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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

Double Wide Grill expands to third location in North Huntingdon

Since 2006, Double Wide Grill has been a South Side staple. Six years later, the gas station-themed eatery opened a second restaurant opened in Mars, Butler County. Now, Double Wide Grill has plans to open a third location in North Huntingdon, Westmoreland County, at what used to be Teddy’s Restaurant.
“This location is very different than the other two, which makes us really excited to get things underway,” said Double Wide co-owner Steve Zumoff. “Rather than turning an existing building into a restaurant, or building from ground-up, the new location was already a restaurant, so now it’s all about us transforming the space into the Double Wide brand that people already know and love.”
Double Wide Grill in North Huntingdon will be located just off the turnpike on Route 30, and is expected to open summer 2015. The menu will feature their popular ribs along with burgers, barbeque, vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free specialties. Zumoff explained that the location will also continue to carry some of Teddy’s favorite menu items, like the stuffed pork chop.
“We’ll have 40 American craft beers on tap that will rotate with the seasons and a big menu that caters to meat-lovers and vegans alike, plus many gluten-free options,” said co-owner Scott Kramer.
Zumoff explained that North Huntingdon was attractive because of its new housing, business and office developments. Last summer,Express Scripts, a St. Louis-based Fortune 100 company serving 90 million people each year, announced that it was moving 600 employees to a 70,000-square-foot facility in North Huntingdon.
Zumoff added that the new, highway-adjacent Double Wide location is in a high-traffic area, wedged between a Giant Eagle, Target and Walmart Supercenter.
The 6,500 square feet of space will be transformed to have the same vintage gas station theme that has become the recognizable branding of Double Wide Grill. The inside will seat 220 people and the upcoming, newly constructed outdoor patio will seat up to 70.
“The new location has the garage look like our other ones … but we’re looking to make it a little more roadside [themed],” Zumoff said, explaining that they want incorporate a historic highway theme à la Route 66, as the location is off Route 30. “Hopefully, the travelers on the highway will find out about us … We’ll be the place they stop, a roadside attraction.”
Double Wide Grill in North Huntingdon is slated to open during the summer of 2015. Other locations are in South Side on East Carson Street and in Butler County on Route 228. 

34th & Carson office space offers new construction on a smaller scale

Want to create a brand-new office space with views of the Monongahela River and the Steelers? Avison Young, a Toronto-headquartered commercial real estate services firm, may have an opportunity for you on the South Side.
Avison Young’s Pittsburgh office announced earlier this week that it has been named the exclusive leasing agent for the 34th & Carson office development. Located at 34th and East Carson streets, the site overlooks the University of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Steelers football teams’ practice fields.
“If you happen to be a football fanatic, you can stand out on the balcony and watch them practice,” joked David Auel, Avison Young vice-president in the Pittsburgh office.
Leasing efforts for 34th & Carson are assigned to Auel and Ed Sauer, an Avison Young associate.
Currently under construction, the 31,000-square-foot, four-story office building will be the second Carson Street project from FirstSite Development, LLC. The firm previously developed 3447 East Carson Street, home to Matcon Diamond and Propel Charter Schools.
Auel believes that 34th & Carson will be well-received in the current market. He said Avison Young estimates that rates will be between $21 and $24 per square foot, with full-service leasing, including utilities.
“Newly constructed office space within and around Pittsburgh continues to enjoy a high level of occupancy,” Auel said. “Given the convenient location and access near the Hot Metal Bridge, coupled with free on-site parking, we believe that we will see strong demand from users wanting proximity to Downtown and university areas. Efficient floor plans on a smaller scale, subdividable down to 2,200 square foot, allow us to service a wide variety of business needs. The east elevation will have balconies overlooking the Monongahela River, Three Rivers Heritage Trail and the practice fields used by both Pitt and the Steelers.”
Auel added that the lot will be able to accommodate about 80 cars. He said the location is also attractive as it circumvents Downtown traffic and provides an opportunity for small businesses to get into new office space in the South Side.
“I think that we are offering a very unique opportunity,” Auel said. He explained that many new South Side buildings are occupied by larger companies like UPMC and American Eagle Outfitters. “So, this is a situation for someone who has a typical small business office [to get into] new construction.”
Construction is expected to be completed fall 2015, with occupancy available to tenants at the same time.
Source: David Auel, Avison Young

Sheraton Pittsburgh at Station Square completes $15 million renovation

In an attempt to make Pittsburgh's only waterfront hotel as beautiful as the views it offers of the city's skyline, the Sheraton Pittsburgh at Station Square recently finished an extensive $15 million renovation. 

Sheraton Hotels & Resorts and Pyramid Hotel Group announced the redesign of the hotel's lobby, meeting space, Trackside Restaurant and 399 transformed guest rooms, including 21 suites.
“The transformation of Sheraton Pittsburgh at Station Square combined with the exemplary service of our associates will help to propel it to new heights and reinforce its status as a landmark hotel in the city,” said Roger Life, Sheraton Pittsburgh at Station Square general manager. 
Guest rooms and suites have been modernized to include new furniture, wall coverings, carpeting and in-room guest safes. The guest rooms feature stunning views of Pittsburgh’s skyline, the Monongahela River or historic Mount Washington.
“There isn’t a hotel that has the ability to look onto the city like ours does,” Life said of the scenic views.
Trackside Restaurant, the hotel’s dining venue, has received a new look offering casual dining in a comfortable setting. Life said Trackside offers highboy tables with individual televisions for business or weekend travelers.
The hotel at 300 W. Station Square Drive has also refreshed more than 30,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor meeting space featuring new wall and ceiling upgrades, carpet and lighting. The centerpiece of the meeting space renovation is the 9,750-square-foot ballroom venue for meetings, workshops and seminars. The full lobby redesign includes new carpet, wall covering, lighting and furniture upgrades. In the transformed lobby, guests can enjoy complimentary wireless connections -- and all rooms offer high-speed Internet.
“It’s a lovely transformation for the property,” Life said. “And the city of Pittsburgh.”
Guests who book before December 30, 2014, are invited to experience the newly renovated hotel with a special offer for stays through March 31, 2015. For more information, visit www.sheratonpittsburghstationsquare.com/renovation or call 888-325-3535.
Source: Roger Life, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts

Governor Corbett highlights $28.5 million Birmingham Bridge repair project as example of Act 89

Last week, Gov. Tom Corbett stood before the Birmingham Bridge and declared that its $28.5 million repair project underscores the benefits coming to Pennsylvania because of Act 89, a transportation plan.
Act 89, which the governor signed in November, increases transportation investment by $2.3 billion by 2018.
"My administration is working hard to deliver the hundreds of additional projects for this year from Act 89 proceeds, and the Birmingham Bridge is a very visible example of what we are delivering," Gov. Corbett said at the news conference near the bridge.
The 2,747-foot-long, 19-span bridge opened in 1976 and carries 23,000 vehicles a day. With resources from Act 89, PennDOT was able to accelerate the timetable so work on the bridge could begin this year.
Act 89 also supports jobs for local workers, the governor added, noting that the transportation plan saved an estimated 12,000 jobs and will create 18,000 additional jobs this year and 50,000 jobs in the next five years.
PennDOT's latest projections show that more than $2.3 billion will be invested into the state's highway and bridge network this year, more than $800 million above what would have been available without Act 89.
In Pittsburgh, Act 89 spared the Port Authority of Allegheny County from a trend of cutting service and alienating riders, according to the Governor’s Office. Act 89 funding allows the Port Authority to target improvements, such as overcrowding on routes and on-time performance issues.
Joseph B. Fay Co. of Tarentum was awarded the $28.5 million contract for the work on the Birmingham Bridge. It will involve steel repairs, bearing replacements, substructure repairs, light pole replacements, a concrete overlay and a complete repainting. The work is now underway and will be finished in 2017.
PennDOT has started work on more than 200 Act 89-funded projects covering more than 1,600 miles of roads and 83 bridges. Overall, more than 900 projects are expected to get underway this year, both from Act 89 and prior funding streams.
Source: Pennsylvania Office of the Governor

Salvation Army opens new South Side Family Store

A new Salvation Army Family Store opens in the South Side tomorrow with plenty of fanfare, including all-day free giveaways and the chance to win a 40-inch flat-screen TV. 

The 15,000-square-foot store at at 855 E. Carson Street will sell bargain-priced clothing, household items, electronics, books, toys, furniture and collectibles.  Every Wednesday, the store will offer Family Day discounts.
The Family Store opens at the intersection of East Carson and South Ninth streets for the first time at 10 a.m. tomorrow, following a ribbon-cutting event at 9:45 a.m. Opening day customers can enjoy free coffee and donuts in the morning.
"Our new Family Store will offer more selection and more bargains that appeal to everyone in order to provide our customers with a better shopping experience and support our social services work," says Martina O'Leary, administrator at The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center in Pittsburgh.  "We really look forward to contributing to the community at all levels." 
The store will bring more than 10 new jobs to the area, O'Leary said. Revenue from the Family Store supports the Salvation Army's rehabilitation center, which offers free services to community residents who struggle with alcohol, drugs and other life issues. Sales from the Family Store are the center's only funding source. Needy families may also receive vouchers for free furniture or clothing from the store through other Salvation Army programs.
Tax receipts will be provided for any donations received during store hours, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday. After-hours clothing donations can be dropped in bins in the parking lot.

Attack Theatre spotlights underutilized buildings at The Dirty Ball

The Attack Theatre is hosting their annual fundraiser performance event The Dirty Ball, Saturday April 12 in South Side’s Jane Street Warehouse — keeping in their tradition of using underutilized buildings for the event.
“Attack Theatre has a long history of going into new and interesting spaces,” said Tom Hughes, Attack Theatre marketing and special events associate, about the dance company’s ability to draw inspiration from unlikely places. He noted performances from street corners to theater stages.
Attack also has a record of hosting The Dirty Ball in vacant or developing spaces and showcasing the location’s potential.
The first Dirty Ball in 2006 was held in an underutilized 9th Street spot, the event was also held there in 2007. Today, this building is in use as the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School. And, this isn’t the only site that has been renovated post- Dirty Ball.
In 2008, Attack spotlighted the Pennsylvania Macaroni Warehouse, which has since become the Pitt Ohio Express. Before it was Goodwill of Southwest Pennsylvania, the 2009 Dirty Ball was hosted in the building then known as the 51st Street Business and Tech Center. The recently opened Pittsburgh Public Market — near Attack’s Strip District office — was home to the 2012 Dirty Ball when it was still an underused space.
Hughes explained that within a year or two of a Dirty Ball, the site becomes permanently occupied. Making it a rarity for the ball to be held in the same place twice.
“Every year it becomes a little more difficult,” Hughes said about the search for an up and coming locale.  “That might be bad for Attack Theatre, but it is good for Pittsburgh.”
Hughes joked that this search is a rewarding one and even called it a “game.”
“We really show the potential of every space,” Hughes said about efforts to attract attention to a venue.
He added that the company also draws inspiration from the changing location, incorporating different architecture into the night’s performances. Last year, he noted that a dancer was able to climb in the South Side’s Mary Street Clock Building — incorporating another level to the performance.
This year, Hughes noted they will be utilizing the “big, beautiful” Jane Street Warehouse to create a one-night only nightclub with installations, games, dance performances and music by TITLE TOWN Soul & Funk.
“We always say to expect the unexpected,” Hughes said.
Tickets to The Dirty Ball can be purchased online at www.attacktheatre.com/tdb14

Writer: Caroline Gerdes
Source: Tom Hughes, Attack Theatre

Oxford looking to break ground on Hot Metal Flats this spring

The Hot Metal Street corridor, which over the last five years has seen a cadre of large buildings constructed in and around the South Side Works, — including two hotels — is getting new residential space.

Oxford Development will break ground this spring on the Hot Metal Flats, a 115-unit apartment building on the lot between the SpringHill Suites Southside Works and IBEW Local No. 5. Hot Metal Flats will offer a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments ranging from 570 to 1,200 square-feet, and averaging about 700 square feet.

“Most of the units will have some kind of view of the city, the river or the South Side Slopes,” says Megan Stearman, Oxford’s marketing coordinator, adding that most units will have either balconies or Juliet balconies.

Humphreys & Partners, a Dallas-based firm, is handling the architecture while local contractor PJ Dick will do the construction. Walnut Capital will manage the property and handle leasing. Among its amenities, Hot Metal Flats will include off-street parking for tenants’ cars and bicycles, a fitness center and common areas for outdoor recreation and grilling.

“All of the access it will provide, from the trails and the riverfront to all of the South Side’s restaurants and shops, is itself a main amenity,” Stearman says.

Hot Metal Flats will be Oxford’s second project on the South Side. It completed and opened the HYATT house, just across Hot Metal Street, last year.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Megan Stearman

Schell Games expanding to Station Square offices

Schell Games, the South Side-based videogame developer is expanding its operations and will move from its space at 2313 East Carson Street this spring, but it won’t be going far — two miles down the road, to be exact.

“We’re going to be in Bessemer Court, which is located in across the street from the main mall area in Station Square,” says Schell spokesperson Jill Sciulli.

The award-winning, local game developer, now entering its 12th year of business, has occupied its South Side location for the past six years. The new space won’t just be bigger, but more convenient for both Schell’s employees and clients.

“I think the location will be a lot easier for clients to come visit, as well as a bit more accommodating to them. It’s a much more [tourist-friendly] place, and if they spend the night, they’ll have an easier time taking advantage of what Pittsburgh has to offer,” Sciulli says.

Though she couldn’t detail specifications, Scuilli described the new space as consisting of two floors with a mezzanine and large windows

“In terms of creativity, we feel it will allow our employees to explore their creativity and inspire them,” she added.

After the move, Schell will also look to add to its workforce and will add up to 10 new employees later this year. The company currently employs about 100 people.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Jill Sciulli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Amy Weiland, Scott Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Justin Blakey, Nick Rosich

Pittsburgh StepTrek will showcase step preservation in the South Side Slopes

While it’s known far and wide as the City of Bridges, Pittsburgh has more sets of stairs than any other city in the country. And no Pittsburgh neighborhood has more stairs than the South Side Slopes.

From noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA) will host their 13th annual StepTrek —a stair-centric day featuring a pair of self-guided step tours, food trucks, an artists’ marketplace and more than enough water to keep you hydrated on your hike.

As usual, StepTrek will feature a pair of routes — black and gold — for trekkers seeking differing degrees of difficulty, and SSSNA volunteers have been working for weeks to clear the paths.

“There were two different sets of steps which were completely overgrown [with vegetation]. We’ve cleared them and both of those will be on the gold route, which will be the more difficult one this year,” says SSSNA President Brian Oswald.
The Slopes are home to 68 of Pittsburgh’s 712 staircases, many of which haven’t been maintained in years. Oswald says he understands that the city doesn’t always have the money to fix the steps, but that his organization does what it can to showcase them and keep them up.

StepTrek is meant to offer participants views of the city they’ve never seen before while taking them through the ins and outs of one of Pittsburgh’s most topographically and architecturally interesting neighborhoods.

“The most frequent response we hear every year is, ‘I had no idea this was here,’” Oswald says.

In addition to a pair of routes, participants can engage with an orienteering course, designed in collaboration with the Western Pennsylvania Orienteering Club, and a smartphone app which describes the history of landmarks along the steps.

South Side Park, located at Josephine and 21st Streets, will serve as StepTrek's hub. Tickets for StepTrek are $12 in advance and $15 the day of. Advanced tickets may be purchased through Showclix.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Briand Oswald

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

You can now surf the three rivers, thanks to Surf Pittsburgh

“I don’t think people understand that surfing is something you can do on rivers,” says Steve Ford.

