$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

Good Apples receives URA enterprise zone loan, expands Strip District operations

Transforming the way fresh produce is sold, packaged and delivered, Strip District-based Good Apples has expanded its headquarters and statewide client base.

Good Apples received a $300,000 Enterprise Zone loan from the URA to support its expansion into a 13,000-square-foot Smallman St. Produce Terminal space.

President John McClelland, who is also CEO of Artistre, Inc., co-developed the company’s unique ordering fulfillment software. Via a “Virtual Farmers Market,” customers order and pay online and receive products at company or community sites that are shipped from the Strip District. “We were selling this technology to businesses that had older computer systems to web-enable their inventory and customer communications systems, and instead, we wanted to build a business around it,” says McClelland. “Our operations are in same building now. In July we had eleven employees—now we have twenty-six.”

Good Apples delivers 300 items—including artisan breads, pasta, lean meats, and organic blueberries—to 215 sites from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg. In partnership with the YMCA, Highmark and UPMC, Good Apples is at the center of the workplace wellness movement. “Wellness programs have become a core features in companies. We provide a practical aspect. It’s a win-win situation for everyone,” adds McClelland, who says that Good Apples also delivers to schools, and may pilot a program in Philadelphia. “Our items are five to ten days fresher than in any store. There’s no delivery fee and no minimum order. Our prices are consistent with or below grocery store prices.”

Good Apples, which has 18,000 customers, hopes to add limited home delivery. “It marries new technology with an old-line produce business,” says John Burke, with the URA.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: John McClelland, Good Apples; John Burke, URA


Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

Allegheny County projects receive $2.7M as part of $39.4M DCNR funding

A total of $2.7 million for Allegheny County projects was released on Dec. 6 by the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). The funding is part of a $39.4 million package designed to help revitalize communities and protect natural resources statewide.

Two of the largest awards went to the Urban Redevlopment Authority and Sports and Exhibition Authority for the further development of Pittsbrugh’s urban green spaces. Upcoming work on the $10.5 million South Shore Riverfront Park will involve constructing a stage and water feature, completing ADA access and installing park furniture and utilities.

Plans for the $8 million Convention Center Riverfront Park call for new docks, plaza space and trails connecting the Strip District and the Point. “It’s to make the area between the roadway and river more useable and create access to the river,” says Mary Contoro with the Sports and Exhibition Authority. Funds will also be used for new greenery, benches and lighting. Contoro, who expects designs to be completed by LaQuatra Bonci Associates by the summer of 2008, says the project will take eight months to construct.

A number of projects involving outdoor amenities in Allegheny County also received grants, including $200,000 for improvements to Hartwood Acres Mansion, $80,000 for the redevelopment of Library St. in Braddock and $162,000 to build a soccer field and walking trail in Green Tree Borough Park. Pine Township Community Center will use $250,000 to construct exercise facilities and the Port Authority of Allegheny County was awarded $200,000 to build Gateway Station Plaza.


Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Mary Contoro, Sports and Exhibition Authority; Christine Novak, DCNR

Image courtesy of Sports and Exhibition Authority

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

In The Kitchen expands with second location, now serves city and suburban patrons

After opening a Wexford store in 2002, In The Kitchen owner K.C. Lapiana jumped at the chance to expand her business with a second location at 1725 Penn Ave.

Lapiana renovated the 2,000 square-foot space, which features a 100-foot gadget wall guaranteed to please every kitchen fanatic. “It was a complete top to bottom renovation. It’s a drastic change--everything is new,” says Lapiania, who hired B&M Construction. “We have regular customers, lots of tourists, workers who frequent the area, and constant walk-by traffic. It’s a vital area. When I moved away from Pittsburgh, I missed the Strip District and the food. I’m a foodie--some people miss the Steelers, I missed the food.”

In The Kitchen carries several exclusive lines, including Messermeister and Viking cutlery, and Chantal cookware. The shop also sells tea and coffee accessories, appliances and global products used in Italian, Spanish and Mexican cuisine. Free Saturday cooking and product demos are led by Mari Musial. As one of a few Strip District business owners with Sunday hours, Lapiana has embraced her new market: “I’m reaping the benefits of being open on Sundays. From three to four I’m swamped. People are looking for things to do. It’s a destination location.”

Lapiana has experienced a spirit of camaraderie among Strip District merchants. “You really need to support the growth of the city. I hope we can make a difference. This area is prime for great things. I don’t care how many people say they won’t drive to the city or cross the river. If you have something as viable as the Strip, then people will come.”


Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: K.C. Lapiana, In The Kitchen

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene


Thinktank shared workspace moves into larger headquarters, welcomes first members

Thinktank, a cooperative workspace and small business incubator that targets creative professionals and entrepreneurs, is relocating from Bellevue to a larger space in the Strip District. Located at 2020 Smallman St., the shared workspace plans to open on September 1st.

“Our goal is to get enough people involved to get the cost down. It’s a good location where people can meet with clients, and get away from the distractions of working from home,” says Thomas Buell, with Verso Partners, who is spearheading the project.

Located above 21st Street Coffee and Tea, the 1,200 square-foot space features three large rooms, a conference room and a kitchenette. “That’s all part of the energy that really attracted me to that location--all of the stuff going on in the Strip,” says Buell, who expects Thinktank to serve 25 professionals. “I think it would be the first of its kind in Pittsburgh. There is shared office space but it’s more corporate and expensive. We want this to be a community feeling."

The facility is equipped with a key code entry system, Wi-Fi, a printer and copier, and an elevator. Currently undergoing renovations, the space also features corner windows that face St. Stanislaus Church.

Thinktank is seeking yearlong commitments for a monthly fee of $195. Members are provided with 24-hour access and limited parking. Day passes and partial memberships may be offered. “It’s a cross between a coffee shop and home office, sort of the newsroom feel. The energy of other people doing the same thing keeps you moving along. It’s all about networking," says Buell, who cites New York City's Writer’s Room as a successful model.


Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Thomas Buell, Thinktank

$1.7M residential development planned for Strip District's historic Pink Building

A new residential development is underway at 3052 Smallman St. in the Strip District. The three-story “Pink Building,” which was built in 1871 and is listed on the national register of historic places, is being converted into 14 rental apartments.

One- and two-bedroom units will range in size from 850 to 1,700 square feet, and will feature refinished original floors, large windows and 14-foot ceilings. The market-rate units will rent for between $1,300 and $1,800. “We’re excited about adding more residential. We’re a nice option to the Cork Factory. We’re hoping that Children’s Hospital would be somebody that would be interested in our building,” says project developer Art McSorley, who purchased the property in 2000.

Architect Vince Finizio is designing the project; contractor is Bridges Construction. “We’re trying to be as green as possible. We're reusing and recycling as much as we can, which has made this work for us,” says McSorley. “We’re using very efficient lighting.”

Building amenities will include a fitness facility, wine cellar and spacious lobby. The residential building, which features 18,000 square feet of rentable space, will also include up to 20 parking spaces. “It’s right on the bus routes. The 31st Street will be completed this summer, so there’s easy access by bike to the stadiums and North Side, and a straight shot to downtown. The local restaurants add to that downtown piece,” adds McSorley, who says the building’s exterior will definitely receive a new coat--and a new color—of paint.

