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Celebrate Bike to Work Day on Friday with Bike PGH

This Friday, May 15, is National Bike to Work Day and Bike PGH is helping hundreds of Pittsburgh bike commuters celebrate.
Ngani Ndimbie, Bike PGH communications manager, said Bike PGH is setting up five Commuter Cafés where participating Bike to Work cyclists can grab free breakfast and coffee. Cafés will be located in Oakland, Downtown, Friendship, North Side and South Side on Friday from 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.
Ndimbie called these pop-up cafés a fun way to meet and mingle with other bike commuters and added that this is Bike PGH’s 14th year hosting a Bike to Work Day event. Last year, 600 to 700 bike commuters popped into the cafés and more than 1,000 people are expected to bike to work on May 15, according to Ndimbie.
“We’ve been really excited to see this celebration grow,” she said. Ndimbie added that according to recent U.S Census Bureau figures, Pittsburgh has seen a 408 percent increase in the number of people who bike to work since 2000.  
Most Bike PGH members participating in the event will receive one of 350 swag bags distributed from the Commuter Cafés, made by the local cyclewear company Aero Tech Designs. But, 15 bags will include Golden Tickets that garner special prizes, like a Brooks bike saddle.
In addition to camaraderie and prizes, Ndimbie said the event hopes to expose people to bike commuting. In order to get more people peddling, Bike PGH is coordinating bike trains where newer riders can meet with a group in their neighborhood to ride to the nearest Commuter Café and on to work. The Bike PGH website explains, “Think of Bike Trains as carpools for people on bikes, but more fun.”
Ndimbie said volunteer conductors will lead the trains so new riders can learn from more experienced commuters, adding, “[It’s a] great day to get hooked on biking to work.”
Source: Ngani Ndimbie, Bike PGH

Pitt names Rebecca Bagley vice chancellor for economic partnerships

Rebecca Bagley has been appointed University of Pittsburgh vice chancellor for economic partnerships by Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement and Chief of Staff Kathy Humphrey. In this newly created position, Bagley, former president and CEO of NorTech, will be responsible for coordinating and expanding Pitt’s ongoing efforts in economic development.
As vice chancellor for economic partnerships, Bagley will work with senior leadership to develop a strategic plan for the university in economic development. She will also develop and oversee public and private partnerships that connect and advance the university and have regional and national impact. Another key aspect of her position will be interacting with government, community leadership and the business community on matters pertaining to economic development.
In making the appointment, Humphrey noted that Bagley will ascertain the needs in the economic development arena and set Pitt on a more expansive path to making an impact in those areas.
“Our mission requires us to provide service to our community,” Humphrey said. “I am thrilled to have Rebecca join our team as she has the expertise to help us fulfill our mission by creating new connections and developing purposeful partnerships that will drive economic growth and development locally, regionally and nationally.”
Until Dec. 31, 2014, Bagley led the technology-focused NorTech in strengthening Northeast Ohio’s economic vitality by accelerating the pace of innovation in the region. NorTech used its expertise in emerging industries to foster an innovation environment that provided companies of all sizes, higher education and research institutions and individuals of diverse backgrounds with new opportunities for collaboration that create jobs, attract capital and have long-term economic impact.

In accepting the post, Bagley said she was looking forward to joining a university with a strong commitment to innovation and collaboration.
“This is an important role for a university in today’s knowledge-driven economy. The leadership here at Pitt has recognized the impact that the university can have in this regard, and I look forward to being a part of the team that helps fulfill this commitment,” she said.

Prior to joining NorTech in 2009, Bagley, originally from Harrisburg, served as deputy secretary for the Technology Investment Office of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. In that capacity, she was responsible for the administration of several major state initiatives with a total of $79 million in yearly appropriations and more than $1.7 billion in investments.

Before joining DCED, Bagley worked for several investment banks, most notably JPMorgan Chase, where she advised energy and technology companies on mergers and acquisitions. She is also a contributing writer for Forbes.com, where she writes about the need for regions to innovate and collaborate to grow and succeed.

Bagley will join Pitt in her new role on April 7 and has already relocated her family from Ohio to Pittsburgh. The family purchased a home in Schenley Farms and her two daughters, aged 8 and 11, will attend school at Fanny Edel Falk Laboratory School. She noted that her husband John Bagley, a woodworker, is inspired by the city’s transitioning landscape.
“He sees a lot of development and transitioning of homes back into their glory, and a lot of that is wood-based,” Bagley said.
She added that her mother is also making the move from Oberlin to join the family in Pittsburgh, adding that her mother, a master gardener, is most excited about the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.
Bagley said she and her family are looking forward to life in Pittsburgh and city living.
“We were just really excited about the city, how the neighborhoods are set up, the walkability … Everybody is just so positive,” she said. 
Source: Rebecca Bagley, University of Pittsburgh

Supporting Pittsburgh's homeless in powerful, creative ways

With temperatures dropping to dangerous digits, homeless shelter options are making the news this winter. Pittsburgh students and officials have presented lifesaving ideas, technology and housing. Now, via an Indiegogo.com campaign, any Pittsburgher can take action.
Carnegie Mellon University students recently made headlines for their heated pop-up homeless shelters, which use aerospace technology to convert a portable sleeping bag into a durable winter shelter. Last week, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded a $15.5 million Continuum of Care grant to Allegheny County. The grant will go toward the county's Department of Human Services and its efforts to reduce homelessness.
The Department of Human Services will administer the grant funds to 25 agencies that provide housing and vital services to the homeless. The county department will contribute fiscal and operational support, and monitor service through regular site visits.

But one Pittsburgh resident is working to create a local homeless shelter at the community level via an Indiegogo campaign, The Pittsburgh Home.
“In second grade, my class was asked to draw a picture of how we envisioned our lives when we were older. I drew a picture of a big house with tons of strangers living in it and lots of hearts all over,” Jon Potter says on the Indiegogo page about his inspiration for The Pittsburgh Home. In a follow-up interview, he joked, “I guess it was a second grader’s version of what a co-op would be.”
Potter said he thought he had accomplished this dream with his Lawrenceville hostel, which has hosted 3,000 people in its three years in operation. But, Potter says he realized that he wanted to do more and create a safe and free place for the homeless men and women of Pittsburgh.
Last month, Potter took to Reddit, r/Pittsburgh, and asked the community for support on his journey to opening a homeless shelter. The response was huge. Through the post, he connected with a real estate agent, several contractors, local restaurants and food pantries and a nonprofit that is helping him secure 501c3 status.
“Most of the big things that we needed, Reddit came through with,” Potter said.
He added that The Pittsburgh Home is looking to help people who are actively working toward a goal to better themselves. Through his hostel, Potter said he has encountered many people who have been through a fire or another event that leads them to needing longer term housing than most homeless shelters allow.
He said The Pittsburgh Home would also provide the “most important thing” someone needs to make a change: an address. Potter explained that you can’t vote or apply for a job without an address.
The Pittsburgh Home page on Indiegogo is now active and working toward a $50,000 goal to buy a house. Donors are eligible for prizes including a personal hakiu written by Potter or a paragliding lesson from Potter, who is also a professional paraglider. These prizes were offered in the past, when Potter created an Indiegogo campaign that helped The Bloomfield Sandwich Shop get back on its feet. 
From the hostel to the sandwich shop to the homeless shelter, why does Potter give so much to the city?
His answer was simple, “Pittsburgh is just the friendliest city on the planet.”
Source: Jon Potter, Office of the County Executive, The Pittsburgh Home

A bag of produce is your ticket to Red, Ripe and Roasted at Phipps

A bag of fresh produce can gain you admittance to the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens 10th annual Red, Ripe and Roasted tomato and garlic festival Sun., August 24.
Held on the public garden’s sustainably managed front lawn and in the Outdoor Garden, this family-friendly event features cooking demonstrations, a tomato contest, a farmers’ market and activities for kids—all to benefit Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
“In general, the event is a celebration of summer and the bounty of summer,” says Jordyn Melino, Phipps exhibit coordinator. She says it's also about sharing this “bounty” with those in need.

While highlighting western Pennsylvania’s quintessential crops, the festival encourages guests to share the season’s harvest with the Food Bank. In 2013, the festival resulted in the collection of 2,174 pounds of food.
By donating a bag fresh produce to help community members in need, festival participants will be admitted for free to both Red, Ripe and Roasted and to the conservatory. Guests can experience attractions from the Butterfly Forest to the Summer Flower Show, featuring bright blooms and model train displays, during event hours from 11AM to 4PM.
Café Phipps will prepare and share a variety of delicious dishes to sample, there will be cooking demonstrations, a Phipps-grown garlic roast and a farmers’ market featuring organic and Certified Naturally Grown produce—guests can purchase their produce for donation at this market.
Another popular festival activity is a tomato contest where home gardeners are invited to enter their ugliest, smallest or largest ripe tomatoes for a chance to win prizes. The event will host a variety of discovery activities to entertain children of all ages. Let’s Move Pittsburgh and several other local organizations will also be in attendance to engage event-goers.
Garden writer and television/radio host Doug Oster — author of Tomatoes, Garlic, Basil — and food writer Miriam Rubin, author of Tomatoes, will also be in attendance to present some of their favorite recipes and sign copies of their books.
Source: Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Jordyn Melino

Free day at Phipps next week

Thanks to a generous grant from the Jack Buncher Foundation, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens will open its doors free of charge on Monday, Aug. 4. Community members of all ages are encouraged to attend between 9:30AM and 5PM.
“We believe that everyone should have the chance to experience the extraordinary beauty and inspiration to be found at Phipps,” says Jack Buncher Foundation Chair Bernita Buncher. “It is one of Pittsburgh’s finest treasures, and we are thrilled to be able to share it with our community in this special way.”
Guests who attend this year’s free admission day will enjoy the colorful booms and whimsical model train displays of Summer Flower Show, featuring bright blooms and lush tropical plants.
“Our current show is Summer Flower Show, which, this year, has a train theme,” says Liz Fetchin, Phipps director of marketing and communications.

The show incorporates interactive train displays that guests—and children—can operate with the push of a button.

“We invite people of all ages, there is something for everyone to see in the gardens," Fetchin says.
"It really is a great experience for families and children.”
The outdoor gardens at Phipps are in full bloom from the Children’s Discovery Garden and Rooftop Edible Garden to the Sustainable Perennial Beds and Aquatic Garden. Fetchin notes that the vegetables and herbs from the Edible Garden are used in programming and in the Café Phipps, named one of the best museum restaurants in the U.S. by Food & Wine Magazine earlier this year.  

“Every year, a free day gives many people the opportunity to pass through our doors and explore the wonders of nature,” says Phipps Executive Director Richard V. Piacentini. “We express our sincere gratitude to the Jack Buncher Foundation for making this gift to our community possible through their great generosity.”
Visitors will have the chance to see the Center for Sustainable Landscapes too, and discover one of the greenest buildings in the world. More details can be found at phipps.conservatory.org.
Source: Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Liz Fetchin

Food & Wine magazine spotlights Pittsburgh twice

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

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

Eat + Drink: Independent Brewing Company, Quiet Storm's menu at Ava, Pittsburgh Beerfest

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

Independent Brewing Company opens today
The Independent Brewing Company, the new venture from brothers Matt and Peter Kurzweg that specializes in serving up local brews and spirits held a successful soft opening over the weekend and will open full-time today.

Don’t be mistaken, Independent doesn’t brew its own beer — but neither did its namesake. The tavern takes its name from a conglomerate of about 15 small breweries which formed in Pittsburgh in 1905. Until Prohibition, the Independent Brewing Company held the second-largest piece of western Pennsylvania’s beer market behind only the still-extant Pittsburgh Brewing Company. Independent went bust in 1933, its name, logo and trademarks all abandoned.

The Kurzwegs claimed and revived them, and Independent’s “IBC” bottle stamp lies set in a stately, old-fashioned mosaic tile backsplash above the bar, installed just last week. All beers served at the tavern will come from within a 100-mile radius of Pittsburgh.

For its opening, Independent will tap selections from Pittsburgh-based East End, Hop Farm and CoStar breweries, as well as offerings from Elk Creek in Millheim, Four Seasons in Latrobe, Sprague Farm in Venango and North Country in Slippery Rock.

“Wednesday and Thursday, we’re going to have a super-limited menu consisting mainly of bar snacks,” says Peter Kurzweg. “Monique [Ruvolo] is starting up on Friday with a full menu.”

Ruvolo, formerly the chef at Club Café, has created a menu divided into small and large bites. The appetizers include Mo’ Fries — French fries topped with feta, parsley, garlic and cumin. An initial selection of four bigger plates is highlighted by a house mac & cheese made with smoked gouda, Fontina, cheddar and East End Brewery’s Smoked Porter, sandwiches of bacon or tofu and tacos made with chicken cooked in a local stout.

The tavern’s music, Kurzweg says, will be very carefully curated to match with the beers. Independent’s first customers on Saturday were treated to a steady dose of James Brown while Four Seasons Brewing’s Get Down Brown Ale was on special.

Independent Brewing Company is at 1704 Shady Avenue in Squirrel Hill and is open Wednesday through from 5 to 11 p.m., Saturday noon to midnight and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Ava/Quiet Storm open today!
Though the sight of Justin Strong going rogue and slinging coffee outside of Ava Café & Lounge’s new Oakland location would have been pretty hilarious, it’s not going to come to that.

Ava got its green and white sticker yesterday and will open its first-floor café — a joint-venture with former Quiet Storm owner Jill MacDowell — today from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.  The café had been scheduled to open Monday, but the opening was pushed back two days until a health inspection could be completed.

Strong tweeted the menu yesterday.

Pittsburgh Beerfest
The Pittsburgh Beerfest, a two-night festival at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Downtown, will take place next Friday and Saturday.

The winter sibling of the Pittsburgh Summer Beerfest held at Stage AE promises a selection of at least 300 craft beers on hand. VIP and general admission tickets remain, but Connoisseur’s Level tickets are already sold out.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Peter Kurzweg, Monique Ruvolo, Justin Strong

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

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

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

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

If not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Justin Strong

Eat + Drink: 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Abby Simmons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Gary Wilson, Andrew Moore

Schenley Park to get two new water management systems

In an effort to reduce runoff and pollution and restore the ecosystem in Panther Hollow, two new rainwater management systems will be built in portions of Schenley Park.

“These are pilot projects and they’re part of a larger effort to restore the Panther Hollow Watershed,” says Erin Copeland, a restoration ecologist for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.

One system will consist of French drains along Bartlett and Beacon Streets in Squirrel Hill, near the park’s perimeter.

The drains are designed to collect surface water and groundwater into special piping which will redistribute the water.

The other system, which will be installed along Schenley Drive through the Bob O’Connor Golf Course at Schenley Park, involves a process called retentive grading.

Utilizing strategically chosen areas of the golf course, the conservancy will construct 20 to 25 earthen mounds perpendicular to water flow and made of soil mixtures designed to effectively soak in the most water.

Copeland says that together, the two systems will absorb about 1.9 million gallons of water each year, all of which will be redistributed to the Panther Hollow Watershed.

The systems, both of which qualify as pieces of green infrastructure, are part of the conservancy’s larger plan to restore the streams, woodlands and lake in Panther Hollow.

“Right now, the lake drains back to the sewer system,” Coleman says. “We’d like to change that. We want to get that water back out of the lake and create a stream in Junction Hollow.”

The upgrades, which the conservancy has been planning since 2010, will be completed next spring.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Erin Copeland

Pitt approves $37 million upgrade to engineering school building

The University of Pittsburgh has approved a plan to spend $37 million to complete renovations on Benedum Hall, which houses the university’s Swanson School of Engineering.

“This final phase of Benedum Hall renovations will complete our building’s transformation into a leading-edge engineering education and research facility,” says Gerald Holder, dean of the Swanson Engineering School. 

The renovation will be the third and final phase of Benedum’s makeover, which began as part of Pitt’s 12-year Facilities Plan. It will focus on floors 9 through 12, as well as on the basement and subbasement.

The project will upgrade laboratories and classrooms, as well as support facilities such as conference rooms, lobbies and offices.

“Our undergraduate and graduate student population continues to grow in quality and quantity, and these projects will help us compete for the best engineering students,” Holder says. “In addition, our new and renovated lab spaces are helping us attract the best faculty candidates to Pittsburgh.”

In addition to the work on Benedum Hall, Pitt will upgrade about 900 feet of steam distribution lines between the corners of Terrace and Lothrop streets and DeSoto and O’Hara streets. The upgrade will aide steam flow from the Carrillo Street Steam Plant on Pitt’s upper campus and further ease campus growth in the future.  

The renovations are scheduled to be completed by 2015.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Gerald Holder

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

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

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

Mackey Lofts nearing completion in Uptown

The Mackey Lofts, a new housing complex situated in a former Uptown bakery at 1819 Forbes Avenue, is nearing completion, with tenants expected to move in by June.

The lofts are the latest project from ACTION-Housing, a local organization which designs and builds sustainable, accessible housing for working-class residents and people with physical disabilities.

“What we’re trying to do with the Mackey Lofts is shift how we integrate supportive housing into a community,” says Andrew Schull, ACTION’s communications coordinator. “One of the reasons we were attracted to Uptown is its proximity to Downtown and Oakland.”

The lofts will contain 43 total housing units. Eighteen units are designed with special accessibility features, and 10 of those units will cater specifically to the needs of deaf and deaf-blind residents.

Schull said that ACTION-Housing has been accepting applications for the lofts since January and 20 applicants have already been approved. While the lofts are ACTION’s first installation in Uptown, the organization has bigger plans for the area.

“We just received an allocation of tax credits for two properties up the road on Fifth [Avenue],” he says.

The two buildings, which will contain 23 and 24 units, respectively, will house residents of the MyPlace program, which helps house young people who are transitioning out of foster care.

Those  interested in the Mackey Lofts should contact Carol Kelly of Supportive Housing Management Services at 1-800-238-7555.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Andrew Schull

Pittsburgh's Bus Rapid Transit effort gets grant from Rockefeller Foundation

The initiative to get Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) rolling between Downtown and Oakland has been given another boost with a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. The grant will support research, communications, and community outreach efforts to engage and educate the public on the benefits of BRT.

GetTherePGH, a BRT Stakeholders Advisory Committee, facilitated by Sustainable Pittsburgh, welcomed last week’s announcement as well the opportunity to continue working with the community to raise awareness about the BRT project.

Though specifics of the grant are yet to be determined, Sustainable Pittsburgh’s Court Gould says the Rockefeller Foundation has shown an interest in enabling citizens to have a voice in determining what BRT projects should look like, let alone whether they should be implemented at all.

BRT is a form of bus transit that operates similarly to a rail system—though less expensive to implement—with dedicated stations, route priority, and platform fare collection, among other efficiency measures.

The Rockefeller Foundation has awarded $1.2 million to be split among four cities: Nashville, Boston, Chicago, and Pittsburgh. The funding initiative is part of the foundation’s Transform Cities effort.

“Rockefeller having competitively identified Pittsburgh in the echelon of the other three is a significant validation of several years of concerted effort here to study the benefits of Bus Rapid Transit,” Gould says.

Pittsburgh’s BRT effort is an outgrowth of recommendations from the Port Authority of Allegheny County’s 2009 Transit Development Planning Process, a comprehensive review of the agency’s entire system.  BRT served as a key component of serving Downtown to Oakland, and to the East End, Gould says.

The Bravo Group, a public relations firm, has been selected to lead the outreach effort in Pittsburgh.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Court Gould

Schenley Drive to get skinny; Panther Hollow watershed restoration

Schenley Drive is going on a diet.

The road, which cuts through the Bob O’Connor Golf Course, will get a “skinny street” makeover as part of the upcoming Panther Hollow watershed restoration project.

Because of stormwater runoff, Panther Hollow Lake—which is at the bottom of the watershed in Schenley Park—has gone from a recreational pond to a polluted eyesore.  And its plight is just one of the more visible effects of the park’s stormwater runoff problem.

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy (PPC) is implementing a number of new green infrastructure designs to improve the park’s stream and groundwater recharge health.

The “skinny street” project, which will narrow the 40-foot-wide road to approximately 26 feet, will divert more than 3 million gallons annually of runoff by introducing porous surfaces to the roadway. It is the third pilot project in the restoration project.

Through public meetings, PPC learned that many residents feel unsafe in the park because of speeding vehicles.

“We could have a really big impact by narrowing the street,” says Erin Copeland, senior restoration ecologist with PPC.  “We have the opportunity to improve so many different aspects of watershed health, and recreational experience in the park.”

Adjacent to the road, infiltration berms will channel water into rain garden wetlands, and a new porous pathway for pedestrians and bicycles will run along the road, separated by a buffer of plants. This design will allow water to soak into the ground slowly and prevent erosion.

The pathway would still be paved—not crushed limestone or gravel—but the application will actually soak in water to the subsurface layer. Cyclists will still be welcome in the Schenley Drive roadway, Copeland says, where sharrows will be painted.

Designs for the “skinny street” have yet to be reviewed Department of Transportation traffic engineers.  Copeland says the first two pilot projects are shovel ready and could begin as early as this summer.

PPC is completing the green infrastructure projects with support from the Department of Public Works, City Planning, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, Alcosan, as well as the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, and PPC volunteers.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Erin Copeland

Conflict Kitchen's new home is Oakland; new expanded menu

Conflict Kitchen has a new home in Oakland's Schenley Plaza. The take-out restaurant, which only serves cuisine from countries that the United States is in conflict with, will begin serving an expanded menu from its new kiosk location on April 1st.

Co-director Jon Rubin says earlier plans to move downtown fell through because of changes in the Golden Triange's rental market. But he sees a strong future in the Oakland location, with its proximity to universities, libraries, and the plaza's own seasonal cultural offerings.

While they've lost interior space that a downtown location could have offered, Rubin believes they've made up for it in high-quality public space.

"It's really Pittsburgh's only public plaza," he says, in terms of a large, relaxed, multi-use space.

The eatery is planning weekend dinners and other special events to be held at the plaza. Conflict Kitchen joins other take-out kiosk businesses and The Porch at Schenley.

At the original East Liberty location, Conflict Kitchen had served Cuban, Venezuelan, and Afghani cuisine, among others, but offerings were limited to one or two items under each incarnation. At the new location the menu has been expanded to 10 to 12 items.

Conflict Kitchen will serve its Iranian menu through June, in recognition of that nation's summer elections. Items include the ground beef kebab Kabab-e Kubideh; Kookoo Sabzi, an egg frittata served on nan; and Khoresht-e Fesenjan, pomegranate and walnut chicken on stead rice.

Plans for future concepts include North and South Korean, as well an Israel-Palestine version of the project.

Hours will be 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Jon Rubin

Luxury apartments recommended for reuse of former Schenley High School in Oakland

Luxury apartments may be in store for the historic former Schenley High School in Oakland.

The recommended proposal calls for a $36.9 million renovation that would create 175 apartments and a fitness center, making use of an existing gym.

Fourth River Development recently released its recommendation to sell the building to PMC/Schenley HSB Associates for $5.2 million. Fourth River was hired by the Pittsburgh Public Schools to manage the marketing and bidding of the former high school.

Fourth River’s Pat Morosetti says the panel review committee did a full evaluation of all proposals, and PMC’s stood above all the rest.

“The benefits to the community we believe stood above and beyond the others,” he says. “They’re a very focused group with a strong business model proven in the Pittsburgh market, and we expect nothing but the same from them with the proposed Schenley redevelopment."

The school board is expected to vote on the proposal on February 27th, while reserving the right to reject any bids. A public comment meeting will be held on February 25th, at 6:00 p.m., at the board's headquarters on Bellefield Avenue in Oakland.

PMC Property Group was the highest bidder. In 2011, the company had successfully bid for the same building for $2 million, and was then the lone bidder for the project. Recently, PMC successfully converted the former Verizon building, in Downtown, into apartments and the City Charter High School.

Other proposals include Kossman Development Co. and Provident Charter School, at $4.6 million with 115 units of housing and a charter school for 336 dyslexic children; AWSVPA/Edward Alexei, $4.1 million, creating the Andy Warhol School of Visual and Performing Arts; Ralph A. Falbo Inc. and Beacon Communities Development, $4 million, 123 market-rate apartments.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Pat Morosetti

GoBurgh releases transit-oriented development study, road map for advancing region's transit

A new study was released last week making the case for transit-oriented development (TOD) in the Pittsburgh region.

GoBurgh’s Chris Sandvig says the new report offers a clear strategy for advancing TOD, a type of development he calls an economic engine where investments should be made. His organization’s previous reports have offered ideas on why TOD is important; now they’re showing how it can be done.

Founded in 2009, GoBurgh is a non-partisan transit advocacy organization, and is part of the Regional Policy program of the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG).