Luckily for Pittsburgh, Ford is here to change that perception.

Earlier this year, Ford opened Surf Pittsburgh, the city’s first river surfing service, on the South Side.

Headquartered at 1407 East Carson Street, Surf Pittsburgh uses a special boat, launched onto the Monongahela from 18th Street, which is designed to create three-foot-high waves in its wake.

“It’s like most other wakeboard boats, except for the way it’s weighted and the way the hull is designed,” Ford says. “The way the boat is made, you drive really slowly, only about nine or 10 miles per hour.”

River surfers initially balance themselves on a board while holding onto a cord attached to the boat, then let go of the cord once they’re riding the waves the boat creates.

Ford says most training sessions take 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the group, and that it’s not as difficult as people might think. He estimates that around 90 percent of the people Surf Pittsburgh has taken out have been able to ride waves on their own.

“Depending on the conditions like the weather and the wind, you can surf down the Allegheny to the Ohio and back up the Mon,” Ford says. “On weekdays, when there is less traffic on the river, we’re able to go right down by The Point.”

Surf Pittsburgh offers private and group lessons and can accommodate groups of up to 10 people.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Steve Ford

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Sara Innamorato

American Natural brings a modernized energy center to Station Square

American Natural, a subsidiary of New York-based energy company Cleopatra Resources LLC, will open what it calls the region’s first "energy center" at 73 East Carson Street in Station Square on July 25th.

In addition to offering standard gasoline and diesel fuels, the station will be the first in the region to sell compressed natural gas (CNG) as an alternative automobile fuel source.

“Natural gas is an abundant and attractively price commodity and we are extremely excited to bring this affordable, reliable and responsible product to the Pittsburgh market at a price just below two dollars per gallon,” says Jennifer Pomerantz, CEO of Cleopatra Resources.

In order to run on natural gas, most cars would need to be retro-fitted — a process which can cost up to several thousand dollars. American Natural's installation will be the second facility in Pittsburgh to offer CNG. Downtown-based EQT Corp. operates a CNG filling station in the Strip District.

According to Pomerantz, the fueling station, American Natural Retail’s first endeavor, will create around 20 permanent jobs in the Pittsburgh area.

In addition to its automotive fueling options, the center will contain the American Natural Eatery, offering customers a full menu of salads and sandwiches, a coffee bar featuring coffee from Buffalo, NY-based roaster SPoT, and baked goods from local establishments Allegro Hearth, Gluuteny and Sinful Sweets.

“Our food offerings are going to include full meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” says Pomerantz.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Jennifer Pomerantz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Jacob Hanchar, Stephanie Riedel

Mon Wharf Switchback ramp meets funding goal

When Riverlife announced two weeks ago that it was launching an internet crowdfunding campaign to raise the last $4,454 needed to fund the Mon Wharf Switchback, it allowed a window of 60 days to raise the money.

“We blew through the goal in about 24 hours,” says Riverlife’s Stephan Bontrager. “This is one of those stories that shows how enthusiastic the Pittsburgh community can be.”

Redeveloped a few years ago, the Mon Wharf Landing still lacks a direct connection to Point State Park. The Mon Wharf Switchback will connect the Great Allegheny Passage and the Smithfield Street Bridge to Point State Park through the Mon Wharf Landing, creating access across a 40-foot elevation difference where there hasn’t been for generations.

With the initial funding goal met so quickly, Bontrager says that money raised above the initial goal will go toward improving trail signage in the area, making it easy for cyclists and pedestrians to identify the entrances and paths to the switchback. Riverlife refers to the project as “shovel-ready.”

“There’s a lot of site prep that’s going on. All of the engineering and permit design has been completed. We’re moving forward as quickly as humanly possible,” Bontrager says.

Riverlife hopes to have the Mon Wharf Switchback completed in time for the 2014 outdoor recreation season.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Stephan Bontrager

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

South Side organization seeks to redevelop former Duquesne Brewery

The Brew House Association, a non-profit arts organization headquartered in the old Duquesne Brewery at 2100 Mary Street on the South Side, is looking for partners to assist in redeveloping the 114-year-old building.

The association, which provides housing and studio space to visiting artists, has owned the 104,000-square foot space since 2001 and occupied it since 1991, has hired South Side-based development consulting firm Civic Square to find development partners.

“The Brew House Association is seeking partners to to help tap the building’s potential and strengthen its organization,” says Civic Square’s Rick Belloli. “It will be a challenging but rewarding project to work on.”

Belloli speculates that the ultimate plan may involve a mix of ground-level retail space and office space on higher floors.

Civic Square and the Brew House Association will host a walking tour of the space for prospective investors on Thursday at 5:30 p.m., and interested parties should e-mail Civil Square to RSVP.

The Duquesne Brewing Company opened the original building in 1899, and expanded the facility in 1950. In 1961, it purchased the now iconic giant clock and moved it from its location on Mount Washington to the top of its new facility, facing the Monongahela River.

Though the original Duquesne Brewing Company folded in 1972, the Duquesne Beer brand was resurrected in 2010.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Rick Belloli

The Hardware Store brings a new cooperative, entrepreneurial space to South Pittsburgh

For a startup company or freelance media producer, office space can be an unaffordable luxury.

That’s why Josh Lucas, the founder of internet crowd-funding startup Crowdasaurus, had been looking to open a shared office space on Pittsburgh’s South Side.

“It’s hard to run your company in a Google Hangout,” Lucas says, referring to Google's free videoconferecing tool.  

With help from with Mount Washington Community Development Corporation and developer RE 360, he found that space at 744 East Warrington Avenue in Allentown.

Dubbed The Hardware Store, the co-working office space is designed for entrepreneurs and freelance media producers to have access to fundamental, day-to-day business needs. Among its facilities, The Hardware Store will feature 30 desks, 20 glass markerboards, a podcasting studio, a full audio production suite and a 20-foot green screen.

Having access to the space and tools to create a product is only part of The Hardware Store’s appeal, says Lucas. “The benefit to a small company occupying this space is that they get to interact with the collaborative network of people coming through the doors. We’re using our network of entrepreneurs to get the space rolling.”

Anyone may apply to rent a desk in the space on a month-to-month basis, which includes access to all of The Hardware Store’s facilities. Day rates are also available for smaller project work.

The Hardware Store will be ready for tenants to begin occupying the shared space by July 1.

For more information on The Hardware Store, contact Crowdasaurus.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Josh Lucas

Eat + Drink: The Beer Market, dog-friendly dining and more

Pop City's weekly update on Pittsburgh's food-related goings-on.

- The Beer Market, which opened over the weekend at 110 Federal Street near PNC Park, invites customers to try a selection of over 500 beers, 50 to 60 of which are available on draft. Customers are invited to bring whatever food wish to enjoy with their beers. In addition to offering live music three to four nights a week, the Beer Market will provide menus from nearby restaurants which offer delivery.

- The Double Wide Grill on East Carson Street has sectioned off a portion of its outdoor seating and opened a new dog patio. Customers may bring their dogs to their tables through a special entrance, then order and pick up food at a service counter. Owners must keep their dogs on leashes no longer than six feet, and the dogs are invited to dine from a special canine menu.

“We have hamburgers, chicken, dog biscuits and tofu for the vegetarian dogs,” says Steve Zumoff, one of Double Wide’s owners. “If people want to book doggie showers or birthdays, we can do that, too. We’ve had a few requests already.”

- The Market Square Farmer’s Market opens its 2013 season tomorrow and will run every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through the end of October. The market will host a core group of regular and specialty vendors offering fresh produce and small-batch foods including wines, salsas, dips and baked goods. To celebrate its 2013 opening, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy will give away 6,500 recycled tulip bulbs from planters around the city, asking only a suggested donation of one cent per bulb.

- The Rumfish Grille, which opened in Bridgeville last month, is adding an outdoor seating area called Rumfish Beach. The area will include a lounge, fire pits, sand and water. It will be available for private events and will have its grand opening shortly after Memorial Day according to restaurant spokesperson Dixie Smith. Rumfish Grille, co-owned by Clint Pohl and Chef Chet Garland, focuses on serving fresh seafood in a relaxed, upscale atmosphere.

- Square Café, a breakfast and lunch mainstay in on Braddock Avenue in Regent Square, will celebrate its 10th anniversary on Sunday, May 19th. The planned celebration is open to the public and will include live music and family-oriented entertainment for customers to enjoy while waiting for tables.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Dixie Smith, Steve Zumoff

Eat + Drink: Il Pizzaiolo in Market Square; Aspara Cafe; The Steer and Wheel food truck

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

- One of Pittsburgh’s newest food trucks is The Steer and Wheel, which serves antibiotic- and hormone-free beef burgers. All beef is sourced locally from Penn's Corner Farm Alliance, ground fresh daily on the truck, and served on Mediterra Bakehouse breads and rolls.

Burgers included the Chesapeake (Old Bay rub); The Bacon Squared (balsamic bacon jam, chive cheddar, lettuce, tomato, bacon on an onion roll); and the Andre (bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado, smoked gouda, grain mustard on an onion roll).

To find The Steer and Wheel food truck, look for them at The Coffee Buddha (often along with the PGH Taco Truck), or follow them on Twitter or Facebook. 412-230-7323.

- Apsara Cafe has opened in the South Side, a new restaurant offering Thai and Cambodian cuisine. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, seven days a week. 1703 East Carson Street. 412-251-0664.

- Il Pizzaiolo’s opened a second location in Market Square, serving its highly regarded and authentic Neapolitan-style pizza. Like the Mt. Lebanon original, the new restaurant’s pizzas are cooked in a wood-burning ovens, built by Italian artisans.

Il Pizzaiolo replaces the former Lubin and Smalley flower shop at 8 Market Square (between Starbucks and Moe’s Southwest Grill). The 40-seat restaurant includes a bar on each level of the storefront space. 412-575-5853.

- On Monday, April 22nd, Downtown’s Vallozzi’s will host a benefit dinner and film screening of Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. The event is a benefit for the Western Pennsylvania & West Virginia Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Tickets are $20, and can be purchased online or at the door; for more information contact: rachealleelacek@gmail.com. 226 Fifth Avenue. Monday, April 22nd, 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Writer: Andrew Moore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Andrew Moore

Great Allegheny Passage on track for spring completion; celebration date set

Mark your calendars: the final segments of the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) will soon be complete.

On June 15th, a celebration will be held to mark the opening of the new trail segments, currently under construction at Sandcastle Waterpark and Keystone Metals.

The event, titled Point Made!, will take place in West Homestead and at Point State Park in Downtown Pittsburgh.

The GAP trail is a 141 mile car-free route for cyclists and hikers running from Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland, Maryland.  In Cumberland the GAP joins the C&O Canal Towpath, which together creates a continuous, 325-mile long trail from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C.

Allegheny Trail Alliance President Linda Boxx says the idea for the GAP trail was first discussed over 40 years ago in 1973. Since then, the project has chugged along with trail segments built over time, occasionally just a mile at a time.

And in the Mon Valley, the Alliance didn’t have access to railroad properties. “We were basically negotiating with individual property owners piece by piece to put that alignment together,” Boxx says.

The event will begin a ribbon-cutting near Sandcastle, followed by a bike ride to The Point, where the party will take place. Boxx says the ride will be a bicycle parade party.

Construction of the final segments, which began last October, will actually be completed ahead of the event, by late May.

Point Made! will be preceded by a week-long bicycle ride from Washington D.C. to Pittsburgh, as well as a 24-hour relay that will leave D.C. on Friday and arrive Pittsburgh on the 8th

“There will be a lot of opportunities for communities to jump in and help us celebrate this great accomplishment,” Boxx says. “So many hands over so many years.”
Writer: Andrew Moore
Source:  Linda Boxx

Eat + Drink: Casa Rasta, Pizzarita, Texas de Brazil, Egyptian in Brookline: Isis Cafe

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

The popular Beechview restaurant Casa Rasta has reopened at a new space on Broadway Avenue, just two doors down from its original location. While patrons can still order tacos and burritos—like jerk chicken or citrus marinated pork—an expanded menu now includes appetizers, entrees, and desserts. 

Chef Antonio Fraga says these new menu items are an even better showcase of Casa Rasta’s fusion of Caribbean and Mexican flavors, including beef tongue with avocado or Isleño sauce, and a Caribbean salad with grilled pineapple, roasted corn, and spicy coconut.

The new space—at 2056 Broadway Avenue—also includes a full-service bar, though a liquor license is still pending. The restaurant seats up to 60, including a seasonal outdoor dining area. 

In the former Casa Rasta space—which sat only ten, and was primarily take-out—Fraga and his wife, Laura, plan to open a vegan and vegetarian restaurant serving Rastafarian Ital cuisine. They expect to open the new eatery within the next several months.

Casa Rasta first opened just over a year ago, in December 2011. Previously the couple had briefly operated a taco stand in the Strip District. 412-918-9683.

- Texas de Brazil has announced it will open a new, 7,500-square-foot restaurant in the South Side’s Station Square. It will be the Brazilian steakhouse’s 27th location. Seating over 200, the restaurant will include an interchangeable bar and patio space with river views.  Visit the restaurant's website to stay updated on an opening date.

- Isis Café, a new restaurant serving Egyptian cuisine, opened recently in Brookline.  Its menu features traditional Egyptian dishes—including okra tagen, duck with honey, samboussa, and fava bean falafel—with special entrees changing daily.

Isis is open for lunch Tuesday through Saturday, and offers a Sunday brunch.  815 Brookline Boulevard. 412-207-2485.

- Pizzarita opened recently in Shaler Township, the third pizzeria owned by the Posteraro family.  It joins Bloomfield’s Angelo’s and Grazzino’s pizza shops.  Located off Route 8 (580 Burchfield Road), Pizzarita is open Tuesday through Sunday. 412-487-1112.

Writer:  Andrew Moore

The Brix at 26 luxury apartments now leasing on South Side

A steel mill’s former company store has a new life as luxury apartments on the South Side.  The Brix at 26, a renovation of the former Goodwill building, will welcome its first residents on February 1st.

Located at the corner of East Carson and 26th Streets, near the South Side Works, the project brings 87  1-and 2-bedroom apartments to the 110-year-old building.  A project of Burns & Scalo, the seven-story historic structure is a certified Class-G renovation, a sustainability and energy-efficiency rating created by developer Jim Scalo in 2009.

The building features numerous lounge and entertainment spaces, including a garden patio and fireplace, a fifth-floor roof-top terrace, on-site storage and a catering kitchen.

One-bedroom apartments range from 601 to 1316 square feet, with monthly rents of $1450 to $2100; two-bedrooms from 850 to 1316 square feet, with rents from $1736 to $2200. 

Serena Kumar, of Amore Management Company, notes that due to top-rate location, amenities and views, the developers aren’t shy about asking for top-dollar rents. “It’s going to be one of the most dynamic places to live,” she says.

There are 45 different floor plans in the building, including two-level lofts. Ceiling heights range from 9 to 16 feet and a 24-hour emergency maintenance service will also be offered.  There are currently 20 leases signed.

Renovation work on the building began in January 2012.  A newly constructed on-site garage is available to tenants, behind and below the apartment building.  An additional surface lot is located across Sarah Street.

Built in the early 1900’s as the Pittsburgh Mercantile Company, the building was once the Jones & Laughlin company store.  The J&L steel mill was formerly located at the site of the present South Side Works. 

Brix at 26 is adjacent to the new ALDI grocery store, and is one block from LA Fitness.