Construction is slated to start within 60 days. The project is expected to take seven months to complete.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Art McSorley, General Nutrition Centers, Inc.

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene




















Manufacturer receives URA funds to expand Strip District operations

J. Harris & Sons, Co., one of the country’s largest manufacturers and wholesalers of lampshades, has received $350,000 in Pittsburgh Business Growth and Enterprise Zone loan funds from the URA. Funds will assist the 30 year-old company with an expansion of its operations at 50 26th St. in the Strip District.

Run by father-son team Jack and Craig Harris, the company sells millions of lampshades every year to clients such as Crystal Clear Industries, Marriott and American Eagle Outfitters. “Our first priority is to keep companies here in Pittsburgh that have good paying jobs and that have been here for a long time. J. Harris is a perfect example of that type of business,” says Tom Link with the URA.  “We always want to support our local manufacturer. It’s an opportunity to help them expand their markets and survive and grow.”

With URA assistance, Harris is renovating its 86,000 square-foot headquarters, installing new computers and exhaust fans, and completing electrical work. Funds also allowed Harris to acquire Marcis Wire Works, its key supplier of wire parts, which recently closed in Philadelphia. The move secures the company’s long-term growth, as Harris is moving Marcis’ equipment to Pittsburgh so that it can manufacture its own product parts. “Everything is moving here. Eventually, ninety-percent of everything we do will be manufactured right here in Pittsburgh,” says Jack Harris.

The project will retain 47 and create 50 new manufacturing jobs. “It’s going to have a ripple down effect to other departments. I’m hoping to be up and running by September,” says Harris, who currently oversees 39 people.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Tom Link, URA; Jack Harris, J. Harris & Sons

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene


143-room Hampton Inn & Suites set to open in the Strip District

The Strip District’s first hotel is preparing to open at the end of June. Located at 1247 Smallman St., the 143-room, 92,000 square-foot Hampton Inn & Suites sits between The Senator John Heinz History Center and One Waterfront Place.

The hotel’s height and brick exterior is unique to the Hampton brand. The eight-story hotel was designed by Indovina Associates to reflect the surrounding architecture. “We look at it as an amenity to our properties in the Strip,” says Bill Doring with The Buncher Company, hotel developer and general contractor. “We’ve also had good conversations with the History Center. They have a lot of events as well.”

The hotel’s management team, which includes Ashlee Klaber, Bryant Olson, Derek Pintado, and Elizabeth Gill—all in their late 20s—looks forward to forging relationships with local businesses. “Our location is exciting because of the Strip District. A hotel is really going to help the businesses here. It’s a big deal for a downtown hotel to offer free parking," says Klaber. “Our proximity to the convention center is great. Corporate business is going to have another option."

Rooms rates will start at $169 for weekdays and $139 for weekends. Ninety-percent of the hotel’s 35 employees are from Pittsburgh.

“It’s a dynamic location. Pittsburgh has reinvented itself in the past ten years. It's a beautiful city, real up and coming,” says Michael Gresko, with Interstate Hotels and Resorts. “It’s an affordable alternative, with beautifully appointed rooms. Over the next few years, you’re going to see a lot more of them popping up. It’s new for them to be downtown.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Bill Doring, The Buncher Company; Ashlee Klaber and Michael Gresko, Interstate Hotels and Resorts

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene


Popular Penn Avenue Fish Market is Strip District's newest lunch, wholesale spot

After opening this spring, Penn Avenue Fish Market has become a popular lunch and take-out spot in the Strip District. Located at 2208 Penn Ave., the 2,400 square-foot eatery seats 50 people in its indoor and outdoor dining areas. The market also runs a robust wholesale business.

Formerly a blood bank maintenance facility, the space was renovated by owners Henry Dewey, Angela Earley and Ronald Neumeyer. “We completely gutted and designed the whole place,” says Dewey. The layout features exposed beams, safari-themed walls and suede accents. “There’s a lot of wood and fish hanging around; it’s an open casual feel, like a marketplace.”

Dewey worked as a chef at Soba, while Neumeyer worked for Benkovitz Seafoods. “Between us we have 50 years of cooking and cutting experience.” The B.Y.O.B. market also features loft-style offices and fish, sushi and deli counters. Chalkboard menus advertise grilled swordfish sandwiches, shrimp pizza and fish from Alaska and Boston. Fish tacos have quickly become a market favorite.

“We’re already at seventy percent of our capacity. It’s been a very good investment. Like a child, the Strip is growing and getting a bigger pair of shoes,” says Dewey, a Santa Monica native who also worked in Tribeca restaurants in NYC during the 1980s. Expanding the market's model is likely in Dewey's future. “It’s in our business plan to open a fish market at Donaldson’s Crossroads, or in Cranberry, as an outlet.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Henry Dewey, Penn Avenue Fish Market

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene


Caffe Intermezzo begins expansion, will quadruple in size

Caffé Intermezzo is moving to an expanded space at 50 21st St. in the Strip District. Four times larger than its current location at 2018 Smallman St., the new 1,200 square-foot café will seat 36 people and feature a mezzanine, bar stools and sidewalk seating.

“We’ve seen our customer base grow. We wouldn’t be expanding if we didn’t feel there was more market to capture,” says Lucas Shaffer, who owns Caffé Intermezzo with his wife Alexis. They also run a location downtown at 437 Grant St. in The Frick Building.

Shaffer, 30, views expansion in terms of creating a more vibrant downtown. “We’re trying to make this corner of the Strip a little nicer--that’s our part. Maybe more people will want to move into the Cork Factory. Pittsburgh is poised for great things.”

With the move, Caffé Intermezzo will launch coffee cuppings and classes, train new staff and offer an expanded menu. The café will also debut its new Clover, a top of the line single cup commercial grade coffee brewer, making Intermezzo the second shop in Pennsylvania to own one.

“I can’t wait to see our customers in one place at the same time. We’ll be one of the only coffeehouses down here with seating,” says Shaffer, who is most passionate when discussing the Intelligentsia coffee he serves. “A lot of customers tell us we’re the best in the area. Now we can take the training wheels off and go into the full-blown place. We’re like the new kid on the block.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Lucas Shaffer, Caffé Intermezzo

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


New hotels planned for South Side, additional neighborhoods

A new Marriott SpringHill Suites is coming to SouthSide Works. The six-story hotel will feature 115 rooms, 3,800 square feet of retail space and on-site parking. Amenities will include an indoor pool and spa, fitness center, and meeting and banquet space.

Project developer, Harmar-based Kratsa Properties, hosted a hotel groundbreaking on May 9 at 2825 South Water St. "Kratsa believes there’s a demand for hotel rooms here,” says Kevin Evanto, spokesperson for Allegheny County. “It really represents the booming economy, further proof that things are turning around here. It’s a great thing when the private sector steps in to further invest.”

Evanto says Kratsa is also planning to construct two additional large hotels in Pittsburgh, including an extended stay Residence Inn on the North Shore.“They’re conducting an impact study for another hotel in the East Liberty-Shadyside area. In addition to downtown, the North Shore and Southside becoming popular for residential, they’ve also become popular travel destinations."