The report offers a county-wide framework for understanding where key TOD opportunities exist, an implementation system, as well as important actions to be taken, including policy changes.

Sandvig hopes the study can help direct public policy in Allegheny County, as well as educate the region’s developers about the benefits of TOD and the current opportunities that exist.

Recommendations include modifying transit station design and system operations; addressing gaps in funding availability for small- to mid-size infrastructure improvements; and offering a consistent source of funds for station area visioning and planning.

The study was conducted by the Center for Transit-Oriented Development (CTOD) and commissioned by the PCRG under the auspices of its GoBurgh initiative.  It was funded by the Heinz Endowments.

“Coming from a national organization that works with many cities and regions to achieve TOD, I think Pittsburgh can be a model for other places trying to maximize the potential of their current transit networks,” said Abigail Thorne-Lyman, Director of CTOD, in a statement.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source:  Chris Sandvig

Eat + Drink: Nicky's Thai Kitchen, Sinful Sweets, Rose Tea Cafe, and The Grateful Deli

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

Since our last update on Nicky’s Thai Kitchen, one of the Northside’s most popular restaurants, its second location has opened in Downtown Pittsburgh.

The interior is decorated with artwork and statues from Thailand, an atmosphere manager Dave Brunner says is like a Thai art gallery.  The space, originally built for a bank, had most recently housed a pizza shop and art gallery.

Unlike the original Northside location, the downtown restaurant will not be BYOB.  But while the full-service bar is still under development patrons are welcome to bring their own alcohol without any corkage fee.

The new restaurant is open for dinner seven days a week, as well as lunch Monday through Saturday.  Reservations are available for Friday, Saturday and Sunday dinner service.  903 Penn Avenue.  412-471-THAI (8424).

Sinful Sweets Chocolate Company has also recently opened in the space adjacent to Nicky’s, at 901 Penn Avenue.  Owned by chocolatier Christopher George, the shop sells a variety of handmade, gourmet chocolates.  Open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday.  412-235-7865

- Rose Tea Café is opening a second location on Oakland’s Craig Street (414 S. Craig Street).  The original Squirrel Hill location (5874 Forbes Avenue) is well known for its Taiwanese cuisine, considered to be among the best in Pittsburgh.  The new location replaces a former mail store which closed last year.  412-421-2238.

- The Grateful Deli & Catering Company has opened at the intersection of Penn Avenue and Main Street, one block from the Children’s Hospital.  The deli offers hoagies, soup, salad, pizza, and more.  It replaces a portion of the former Sammy's Famous Corned Beef.  4065 Penn Avenue.  412-682-8000.

Writer:  Andrew Moore

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     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The hotel was restored consistent with Secretary of Interior standards.

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

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

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Mary Del Brady

Oakland 2025 master plan released; group seeks proposals to remake Schenley High

Oakland has published a plan for its future.  Titled The Oakland 2025 Master Plan: A Vision for Sustainable Living and Mobility, it’s the neighborhood’s first comprehensive master plan in decades.

According to the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation (OPDC)—facilitators of the study—the document outlines strategies to guide and support Oakland’s continued growth as a center of innovation and technology, and for supporting quality of life for residents.

Wanda Wilson, OPDC Executive Director, says the process was successful in bringing together the interests of the institutional, development, and residential communities.   

“We engaged about 400 people through the whole process covering the range of stakeholders that we have in Oakland,” Wilson says.  “It's really the first broad-based community engagement the likes of what the Oakland community hasn't seen for a couple decades.”

The plan recognizes that without an improved housing stock and reliable transportation options Oakland is at risk of losing its edge as an innovation center.

Addressing those issues, OPDC is seeking to create a transportation system that serves all users equally, including pedestrians, cyclists, transit, and automobiles, with strong, well-designed neighborhood connections. 

OPDC anticipates bus rapid transit to be implemented in the Fifth Forbes Corridor, accompanied by dedicated east-west bicycle lanes.  The plan recommends route alternatives, as well as improved parking management and the possibility of an Oakland-Downtown circulator.

The plan also proposes “Ten Big Changes for Oakland”, including increasing the number of people who both live and work in its neighborhoods, and increasing access to parks, open space, and trails.

According to the document, housing upgrades would be achieved through rehab, conservation, and financial incentives to spur innovative new housing choices.  Options include employer assisted housing, trailhead neighborhoods, and 50+ intergenerational communities.

A release party for the plan will be held on November 1st,  6 to 8 p.m. at the University of Pittsburgh’s Alumni Hall, 4227 Fifth Avenue.

Also in Oakland, Fourth River Development LLC has issued a request for proposals for redevelopment of the former Schenley High School.  Fourth River is working on behalf of The Pittsburgh Board of Public Education.

The School Board states that through an open community engagement process it will approve the sale of the school to a competitive bidder based on criteria deemed important by the School District and the North Oakland community.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Wanda Wilson

Eat + Drink: Sousa's Harvard and Highland craft cocktails; Lola Bistro; Embury returns, and more

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

-  Restaurateur Kevin Sousa has announced he will soon open a craft cocktail bar, called Harvard and Highland.  The bar will be located above Union Pig and Chicken, the barbecue restaurant Sousa opened earlier this year, located at 220 North Highland Avenue.

-  Embury, the classic cocktail lounge and speakeasy formerly located in the Firehouse Lounge, will soon reopen on the South Side.  Owner Spencer Warren has purchased the building currently home to Z-Lounge at 2108 E. Carson, and plans to reopen the bar in the top floor space.  It will be similar to the previous establishment which closed last August.

-  Sushi Fuku is celebrating a grand opening in Oakland this week.  The restaurant is a create-your-own sushi establishment, allowing customers to "roll it or bowl it".  In addition to various raw and cooked fish, the menu includes chicken, shrimp, and steak, and also features fresh salads and prepared rolls.  Located at 120 Oakland Avenue, the fast-casual eatery is open 11am to 9pm daily.  412-687-3858.

-  City Café is relocating from Lawrenceville to the Cultural District in Downtown Pittsburgh.  The café will be a breakfast and lunch restaurant, serving coffee and offering vegetarian cuisine, located at 951 Liberty Avenue.  412-621-2460.

-  Lola Bistro is now open in the Northside’s Allegheny West neighborhood at 1100 Galveston Avenue, serving contemporary comfort food.  It replaces the former Hoi Polloi Coffee House and Vegetarian Cafe, which closed over a year ago.  Lola Bistro is owned by Chef Michael Barnhouse and wife Yelena, and is open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday.  412-322-1106.

Writer:  Andrew Moore

Keep it a school? Community shares vision for Schenley High School building

While Oakland’s Schenley High School may have closed its doors in 2008, some community members believe the building should remain an institution of learning.

That was just one of several scenarios that were developed during a series of recent planning sessions led by the Schenley Farms Civic Association and Oakland Planning and Development Corporation.

Architect Rob Pfaffmann, a project consultant, says neighborhood residents want the school board to think outside the box in terms of what an educational intuition could look like in this facility.  

Community members considered various possibilities, from an International Baccalaureate program, to an employment training facility or an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.  

But Pfaffmann says the community was most excited about the possibility of a mixed-use facility that combined residential units on the top floors, with office or educational space on the bottom.  He says this scenario would allow a developer to take advantage of historic tax credits by creating apartments, while renting space to an income-producing learning institution on the bottom floors.

All of the scenarios have been gathered in a report, available on OPDC’s website, which will be presented to school board on August 15th.

But Pfaffman says all of these scenarios will be high magnitude challenges from a development perspective.

“If it was easy, it would have already been done,“ he says.  “In order for a developer to be successful it probably means that he has to offer a fairly low purchase price to the school board.”

When the school board originally listed the building for sale last year, they received only one bid for $2 million from PMC Property Group of Philadelphia.

Pfaffmann says the school board has cooperated with the Oakland community throughout this process, and Superintendent Linda Lane agreed to delay the school’s sale while the process was put in place.

The three public meetings were made possible by funding secured from City Councilman Bill Peduto.  The goals of the meetings were to provide information about best practices, address community concerns and desires, and provide a report of these findings to the school board.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Rob Pfaffmann

Dutch experts propose cycle tracks for Oakland, highest level of safety in infrastructure

After two days of ThinkBike workshops, the City of Pittsburgh is ready to bring the highest level of bicycle infrastructure to Oakland. 

Based on the recommendations of Dutch mobility experts, the City is beginning the process of installing separated cycle tracks in the Fifth-Forbes corridor of this heavily trafficked neighborhood. 

According to the City's Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Stephen Patchan, cycle tracks represent the most progressive piece of bicycle infrastructure currently available, and offer the highest level of safety for both cyclists and motorist.

Cycle tracks are on-street, bicycle-only paths, and often include physical barriers, such as curbs, between automobiles and cyclists.  In Homestead, a cycle track was recently installed along the Great Allegheny Passage.  The proposed track in Oakland would be the first in Pittsburgh.

Patchan says the city has no timeline for installing the cycle tracks, and will conduct extensive public outreach and engineering studies before selecting a design and location.  He says the project will necessarily impact existing conditions for automobiles.

“We're trying to figure out a way to mitigate the impacts, but also provide a piece of infrastructure that's required for getting from hundreds [of cyclists]...to several thousand cyclists biking through that corridor.”

Although the corridor is currently used by many bicycle commuters, Patchan says the street’s current design--three to four lanes of one-way traffic--doesn’t encourage new riders.

“It takes a certain personality to ride on that street,” he says.

ThinkBike is a multi-city initiative of Dutch experts and companies to increase bicycle use in the U.S. and Canada.  Since the first workshop in Toronto, ThinkBike has been held in Washington D.C., San Francisco, Miami and Los Angeles.

Patchan says ThinkBike contacted the City to host a workshop because of its rising reputation as a bicycle-friendly city, and its maturing cycling community.

But Patchan says the city intends to do more, and create cycling infrastructure on-par with the best Dutch cities.

"We're going to be a world-class bicycle city, so we're going to need the infrastructure for it," he says.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Stephen Patchan

New restaurants in Oakland: Hello Bistro; Kahila's Taste, Authentic Caribbean Kitchen

Hello Bistro, a quick-service burger-and-salad eatery, is opening soon in the bustling 3600 block of Central Oakland.  A project of Eat'n Park Hospitality Group, the bistro will offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and will feature the company’s trademark Superburger and salad bar, as well as beer and wine.

“It was designed to be something that capitalizes on our heritage and our commitment to Pittsburgh,” says Mark Broadhurst, director of concept development.  “We think this is something a little different... [but] the best things that people love most about Eat'n Park.”

The bistro is scheduled to open June 28th, and will seat up to 60 guests.  Service style will be similar to the company’s other Oakland concept, The Porch at Schenley, where guests order at the counter, and are then waited on at tables.

Broadhurst says the burgers will be similar to what is offered at an Eat'n Park restaurant.

“We've been doing that since 1949, and people love the Superburger, so we figured there's no reason to touch that,” he says. 

The restaurant replaces the former Rue 21 retail store in this space, which has been completely remodeled. 

Also now open in North Oakland is Kahila’s Taste: Authentic Caribbean Kitchen. The menu features traditional dishes from throughout the Caribbean, including several types of roti; rice and peas; curry chicken, goat, and tofu; ox tail; and jerk chicken.

The restaurant also specializes in vegetarian and vegan options, and house-made juice and teas.

Owner Kahila Miller has already earned a following at the Pittsburgh Public Market, in the Strip District, where she has operated a food stand for the past several years.

Kahila’s Taste, 305 N. Craig Street, Oakland.  412-377-7951.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Mark Broadhurst

Phipps' Center for Sustainable Landscapes opens today, to be greenest building in the world

Today is the grand opening of the Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL), a building that promises to be one of the greenest in the world.  The CSL is a research, education, and administrative complex, and meets the three highest green building standards: The Living Building Challenge; LEED Platinum; and the SITES landscape rating system.

The complex is the centerpiece of the latest phase in a $20 million, multi-year expansion project underway at Phipps to upgrade and expand its facilities with an emphasis on green and sustainability.  While planning the project, Phipps accepted the Living Building Challenge issued by the U.S. Green Building Council, an attempt to raise the bar and define a closer measure of true sustainability in the built environment.

“In a way this building marks the end of a journey we've been on to really discover and learn about the most effective ways to build and operate our buildings, to be more in harmony and in tune with the environment,” says Richard Piacentini, executive director at Phipps.

According to Piacentini, the Living Building Challenge is a new benchmark that goes far beyond LEED Platinum, requiring that buildings are net-zero energy; that all water is captured and treated on site; and that many commonly-used but toxic materials are not used in construction.

The SITES system, a LEED-style rating for landscapes, is also new.  The CSL is a pilot for that program, and the center is expected to be the first in the world to achieve all three ratings.

Piacentini says the opening also marks the beginning of a new journey, as the center is developing a research program to understand how people learn about the environment and what motivates changes in behavior, based on environmental psychology.

While planning and developing the center, Phipps prioritized working with Pittsburgh- and Pennsylvania-based architects and engineers.  It was their goal to celebrate the talent and leadership of the region.

“It’s one of the greenest buildings in the world and we're going to be able to say that it was designed and built by people right here in Pittsburgh,” he says.

Today's gala is the official grand opening, and the center will be open for public tours in June.  Click here for a Pop City slideshow of the newly completed CSL.

Phipps Conservatory, One Schenley Park, 15213, 412-622-6914.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Richard Piacentini

Bus rapid transit plans advancing, public review sessions next week

The Port Authority of Allegheny County is taking the next step in its exploration of bus rapid transit (BRT).  Next week, a series of three community input meetings are being held throughout the city to provide the public with opportunities to review and comment on potential alternate alignments for the proposed system.

Last summer, the Port Authority began a $1 million study of BRT between Downtown, Oakland, and East End neighborhoods.  Although the study is still in progress, the purpose of next week’s meetings is to share with the public what BRT could potentially look like in those neighborhoods, including routing, changes to traffic lanes, and the possibility of added bicycle lanes.

This current study of BRT is using a “complete streets” approach, according to Heather Pharo, of the Port Authority.  This means access for all users-- including transit, bicyclists, pedestrians, and general auto traffic—is being taken into account.

The study is being conducted by Parsons Brinckerhoff, and includes an environmental assessment, route alternatives, and general economic impact on communities in the corridor. 

BRT is a form of bus transit that operates similar to a traditional street-rail system, with dedicated stations, route priority, and platform fare collection, among other efficiency measures. 

Get There PGH, a partnership of over 30 neighborhood organizations, has been leading the effort to advance BRT in Pittsburgh, of which the Port Authority is stakeholder.

Meetings will be held at the following locations and times:

Hill District: Tuesday, April 24, 2012, 6:00 to 8:00 pm, Hill House Kaufman Center Auditorium, 1825 Centre Avenue

Oakland: Wednesday, April 25, 2012, 6:00 to 8:00 pm, Carnegie Mellon University, University Student Center, Rangos Ballroom 3, 5032 Forbes Avenue

East End: Thursday, April 26, 2012, 6:00 to 8:00 pm, East Liberty Presbyterian Church Social Hall, 116 South Highland Avenue

Uptown: Tuesday, May 8, 2012, 6:00 to 8:00 pm, UPMC Mercy Hospital, 1400 Locust Street, Sr. Ferdinand Clark Auditorium, 2nd. Fl., Bldg. D.  Free Parking in Mercy Garage. Ticket will be validated.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Heather Pharo, Port Authority

Oakland Portal project underway, 47-unit apartment building, office towers and hotel

Construction of the Oakland Portal project is underway, a development set to bring two apartment buildings, office towers, and a hotel to West Oakland.  The project is spearheaded by Lou W. Molnar, of L.W. Molnar & Associates, Inc.

The first four-story building, which will have views of the Monongahela River and the South Side Slopes, will consist of 47 units, and is being built over a structured parking garage.  The building is scheduled to open in July, with the second structure to be under construction by the end of this year.

The 1-and-2-bedroom apartments will be offered at $1,300 to $1,800 a month.  Skip Molnar, of L.W. Molnar & Associates, says the 2-bedroom units are designed as suites, with separate bathrooms and walk-in closets.  

As part of the construction, the sidewalk will be expanded, and will included a landscaped buffer between Fifth Avenue.  The buildings were designed by TKA Architects, and the contractor is FranjoConstruction.  

The apartments are located on bus lines into Downtown, and along the study route for bus rapid transit.

In the coming weeks, plans for the second phase of the project will go before neighborhood organizations and the City of Pittsburgh.  Molnar says his company is proposing three office towers, with one to include a hotel, for a site located across Fifth Avenue.

Included in those plans are suggestions for widened sidewalks, landscaping, and bicycle infrastructure along Fifth Avenue.

The entire project is scaled back from an earlier project proposed for this site by a different developer in 2005.

Because of an agreement between the previous landowner and Lamar Advertising Company, a permanent easement exists on the property for two billboards.  However, Molnar says designs were able to incorporate the existing billboard wall to build a secure, indoor bicycle storage facility for the building’s tenants.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Skip Molnar

Get There PGH advancing bus rapid transit, to hold public information meeting Thursday

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) could someday link Downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland, greatly improving the connection between these two important centers of commerce and employment.  Get There PGH, a partnership of over 30 neighborhood organizations, is advancing a plan for this transit initiative, and will host an informational public meeting throughout the day on Thursday, January 12th.

Of the 30-plus organizations, Sustainable Pittsburgh is acting as a convener in bringing the exploration of BRT to the community. 

Executive Director Court Gould says this evaluation of BRT is at the earliest stage, and Get There PGH seeks to learn whether it fits with community visions and needs, and how it could facilitate not only mobility, but prosperity, public health, and revitalization, among other issues.

“The stakeholders…are viewing the bus rapid transit as part of a larger community vision interest and need, not as an isolated transportation project,” Gould says.

BRT is a form of bus transit that operates more similar to a rail system, with dedicated stations, route priority, and platform fare collection, among other efficiency measures.  And while BRT shares design principals with rail transit, it is also far less expensive to implement.

An Alternatives Analysis and Environmental Assessment, to determine whether BRT would work in Pittsburgh, began last year.  The upcoming public information session is the first in a series as part of that study.

Supporters of BRT cite economic growth and neighborhood development along corridors as benefits of the transit mode, along with safer streets, and improved mobility for city residents and visitors. 

Gould says BRT differs from the Port Authority’s current East-West busways, noting rapid is a reference to efficiency of service and not high traveling speeds.  He says the region’s busways were innovative in their time, but that cities nationally and abroad have gone forward and applied those same attributes to on-street systems, rather than segregated facilities.

“So this would be Pittsburgh now coming full-circle to catching up with the trend that in some ways it was a pioneer of, but with a new twist,” Gould says.

Among its stakeholders Get There PGH includes the City of Pittsburgh, Port Authority of Allegheny County, Allegheny Conference on Community Development, local universities, and Bike Pittsburgh.

The information sessions will be held tomorrow, during two sessions, 12 p.m. to 2 p.m., and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., at the University of Pittsburgh Alumni Hall Ballroom, 4227 Fifth Ave. in Oakland.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Court Gould, Sustainable Pittsburgh; Scott Bricker, Bike Pittsburgh

The Porch, with green roof, edible garden and urban views, now open in Schenley Plaza

Although Oakland’s Schenley Plaza fills with sunbathers and lunchtime crowds during Pittsburgh’s warmer months it is seldom used in more inclement weather.  But with the opening of the The Porch at Schenley  that should soon change.  The park’s first and only dine-in eatery opened on Monday, and  hopes to bring new life to this public space throughout all four seasons.

The restaurant is part of the Eat’n Park Hospitality Group.  Mark Broadhurst, direct of concept development, says The Porch aims to be a neighborhood bistro for a busy, vibrant Oakland.

“It's supposed to be a casual, come-as-you-are, no reservations place,” Broadhurst says.

During the day, it’s geared toward people in a hurry--students, professors, hospital staff.  Orders are placed at a counter, but food and all other service is brought tableside.  In the evening, the pace slows, and a wait staff takes over.  Broadhurst says the restaurant changes pace just like the neighborhood.

Designed by WD Partners of Columbus, Ohio, over half the building’s walls are glass, opening to views of the Cathedral of Learning, Schelney Plaza, and the Carnegie Museum complex.  The building was built to LEED silver standards, and utilized recycled and local materials. 

“We really focused on being in the center of an urban park,” Broadhurst says.  “We really wanted people to look outside onto the plaza, rather than focusing on what was inside.”

Broadhurst says the menu is based around the hearth oven and rotisserie, ensuring quick preparations.  Lunch items include salads and pizzas, and sandwiches like the house smoked turkey with cranberry and grilled onion chutney, and a slow roasted pork with ricotta salata.  The dinner menu offers many sharable plates, and extended rotisserie offerings, including prime rib, porchetta, and chicken roti.

The building features a green roof, which will include an edible garden in spring.  Broadhurst says a roof-top apiary is also under consideration.

Open seven days a week, for lunch and dinner, The Porch will also begin serving brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.  Schenley Plaza, 221 Schenley Drive.  412-687-6724.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Mark Broadhurst

University of Pittsburgh announces new dorm, projects totaling $152 million

The University of Pittsburgh announced last week the approval of 16 construction and renovation projects totaling $152 million, and nine lease renewals.  The university expects that these projects will create 737 construction and 295 construction-support jobs.

Pitt’s Executive Vice Chancellor, Jerome Cochran, says student housing and services were identified as the highest priority in the university’s 12-year facilities plan.

At the corner of Fifth Avenue and University Place, a 10-story 559-bed residence hall will be constructed, at a projected cost of $59 million.  Commercial retail space will be created on the first floor, and a student wellness center will be installed on the second floor.  This building replaces a surface parking lot, and the University Place Office Building, which was demolished to make way for the dormitory.

In a statement, Cochran said an estimated 500 new beds would be used to “recruit and retain a diverse and highly qualified student body.”

University Spokesperson John Fedele says the new residence hall will house freshman, and will help create a bond between students.

Aside from the new residence hall most projects will be renovations and upgrades to existing facilities, Fedele says, because they were identified as more economical in most cases than new construction.

A five-story, 57,000-square-foot addition to Parran and Crabtree Halls, at $41.3 million, will be used accommodate the relocation and expansion of the Graduate School of Public Health.  The university hopes to achieve LEED certification for this project.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  John Fedele

Legume Bistro reopens at new location, North Oakland

Legume Bistro is now open at its new North Oakland location.  Owners Trevett and Sarah Hooper closed their Regent Square location last spring in preparation for the move, and have spent the past four months renovating their new space, which features a full-service bar.

Much larger than the original Braddock Avenue location, Legume now seats 80 in the dining room and an additional 30 at the bar. 

Located within the 1920s King Edward Apartments building, Legume replaces the former More Restaurant, which had served Italian cuisine in this location for the past 40 years.

Sarah Hooper says while remodeling the space, an original blue-green terrazzo floor was discovered beneath carpeting and plastic.  Classic features like the original flooring were incorporated into the interior design, completed again by Joy Robison.  Hand-crafted woodwork by local artisan Miki Szabo also appears throughout the restaurant.

When it came to remodeling the kitchen, however, Trevett Hooper turned to the community.  A successful Kickstarter fundraising campaign raised over $17,000—more than double the original goal.  It was enough to create an ideal kitchen that is both beautiful and functional.  Funders were in turn rewarded, based on the amount of their gift, with recipe cards, invitation to a Kickstarter party, dinner for two, or cooking lessons.

Legume’s menu will feature the same seasonal American cuisine as before, with a menu that changes nightly.  Recent dishes include sweet potato ravioli with brown butter, sage, Hakurei Turnips and greens; pork shoulder braised in applejack, with Carolina Gold rice, and green beans; spaghetti with roasted goat sauce and sautéed greens; grass-fed ranch steak with parsley butter and mushroom barley risotto.

Hooper plans to begin serving lunch in the spring, and a bar menu is also being developed.

And although Legume is no longer BYOB, Hooper says there will be no corkage fees on Mondays, which she hopes will encourage fans of the former location to continue bringing bottles of their favorite wines.

Legume Bistro, located at 214 N. Craig Street, 15213, is open for dinner Monday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.  A happy hour is offered from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., and the bar remains open till midnight.  412-621-2700.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Sarah Hooper

Port Authority approves $1 million study of rapid bus line, Downtown to Oakland

The Port Authority has approved a $1 million study of a rapid bus line between Downtown and Oakland. PB Americas Inc. will perform the study, which includes an environmental assessment, route alternatives, and general economic impact on communities in the corridor.

Bus rapid transit (BRT) is a bus service similar to light rail, with fewer stops and higher frequency of service. Because no rail lines are required to run the line, developing BRT is considerably less expensive than light rail.

Jim Ritchie, Port Authority spokesperson, cites Allegheny County's naming last year of the stretch between Downtown and Oakland as the number one transportation corridor in the county. He says this study is the Port Authority's attempt to follow up on investments being made by the city and the county to trigger growth in communities along the corridor.