A retail space is included in the building’s Carson Street storefront, though the developers are still seeking a tenant.  Kumar says her company is seeking input from future renters to secure a business that will be seen as an amenity to residents.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Serena Kumar 

Eat + Drink: River City Java in Uptown, Acacia craft cocktails, Ramen Bar, Crux, and more

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

- Squirrel Hill’s Ramen Bar celebrated a grand opening on January 2nd.  The restaurant is dedicated to the Japanese noodle dish that is its namesake, a concept popular throughout Asia and elsewhere.  5860 Forbes Avenue.   Sunday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m; Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m.  412-521-5138.

Also in Squirrel Hill, Tan Lac Vien, a Vietnamese bistro, opened recently at 2114 Murray Avenue.  412-521-8888.
- Uptown has a coffee shop once again.  River City Java held a soft opening recently in the space once occupied by Asylum Coffee Bar, which closed in 2010. 

For the past two years, owner Kelly Russell has worked with the nonprofit StartUptown to bring other businesses to the neighborhood.  Now, she hopes her coffee shop can provide a community gathering place for those new arrivals and longtime denizens, and will further rebuilding efforts in Uptown.  1919 Forbes Avenue.

- Acacia is one of East Carson Street's newest drinking establishments, but you'll have to look a little harder than normal to find it.  The bourbon and whiskey bar is marked only by the Masonic Acacia logo, and has no windows or other adornment.

The candle-lit “conversation bar” features 116 types of bourbon, whiskey, and scotch, draft beer, and craft cocktails.  And despite its clandestine appearance, membership is not required.  A small-plate menu is under development.

Co-owner Lynn Falk was manager at the Strip District’s former Embury and Firehouse Lounge.  Falk and Spencer Warner will soon be re-opening Embury in the second-floor space above Acacia, in the former Z-Lounge building.  2108 E Carson Street.  412-488-1800.

- In Mount Washington, The Micro Diner is now serving classic breakfast fare and lunch seven days a week, and is even open late on Friday and Saturday nights.  221 Shiloh Street.  412-381-1391.

- The next Crux dinner—a nomadic, pop-up project of Chef Brandon Baltzley—will take place at the South Side’s Stagioni.  The meal, a collaboration with Chef Stephen Felder, will feature a 7-course modern Italian menu.

Baltzley’s collaborative kitchen series has traveled through Boston, Chicago and New York, and since last October he has hosted occasional dinners in Pittsburgh.  The event at Stagioni will be held on Monday, January 14th, at 7 p.m.  For reservations and more information, call 412-586-4738.

 Writer:  Andrew Moore

Great Allegheny Passage near complete, final segments underway

The Great Allegheny Passage is almost complete, and a groundbreaking ceremony was held this weekend to celebrate the construction of the trail’s final two segments.

The trail is a 141 mile car-free route for cyclists and hikers running from Homestead, PA to Cumberland, Maryland.  In Cumberland the GAP joins the C&O Canal Towpath, which together creates a continuous, 325-mile long trail from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C.

Saturday’s ceremony was held at Sandcastle Waterpark, where a new segment will be built along the amusement park’s interior road, at the rear of the park.  The new segment will be separated from vehicular traffic.

The final segment will be built on a former railroad spur on land that had until recently belonged to Keystone Iron and Metal.  Friends of the Riverfront (FOR) had worked with Keystone to develop a land-swap deal that was necessary to fill this final void in the trail.

“They’ve been a great partner for a very long time and it was a pleasure working with them now and into the future,” says Thomas Baxter, FOR executive director.

Baxter expects the two segments to be complete sometime next year in late spring or early summer.  Once complete, a trail party will be held to commemorate the occasion.  Baxter says a date will be announced soon.

“It’s a monumental undertaking, but thankfully, through a lot of dedicated people it’s finally all coming together,” Baxter says.

The Great Allegheny Passage has been a work in progress for the past 30 years.  In 1995 the Allegheny Trail Alliance was formed, a coalition of regional trail organizations that includes the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, the Steel Valley Trail Council, Mountain Maryland Trails, and more.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source: Thomas Baxter

Pittsburgh Step Trek will celebrate unique step lighting project this weekend

At the annual Pittsburgh Step Trek this Saturday, October 6th, the South Side Slopes neighborhood is celebrating something new: the completion of a step-lighting project unlike any other in the city.

The neighborhood is covered in steps, which are necessary to navigate the hills that rise above the South Side Flats.  And many of these staircases are actual city streets where homes are accessible by foot only.  In many ways these steps define the neighborhood.

“It’s very unique and it speaks to the idea of how do you inhabit an urban hillside, and it’s a fascinating thing,” says architect and neighborhood resident Peter Kreuthmeier.  “I think they should be treasured, and they should be maintained, and they should be celebrated.”

So the fact that the neighborhood’s most prominent steps, rising above 18th Street, were in disrepair, unlit, and felt generally unsafe was a problem that needed a creative solution. 

As an Elm Street Community, the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association and the South Side Local Development Corporation developed a plan to light the steps, and use them as an inviting gateway to the neighborhood.

Now, five years later, the staircase lighting project is complete.  Each stair tread is illuminated by a linear LED fixture.  And projector fixtures, attached to cor-ten steel poles, carpet the steps in ambient lighting.

The lighting project was designed in collaboration with Loysen + Kreuthmeier Architects, studio i architectural lighting, Klavon Design Associates, Watson Engineers and Baker Engineering.  It’s the latest of three gateway projects, all of which feature the steel alloy cor-ten, chosen for its durability and historical significance to the neighborhood.

“Cor-ten is just a very visceral material that resonates with the historic industrial lifeblood of the South Side,” Kreuthmeier says.  “It shouts steel.”

Duquesne Light funded the entire project’s lighting, over $120,000, through its Power of Light Grant Program.

The 12th annual Step Trek, a mapped hike through the neighborhood's numerous city steps, will take place this Saturday, October 6th, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Registration is held at 21st and Josephine Streets at the South Side Park.  The Trek features two routes, Black and Gold, which are 3.6 and 2.1 miles respectively.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Lisa Kahle; Peter Kreuthmeier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer:  Andrew Moore

Green buildings: South Side library reopens; Pitt Greensburg's first LEED structure

The University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg is celebrating a new green building on campus, a 16,500 square-foot sustainable classroom and office building.  It was designed to achieve 30 percent annual energy savings and reduce water usage by 50 percent.  A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held last week.

Cassell Hall, named after Pitt Greensburg’s third president Frank A. Cassell, expects to achieve Silver LEED certification, and would be the first of its kind on the Westmoreland County campus.  The university anticipates the U.S. Green Building Council completing their review by the end of this fall.

The building was designed by Forty Eighty Architecture.  Landscaping around the building is part of  demonstrative rain gardens and storm water bioswales for on-site storm water management.

The building features numerous efficiencies which the university expects will allow for 28 percent less energy usage in heating and cooling, and 50 percent less water consumption

In other green building news, the South Side branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh reopened on Saturday following a $2.7 million renovation.   The project followed guidelines for LEED renovation standards and is in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The renovation also marks the first time in the library’s 103 years that it will have air conditioning.

"As part of our system-wide pledge to make our library buildings accessible as well as comfortable, it was very important for us to update the South Side to include air conditioning, and we incorporated the geothermal heating and cooling system," says Communications Manager Suzanne Thinnes.  "It’s the first of its kind in any Pittsburgh library."

And even with the new comforts, the library expects substantial energy savings through the reconditioning of existing windows; building envelope upgrades; geothermal heating and cooling; installation of low water usage plumbing fixtures; and the use of recycle and regional materials. 

Thinnes says that renovating libraries in the system as sustainably as possible is part of the library's commitment to the community.

The South Side branch was originally built in 1909, and was one of the first neighborhood branches.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Suzanne Thinnes

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

Windom Hill Place phase II under construction, rooftop views from the South Side Slopes

The first four homes in the South Side’s Windom Hill Place development were built six years ago.  Now, with improved market conditions, the second and final phase of this hillside enclave is underway.

Every three-story home in the development is Energy Star certified, and sustainable building materials include recycled steel railings, recycled drywall, and bamboo flooring.  The modern homes were designed by John Martine of Strada Architects, and built by Ernie Sota of Sota Construction Services. 

The four new, 3,000-square-foot homes start at $699,000 and are similar in design to the previous set, with three bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, and finished lower levels.  Other amenities include rooftop decks, back patios, and two-car garages.  Since there are no load-bearing walls in the buildings, each unit can be customized to an owner’s specs. 

But the most striking feature that each unit boasts, says Diana Lynn of One80 Real Estate Services, is its incredible views of Oakland, Downtown, and the South Side from its hillside perch.

The development is located in the South Side Slopes, east of the Liberty Tunnel and within walking distance from the restaurants and nightlife of East Carson Street.  In addition to a current set of city steps, pedestrian improvements along the PJ McArdle Roadway bridge are scheduled to be completed in the next month, Lynn says.

And while the shells of each home should be completed in the next few months, with a sales agreement, “someone could move in within six months,” she adds.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Diana Lynn

Pittsburgh Hostel Project to open hostel in South Side

Pittsburgh's first full-service hostel in many years has found a home in the South Side.  After four years of planning and a few false starts, the Pittsburgh Hostel Project (PHP) plans to open above the Beehive Coffeehouse on East Carson Street.

In the coming months, the Project will begin to rebuild the second and third floors of the building for guest accommodations, including restrooms, beds, and other hostel particulars.  The building's owner, developer Tom Tripoli, has agreed to complete base improvements to the structure, such as floor and ceiling renovations. 

PHP Director Anne Marie Toccket says the project’s leaders have been driven to bring a hostel to Pittsburgh because of a desire to share their enthusiasm for the city.

“None of us are really from here but we've all ended up here and we love it,” Toccket says.  “I’ve spent four of the past six years abroad and traveling, and I always tell people about Pittsburgh and how great it is.”

Toccket believes a hostel can increase the amount of foreign travelers stopping in Pittsburgh, as a logical midway point between New York City and Chicago.

Toccket is also eager to offer affordable accommodations to domestic travelers, with plans to build connections with cyclists traveling on the Great Allegheny Passage trail from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C.

“I see real opportunities to bring an active, outdoorsy demographic of travelers not just to Pittsburgh, but to the hostel, and have the hostel serve as a trailhead place,” Toccket says.

PHP is currently applying for grants, and seeking charitable donations and foundation support for the hostel’s construction, with a goal of raising $500,000.

While the Project is in the process of becoming an official non-profit, they have fiscal sponsorship from the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, who will accept tax-deductible donations on behalf of the hostel.

The hostel hopes to appeal to travelers beyond the budget-backpacking set.  In addition to dorm-style bunk rooms, PHP will offer private rooms with baths and kitchenettes. 

Toccket says they are optimistic that renovations will be complete, and the hostel will be accepting guests by the end of 2013. 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Anne Marie Toccket

Bridge Ten Brasserie now open on South Side, French food, wine and beer

As a writer and broadcaster, David DeSimone spent the past 25 years sharing experiences with food and wine from his travels throughout Europe.  Now, with the launch of Bridge Ten Brasserie, DeSimone is going beyond words to translate those experiences into a French-inspired brasserie and bar.

Located adjacent to the South Side’s Holiday Inn Express and Suites (20 S. 10th Street), the restaurant focuses on the cuisine, wine, cocktails and beer from all regions of France.

Although the dining room is still under construction, Bridge Ten’s terrasse patio and bar are now open, seating up to 90.  The current menu features a variety small plates, mussels, soups and salads, and pizza à la Française; prices ranging from $6 to $20.

Bridge Ten replaces the former Patio 10 in this location.  The remodeled dining room will include a new floor and décor, as well as the removal of one wall. 

“Basically putting in the mode of a brasserie that you might find in Paris or Léon, France,” DeSimone says.

DeSimone expects the main dining room to be open in September.  He plans monthly prix fixe dinners, each highlighting a different region of France, with September featuring the cuisine of Provence.

The restaurant’s chef will be Shawn Carlson, a former executive chef for Toni Pais, of the former Baum Vivant in Shadyside.  And Bridge Ten’s maître d’is David Cesaro, a native of France. 

DeSimone says the brasserie, like those of France, is upscale yet casual, and even features a special student menu.  He says the effort to reach students is part of an overall attempt to make French food and wine more accessible to a broad spectrum of diners.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  David DeSimone

Revamped PedalPGH around the corner, to include car-free routes

A revamped Pedal Pittsburgh is just around the corner, and will include several twists to this annual bicycle event, the largest in Pennsylvania.

For the first time, Pedal Pittsburgh will include a car-free section, with roads closed to traffic from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.  The goal is to allow riders of all ages and skill levels to enjoy the streets in comfort and safety.

“Taking away that barrier of car traffic is really nice for folks because they want to be able to ride, they just don't necessarily want to do it in the middle of a bunch of cars,” says Seth Gernot, of Bike Pittsburgh.

Pedal Pittsburgh was created in 1994 as an event to celebrate biking by the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh (CDCP), and was a fundraiser for that organization.  Late last year, CDCP, now called the Design Center, transferred the event to Bike Pittsburgh.

Gernot praises the Design Center for their pioneering efforts, and building the event to a peak of 2,700 riders. He says the Design Center was happy to transition Pedal Pittsburgh to a new home that could help grow the event.

“They really saw the fit and they saw the potential  that it could have aligned with our organization,”  Gernot says.

On the day of the event, August 5th, different routes will be geared for riders of varying levels, including 7-, 30-, and 63-mile routes.

The 7-mile route will be completely car free, with portions of E. Carson Street and the entirety of the Birmingham Bridge closed to vehicular traffic.  Combined with The Rivers Heritage Trail system, the day will boast up to 20 miles of car-free space.

“We're trying to close down more and more roads every year to vehicular traffic so that bikes have a little bit more room on one Sunday a year,” Gernot says.

Pedal Pittsburgh has also moved from May--where it shared calendar space with the Pittsburgh Marathon and Great Outdoors Week--to August.  Bike Pittsburgh is hoping the warmer weather will draw an even greater number of riders to the event.

The event will also feature a Finish Line Festival, soak zone, live music, and professional BMX performances.

Each ride will begin and finish at the South Side Works.  For more information, and to register, visit the Pedal Pittsburgh page here.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Seth Gernot, Bike Pittsburgh

Silvi's SouthSide Kitchen and Buddy's Brews on Carson now open; Cafe Retro opens in Allentown

Silvi's SouthSide Kitchen opened last month on East Carson Street, serving what owner Dimitri Ávilas calls a mix of Mexican and American comfort food.  The menu ranges from tacos and enchiladas, to hamburgers and fried shrimp po' boys.

"We hope you come here and feel like you're coming home to Mexican food," Ávilas says. 

The restaurant, named for Dimitri's wife and co-owner, Silvi, is located across from the Birmingham Bridge (2212 E. Carson), and is BYOB.

Silvi, who is originally from Mexico, is responsible for the homemade flour tortillas, and items like burritos and sopadillas, while a few of Dimitri’s offerings are influenced by his Texas upbringing, and include chicken-fried steak, cowboy beans, and a pork tenderloin sandwich.

On Friday and Saturday nights, Silvi's joins the party on Carson Street with its late-night Taco Time menu (tacos only; 9 p.m. to 3 a.m.) and fixings bar; tacos just $3 apiece.

Ávilas came to Pittsburgh three years ago, and had been manager of Hofbräuhaus Pittsburgh in the South Side Works (and previously at Hofbräuhaus Newport) before opening Silvi's, the duo's first.

In addition to their storefront location, Ávilas hopes to bring Silvi's home-style Mexican comfort food throughout the city via a roaming food truck in the near future.

Also new to the South Side is Buddy's Brews on Carson (2112 E. Carson), a specialty beer store offering a wide selection of craft, import, and domestic beer and cider.  Buddy's occupies the first floor of a recently renovated, 4-story structure built in 1901.  The storefront space had previously been home to T&T Hardware for 74 years, before it closed in 2010. 