Expected to create 50 jobs, the Southside Marriott represents a private investment of $13.5 million. The hotel is slated to open by July of 2008. “When all are completed, it'll mean close to 500 additional hotel rooms,” says Evanto, adding to the list of new Pittsburgh hotels a Hampton Inn and Suites nearing completion in the Strip District.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Kevin Evanto, Allegheny County


Image of Hamptom Inn in Strip District copyright © Jonathan Greene


Smart Growth Conference to convene downtown on May 18

"Focusing Growth for Regional Prosperity,” the 7th annual Smart Growth Conference, will take place on May 18 at the Omni William Penn Hotel.

The free conference features keynote speaker Don Chen, executive director of Smart Growth America, a national advocacy coalition that promotes preservation of open space and farmland, reinvestment in existing communities, affordable housing and transportation alternatives.

Attendees will be invited to respond to a draft of Project Region, a long-range transportation and development plan being developed by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission. "This is an opportunity for the public to give input on the plan," say Court Gould, executive director of Sustainable Pittsburgh. "This plan will have a real impact on the face of the region, how we will grow and develop, whether we will continue to sprawl outwardly or focus on our existing communities.”

Participants will hear progress reports from three community committees created at last year's conference: leveling the field for redevelopment, promoting regionalism and transportation funding. The event will also feature a Q&A with state, regional and local leaders.

Project Region: The Southwestern Pennsylvania Growth Plan, which must be adopted by July, aims to make regional planning processes more transparent, maximize infrastructure, and integrate transportation, job creation and economic competitiveness within a plan for regional growth.

“In light of the city's recent top livable city award, this plan will address important quality of life issues for the future. We're at an important point where the plan will steer growth and development for the next 30 years,” says Gould.

To register, go here.

Road to 2010 symposium to address region's major construction projects

The region’s major construction projects, set to occur over the next three years, will be addressed at the “Road to 2010 Symposium.” The free event takes place on May 16 at the downtown Westin and is organized by Navigant Consulting, an international firm with a downtown office.

Government officials and industry experts will share information about building plans with area construction, engineering and design communities. Sessions will address construction issues relating to infrastructure, higher education, and private and public sector development. “There’s so much development money coming in with gaming and the North Shore. The synergies between different areas will impact the labor market and the lives of all Pittsburghers,” says Jeff Burd with BreakingGround, event co-sponsor. “What an exciting time to be here. We’re at the beginning of a large wave of work.”

Jack Mascaro of Mascaro Construction Company will chair a panel featuring Joseph Fink, associate vice chancellor for facilities management at the University of Pittsburgh. Transportation officials, private developers and non-profit leaders will also participate. Major city developments, such as The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s RiverParc and the new arena, will be spotlighted.

“It’s meant to demonstrate what's coming up, facilitate discussions about what the needs are, and make sure that people understand the full breadth of the region’s three-year climate,” says Burd, a session moderator. “Four out of five experts feel we’re not going to have sufficient skilled labor. We'll need to facilitate people coming here.” Burd feels the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. markets could be a source for labor. “We’re bringing in decision makers who are in charge of funding to make it a high-level event and tie everything together.” To register, call 412.454.4100.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Jeff Burd, BreakingGround/Tall Timber Group

Image courtesy of Navigant Consulting, Inc.


Howard Hanna ranks high on REAL Trends' national list of top real estate firms

Howard Hanna Real Estate Services has received three high rankings by REAL Trends, the country’s leading publisher of residential real estate analysis. Based on 2006 production, Howard Hanna was named the country’s sixth largest firm for closed transactions and fifth largest for both sales and settlement services. 

“When you consider how hot the markets have been in California, Florida and Arizona, and here's a home grown company in Pittsburgh, it’s pretty impressive,” says Steve Murray, editor of Denver-based REAL Trends, which collects data from 800 leading brokerage firms. “This is the highest ranking they’ve ever attained."

Murray would not be surprised to see the company enter new markets. “We are actively looking for quality acquisitions of real estate companies and expanding our mortgage, title and insurance businesses with adding new locations in 2007,” says Howard W. “Hoddy” Hanna, III, chairman and CEO of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services.

Howard Hanna was also recognized as the nation’s third largest privately owned real estate firm; in 2006, the company completed 52,555 closed and settlement service transactions. “In a year that was down in overall real estate sales, it is gratifying that Howard Hanna went against the market and had another up year,” says Hanna. “The real estate market in Western Pennsylvania is of strong value, and will continue to be, with three to five percent appreciation in the next two years. This will create housing appreciation in our region to be in the top 10% nationally.”

With more than 3,600 employees, Howard Hanna has 120 offices in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and West Virginia. This year, the company is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
 
Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Steve Murray, REAL Trends

Image courtesy of Real Trends


335-mile Great Allegheny Passage trail system nears completion

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of Allegheny County


Grand View Scenic Byway receives regional park designation

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

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

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

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

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Ethan Raup, MWCDC

Image courtesy of MWCDC


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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Sean Brady, Venture Outdoors

Image courtesy of Venture Outdoors


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

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of CCAC


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


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


New club and pizza eatery join Strip District's nightlife

After a successful opening in November, the Strip District’s Metropolis nightclub is expanding to include a new after hours club and pizza restaurant. Located at 1900-1960 Smallman St., the 26,000 square-foot property now features four venues, including Metropolis, Papa J’s Pizza Ré, Gotham Athletic Association and The Daily Planet.

With a capacity of 600, the upscale Gotham Athletic Association will be open until 3:30 a.m. and will present comedy nights and battle of the band performances. “During the day it’s the glittery side of Superman, and at night, the darker side of Batman,” says owner Jules Troiani, of the Metropolis-Gotham concept. The club is also available for corporate events.

Located behind the clubs, Papa J’s Pizza Ré specializes in fresh wood-fired pizzas. “Twelve-inch pizzas will be served uncut, which is typical in Italy--guests cut the pizzas themselves,” says Troiani, who also owns Papa J’s downtown and in Carnegie. Pizza Ré, with seating for 60, will feature four pizza varieties, baked wings and wood-fired ham sandwiches. 

“The jewel about it all is the Gotham Athletic Association,” says Troiani. ”It’ll be the urban hub of the city.” The private club features a dance floor with a checkerboard motif, marble-top bars and a mezzanine. Gotham will also offer entertainment such as a life-size chess game and a miniature basketball game called two bounce.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Jules Troiani


City business districts awarded $400,000 in Mainstreets funding

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

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

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

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

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Robert Rubentein; Alecia Sirk


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


Up to 70 new condos planned for the Strip District

Jack Benoff, president of Solara Ventures, plans to bring up to 70 new condos ranging in size from 800 to 2,000 square feet, to the Strip District. The Philadelphia-based developer is purchasing seven buildings along Smallman and 25th Streets, which includes the Otto Milk Building, from the Ironite Corporation for approximately $1.2 million.

“During my first trip to Pittsburgh, I drove past and saw the original tower,” says Benoff. He cites the location with nearby restaurants and bars as a draw, along with new residential projects.  “There will be 300 rental units across the street and Rugby Realty has a project there," he says.

Benoff, who is also developing condos downtown at 941 Penn, is working with Indovina Associates to create preliminary designs and determine remediation costs. The 86,000 square-foot project may incorporate existing architectural and industrial elements, including the brick tower, stainless steel tanks and 1940s-era milk cartons. “We’ll do condos in a couple of phases—lofts with mezzanines and some penthouses with roof decks," says the developer.