"The far bigger piece is this community revitalization that's envisioned for this three mile stretch," Ritchie says. "There is something much bigger going on here."

In other cities, BRT has been credited with spurring billions in economic development along its routes. Local officials would hope for similar results if this line is developed.

The study is expected to take 12 to 18 months to complete, determining a preferred alignment along Fifth and Forbes Avenues. The study is being funded with approximately $840,000 in federal planning money and with $210,000 coming from Allegheny County.

Ritchie says all major institutions in the corridor are supportive of the BRT service, including the major universities and hospitals in the area.

Downtown is currently linked by the East and West Busways, which connect eastern communities such as Swissvale, Wilkinsburg and Homewood, and west to Carnegie, with the Golden Triangle.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Jim Ritchie, Port Authority

OPDC selects team for Oakland 2025 visioning process

A planning team has been selected for the Oakland 2025 visioning process. The Oakland Planning and Development Corporation (OPDC) has selected Pfaffmann + Associates, and the Studio for Spatial Practice, to lead the neighborhood visioning process.

"The goal of our Oakland 2025 master planning process is to create a shared vision for the future of Oakland, with a clear set of strategies to help us implement that vision, and arrive at that vision for the future," says Wanda Wilson, executive director of OPDC.

Member teams for the process also include 4ward Planning, for economic planning, and Fitzgerald & Halliday, Inc., for transportation planning.

Team members are expected to begin work this month, using information gathered at the fifty-five community dialogue events held in Oakland earlier this spring.

Wilson says the information gathered at prior meetings and future charrettes, as well as planning documents and processes done in the past, will be used to craft the final plan recommendations.

Oakland 2025 has six main focus areas: transportation and safety, housing quality and development, youth, family, and elderly services, neighborhood diversity and heritage and culture, neighborhood greening and infrastructure, and urban design and zoning standards.

"Oakland is a very diverse and complex community, and we're really focused on making sure through this process that we engage people from throughout all the different walks of life in Oakland, and make sure that all the different entities have a voice in this plan, so that it truly is a shared vision for the community's future," Wilson says.

The final plan is expected to be released to the public no later that May 15th, 2012.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Wanda Wilson, OPDC

Phipps Conservatory makes progress on its Center for Sustainable Landscapes

Opening next spring, the $23 million Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) at Phipps Conservatory will be one of the first to qualify for LEED Platinum certification, SITES landscaping and a USBGC Living Building.

"It's really exciting to show the world that we're leaders in the green building movement," says Phipps Executive Director Richard Piacentini. In order to meet standards for each of these certifications, the building must include a long list of green and sustainable features, says Piacentini. These features include net-zero energy and water, natural ventilation, rainwater harvesting and reuse and a Photovoltaic solar power system.

At 24,000 square feet, the CSL will serve as the Conservatory's administration, education and research facility and will be the final phase of its campus-wide greening project, which includes the completed LEED-certified visitors center and state of the art Tropical Forest Conservatory exhibit space. Piacentini says the building will showcase how we can live in harmony with the environment. The building's sleek design features numerous translucent windows to help minimize nighttime heating loss. A glass atrium will act as a thermal buffer, and its green roof will help insulate the building.

The project is using exclusively Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania-based crews, companies such as the Massaro Corporation, The Design Alliance Architects, Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc. and Atlantic Engineering Services. Project partners with Phipps include local universities, the Green Building Alliance and the National Energy Technology Laboratory.

Since the project began last October, Phipps general contractor Turner Construction completed all underground utility and initial site work. Currently, the team is laying concrete foundations, electric and site water lines. To keep in compliance with its sustainability standards, a "red list" of restricted items garners close attention, says Piacentini. Phipps is presently inspecting suppliers to ensure that all products align with their set standards.

Writer: Alex Audia
Source: Richard Piacentini and Liz Fetchin, Phipps Conservatory

Are your big plans for the future in Oakland? Come to the Oakland 2025 kickoff event tomorrow!

Oakland residents and community members interested in helping shape the neighborhood's future should head to St. Nicholas Cathedral tomorrow at 6 p.m. to celebrate the start of Oakland 2025, with free dinner included.

"Oakland 2025 is a broad-based planning process. We're basing it on the community engagement model called Everyday Democracy," says Tara Fherry-Torres, community organizer for the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation (OPDC), who are spearheading the process with many community and institutional partners. "It's going to be very comprehensive and really the residents and community members are the ones that are going to be setting up the agenda."

The kickoff event this Thursday will introduce a series of five dialogue sessions that will take place between March 24 and the first week in May. Each session will include eight to ten community members discussing the issues they're passionate about in Oakland, and the changes they would like to see over the next fifteen years. These events, lead by a facilitator, will build upon each other in order to identify the most pressing concerns about the neighborhood, likely covering future development strategies, green initiatives, new multi-modal transportation opportunities, and public education enhancement.

On May 12, the progress made in the dialogues will culminate in the formation of action committees, each organized around a particular issue, and lead by members of the public passionate about those issues and implementing change. The idea is to allow the community to organically develop the plan and begin working together, so that when a fully realized comprehensive plan is released in early 2012, volunteer teams will be prepared and well-connected to strategic resources.

"People in Oakland really care about their community. It's really a matter of capturing that love and that care for the community and finding those natural leaders to help create a cohesive structure, so that people can get involved in their community and make it what they want it to be," says Fherry-Torres.

The kickoff event takes place at 419 South Dithridge Street, and will go from 6-8:30 p.m. To RSVP email questions@opdc.org or call 412-621-7863 ext. 17.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Tara Fherry-Torres, OPDC

Image courtesy of OPDC

CMU ten year master plan includes new facilities, bike paths, and campus hotel

Carnegie Mellon University has unveiled its new 10-year master plan, composed of a great deal of data analysis and a long list of potential projects that could be completed over the next decade in order to better integrate the campus, utilize the college's recent real estate investments for new facilities, and create new bike lanes.

"The way master plans work is that you have to have this plan in order to build, but you don't have to build what you have planned. What we're trying to do is put as many development pads as possible into the plan in good spaces, so that when an opportunity arrives we can act on it," says Ralph Horgan, associate vice provost for CMU. "The public portion of this was 50 or so meetings. At some point in the next month or two we'll begin the process with the city of Pittsburgh."

CMU has been working on the master plan for the past year, and while none of the listed projects are funded at this point, they could include moving Tepper Business School to a larger building, a new nanotechnology research center, installing two bike lanes on Forbes Avenue, an expansion of the College of Fine Arts and Heinz College, moving Skibo Gym to University Center, and a hotel on campus, among others.

Now that the master plan is complete, the next step is for CMU to go through an approval process with the City. "It takes about six months. You have to be pretty thoughtful to do this and hopefully in July we'll have the approved master plan, so that if we want to do something and the funding is there, we can do it," says Horgan.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Ralph Horgan, CMU

Image courtesy of CMU

New elevated walkway and elevator will give Phipps Conservatory a new look

This spring, visitors to Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens will have an opportunity to see the many tropical trees towering in the Victorian greenhouse from a whole new angle, with the installation of an extended elevated pedestrian walkway and elevator.

Phipps' has always had a small overlook area where guests could peer out over the forest canopy, but the new construction will add 20-feet of walking space to the upper deck viewing area. The Design Alliance Architects crafted the plans for the walkway, and Landau Building Company is currently working to have it open by April.

A new elevator is being built in order to allow all visitors access to the new viewing opportunities, and is expected to be completed in unison with the walkway.

"We decided to make the area more accessible for our handicapped guests or those who just wouldn't want to walk up the winding pathway to get back to the entrance," says Liz Fetchin, marketing and communications manager for Phipps Conservatory. "It seems like guests are very excited about this addition."

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Liz Fetchin, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Image courtesy of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Genalle Passanante, Sweetlix

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Asphalt eyesore no more: New events, veggie eats, national accolades for Schenley Plaza

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy has been honored once again for its transformation of an Oakland parking lot into a five-acre public green space.

Schenley Plaza was selected as one of six finalists out of 88 entries for the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Amanda Burden Open Space Award, a new national competition that recognizes outstanding public destinations that have enriched and revitalized their surrounding communities. Detroit's Campus Martius Park won the overall competition.

The Plaza has won many other awards, including the Silver Award for Environmentally Sustainable Projects from The International Awards for Livable Communities (2009) and the IDA Pinnacle Award for Public Space from the International Downtown Association (2009).

The $11 million Schenley Plaza restoration project was completed in 2006. The Parks Conservancy operates Schenley Plaza in partnership with the City. The space, between the Carnegie Library's main branch and Pitt's Hillman Library, features a large lawn, Victorian-style carousel, four-season tent, movable tables and chairs, and seasonal food kiosks, including Asia Tea House, the Bagel Factory, Opa Gyros and -- new to the Plaza this week -- Milky Way. The kosher, vegetarian restaurant maintains its storefront location on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill.

The Plaza will also be getting a full-service sit-down restaurant operated by Eat'n Park Hospitality Group, which is expected to be complete in spring 2011. The restaurant was part of the initial plan to help the Plaza become economically viable and independent, says Laura Cook with the Parks Conservancy.

Upcoming programming at the Plaza includes free yoga and cardio bootcamp sessions, the International Children's Festival (May 12-16), lunchtime music performances starting in May, and the WYEP Summer Music Festival (June 25), which recently announced its lineup of Nicole Atkins, Sarah Harmer, Joshua James and the Boogie Hustlers.

In observance of Earth Day, the Parks Conservancy is holding a volunteer event to clean and protect the Panther Hollow watershed on Sat., April 24. Activities include tree planting, garbage collection and invasive plant removal. The event concludes with food and music at Schenley Plaza.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Laura Cook, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

Photograph courtesy of Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph courtesy of Walnut Capital

Bloomfield plans Liberty Avenue updates after $26K design study

The Bloomfield Development Corporation (BDC) recently completed a streetscape and gateway study for Liberty Avenue.

The plan focuses on three gateways along the avenue, improving pedestrian safety and the neighborhood's identity, and re-knitting the building fabric of upper and lower Liberty Avenue. The specific areas to be addressed include in front of West Penn Hospital, and the imposing intersection where Liberty Avenue meets the Bloomfield Bridge.

"Those areas set the tone for how people experience the neighborhood," says Andrea Lavin with Community Design Center of Pittsburgh (CDCP).

Initial plans explore adding bump-outs, similar to those in Oakland, to slow down traffic and create shorter, safer crosswalks; and adding street trees with higher growing branches that will not impair pedestrians' or drivers' line-of-sight. Other suggestions under consideration include benches and bike racks, and shifting from metered to pay-and-display parking. The plan also includes a parcel layout for the development of the Bloomfield Shure Save site for whenever, it ever, the owner is ready to sell, says Karla Owens, executive director of BDC.

"This is not a plan that is going to be immediately implemented. These are not changes that are going to happen overnight," explains Lavin with CDCP.

The plans have already been shaped in two community meetings, and the final design boards will be presented to the community in March, says Owens.

BDC engaged Burt Hill Architects and transportation engineers Wilbur Smith to conduct the study and create a plan for improving the corridor.

BDC received funding through a $12,000 CDCP Design Fund Grant, as well as an additional $10,000 through Senator Jim Ferlo's office, and about $4,000 through the Urban Redevelopment Authority's Mainstreets program.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Andrea Lavin, Community Design Center of Pittsburgh; Karla Owens, Bloomfield Development Corporation

Photograph courtesy of Bloomfield Development Corporation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph courtesy of Port Authority of Allegheny County

Parks Conservancy breaks ground on system-wide trail and signage improvement

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy broke ground Monday on a multi-million dollar comprehensive trail and sign improvement project.

Construction will begin on trails in lower Frick Park, and other projects will begin along Butler Street on the north side of Highland Park, on the Bob Harvey and Mairdale Trails in Riverview Park, and on the Works Progress Administration-era bridges in Schenley Park. Additionally, wayfinding and educational signs will be installed throughout the four regional parks. The signs, designed by Kolano Design, will provide directions for pedestrians and cyclists, as well as information about park history, and plant and animal life.

"The trails were constructed about 100 years ago, and the nature of the urban setting is significantly different today than it was then," says Phil Gruszka, director of park management and maintenance. "As we build up communities adjacent to the parks, we have more stormwater entering the park system, so we have more soil erosion."

After the trails are reengineered, they will be able to better sustain storm events without loss of trail surface, says Gruszka. This will make the trails more usable year-round with fewer safety concerns, and lower maintenance costs for the city, which will spend less money replacing gravel that is washed away with rain.

The trail and signage project should take about 10 months to complete, Gruszka says.

Representative Mike Doyle and Senator Arlen Specter were instrumental in securing the $3.1 million federal grant that has made the project possible. Other funding came from Eden Hall Foundation, Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation, PA Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, Ryan Memorial Foundation and UPMC. Foundations, individuals and the corporate community helped to raise more than $498,000, releasing nearly $2 million in federal funds.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Phil Gruszka, director of parks management and maintenance, and Laura Cook, marketing communications coordinator, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

Photograph courtesy of Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

Design Pittsburgh shines spotlight on year's best architectural achievements

"Architecture is the most public of all art," says Anne Swager, executive director of AIA Pittsburgh.

It's art in which we live, work and play. Art that occupies every corner of our city, and the curves that crawl around the region. It's art that is tied to the past and the future, that at its best, is innovative and inspirational. It's art that has positioned Pittsburgh as a global leader in sustainability and green building.

Architecture is integral to Pittsburgh's growth, development and beauty, and its stars--the people and places that inspire and shape the city--are being honored at Design Pittsburgh, AIA's annual event.

This year's competition features submissions in the categories of architecture, architectural detail, interior architecture, open plan, regional & urban design, landscape architecture and "timeless," a grouping for projects built in the last 25 years. Though the winners will not be announced until Thursday night, nominations include Astorino (Children's Hospital), DRS (Duquesne University Power Center), EDGE studio (CMU's Tepper School of Business addition), Bergman, Walls & Associates/Strada (Rivers Casino), moss Architects (the Silver Top House on the South Side) and Perkins Eastman (East Liberty's green vision).

This year's Design Pittsburgh will also honor Rebecca Flora with a Gold Medal, a special award bestowed to a non-architect who makes a difference in the region. Past winners have included Teresa Heinz, and Children's Museum Executive Director Jane Werner. Flora, a founding member of the Green Building Alliance, now serves as senior vice president of education and research at the U.S. Green Building Council. She is credited with changing the culture of Pittsburgh to recognize and celebrate sustainability, says Chip Desmone, president of AIA Pittsburgh and principal at Desmone & Associates, which was voted "Best Architect of 2009" by the readers of Pittsburgh Magazine.

Design Pittsburgh includes an exhibit that is open to the public Oct. 20 and 21 at the August Wilson Center, as well as a juried competition, a People's Choice Award and a gala and ceremony on Thurs., Oct. 22.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Anne Swager, AIA Pittsburgh; Chip Desmone, Desmone & Associates

Photograph of Children's Hospital courtesy of AIA Pittsburgh

J'eet brings Cali cool to Children's Hospital corner of Lawrenceville

Crepes may very well be replacing cupcakes as Pittsburgh's food trend du jour.

Paris66, which opened in East Liberty over the summer, attracts crowds morning, noon and night for its authentic French fare; Crepes Parisiennes packs both its Shadyside and Oakland locations for its savory and sweet treats; and now J'eet, which opened late last week, is bringing French-infused California cafe cuisine to Lawrenceville.

The cafe, at 4200 Penn Ave., balances cozy and chic with no-nonsense dishes (sandwiches, salads, crepes and coffee) and a casual, tongue-in-cheek vibe that's accessible to Wi-Fi-seeking neighborhood residents as well as the on-the-go Children's Hospital crowd from across the street. The ingredients are fresh and predominately local, and the combinations, by chef Kevin Olmstead, are sophisticated. For instance, the turkey sandwich features smoked Gouda and fig jam, and there's a dessert crepe made with mint, honey and candied walnuts.

J'eet's sunlit space was vacant for about two decades before cafe owner Marc Stern completely renovated it. The Pittsburgh native, who worked as an actor in California for many years before boomeranging back, added plumbing (there was none), a garage-front facade, gleaming hardwood floors and a full--if compact--kitchen, and is planning on a back deck by the spring. And J'eet, a play on Pittsburghese for "did-ya-eat," is presided over by a whimsical mural of what may very well be a donkey-headed, book-toting hipster, painted by Stern's brother and sister-in-law, who own area staple the Brillobox a couple doors down on Penn.

The brothers now share an office over the Brillobox, and Marc credits Eric's Brillobox success as encouragement in first restaurant venture. But the real inspiration, Stern says, is Lawrenceville itself, which is located at the intersection of so many of Pittsburgh's up-and-coming neighborhoods, and is home to some of the city's most creative, food-loving types, including Stern himself.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Marc Stern and Kevin Olmstead, J'eet

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Philadelphia Brewing Co. joins Pittsburgh craft beer scene

One of Philadelphia's most prized craft breweries is setting up shop in Pittsburgh.

The Philadelphia Brewing Co. established its one-man operation on this side of the state in September, in a 500-square-foot warehouse space at 2120 Jane St., in the former home of Duquesne Brewing Co. on the South Side.

The brewery launched in 2007 in the wake of a split with the Yards Brewing partners. In this short time, P.B.C.'s flagship Kenzinger ale, named after Philly's Kensington neighborhood where it's brewed, has become one of the most popular craft beers in Philadelphia, and P.B.C. can be found in at least 100 bars around the city.

Does this mean P.B.C. will be challenging East End Brewing Company and the Church Brew Works for the title of Pittsburgh's favorite local microbrew?

Not quite.

There won't be brewing happening (yet... perhaps) on this side of the state, says Matt Nienhuis, who's behind P.B.C.'s Pittsburgh division. That's still exclusive to P.B.C.'s North Philly brewery. But this expansion does mean Pittsburgh's got another option for craft beer. P.B.C. is the only brewery in Pennsylvania to self-distribute its product to retail beer distributors, restaurants, bars and delis, so before P.B.C. had a man stationed locally, the closest P.B.C. option was a one-off in Chambersburg, with almost all of the distribution limited to Philadelphia and its outliers, as well as a few spots in Jersey.

"It's pretty unorthodox for a brewery of our size, or any brewery, to self-distribute, but a good way to get to know our customers and keep our prices low," says Nienhuis, who who's single-handedly responsible for P.B.C. sales, promotion and delivery in Pittsburgh.

So what inspired P.B.C.'s growth to the Pittsburgh market? Nienhuis, a longtime employee at P.B.C. and Yards before it, moved to Pittsburgh (Highland Park, in particular) in August with his wife, who started a job teaching at the new Pittsburgh Science & Technology Academy in Oakland. Nienhuis, who grew up in Chicago, finds Pittsburgh "nice," and without the "East Coast roughness" he experienced in Philadelphia.

P.B.C. is now available on draft at Peter's Pub in Oakland and Kelly's Bar & Lounge in East Liberty, as well as about a dozen beer distributors throughout the city and suburbs.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Matt Nienhuis, Philadelphia Brewing Co.

Photograph courtesy of Philadelphia Brewing Co.

URA seeks RFPs for final four parcels of Pittsburgh Technology Center

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) of Pittsburgh announced last week it is formally seeking requests for proposals to develop the final four sites of the Pittsburgh Technology Center.

The four built-to-suit parcels, which are cleared and ready for building, range in size from nearly three-quarters of an acre to just over an acre-and-a-half.

"These four sites are the last remaining parcels east of the Hot Metal Bridge," says Megan Stearman with the URA. "They're the final pieces of this development site. Getting it fully built means more tax revenue for the city, more jobs and more opportunity to advance the technology industry that is transforming Pittsburgh."

The Technology Center is located along the Monongahela riverfront in Hazelwood, just down the hill from Oakland's universities and hospitals, across the Hot Metal Bridge from the South Side, and a short distance from Downtown. The office park includes a 723-space parking garage and access to public transportation.

Over the past 12 years, seven buildings totaling almost 700,000 square-feet have been developed at the Technology Center, and are fully leased at this time. The 48-acre Technology Center, which was built on property formerly used as a steel mill site, now hosts regional technology leaders including the University of Pittsburgh Center of Biotechnology and Bioengineering, the Carnegie Mellon Entertainment Technology Center, Ansaldo STS USA (formerly known as Union Switch & Signal), Thermo Fisher Scientific, and the Sunoco Polypropylene Research and Development Center.

The Technology Center is a nationally recognized example of brownfield reclamation, and the first project in Pennsylvania to use tax increment financing. The site currently generates more than $1 million in annual local tax revenues.

The asking price for the land will start at $570,000. The URA will be accepting proposals on a rolling deadline.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Megan Stearman, Urban Redevelopment Authority

Image courtesy of Urban Redevelopment Authority

Carnegie Mellon completes $3.3M addition to business school

Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business has completed as 4,700-square-foot, three-story addition.

Designed by Friendship/Garfield-based EDGE studio, the $3.3 million addition includes a new accessible entrance on the west side of the building, a first-floor undergraduate student lounge (with floor-to-ceiling windows and a flat-screen TV), eight faculty offices (all with outward-facing windows) and a technologically advanced conference center and seminar space. Intended for Tepper academic and social events, this top floor space can be divided by a movable partition, and can accommodate up to 100 people.

"By adding more space for the undergraduates and faculty, it's alleviating some of the stress from all over the building, and opening up new possibilities for Ph.D. students," says Jonathan Golli with EDGE studio. "Sometimes Tepper would have to go outside the complex to hold classes and seminars because the rooms would be booked up. With this additional space, they can accommodate their needs right in the Tepper building."

The addition is a precursor to the comprehensive reorganization and renovation of the second and third floors of the adjacent structure, part of a master plan for the Tepper School also being completed by EDGE studio.

The addition broke ground last fall, was completed in July 2009 and has been occupied by faculty and students since classes began in late August. The contractor was Jendoco Construction Corporation, and Andrew Bajuszik served as project manager.

The addition was designed to meet LEED Gold standards. Eco-friendly features include: lots of natural light; efficient light fixtures with occupancy controls and dual-level switching that supplement the natural daylight; automatic blinds that reduce heat load and glare; and an infiltration pit that controls stormwater.

The addition's gray exterior stands out from the yellow brick of the original Tepper building--not unlike the gray exterior of the Gates Center for Computer Science and the Hillman Center for Future-Generation Technologies, a $98.6 million complex dedicated in September.

The Tepper School of Business consistently ranks among the top business schools in the world. In 2007, the Wall Street Journal ranked the Tepper School No. 5 among the top MBA programs in the U.S., and the undergraduate program has been ranked a Top Ten business program by U.S. News & World Report for several consecutive years.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Jonathan Golli, EDGE studio

Photograph courtesy of EDGE studio

Carnegie Mellon dedicates $98.6M computer science center

Carnegie Mellon University's computer science school has a new home in the Gates Center for Computer Science and the Hillman Center for Future-Generation Technologies.

The $98.6 million project was dedicated Tues., Sept. 22 with a keynote address by Microsoft chairman and building namesake Bill Gates. The construction was made possible through a $20 million gift from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a $10 million gift from the Henry L. Hillman Foundation.

The complex, which occupies 5.6 acres on the west portion of CMU's 140-acre campus, was designed by Atlanta, Ga.-based Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects, and landscaped by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Cambridge, Mass. P.J. Dick, Inc. served as the construction management firm.

"This is one of the most prestigious schools of computer science in the world, filled with the most creative people," says architect Mack Scogin. "The purpose of this building is to encourage and support their activities. It's as simple and as complicated as that."

The modern glass-and-zinc complex, which is in sharp contrast to the campus' traditional yellow-brick look, comprises 217,000 square-feet of interior space, including 10 classrooms, 310 offices (all with windows), 29 project rooms/labs, 8,000 square-feet of open project space and nearly 20,000 square-feet of white board work space. It also features a state-of-the-art, open source computer lab made possible through a grant from Red Hat, Inc.; a café to be operated by Highland Park coffee shop Tazza D'Oro; and the 246-seat Rashid Auditorium, named for former CMU faculty member Rick Rashid who is now senior vice president for research at Microsoft.

The interconnected buildings, which are designed to achieve LEED Gold certification, feature five green roofs, and--when the landscaping is complete--will more than double the amount of green space that previously existed on the site.

The centers are connected to each other and the rest of campus with enclosed and outdoor walkways, including the Randy Pausch Memorial Bridge, which links the Gates Center to the Purnell Center for the Arts.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Byron Spice, School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University; Mack Scogin, architect

Photograph courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University

Falk Laboratory School expands with $20.3M green addition

For Falk Laboratory School, September marks new beginnings: a new season, new school year and the opening of its new wing, which has been under construction for the past two years.