The second and third floors have been renovated as apartment units, with two on each level. 

The space occupied by Buddy's Brews (named after owner Jake Nickman's dog), has been completely remodeled, and includes refinished original floors.  Nickman has begun hosting beer and cider tastings on Fridays, something he hopes to continue as a regular event.

And just over the hill beyond the South Side Slopes, Cafe Retro has recently opened in the Allentown neighborhood.  The restaurant, located at 637 E. Warrington Avenue, is hard to miss for its lime-green storefront.

The cafe serves diner fare—omelets, burgers, and a variety of retro-themed sandwiches—along with smoothies, specialty coffee, and free Wi-Fi.  Owner Ray Meyers encourages patrons to bring laptops and stay awhile, or just come for the food. 

Meyers hopes Cafe Retro will can add to the reanimation of Allentown's business district, which already includes the established Italian restaurant Alla Famiglia. 

Café Retro, 412-709-6647.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Dimitri Ávilas; Jake Hickman; Ray Meyers

Photo credit: Kristina Helen Schmidt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Mike Kotyk; Bill Peduto

South Shore Riverfront Park celebrates opening, party this Thursday

When the Southside Works was first envisioned in 1996, a master plan called for a portion of the riverfront to be transformed from latent industrial uses into a vibrant public park.  Tomorrow, the URA and its partners will celebrate the opening of the South Shore Riverfront Park, marking not only the park’s completion, but a final piece in the overall redevelopment of this former brownfield site.

This new public space, at 27th and Water Streets, is located on the south bank of the Monongahela River, between the Hot Metal Bridge and the existing Southside Riverfront Park, and is adjacent to the Southside Works.

Although the current phase is complete, the final portion of the park will include a public boat tie-up, with spaces for 17 boats, a dock where water taxis could potentially pick-up and drop-off passengers, and an entire boat marina.  Phase II of the park is expected to be completed next year.

During the development and excavation of the site, several steel ingots were uncovered.  Those industrial relics are now displayed in the park, a memorial to the men and women who dedicated their lives to working in the mills.

Other artifacts in the park include the Morgan Mill Gate, the pump house for the Jones & Laughlin’s No. 2 Open Hearth Shop, and a slag pot, taken from the Nine Mile Run area.

The park includes upper and lower trails, a large amphitheater, and a kiosk, which will be used as an information center.  From the kiosk, visitors can learn about the park’s history and artifacts.  Plans call for using the kiosk to sell gelato and coffee in the near future.

Construction of the park began in the summer of 2008, with total project costs at $13 million.

Thursday’s kickoff event, titled Rhythm n’ Flow, will be hosted by Cindy Howe of WYEP’s Morning Mix.  The event will begin at 6 p.m., with two live bands, White Wives and Delicious Pastries.  In addition to music, the Citiparks Roving Art Cart will offer activities for kids, and Bike Pittsburgh will offer a free bike valet. 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Susheela Nemani-Stanger, URA

Enchanted Garden plant shop and garden art boutique opening in South Side

With each planting season, independently owned garden centers are making it easier to prepare gardens for spring without ever leaving the city.  And now, in addition to established growers like the Urban Gardener and Wilkinsburg's Garden Dreams, the Enchanted Garden, which opens Friday on the South Side, is the latest plant purveyor to assist in the greening of Pittsburgh.

Located within a five-room storefront one block from East Carson Street, the Enchanted Garden features annual and perennial flowers, vegetables, fruits, and herbs, as well as succulents and bonsai trees.  The store will be selling high-quality garden tools that are ergonomically designed, or feature lifetime warranties.

Co-owner Jackie Day says her shop is focused on organic growing practices, and offers a wide range of all-natural products for the garden and the body.

In addition to garden supplies, the shop is selling locally-made honey and bee pollen, used to treat seasonal allergies, as well as artisan soaps and body creams, all-natural bug sprays, and beeswax candles.

And the center is also a garden-art boutique, featuring the work of local artists in pottery, wind chimes, stain glass, jewelry, and more.  

Day says Enchanted Garden is ideal for those planning to garden in an urban setting, offering brackets and baskets for vertical growing, and a variety of container-growing options.

"A lot of the items that we're going to sell are tailored toward people that have smaller spaces to work with," she says.

The shop is also doing vermiculture composting on-site, and will be teaching customers how to compost with worms at home, with bins and worms for sale.  

“It’s the most nutrient rich plant fertilizer that you can get, but it’s completely natural,” Day says.

For those not quite ready for the at-home system, Enchanted Garden is offering two and five pound bags of worm castings for sale.

The Enchanted Garden opens Friday, May 4th, 73 13th Street, 412-235-7680.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Jackie Day

Riverside Mews phase II underway, brings more energy-efficient homes to South Side

Green living options are growing again on the South Side. Riverside Mews, which includes the city’s first net-zero home, is expanding with phase II of its townhome development.  

This latest phase will bring 18 new homes to the former-brownfield redevelopment site, located south of East Carson Street between 18th and 19th Streets.  Known for blending quality urban design with energy efficiency, developer Ernie Sota says homes at Riverside Mews actually perform 40% better than Energy Star requirements.

Phase I of Riverside Mews opened in 2007, and was one of the first energy-efficient residential developments in Pittsburgh.   It debuted with 14 units, some of which featured “sky room” rooftop decks, and were designed by the team of Perkins Eastman and Strada.

Sota says a few of the original homes have resold with appreciable gains in value, which speaks to the quality of the residences.  He cites earlier neighborhood developments, such as Fox Way Commons, New Birmingham, and South Shore Place, as important efforts to which Riverside Mews has built upon.

“We’ve taken the for sale housing on the South Side to the next level…taken what those products offered to another level of quality and size and space,” he says.

Sota says each home is customized for the buyer.  Initially, only the building’s shell is constructed, and once sold, homeowners choose from a floor-plan layout that meets their needs.  

Fourteen homes are complete in phase II, and eight have been sold.  The third and final phase, to be built nearest the river, will bring 16 additional homes to the site, with an anticipated completion date of early 2013.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Ernie Sota

Stagioni is moving to the South Side, adding more seats and a liquor license

Bloomfield’s popular Italian restaurant Stagioni is relocating to the South Side.  The former BYOB has outgrown its intimate Liberty Avenue location, and will reopen at 2104 East Carson Street later this month.

While the new location more than doubles the restaurant’s seating capacity, co-owner Cara Delsignore says it will retain the same cozy feeling and charm.  “We’re still little Stagioni,” she says.  “Now there’s just an extra level.”

The biggest change will come as Stagioni will now have a full-service bar.  Chef Stephen Felder says he and Delsignore share a passion for both food and wine, and look forward to bringing elements of the kitchen to the bar.

“We like making fun cocktails,” Felder says, “I like to pickle things, and cure things, and to have pickled ramps in a martini, or anything else like that, makes a drink more interesting, more exciting.”

For the past year, Stagioni has hosted monthly Wine Nights, where hard-to-find Italian wines are paired with traditional dishes from the same region of Italy.  The “small but interesting” wine list at the new restaurant will also feature those wines which are not commonly available at state stores.

Reclaimed barn wood and oak timber features prominently in the bar, where the rustic aesthetic matches the traditional, farm-to-table Italian cuisine. 

Stagioni’s menu will continue to change daily, but it is known for house-made gnocchi and fresh pastas, made-to-order mozzarella, and dishes like beef braciole, braised short ribs, and locally sourced lamb and duck.  Desserts include homemade tiramisu, Nutella mousse, and ricotta cheesecake.

The new space replaces the former Le Pommier bistro, which closed over a year ago.

Felder and Delsignore opened their Bloomfield restaurant in November of 2009.  That storefront was distinguished by its Tuscan orange awning and façade.  That same color scheme will be brought to the interior of the Carson Street restaurant, as well as subtle reminders of the original location.

Stagioni, 2104 East Carson Street, South Side.  412-687-5775.
Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Stephen Felder, Cara Delsignore

Pittsburgh Riverhounds to build soccer stadium at Station Square

With the announcement of a new stadium to be built at Station Square, professional soccer will soon have a home in Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds announced plans last week to build a $7 million, 3,500-seat multi-sport stadium in Station Square.  The stadium will overlook the Monongahela River, and north to the city's other two riverfront stadiums, Heinz Field and PNC Park.

CEO Jason Kutney says this development is an opportunity for the Riverhounds to be considered a “real” franchise, located in the same area as Pittsburgh’s other professional teams.

“Our focus really is to make this the most accessible downtown stadium, where we're looking to get year-round usage,” Kutney says. 

In addition to the Riverhounds, the stadium is planned to be home to a number of local schools and colleges, the Pittsburgh Passion women’s football team, and a few rugby clubs.  And in wintertime hockey rinks will be installed on top of the turf.

Although they’ve been in the region for several years, the Riverhounds have spent the past five years playing at the Chartiers Valley High School.  The Riverhounds participate in the United Soccer League (USL), which is recognized as the second highest level of soccer, just below the top-tier Major League Soccer (MLS) league. 

The Riverhounds mascot's name, AMO, stands for the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers, and the new stadium will be located near the confluence of those three rivers.

“It is pretty cool to see that the Riverhounds are finally going to be in Pittsburgh, and the name of the mascot, AMO, will finally make sense,” Kutney says.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Jason Kutney

Simple Green Cabinets bring sustainable design to kitchens and more

Pete Schoonmaker, owner of  Simple Green Cabinets, says his products are the most environmentally friendly on the Pittsburgh market.

So green in fact that, according to Schoonmaker, when a project reaches the end of its life expectancy you could bury an entire kitchen in the ground and not transmit any toxins into the earth. "It's all good stuff," he says.

While Simple Green Cabinets builds multipurpose cabinets, entertainment centers, bars, and does general contracting work, they primarily remodel kitchens, using materials that are non-toxic and locally sourced.

SGC’s plywood is formaldehyde-free, comprised of recycled wood fiber, and use only waterborne glues.  And while Schoonmaker says cabinet doors can be made of any material a client chooses, an emphasis is put on locally timbered wood.  Of the hardwoods Schoonmaker uses, 95% comes from Pennsylvania forests.

According to Schoonmaker, many other builders still use toxic lacquer wood finishes for cabinets, which often require EPA permits.  In contrast, he says SCG’s stains, paints, and clear-lacquers are all waterborne, safer to handle, and lack unpleasant, harmful odors.

Schoonmaker says choosing locally sourced materials, and locals builders, is increasingly important to his clients.

“People are wanting to build more responsibly,” he says. 

But being conscious of waste and resource usage also makes good business sense to Schoonmaker.

“We waste very little here --we don't waste time, we don't waste man power, and we don't waste resources,” he says.

Schoonmaker also donates his sawdust to urban gardens throughout the city.  A friend, who teaches art at a local university, takes SGC’s wood scraps for her students to work with.

“My point-of-view on being a sustainable company is if we are wasting, then we’re losing,” Schoonmaker says.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Pete Schoonmaker

Highway Robbery Vintage clothing shop opens on Carson Street

At Highway Robbery Vintage everything is one-of-a-kind -- from the clothing and jewelry to the handcrafted display fixtures and local art.  Owner Kate Minton remodeled the hundred year-old Carson Street storefront with help from family and friends, and has created a space that is as unique as the clothing for sale.

Minton says she wants to offer styles that are affordable and trendy, but also accessible.

“I’ve always liked vintage but I think some of it can be really hard for people to incorporate in their wardrobes,” she says. “So this is kind of baby-vintage…easier to wear on a daily basis.”

Minton describes the Highway Robbery style as vintage-casual.  Pieces range from the ‘50’s to the ‘90’s; anything that is on-trend and vintage.  Aside from a few kitschy, must-have Steelers and Penguins t-shirts, all items are from before 1992.

The building’s original hardwood flooring has been restored, as well as the original tin ceiling, and a terrazzo entrance with hand-laid tiles.  Minton worked with her father to build shoe displays from reclaimed barn wood.  A table in the back, made from an antique door with original knobs and hinges, was salvaged and built by her brother.  And she had help decorating from her stepmother, who is an interior designer, and a friend, who is an artist.

“I’m lucky I have a lot of creative family and friends,” Minton says.  “Everything is done in a way that I think is low impact and cool.”

Minton, who is an Art Institute of Pittsburgh graduate, asked current AI student and friend Tyler Kozar to design the Highway Robbery logo and website.  And in the next few weeks an intern from the Art Institute will begin working at the store.

“Those kids in the Art Institute don’t get enough credit,” Minton says.  “They're so hard working [and] they are super nice to work with.”

Highways Robbery is located at 1411 E. Carson Street; open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.  412-251-0818.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Kate Minton

New South Side businesses, Delanie's Coffee and Local Bar and Kitchen, open on Carson Street

Delaine's Coffee and Local Bar + Kitchen, both part of the AMPd Group management company, are East Carson Street's newest destinations on the South Side.

Delanie's Coffee held a grand opening earlier this week. The shop is serving coffee, espresso, real fruit smoothies, and house-made pastries and desserts. In addition to drinks and light eats, Delanie's offers salads and sandwiches--including jerk chicken, mojito chicken, and an heirloom tomato camprese.

Delanie's plans to stay open until midnight, offering a late night alternative to Carson Street's row of bars and clubs.

"There are people that want to come and enjoy the atmosphere on the South Side and not necessarily have a drink," at a bar, say Randy Recker, Delanie's manager.

But for those that are looking for an evening with drinks, Local Bar + Kitchen opened earlier this summer near 16th Street on Carson. Their rooftop patio, which overlooks the bustling street scene below, is the largest on the South Side. An equally large, oversized fan cools the patio, which is lit by several strings of hanging lights.

Local's decor is in keeping with the neighborhood's industrial heritage, featuring rustic wood and exposed metals. Large gears and other industrial paraphernalia hang from the walls.

The menu at Local--a neighborhood bar--offers a range of pub food, from pizza and sandwiches to burgers and wings (and does in fact feature local ingredients). An extensive beer list includes every Pittsburgh-area brewery, again staying true to the restaurant's name.

Delanie's Coffee, 1737 E. Carson Street. Local Bar + Kitchen, 1515 E. Carson Street. 412-431-1125.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Randy Recker and AMPd Group

Steel City Mongolian Grill will bring sizzling stir-fry to SouthSide Works

SouthSide Works adds more sizzle with the opening Steel City Mongolian Grill this fall.  

The new franchise will be part of bd's Mongolian Grill, known for its "create your own" stir-fry experience. While the restaurant has locations in 13 states, this is the first in Pennsylvania.

The restaurant's atmosphere is right for SouthSide Works, says Rick Belloli of the South Side Local Development Company. Diners watch as meat, seafood and vegetables are tossed and cooked on a flat grill in a nod to the Mongolian tradition of throwing large community feasts.

"It's definitely a good fit.  These establishments are destination locations," says Belloli.  "It's a lot about the entertainment and food, and that characterizes the SouthSide Works."  

The opening of the new restaurant is a bright sign after a string of retail closures. But Belloli points out that the closings were corporate and unrelated."It's a tough retail environment out there.  [SouthSide Works] is responding the way a smart business would: evolving to stay current."  

For SouthSide Works patrons, that means a new and entertaining place to eat. Steel City Mongolian Grill will occupy the former Ann Taylor Loft space on 27th Street.  

Writer: Lindsay Derda
Source:  Rick Belloli, South Side Local Development Company

South Side library due for big changes as it closes for renovations

South Side residents will have another chance to help envision their library's future this weekend, just before the branch closes for long-awaited renovations.

The South Side branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh will close on June 30 for an expected 12-month interior and exterior rehabilitation project. Library patrons and friends can consider the renovation plans during "Imagine a New Library" on Saturday, June 25.