Part of the property’s 12,000 square-foot first floor may be leased to a professional services firm. The project will involve a combination of rehabilitation and new construction and will expand an existing 9,000 square-foot parking facility.

“We’re very interested in making this affordable,” adds Benoff, who says some condos will start at $200,000. “We’re working with the URA for remediation and façade loans.” Expecting to break ground in the second quarter of 2007, he says,  “I’m excited about being part of the vibrancy of the community--to really create a neighborhood there."

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Jack Benoff

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene



City to buy back tax liens on 11,000 parcels in $6.5M deal

On Dec. 7, Mayor Ravenstahl announced that the City of Pittsburgh will buy back tax liens on 11,000 parcels of property currently unoccupied and undeveloped. Part of the Mayor’s plan to assist Pittsburgh neighborhoods with revitalization and economic development efforts, the $6.5 million deal will be financed through the city’s general fund and is expected to be completed by the end of March 2007.

“Our neighborhoods can no longer be neglected,” said Ravenstahl.  “Now, properties previously unavailable for re-development because of their high tax-liens, can finally be developed. This has been the hurdle we faced over  and over again.”

The deal with Capital Asset, a subsidiary of MBIA Inc., the Armonk, New York-based bond insurer, was negotiated in partnership with the Pittsburgh Public Schools and Water and Sewer Authority. From 1996 through 1999, the city sold tax-liens on 14,000 parcels to Capital Asset Research Corporation for $64 million. 

“This plan reflects one of my top priorities for the New Year: the need to shift our mindset from one of managing decline to one of building a Pittsburgh for the future,” said Ravenstahl. "We talk about bringing our neighborhoods back, we talk about reinvesting in our neighborhoods. This is unprecedented; it's something that will give us control."

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Mayor Luke Ravenstahl


Rachel Carson Homestead launches centennial events

On Dec. 5, the Rachel Carson Homestead Association (RCHA) launched its 2007 Centennial Celebration. Designed to highlight Carson’s environmental legacy and southwestern PA’s leadership in environmental, conservation and eco-tourism initiatives, the year-long celebration of the author, scientist and Springdale native will feature major events throughout the region.

Recently named leading environmental campaigner of all time by the U.K. Environment Agency, Carson is credited with founding the green movement after publishing Silent Spring in 1962. “This is where the base of who she became was started--current day environmental organizations trace back to her,” says Patricia DeMarco, RCHA's executive director, who calls Carson a “Pittsburgh icon.”

The centennial will spotlight Carson’s hometown and encourage people to consider all aspects of a green lifestyle. “We’re trying to propagate her ideas and philosophy,” says DeMarco, who hopes the centennial will educate people about creating a permanent footprint of sustainability, as well as how to achieve full functionality for area rivers.

The RCHA and local partners will present a birthday block-party, programs about global warming and sustainable agriculture, and a symposium at CMU. Activities will include plays, concerts and films, a national women’s health conference and a groundbreaking for a new downtown monument to Carson.

In April, the RCHA will announce a legacy challenge encouraging individuals, businesses, institutions and government to make permanent, measurable changes in behavior and policy that promote Carson’s environmental ethic.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Patricia DeMarco

Image courtesy of the Rachel Carson Homestead Association


Onorato signs landmark riverfront park legislation

On December 1, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato signed legislation to support the development of a 128-mile long riverfront park along the Allegheny, Monongahela, Ohio and Youghiogheny Rivers.

Last month, County Council members David Fawcett and Jim Burn introduced the countywide park proposal. On November 21, Council unanimously approved an ordinance that authorizes County officials to start acquiring properties and begin the park's mapping, design and engineering phase. Touching more than half of Allegheny County’s 130 municipalities, the amenity will become the world’s longest urban linear park.

“Once you connect the trails, the usage of the parks will go up enormously,” says Fawcett, who has received more positive e-mails about the park than about any other topic since Council was created in 2000. “Cyclists, joggers and commuters can get from one place to another without interruption.”

New amenities will include picnic sites, athletic facilities, fishing areas, and rock climbing spots. “There's a focus on waterfront development throughout the world,” says Fawcett, citing examples like Chicago, Chattanooga and Vancouver. “Ours could be the most spectacular and largest, because you have the greatest length of waterways.”

Though funding information has not been released, Fawcett says there is “expression from a lot of different sectors for funding, which is in line with this being economic development, not just another park.”

Three County departments—Parks, Public Works and Economic Development--will undertake the project, which is expected to exceed $100 million and take several years.

“This follows Chief Executive Dan Onorato’s plan to develop our brownfield and riverfront sites as part of his economic development plans," says Dennis Davin, director of Allegheny County's Department of.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: David Fawcett; Dennis Davin


PHFA announces $1.5M excellence in design initiative

The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) has launched a new
$1.5 million Excellence in Design Initiative (EDI). Unprecedented nationally, the demonstration program will reward design excellence and encourage statewide architectural, engineering and construction standards in affordable housing.

Qualifying submissions may be eligible for design grants made payable to the development team’s architect. Teams may include for-profit and non-profit developers, architects and community development organizations.

“We’re looking for creative, functional designs that integrate green building if possible,” says PHFA’s executive director Brian Hudson. “We’d like to incorporate some of these designs into our ongoing work.” Funds may be used to support affordable housing and mixed-use developments that include rehabilitation and new construction.

The Community Design Center of Pittsburgh (CDCP), Community Design Collaborative of AIA Philadelphia and Penn State University’s Hamer Center will assist with reviewing submissions and conducting site visits. Applicants must attend a training seminar in Harrisburg on December 1; funds will be distributed based on amounts required by best projects.

“It's an opportunity to demonstrate that quality design results in added value,” says Jason Vrabel with CDCP who says local governments must provide matching funds. “I’ve met with the URA and they are prepared to partner on this.

“I’m hoping we see projects with strong community development angles,” he adds.  “It’s a very innovative opportunity to set a statewide precedent for housing agencies--we think it could become a national model.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Brian Hudson; Jason Vrabel

Image courtesy of PHFA


Duquesne University hosts business technology conference

On Nov. 28, Duquesne University’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and School of Business Administration will team up to present the region’s first Pennsylvania Business Technology Conference. The event will focus on how businesses can use technology to improve profitability and productivity.

“Technology changes so rapidly—corporate and business worlds have a hard time keeping up with how it can improve performance,” says SBDC director Mary McKinney. “We’re presenting technologies that are most able to assist businesses with growth.”

Keynote speaker Dan Miklovic, of the leading technology research firm Gartner Inc., will predict the next three years’ hottest technology issues. U.S. Congressman Mike Doyle will discuss how technology can support community revitalization. A roundtable discussion will feature representatives from Google, Oracle, Summa Technologies, and iGATE.

“While small and medium-sized businesses are very open to adopting new technologies, they often lack what’s needed to take new resources to fruition,” says Ken Saban, with Duquesne’s School of Business Administration. “We looked at technology’s impact on business performance and found there wasn’t a neutral platform for people to get unbiased information.”