The private K-8 school at the University of Pittsburgh in Oakland is celebrating the opening of its $20.3 million addition, designed by Perkins Eastman Architects. The Downtown-based firm was chosen, in part, based on its work a few years ago on Pittsburgh Public School's Helen S. Faison Arts Academy in Homewood, the first new school built in the city in more than 20 years.

Falk's 31,000-square-foot addition includes 14 classrooms, a computer lab, art studio, cafeteria, science room, library and support areas. Green components include a "living" roof that will absorb 80 percent of rainwater; low-flow toilets and urinals in restrooms, and motion sensors on faucets to decrease water usage; and an air-exchange system that draws cool air into the building and pushes out warm air.

"In the old building, there was no space that was not utilized. Somebody was always somewhere," says Dr. Marian Vollmer with Falk. "We previously had a cafetorium. We would eat there and then convert it into an auditorium. It was like working in a phone booth. Now we have more open spaces to take the children to do activities and to hold events with the parents."

The modern, almost industrial design was constructed on a property adjacent to the main building that previously housed--in an old Victorian--the school's library and teacher resources. The existing main school structure, built in 1931, is now undergoing renovations, designed by Perkins Eastman, to be completed by March 2010. The spaces previously used as primary school classrooms and a "cafetorium," are being transformed into a larger auditorium and administrative offices.

With the expanded space, enrollment--which is currently at 310 students--is anticipated to increase to more than 400 students by 2012.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Dr. Marian Vollmer, assistant director, Falk Laboratory School

Photograph courtesy University of Pittsburgh

Magee-Womens Hospital grows with edible organic gardens

The Magee-Womens Hospital outdoor courtyards have long provided staff, patients and families with sites for solace, contemplation and healing. Now they're also providing fresh, healthy foods.

Over the summer, Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, in Oakland, planted edible organic gardens in the Gift Shop Courtyard, the WomanCare Birth Center Courtyard and the Turtle and Fish Pond area. They were made possible through a gift from the Heinz Endowments, and were designed and implemented with assistance from Phipps Conservatory horticulturalists, who are helping the hospital develop a three-year plan to promote the importance of locally grown foods and organic garden practices.

"We teach our childbearing families that organic produce is beneficial to mothers and babies, as it reduces their exposure to pesticides and fungicides," says Judith Focareta with Magee. "If you advocate something, you've got to model it."

Magee's new gardens feature informational signs by ThoughtForm Design, and about $2,500 of food plants supplied by Garden Dreams Urban Farm & Nursery in Wilkinsburg and Blackberry Meadows Organic Farm. The plants were chosen for their ability to thrive in an organic garden environment that utilizes minimal water and fertilizer applications, and no pesticides.

Magee is one of just a few hospitals in the U.S. to plant and harvest organic herbs and vegetables to feed patients, staff and visitors. According to Magee president Leslie Davis, the hospital has won six national awards for sustainability initiatives, including one for the recognition of a mercury-free environment, and the 2007 Children's Environmental Health Excellence Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Children's Health Protection.

Magee celebrated the dedication of the gardens last week in the Gift Shop Courtyard with refreshments prepared using herbs and vegetables grown in the gardens.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Judith Focareta, coordinator of environmental health initiatives, and Leslie Davis, president, Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

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

Investment opportunities abound in Oakland

With the number of universities and UPMC medical facilities in Oakland, for-sale and even for-lease properties can be hard to come by in the neighborhood.

The Oakland Business Improvement District (OBID) is hosting a roundtable discussion to promote some of the properties that are available. Members of the Oakland business community are meeting this morning, Wed., Aug. 12 at the University Club for a roundtable discussion on investment opportunities in Oakland.

Properties include retail storefronts, and office, residential and storage spaces at some notable locations, including in the Medical Arts Building on Fifth Avenue and the new 45,000-square-foot office and retail development at 214 S. Craig St., which will be available for occupancy in fall 2010.

"Oakland continues to be one of Western Pennsylvania's strong economic centers, thanks in part to the medical and financial services provided here, and the large student population," says Georgia S. Petropoulos with OBID.

Oakland is home to three universities--Carlow University, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh--all of which are resuming classes this month. The University of Pittsburgh's 2009 Economic Impact Report attributed $246 million spent by students on goods, services and rental payments in Allegheny County during the 2008 fiscal year.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Georgia S. Petropoulos, executive director, and Patrick Donohue, program coordinator, Oakland Business Improvement District

Photo courtesy Oakland Business Improvement District

Pitt Leases 150,000 sf in Tech Center

The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has signed a 10-year lease on a new building construction at the Pittsburgh Technology Center.

Construction on the Bridgeside Point II building began in January, and will be complete in September, in time for Pitt's lease to begin Oct. 1. Downtown-based Strada designed the five-story, 160,000-square-foot building, and Turner Construction is serving as general contractor.

Pitt will be the building's only tenant, occupying 144,265 square-feet of research laboratory and office space, as well as 349 parking spaces at an annual cost of $8.14 million.

Michael D'Amico and Jeff Schultz with Grubb & Ellis represented the developer, the Cleveland-based Ferchill Group.

The Technology Center is an office park located on a former steel mill site on Second Avenue, across the Hot Metal Bridge from Soffer Development's SouthSide Works. New development continues in the park, say D'Amico and Schultz, based both on its "convenient location" and on "the strength of the surrounding universities and hospitals."

The space will be used for the School of Medicine research projects affiliated with the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics.

This lease was part of University of Pittsburgh's recent announcement of $70 million in building projects, which includes the $32.38 million expansion and renovation of the Chevron Science Center, the $2.1 million purchase of the Concordia Club and the $27.79 million development of an Olympic Sports Complex. The construction and renovation projects are expected to generate 484 construction-related jobs and four full-time, permanent Pitt facilities maintainer positions.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Michael D'Amico and Jeff Schultz, Grubb & Ellis, and John Fedele, University of Pittsburgh

Photo courtesy Grubb & Ellis

Squirrel Hill center the first in region for Latino families

The Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU) has opened the first center to cater to Latino families in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

The Latino Family Center, which has a membership of some 50 families, opened in July at the corner of Murray and Phillips Avenues in Squirrel Hill, a block down from the new Crazy Mocha. The center, which has two staff members and a three-year budget of $300,000, runs with the help of grants from Allegheny County and the Heinz Endowments.

The facility is accessible by five bus lines and is convenient to areas with large Latino populations, such as Beechview, Oakland and Lawrenceville, says Sarah McCluan with AIU.

"About a year ago a group of Latino families approached the county and proposed a family center," says McCluan. "At that time AIU had 11 family centers in the county, but none specifically geared toward Spanish-speaking families."

According to census figures, there were more than 25,000 people of Hispanic or Latino origin in Pittsburgh metropolitan area in 2007, and Latinos make up the fastest growing demographic in the state. The Hispanic Center on the North Side helps area Latinos, but is focused primarily on career services for adults. The Latino Family Center, however, reaches out to all ages. It offers English literacy programs for parents and kids, advice on health care resources, parent support groups and more.

"Services are family-driven, and depend on what families need," says McCluan. "The point of the center is to help families be strong and successful, stay intact and raise healthy children."

Writer: Caralyn Green

Source: Sarah McCluan, Allegheny Intermediate Unit

Children's Hospital focuses on families with playrooms, sibling center

The $625 million Children's Hospital, which opened to patients this May in Lawrenceville, celebrated another milestone last week--the completion of a deluxe, extended-hours playroom funded by the Mario Lemieux Foundation (MLF).

The 1,400-square-foot playroom is located on the sixth floor, off a vast atrium that opens to the Healing Garden, a rooftop patio with views of Oakland's skyline. The playroom is part of the 20,000-square-foot Family Resource Center, which is "the largest space dedicated to families at any children's hospital, anywhere," according Andrew Urbach, M.D., with Children's Hospital.

The brightly colored playroom, the biggest of the hospital's 13, is outfitted with toys appropriate for ages 3-to-11, as well as a calming fish tank, intricate mosaic work and a cushy entertainment corner complete with a flat screen TV, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii. A Teen Lounge caters to older patients and their siblings. The playroom's look, feel and functionality are the result of efforts of OM Workspace, Astorino and Architectural Clay Products.

"Our fundamental goal in building this hospital campus was to transform pediatric care in our region to focus on kids and their families," says Dr. Urbach. "The Lemieux family saw the need for greater family support, and provided us with everything a child and their family could need in a time of stress."

The playroom is the 14th in the region through MLF's decade-old Playroom Project. Since its inception, the Playground Project has spent more than $850,000 on new construction and ongoing maintenance of Austin's Playrooms (named after Mario's son), says Nancy Angus with MLF.

The Playground Project is currently working on five upcoming facilities, in addition to the first-floor Children's Hospital Sibling Center, which is scheduled to open August 1.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Andrew Urbach, M.D., medical director of Clinical Excellence and Service, Children's Hospital; Nancy Angus, executive director, Mario Lemieux Foundation

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Oakland county health facility to be replaced by $40M mixed-used construction

Within the next year, the longstanding Allegheny County Health Department building in Oakland will be no more.

The 40,000 square-foot building will be sold for $4.9 million, and will be demolished. The 1.5-acre site will be prepared for development by a joint venture partnership consisting of O'Hara-based Massaro Corporation, TKA Architects, Inc., Downtown brokerage firm Langholz Wilson Ellis, Inc., and Harmer-based Kratsa Properties, which is currently developing hotels throughout the city, including in Mt. Lebanon, on the North Shore near PNC Park and on Ross Street, Downtown.

The soon-to-be-former Health Department property, which spans Fifth and Forbes Avenues between Craft and Halket Streets, will see the construction of a 95,000 square-foot Class A office building, 150-room select service hotel and 510-car parking garage. The development team estimates overall costs in excess of $40 million.

The future of the health center is currently uncertain; they may move or may lease space in the new building.

The project is slated to break ground in the first quarter of 2010, and is expected to take 24 months to complete, says Gary Wilson with Langholz Wilson Ellis, Inc.

"We are thrilled with the location," says Wilson. "There is no other land left in Oakland that is closer to the hospitals and universities."

Wilson adds that his firm is working with developers Ed Dunlap and Annemarie Hoffman on redeveloping the nearby former Noce Cadillac site at the corner of Boulevard of the Allies and Craft Street. The vacant building will be converted into 20,000 square-feet of Class A office space with 75 parking spots, two-thirds of which will be indoors.

"We're currently seeking a tenant for Craft Place and will begin renovations immediately upon obtaining one," says Wilson.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Gary Wilson, principal, Langholz Wilson Ellis, Inc.

Image courtesy Lanholz Wilson Ellis, Inc.

Polaris Real Estate purchases former Salvation Army HQ, plans $70M Oakland mixed-use building

Cleveland-based Polaris Real Estate Equities has received an official agreement from the national Salvation Army to buy the nonprofit's former Western Pennsylvania Divisional headquarters, at 424 Third Ave., Downtown.

The nine-story, 93,000 square-foot building would be of use to the nearby Point Park University and Art Institute of Pittsburgh, says Guy Totino with Polaris, as the structure houses a range of university-ready features, including classrooms, offices, kitchens, residential rooms, a nonfunctional swimming pool and a chapel that seats 500, which could be converted into a lecture hall or theater.

The building also includes 46 onsite parking spots, says Totino, who is considering adding a deck to the current surface lot.

Massaro Corporation will market and serve as contractor on the project, and Downtown-based MacLachlan, Cornelius & Filoni Architects, Inc. (MCF) will design the renovations.

MCF is also working with Polaris on the Chelsea, which is slated to break ground in September.

The Chelsea is a 16-story, mixed-use project to be built on the southwest corner of N. Craig Street and Centre Avenue in Oakland. The $70 million, 592,000 square-foot building will include 334 apartments, 414 structured parking spaces and about 25,000 square-feet of retail space.

"The building will be made of yellow or white brick and will emulate some of the larger institutional buildings in Oakland, like Webster Hall and the old Schenley High School," says Albert L. Filoni with MCF. "It will have large windows and extra-high ceilings that will give the apartments a loft-like feeling."

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Guy Totino, Polaris Real Estate Equities; Albert L. Filoni, MacLachlan, Cornelius & Filoni Architects, Inc.

Image courtesy Polaris Real Estate Equities

Councilman Bill Peduto launches recreational education program with Venture Outdoors

City Councilman Bill Peduto is hosting a series of hike-and-learn outings this summer through Venture Outdoors.

Once a month for three months, Pedal-Paddle-Peduto will bring together local leaders to discuss key development issues in Pittsburgh, while engaging participants in related recreational activities.

For the first outing, this Sunday at 1 p.m., Peduto will be joined by representatives from Friends of the Riverfront, Riverlife and Pfaffmann + Associates as the group discusses Pittsburgh's riverfront history, architecture, trails, development and future use, all while kayaking Pittsburgh's three rivers.

Future programs include an urban planning-focused Downtown bike tour attended by leaders from Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, Urban Design Associates and no wall productions, and a hike through Oakland's Schenley Park with dialogue about city parks and urban green spaces led by representatives from the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest and TreeVitalize Pittsburgh.

"We hope to promote Pittsburgh's natural amenities while engaging participants in policy discussions around development in these three key areas: Pittsburgh's rivers, urban revitalization and green spaces," says Councilman Peduto. "These leaders will not only guide us on the rivers, streets, paths and trails; they'll guide us through the history, and a vision for the future."

"All three areas are changing," says Lora Woodward with Venture Outdoors. "This is a way to bring together the community and start some conversations. Maybe participants will have ideas the architects, designers, developers and activists haven't yet considered. The possibilities are endless."

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Councilman Bill Peduto; Lora Woodward, public program coordinator, Venture Outdoors

Image courtesy Venture Outdoors

Port Authority seeks public opinion on transit plans

Port Authority of Allegheny County is seeking community feedback on its proposed Transit Development Plan.

The plan would result in the first major overhaul of the route network in about 40 years, says Jim Ritchie with Port Authority.

Port Authority hopes to make the transportation more efficient, reliable and understandable. An easier route naming system would be adopted, some routes and stops would be consolidated, and confusing route variations would be eliminated, Ritchie explains. Other potential changes include the use of express Rapid Bus service for heavily traveled corridors, such as the stretch between Downtown and Oakland; establishing neighborhood Transit Centers; more direct service to Pittsburgh International Airport; and a color-coded rather than number-based system for the T light rail system.

The Transit Development Plan is the result of a $800,000 system analysis by Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates.

Port Authority will hold the first of two open houses this week, and may hold a public hearing down the line. The first open house will be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. today at the Omni William Penn Hotel, Downtown. The second will be 2 to 5 p.m., and 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Mon., June 8 at the University of Pittsburgh’s Alumni Hill in Oakland. Feedback is also possible through a special Port Authority website, which details proposed changes and includes an online presentation.

“We’ll see what riders like and don’t like, and hone in on a final plan by later this summer,” says Ritche. “Our board will then vote in September, and the earliest changes could be implemented by the end of the year.”

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Jim Ritchie, director of public relations, Port Authority of Allegheny County

Image courtesy Port Authority of Allegheny County

Downtown County Office Building to get green roof

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy Allegheny County

$2.8M investment boosts Oakland Zone Neighborhood Partnership Program

A strategic neighborhood vision is taking shape in Oakland.

Designed to strengthen Oakland's diverse neighborhood fabric, the project represents a unique partnership between six community organizations and three lead funders. Dubbed the Oakland Zone Neighborhood Partnership Program, the multi-year effort received a $2.8 million boost from project partners UPMC Health Plan, PNC Bank and Dollar Bank.

On April 23, the Oakland Zone hosted a commemorative signing of its “Community Creed,” a united vision that articulates a shared approach to neighborhood issues such as sustainability, urban diversity, public transit, and community amenities.

“We’ve had this idea going back 10 years. It’s about what we see the neighborhood becoming, in concert with the institutions,” says David Blenk, with Oakland Planning and Development Corporation (OPDC). “Because we were able to align our missions in collaboration with corporate partners, it's created really interesting synergies on a whole bunch of levels. It gives us a base that we're using to leverage additional funding.”

A first-of-its-kind initiative for Oakland, the Zone allows partners to collaborate on individual programs and develop efficiencies for working together and sharing resources. Partners include OPDC, Community Human Services, Oakland Business Improvement District, Oakland Transportation Management Association, Oakland Community Council, and Peoples Oakland. Current projects include Hometown Streets, an intersection safety upgrade along Fifth and Forbes, and this weekend’s marathon festivities in Schenley Park.

“A while ago, people said Oakland had too many voices. Instead of connecting, we were competing. We need a lot of voices, and we're trying to be very sensitive of one another,” adds Blenk, who says Oakland’s daily population is 120,000. “The more we started looking at our programming, the more we found we could work together.”

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: David Blenk, executive director, and Elly Fisher, assistant director, Oakland Planning and Development Corporation
Image courtesy Oakland Planning and Development Corporation

Family House opens $4.5M University Place facility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

University Club reopens after $20M renovation

The University of Pittsburgh has reopened the University Club, after a $20.2 million renovation to the historic building, located at 123 University Place. Opened in 1923, the building served as a privately run club until it was purchased by the University in 2005 for $3.2 million. Landmark Design Associates, located in the South Side, designed the renovations and Massaro Corporation acted as construction manager on the project.

The new University Club houses a faculty and staff club, featuring a first-class dining room, cocktail lounge, library and reading room with wireless internet, and state-of-the-art fitness center for members, as well as banquet and conference rooms available for campus events, wedding receptions, and other public activities. The Rooftop Terrace, overlooking Oakland and the University, will also be available for special events and live entertainment. A coffeehouse at the site, the Brioche Doree, will be open to the public.   

"Faculty had been asking for a central location for good meals, getting together, and building collegiality," says John Fedele of the University of Pittsburgh. "It's been generating a lot of interest." After being open only two weeks, over 400 faculty and staff have already joined.

The top four floors of the building will be leased by Family House, a nonprofit organization that provides affordable residential housing for families of seriously ill patients who are receiving treatment at Pittsburgh hospitals. This will be the fourth Family House site, adding 48 rooms to the group's capacity.

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Writer: Rob Cullen
Source: John Fedele, associate director of news, University of Pittsburgh

Image courtesy University of Pittsburgh

First Preserve Pittsburgh Summit to showcase key historic properties in city

Four historic Pittsburgh properties will take center stage at the first-of-its-kind Preserve Pittsburgh Summit on March 28 at Oakland’s Frick Fine Arts Building.

Organized by the Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh (YPA), the free event will address preservation opportunities for the August Wilson House and New Granada Theatre in the Hill District, the National Negro Opera Company in Homewood and the Northside's Garden Theater. The collaborative summit will include bus tours, interactive discussions, networking opportunities and resources, and lunch. Keynote speaker Michael Tomlan, who runs Cornell University’s Historic Preservation Program, is a pioneer in the field of preservation curricula.

“We’re trying to create a critical mass of interest around these historic sites and a model for what can be done. We’re putting our annual Top Ten list into action,” says Dan Holland, with YPA, which has a chapter in Charleston, S.C. “We’re engaging people of all ages in this dialogue so we can come up with good solutions for these properties.”

At a post-summit reception, the YPA will award $500 to its preservation video contest winners and unveil its fifth annual Promise Award to an emerging preservationist.

“Established preservation organizations across the country are trying to attract new young members. The field tends to be insular. We’ve had interest from Detroit and Indianapolis,” adds Holland, who’s passionate about the need for voices of young people in preservation. “We’re trying to open things up with a welcoming message of inclusion. There’s a new generation that’s eager to get involved. We’re trying to build and perfect the brand locally first.”

Reception tickets are $25 ($15 for YPA members; $10 for students). To make reservations, go here.

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Dan Holland, Chief Executive Officer, Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh

Image courtesy Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh

$9M sustainable office tower planned for Oakland's S. Craig corridor

A new 45,000-square-foot sustainable office development is in the works for Oakland’s S. Craig St. corridor.

Under development by Cambridge Venture Partners (CVP), the nine-story project will bring 40,000 square feet of Class A office space to the centrally located commercial district. Designed to enhance Craig’s existing retail tenants and surrounding institutions, increase pedestrian traffic and support Oakland’s strong rental market, the $9 million project will feature a first-floor restaurant with outdoor seating along Winthrop St. Approximately 100 new employees are expected to work in the office tower, which is being designed by Renaissance 3 Architects.

“It’s really going to complement the whole corridor. When I went around and talked to business people, they were totally for the development and realize it will help business. We’re addressing a lot of needs over there,” says Tom Chunchick, with CVP, who has met with local merchants, the Oakland Task Force and the Bellefield Area Citizens Association. “They’re excited to have first class tenants. We always seek public and private input from our neighbors to make sure that everyone has a chance to present their ideas and offer us opportunities for improving our process.”

Chunchick, who has teamed up with David Glickman of Grubb & Ellis and Rick Dimidjian of Aegis Realty Partners to market the project, expects construction to start by the end of summer. Occupancy is planned for fall 2010. CVP is also developing The Museum Park Hotel on Forbes Ave. in Oakland and the mixed-use Forward Square in Squirrel Hill.

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Tom Chunchick, executive vice president, Cambridge Venture Partners

Image courtesy Grubb and Ellis Company


New and improved youth curfew center opening in Oakland

The City of Pittsburgh announced that the City Curfew Center, which was closed in 2002, will reopen in May, with an effort to create a more caring environment for youths than at its former location downtown.

“It's not a lock-up facility,” says Peggy Harris of Three Rivers Youth, the nonprofit which will be running the Center.  “It's much more home-like.”  The new Curfew Center, located in a converted Victorian home at 200 N. Dithridge St. in Oakland, will feature a living room, dining room, kitchen, and 24 beds.  A staff of ten people will provide supervision and counseling.

Teens who are brought to the Center will be given an assessment by counselors to determine whether family or home conditions might have led the youth to violate the curfew, and what resources the child might need-- including medical treatment, drug counseling, tutoring, or even just a meal.  If the staff can contact their family, youth will be released to their parents that night; otherwise they will stay at the Center overnight.  Three Rivers Youth will provide on-site family counseling and will be able to connect families to a network of other social service providers.

Harris says that the Curfew Center will be a 24-hour facility.  During the day teams of outreach workers will be sent to areas where kids tend to congregate, and will give presentations to community organizations and businesses, to get help in identifying which youth might be in need of the Center's services.

“It's not just getting kids of the street and throwing the keys away,” says Joanna Doven of the mayor's office.  “We believe that times of crisis can be a catalyst for a change in their lives.”

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Writer: Rob Cullen
Sources: Peggy Harris, executive director of Three Rivers Youth, and Joana Doven, office of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

Carnegie Mellon honors Randy Pausch with memorial that "bridges" art and science

At the close of Randy Pausch’s famed last lecture in Sept. 2007, President Jared L.  Cohon announced Carnegie Mellon’s plans to create a unique tribute to the life and work of their colleague who would eventually succumb to pancreatic cancer in July, 2008.

A 230-foot bridge now under construction, connecting the new Gates Center for Computer Science to the Purnell Center for the Arts, will be named in Pausch’s memory as a powerful symbol of one of the professor’s key legacies at CMU, the Entertainment Technology Center.

“Randy was adamant about bridging the gap between art and science. What is more fitting than a memorial that physically does just that,” says spokesperson Byron Spice.

Mack Scogin of Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects in Atlanta is the lead architect on the Gates Complex, and has taken great care in ensuring that this bridge, set to be completed by Labor Day, speaks to Pausch’s legacy. 

“The bridge will have back-lit aluminum screens with abstract patterns inspired by photos of penguins jumping into water because Randy created the ‘First Penguin Award’ for ambitious student projects that failed. He believed in recognizing the person brave enough to go first, like the first penguin that jumps into what may be shark-infested water.”

The panels will be lit from above and below with special LED lighting developed by CMU alum Ihor Lys, and interpreted for the bridge by Drama professor Cindy Limauro.

“We’ve also incorporated a brick wall into the design,” says Spice. “Because Randy said brick walls were there to separate out those willing to do what it takes to overcome any obstacle.”

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Writer: Lauren Urbschat
Source: Byron Spice, Media Relations, School of Computer Science, CMU

Image courtesy CMU School of Computer Science

Young Preservation Association offers $500 award for best preservation video

This year, the Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh (YPA) is using a new media approach to save old buildings. Since 2003, the YPA has posted an annual Top 10 List of Best Preservation Opportunities in the Pittsburgh Area. This year the organization will comprise its list by offering up to $500 for best preservation video on YouTube.  Open to students under 25, submissions are due by March 20.

“Out of all the sites we’ve put on the list, we’ve only ever had one loss,” says Dan Holland, Founder and CEO of the YPA. Born and raised in Squirrel Hill, Holland now resides in Friendship in--you guessed it--a historic home. Success stories include the Union Project, the Cork Factory, the August Wilson House and most recently the first home of the National Negro Opera Company in Homewood.