Plans for new air conditioning and heating systems will be major improvements.  In addition, an elevator and entrance ramp will upgrade access to the East Carson Street building. 

"We've been working with the community for more than a year," says Suzanne Thinnes, a CLP spokesperson. "There have been several meetings, in which architects have brought plans to the community so that they have a say in what the library looks like."

With the branch being located in the city-designated East Carson Street Historic District, exterior renovations will follow historic guidelines.

The design will incorporate a front stair entrance, which will mimic the library's original plans.  

Thinnes points out that this particular branch was "one of Andrew Carnegie's original gifts to the city of Pittsburgh," and one of the last built through his personal donations. 

Based on data from previous renovations, CLP expects to see an increase in foot-traffic around the library and an increase in numbers of patrons after the project is completed. 

Curious library-goers can follow the project's progress on the library's website.  The "Imagine a New Library" event runs from Noon to 3:00 p.m. on June 25. 

Writer: Lindsay Derda
Source: Suzanne Thinnes, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh 

Hyatt Summerfield Suites coming to Southside Works

Construction will begin next month on the six-story, 136-unit Hyatt Summerfield Suites in Southside Works, next to Hofbräuhaus.

Aiming for LEED certification, the hotel will feature rooms ranging from extended-stay efficiency to two bedroom units. They will be furnished with 42-inch flat screen TVs, a DVD player and some will include kitchenettes.

With its location at the Southside Works and with local universities nearby, the hotel will be an ideal location for business travelers and tourists alike, says David Heaton, assistant vice President of Development at Oxford Development Company. "It's going to bring a new type of visitor that otherwise may not have been there," he adds.

Another unique aspect is its close proximity to the Great Allegheny Passage trail, which will make the hotel a destination for cyclists, Heaton explains. Bike storage and washdown areas will be available.  

Other hotel amenities include a terrace overlooking the river and 2,000 square feet of meeting rooms. It will also include a small cocktail bar, which is unusual for a Hyatt Hotel, Heaton says.

Oxford Development is working with Concord Hospitality Enterprises on the project, along with NORR Illinois, Inc. and Rycon Construction, Inc. They hope to have the hotel open by October 2012.

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Writer: Alex Audia
Source: David Heaton

Image courtesy of Oxford Development Company

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Writer: Alex Audia
Source: Jennifer Fox, CDCP

Eight neighborhoods receive Elm Street funds from URA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nearly completed $12 million South Shore Riverfront Park connects history with recreation

Riverlife and American Eagle Outfitters held a special event yesterday showcasing the nearly complete $12 million South Shore Riverfront Park, which has been under construction since July 2009, and is expected to open to the public on Memorial Day.

"South Shore Riverfront Park is the riverfront link between the Hot Metal Bridge and the existing South Side Riverfront Park. We view this project as a really show-stopping link in the overall production that is Three Rivers Park, which is Pittsburgh's 13-miles of interconnected riverfront parks," says Lisa Schroeder, executive director of Riverlife, who has overseen the project in collaboration with the City of Pittsburgh and the URA, The South Side Local Development Company, contractors A. Luberoni, and developers the Soffer Organization over the past five years. The project began with a community planning process, in which lead architects Environmental Planning and Design collaborated with the public, as well as a crew of other local and national designers.

The park, built on the former LTV Steel site, includes a riverfront walkway elevated 30-feet above the Monongahela, benches, pedestrian and vehicular access from the South Side Works, and open spaces for special events and festivals. American Eagle Outfitters, which has long housed their headquarters along the riverfront right behind the park site, showed off their contributions yesterday, which include an amphitheater, MPE projection screen, fog misters, and other colorful elements for live outdoor entertainment.

"There are numerous historical elements from the original building site. The most interesting and huge element that's been unearthed is the original pump house for the LTV Works, which is being converted into a viewing platform," says Schroeder. "This is one of those rare opportunities to connect to Pittsburgh's very distinct history of what was on the river when the rivers were the center of industrial activity."

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Lisa Schroeder, Riverlife

Image courtesy of Riverlife

South Side club, concert venue Diesel undergoes $500K makeover

After nearly four years of changing South Side nightlife, Diesel has undergone a $500,000 renovation project, with more changes still to come.

Diesel opened in 2006 in the former space of Nick's Fat City, 601 E. Carson St.

"At the time the Strip District was where all the clubs were. The South Side was all bars, no clubs," says Adam DeSimone, who owns Diesel with his brother Michael and father Patrick. The Pittsburgh family originally put about $750,000 toward turning the property into a 7,500-square-foot, two-level club and concert venue.

The recent renovations started in February 2010, and took about two months to complete, during which time the club remained opened.

The makeover includes a custom-built ceiling made of more than 32,000 LED pixel lights and a 12-foot LED video sphere, weighing nearly 1,000 pounds, that moves up and down and features a cryogenic jet system that cools down the dance floor to 35 degrees. Diesel also added VIP "skyboxes" on the second level that feature 19-inch LCD televisions and cell phone chargers. Additionally, the private back room (frequented by Pittsburgh Penguins), which was previously sectioned off with drapes, has now been enclosed with glass that switches from clear to frosted at the flip of a switch.

The renovations were a collaborative effort among co-owner Adam DeSimone's Ampd management and development group, Jim Smith's Design 4 Studio, and Drew Meyer, Deisel's entertainment director and lighting designer.

DeSimone says Ampd has another location in the works for the South Side -- a restaurant/bar that will build on Diesel's success, and provide something different than a club and concert experience.

Additionally, Diesel opened a six-pack shop this past weekend in the Fat City Pie Company portion of the building.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Adam DeSimone, Diesel

Photograph courtesy of Diesel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Julia DiNardo, Neighbor Teaze

Image courtesy of Neighbor Teaze

South Side's Riverside Mews includes Pittsburgh's first Net-Zero Energy home

CLP receives nearly $500,00 in grants Riverside Development Group has completed Pittsburgh's first Net-Zero Energy home. The 1,850-square-foot residence is part of Riverside Mews, a 48-unit townhouse community developed, starting in 2007, on a former brownfield site between 18th and 19th Streets on the South Side.

As with the rest of the development, the Net-Zero home was designed by Perkins Eastman Architects and Strada, and built by Sota Construction Services, Inc., which has built many LEED-designed projects, such as Blackbird Condominiums and Artist Studios in Lawrenceville, WYEP Community Broadcasting Center on the South Side and the Felician Sisters School and Convent in Moon Township.

The Net-Zero home generates as much power as it uses on an annual basis through an 8,000-watt photo-voltaic roof mounted array. The townhome's energy use is minimized through super-insulation methods, a geothermal heat pump, LED lighting, and other energy measures including Energy Star-rated products.

Through the Energy Star HERS rating system, a score of 100 means a home meets energy requirements, explains developer Ernie Sota. An 85 gets a home Energy Star status. "We're at a -4," says Sota, who has been involved in green building since the 1970s.

The Net-Zero home's energy performance was achieved and certified in collaboration with expert energy consultants and engineers of MaGrann Associates.

The house is listed at $489,000, and is being marketed by ERA Lechner & Associates, Inc. Federal tax incentives, including a geo-thermal tax credit, are available. A public open house will be held at the home at 1820 Merriman Way on Sat., April 24 and Sun., April 25 from noon to 4 p.m.

To date, 14 homes of Riverside Mews' planned 48 have been completed. Of those, 12 have been sold and are occupied, and two remain model units. Six more units are under construction, two of which have already sold. Homes range from 1,800 to 3,000 square feet. All homes in the development -- not just the Net-Zero home -- are designed and built to be energy efficient.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Ernie Sota, Sota Construction Services, Inc.

Photograph courtesy of Sota Construction Services, Inc.

South Side-based American Eagle to open kids' stores, expand to Middle East

American Eagle Outfitters is expanding not only locally, but also internationally.

The brand will open its first stores outside of North America later this March in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait City, with plans to expand to additional international markets in the future. The launch into the Middle Eastern market is in cooperation with Kuwait-based retailer M.H. Alshaya Co.

Closer to home, American Eagle is transitioning its temporary "pop-up shop" 77kids into a permanent retail store at the Mall at Robinson. American Eagle introduced the children's brand online-only in October 2008, then followed what was initially a temporary brick-and-mortar store in October 2009. The concept was so successful it's stuck around, and will be sticking around for much longer.

The 5,581-square-foot Pittsburgh-area 77kids will open in July 2010. Four other 77kids stores will open in the northeast in the second half of the year, an American Eagle spokesperson says.

American Eagle recently announced it is closing its Martin+Osa brand, including all stores and online business. American Eagle expects to open 14 new AE stores and complete 20 AE store remodels in 2010, in addition to opening 20 new aerie stores and its first five 77kids stores.

American Eagle's corporate headquarters is located in Soffer Organization's SouthSide Works.

"We believe in the vision for that development and for Pittsburgh. It's a perfect fit with the AE brand--a dynamic urban environment that fosters both creativity and productivity among our employees," the spokesperson says. "AEO Inc. believes in Pittsburgh and the quality of life that the city has to offer our employees."

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: American Eagle Outfitters spokesperson

Photograph courtesy of American Eagle

The river life: Planned South Side marina could be full-service with "resort"-like bar

See a movie. Do some shopping. Sip a cold one while gazing at the sun-dappled waters of the Monongahela River. Hop on your boat and head home.

With the South Side marina planning underway, this fantasy could become a reality by 2012.

The URA recently approved David Maxwell as developer of the marina. Maxwell is now doing planning work and predevelopment for the marina with a $30,000 grant from the URA to determine if the project is feasible. Maxwell, who owns and operates the Fox Chapel Yacht Club, has proposed to build and operate a full-service marina with about 320 slips that would be leased on a seasonal basis, as well as a public docking facility that would accommodate about 17 boats. Maxwell also says he's looking to put a bar or restaurant in the marina that will be open to the public, not just boaters.

"With Pittsburgh's three rivers, there are so many boats per capita, but there's actually very little in the city for boaters," says Maxwell. "There are other smaller marinas, but we're looking to do something different, very state-of-the-art and very resort-like, something we feel Pittsburgh deserves."

The marina would be privately run, but part of the public South Shore Riverfront Park, a $12 million redevelopment at the SouthSide Works, says Megan Stearman with the URA. The handicap-accessible project will include the marina and docking facility, as well as an outdoor amphitheater, water access, and interpretive signage and historical trail marking, continuing the Three Rivers Heritage Trail system and Great Allegheny Passage. At completion, the park will become a multi-model hub, connecting to the Hot Metal Pedestrian Bridge and bike trail.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: David Maxwell, Fox Chapel Yacht Club; Megan Stearman, URA

Image courtesy of URA

Greening the South Side: Residents plant nearly two dozen street trees

South Side will begin to look greener in the spring thanks to Kim Collins.

Back in March, she and a friend were talking over wine one night, trying to think of something they could do in their community. "And we came up with trees," says Collins. "I live on Wharton Street and there was, like, one tree on my block."

Collins, who is the owner and creative director of South Side-based graphic design firm Blue Tomato, worked to create the South Side Pittsburgh Tree Project with the help of neighbors and nearly 45 volunteers.

In October, they planted 21 trees ranging from maples to lilacs on the 1900 block of Wharton Street.

To start the project, Collins researched and found the TreeVitalize program, a partnership between five organizations including the city, county and state and two nonprofits, including the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. The goal of the program, according to its website, is to "plant 20,000 trees by 2012 throughout the Pittsburgh region in order to improve quality of life and the environment."

Once assisted by TreeVitalize, Collins and other leaders went door-to-door asking residents if they would water and take care of trees if the South Side Pittsburgh Tree Project took care of planting. Twenty-one residents agreed to this arrangement for the first planting.

Riverset Credit Union aided the project by paying for the website and marketing, as well as a banner on Sarah and 11th Streets that asks, "Want A Free Tree?"

The South Side Pittsburgh Tree Project wants add at least 300 to 400 more trees in the South Side over the next four years.

Currently, 4,500 trees have been planted in Allegheny County through TreeVitalize.

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Writer: Pop City Staff
Source: Kim Collins, South Side Pittsburgh Tree Project

Image courtesy of South Side Pittsburgh Tree Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of Razzy Fresh

PBT, CLO purchase properties for housing students, building sets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph of Mame production courtesy of CLO

Science Center gives SportsWorks $5M facelift with new building

SportsWorks--one of the Carnegie Science Center's most popular exhibits--is returning this December after closing in late August 2008.

The science-of-sport exhibition, which originally opened in 2001, was experienced by 3 million visitors in its initial location, and will reopen Dec. 19 in a new facility adjacent to the main Science Center building on the North Shore. The exhibit was previously housed in the former Miller Printing Co. building a block from the Science Center campus. The move to relocate the facility was accelerated by Port Authority's construction of a transit station at SportsWorks' previous spot.

"SportsWorks has 30 hands-on exhibits, including rock climbing, a trampoline, a food pyramid game and the new You-Yo exhibit, which whisks visitors 15 feet into the air," says Christine Line with the Science Center.

The exhibits are fun, says Line, but also educational--they teach visitors about the physics of sports, healthy nutrition and more in a dynamic, high-energy way.

The new Highmark SportsWorks building and exhibit cost $5 million, and broke ground in November 2008. The 20,000-square-foot building, which houses the 12,000-square-foot exhibit as well as four classrooms and a multi-purpose room with a spill-out space, was designed by South Side-based Renaissance 3 Architects. Mascaro Construction of Pittsburgh served as general contractor.

The new SportsWorks location provides a direct visual connection to the Carnegie Science Center through a transparent glazed curtain wall that wraps around the northwest corner of the pre-engineered building frame. The building's transparency allows SportsWorks' exhibits to figuratively reach out to visitors as they transition across the site, says Deepak Wadhwani, a principal at Renaissance 3 Architects. The building utilizes recycled content, regional materials and large low-airflow paddle fans to circulate air in lieu of traditional ductworks. It is registered to become LEED certified.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Christine Line, Carnegie Science Center; Deepak Wadhwani, Renaissance 3 Architects

Image courtesy of Renaissance 3 Architects

With 200 additional racks, city nearly doubles bike parking spaces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph courtesy City of Pittsburgh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph courtesy of Port Authority of Allegheny County

American Eagle Outfitters opens pop-up brick-and-mortar kids shop

American Eagle Outfitters is testing the retail waters by opening its first-ever brick-and-mortar kids store as a temporary pop-up shop. And where is the South Side-based brand debuting this fashionable, fun endeavor? New York? L.A.? Think again. 77kids, which targets kids aged 2 to 10, opened last week at The Mall at Robinson.

The 77kids brand is named after the year 1977, when American Eagle was founded. 77kids was launched a year ago, in October 2008, as an online-only component of American Eagle's offerings, which include the flagship brand that targets teens and young adults (953 stores in the U.S. and Canada), an intimates line called aerie, and Martin + Osa, which targets adult men and women (28 stores, including one at Ross Park Mall, the only in the state of Pennsylvania). The 77kids pop-up shop, which will be open for 77 days throughout the holiday season, is located on The Mall at Robinson's second floor, next to the food court.

The 863,791-square-foot regional shopping center, which includes more than 120 shops, by was a perfect fit for this endeavor, says Betsy Schumacher, senior VP of merchandising for 77kids.

"77kids has found such success online, and this is a chance to interact with customers in a very real, tangible way," Schumacher says. "The Pittsburgh ZIP codes are some of top ZIP codes. We have great local customers."

And because 77kids knows the way to a kid's heart is through whoopee pies and fresh-baked cookies, the brand is working with local roaming bakery the Goodie Truck on promotions, including special discounts and giveaways.