More than 100 people are expected to attend. “It’s an opportunity to connect business owners and managers and with technologists,” says Saban. “People will walk away with critical insights.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Mary McKinney; Ken Saban

Image courtesy of Duquesne University


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


PA pledges $25 million for Point State Park

On October 11, Governor Rendell released $25 million from Pennsylvania’s capital budget for the restoration and improvement of Point State Park.

Set to being this fall for completion in late 2007, phase one includes infrastructure and amenity work, such as constructing a four-acre lawn and stage pad as well as new landscaping, benches and lighting and wireless Internet access.

“The whole park will be renovated,” says Christine Novak with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

Contractors are S.E.T. Inc., Lone Pine Construction and Power Contracting Company. Pressley Associates, Inc., Landscape Architects developed the park’s master plan.

In collaboration with DCNR, Riverlife Task Force and Allegheny Conference on Community Development developed a 2004 master plan, with significant public input, that addressed the deteriorating park.

“This was unique for us--it let the community play a role,” says Novak. “We’re trying to accommodate different types of users.”

Phase two includes creating cycling paths, water steps to the rivers, and new connections between the Park and the Three Rivers Heritage and Great Allegheny Passage Trails.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Christina Novak, press secretary, DCNR

Image courtesy of Riverlife Task Force


Trader Joe’s to celebrate grand opening

On October 27, Trader Joe’s opens the doors to its first Pittsburgh location, a 10,500 square-foot store at 6343 Penn Avenue in East Liberty.

The much-anticipated opening will kick off with a ceremonial lei cutting and will feature product demos and food tastings. 
 
The store’s festive décor combines traditional cedar-covered walls, Hawaiian-inspired elements and local flare. Its design pays tribute to Pittsburgh’s beloved bridges with large models and murals of the city at night. Built in the 1900s as a post office, the building features 20-foot ceilings and 16-foot windows.

"We’re eager to be part of the neighborhood,” says Alison Mochizuki with Trader Joe’s. “There are a lot of foodies in Pittsburgh.”

Known as a “store of stories,” the company’s reputation is built on distinctive products, great deals and a light-hearted atmosphere. Considered “traders on the culinary seas,” employees don signature Hawaiian shirts and offer insightful product background.

“They’ve been a pleasure to do business with--from operations to real estate to in-store personnel,” says Lori Moran of Ballymoney & Company, Inc., developer of EastSide Village, where the grocery is located.

The store carries domestic and imported products including artisan breads, Arabica bean coffees and frozen entrées, along with basics.

To maintain low prices, Trader Joe’s purchases directly from manufacturers and sells its 1,000 items under a private label. Popular favorites include Trader Darwin's vitamins, Trader José's salsas and Trader Giotto’s sauces. 

Introducing a dozen new items weekly, Trader Joe's employs buyers who scour Europe, South America and Asia for unique products at great values. Thousands of items are tasted annually to identify products for both “culinary adventurers and microwave aficionados.”

Pittsburghers can soon expect Trader Joe’s now-legendary “Fearless Flyer” in mailboxes. Dubbed a cross between Consumer Reports and Mad Magazine, the often-irreverent newsletter highlights products and recipes.

Founded in 1958 in Los Angeles, Trader Joe’s has 260 stores in 22 states.  

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Alison Mochizuki, Trader Joe’s; Lori Moran, Ballymoney & Company, Inc.

Photograph copyright © Lori Moran


Guyasuta Fellowship hosts transportation summit

To address issues facing statewide transportation, Pittsburgh’s Guyasuta Fellowship, a young citizens’ forum tackling regional issues, is hosting an on-air summit to be broadcast live on WQED-TV on October 26 at 8 p.m.

The summit will engage citizens and regional leaders in a discussion about transportation funding, priorities and planning.

“The idea is to open up this issue to people’s living rooms throughout the region,” says Guyasuta Fellow Joshua Punchur.

The event features program fellows, along with representatives from city council, Port Authority, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, and the Pittsburgh Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers, who will share perspectives about highways and bridges, bike infrastructure and public transit.

The public is invited to participate through phone calls and online exchange. “We’re looking at transportation in a comprehensive manner,” says Punchur.

Beginning on October 20, WQED’s website will post discussion questions designed for public input. Following the summit, public recommendations will be gathered via e-mail and a transportation blog.

“We hope to stir up conversation around these topics,” says Punchur. 

Program fellows will submit a final report to city council and others in November. 

Created by Councilman Peduto in 2002, the fellowship annually welcomes 100 young Pittsburghers to meet with leaders in specific fields throughout a ten-month period.

“It’s critical in these discussions that you give young people the chance to participate--they are going to have to live with and pay for these decisions,” says Peduto.

Source: Bill Peduto, City Council; Joshua Punchur, Guyasuta Fellowship


Forum spotlights opportunities for regional businesses in China

On October 12, more than 120 people attended the U.S. Chamber of Commerce forum China Business 2006: Expanding Opportunities for U.S. Companies downtown.  

Designed to advise regional businesses on export and investment opportunities in China, the forum featured Li Hiyan, China’s counselor for economic affairs and Mike Byrnes, senior advisor with Yuan Associates.

“This signifies how serious we are about exporting to China,” says Joe Fawkner with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “China is in the midst of market reform and Pittsburgh’s strong companies can offer services.”

Fawkner suggested that PNC could provide banking services and that Westinghouse could assist with energy resource development.

“There’s an incredible need in China for environmentally friendly technologies,” says Fawkner. “Pittsburgh is a model of how effectively a city can be cleaned up.”

Co-organized by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, the Pittsburgh forum, one of eight nationwide, provided business owners with opportunities to network with trade reps and learn from success stories. 

“This the first time we’ve promoted better awareness of China’s business environment. It’s cutting edge,” says Fawkner. “We targeted cities that reflect more of the reality in America.”

In Pennsylvania, Fawkner sees a growing interest in trade and investment in China. He cites local companies already invested in China, such as PPG and Fairfield Scientific, as examples.

China is Pennsylvania’s fifth largest export market; since 2001, exports to the country have risen 238 percent. In 2005, Pennsylvania exported $933 million in goods and services to China.

As a follow-up to the forum, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development is organizing a trade mission to China in 2007.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Joe Fawkner, associate director, Northeast Asia, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Allegheny Conference on Community Development

Image courtesy of Allegheny Conference on Community Development


Pittsburgh to host 2,500 for National Preservation Conference

On October 31-November 5, Pittsburgh hosts the National Preservation Conference, the country’s premier educational mechanism for historic and community preservation.

Presented by The National Trust for Historic Preservation, with support from partner Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation (PHLF), the event presents strategies for protecting and restoring historic structures and communities.

“We’ll have planners, advocates, preservationists, municipal officials and leaders in community revitalization from across the county,” says Cathy McCollum, PHLF’s chief programs officer.

Over 2,500 participants are expected to attend fifty educational sessions to learn from best case studies and approaches. Author, historian and Pittsburgh native David McCullough will present the keynote address.

Pittsburgh was chosen because of its historic sites, livability and surrounding countryside. The conference will utilize Pittsburgh as a laboratory for exploring current issues surrounding preservation and revitalization, including green building practices.

Thirty site visits--including Manchester, Station Square, the Hill District, and Ambridge--will investigate neighborhood and downtown revitalization, affordable housing, Brownfields, transportation, and tourism.  

“The host city becomes the workshop for participants,” says McCollom. “We'll be out and about in the city.”