The first organization of its kind in the country, the YPA now has a location in South Carolina and is looking to start others throughout the US. “There are other historic preservation efforts, but ours is the only one tied to a mission of using historic preservation as a way to engage young people,” says Holland.

Contest winners will be announced at the Preserve Pittsburgh Summit on Mar. 28, another first of its kind. The summit, taking place on Pitt’s campus, will focus on four properties: the August Wilson House, the Opera Company, the New Granada and Garden Theaters. “We believe young people should be involved in what happens to these sites because they are ones who will be using them in the future.”

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Writer: Lauren Urbschat
Source: Dan Holland, CEO, Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh

$15M Schenley Place office development gets greenlight in Oakland

Plans to bring a new seven-story office development to the comer of Bigelow Blvd. and Bayard St. are moving forward in Oakland.

After undergoing a redesign process, the $15 million Schenley Place project received approval from Pittsburgh’s Planning Commission on Nov. 4. Planned for one of the last developable parcels in Oakland, the 100,000-square-foot office property will be constructed on a parking lot owned by the First Baptist Church of Pittsburgh.

“We’ve redesigned the entire exterior using materials that have broken down the building’s mass, to provide an image that blends in much better architecturally, particularly with that part of Oakland,” says Bill Hunt, with Bigelow Square-based project developer, The Elmhurst Group. “The design is set back and is a good portal point as you come down Bigelow into Oakland. The neighbors agree that this makes sense.”

Architect Burt Hill is currently completing final drawings for the project, which Hunt says is now one floor lower and 15,000 square feet smaller than originally planned. Designed to feature masonry that matches nearby buildings including the University of Pittsburgh’s Ruskin Hall and First Baptist Church, the project will also include a small public park and an integral 60-car garage.

“Our goal is pursue green design and be LEED certified,” adds Hunt,” who expects to select a contractor and break ground on the 18-month project during spring 2009. “We’re looking at a traditional office building. It could have a medical component.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Bill Hunt, president, The Elmhurst Group

Image courtesy The Elmhurst Group

$43M in construction, aquisition projects approved at University of Pittsburgh

The University of Pittsburgh is undertaking $43 million in construction, renovation and improvements projects as part of a 12-year facilities plan.

A cornerstone of the project is a $14.3 million effort to acquire and prepare land for the construction of a new 12.5-acre sports facility. Located along Robinson and Carrillo Sts., the complex will feature new baseball, softball, soccer, track, and intramural facilities. The project’s first phase will involve stabilizing the site, preparing infrastructure, relocating utility lines, and constructing retaining walls.

The campus-wide plan also calls for $9.1 million in renovations to sorority housing at Amos Hall, a $5.6 million redesign of the university’s steam condensate collection system and the installation of a $3.9 million emergency generator. Also planned is a $6.1 million laboratory and infrastructure upgrade at the Van de Graaff Building, Pitt’s nanoscience research facility.

A $1.5 million 9,000-square-foot renovation of university hub the William Pitt Union will include the construction of new conference rooms, a multi-purpose facility and a lounge. The university will also complete a $2.6 million expansion of Chambers Hall fitness center at its Greensburg campus.
The property and facilities committee also approved leases for Pitt’s Department of Rehabilitation Science planned for Bakery Square, Clinical and Translational Science Institute in Forbes Tower, and Office of Institutional Advancement at 128 N. Craig St.

The construction and renovation projects, approved by the university’s Board of Trustees on Nov. 7, are expected to create 206 construction and 82 construction-support jobs. The university will pay business privilege taxes of $57,731 on the construction projects. 

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: John Fedele, associate director of news, University of Pittsburgh

Image courtesy University of Pittsburgh

$.5M restoration of Schenley Plaza fountain completed, set to open in Oakland

After undergoing a $.5 million restoration, Oakland’s historic Mary E. Schenley Memorial Fountain is ready for its close-up.

Originally dedicated on Sept. 2, 1918—before a crowd of 4,000—the fountain was designed by architect Harold van Buren Magonigle. The structure features A Song to Nature, an allegorical bronze sculpture created by the Lithuanian-born and Académie Julian -trained artist, Victor Brenner, best known as designer of the Lincoln Penny. Facing Schenley Park’s grand entrance—the recently opened one-acre Schenley Plaza—the work honors Mary Schenley’s gift and sale of the Oakland land.

Work included cleaning the entire structure, recasting missing bronze elements and repointing and caulking its granite basin. Plumbing improvements restored the flow of water through the fountain’s sculpted turtles into its basin. The project also involved installing new benches and paving the surrounding site. Area sidewalks are being narrowed and realigned in order to provide direct pedestrian access to crosswalks and improve the absorption of storm water.

Funding from The Benter Foundation supported the installation of new fountain lighting. A dedication ceremony on Oct. 16 at 6:30p.m. will mark the historic light-up and restoration and coincide with Pittsburgh 250’s Oakland Festival of Lights.

“We consider this a second phase of the Schenley Plaza project. We think that with the nighttime illumination of this beautiful fountain it will become a popular gathering spot for Pittsburghers—maybe our own version of the Trevi Fountain,” says Meg Cheever, with Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. “We’ve also increased green space in the area, reduced impervious paving, provided enhanced access to the Frick Fine Arts Building and provided for ease of access in accordance with the American Disabilities Act.”

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Meg Cheever, president, Melissa McMasters, online and community advocacy manager, and Laura Cook, marketing communications coordinator, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

Image courtesy Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

$100M School of Computer Science complex at Carnegie Mellon marks milestone

Carnegie’s Mellon University’s new School of Computer Science (SCS) Complex is one steel beam closer to completion.

The placement of the $100 million facility’s final beam was marked during a Sept. 29 topping-off ceremony. Construction of the 200,000-square-foot SCS Complex, which includes the Gates Center for Computer Science and Hillman Center for Future-Generation Technologies, began in 2007 after the project received a $20 million lead gift from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In February 2008, the Hillman Foundation provided the project with $10 million. The complex will open by fall 2009. 

Linking Carnegie Mellon’s east and west campuses, the complex will house labs, classrooms, offices, a 250-seat auditorium and 8,000 square feet of open project space. Located on a 5.6-acre Forbes Ave. site, the complex is near the new Collaborative Innovation Center, which houses Google and Intel.

“The goal is connectivity to the rest of campus and having an innovative space that people want to come to. Interesting spaces need to be open and collaborative,” says Guy Blelloch, with Carnegie Mellon. “The project space is very dynamic and surrounded by windows.” The global innovation facility will support Carnegie Mellon’s research agenda and attract top students and faculty.

Designed by Atlanta-based Mack Scogin and Merrill Elam, the complex will seek LEED-Gold certification. A trapezoidal structure facing Forbes will serve as the facility’s entrance. Organized around an outdoor winter garden, the buildings will be connected by a four-story lobby and pedestrian walkways. The complex will feature green roofs and landscaping designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.

A Randy Pausch memorial bridge will connect the new SCS complex to Carnegie Mellon’s Purnell Center for the Arts.

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Guy Blelloch, professor and Byron Spice, media relations, School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University

Image courtesy Carnegie Mellon University

$1M DCNR grant to support urban park, trail and tree projects in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh’s parks, trails and trees will get a major boost thanks to a $1 million grant from Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

Announced during this week’s 2008 Urban Parks conference—which drew 600 attendees from around the world—the funds will support the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Regional Trail Corporation and TreeVitalize.

“Green spaces make cities places where people want to live, and they really can be economic drivers,” says Christina Novak, with DCNR. “Our grant rounds are competitive. We always have more requests than funds available.”

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy will use $250,000 to restore historic trails and bridges in Frick, Highland, Schenley, and Riverview parks. The funds will also support the installation of new signage designed to increase accessibility, identify key park features and enhance visitor experience in the four urban parks. Meg Cheever, president and CEO of Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, says that the grant will allow the nonprofit to complete much-needed repairs, improve drainage infrastructure and reduce soil erosion along trails in the four urban parks.
The Regional Trail Corporation received $500,000 to help construct 1.3 miles of the Great Allegheny Passage. The project, part of a 30-year effort to complete the trail's last section through the Mon Valley, includes a new bridge that will cross over an active rail line. With a $250,000 grant, the City of Pittsburgh will partner with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and Allegheny County to increase the region’s tree canopy via its TreeVitalize program.

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Christina Novak, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen


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

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

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

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

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

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

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Emily Craig, Riverlife

Image courtesy National PARK(ing) Day

$20M Center for Sustainable Landscapes to become one of world’s greenest buildings

One of the world’s greenest buildings will break ground Sept. 18 at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

The organization’s $20 million Center for Sustainable Landscapes, a living building that will house education, research and administration facilities, is part of Phipps’ multi-year expansion. Last week, Phipps received $2.5 million from the Heinz Endowments to support the project.

To qualify as a living building—according to a 2006 challenge issued 2006 by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Cascadia Chapter —the center must be a zero net energy structure that generates its own energy with renewable resources and captures and treats all water on site. Phipps expects the structure to exceed LEED Platinum certification, the green building industry’s highest ranking.

“It’ll be one of the world’s first living buildings. There are very strict requirements about our carbon footprint. We cannot use any PVC,” says Richard Piacentini, with Phipps. “There's so much talent here. We wanted a building designed and built by people in Pittsburgh.”

In selecting primary architects and engineers for the project, Phipps limited its RFP to Pittsburgh-based firms. Along with lead architects The Design Alliance, the project team includes the Green Building Alliance, Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Building Performance and Diagnostics and Pitt’s Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation. Showcasing local innovation, Phipps pulled in the expertise of sustainable design and construction leaders from throughout the region and state.

In 2006, the Victorian glasshouse, garden and tropic forest conservatory made green building history when it unveiled the first LEED-certified visitor center in a public garden and the planet’s most energy-efficient conservatory.

A Sept. 18 ground breaking with Heinz Endowments Chair Teresa Heinz will start at 10:30 a.m.

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Richard Piacentini, executive director and Jessica Romano, communications coordinator, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Image courtesy Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

IGA Market on Forbes opens doors, new businesses join Oakland corridor

IGA Market on Forbes, the first grocery store to serve Oakland in 11 years, will welcome customers on August 15.

Located on the second floor of the Strand Building at 3609 Forbes Ave., the 4,000-square-foot full-service IGA carries more than 3,000 items, and includes a deli, rotisserie kitchen and seating for 15 people. Designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, the market specializes in general grocery products, homemade baked goods, wraps, basic supplies, and IGA private label items.

“At all ends of my district, from Oakland to the Hill, people are excited to have a place to spend their money in the community,” says District 6 Councilperson Tonya Payne, who is attending the IGA ribbon cutting this Friday at 3 p.m. Owned by Ron Levick, the market is housed within a 50,000-square-foot property—previously home to Club Laga and Upstage—which includes 20 upper-level student apartments and University of Pittsburgh offices.

“I went to Pitt and now that I'm working here, I cannot tell you how happy I am to get be able to get deli goods, produce and perishables,” says Joe Dopirak, who runs new Meyran St. business Underground Printing, which specializes in customized apparel for businesses and colleges. “All of the students and local people are dying for something like this.”

Also planned nearby is Pittsburgh’s latest Pizza Sola location at 114 Atwood St. Located below newly renovated  University of Pittsburgh offices, the 2,400-square-foot eatery—slated to open in October—will feature seating for 59 people, Carrera marble tables and concrete floors.

Pizza Sola owner Jim Aiello is looking to open additional locations Downtown, and in Cranberry, Wexford and Morgantown.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Georgia Petropoulos, OBID; Ron Levick, IGA Market on Forbes; Tonya Payne, City Council District 6; Joe Dopirak, Underground Printing; Jim Aiello, Jr., Pizza Sola

Bike 'burgh: city-wide cycling, pedestrian initiatives get a boost

Pittsburgh is poised to become a lot more bike and pedestrian friendly.

On August 11, the city unveiled “the four e’s” of a new cycling and walking initiative—engineering, education, enforcement, and events—aimed at implementing a broad spectrum of traffic and infrastructure improvements that will help promote cycling and walking as viable, economical and safe modes of transportation and recreation.

Encouraging coalitions with advocacy group Bike Pittsburgh, the project also calls for enforcing traffic laws designed to protect cyclists and pedestrians and increasing bike/ped awareness.
The announcement coincided with the hiring of Stephen Patchen, who on August 4 began as Pittsburgh’s Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator—the first position of its kind in Pennsylvania.

“This looks at everything through the lens of cycling and pedestrian activities, and also transit. It's about having that mix, and a series of networks aligned, so we can have a strategic direction,” says Councilman Dowd, who hopes to see high-visibility signage, commuter partnership programs and broad policy directives. “Education underscores the whole thing. This can help us reinvent the infrastructure of the city.”

Dowd says the city is already considering adding a bike lane to East Liberty Blvd. Specific measures include designated and marked bike routes, a stolen bike recovery program, and reinvestment in Pittsburgh’s steps and stairways. In 2010, Pittsburgh will apply for Bicycle Friendly Community Status from theLeague of American Bicyclists.

Among the initiative’s extensive list of possibilities are tax credits for businesses that provide cycling facilities, changes in driver’s manuals that emphasize bike/ped safety, showcase events that close city boulevards to vehicular traffic, and bike accommodations in Parking Authority lots.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Patrick Dowd, Pittsburgh City Council District 7

Photograph copyright Jonathan Greene

$5M PNC investment to fund LCCC's urban economic loan fund

PNC Bank has invested $5 million in Landmarks Community Capital Corporation's (LCCC) Urban Economic Loan Fund, which provides short-term flexible financing at below market rates to nonprofit organizations leading community revitalization projects.

Designed to help LCCC leverage additional investment, the fund will support projects with clear community benefits, such as affordable housing, commercial and neighborhood development and property acquisitions for nonprofits.

“We have two loan requests that’d be a perfect fit for our partnership with PNC, one in Westmoreland County in Downtown Greensburg, and one in Pittsburgh’s Hill District-Oakland area,” says Dr. Howard Slaughter, Jr., with LCCC. “We’re very excited about both possibilities. These are nonprofit organizations that have a great track record for succeeding in the communities in which they serve.”

Slaughter says the Greensburg project will involve the restoration and acquisition of properties, while funds for the Hill District will assist with the redevelopment of an existing building and a new location for a nonprofit organization. “It’s a very broad assessment area—the Pittsburgh MSA and at least six surrounding counties,” adds Slaughter, who, along with PNC’s Stephanie Cipriani, stresses the fund’s reach.

“This is a regional initiative that’s focused on communities that have been forgotten,” adds Cipriani, who expects to see the first project underway this fall. “Our focus is to give back to those communities and help with early stages of development.” PNC’s lead investment marks the first financial institution commitment to LCCC's Urban Economic Loan Fund.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Dr. Howard Slaughter, Jr., CEO, Landmarks Community Capital Corporation; Stephanie Cipriani, Vice President, Community Development Banking, PNC Bank

Image courtesy Landmarks Community Capital Corporation




Phantom of the Attic quadruples space along Oakland's S. Craig commercial district

After operating out of a 550-square-foot space for more than two decades, Phantom of the Attic comics store has quadrupled in size, relocating its business to 411 S. Craig St., just blocks from its previous digs.

Located above Top Notch Art Center, the 2,400-square-foot space features an integrated design that better showcases the shop’s inventory of comic books and graphic novels—literally thousands of them—and merchandise like collector supplies, posters, action figures, and t-shirts.

Designer Matthew Clifford—known for his work on the Sprout Fund’s offices—created the store’s new identity using a visual vocabulary of shape, color, building and finishing processes, and material. Clifford’s modular system of cabinets, fixed racks and mobile units can be reconfigured to accommodate various product displays, presentations and set-ups. Boasting six times the shelf space of its previous location, the design also features plexi-glass and mdf fixtures, bookshelf sections, steel sign channels, and a new counter.

“It’s the first time we’ve stepped outside the box. There are so many options with Matthew’s design,” says owner Jeff Yandora, who is planning a grand opening for the fall. “I really wanted to have a local person involved.” The shop also features blue-gray cement latex flooring, skylights and offices designed by Artisan Renovation.

“I've always worked to create paths of movement that both reveal space in an interesting sequence and create ‘snapshots’ of specific compositions along the way,” says Clifford, 30, who cites a renewed interest in graphic novels as a force behind Phantom’s expansion. “There are real parallels between how I approach organizing space and designing components and how comic books visually unwrap plot lines and action. I'm looking for ways to pack in features that have little secrets to them.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Jeff Yandora, Phantom of the Attic; Matthew Clifford, Matthew Clifford and Company

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

First grocery store in 11 years under construction along Oakland business district

With construction underway at Market on Forbes, IGA, Oakland’s central business corridor, is poised to have its first grocery store in 11 years.

Located at 3609 Forbes Ave., the 4,000-square-foot full-service market will carry 3,000 items, and will include a deli, rotisserie kitchen and seating area for 15 people. Architect is Bohlin Cywinski Jackson. Specializing in general grocery products, the market will also sell sandwiches and wraps, basic supplies and IGA private label items.

“We anticipate doing a big lunch and snack business, and dinner. We’ll sell a lot of things in smaller quantities, grab and go items,” says Oakland developer and market owner Ron Levick, who expects to open August 15 and to hire 20 employees. “It’s a neighborhood market. We’re anticipating people coming in daily. One hundred percent of our business will be foot traffic.”

The second-floor market is housed within a 50,000-square-foot property owned by Levick and previously home to Club Laga and Upstage, which includes 20 upper-level student apartments and University of Pittsburgh offices. Street level tenants include SUPERCUTS, CD Warehouse and a Chinese restaurant.

Levick—who looks forward to serving the 100,000 people who work and study in Oakland daily—says the closest grocery stores are on the South Side and in Squirrel Hill.  “We’ve been waiting for a grocery store for years. It's going to be a great asset for the community,” says Georgia Petropoulos, with OBID.

Located adjacent to Chipotle and Caribou Coffee, the market will also be joined by a new Pizza Sola planned for Forbes. Atlanta-based IGA operates 4,000 locations throughout the country, with two area markets.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Ron Levick, Market on Forbes IGA; Georgia Petropoulos, Oakland Business Improvement District

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

Green projects take root: national PARK(ing) Day, new riverfront trail signs

Move over meter maids, there’s a creative new use for parking spaces.

On April 24, the Office of Public Art, Community Design Center of Pittsburgh and Riverlife will host a free brainstorming session for National PARK(ing) Day. Conceived in 2005 by San Francisco-based art collective REBAR and sponsored by The Trust for Public Land, PARK(ing) Day is an annual global event that invites artists, activists and citizens to transform parking spots into temporary public parks.

During the meeting—which takes place at 6:00p.m. at the Brew House Association—participants will rethink how streets are used, discuss ways to get involved with the event’s Pittsburgh debut, view project examples, and examine the initiative’s relevance to issues facing local communities. “It’s most effective when people see images. We’ll cultivate ideas to see how many people want to get involved and where next steps go—like working with the city on permits,” says Emily Craig, with Riverlife, who hopes to develop partnerships with local universities.

In Pittsburgh, PARK(ing) Day will coincide with a Land Trust Alliance rally on September 19, when five Convention Center parking spaces will become public park sites Downtown.

In other green space news, the final wayfinding sign for the city’s 22-mile riverfront trail network was unveiled on April 21.  The 89 trail-finding signs—supported by a $52,000 Federal Transportation Enhancement Grant—direct cyclists and trail-goers to trail entrances and motorists to free trail-head parking. Signs also direct cyclists from Schenley to Frick Parks.

The circular shaped signs were designed via a collaborative public/private partnership between the city, Friends of the Riverfront and Riverlife. Advocacy group Bike Pittsburgh on sign placement.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Emily Craig, Riverlife

William Pitt Debating Union asks: Should the Mon-Fayette be completed?

On April 14, the William Pitt Debating Union asks Should the Mon-Fayette Expressway Be Completed? during a free public debate at 6p.m. in Frick Fine Arts Auditorium, located at 650 Schenley Dr. in Oakland.

Experts Andrea Boykowycz of PennFuture and Shawn Fox with Allegheny County, along with students Colin Esgro and Richard Pittman, will debate the question during a format that includes audience participation, opening speeches, questions from student panelists, and closing remarks. The second installment in a new series funded by program alum Marcella Finegold, the debate asks participants to examine an overarching "Future of Pittsburgh" theme. In 2011, debate transcripts and analysis will be published.

Homing in on transportation led students to a timely and complex topic. While portions of the Mon-Fayette’s proposed 66 miles are complete, funding is not secured for key segments that would traverse Allegheny County. Advocates favoring the expressway’s completion argue that it would ease economic stress within the Mon Valley and traffic congestion along I-376. Opponents are concerned with the project’s cost and timeline, and argue that public resources and energies would be better invested in alternative transportation projects and existing infrastructure.

“Students had to come up with an issue that’s robust, engages interest and is salient. When the debate process is live, it directly contributes to deliberation in the community about a pending issue and has long-term value as a deliberative record,” says debating union director Gordon Mitchell. “This is one of the onion peeling topics—it’s philosophical, environmental and is about quality of life. One of the beauties of public debate is that you get to pick your topics and craft your format.”

To view the debate via webstream, go here.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Gordon Mitchell, director, William Pitt Debating Union; Andrea Boykowycz, outreach coordinator, PennFuture

Image courtesy William Pitt debating union/University of Pittsburgh

Go vegan: Maggie's Mercantile expands western PA presence with Oakland restaurant

You don’t have to be a raw foodie to enjoy Maggie’s Mercantile, the newest restaurant to join Oakland’s Craig St. commercial district.

Located at 300 S. Craig, the one-of-a-kind café, deli and gift shop—which specializes in organic vegan and raw dishes—offers an ever-changing menu, as well as fresh smoothies, vegan baked goods, a salad bar, soy ice cream, and raw desserts.

Owner Maggie Raphael, who also runs a restaurant in Stahlstown and a 94-acre organic farm near Greensburg, was approached by developer Damian Soffer about opening in SouthSide Works after she briefly ran a café on Atwood St. After contemplating the high cost of renovations at SouthSide Works, Raphael began looking for a new location, eventually landing upon one owned by Carnegie Mellon. “They liked the idea of having a place like mine associated with the university. I’m on their meal card program. They were very helpful and supportive,” adds Raphael, who worked with Carl Bergamini and Bill Perkins to renovate the 1,000-square-foot space. “It was imperative to me to incorporate green elements. It’s efficient, aesthetically pleasing and practical—that’s what Maggie’s represents.”

Maggie’s is already seeing high traffic for breakfast and lunch. “We’re working on a refined table service for dinner, and live music. Vegans don’t have to eat café-style everyday,” adds Raphael, who hired manager and raw foodist Matt Miller, along with 9 young employees. “What a perfect neighborhood. I’m encouraged that more and more people are learning to work in harmony with the planet, instead of controlling it.”

Maggie’s also sells cookbooks, eco-friendly products made from bamboo, soy and hemp and t-shirts boasting the café’s “Eat Well, Live Compassionately” motto.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Maggie Raphael, Maggie's Mercantile

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

URA selects contractor for Pittsburgh Technology Center work, part of $19M expansion

Plans to expand The Pittsburgh Technology Center are underway in Hazelwood. The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has reviewed bids and selected Allison Park Contractors to complete the next phase of site infrastructure work.

The $19 million project—part of the URA’s ongoing expansion of the center—includes a $5.1 million relocation of Technology Dr., as well as utility and construction inspection work. The 49-acre site can accommodate up to 9 additional new properties and one million square feet of research and development space. Last month, ground was broken on a 723-space parking garage, and in December of 2007, construction began on Bridgeside II, a $65 million 150,000-square-foot web lab facility being developed by Cleveland-based Ferchill Group.

“It’s certainly encouraging that the VC world is discovering what we've long known—that Pittsburgh is very fertile ground for tech startups,” says Robert Rubinstein, with the URA. “Hopefully through investment, we can keep and grow companies here. That’s a large part of why we in the public sector are willing to invest in the infrastructure to create homes for these companies.” Kratsa Properties has an option to build a a140-room hotel—which would include a restaurant—at the center. The site’s expansion also calls for a second parking garage.

The next phase of infrastructure work will take place along the center’s Bates St. side, and is slated to be completed in conjunction with the opening of Bridgeside II and the parking garage at the end of 2008. During the spring of 2009, a new road will be constructed to connect to the western/Downtown entrance of Second Ave. A third access point will be built as a central entrance to the technology center.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Robert Rubinstein and John Coyne, URA

Image courtesy of The Ferchill Group/Strada

$1.7M Tartans Pavilion debuts green dining, indoor/outdoor seating at Carnegie Mellon

This spring, a popular new gathering spot at Carnegie Mellon University will swing open its giant glass garage doors and debut an al fresco dining area.