American Eagle is planning to open permanent 77kids locations in 2010. No sites have been named yet, but Schumacher says, "we're obviously part of the fabric of this city, and would love to be able to have a store here."

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Betsy Schumacher, senior VP of merchandising for 77kids, and Jani Strand, VP public relations/corporate communications, American Eagle Outfitters

Photograph courtesy of American Eagle Outfitters

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

Urban Redevelopment Authority connects the dots and the dollars

The Urban Redevelopment Authority's name and logo can be found on signs throughout the city announcing change. New housing in the Hill District, new brownfield site redevelopment on both sides of the Monongahela River, new luxury condos and outdoor green space Downtown, new mixed-use development of the North Side's former porn theater, and more.

But these kinds of change take time.

On Friday, the URA--the city's economic development agency--connected the dots around Pittsburgh with a tour showcasing millions of dollars worth of investments in various stages--from the $5 million Market Square makeover, which got under way this summer; to the $20 million Federal Hill Homes on the North Side, all of which presold before completion; to the nearly $40 million August Wilson Center, which held its grand opening gala in September and will be open to the community on Oct. 28.

"With the G-20, we saw Pittsburgh on steroids," said Rob Stephany, executive director of the URA. "This is about putting all the projects into context, and juxtaposing that Pittsburgh with more of the boutique qualities of development."

The tour focused on Downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods, including the North Side and the South Side, which is home to Soffer Organization's 123-acre SouthSide Works (total cost to date: about $450 million). Special attention was paid, too, to Uptown and the Hill District, which have become increasingly key in Downtown redevelopment with the construction of the Consol Energy Center.

The URA may have led the tour, but was careful not to take full credit for projects' successes. Speakers included Ralph Falbo, of the 82-unit, $28 million 151 First Side condos Downtown, and Scott Pollock with Oxford Development Company, which is behind Three PNC Plaza. Projected to be one of the nation's largest LEED-certified mixed-use buildings, the 25-story space will house, among other offices and amenities, Pittsburgh's first four-star hotel, the Fairmont Hotel, in March 2010.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Dave Thomas and Rob Stephany, URA; Ralph Falbo, Falbo, Inc.; Scott Pollock, Oxford Development Company

Image of Federal Hill Homes courtesy of URA

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

Dozen grants South Side wish: Sweet treats along Carson Street

South Side residents will now have a spot to hit up when their sweet teeth ring.

The neighborhood, which has been without a bakery, is the latest area to get a Dozen Bake Shop of its very own.

"We're always asking residents what they'd like to see come to the South Side, and the first thing they always say is a bakery," says Jennifer Strang with South Side Local Development Company. "We have lots of little coffee shops, but no one producing their own treats. Dozen will be a welcome addition."

Dozen, which opened its first shop almost four years ago, also has locations in Squirrel Hill, Lawrenceville, Downtown's Cultural District and in the Andy Warhol Museum on the North Side. It will be opening its fifth location in early November at 1509 E. Carson St., which has been vacant for the last several years.

The cozy South Side storefront is near Amazing Yoga, the Carson Street Deli and E House, which sells natural household products, recycled accessories and gifts, and other eco-friendly items. Dozen's new shop is located directly adjacent to the Beneficial Building, which has been undergoing a $4 million renovation over the last five years. The Beneficial Building won an Historic Preservation Award this year from the City of Pittsburgh and the Historic Review Commission, and will soon be home to the South Side Local Development Company, which is planning a late fall/early winter move.

Dozen's South Side shop will offer similar goodies to its Downtown location (brunch is still a Lawrenceville-only treat), and seating in the 555-square-foot space will be limited.

Dozen now has about 25 employees across the city, says Andew Twigg, who owns Dozen with James Gray

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Jennifer Strang, South Side Local Development Company; Andrew Twigg, Dozen

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

StepTrek highlights historic, still-used South Side Slopes amenity

Pittsburgh's unique topography has made us famous for our bridges. But bridges are not the terrain's only byproduct. It's also created a vast, and largely overlooked, system of public steps that snakes up and down our hillsides, connecting neighborhoods to one another and pedestrians to the places we most want and need to go.

Like most of Pittsburgh's heritage, the steps have roots in the steel industry (workers would use them to navigate between home and the mills). But today, the steps continue to be important as both an historical landmark and as a practical way to walk around.

Pittsburgh has 712 sets of steps, more than any other city in the country--as many as both runners-up Cincinnati and San Francisco combined. Almost 70 of our city's neighborhoods have these steps, and the South Side Slopes is home to nearly 10 percent of Pittsburgh's steps--that's about 5,447 stairs (totaling 2,995 vertical feet) that intertwine with the streets and sidewalks of the neighborhood that rises above Carson Street.

The South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA) is holding its StepTrek event on Sun., Oct 4. The tour is self-guided (participants are provided with maps), with suggested stops at about 15 area open houses, and concludes with eats, drinks and live music.

StepTrek, which has been held annually since 2000, has a twofold purpose--expose the world to the South Side Slopes' prized amenity (participants have registered from as far as Rochester, N.Y. and Washington, D.C.), and get the steps the tender, loving care they need. Each year, the StepTrek route changes, because each year, the neighborhood association submits the route to Public Works for repairs.

"They trim the grass and the bushes, and fix the trails and the railings that have rusted. StepTrek is fun, but also productive," says Joe Balaban with SSSNA, which addresses the step's higher-risk maintenance issues as they arise throughout the year.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Joa Balaban, South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association

Photography courtesy of South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association

PNC completes Downtown park, largest living wall in North America

PNC has completed the creation of two of Downtown's newest green spaces--PNC Triangle Park and a living wall, which is the largest in North America.

The 8,000-square-foot Triangle Park, designed by South Side-based LaQuatra Bonci Associates, is located at Liberty and Fifth Avenues adjacent to the new Three PNC Plaza. The pet-friendly park includes bench seating as well as a new bus shelter.

The living wall, located one block from the park, is not only the largest on the continent--it is also the largest soil-based living wall in the world (bigger walls are hydroponic). The 2,380-square-foot vertical garden stretches six stories tall on the south-facing side of One PNC Plaza. The wall reduces traffic noise, impacts stormwater runoff, purifies the air and is visually appealing, says Gary Saulson with PNC. A street-level, 2-by-2-foot green wall educates passersby about the larger, overhead installation.

The wall is a product of Green Living Technologies of Rochester, N.Y. and designed by Mingo Design of New York. PNC acquired all hardware, plants, materials and installers within a 500 mile radius of Pittsburgh.

"Having the largest living wall in North America is another thing that puts the city of Pittsburgh on the map," says Saulson. "Visitors who are expecting a dirty, smoky city are instead going to be surprised by Pittsburgh's beauty and innovation."

PNC has 66 LEED-certified buildings, more than any other company in the world. The company is nearing completion of the 750,000-square-foot, 23-story Three PNC Plaza, which is expected to be one of the nation's largest green mixed-use buildings. It will house the offices of PNC and law firm Reed Smith, as well as a LEED-certified Fairmont Hotel, luxury condominiums, retail space and an underground parking garage.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Gary Saulson, director of corporate real estate, PNC

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

Overrun South Side Park to get reclaimed, revitalized

For years, the 65-acre South Side Park has been little-known by residents in the surrounding South Side Flats, South Side Slopes and Arlington neighborhoods. It's become overgrown with invasive species, and its fields, trails, playground and former ice arena have gone all but unused.

To identify the steps needed to reclaim and revitalize the park into a usable greenspace, the South Side Local Development Company (SSLDC) commissioned a study through the environmental engineering firm Skelly & Loy in December 2008.

On Sat., Sept. 12, SSLDC, in partnership with the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association, is hosting the first-ever event in the six-year, half-million dollar Reclaim and Revitalize South Side Park plan--a volunteer-staffed effort to remove invasive plant species that endanger the vitality of plants and wildlife native to the park.

"The majority of the neighborhood and the city is totally unaware that this park is here," says Judy Dyda with SSLDC. "The dual purpose of the event is to begin the process of reclaiming the park, and also to introduce people to the fact that there is this phenomenal greenspace in their backyard, and that with some love and attention, it can be a tremendous neighborhood asset that improves their quality of life and also increases property values."

Saturday's event, which runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., meets at Bandi Schaum Field, off Mission Street, which is off of 18th Street.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Judy Dyda, manager of community planning/Elm Street manager, SSLDC

Photograph courtesy South Side Local Development Company

Rivas Nicaraguan restaurant relocates to South Side

After opening and shuttering two restaurants under the same name and concept in Etna and Carnegie, Rivas is back. This time it's on the South Side, at 601 E. Carson St, in the space previously occupied by Mantini's Wood Fired, which is now at 1209 E. Carson St., in the heart of the business district.

The family-owned Nicaraguan restaurant was flooded out of Etna in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan, and the owners realized during their three years in Carnegie that most of customers were driving in from the east. So why not relocate closer to the customers?

"Everything we do, we do for our customers," says Izayana Rivas, who--with her husband and brothers--helps her parents Antonio and Angela Rivas run the restaurant. "It didn't make sense for the customers to travel through two tunnels to get to us, so we came to the South Side. It's such a melting pot here of people and food."

The 10,000-square-foot space, which opened at the end of July, can seat up to 100 people, and includes a bar (Rivas is BYOB for now, though), as well as a small stage for musical performances. The walls are a warm, orangey red, and the decorations simple and tropical in theme.

Rivas serves traditional Nicaraguan food, which Izayana explains as being "tangy" rather than "spicy," with lots of lemon and garlic and plantains. The menu at the South Side spot includes some Mexican staples, but fewer than at the previous locations. Highlights include homemade tortillas, Nicaraguan enchiladas, which are nothing like their Mexican counterpart, and a lunch special where patrons can pick from an assortment of buffet-style dishes.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Izayana and Angela Rivas

Photo copyright Caralyn Green

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

Construction begins on $12M South Shore Riverfront Park

Construction began Tuesday on the $12 million South Shore Riverfront Park within the $400 million SouthSide Works development.

The public park is being built on the former LTV steel site, adjacent to the SouthSide Works between 25th and 29th Streets along the Monongahela River. It will be accessible by car, bus, foot, bike or boat to those who live, work and play at or around the SouthSide Works. The development's Town Square currently features a Golden Triangle Bike Rental spot, and the park will increase recreational access to the river by including a permanent docking facility to accommodate 17 boats.

"The park opens up this section of the river to public access for the first time in a century," says Rick Belloli with South Side Local Development Company. "This green space was always a part of the SouthSide Works' master plan, and the community has been so supportive, active and engaged in making sure the park provides world-class amenities for the whole city."

The project will include interpretive signage developed and funded in part by Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, which will be maintained by Friends of the Riverfront. Historic trail markers throughout the park will continue the Three Rivers Heritage Trail system and Great Allegheny Passage. At completion, the park will connect to the Hot Metal Pedestrian Bridge and the South Side bike trail.

The park will also feature an amphitheatre, fountains, benches and proximity to the SouthSide Works' shops and restaurants, including Hofbräuhaus beer hall, which opened this spring and includes riverfront outdoor seating.

Downtown-based Environmental Planning and Design provided architectural services, and A. Liberoni, Inc. is serving as general contractor.

Developed by the Soffer Organization, the 34-acre SouthSide Works has created more than 2,000 jobs. At full build-out, it will provide about 5,600 jobs and more than 400 housing units.

Completion of the South Shore Riverfront Park is anticipated for 2012. Other existing South Side parks include South Side Riverfront Park, the 65-acre South Side Park and various playgrounds and recreational fields.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Rick Belloli, executive director, South Side Local Development Company; Megan Stearman, public information officer, URA

Image courtesy Urban Redevelopment Authority

$5M Market Square makeover expected to break ground in August

Downtown Pittsburgh's historic Market Square is just about ready to start its renovations.

Last week, the Urban Redevelopment Authority awarded a $4.1 million contract to A. Merante Contracting for new roadways, street and site lighting, grading, landscaping, irrigation, vehicular and pedestrian traffic control, and other utility work.

Construction is scheduled to begin August 1. To minimize obstructions, work will be done by quadrant, and is not expected to block businesses.

The total project cost is around $5.1 million, which includes engineering and design as well as some funds for programming once the square is complete in 2010. Funding comes from a combination of city, foundation and corporate support.

The square, which was most recently renovated in the 1980s, will be given a pedestrian-friendly, European piazza-like makeover, with traffic moved to the edges and sidewalks widened to 21 feet to encourage outdoor dining, says Mike Edwards with Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP). Tables, Elm trees and decorative stone surfaces will be featured, says Dina Klavon, with South Side-based Klavon Design Associates, Inc., which provided landscape architecture services. The new space will make cultural programming easier, Klavon says, as it can be divided by quadrant for smaller events like concerts, or can be shut down entirely for events such as St. Patrick's Day celebrations.

"Market Square was somewhat abandoned, and through the vision of the mayor, we realized that if we can fix Market Square, we can fix a lot of Downtown real estate issues," says Edwards of the PDP. "If you give people a pleasant place to sit and dine, and people watch and enjoy entertainment, they'll come."

Market Square is also the hub for several Downtown residential projects, including Three PNC Plaza and MarketSquare Place, as well as the Fairmont Hotel.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Mike Edwards, president and CEO, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership; Dina Klavon, Klavon Design Associates, Inc.

Image courtesy Carlos Peterson, Klavon Design

22-unit green townhouse residence breaks ground in Mt. Washington

Sweetbriar Village, Mt. Washington's latest environmentally responsible residential option, broke ground on Thursday.

The single and multi-family townhouses will be constructed by Pomo Development/Sweetbriar Street LLP on an abandoned site at 406 Sweetbriar St., last used 12 years ago for a grocery store.

Sweetbriar Village will feature 22 residences, ranging from 2,000 to 3,000 square-feet, and priced from $325,000 through the mid-$400,000s. Landscaping, by South Side's LaQuatra Bonci Associates, includes a central courtyard, picnic areas and a walkway leading to the nearby public park system.

Of Sweetbriar's 22 residences, two have already been sold, says Jeff Paul with Pomo Development and Coldwell Banker Real Estate Services in Squirrel Hill.

Paul says Pomo will use recycled and environmentally conscious materials, and is also located within walking distance of the Duquesne Incline, Grandview Avenue and the bus line.

Coldwell Banker, which is marketing the project, is also involved in Vista Grande, a Mt. Washington luxury residential building featuring 11 for-sale condos priced from the mid-$500,000s. One penthouse unit has been sold, and construction, which began in July 2008, is about 80-percent complete, says Paul.

Coldwell Banker is so invested in Mt. Washington, says Bill Dietrich with the real estate company, because "for every one person who wants to live Downtown, there are probably 20 who want to live close to Downtown. So much is happening close to the city, and Mt. Washington is right in the middle of it. We want to focus on bringing families with children back to the city, and we're doing that with Sweetbriar Village."

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Jeff Paul, sales associate, and Bill Dietrich, director of New Homes Division, Coldwell Banker Real Estate

Image courtesy Coldwell Banker

Green Building Alliance awarded first LEED Platinum certification in western Pa.

The Green Building Alliance has achieved the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification in western Pennsylvania from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

LEED Platinum is the highest rating given by USGBC for design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings.

GBA is the first USGB chapter or affiliate nationally to achieve LEED certification for its offices, and was awarded 75 percent of the total points available under the LEED for Commercial Interiors program.

"It's a wonderful accomplishment, but on a more practical level, it's a great asset for our employees," says Holly Childs, GBA executive director. "It's a healthy, energy-efficient workspace, and most importantly, it gives us a teaching tool to showcase green building in the region."