New this year are free public events. These include an address by PHLF president Arthur P. Ziegler, Jr on October 31 at 5:30 p.m. at the Byham Theater, a premiere of local filmmaker Ken Love’s documentary Saving Fallingwater on November 4 at 1:45 p.m. at the Hilton and an Exhibit Hall and Old House Fair on November 1-3 at the Hilton.

The public is invited to join Mayor Ravenstahl, Senator Ferlo and the URA for a reception at the City County Building on October 31 at 7:30 p.m.

“National conferences are usually rolled out with a lot of sameness,” says McCollum. “From the beginning, we wanted this to be different.”

Planners worked with the African American Preservation Alliance to address diversity in preservation and PHLF awarded 100 local scholarships.

Two thousand people have registered for the conference and organizers are hoping for a record turnout. To register, go here.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Cathy McCollom, PHLF


Image courtesy of the National Trust for Historic Preservation


Green building events will help set national agenda

Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Association (PHLF) and Green Building Alliance (GBA) will present two events that examine green restoration and building on Oct. 30-31 as part of the Greening of Historic Properties National Summit.

The events will occur in conjunction with the National Trust for Historic Preservation Conference in Pittsburgh Oct. 31-Nov. 5.

A free Town Hall Meeting on Oct. 30 at 5:30 p.m. at the Heinz History Center brings green building and historic preservation experts together to share strategies for integrating the goals of both disciplines. The meeting will solicit public input and announce the formation of a national green building planning team. Meeting outcomes will be reported during November’s 2006 Greenbuild conference in Denver.

“Green-building issues are helping to create new alliances among preservationists, environmentalists, conservationists, clean water activists, and others,” says Cathy McCollum, PHLF’s chief programs officer. “The result may be an influx of young people into preservation.”

On Oct. 31 at the Convention Center, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) presents "Using LEED" for new construction on historic projects, a workshop that will cover methods for leveraging LEED concepts into historic projects, green strategies and modifications necessary for sustainable design, and tips for achieving LEED compliance. Green building case studies and resources will be shared.

Conducted by leading green building practitioner Ralph DiNola, the workshop targets industry professionals who wish to enter the rapidly growing green building market and learn more about USGBC’s LEED for New Construction Green Building Rating System. Architects, manufacturers, engineers, developers, contractors and government officials are encouraged to register.

A national green building leader, the Pittsburgh region features 13 newly-constructed buildings and nine historic renovations that have achieved LEED Certification.

To register for the Town Hall Meeting, go here. To register for the USGBC workshop, go here.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Cathy McCollom, PHLF; Ryan Snow, GBA

Image courtesy of PHLF and GBA


Neighbors in the Strip receives $700,000 to support public market hall

Neighbors in the Strip (NITS) has received a $700,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop the region’s first year-round public market hall along Smallman Street between 16th and 21st Streets.

The project involves a renovation of a 30,000-42,000 square-foot portion of the Pennsylvania Railroad Fruit Auction and Sale Building, built in 1926 as a produce terminal.

The federal grant represents one fifth of the project cost. Additional funding is being provided by the PA Department of Community and Economic Development and local foundations. NITS will issue RFPs to select an architect and contractor. Construction will begin in 2007.

“We are one of the few major cities that doesn’t have a public market,” says Cindy Cassell with NITS, citing Cleveland’s West Side Market and Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal as models. “The idea is to make a strong community gathering place, not a private enterprise.”

The market hall will house 50 vendors, a stage, certified kitchen, seating areas and public restrooms. Vendor space will range from 100 to 2,000 square feet.

Cassell links the market to city housing and tourism. “With residential coming in, this presents a stronger draw for local shopping and is an additional marketing tool for the Convention Center.”

A diverse product mix will feature food and non-food products by local wholesalers, retailers and small manufacturers, and will expand on the Strip's current offerings. The market will support community sustainable agriculture, feature food demos and become an additional anchor for the district.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Cindy Cassell, manager of economic development, NITS

Image courtesy of Neighbors In The Strip


The Strip District welcomes Privé Ultralounge

Privé Ultralounge, a new nightclub located at 1650 Smallman Street, is gearing up for its first fall season in Pittsburgh’s Strip District.

Once home to music venue Rosebud, the property underwent a complete renovation before opening during late summer. The four-month renovation was completed by owner Michael Norman, a Murrysville native who previously owned Strip District clubs H2O and Chrome.

The 10,000 square-foot club features a lounge, dance floor, 1,500 square-foot balcony and three bars. The space features 22-foot high ceilings and 16-foot garage doors that open onto a 720 square-foot patio.

“The design is like a residence meets nightclub--a fusion of lounge and club. We have coffee tables, couches, even bed seating—it’s very comfortable,” says Dave Lander, Privé’s general manager. “The flipside is that we also have a dance floor and high-end Bose sound and lighting systems.”
 
Privé’s capacity is 1,100, including seating for 300, VIP areas and private alcoves. Drawing 600 to 1,000 people on weekend nights, Privé serves a tapas menu, 50 varieties of martinis and wine, and more than 30 beers.

The club’s interior features gold paintings created by Luca Paganico, draperies designed by Gene Sanes and LED illuminated restrooms.

Privé offers valet parking on Friday and Saturday evenings, and hosts a “Phantom of the Ultralounge Masquerade” on October 28.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Dave Lander, Privé Ultralounge

Image courtesy of Privé


Pittsburgh hosts Birmingham Innovation Group

From September 17th to 19th, Pittsburgh hosted a delegation of 100 government and business leaders from Birmingham, Alabama.

Sponsored by the city’s Regional Chamber of Commerce (BRCC), the “Birmingham Innovation Group” visited to study the region’s success with brownfield redevelopment and to examine Pittsburgh’s downtown housing initiatives, public transportation, Convention Center, and image branding.

“Every year we travel to a different benchmarking city. The more I talked with people in Pittsburgh, the more I realized our similarities,” says Barry Copeland, executive director of BRCC. “And not just the old you made steel we made steel comparison. We have much more in common than industry.”

The delegation toured the Waterfront, SouthSide Works and Schenley Plaza, and enjoyed activities at PNC Park and downtown. They studied plans for Piatt Place and PNC 3, and talked with regional leaders including Dan Onorato and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership's Mike Edwards.

“Pittsburgh and Allegheny County have done a magnificent job with brownfield reclamation. It is dramatic,” says Copeland.

Copeland cited Pittsburgh’s leadership in biotechnology and parks conservation as further motivation for using the city as a model. His group met with Dr. Art Levine at UPMC and Don Smith of the BioVenture project.

"We met so many people engaged in what they are doing. We have a good basis to go back and do more to create authorities and clear sites for development,” says Copeland who adds, “Pittsburgh is so beautiful and clean. Coming though the Fort Pitt Tunnels is so impressive." 

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Barry Copeland, BRCC


New restaurant and nightclub celebrate grand opening in the Strip District

On August 18, the Strip District welcomed a new restaurant and nightclub to its lively neighborhood mix of boutiques, eateries, galleries and markets.

The 6,000 square-foot Isoldi’s on the Strip, specializing in authentic Italian fare, and the 7,000 square-foot Pure, a posh nightclub with an emphasis on design, are located at 108 19th Street, at the corner of Penn Avenue.