During the fall, work was completed on the university’s new Tartans Pavilion, a 5,100-square-foot dining facility designed by Southside-based firm, SPRINGBOARD. Located between Gesling Stadium and Resnik House, the $1.7 million facility features a wood-fired brick oven, barreled ceilings, concrete floors, and flexible seating for 110 people. The project’s architectural highlight is a glass façade constructed from seven, 11-foot garage-style doors, which open up to create the facility’s unique indoor/outdoor environment.

“It’s been packed all of the time. Its primary function is as a gathering space. Its an open and flexible floor plan, so students can rearrange furniture and move tables out to the sidewalk areas,” says Bob Reppe, with Carnegie Mellon. “The building is designed to be completely sustainable. It’s a space unlike any on campus. The university newspaper called it the luxury box for Gesling Stadium.”

Reppe says that Carnegie Mellon is considering applying for LEED certification for the project. “It was designed to be a different experience on campus—you feel like you’re someplace else. It’s proved to be a really popular space,” adds Paul Rosenblatt, a principal with SPRINGBOARD, who says the pavilion features green building systems, low VOC paints, water-based adhesives, and plenty of daylighting. Contractor was Rycon Construction.

Tartans Pavilion serves wood-fired pizzas, sandwiches, pastas, and roasted vegetables to CMU’s 2,500 meal plan holders, as well as to faculty and staff, community members and campus visitors.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Bob Reppe, Carnegie Mellon University; Paul Rosenblatt, SPRINGBOARD

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

Carnegie Mellon's Project Olympus moves into Oakland space, hosts open house

Just one year after launching, Carnegie Mellon’s Project Olympus has opened a new project team space at 4620 Henry St. in Oakland. Designed to create and sustain western Pennsylvania's next generation of computing innovation, Project Olympus is spearheaded by Carnegie Mellon computer science professor, Lenore Blum.

After wanting to provide her students with a creative space to collaborate, experiment and innovate, Blum decided to rent a 1,300-square-foot space off of Oakland's Craig St. corridor. “Craig is ideal because it’s close to the university, and in between CMU and Pitt. I see it as the up-and-coming area. The students love going there,” says Blum. “It’s a wonderful start-up space. We commandeered furniture from every office on campus, and it looks brand new." The open layout features exposed brick and wood, barn doors, 18-foot ceilings, and a loft.

The space currently houses twenty students, and Blum expects to add two new teams soon. “The goal is to create  a culture, climate and community that will enable our talent and ideas to grow in the region,” says Blum. “We produce the best technological resources on the planet, and then we export them. Pittsburgh tends to be risk adverse—we’re trying to show that there’s a lot of talent here and you can invest early on. We’ve made such great contacts with the community—people have been so enthusiastic.”

To celebrate its new digs, Project Olympus is hosting an open house on March 5 at 5:30 p.m. For information, contact Cleah Schlueter.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Lenore Blum, Carnegie Mellon University/Project Olympus

Image courtesy Project Olympus

$1.5M road and pedestrian improvements planned for Oakland corridors

A $1.5 million pedestrian and roadwork project will begin this spring at 11 intersections along Oakland’s Fifth and Forbes corridors.

Funded via Hometown Streets and Safe Routes to School, the project calls for new pedestrian interval signals, striping, LED lights and ADA ramps. “The premise is to improve pedestrian safety and mobility. It’s good for business, institutions and people who work here, and an investment in maintaining the district’s vitality,” says Ronald Liebow, with University of Pittsburgh. “We’re adding bump-outs, which creates a greater real estate for crossing. We’ll restore pedestrian access every day so people don’t lose foot traffic in front of their shops.”

Work will take place during evening hours and be completed by the winter of 2008. Project designer is Strada; engineer is Wilbur Smith Associates. On Fifth Ave., new bus lane demarcations and a 630-foot steel bus railing will be added to a dense section near Children’s Hospital’s primary care center, and traffic-calming greenery will be added to a triangular concrete island.

“Our mission is to help mitigate congestion and educate people about carpooling, air quality and pedestrian safety,” adds Mavis Rainey, with Oakland Transportation Management Association. “The institutions want to see this area continue to grow. Oakland is Pennsylvania's third most congested region. Several state roads go through Oakland. It’s a very busy, dense area, and also a neighborhood and workplace with cultural and retail amenities. The goal is to make Oakland more livable.”

Oakland is populated by more than 120,000 people and 50,000 vehicles every week; the 1.2-square-mile neighborhood is home to 20,000 residents.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Ronald Liebow, University of Pittsburgh; Mavis Rainey, Oakland Transportation Management Association

Image courtesy Oakland Transportation Management Association

$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

$65M Bridgeside Point II project to create 150,000 sf of wet-lab space, up to 400 jobs

Ground was broken yesterday for Bridgeside Point II, a new $65 million research facility at The Pittsburgh Technology Center in Hazelwood.

Located at 450 Technology Dr. next to the University of Pittsburgh Biotech Center, the  150,000 square-foot development will house wet lab facilities and offices. The project is being developed by Cleveland-based Ferchill Group, whose proposal for the five-story building was approved by the URA board in February. The specialized lab facility is expected to create up to 400 jobs.

To support the project, the URA is investing $19 million in infrastructure work, including a new 750-space parking garage, roadway improvements and utility placement. Future plans for the technology center may call for mixed-use and hotel developments. Project architect is Downtown-based Strada; contractor is Turner Construction Company, who also built Bridgeside Point I, a 153,000 square-foot lab facility at The Pittsburgh Technology Center. Fully leased, the property serves as Cellomics’ headquarters.

Prompted by the success of Bridgeside Point I, Bridgeside Point II is expected to meet the needs of local universities and medical centers who have identified a need for additional laboratory space. The Ferchill Group feels that the demand for quality lab space in locations near Pittsburgh’s academic and medical institutions will result in more than one-million square feet over the next three to five years. Ferchill, who also developed the Cellomics building and Heinz Lofts, has the option to build an adjacent, 120,000 square-foot facility once Bridgeside Point II is 50% leased.

Construction on Bridgeside Point II is slated to take 15 months.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Joanna Doven, Office of the Mayor, City of Pittsburgh

Image Courtesy of The Ferchill Group/Strada

$10M Hot Metal pedestrian/bike bridge dedicated on Pittsburgh's South Side

At noon today, the Hot Metal Pedestrian Bridge will be dedicated on Pittsburgh’s South Side. Visitors are invited to walk or bike across the bridge and attend a reception at REI at SouthSide Works. The $10 million project, managed by the URA, creates a critical connection in the Great Allegheny Passage, a 150-mile trail that will connect Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C..

“The Hot Metal Pedestrian/Bike Bridge is an essential commuter connection between Oakland, Pittsburgh Technology Center and the South Side neighborhood. For recreational activities, the bridge extends the riverfront trail system eliminating roadway crossing and creating an uninterrupted loop for biking, walking and blading,” says Chris Fulton, with Soffer Organization. “Visitors from other urban areas envy our riverfront parks and trails as a quality of life amenity enabling easy access to urban outdoor experiences. As an avid trail user, I am delighted the Hot Metal bridge connection will open on Wednesday.”

The conversion of the 321-foot railroad bridge involved removing lead-based paint, and building a switchback ramp on the south side and a bridge over Second Ave. connecting to Eliza Furnace Trail. All areas feature new railing, lighting and painting. “The most stunning aspect is, coming from Washington D.C., the bridge gives you your first glimpse of Pittsburgh. It’s an Emerald City type of moment when you suddenly see this awesome view of Pittsburgh in the distance,” says Linda Boxx, with the Allegheny Trail Alliance.
To secure funding and complete designs, the URA partnered with the City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny Trail Alliance, and Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. PB Americas, Inc., served as project designer; contractor was Brayman Construction Corporation. Trumbull Corporation oversaw construction management and inspection.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Chris Fulton, Soffer Organization; Linda Boxx, Allegheny Trail Alliance; John Coyne, URA

$60M Chelsea moves forward on Centre, to bring Oakland's first rental units in 30 years

The Chelsea, a $60 million mixed-use project planned for the corner of Center Ave. and Craig St. in Oakland, is moving forward. Located on a 1.4-acre site that currently houses a Pittsburgh Parking Authority lot, the 17-story project will feature 300 rental units, commercial space and parking for 450 cars.

Project developer Guy Totino of Polaris Real Estate Equities is in the process of resolving zoning issues and variances with the city. “The city is very supportive. We’ve met with both neighborhood groups in Oakland and they’re both very supportive. It’s a question of how it’s going to get done, not whether it’s going to get done,” says Totino.

Units will include one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, as well as loft-style studios. “The last new rental project built in Oakland was probably thirty-plus years ago. It’s an excellent site for mixed-use. The city has targeted it for residential. Oakland is vibrant, very dense and growing. The use complements the area,” adds Totino. “We've designed it to be very respectful of the streetscape, to make the retail fit the area. We’d love to attract some grocery use and a coffee shop—it’s a destination neighborhood.”

The project, which will have a Centre Ave. entrance, will continue onto N. Dithridge and Craig Sts. “It’s a corridor experiencing tremendous commercial growth, with everything that UPMC and CMU are doing. It’s taken us three years; we've had a lot of stamina. It fills a tremendous need,” adds Totino, who says that The Chelsea will be designed by MacLachlan, Cornelius & Filoni Architects. Contractor is Massaro Corporation. The 24-month project is expected to break ground during the summer of 2008.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Guy Totino, Polaris Real Estate Equities

Photo courtesy of Polaris Real Estate Equities

AIA Pittsburgh announces 2007 Design Award winners

Winners of AIA Pittsburgh’s 2007 Design Awards were announced on Oct. 25, during the organization’s annual event celebrating architectural excellence. Award categories include architecture, regional and urban design , interior design, open plan, and architectural detail.

“This is the second year we’ve done it Downtown. It’s a great way to make it more public,” says Becky Spevack, with AIA. To spotlight Downtown development, the event was held in an unfinished space at 933 Penn Ave.

Rothschild Doyno Architects
received three awards, while EDGE
was presented with two honors. Lubetz Architects received an award for the Squirrel Hill Library, an accolade that came as Arthur Lubetz celebrated his 40th anniversary in the field.

The Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens Tropical Forest, designed by IKM Inc., received a green design citation. EDGE studio received an award for their interior design of the New Hazlett Theater. An excellence award was presented to V 24 / 7 / 365, a public art installation on Strawberry Way Downtown designed by studio d’ARC. For architecture, Strada won a certificate of merit for their Hermitage Master plan, and an honor award for their addition and renovation at the Mifflin School.

Every year, a panel of judges is organized in a different U.S. city. This year, architects from Boston selected 14 winners from 98 submissions. “We often focus on institutional and educational buildings—people working in the community. A lot of the firms are very community based,” adds Spevack, who says that sustainable design is also a focus.

For a complete list of winners, as well as jury comments, go here.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Becky Spevack, AIA Pittsburgh

Image courtesy of Bradd Celidonia

Bike Pittsburgh publishes city's first bicycle map in 15 years, features local artist

With the new Bike Pittsburgh map, sharing the road just a got a lot easier. In case you’ve lost track, Pittsburgh’s last bicycle map was published 15 years ago during the city’s “Sophie” era.

Featuring cartography created by East Liberty-based tech company DeepLocal, the map is designed for commuters and urban explorers alike. What makes the map stand out are its visually compelling Chris Ware-like illustrations designed by Glen Johnson. Collaboration was nothing new to the team, as Johnston attended CMU with Bike Pittsburgh’s executive director Scott Bricker and DeepLocal founder Nathan Martin.

“You’re not going to find a map like this anywhere in the country. It’s a snapshot in time. We gathered bike maps from all over the country and dissected each one. Most communicated through icons and diagrammatic representations,” says Johnson, 30. “Chicago’s map was the best example. We took what they did and dealt with it more creatively—put in more useful, readable information without overcrowding things.” The result features a comic book-like layout, aerial and close-ups views, a consistent color scheme, and narrative elements that teach bike safety tips.

"We wanted to make the educational parts fun, that’s why we took the graphic novel approach, which is unique," says Bricker. Responding to Pittsburgh’s anti-grid topography, the maps identifies major hills, landmarks and trails, as well as hazardous roads. With an advocacy bent, the map provides information on how to lobby for safer streets. This winter, Bike Pittsburgh will launch an interactive online version.

The project was supported by a $49,200 grant from The Heinz Endowments. To download the map, go here, or pick one up at local bike and coffee shops. Be sure to grab two—one to use and one to frame.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Glen Johnson; Scott Bricker, Bike Pittsburgh

Image courtesy of Bike Pittsburgh and Glen Johnson

$1M renovation of 5,200 sf Clifford E. Brown Library completed at Central Catholic HS

Central Catholic High School, located at 4720 Fifth Ave. in Oakland, has completed a $1 million renovation of its 5,200 square-foot Clifford E. Brown Library.

Lawrenceville-based Desmone & Associates Architects designed the renovation of the library, which was originally constructed in 1927 in the Flemish Gothic style.

Designed to encourage interactive learning, the state-of-the-art facility houses independent and group study areas, comfortable seating, a wireless computer center, and a custom-made circulation desk. The library boasts cutting-edge virtual and distance learning technologies within a modern design. This fall, students began using a newly equipped, soundproof television studio to learn audio-visual techniques and produce school announcements. The renovated space also features a conference room, energy-efficient windows and an upgraded HVAC system.

“The idea was to get better technology working—bring it up to speed and put in a fresh look, installing technology like flat screen monitors and LCD panels. They’re going to phase in distance learning capacities with other schools like Oakland Catholic, as a way to interact,” says Rebecca Schwartz with Desmone & Associates Architects. “It’s a huge open floor plan. The librarian now has a view of the entire library."

To diffuse light and echo the school’s Gothic arches, project architect Chip Desmone designed curved, transparent blue panels for the library’s main aisle. Cherry wood detailing, shelves and furnishings complement the buildings’ original interior. "We created a replica of the original windows—there is new hardware on the doors. It was custom-made to look back to how it was.” Contractor was A. Martini & Co.

Located on the second floor of the three-story high school, the library is used by Central Catholic’s 850 students.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Rebecca Schwartz, Desmone & Associates Architects

Image courtesy of Desmone and Associates Architects

CMNH to open 2,000 sf addition to recently rehabbed Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems

As part of a yearlong expansion and renovation of its Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CMNH) will open the new Wertz Gallery on Sept. 28th. The 2,000 square-foot gallery will feature a permanent collection of gems and jewelry and the new exhibition, Luxe Life: Masterpieces of American Jewelry.

“Hillman Hall has had a dramatic facelift. People won’t recognize it,” says Ellen James, with the CMNH. “We took a  critical look at the collection.” Highlighting the physical, aesthetic and functional characteristics of minerals, Hillman Hall has been outfitted with a new entrance, display cases and lighting. The hall’s gems, jewels and minerals reflect one of the most active and successful specimen acquisition programs of any North American natural history museum.

Approximately 500 gems, crystals and jewelry--many never before exhibited--will be on permanent display in the new Wertz Gallery, which was designed by The Design Alliance Architects. “It’s only been exhibited temporarily—there was not enough room. It’s a rare opportunity to see a ten-carat diamond and a rough version of that too. It’s a testament to the earth sciences and also aesthetic experience,” adds James, who says the gem and mineral collections are extremely popular. Project contractor was Jendoco Construction Corporation.

Factors such as security, placement and lighting were crucial to the gallery’s design. Cases will feature birthstones, diamond replicas and the tourmalines of Brazil. The gallery will also highlight the lapidary arts, as well as a broche designed by former Carnegie director, Andrey Avinoff.

In November, the CMNH will open its $36 million Dinosaurs in Their Time exhibition, featuring the museum's world-renowned dinosaur collection.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Ellen James, CMNH

Image courtesy of CMoNH

UPMC receives $16M to establish HIV center within 331,000 sf biomedical tower

The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has received a $16 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to establish the Pittsburgh Center for HIV Protein Interactions (PCHPI).

The new center, one of three of its kind in the country, will be run by Angela Gronenborn, chair of the university's department of structural biology. Recently elected to the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Gronenborn is one of the country’s leading structural biologists.

The center will be housed within Pitt's Biomedical Science Tower 3 (BST3), which was designed to support the region’s biotech industries. Located on Fifth Ave., the 10-story, 331,000-square-foot facility features modern laboratories for molecular genetics, cellular biology and biochemistry research. The Center for Vaccine Research--the tower's last set of labs to move in--are currently being completed. An official opening of BST3 is set for late September.

"This is a brand new initiative that the NIH started. We focus on right after the virus attaches to the cell surface and then hijacks the cellular machinery. There is very little known about this because it's so new, and a difficult enterprise,” says Gronenborn, who expects to hire 10-15 researchers. “We’ll target new molecules that can then be employed for drug design."

Describing the center as "very sophisticated and cutting-edge," Gronenborn emphasizes the project's interdisciplinary nature, and says that the pioneering research will be shared with AIDS scientists from around the world. The collaborative effort of virologists, cell biologists and structural biologists is expected to have a major impact on the global fight against AIDS.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Dr. Angela Gronenborn, University of Pittsburgh

Image courtesy of UPMC

$31M first of its kind research center opens at Magee Hospital

Magee-Womens Research Institute, the nation’s first research facility dedicated exclusively to conditions affecting women and infants, has completed a $31 million expansion project.

Located at 204 Craft Ave. in Oakland, the 70,000 square-foot facility houses state-of-the-art laboratory, office and support space, where scientists from around the world research pregnancy related health issues, such as preeclampsia, infectious disease, genetic factors, and reproductive science.

Astorino designed the facility; contractor is Massaro Corporation. Green design elements include natural light, recycled materials in floors, walls and ceilings and  low-emission carpets and paints. The energy efficient facility will save the Institute $200,000 annually. Construction started during the fall of 2005; occupancy began in March.

“The major impact is that we can expand our research program,” says founding Institute director Dr. James Roberts. “Right now there is nothing I know of in this country, and I don’t believe internationally, that has this scope. The model we have is what the NIH has developed and been striving for.”

The seven-story center more than doubles the Institute’s capacity. As a result of the expansion, the Institute expects to hire 100 new scientists.

“The building design is the latest approach called an open lab. Essentially, there are no separations between labs. There are lots of benches and multi-functional rooms,” adds Roberts. “From an interaction standpoint, it gets people mixing and allows us to address problems from different research angles. As an administrator, when you’re trying to grow research programs and productivity, this is very convenient and more efficient.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Dr. James Roberts, Magee-Womens Research Institute

Image courtesy of UPMC

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

University of Pittsburgh launches $1 billion, 12-year master plan

The University of Pittsburgh has announced a $1 billion, 12-year facilities plan. Divided into three four-year phases, the long-range project will include campus-wide modernization, construction, renovation, and infrastructure upgrades designed to meet Pitt's teaching, research, and programmatic needs.

To support anticipated growth, the plan calls for significant renovations of older buildings, modernization of major science and research centers, technology and utility infrastructure upgrades, and classroom improvements. The plan also recommends student life improvements, new softball, soccer and marching band facilities and the creation of additional conference space. Benedum Hall, Pitt’s engineering facility, will undergo a $52 million modernization, while the Clapp complex will receive a $72 million upgrade.

“This plan is really a roadmap. The main benefit is that people have a much clearer sense about the future--they can plan on what’s going to be done, when and how it’s going to affect them,” says Robert Pack, Pitt’s vice provost for academic planning and resources management. “These are extensive building modernizations. We’ll be juggling multiple major projects.”

To develop the plan, a facilities planning committee conducted an extensive assessment of  several hundred campus buildings. “Our engineering consultants had expertise in contemporary laboratory facilities. We want to modernize our labs in as flexible a way as possible. It’s a very dynamic world,” says Pack.  “Every academic unit gave us a perspective on the evolution of its program over the next decade.” The plan also supports improvements to Pitt’s regional campuses.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Robert Pack, University of Pittsburgh

Photograph copyright © Dave Krieger

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

$3M in affordable housing grants to fund 440 units throughout region

Grants totaling $3 million will support affordable housing initiatives in Allegheny, Beaver, Washington, and Fayette counties. Overall, 440 rental and for-sale units will be created within new and rehabilitated properties for first-time homebuyers, low-income and homeless populations, people recovering from drug dependency, and physically and mentally handicapped individuals.

The Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh presented the grants to nonprofit groups and developers on April 30th. “This is one of the largest ones, in terms of Southwestern Pennsylvania, that we’ve committed to. Affordable housing developments are very complex to put together, particularly in urban areas. It takes a true partnership,” says John Bendel, director of community investment with the FHLBank Pittsburgh, who contributed ten percent of the total project cost.

The Allegheny County Housing Authority and TREK Development Group received $175,000 to develop 52 units of affordable rental housing in Homestead. In the Hill District, the Bedford Hill project received $500,000 to complete 116 mixed-income rental units. Dad's House and Safe Haven, located in East Liberty, received $500,000 to transform nine blighted properties into 15 rental units located at North St. Clair St. and East Liberty Blvd. “Over the years, we’ve invested $2.5 million in funds in East Liberty, so it’s long-term there. It’s a nice connection between our funding source and what they're doing,” says Bendel.

Housing projects were also funded in McKeesport, Uniontown and Canonsburg, and at scattered sites located throughout Duquesne, Homewood, Oakland, Penn Hills, and Wilkinsburg.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: John Bendel, FHLBank Pittsburgh

Image courtesy of the Federal Home Loan Bank Pittsburgh

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

CMU to begin work on $1.4M, 4,000 sf dining pavilion

A unique dining experience is in the works at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). The 4,000 square-foot, $1.4 million Tartans Pavilion will feature a wood-fired brick oven, barreled ceilings and garage-style glass doors.

“There’s a real desire to make this an indoor/outdoor space; the intention is to make it feel like a patio—it’s never been done on campus,” says Timothy Michael, CMU’s assistant vice president for campus services. “We’re adding on to the 1990s master plan by Michael Dennis & Associates.”

Southside-based SPRINGBOARD is designing the new pavilion as an addition to CMU’s popular cafe, which opened in Resnick Hall last fall. Designed by Pfaffmann + Associates, the existing cafe is seeking LEED certification. “We’re pursuing this project in the most sustainable way possible,” says Michael of the pavilion. “We looked for firms that excelled in the industrial look. SPRINGBOARD has been very accommodating and responsive, and very diligent,” says Bob Reppe, CMU's director of campus design and facility development.

Tartans Pavilion will serve made-to-order pizzas, pastas and subs to CMU’s 2,500 meal plan holders. Expected to break ground in May, the pavilion will open in October. Operated by Parkhurst Corporation, the pavilion will seat between 100 and 190 students.

CMU’s housing and dining services departments conducted surveys to cull student feedback about campus dining. “We wanted a high quality operation on campus with more Mediterranean pastas and pizzas. We also looked at industry trends and peer institutions,” says Michael, citing similar brick ovens at St. Vincent College and Robert Morris University.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Timothy Michael, Bob Reppe, CMU

Image courtesy of Springboard and CMU

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Sean Brady, Venture Outdoors

Image courtesy of Venture Outdoors

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of CCAC

Springboard receives national and local design commissions

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

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

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

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

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Paul Rosenblatt, SPRINGBOARD


Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

Pittsburgh selected for National Association of Counties conference in 2012

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of NACO

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

Oakland's Ace Athletic set to become company's fourth Pittsburgh location

Ace Athletic's fourth Pittsburgh location is set to open on April 1st at 3612 Forbes Ave. in Oakland. The 1,500 square-foot, ground-floor store is owned and operated by brothers Thomas and Gary Schmidt, who founded the business in 1991. Additional Ace Athletic stores are located on Penn Ave. in East Liberty, on East Ohio St. on the Northside and on East Carson St. on the South Side. Thomas and Gary Schmidt also own Running Wild in Allison Park.
Schmidt cites “the diversity of the people and the amount of traffic that Forbes Avenue attracts” as advantages of opening his business' newest Pittsburgh location in Oakland. Store renovations were completed by Rob Hughes Home Improvements.

Specializing in athletic footwear and urban sportswear for both men and women, Ace Athletic carries brand name shoes and clothing by companies such as Adidas, Timberland and Jordan, as well as men’s apparel by popular designers like Pelle-Pell, Girbaud and Varsity. Ace also carries exclusive Nike brand shoes not found in many Pittsburgh area stores.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Thomas Schmidty

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

Tri-county airport partnership wins NAIOP development award

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

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

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

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

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Leo Castagnari; Ken Zapinski

Image courtesy of NAIOP

$4.8 million preservation of Cathedral of Learning to begin this month

A $4.8 million preservation project will begin this month at the Cathedral of Learning in Oakland. The project involves cleaning the 533-foot tower’s limestone façade, repairing cracked stone, and replacing missing and damaged mortar joints. “It's a significant signature structure,” says Joe Fink, the University of Pittsburgh's associate vice chancellor for facilities management. “The administration felt a responsibility under our stewardship to see that this building does not fall into disrepair.”