GBA's 3,850-square-foot office, which was designed and constructed in 2008, is located in the South Side's River Walk Corporate Centre. Nearly all furnishings are reused, salvaged or refurbished, and new materials include those that are manufactured locally and rapidly renewable. The office also features bike racks as well as an on-site shower to encourage cycling to work.

"We're a nonprofit, so we worked hard to achieve what we did with limited means," says Aurora Sharrard with GBA. "We want to use the office as a demonstration tool for what anyone can do, from green construction to corporate practices such as using environmentally friendly cleaning products, recycling paper and bottles, and responsibly disposing of electronic equipment."

In western Pennsylvania, there are more than 55 LEED-certified projects, and another 130 projects that are registered as pursuing LEED certification.

The LEED plaque presentation will be held 3:30 p.m. Friday at GBA's offices.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Holly Childs, executive director, and Aurora Sharrard, Ph.D., research manager, Green Building Alliance

Image courtesy Green Building Alliance

Nearly $50K awarded to Garfield, Mt. Washington for residential revitalization

Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has authorized Garfield and Mt. Washington’s community development corporations to receive state-funded Elm Street grants.

Elm Street is the residential companion to the Mainstreets program, which focuses on neighborhood business district revitalization. Both are part of the Department of Community and Economic Development’s New Communities Program.

Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation was allocated $20,400 for use in Garfield, and Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation was allocated $25,000. Both neighborhoods were approved for their Planning Year, which does not guarantee full five-year funding. Within the upcoming year, the neighborhoods are expected to develop implementable goals and strategies for their proposed Elm Street districts, says Josette Fitzgibbons with the URA.

Elm Street’s other neighborhoods—East Liberty, North Side, South Side, Lawrenceville and Friendship—have used funding for a variety of projects, including residential façade grants, street trees, sidewalk repairs, trash cans, block watches, alleyway lighting and acquiring and demolishing problem properties.

“This part of Garfield has seen some new investments coming in around the fringes, but not in the heart,” says Richard Swartz with Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation. “We want to use the Elm Street program to get residents more optimistic about the future and investing in their communities.”

Greg Panza, with Mt. Washington CDC, says Elm Street funding will branch the Mt. Washington and Duquesne Heights districts, and also attract new property buyers once area senior citizens vacate their homes to move into the senior housing facility being built at the neighborhood’s former South Hills High School site.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Josette Fitzgibbons, Mainstreets/Elm Street coordinator, URA; Richard Swartz, executive director, Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation; Greg Panza, program manager, Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

Bike rental shop, fashion boutique to open at SouthSide Works

SouthSide Works will be seeing some changes early this summer.

Golden Triangle Bike Rental, in its third year of operation along Downtown’s Eliza Furnace Trail, is opening a second location in the Works’ Town Square area; and women’s fashion boutique Via is opening in the former space of L.S. Altman men’s store, which closed in April.

“I’m in the business of selling the city and the trail system more than the business of renting bikes,” says Golden Triangle co-owner Tom Demagall. “From the SouthSide Works, it’s easy to do that.”

The rental spot, with quick access to the South Side Trail, will have about 20 brand-new bikes available, and is slated to open May 29.

Sharone Cohen, a partner in Via boutique, anticipates opening his 1,512 square-foot shop by June 1. Cohen, who emigrated from Israel a decade ago, previously operated Via in South Beach, Fla. for six years, and decided to relocate to Pittsburgh to be closer to family and friends. Cohen will feature American and European brands, and is planning a section that features local, young designers.

“We would like to promote the art of fashion design in Pittsburgh,” Cohen says.

SouthSide Works recently saw the opening of a new Schoolhouse Yoga location, as well as Hofbrauhaus beer garden. The site’s developer, Soffer Organization, is also planning to build 130 new apartments and a 760-car parking garage. Both projects are currently in design and should be started this year, according to Pamelyn McMahon with Soffer.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Tom Demagall, Golden Triangle Bike Rental; Sharone Cohn, Via; Pamelyn McMahon, director of marketing; Soffer Organization

Image courtesy Soffer Organization

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

Schoolhouse Yoga expands with new SouthSide Works location

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

Brew Castle on the Mon: Hofbräuhaus gears up for opening events

By now, you’ve spotted the white castle-like structure taking shape along the Mon. After much thirsty anticipation, Hofbräuhaus will mark its soft opening at SouthSide Works March 16.

“We’re turning the lights on and opening the doors. I may wear my lederhosen but it won’t be anything special,” says managing partner Nick Ellison, who opened the country’s first Hofbräuhaus in Newport, Kentucky in 2003. “We’ll do better in Pittsburgh because of our proximity to universities, the ability to do a big lunch business, and we’re bigger.”

Located at 2705 S. Water St. near the Cheesecake Factory, the 18,125-square-foot destination is one third larger than its Newport counterpart. “We found on the South Side what is a square hole for a square peg—it fits us perfectly. We wanted it badly enough to wait,” adds the longtime developer, who says Newport's Hofbräuhaus serves 300,000 patrons annually. “Pittsburgh is rediscovering what an economic asset the rivers are in all regards—it’s a big draw.”

Hofbräuhaus will serve four daily beers and one monthly seasonal brew.  Breumeister Eckhart Kurbjuhn, a Munich native who ran a brewery in Nigeria, has worked all over the globe. With seating for 1,020 in summer and 598 in winter, the building features a variety of interior spaces and rooflines, including an octagonal tower that evokes medieval Bavaria and resembles a bier stein.

Al fresco dining abounds in the Vorgarten and Terrasse, while the private Bräustüberl features barrel truss ceilings. For the classic beer hall aura, check out the 376-seat Bavarian Biergarten with long wooden benches and tables. Designed by Covington, Kentucky-based Andy Piascovy, the project was constructed by Imperial Builders, Inc.

On April 29, Hofbräuhaus will host a grand opening and tap its Maibock beer.

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Nicholas C. Ellison, Hofbräuhaus Pittsburgh, LLC

Photograph of Eckhart Kurbjuhn (left) and Nick Ellison (right) copyright Brian Cohen

Pittsburgh Cares celebrates MLK Day with two unique community events

Pittsburgh Cares offers two unique ways to celebrate Martin Luther King Day this year. On Saturday, Jan. 17 from 11am-1pm for $20 per person, you can take part in one of seven Neighborhood Diversity Crawls. Crawls take place in the West End/Mt. Washington, Lawrenceville, Bloomfield/Friendship, South Side, Regent Square, Strip District, and Oakmont and include a narrated tour, sampling of various traditional foods and beverages, exploration of locally owned businesses, and fun facts like who Lawrenceville is named for and what Oakmont claims as the largest in the country.

“Last year we lead one tour to four different places throughout the city, but this year we wanted to highlight Pittsburgh’s diverse neighborhoods and help boost the local economy at the same time,” says Kristin Brown with Pittsburgh Cares.

In addition, Pittsburgh Cares has teamed up with Manchester Craftsmen's Guild to host their MLK: Celebrate the Dream event. On Monday, Jan. 19 from 10am-12pm, more than 350 youth and adult volunteers will design and construct upwards of 75 "diversity shelves." The wooden bookcases will be adorned with words and images from the Civil Rights Movement and will serve as a platform for initiating dialogue around race relations, community organizing, volunteerism, and diversity. From 12-1pm local performing artists will showcase their talents as the volunteers unite in celebration of Dr. King's dream for a community that respects and embraces diversity.

“After the event our volunteer groups will present the shelves filled with books to local schools so the discussion of diversity continues throughout the year.”

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Writer: Lauren Urbschat
Source: Kristin Brown, Pittsburgh Cares

Cycling and cuisine combine at the South Side's new OTB Bicycle Cafe

A new South Side cafe is combining a passion for cycling and cuisine.

Housed within a historic property at 2518 East Carson St., Over the Bar (OTB) Bicycle Café will debut its lunch and dinner menu on Jan. 12. Avid mountain biker Mike Kotyk— who has 15 years’ restaurant experience—teamed up with John Benzinger and Scott Ambrose to launch the cafe.

“I did serious research developing my business plan,” adds Kotyk, 35, who designs greenways and trails with Pashek Associates. “It reflects my professional and personal life and connections in the bike community.”

Inspired by Chicago’s Handlebar and Quaker Steak & Lube, where he worked in Sharon, PA, Kotyk speaks passionately about Pittsburgh’s sustainable bike and  pedestrian developments and hopes to establish an OTB bike club and historic ride.

The first-of-its-kind in western Pennsylvania, the family-friendly café features colorful ceiling murals by Ashley Hodder and “art bikes” constructed by THICK Bikes owner Chris Beech. Red Star Ironworks artist Grace Catranis used recycled bike parts to create OTB’s wall sconces. With seating for 60, Kotyk hopes to draw lunch crowds from nearby South Side Works, American Eagle and UPMC.

OTB’s creative menu features appetizers, burgers  and entrees named for bike terms, trails and organizations, such as the Dirt Rag Delight (burger with pickles and peanut butter), Tangled Spokes (baked soft pretzels) and Bicycle Advocate, a culinary nod to Bike Pgh. Its full bar serves craft beers like East End Brewery’s Pedal Pale Ale.

Chef Taylor Knoebel previously worked at Nine on Nine and Stone Mansion, while manager Marty Maloney returned to Pittsburgh after running restaurants in Las Vegas.

OTB’s grand opening is Jan. 30.

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Mike Kotyk, Over the Bar (OTB) Bicycle Cafe

Image courtesy Mike Kotyk

Zombie film warehouse to urban loft: South Side redevelopment nears completion

A South Side property with a storied past is set to debut as a modern loft-style residence.

Located at 2330 Larkins Way—along a block occupied by many of the neighborhood’s original Polish residents—the two-bedroom 2,400-square-foot property includes two bathrooms, a two-car garage and two gas fireplaces. Just blocks from South Side Works and East Carson St., the free-standing brick home also features new mechanicals, stained concrete floors, radiant heat, and sliding glass doors.

“I've tried to create a unique product. It has the loft-condo feel without the cookie cutter look or high association fees,” says developer Mark Frankovitch of MFranko Properties, a broker with Downtown-based Pennsylvania Commercial Real Estate. “The South Side has remained a hot area. It’s marketing itself with word-of-mouth interest.”

Constructed in the late 1800’s, the building originally house a Livingston Steel machine shop and was later a storage facility for Karl Hardman, producer of George Romero’s legendary zombie film, Night of the Living Dead.  

After purchasing the building in April 2008, Frankovitch began converting the warehouse/garage into a loft-style house, sandblasting the 100-year-old brick, and creating an interior courtyard. The project’s urban-industrial look blends historic brickwork with modern Hardie panel and sheet metal, decorative spiral ductwork, and a designer kitchen.

Frankovitch, who believes that Pittsburgh’s residential market will remain stable, expects the home to sell in the high $300,000s. “I’m looking for other unique historic properties in the city,” adds Frankovitch, who worked with BP Construction. “I look for potential where none else sees it.” For more information, call 412-613-5966.

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Mark Frankovitch, MFranko Properties

Image courtesy Mark Frankovitch

Upscale green town home projects debut new model, start next phase on South Side

Riverside Mews and Windom Hill Place—two of Pittsburgh’s innovative green living developments—have debuted a new model unit and kicked-off second phases of construction. The 2,300-square-foot Energy Star-compliant model, now available for $480,331, features a contemporary design, espresso finishes and quartz countertops.

At Riverside Mews—the South Side’s largest green residential community—work has started on six new town homes. Ranging in size from 1,800 to 2,900 square feet, the three-story units will be priced between $415,000 and $530,000. Designed by Perkins Eastman and Strada, the 48-unit project is located at 18th St. and Riverfront Park.

Since its grand opening in Nov. 2007, seven of Riverside’s first eight units have sold. Built according to Energy Star standards, Riverside features FSC-certified wood, Greenguard flooring materials and significant energy saving systems. “They all have small yards, which is great for the city,” says Kathryn Barry, with Prudential Preferred Realty, who expects occupancy to start in March 2009. “Things are looking good for Pittsburgh.” One new unit, which features a fourth floor, has pre-sold for $580,000.

Construction on Windom’s four new units, priced at $745,000 and located above McArdle Roadway, will begin after the first unit is sold. Windom’s award-winning Craftsman-style town homes were designed by John Martine of Strada. The 3,000-square-foot units feature three bedrooms, four levels of outdoor space, and earth friendly bamboo, cork and cast stone interiors.

“We have people relocating to Pittsburgh from other states,” adds Barry, who’s been featured on HGTV's My House is Worth What? “There’s still mortgage money out there.” Contractor for both projects is Sota Construction Services.

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Kathryn Barry, Prudential Preferred Realty

Image courtesy Prudential Preferred Realty

Big Dog Coffee Shop perks up South Side in renovated Sarah St. property

Brewing up high-quality cappuccinos in a creative and cozy setting, Big Dog Coffee Shop is the South Side’s newest gathering space.

Located at 2717 Sarah St., the 1,500-square-foot shop specializes in coffees and teas from Chicago-based Intelligentsia and locally-baked desserts, including cupcakes from Vanilla Pastry Studio, as well as Ho hos and whoppie pies, apricot bars, and cobblers and ice cream.

A labor of love for Cortney Eshelman Ivanov and her Bulgarian-born husband Nikolay—classical musicians who returned to Pittsburgh after a 10-year stint in Dallas—Big Dog features original floor-to-ceiling wood cabinetry, a fireplace and piano, upholstered rocking chairs, and patio seating. The pair purchased the turn-of-the-century property—formerly Kohler’s Bakery—and are renovating its upper residential floors.

“We want to be present in the neighborhood. Pittsburgh is such a great city,” says Cortney Ivanov, a self-described “mocha girl,” whose parents run award-winning South Side Morning Glory Inn bed and breakfast, also on Sarah St.

The couple hired designer Kim Barnes and contractor Larry Mayo to create the shop’s marble-topped counters, powder blue beadboard ceiling and lime green walls. “We want it to be creative and well done,” adds Ivanov, who has three young sons and is a bassoonist with The Dallas Opera. “We want it to be comfortable for families.”

Named to honor the large canines in the Ivanov’s extended family, Big Dog also features free Wi-Fi and a drive-through parking area along Carey Way. “People are looking outward from Starbucks,” adds Ivanov, who plans to host live music. “Coffee purists can come here and be pleased.”

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Cortney Eshelman Ivanov, Big Dog Coffee Shop

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

Bright Innovation completes new offices in Pittsburgh, quadruples in size

With its recent move to the South Side’s historic Terminal Buildings, product development firm Bright Innovation has quadrupled in size and expects to hire new designers.

Previously housed within a 600-square-foot space above Penn Brewery on Pittsburgh’s North Side, the firm has occupied its new 3,200-square-foot offices at 333 E. Carson St.

Encompassing two former warehouse bays, the 70-foot long space—designed by Bright Innovation’s Jason Howe—features open studios, offices, a fabrication shop, and flexible project space. Incorporating reused and repurposed materials was central to the design, which features doors, windows and decorative accents culled from Construction Junction, natural light, ceiling and in-wall fans, existing stairwells, and a reception desk constructed from recycled brick.

“It’s a great accessible location for us. It was a blank industrial space we made into something fun and funky,” says Tom Kubilius, 40, who founded Bright Innovation in 2005. “Pittsburgh’s a great welcoming place and a fairly safe environment to start a new business. We have amazing design resources and great talent. There’s more going on here than people realize.”

Designer Jason Deperro recently left Apple in California to come to join Bright Innovation’s nine-person team, which has an average age of 28. Clients include a range of industries—from high-tech to culinary—such as Alcoa, Cohera Medical, Lotus Group, and Cartesia DX.

“We’re working on really cool, interesting problems—that’s a reason to expand,” adds Kubilius, who expects to continue hiring three designers per year. “We’re a young firm where people can make their mark.”