General manager for the second-story nightclub and ground level restaurant is Tolga Sevdik. Jason Miller oversaw the projects’ design and construction.

Pure features a distinctive monochromatic white decor, deck and VIP section, while Isoldi's includes a large lounge and is available for catering and private parties.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Jen Clark, marketing director, Isoldi’s on the Strip/Pure

Photograph copyright © Tracy Certo
    

$2.5 million condo project to bring 14 residential units to the Pink Building

Pittsburgh’s Pink Building is headed for a facelift and a new name. Built in 1871, the structure served as a public school until it was sold to Crucible Steel becoming the company’s headquarters in the 1940s.

Located at 3052 Smallman Street, adjacent to the 31st Street Bridge, the affectionately dubbed Pink Building links Lawrenceville with the Strip District, and has housed a variety of tenants, including Schoolhouse Yoga, furniture retailers and Jackson/Clark Partners.

“There are multiple reasons we wanted to do this project. The building is historic and lends itself to residential use, with open cheery spaces inside,” says Art McSorley, owner of Pittsburgh Decorative Center. He bought the building six years ago and still feels that “there are not a lot of condos for sale in the Strip District." 

With construction to start within 90 days, plans for the transformation include creating 14 condo units, nine of which will be multi-story and ranging in size from 1,200 to 2,600 square feet. The majority of the open floor plan condos will be two-bedroom units with an integral parking space provided per unit.  

Building amenities include spacious common and lobby areas, 10-foot high hallways, and patio space. Each unit will have exterior space. Architect is Vince Finizio of Pittsburgh.

The Pink Building is within walking distance to the Strip District, a mecca for those seeking fresh seafood and produce, baked goods, and gourmet items at reasonable prices.

Writer: Jennifer Baron

Source: Art McSorley, Owner, Pittsburgh Decorative Center

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


$60 million cork factory pre-leases first 30 luxury lofts

Pittsburgh’s latest pioneer in factory-turned-loft living announces pre-leasing of 30 of its 297 units. The Cork Factory, located at 2349 Railroad Street in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Strip District, boasts river and urban views, an easy stroll to eclectic merchants, boutiques, restaurants, nightclubs, and museums, and many amenities.

Set within one of the region’s most significant landmarks, the Cork Factory’s chic comfortable spaces marry past and present. Once a thriving cork-cutting enterprise founded by Thomas Armstrong in 1860, the historic complex features sections designed by turn-of-the-century master Frederick Osterling.

Prospective tenants can choose from 35 modern floor plans, including one, two or three bedroom units from 682 to 2247 square feet. The Cork Factory is now leasing 47,000 square feet of retail space with a goal to attract a restaurant, dry cleaner and coffeehouse.

Lofts feature 14-foot ceilings, washer/dryer, and naturally exposed brick and finished concrete. Select units contain stainless steel sinks, garden-style tubs and eight-foot windows. Tenants will enjoy an outdoor inground pool, patios, gas grills, internet access, full fitness center, peninsula kitchens and garage parking across the street. The original Engine Room has been converted into a community center for residential gatherings.

Reflecting our region’s marriage of industry and innovation, the Cork Factory features a Business Center, complete with computer stations, conference space and fax, printer and copier service. Just announced is the addition of a private marina for residents. The Cork Factory is pet-friendly and offers 24-hour concierge service.

“Our first tenants are those with foresight who watched this building for years and wanted their choice for this prime location,” says Debbie Roberts of McCaffery Interests. Underscoring the Cork Factory’s relationship to the city, Roberts adds, “It is amazing how we have been welcomed with open arms. Neighbors in the Strip has been phenomenal in assisting us.”

(Source: Debbie Roberts, McCaffery Interests)

Photo courtesy of The Cork Factory


Pittsburgh's premiere open-air art and antique market debuts in Strip District

Second Saturday Art and Antique Market has officially settled into 30th Street and Penn Avenue. Conveniently nestled between Lawrenceville and the Strip District, the new venue for art and antiques is attracting eager patrons to the area.

Pittsburgh natives Janis Wilson and Jill Thompson were outdoor market devotees while Washington, D.C. and New York City residents. After relocating back to Pittsburgh, the pair hatched an ambitious homespun counterpart: “I visited Eastern Market on Capital Hill, where people automatically started their day. There was nothing in Pittsburgh like this. If I cannot find something, I make it.”

The market’s location is ideal: “There is free parking at 30th and Liberty. It is central, so shoppers can walk from many places.” After starting in March, the market is bombarded with inquiries. The pair senses momentum generated: “We want people to look forward to this regularly, to develop a reputation for outstanding quality and variety and to attract over 100 vendors.”

Wilson, who apprenticed with Halston’s milliner, sells hats in SoHo and at Ruth Young in Shadyside. She insists the market is not an income generator; the goal is to offer reasonable rates and exposure to artists. One large space is $30, two spaces $50 and three spaces $80.

“We provide opportunities for artists who may not show in galleries and boutiques. For dealers it is great. Pittsburgh lacks an Antique District; it is fragmented, with shops far from the city. We hope that shops will send reps and we can help them move merchandise.”

The founders are securing food vendors and scouting indoor sites for winter months. The next Second Saturday Art and Antique Market is May 13, 9 AM-3 PM, and features 22 vendors selling handmade weaving, jewelry, metalworks, soap, vintage clothing and antique furniture. Information: artantiquesmart@aol.com.

(Source: Janis Wilson, Wilson Thompson Ideas)

143-room hotel first in the Strip District

The Strip District will soon have its first hotel with construction underway for the 143-room Hampton Inn and Suites scheduled to open May, 2007. Unlike other Hampton Inns, this eight-story hotel at 1247 Smallman St. will feature a brick façade to blend in with its neighbors, The Senator John Heinz Regional History Center and One Waterfront Place, home of Seagate.

"We’re hoping to create a better business environment for our office tenants and enhance the area,” said Bill Doring, executive vp and treasurer of the Buncher Company, the general contractor for the project. Indovina and Associates is the architect.

The intent, Doring said, is to feature a more moderately priced hotel as an amenity to the existing office buildings. The Buncher Company owns the Strip-based One Waterfront Place and Penn Liberty Plaza One and Two.

Not only is the hotel the first for the Strip District, but “it fills a niche in the Pittsburgh hotel system,” said Becky Rodgers, executive director of Neighbors in the Strip. “Currently the hotels downtown rates range from 139 to $359 dollars but the Hampton Inn will probably have a $110 price point,” she estimated, “which will make coming to the convention center more accessible.”

Another plus? Aside from its standard breakfast buffet, the hotel won’t have a restaurant so guests will “have to experience the Strip and downtown,” said Rodgers.

Source: Bill Doring, The Buncher Company

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 `


Gilda’s Club of Western Pennsylvania under construction

Inside the entrance of the soon-to-be clubhouse for Gilda’s Club of Western Pennsylvania is a red three-ring binder. All through the Strip District building -- the former Foundry Ale Works on Smallman Street -- carpenters and painters are at work, amid scaffolding, plastic sheeting and dropcloths.
Inside the binder, about 45 workers -- including carpenter Joe Kulasa -- have signed their own names and those of friends and relatives who have had cancer.