Limestone panels located along the Gothic tower’s parapets will be repaired, and corroded anchorage will be replaced with stainless steel pins. Replacement mortar, caulking and stones will be closely matched to original colors and textures. Soot and grime, which has accumulated since the 1930s, will be removed from the 42-story tower.

The building will be presoaked with pressurized water and cleaned with a solution made from recycled powdered glass. Distributed by Quintek Corporation, the inert, nontoxic solution has been used to clean Buckingham Palace and the Kremlin. Pittsburgh-based Cost Company, a national leader in masonry preservation, is overseeing the project, which will employ 40 people.

The first large-scale exterior preservation project undertaken at the Cathedral since its completion in 1937, the work is expected to be finished by the end of September. The project is part of the university’s Civic Center Conservation Plan, a study funded by the J. Paul Getty Trust, and written and executed by Pfaffmann + Associates, that received an AIA Pittsburgh excellence award in 2006. Designed by Charles Zeller Klauder, the Cathedral was designated a National Landmark in 1975.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Joe Fink

Photograph copyright © Dave Krieger

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

New $46M Bridgeside II coming to Pittsburgh Technology Center

A new 150,000 square-foot facility, is planned for The Pittsburgh Technology Center. Cleveland-based Ferchill Group’s proposal for the five-story building, called Bridgeside II, was approved by the URA board on Feb. 15th. Once construction drawings and financing is approved, the URA is expected to sell the 1.6-acre parcel to Ferchill for $510,000. Two-thirds of the $46 million development will contain wet lab facilities; the remaining space will house offices. Foundation work is slated to begin within 60 days.

“Ferchill has been very successful with their buildings. They’re bullish, not only on Pittsburgh, but on lab space, and are prepared to continue working throughout the site,” says Robert Rubinstein with the URA. Ferchill, who also developed the Cellomics Building and Heinz Lofts, is working with Strada. "It's a significant milestone in the development of the technology center," says URA executive director Jerome Detorre.

“While they’re talking with some prospects, it’s going to be built speculatively; they don't have a tenant at this point,” adds Rubinstein, who says that Ferchill has the option to build an adjacent, 120,000 square-foot facility once the new site is 50% leased.

“The expectation is that they’ll be university-affiliated tenants, typically looking for laboratory space--that’s where there’s a demand,” says Rubinstein.  “Our goal is to accommodate up to one million square feet of additional growth that cannot be accommodated in Oakland proper.” To accompany the project, the URA will build a 750-car parking garage along the waterfront technology zone. Future plans for the technology center may include mixed-use and hotel developments.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Robert Rubinstein; Jerome Dettore

Image courtesy of The Ferchill Group/Strada

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

New acute care medical facility planned for Oakland

Plans for a new medical facility are moving forward at the comer of Bigelow Blvd. and Bayard St. in Oakland, following a Feb. 14th ruling in favor of the project by Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge Joseph M. James.

The eight-story, 120,000 square-foot facility will be constructed on a parking lot owned by First Baptist Church, and will include an integral 60-car garage. Bigelow Square-based developer, The Elmhurst Group, is negotiating with anchor tenant Select Medical Corporation, which will operate an acute care facility specializing in transitional treatment for patients from area hospitals. Burt Hill is designing the facility; Elmhurst hopes to break ground in 2007.

“The church was looking for a way to raise money for a multimillion dollar capital campaign and to continue its mission,” says Ralph J. Egerman, a principal with NAI Pittsburgh Commercial, who is representing the church in negotiating its lease. “We had the idea to use this significant piece of ground to generate income and also provide the community with a critical service.

“One of the things that differentiated Elmhurst is that they volunteered to provide professional construction services to the church,” says Egerman. “This will secure the church’s long-term financial future and create a lot of new jobs." He adds that it's a continuation of the major medical corridor spreading east to the Centre-Baum corridor.

“We see Oakland as the growing part of Pittsburgh—the demand there is great,” says Longenecker.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Bruce Longenecker; Ralph J. Egerman

Image courtesy of the Elmhurst Group

Red Oak Cafe to open next month in Oakland

The Red Oak Café is set to bring healthy fare and fair trade coffees to the heart of Oakland. Located at 3610 Forbes Ave., the 1,700 square-foot café, which seats 45, opens in March. Managers David Gancy and Kevin Huber also run four award-winning Carnegie Mellon University delis. Their collective experience includes stints at the William Penn, Ritz-Carlton and Heinz Field. In the Napa Valley, Gancy cooked alongside acclaimed chef Rick Bayless and in Kansas City, he apprenticed with chef, author and TV personality Lidia Bastianich.

The café is housed in Oakland’s historic Iroquois Building, designed by Frederick Osterling. “We’re partial to Oakland--the cafe will be a great addition to the neighborhood,” says Gancy, a St. Louis native who graduated from Pitt's business school. Renovations uncovered 70-year-old photographic murals that feature historic Pittsburgh scenes. Moshier Studio and Porco Enterprises assisted with renovations, which incorporated 12-foot mantelpieces and transom windows from Construction Junction. Project funding came from URA and bank loans.

Georgia Petropoulos, executive director of the Oakland Business Improvement District, says, “These young entrepreneurs have created a unique eatery that will definitely attract new audiences into our district."

Organic ingredients will be a focus at the cafe. “We'll serve daily blue plate specials that change with the seasons. Monday is meatloaf and Yukon mashed potatoes with parsley carrots and Tuesday is jambalaya with cheddar grits and garlic green beans,” says Gancy. 

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: David Gancy; Georgia Petropoulos

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

Workshops educate homeowners about green building options

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Tara Merenda

Image courtesy of CDCP

Pitt to begin $12.5M renovation of dining facility

On March 1, the University of Pittsburgh will begin a $12.5 million renovation of its 44,000 square-foot Litchfield Towers food service facility. Built in 1963, Litchfield Towers is Pitt’s largest residential complex, housing 1,860 undergraduates. Half of Pitt’s 15,000 undergraduates live on campus and Litchfield is the university's most popular dining area. “It’s our primary dining facility and accessible to all undergraduates,” says Eli Shorak, Pitt’s associate vice chancellor for business. “We're utilizing spaces not used before and making it much more efficient.”

Slated to open in August, the new facility will feature 973 seats and six major eateries, including Indian, vegetarian and Italian foods. A new elevator and grand staircase will connect the facility to the lobby. Renovations will include a new dish room and prep areas. Project architect is MacLachlan Cornelius & Filoni; contractor is Mascaro Construction.

“We’re ahead of the national movement,” says Shorak. “This is the result of a lot of student surveys. We’re following national trends but we also have local flair and we’re making it more of a Pitt thing.”

The wireless facility will feature TV lounges and interactive kiosks that educate students about nutrition, as well as a takeout area, late-night diner and Pannini grill. “It’s called platform dining—we’ll have more flexibility with operations.” The project follows the recent installation of new skylights, lighting and roofing within Litchfield's plaza.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Eli Shorak

County announces 65-acre expansion of North Park

On Dec. 14th, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato announced plans for a 65-acre addition to North Park. Currently a brownfield adjacent to the 3,010-acre park, the land will serve as a collection site for material dredged from North Park Lake and will then be converted to park and recreation space. Dredging of the lake will begin in 2007.

“This is a critical piece of property for the North Park Lake dredging project,” said County parks director Andy Baechle. “We wouldn’t be able to move forward without this land.”

The Richard King Mellon Foundation donated half of the $460,900 cost to purchase the land; funds from Growing Greener II, a voter-approved $625-million bond issue, will cover the remainder. At the end of December, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy will act as the fiscal agent for the purchase of the land.

“This is another successful example of Allegheny County converting brownfields into  greenfields,” said Onorato. “This former industrial site will not only allow us to perform the critical dredging project to return North Park Lake to its former glory, but it will also add acres of recreational and green space to the park.”

Located in Hampton Township and one of nine County-operated public parks, North Park features a nature center, golf course, pool, and skating rink.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Office of the Allegheny County Chief Executive

City to buy back tax liens on 11,000 parcels in $6.5M deal

On Dec. 7, Mayor Ravenstahl announced that the City of Pittsburgh will buy back tax liens on 11,000 parcels of property currently unoccupied and undeveloped. Part of the Mayor’s plan to assist Pittsburgh neighborhoods with revitalization and economic development efforts, the $6.5 million deal will be financed through the city’s general fund and is expected to be completed by the end of March 2007.

“Our neighborhoods can no longer be neglected,” said Ravenstahl.  “Now, properties previously unavailable for re-development because of their high tax-liens, can finally be developed. This has been the hurdle we faced over  and over again.”

The deal with Capital Asset, a subsidiary of MBIA Inc., the Armonk, New York-based bond insurer, was negotiated in partnership with the Pittsburgh Public Schools and Water and Sewer Authority. From 1996 through 1999, the city sold tax-liens on 14,000 parcels to Capital Asset Research Corporation for $64 million. 

“This plan reflects one of my top priorities for the New Year: the need to shift our mindset from one of managing decline to one of building a Pittsburgh for the future,” said Ravenstahl. "We talk about bringing our neighborhoods back, we talk about reinvesting in our neighborhoods. This is unprecedented; it's something that will give us control."

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Mayor Luke Ravenstahl

Sustainable Pittsburgh co-hosts equitable development summit

On Dec. 15, Sustainable Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh's Johnson Institute for Responsible Leadership will co-present the region’s 3rd Annual Equitable Development Summit. The free event takes place at The Twentieth Century Club at 4201 Bigelow Boulevard in Oakland.

Keynote speaker John Powell, director of Ohio State University's Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and a leading analyst of equitable development trends, will share best practices ideas for helping people and communities benefit from regional economic growth. “His words have helped people connect the dots around equity issues,” says Court Gould, executive director of Sustainable Pittsburgh.

The summit will examine sustainable development practices that effectively integrate infrastructure investment and economic policies and will invite participants to comment on Allegheny County's comprehensive land use plan called Allegheny Places. “Equity issues are not often on the table early on,” says Gould. “Allegheny County has made the issue of opportunity for all people an overarching framework—it’s an imperative to planning a competitive region.”

Panel discussions featuring regional economic development and county planning directors, along with representatives from Allegheny Places, will explore how land use and public, private, and civic investments can reduce disparities in services and social and economic conditions.

Writer: Jennifer  Baron
Source: Court Gould

Image courtesy of Sustainable Pittsburgh

Vacant land use study presented to public officials

On Dec. 11, CMU's Urban Lab presented its semester-long project called “Strategies for the Reuse of Vacant Urban Land” to city and state officials. In collaboration with the URA, Urban Land Institute (ULI) and community organizations, participants studied the Northside’s Brighton Road and the Hill District’s Herron Avenue. The project was supported by a $24,500 Community Action grant from the ULI.

Sixty people, including Jerry Dettore, executive director of the URA and Pat Ford, city planning director, discussed project findings and ways to implement recommendations. “This is part of a number of things that are all coming together,” says Mark Knezevich with the URA, who will work with the city to determine next steps. While he says there was good community representation which made the event successful, he notes, that, “What’s missing are private partners--these baby steps can help draw private interests.”

Suggestions included connecting neighborhoods, creating nodes of activity and building urban farms. Recommendations addressed a need for retail, housing and community support. “We might be in a position to issue an RFP to developers for Herron, since we own the properties,” adds Knezevich, who says the URA might begin to assemble Brighton properties. “Public art and new signage are things we can implement fairly soon and not at a great expense.”

In February, the program will issue a report online. “The URA is committed to trying to move some of these proposals forward; the Mayor expressed his support,” says Michael Stern, principal with Strada and ULI member.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Marc Knezevich; Michael Stern

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

$89 million Gates Center for Computer Science underway at CMU

Following the demolition of three buildings, the construction of Carnegie Mellon University’s new School of Computer Science is underway. Located on a 5.6-acre west campus site, the 210,000 square-foot complex will be adjacent to CMU’s new Collaborative Innovation Center, which houses Google. Expected to open in 2009, the $89 million contemporary complex will house the Gates Center, Planetary Robotics Center and a 150-space underground garage.

“The most significant part is that it was designed from the inside out to support the research of the school,” says Guy Blelloch, CMU’s associate dean for strategic planning. Supported by a $20 million lead gift from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the complex will feature new classrooms, offices and labs, a 250-capacity auditorium and 8,000 square-feet of open project space. “The design features will support collaboration and innovation,” says Blelloch. “The new West Quad will bring a lot of people together who have been scattered.”

The Gates Center is being constructed on the site’s southern end; a smaller trapezoid-shaped building will serve as a welcoming facility facing Forbes. Organized around an outdoor winter garden, the buildings will be connected by a four-story lobby containing pedestrian walkways.

Designed by Atlanta-based Mack Scogin and Merrill Elam, the complex will seek a LEED-certification Silver rating. Significantly expanding the area’s greenspace and walkability, the complex will feature five green roofs and landscaping designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Guy Blelloch

Image courtesy of CMU School of Computer Science

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

Phipps to become first conservatory of its kind with new $10 million green facility

On Dec. 9, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens opens its new 12,000-square-foot Tropical Forest Conservatory. Designed by IKM, Inc. and built by Turner Construction Company, the $10 million facility is an international model for green conservatory construction and operation. Featuring cascading waterfalls and an overhead catwalk, the 60-foot high space debuts with a "forests of Thailand" theme.

The facility incorporates two major eco-technologies. It is the first conservatory in the world to use a solid oxide fuel cell--an energy-efficient, highly-reliable fuel source that produces no harmful waste. Buried 15 feet below Phipps’ greenhouses, 1,800 square feet of earth tubes--manufactured by Pittsburgh-based Siemens Power Generation--create a sustainable, non-electric passive ventilation and cooling system. Unlike traditional conservatories, the facility employs an open roof design that allows hot air to exit naturally.

In 2005, Phipps’ visitor center received the country’s first LEED certification rating for a fine arts building. “We thought, why should we stop there? This is important for our entire operations,” says Phipps’ executive director Richard Piacentini.

After completing phase two of its capital campaign, Phipps now employs comprehensive energy efficiency, waste reduction and recycling strategies. “We looked at other conservatories and realized not a lot has changed in 160 years,” says Piacentini. “We wanted to do better and adopted a total green approach.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Richard Piacentini

Oakland planning and development corporation completing six new houses

The Oakland Planning and Development Corporation (OPDC) is completing work on six new houses in South Oakland. Located at Dawson, Frazier and Ward Streets, the homes are being designed by TAI + LEE Architects; contractor is Infiniti Homes and Construction of Penn Hills.

“In 2002, the Oakland Task Force developed the Future of Oakland Plan, a master plan for the community” says David Blenk, executive director of OPDC. “We're trying to fulfill that role—it’s an overall vision for the neighborhood.”

Five homes are being built in a modular style manufactured by SMI Homes of Strattanville, PA. A sixth, located at 3510 Frazier, is a traditional duplex. Constructed on formerly vacant lots, the 1,500 square-foot, three-bedroom homes feature two-and-a-half bathrooms, basements and porches. Homes will sell at a mix of market and affordable housing rates.

“It’s a new way of doing things,” says Blenk of the modular construction.
“In the right application, we would definitely continue it.”

Two of the homes will be occupied by February. Financing is provided by the URA, Citizens Bank and the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: David Blenk

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

PHFA announces $1.5M excellence in design initiative

The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) has launched a new
$1.5 million Excellence in Design Initiative (EDI). Unprecedented nationally, the demonstration program will reward design excellence and encourage statewide architectural, engineering and construction standards in affordable housing.

Qualifying submissions may be eligible for design grants made payable to the development team’s architect. Teams may include for-profit and non-profit developers, architects and community development organizations.

“We’re looking for creative, functional designs that integrate green building if possible,” says PHFA’s executive director Brian Hudson. “We’d like to incorporate some of these designs into our ongoing work.” Funds may be used to support affordable housing and mixed-use developments that include rehabilitation and new construction.

The Community Design Center of Pittsburgh (CDCP), Community Design Collaborative of AIA Philadelphia and Penn State University’s Hamer Center will assist with reviewing submissions and conducting site visits. Applicants must attend a training seminar in Harrisburg on December 1; funds will be distributed based on amounts required by best projects.

“It's an opportunity to demonstrate that quality design results in added value,” says Jason Vrabel with CDCP who says local governments must provide matching funds. “I’ve met with the URA and they are prepared to partner on this.

“I’m hoping we see projects with strong community development angles,” he adds.  “It’s a very innovative opportunity to set a statewide precedent for housing agencies--we think it could become a national model.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Brian Hudson; Jason Vrabel

Image courtesy of PHFA

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

AIA Pittsburgh Announces Design Awards 2006 Winners

Winners of the 2006 Design Awards were announced last week at Design Pittsburgh, AIA Pittsburgh’s annual event celebrating design excellence. “Part of AIA Pittsburgh's mission is to convey the importance of good design and its role in transforming our region and improving our quality of life,”  says Tom Briney, AIA Pittsburgh president and architect at Perkins Eastman. “The annual Design Awards Program formally communicates this expectation for excellence that we share in our professional community." For a complete listing of winners in all categories, click here.

Winners of projects located in Pittsburgh include:

The Biomedical Sciences Tower at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; architect is Payette and JSA Architecture; construction manager is Mascaro/Hunt, joint venture.

Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh; design is by Koning Eizenberg Architects, architect of record is Perkins Eastman, and contractor is Mascaro Corporation. 

Arch Street Loft, a conversion of an automotive service garage into contemporary living space which won two awards including the Columbia Gas People's Choice Award. Designed by Loysen Kreuthmeier Architects.  

Fairmont, senior housing in Garfield; Rothschild Doyno Architects and Mistick Construction, contractor;

Hughes Residence Renovation; Studio D'Arc, architects, and contractor, owner Ms. Kristin Hughes;

For architectural detail, Pfaffmann + Associates, architects, won for the Smithfield Liberty Parking Garage Canopy. Contractor is FJ Busse Company. The firm also received two other awards, including an award for the Cathedral of Learning/Oakland Civic Center Conservation Study.

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene


C-3PO in residence at CMU's Entertainment Technology Center

From October 30 to November 3rd, the Center for Entertainment Technology (ETC) at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) hosts Anthony Daniels as visiting professor and actor in residence. Best known as the voice and physical form of C-3PO, Daniels is the only actor to appear in all six Star Wars films. Entertainment technology involves products and venues such as computer games, theme parks, digital production, and entertainment robotics.

The CMU residency allows him to talk with students about how technology can be used with heart, soul and drama. To kick off his stay, Daniels talked to more than 400 people, ages 4 to 70, about donning a “golden robot” suit, working with R2D2, and sustaining an entertainment career. 

During his stay, he will meet with faculty and students to discuss projects and coursework, in particular the work of graduate students studying computers and entertainment technology. Daniels, 60, calls his legendary fiberglass and aluminum costume “very crude but rather wonderful.” 

In an October 31st interview with Pop City, Daniels described his instant attraction to Pittsburgh. “Staying near Walnut Street, I feel I’m in a hometown movie,” says Daniels. “It’s how Disney would make a street if they knocked down everything cutesy.”

In his third visit to Pittsburgh, he is particularly moved by Pittsburgh’s architecture and environment. “I’ve been around the galaxy a few times and I’m enchanted,” says Daniels. “You have genuine neighborhoods. I’ve visited many places in America and they don’t have this feeling.”

Daniels previously hosted CMU’s Robot Hall of Fame inductee ceremonies. Born in 1946, he first starred as C-3PO at age 29, and has acted for 34 years.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Anthony Daniels

Image courtesy of Entertainment Technology Center

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

Technology in the arts conference promotes national dialogue

To celebrate its tenth anniversary, Carnegie Mellon University's Center for Arts Management and Technology (CAMT) is hosting a Technology in the Arts conference on Oct. 20-21.

The event welcomes representatives from New York Foundation for the Arts, San Francisco Ballet, and Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs, among others.

“We are working with a broad spectrum of state arts agencies, national service organizations, museums, theaters and symphonies,” says Cary Morrow, executive director of CAMT.

The conference encourages exchange about technology's role in arts planning and programming, presents best practices and lessons learned, and fosters hands-on learning.

“When it comes to technology, there are silos of information,” says Morrow. “We all basically have the same needs but we don’t talk across fields and allow for cross-pollinations.”

Sessions include Engaging Audiences Through Online Communities,
Attack of the Pod People: Podcasting Fundamentals and Demystifying Technology Buzz Words: Wikis, Blogs, RSS, Tagging and Beyond.

Dan Marinelli, co-director of CMU’s Center for Entertainment Technology, is the keynote speaker while artist/author Faith Ringgold is one of the featured speakers.

Morrow says that CAMT will host the conference annually. “There were so many good ideas we couldn’t fit in this year.”

To complement the event, CAMT launched a technology in the arts blog.
To register, go here.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Cary Morrow, CAMT

Image courtesy of CAMT

Trader Joe’s to celebrate grand opening

On October 27, Trader Joe’s opens the doors to its first Pittsburgh location, a 10,500 square-foot store at 6343 Penn Avenue in East Liberty.

The much-anticipated opening will kick off with a ceremonial lei cutting and will feature product demos and food tastings. 
The store’s festive décor combines traditional cedar-covered walls, Hawaiian-inspired elements and local flare. Its design pays tribute to Pittsburgh’s beloved bridges with large models and murals of the city at night. Built in the 1900s as a post office, the building features 20-foot ceilings and 16-foot windows.

"We’re eager to be part of the neighborhood,” says Alison Mochizuki with Trader Joe’s. “There are a lot of foodies in Pittsburgh.”

Known as a “store of stories,” the company’s reputation is built on distinctive products, great deals and a light-hearted atmosphere. Considered “traders on the culinary seas,” employees don signature Hawaiian shirts and offer insightful product background.

“They’ve been a pleasure to do business with--from operations to real estate to in-store personnel,” says Lori Moran of Ballymoney & Company, Inc., developer of EastSide Village, where the grocery is located.

The store carries domestic and imported products including artisan breads, Arabica bean coffees and frozen entrées, along with basics.

To maintain low prices, Trader Joe’s purchases directly from manufacturers and sells its 1,000 items under a private label. Popular favorites include Trader Darwin's vitamins, Trader José's salsas and Trader Giotto’s sauces. 

Introducing a dozen new items weekly, Trader Joe's employs buyers who scour Europe, South America and Asia for unique products at great values. Thousands of items are tasted annually to identify products for both “culinary adventurers and microwave aficionados.”

Pittsburghers can soon expect Trader Joe’s now-legendary “Fearless Flyer” in mailboxes. Dubbed a cross between Consumer Reports and Mad Magazine, the often-irreverent newsletter highlights products and recipes.

Founded in 1958 in Los Angeles, Trader Joe’s has 260 stores in 22 states.  

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Alison Mochizuki, Trader Joe’s; Lori Moran, Ballymoney & Company, Inc.

Photograph copyright © Lori Moran

Guyasuta Fellowship hosts transportation summit

To address issues facing statewide transportation, Pittsburgh’s Guyasuta Fellowship, a young citizens’ forum tackling regional issues, is hosting an on-air summit to be broadcast live on WQED-TV on October 26 at 8 p.m.

The summit will engage citizens and regional leaders in a discussion about transportation funding, priorities and planning.

“The idea is to open up this issue to people’s living rooms throughout the region,” says Guyasuta Fellow Joshua Punchur.

The event features program fellows, along with representatives from city council, Port Authority, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, and the Pittsburgh Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers, who will share perspectives about highways and bridges, bike infrastructure and public transit.

The public is invited to participate through phone calls and online exchange. “We’re looking at transportation in a comprehensive manner,” says Punchur.

Beginning on October 20, WQED’s website will post discussion questions designed for public input. Following the summit, public recommendations will be gathered via e-mail and a transportation blog.

“We hope to stir up conversation around these topics,” says Punchur. 

Program fellows will submit a final report to city council and others in November. 

Created by Councilman Peduto in 2002, the fellowship annually welcomes 100 young Pittsburghers to meet with leaders in specific fields throughout a ten-month period.

“It’s critical in these discussions that you give young people the chance to participate--they are going to have to live with and pay for these decisions,” says Peduto.

Source: Bill Peduto, City Council; Joshua Punchur, Guyasuta Fellowship

Atria’s coming to Schenley Plaza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph copyright © Joshua Franzos

Forum spotlights opportunities for regional businesses in China

On October 12, more than 120 people attended the U.S. Chamber of Commerce forum China Business 2006: Expanding Opportunities for U.S. Companies downtown.  

Designed to advise regional businesses on export and investment opportunities in China, the forum featured Li Hiyan, China’s counselor for economic affairs and Mike Byrnes, senior advisor with Yuan Associates.