Kulasa says his mother, Patsy, died in 1995 of brain cancer, leaving behind her husband and five children. “I wish this could’ve been around when she was,” he says. Kulasa, who was adopted as an infant, remembers his mother as a woman who loved to care for foster children, “three at a time,” he says, “right up until she was diagnosed.”

Gilda’s Club was founded in memory of comedienne and Saturday Night Live star Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer in 1989. The clubhouses -- Pittsburgh’s will be the 21st -- offer free activities, exercise classes and counseling to people living with cancer.

Pittsburgh’s chapter was founded in 2000 by Cindy Stanish, an oncology nurse who recognized her patients’ need for emotional support. A board of directors, formed in 2003, has been raising $3.5 million to complete the clubhouse and fund two years’ operating expenses. The clubhouse will open in June.

General contractor Continental Building Systems is working on the clubhouse at no profit, and architects Dunn & Associates have donated many hours of services.

Sources: Joe Kulasa, Arcuri Construction; Colleen Dwyer, Gilda’s Club of Western Pennsylvania.


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


Strip District’s Café Richard feeds the foodies

Lunch is not usually a gourmet meal, but chef Richard Deshantz has opened a little market and daytime place that offers fine sandwiches to please exacting palates.

For the relatively new Café Richard in the heart of the Strip District’s market area, Deshantz says he’s up at 3 a.m. working on his artisan breads and homemade pastries. “We make the croissants, the scones every morning. I’m into bread, into cheeses, all that kind of stuff,” he says. “I look for heirloom tomatoes, butter bib lettuce, nice cheese, kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper on all the sandwiches.”

Besides sandwiches, which run about 6--$8, Café Richard offers morning pastries, coffee, and a few specialty groceries, like cheeses and imported olive oil.

The two best-selling sandwiches are his prosciutto and the ever-popular turkey club. In this case, Deshantz explains, the old standard features homemade “whole-grain bread, oven-roasted turkey, fresh-sliced avocados, applewood bacon … ”

Pausing in this somewhat sensual ingredient list, Deshantz adds, “It’s for foodies, people who really appreciate food. It’s a small little place, [with] the best olive oil, the best lunchmeat. Are people gonna appreciate it? I don’t do it for money, I just do my own thing.

“I was always into art,” Deshantz says. “I went to art school, [then] started working at a restaurant. It’s another way for me to be creative.”

Source: Richard Deshantz, Café Richard

Photo copyright © Tom Altany



Cork Factory restoration to get $1.5m for parking garage, public trail

Another piece of funding will be coming in shortly for the mammoth Armstrong Cork Factory rehabilitation in the Strip District.

The vast, three-building former industrial complex -- built from 1901-13 and closed as a manufacturing facility in 1974 -- is being made over into 295 loft-style apartments. The project will also feature a restaurant, an extension of the Allegheny Riverfront trail (with public access), and, thanks partly to state funding, a 427-space parking garage with retail on the first floor.

Until recently, the Armstrong Cork Factory had dashed a decade’s worth of redevelopment schemes. This time, though, the $60 million renovation by McCaffery Interests of Chicago and building owner Chuck Hammel (also head of Strip-based trucking company Pitt-Ohio Express) is nearing completion and leasing has begun.

The latest public financing should be officially in place soon, URA officials say. In March, Governor Ed Rendell “invited” the agency to apply for -- meaning they’re very likely to receive -- a state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant of $750,000, which would fund the parking garage. Part of the garage would be for tenants, with the remainder available for public parking. The new structure will also include 47,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor.

A second state grant from the Growing Greener II fund will support another rehab: About $759,000 to repair the collapsing 30-foot “seawall” at the property’s edge along the Allegheny River. The wall, in turn, will more literally support an extension of the riverfront trail -- which currently ends at 16th Street -- on through the Cork Factory property at 23rd Street.

Source: Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh

Photo copyright © Tom Altany



Fruits of prosperity: The Strip re-examines the Pennsylvania Railroad Fruit Auction Building

At midday, the Strip’s cornucopia of grocers, restaurants and vendors creates one of the city’s most vibrant commercial neighborhoods. Most of the people packing Penn Avenue would be surprised to learn that the historic core of the Strip’s shipping industry, the Pennsylvania Railroad Fruit Auction Building, sits half empty.

Last year, Neighbors in the Strip created a plan to fill the old railroad terminal’s loading docks again. Similar to Pike’s Place in Seattle and Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal, the Strip Marketplace would maintain the building’s current wholesale tenants and its raw warehouse feel, while adding facilities for ad hoc “market stall” vendors and perhaps also built-out retail and live performance space.

Based on this plan, Neighbors In the Strip has retained architects Pfaffmann and Associates to develop a schematic to see how the old Pennsylvania Railroad building, which is owned by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, could be adapted to their Marketplace concept. A $20,000 grant from the Community Design Center will pay for the schematic.

The mix of goods in the Strip Marketplace would be very local, serving as a small-business incubator as well as a complement to the established Strip businesses. “It would basically be an extension of the current Strip,” says Jason Vrabel, the CDC’s design fund program manager. “It would make it without a doubt the culinary and produce center of Pittsburgh.”

Sources: Jason Vrabel, Community Design Center of Pittsburgh design fund program manager; Neighbors In the Strip, “The Strip Marketplace Concept and Plans.”

Photo copyright © Tom Altany

Neighbors In the Strip, www.neighborsinthestrip.com; Community Design Center of Pittsburgh, www.cdcp.org

Living history: Pittsburgh historic neighborhood tours go online next month

If your relatives visiting Pittsburgh have already logged more miles on the Mon Incline than a pair of teenage lovebirds, you’ll be glad come April.

Next month, organizers in seven city neighborhoods – Bloomfield, Lawrenceville, Mount Washington, Oakland, The Strip, North Side and South Side – will debut their newly crafted historic neighborhood tours online at www.pittsburghneighborhoodtours.com.

According to the South Side Local Development Corporation’s Amy Camp, the featured restaurants, galleries, bookstores and local miscellanea will be the sorts of places where locals and tourists alike can strike up lively conversations and gather great material for their blogs … and even the odd travel diary.

Rather than tours focused on a single neighborhood, the self-guided tours will be theme expeditions, such as “Real Pittsburgh Food,” “Arts Big and Small,” “Literary Pittsburgh,” and a tour of the local soundscape called “Pittsburgh Roars.”

The project was funded with a $50,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. According to Camp, the grant was one this year largest, and the first for promoting neighborhood tourism, as opposed to marketing large cultural institutions.

Another novel strategy is presenting the tours primarily online, rather than in printed brochures that visitors would have to write away for. “We found that visitors will do some researching online, then make a quick decision about whether to go and where to go,” Camp says.

The project, which the neighborhood groups developed with the assistance of the Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, will target “heritage tourism” enthusiasts, but also the much larger group of Pittsburghers who are hosting out-of-towners. “There’s a term: VFR’s,” Camp says. “Visiting friends and relatives. We borrowed the term ‘kitchen concierge’ from New Orleans. You can look at these tours sitting around the kitchen table, saying ‘What do you want to do tomorrow?’”

Source: Amy Camp, South Side Local Development Company

Photo copyright © Tom Altany

Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau, www.visitpittsburgh.com;
South Side Local Development Company, www.southsidepgh.com

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