“This signifies how serious we are about exporting to China,” says Joe Fawkner with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “China is in the midst of market reform and Pittsburgh’s strong companies can offer services.”

Fawkner suggested that PNC could provide banking services and that Westinghouse could assist with energy resource development.

“There’s an incredible need in China for environmentally friendly technologies,” says Fawkner. “Pittsburgh is a model of how effectively a city can be cleaned up.”

Co-organized by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, the Pittsburgh forum, one of eight nationwide, provided business owners with opportunities to network with trade reps and learn from success stories. 

“This the first time we’ve promoted better awareness of China’s business environment. It’s cutting edge,” says Fawkner. “We targeted cities that reflect more of the reality in America.”

In Pennsylvania, Fawkner sees a growing interest in trade and investment in China. He cites local companies already invested in China, such as PPG and Fairfield Scientific, as examples.

China is Pennsylvania’s fifth largest export market; since 2001, exports to the country have risen 238 percent. In 2005, Pennsylvania exported $933 million in goods and services to China.

As a follow-up to the forum, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development is organizing a trade mission to China in 2007.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Joe Fawkner, associate director, Northeast Asia, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Allegheny Conference on Community Development

Image courtesy of Allegheny Conference on Community Development

Pittsburgh to host 2,500 for National Preservation Conference

On October 31-November 5, Pittsburgh hosts the National Preservation Conference, the country’s premier educational mechanism for historic and community preservation.

Presented by The National Trust for Historic Preservation, with support from partner Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation (PHLF), the event presents strategies for protecting and restoring historic structures and communities.

“We’ll have planners, advocates, preservationists, municipal officials and leaders in community revitalization from across the county,” says Cathy McCollum, PHLF’s chief programs officer.

Over 2,500 participants are expected to attend fifty educational sessions to learn from best case studies and approaches. Author, historian and Pittsburgh native David McCullough will present the keynote address.

Pittsburgh was chosen because of its historic sites, livability and surrounding countryside. The conference will utilize Pittsburgh as a laboratory for exploring current issues surrounding preservation and revitalization, including green building practices.

Thirty site visits--including Manchester, Station Square, the Hill District, and Ambridge--will investigate neighborhood and downtown revitalization, affordable housing, Brownfields, transportation, and tourism.  

“The host city becomes the workshop for participants,” says McCollom. “We'll be out and about in the city.”

New this year are free public events. These include an address by PHLF president Arthur P. Ziegler, Jr on October 31 at 5:30 p.m. at the Byham Theater, a premiere of local filmmaker Ken Love’s documentary Saving Fallingwater on November 4 at 1:45 p.m. at the Hilton and an Exhibit Hall and Old House Fair on November 1-3 at the Hilton.

The public is invited to join Mayor Ravenstahl, Senator Ferlo and the URA for a reception at the City County Building on October 31 at 7:30 p.m.

“National conferences are usually rolled out with a lot of sameness,” says McCollum. “From the beginning, we wanted this to be different.”

Planners worked with the African American Preservation Alliance to address diversity in preservation and PHLF awarded 100 local scholarships.

Two thousand people have registered for the conference and organizers are hoping for a record turnout. To register, go here.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Cathy McCollom, PHLF

Image courtesy of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Green building events will help set national agenda

Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Association (PHLF) and Green Building Alliance (GBA) will present two events that examine green restoration and building on Oct. 30-31 as part of the Greening of Historic Properties National Summit.

The events will occur in conjunction with the National Trust for Historic Preservation Conference in Pittsburgh Oct. 31-Nov. 5.

A free Town Hall Meeting on Oct. 30 at 5:30 p.m. at the Heinz History Center brings green building and historic preservation experts together to share strategies for integrating the goals of both disciplines. The meeting will solicit public input and announce the formation of a national green building planning team. Meeting outcomes will be reported during November’s 2006 Greenbuild conference in Denver.

“Green-building issues are helping to create new alliances among preservationists, environmentalists, conservationists, clean water activists, and others,” says Cathy McCollum, PHLF’s chief programs officer. “The result may be an influx of young people into preservation.”

On Oct. 31 at the Convention Center, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) presents "Using LEED" for new construction on historic projects, a workshop that will cover methods for leveraging LEED concepts into historic projects, green strategies and modifications necessary for sustainable design, and tips for achieving LEED compliance. Green building case studies and resources will be shared.

Conducted by leading green building practitioner Ralph DiNola, the workshop targets industry professionals who wish to enter the rapidly growing green building market and learn more about USGBC’s LEED for New Construction Green Building Rating System. Architects, manufacturers, engineers, developers, contractors and government officials are encouraged to register.

A national green building leader, the Pittsburgh region features 13 newly-constructed buildings and nine historic renovations that have achieved LEED Certification.

To register for the Town Hall Meeting, go here. To register for the USGBC workshop, go here.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Cathy McCollom, PHLF; Ryan Snow, GBA

Image courtesy of PHLF and GBA

Oakland event showcases $750,000 storefront renovations, public art

The Oakland Business Improvement District (OBID) hosts Stores and Doors on Oct. 11. The ribbon cutting ceremony marks the completion of new storefront renovations and the Doors of Oakland Public Art Project.

The event takes place at 3500 Fifth Avenue at 2 p.m.and showcases successful renovations of a number of storefronts located in Oakland’s central business district, including artistic door designs and interior and exterior façade renovations. The event also unveils seven doors designed by nine local artists.

“We believe that good design is good business. Oakland has more than 100,000 visitors daily and is one of the city's most vibrant destinations,” says Georgia Petropolous, executive director of OBID.

Stores and Doors leveraged more than $55,000 in grant monies and $700,000 in private investment. Lami Grubb Architects, Fukui Architects and Mary Cerrone Architects completed the renovations.

“Having architecturally pleasing and inviting storefronts adds to the richness of the pedestrian environment,” says Petropolous.

Renovations to be highlighted during the ceremony include the historic King’s Court property at 3805 Forbes Ave., Hieber’s Pharmacy at 3500 Fifth Ave. and Natural Choice at 111 Meyran Ave.

Stores and Doors is supported by State Rep. Dan Frankel, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh (CDCP). Mayor Luke Ravenstahl will attend the event along with members of city council, the URA and the CDCP.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Georgia Petropolous, OBID

Image courtesy of OBID

Pitt to open $6.1 million nanofabrication facility

The University of Pittsburgh unveils its new 4,000 square-foot NanoScale Fabrication and Characterization Facility during a dedication ceremony on September 29 at 4:30 p.m.

Located at 3700 O’Hara Street in Oakland, the center comprises two renovated floors of Benedum Hall. DRS Architects designed the facility and the contractor is Steeb Crawford Construction.

“Pitt’s engineering, arts and sciences and medical schools have a common interest in nanotechnology and will take advantage of this facility,” says Hong Koo Kim, co-director of Pitt’s Petersen Institute for NanoScience and Engineering. “It allows us to really interact through collaboration.”

Kim cites the facility’s extremely clean premises as a feature that will establish the site as a national research center. Nanotechnology, which deals with the manipulation of materials on an atomic or molecular scale, requires the removal of dust particles from working areas and equipment.

“It will have a tremendous impact on various disciplines, even outside the university with industry,” says Kim. “This is important because it is shared facility with major, high cost equipment in one place. It is a very cost effective approach.”

Friday’s celebration includes a luncheon with Mihail Roco, National Science Foundation senior advisor for nanotechnology, and the symposium, "Frontiers in Nanoscience," during which researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy, Columbia University and Pitt will discuss the field’s latest innovations.

“We anticipate national recognition,” says Kim. “This benefits research on campus and the western Pennsylvania region."

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Hong Koo Kim, co-director, Petersen Institute for NanoScience and Engineering

International symposium positions Pittsburgh in global economy

Cornerstones, the outreach program of Carnegie Mellon University’s (CMU) School of Architecture, joins the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) to sponsor a symposium exploring regional strengths, global trends and emerging markets in science, health and technology.

“The Dynamic Economies of Asia and Global Wellness Opportunities for Prosperity in the Pittsburgh Region,” takes place on October 3 in CMU’s McConomy Auditorium. The one-day event brings leading international authorities to Pittsburgh to share perspectives and expertise.

“The topic of our sixth annual symposium is apropos. We are all aware of the changing—and flattening of—the world,” says John Kosar, Cornerstones president and chairman emertis with architecture firm Burt Hill, whose Dubai office employs 240 people.

Featured panelists include CMU trustee Sunil Wadhwani, co-founder of iGate, UPMC surgeon and "father of transplantation surgery” Thomas Starzl and
Sangita Reddy, managing director of India’s Apollo Health Street.

“We are bringing people together to better understand the Pittsburgh region, and how multinationals can develop local initiatives,” says Kosar, who expects more than 200 people to attend the event. “Individuals with international expertise will provide local entrepreneurs with resources, confidence and counsel,” he adds. 

Thomas Petzinger, CEO of LaunchCyte and former Wall Street Journal editor, will present opening remarks. CMU professor Raj Reddy, a leading computer science authority, will share innovative strategies for success in a global technology market, while Zhang Yue, CEO of China’s Broad Air Conditioning Company, will discuss the economic value of green building.

To register for the symposium, contact Bob Johnston at 412-268-9554 or

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: John Kosar, president, Cornerstones

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

Nanotechnology Center receives $4 million from state

Governor Rendell has released $4 million to support a new Commercialization Center for Nano-Enabled Technologies at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).

The 180,000-square-foot facility will support pioneering nanotechnology work, a rapidly burgeoning field that involves structures at the atomic, molecular or macromolecular levels, and that has applications in the computing, clothing, steel and plastics industries.

A developer and architect have not been selected yet. Construction is expected to begin within one year.

The $66 million project will bring industry leaders together to create new business opportunities and up to 400 direct technology jobs.

CMU implemented a similar model with its Collaborative Innovation Center (CIC), which successfully attracted Apple, Intel, Google and Microsoft to the region. Google, who currently employs 30 people, may expand its operations into the new center.

“It is a key goal for the region and universities to continue to bring high-tech companies into Pittsburgh,” says Mark Kamlet, provost at CMU. “The center will link to our Nanotech activities and will house new companies. It is amazing that CIC has been as successful as it has been; this is the logical next step.”

Kamlet and others are working with Pradeep Khosla, Dean of CMU’s College of Engineering, on the new center. Khosla, a founding director of CyLab, was recently named managing director-technology of the iNetworks BioOpportunity Fund.

“Our goal is to establish a presence along Craig Street, to extend campus to the Software Engineering and Mellon Institutes,” says Kamlet.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Mark Kamlet, provost, CMU

American Apparel opens second Pittsburgh location

T-shirt empire American Apparel (AA) opened its second Pittsburgh location on August 1 at 3805 Forbes Avenue. The 3,000 square-foot boutique occupies the first floor of Oakland’s historic King’s Court. To accommodate AA, the property underwent a complete renovation.

“It is a really good thing for Oakland. We are a young hip company; it makes the street special. We will offer student discounts and advertise with the Oakland Business Improvement District (OBID),” says district manager Michael Woodfill, a Pittsburgh native.

Woodfill believes it is a good sign that AA decided to open a second location here before the Shadyside location celebrates its one-year anniversary.

“We are beyond excited. Soft retail has been tough to get into Oakland. It is wonderful to see new boutiques and retailers,” says Georgia Petropoulos, executive director of OBID. “Seeing King Court’s used again is such a beautiful thing--it is an icon and is once again thriving. It is a major transformation.”

AA has revolutionized the concept of a simple style staple--the comfortable affordable t-shirt, considered by the company to be an American icon. Founded in 1997, AA has experienced explosive growth, opening stores in 27 states and 11 countries and quadrupling profits. Founder Dov Charney received the 2004 Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur Of The Year Award. Known for its sweat-shop free, made-in-downtown-LA business model, and provocative use of visuals, AA is the largest clothing manufacturer based in the US. Charney credits “the integration of manufacturing and retail” for AA’s success.

Products sell for $15-$36. In addition to signature shirts in 100 styles and colors, the boutique carries track jackets, hoodies and long-sleeved tees. Popular items include men’s briefs, 1970s-era striped tube socks, knit dresses, tank tops, and women’s underwear.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Mike Woodfill, American Apparel and Georgia Petropoulos, executive director, OBID

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission dedicates Forbes Field marker

On July 7, several hundred people attended a dedication of the official Pennsylvania historical marker commemorating Forbes Field.

The marker honors America’s second “classic era” ballpark and the first constructed entirely from steel and concrete. The eight-foot marker is located across from Posvar Hall on the University of Pittsburgh campus.

State Senator Jim Ferlo and representatives from the Pennsylvania Historical
and Museum Commission
(PHMC) and the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh
Regional History Center
helped unveil the marker and showcase
the newly restored outfield wall, along with Pirates alumni Steve Blass and
Manny Sanguillen, and former Negro League players.

Opened on June 30, 1909, Forbes Field attracted record middle class crowds, as the site of legendary baseball and boxing events, operas, political rallies, war bond drives and even a speech by FDR in 1932.

“It is a landmark and a destination. These efforts keep history alive outside the bounds of books and museums,” says Ann Madarasz, director of the Sports Museum.

“People’s Oakland looked at adaptive reuse of the outer wall, the only remnant of what constitutes the greatest ballpark in the country,” says Ferlo, who headed up the Forbes Field working group.

“This gives people a sense of the significance of the place. It is community-based. I wanted to make sure we secured the wall, along with the upgrade of Schenley Plaza,” says Ferlo.

“For phase two I envision period lighting, benches and a historic path, like a hall of fame walk, with a series of eye-level markers to learn about the site’s history,” adds Ferlo.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: State Senator Jim Ferlo, and Ann Madarasz, director, Western PA Sports Museum

$5 million Melwood Avenue development welcomes tenants UPMC

By the end of the year, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) will occupy the site at 450 Melwood Avenue, a 61,000 square-foot property that is the first phase of a development by Real Estate Enterprises. 

“We provided UPMC with a warm shell. They are responsible for the build out that will begin in September. They have a great need for space,” says Lars Olander, a partner with Real Estate Enterprises, who acquired the property in 1999.

Olander notes that the building’s renovation is timely when considered within the context of surrounding development. “The Baum corridor is really gaining momentum and UPMC has become a major player,” he says. The building is located three blocks from the UPMC Cancer Center.

The renovation of the 1930s-era building was designed by Renaissance 3 Architects. Green elements include day lighting, an energy-efficient HVAC system, a bike room and shower. “We want it to be a productive work space,” adds Olander.

Real Estate Enterprises owns the property beside and behind the building and are currently constructing surface parking beside the building. Plans call for a two-decked parking facility with 170 spaces in the rear. The company eventually plans on a total of 500 parking spaces in the Melwood-Baum corridor.

The Melrose Ave. building previously housed a snack food wholesaler. The street, once dubbed “Automobile Row” in its heyday, features rehabilitated industrial buildings occupied by Pittsburgh Filmmakers, Pittsburgh Plumbing and Ferrari.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Lars Olander, partner, Real Estate Enterprises

Photo copyright © Jonathan Greene

$106 million Co-Lab receives LEED certification, spotlighted as model development

On June 16, the Green Building Alliance (GBA) announces LEED CS Gold certification for the Collaborative Innovation Center (Co-Lab) during a public open house. Located on the Carnegie Mellon University campus, the four-story, 260,000 square-foot Co-Lab was designed by Davis Gardner Gannon Pope. 

“What is special about this building is that it is a LEED-certified core and shell building, designed for speculative developers,” says Ryan.

The property’s open spaces provide cost-effective, healthy and flexible workspace. Accommodating 400 employees, Co-Lab employs green design principles--some developed at CMU’s Center for Building Performance Diagnostics--that ensure sustainability and maximize employee productivity.

Tenants include Google, Apple and Intel. “This building makes a better transfer of research and development into the marketplace,” says Ryan Snow with the Green Building Alliance.

Green features include recycled materials, insulated terra cotta rainscreen, individual climate control and indirect lighting. 52% of material used was manufactured locally and 36.4% of that material was locally harvested. A parking garage below the building features a recharging station for electric vehicles.

Amenities include changing rooms, bike stations and a close proximity to bus lines and Oakland business districts. 

The open house serves as a way for the GBA to educate developers about how green practices offer high-performance, energy-efficient properties with long-term benefits.

“The tenants are so excited to be in the space. We see green building as an economic development tool in our region. It is amazing to see the impact it has had,” adds Snow, who annually conducts tours of Pittsburgh's green buildings to thousands of international visitors.

Western PA is a leader in the field, with more than 400 green building product manufacturers, and five million square feet of green building space.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Ryan Snow, director of education and special projects, Green Building Alliance.

Parking lot to park: $10 million Schenley Plaza restores and reinvents Pittsburgh’s village green

Schenley Plaza is gearing up for its grand opening on June 8. Operated by the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy (PPC), and located between Carnegie and Hillman Libraries along Forbes Avenue, the  five-acre site has been part of the 456-acre Schenley Park for more than 100 years. Originally intended as a park entrance, the Plaza served for many years as a parking lot.

The idea to restore Schenley Plaza grew out of a public process and was a collaborative effort of many groups including the Oakland Task Force and Community Council, the Oakland Investment Committee and the Allegheny Conference.  

Plaza highlights include food kiosks, a Victorian-style carousel, one-acre lawn, Spanish cedar benches, and flexible café seating. A plaza centerpiece is the 48-ft tent structure inspired by Anish Kapoor's 2002 installation at London’s Tate Museum. All food vendors, including Atria’s, set to open in 2007, were selected through a public RFP process. Plaza amenities include free wireless, handicap-accessible restrooms and 24-hour security. Plaza partners envision revenue-generating activities for the site.  

Designed by Sasaki Associates, Schenley Plaza is loosely modeled after New York City’s Bryant Park, touted as one of America’s “great urban redevelopment success stories.”  “Schenley Plaza is designed to be a place that the entire community can use and enjoy. It was created to serve and reflect the cultural diversity and energy of Oakland. With the many educational, cultural and family attractions in close proximity to the Plaza, we know that Oakland will be a true destination for visitors and residents alike,” says Meg Cheever, president and CEO, PPC.

Opening festivities include jazz, reggae and steel drum concerts and performances by Zany Umbrella Circus, while summer events feature a National Geographic Film Series and park tours.

Source: Meg Cheever, president and CEO, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Reynolds Clark, vice chancellor for community and governmental relations, University of Pittsburgh, Jim Frantz, President, Tedco Construction, Ronald Liebow, project manager, University of Pittbsurgh Facilities Department.

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

$450,000 to be invested in Downtown car-sharing program

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP) is applying for a $360,000 CMAQ grant to help fund an innovative two-year pilot car-sharing program.  The program will be launched in Downtown, Oakland, and the Hill District for residents, employers and employees. The PDP will provide the remainder of the funding. If successful, it may be expanded to include other city neighborhoods.  The CMAQ program is a congestion mitigation and air quality improvement program jointly administered by the Federal Highway and Federal Transit Administrations.

Car-sharing, a member-based, “time-share” car service, started in Switzerland 15 years ago and quickly spread to other countries in Europe. According to Community Car, Inc of Madison, Wisconsin, “In the U.S. today, there are more than 20,000 members of 19 carsharing organizations sharing over 700 cars on the east and west coasts.”  Participants can reserve a car on-line or by phone, walk a short distance to a car parked in their neighborhood, drive away and then return the car to its parking location at a later time.  Members are only charged for the hours and/or miles they actually drive.  

Pittsburgh is ripe for a car-sharing program for several reasons, says the PDP, including a rapidly increasing residential population of more than 12,000 downtown, 20,000 residents tightly packed into Oakland and 138,000 people who commute into Downtown every day—not to mention rising gas and car ownership costs and limited and expensive parking alternatives.

An informational meeting on the car-sharing program will be hosted by the PDP on May 17 at 7:30 am on the 31st floor of the Regional Enterprise Tower, Downtown.

Source:  Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership

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 `

$20M think tank set to open in Oakland

Set to open this month in Oakland, the newly built Rand Corporation Building will provide much-needed office space for the internationally recognized, highly respected “think tank”.   A privately funded organization that helps to improve U.S. national policy and decision making through research and analysis worldwide, with just 3 other major locations in the U.S., Rand selected Pittsburgh from among many other cities to expand their local presence by over 600%, thanks in large part to Carnegie Mellon University  and the University of Pittsburgh.  Their choice of location is solid confirmation of the enormous potential of this region, and of its transformation to a “knowledge-based” workplace.

In addition to the 200+ highly paid and skilled positions this move will create, the 114,000 s.f. building, developed by the Pittsburgh-based Elmhurst Group in partnership with local union building trades and Pentrust Real Estate Advisory Services Inc., brought $20 million of new construction to Pittsburgh.

Areas of Rand’s research activities center on such timely issues as homeland security, energy, the environment, education, health care, aging, children, transportation, defense, justice, and many others.  Rand’s board is made up of 27 Trustees with international business and government experience, including Paul O’Neill who helped bring Rand to Pittsburgh.

Source:  James Noland,  PenTrust Real Estate Advisory Services, Inc.

Photo copyright © Jonathan Greene

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

$900 million in sponsored research this year, says University Partnership

There’s the famous match.com to find your online date, but now there’s a local web site where a venture capitalist or a university researcher will literally be able to match a dot-com.

Developed by the University Partnership of Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh (a collaborative first formalized in 2001), the new web portal -- www.universitypartnership.com -- is intended to “create a better access point,” says University Partnership manager Tim White.

Designed by Wall-to-Wall Studios, the site contains a rich overview of the city and region’s high-end research and technology ventures, with sections detailing established businesses, entrepreneurs/ investors, and community/economic development.

The new web portal was announced last week to members of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP), during a talk by University Partnership founder Donald F. Smith, Jr. Among the statistics Smith cited: Nationwide, one spin-off company is launched per each $87 million in research-and-development investment, approximately; in Pittsburgh, it’s one spin-off per $56 million invested.

Smith also noted that, with Oakland proper and nearby spots like the Pittsburgh Technology Center in Hazelwood becoming full, start-up and growing companies will be looking for more space adjoining university areas. 

“Pitt, CMU and UPMC are responsible for $900 million [this year] in sponsored research. That makes us one of the top university hubs nationally, and the majority of that is federal money coming into our area," he adds.

Sources: Tim White, University Partnership of Pittsburgh; “The ‘Eds & Meds’ Model for Economic Development: Leveraging Universities for Economic Growth,” presentation by Donald F. Smith, Jr., March 30, 2006.

Panther Hollow Lake and boathouse restoration to be studied

One hundred years ago, the Panther Hollow Lake in Schenley Park was a Victorian idyll beneath the arched Panther Hollow bridge, complete with genteel boats for rent from the genteel boathouse.

But that idyll was also an example of Victorian earth-moving hubris, and eventually the disrupted earth got its revenge, easing down the slope and silting the man-made lake almost full. Panther Hollow Lake, once six feet deep, is now a two-foot puddle, often covered over with slimy green algae. The boathouse did not fare better, and was demolished years ago.

Restoring Panther Hollow Lake and Boathouse is a tall order, but the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy says that its restoration is a high priority on their Regional Parks Master Plan, and they’ve retained West Chester-based environmental consultants Cahill Associates to study the possibility.

“Healing the water means healing the land,” Tom Cahill told a crowd of about 40 last week at a lecture at the Schenley Visitors Center. The lake itself is a disruption of the natural watershed – it was built by damming Four Mile Run – but stabilizing the wooded slopes and adding features to catch runoff would help.

Help will come from a local academic study team that will gather data, and from the good people of Pittsburgh, who can volunteer by calling 412-682-7275. Volunteer days are April 8, 22 and 29.

Source: Meg Cheever and Alice Enz, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

www.pittsburghparks.org, www.thcahill.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laptop library: three Carnegie branches now offer free wireless

Recently, the city’s Carnegie Library system added a 21st-century amenity to the very modern renovations in three of its branches: Free, public wireless access.

Starting just a couple weeks ago, the main library in Oakland discretely activated its new wireless access points, posting a couple small signs on the worktables. Wireless is also available at two other recently renovated branches, Downtown and Squirrel Hill.

Currently, it’s a pilot program, says the Carnegie’s information technology director Mike Nangia, and Oakland users will need to configure their browsers slightly to access the network. “We haven’t really advertised it yet, but the feedback so far has been great.”

The wireless network is available to any member of the public who brings in a wireless-enabled laptop. And as before, internet access is also available to any library card holder via the library’s public desktop PCs.

 “We think it’s the wave of the future,” Nangia says. “You can download audiobooks, podcasts. This is part of seeing where the library should be five, 10 years from now.”

As funding becomes available, Nangia says, “our goal is to put wireless in all 17 branches and Main. It’s not just your traditional old books and encyclopedias anymore. This is how libraries can transform themselves to the digital age.”

Source: Mike Nangia, information technology director, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Photo copyright © Tom Altany

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