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Tom Kubilius, president and owner, Bright Innovation

Image courtesy Jeff Swanson


Paddle green: new water trail landing opens on Pittsburgh's South Side

Pittsburgh’s canoe and kayak scene got a big boost with the Oct. 1 opening of the 4th St. Three Rivers Water Trail Landing along the Monongahela.

Located at the end of 4th St. on Pittsburgh’s South Side, the new public access point is one of18 related landings dotting the region’s three rivers. Developed by Friends of the Riverfront (FOTR), in partnership with the City of Pittsburgh and Rivers of Steel, the $180,000 project received a grant from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

“Kayakers and water people are really excited about this additional resource. Locally, recreational activities have been growing over the last few years,” says Thomas Baxter, with FOTR, which is developing a water access guide and user survey. “New shops like REI are catering more to paddling. Tenants at RiverWalk Corporate Centre are storing kayaks in their offices and going out at lunch.”

The structure’s green design further underscores its function as a recreational and alternative transportation site. Its dock is built from sustainable kumaru, a durable teak-like renewable resource harvested in South America, which FOTR also uses to construct trail benches. Retrofitting an existing structure that was formerly used by barges, the adaptive reuse project is marked with large red paddle signs.  

Designed by Pfaffmann + Associates, the landing features a large dock, native plantings and railings designed by Red Star Ironworks. “They’re very forward thinking about their environment. Rob Pfaffmann is an avid passionate kayaker and understands the needs on the water,” adds Baxter, who says FOTR is planning a landing in Westfall St. on the Ohio River.

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Thomas Baxter, executive director, Friends of the Riverfront

Image courtesy Friends of the Riverfront, Inc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Emily Craig, Riverlife

Image courtesy National PARK(ing) Day

$22M Riverside Mews starts next phase, green condos sell on Pittsburgh's South Side

Two of Pittsburgh’s green residential developments are experiencing steady sales and starting work on next phases.

Riverside Mews, the South Side’s largest green residential community, has started construction on six new town homes. Since its grand opening in November 2007, seven of Riverside's first eight units have sold.

Starting at $415,000, units will be available for occupancy in 2009. Designed by Perkins Eastman and Strada and developed by Riverside Development Group, the project is located at 18th St. and Riverfront Park. The project calls for 48 two- and three-bedroom units ranging in size from 1,800 to 2,900 square feet.

Exemplifying the community’s commitment to green design, units at Riverside are built according to Energy Star Standards. Features like FSC-certified wood and Greenguard flooring materials help make the units 40% more efficient than homes built to current energy codes.

At Windom Hill Place, located above McArdle Roadway, four units have sold and work has begun on the project’s second phase. Winner of the 2008 Superior Interiors design competition for Architectural Residence/New Construction, Windom’s contemporary Craftsman-style town homes were designed by John Martine of Strada. Developer is Windom Hill Place, LLP.

Windom’s 3,000-square-foot units feature three bedrooms, finished lower levels and outdoor space on four levels. The Energy Star compliant project features native plants, bamboo and cork flooring and cast stone.

“We’re getting an eclectic group just like the city of Pittsburgh—all different ages and people who really appreciate the quality of the design and construction,” says Kathryn Barry, with Prudential Preferred Realty. “There’s still excitement in the marketplace. The South Side is unquestionably the place to be.”

Contractor for both projects is leading green builder, Sota Construction Services.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Kathryn Barry, Prudential Preferred Realty

Image courtesy Prudential Preferred Realty

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

$4M renovation of historic Beneficial Building completes commercial, retail phase

An Italianate building with a storied past on Pittsburgh’s South Side is the site of a $4 million mixed-use renovation.

Located at 1505-1507 East Carson St., the 127-year-old Beneficial Building—which became the German Beneficial Union’s national headquarters in 1909, features arched windows, projecting lintels and an ornate cornice.

Today marks the grand opening of the 20,000-square-foot property’s retail and office components. Cardinal Resources, a new organization offering environmental assessment, remediation and engineering services, is occupying the third and second floors, while the storefronts house Carson St. Deli and Owens Dry Cleaning. The sustainable design includes a green roof, courtyard water garden, low-VOC paints, and Energy Star lighting, while the facade was restored according to National Park Service standards.

“We’ve built new homes for a business already located on the South Side and welcomed new businesses. Performers at City Theatre will travel from all over the country to work and stay in the new Beneficial Building. We’re proud to add to the already dynamic fabric of the historic South Side,” says Bill Gatti, with TREK Development Group, which co-developed the project with South Side Local Development Company (SSLDC). “A neglected historic building, a congested urban location and the desire to combine retail, commercial office and residential on unusually shaped floor plates all add up to challenges that at times felt insurmountable. Four years of hard work and a strong partnership was needed to see this project through.”

In September, six studio apartments being master leased to City Theatre will open. "We're thrilled to play a role in the salvation and restoration of this key architectural asset to the longest Victorian-era commercial district,” adds Rick Belloli, with SSLDC. Project architects are UpStreet and Michael Eversmeyer.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Bill Gatti, TREK Development Group, Rick Belloli, South Side Local Development Company

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

$30M Residence Inn by Marriott under construction on Pittsburgh's North Shore

A new $30 million Residence Inn by Marriott is under construction on Pittsburgh’s North Shore at the corner of General Robinson St. and Mazeroski Way.

Located adjacent to PNC Park’s home plate entrance—the 147,655-square-foot hotel will feature 180 suites, an indoor pool and exercise facilities. The 10-story hotel will also include an outdoor patio with barbecue fire pit, billiard room and convenience store. All of the hotel’s apartment-style suites will feature full kitchens.

“The Residence Inn brand caters to the extended stay guest. The urban core of Pittsburgh doesn’t have an upscale extended stay hotel. It’s unique to the market,” says David Cocco, with Harmar-based Kratsa Properties, which hosted a groundbreaking on May 15. “We like the North Shore location with all of the development occurring there. There’s most certainly a need for this type of hotel.”

Designed by Architectural Alliance, the hotel will open during the fall of 2009. Contractor is Zambrano Corporation. The new hotel will share a surface parking with the adjacent 195-room SpringHill Suites that Kratsa opened in 2005. “We hope to contribute to the success of the Convention Center and help bring in more conventions,” adds Cocco, who says the closest extended stay hotel is in Oakland. “We’re doing all of this with private money, and no public subsidies.”

Kratsa is also building a 115-room SpringHill Suites near SouthSide Works, which is expected to open in one year. Next up for Kratsa is the development of a 156-room Hilton Garden Inn Downtown on Ross St. located next to the City-County Building.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: David Cocco, Kratsa Properties
Image Courtesy Kratsa Properties

$2.4M Oxbridge development completes first 6 townhomes on Pittsburgh's South Side

Oxbridge at South Side, a new $2.4 million 8-unit townhome project taking shape along Josephine St., is hosting an open house, tours and Palate Partners wine tasting on May 21 at 6:00 p.m.

The 1,800-square-foot four-story townhomes feature two- and three-bedrooms, city views, 15-foot ceilings, and 2-car garages.

“People said it was the most difficult site to develop in Pittsburgh," says developer  Sola Talabi, referring to the steep elevation and absence of infrastructure. “We developed value engineered solutions to make it cost one-hundred thousand less than we had thought.”

Architect is Zanesville, Ohio-based Eric Merling. Howard Hanna Real Estate Services is marketing the townhomes, which start at  $349,000; buyers taxes are covered for first year.

“This project has a story behind it. It speaks to what Pittsburgh is about, as far as reclaiming what’s abandoned and forgotten and making it into something. A lot of care was taken to make it fit within the neighborhood,” adds Talabi, a Lagos, Nigeria native who studied engineering and business at CMU. “I wanted to design townhouses you couldn’t find in Pittsburgh. We pulled in European themes. The balcony is a main feature. We wanted a style that stood out and also fit in.”

For Talabi—who worked as a nuclear engineer with Westinghouse—Oxbridge is more than a residential development. “A lot of people see Pittsburgh as an old forgotten steel city—that’s not what we are. With a little bit of creativity we can be one the greatest cities in the world. That’s my inspiration.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Sola Talabi, Oxbridge Development: Lynne Bingham, Howard Hanna Real Estate Services

Image courtesy Howard Hanna

$1.35M U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant to support $10.5M riverfront park

A $1.35 million U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service grant will support the construction of recreational docks at the planned South Shore Riverfront Park along the Monongahela River.

Located on the South Side between 25th and 29th/Hot Metal Sts., the $10.5 million park—designed by Downtown-based Environmental Planning & Design—will feature waterfront access, boat docking, an amphitheatre, three acres of green space, and trail linkages and signage.

The largest-of-its-kind received in Pennsylvania, the grant will support the design and construction of a permanent tie-up facility that will accommodate 17 transient recreational vessels and enable boaters to access SouthSide Works and the surrounding neighborhood along the river. The project will also provide community access to the river and recreational activities.

The three-phase project will begin this year with grading and demolition. The project will also involve the construction of river landing components with new ramps and stairways. “There will be uninterrupted trail service during the construction,” says Susheela Nemani-Stanger, with the URA. “The new portion will connect with the existing park at 25th Street.” Visitors can now access the site’s newly renovated Hot Metal Pedestrian Bridge by bike or foot.

Expected to be completed in 2011, the park will feature interpretive signage and historic markers linking the Three Rivers Heritage Trail system to the Great Allegheny Passage, and will allow for the future expansion of waterfront activities.

The URA is seeking $2.5 million to complete project financing. Project manager for the park’s first phase is the Soffer Organization; the URA is managing subsequent phases. Development partners include South Side Local Development Company, Riverlife, and City of Pittsburgh Department of Planning.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Susheela Nemani-Stanger, URA

Image courtesy URA

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

REI to open second Pittsburgh area location, L.L. Bean headed to Ross Park Mall

Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), a national retail cooperative specializing in outdoor gear and apparel, will open a second store in Pittsburgh during the spring of 2009.

Located in Settlers Ridge Town Center off the Parkway West, the new 26,000-square-foot, two-story REI store will also house a seasonal gear rental department, bike shop and community space. The energy-efficient store will feature bike storage, shower facilities and an outdoor recreation center.

“We have 12,000  active members within fifteen miles of Settler’s Ridge, and that’s without a store there,” says Bethany Nielson, with REI. “We have an active membership base with the success of our other Pittsburgh location. We’re looking forward to deepening our relationships with area organizations.”

REI will employ approximately 60 people at the new location; hiring clinics will occur two months prior to the store’s opening. In 2007, REI provided $21,000 in financial contributions and/or gear donations to Pittsburgh-area nonprofits dedicated to outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship.

Founded in Seattle in 1938 by a group of Pacific Northwest mountaineers, REI entered the Pennsylvania market with a Conshohocken store in 1991. In 2005, REI opened a LEED-certified Southside Works store. The company opened an eastern region distribution center in Bedford in 2007.

Developers of the 600,000-square-foot Settlers Ridge retail center are Charlotte-based Faison Enterprises and CBL & Associates Properties.

In other retail news, L.L. Bean will open a 36,000-square foot store in Ross Park Mall.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Bethany Nielson, REI

Image courtesy Dave Krieger

$402K in Mainstreets Pittsburgh funds awarded to 12 neighborhood business districts

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), in partnership with the PA Department of Community and Economic Development and the City, have awarded $402,500 in Mainstreets Pittsburgh funds to twelve neighborhood business districts.

Funds must be used to support activities that revitalize local business districts, stimulate economic growth and impact targeted areas via measurable criteria. Mainstreets districts are also eligible for technical assistance provided by the URA, PA Downtown Center, Community Design Center of Pittsburgh, and Community Technical Assistance Center.

“The six-year program moves communities from reliance on public funding to a more diverse funding structure, so they can become more self-sustaining through a variety of mechanisms,” says Megan Stearman, with the URA. “Neighborhoods are selected because of their readiness—they have existing organizations in place, can steward new programs and have been through community planning.”
Grants will support community events in Hazelwood, marketing efforts in the West End, a visioning plan in Mt. Washington, and the Clean, Green & Screen initiative in Friendship. “Many neighborhoods are thinking about the built environment in terms of crime prevention,” says Stearman. “The South Side is managing the success they’ve had, and Lawrenceville is in the unique position to learn from that.” South Side and Lawrenceville—both in the final phase of Mainstreets—are launching neighborhood beautification strategies.

As the URA’s new Mainstreets Pittsburgh coordinator, Josette Fitzgibbons will manage relationships with district awardees and funders, and develop educational programs for neighborhood organizations and businesses. Since 2002, Mainstreets districts have stimulated $94 million in total investment, recruited 558 new businesses and created 3,200 new jobs.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Megan Stearman, URA

Image courtesy Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh

Commerce Court surpasses 90% occupany mark at Pittsburgh's Station Square

Commerce Court, an eight-story, 336,000-square-foot office property located in Station Square, has surpassed the ninety-percent occupancy mark. Within the past month, Commerce Court—which also houses MARC USA, WESCO and Ansoft—has signed 93,941 square feet of new leases.

CardWorks Servicing, a leading servicer of credit cards, national debit cards and pre-funded cards, has signed a ten-year lease for 58,000 square feet. Paris-based Alcatel-Lucent, a leader in fixed, mobile and converged broadband networking and IP technologies, applications and services with operations in 130 countries, will occupy 36,430 square feet.

Increasing Commerce Court’s occupancy from sixty-three to ninety-one percent, the two leases reinforce the property's stability within the class-A office market. “It’s a great, centrally located spot with a large floor plate and inexpensive parking. It’s close to Downtown, and to restaurant, hotel and retail amenities,” says Dan Sliger, with CB Richard Ellis/Pittsburgh, who represents Commerce Court.

In July, CardWorks will consolidate its existing Pittsburgh outbound call and inbound customer care centers at Commerce Court. The $1.8 million state-of-the art project represents one of 2007’s top ten real estate deals in greater Pittsburgh. Once built out, CardWorks’ one-story space will feature 400 workstations. Architect is KSBA.

“We started in Pittsburgh in 1999 with sixty people, and now we’re close to three hundred. We plan to add another fifty-six people in the next three years. We looked at locations outside the state, but really wanted to stay within Pittsburgh—it was the quality of the people here,” says Kevin Begley, with CardWorks. “Station Square provides us with exactly what we need, and has the eateries and the Sheraton for our clients. It’s, safe, walkable and near the bus and T.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Dan Sliger, CB Richard Ellis/Pittsburgh; Kevin Begley, CardWorks Servicing

Image courtesy CB Richard Ellis/Pittsburgh


St. Casimir condos surpasses 50% occupancy mark on Pittsburgh's South Side

St. Casimir condos, housed in a turn-of-the century former schoolhouse on the South Side, now has nine of its 17 units sold.

The $1.5 million project at the corner of S. 22nd and Jane Sts.was converted into upscale lofts by New York City-based developer David Forbes. Lynne Bingham with Howard Hanna Real Estate Services says that two additional unit sales are pending.

Remaining units sell for $135,000 and $175,000. “The building has so many amenities,” says Bingham, citing the Romanesque Revival building’s barbecue deck, free guest suite, fitness facilities and twenty-four hour maintenance. The building is drawing a mix of empty nesters and professionals, she adds. "Young first-time homebuyers are paying basically what they were in rent. Now they own in the hottest part of town. People used to urban living love it—those who lived in a four hundred-square-foot space in New York are impressed with the size." Through February, a $10,000 upgraded kitchen is included with the $175,000 unit. Units range in size from 750 to 950 square feet.

St. Casimir was a perfect fit for Cynthia McGinnis, an engineering manager with Westinghouse. “I live in Greensburg and we didn’t want to part with our home, so we started thinking about alternatives. Westinghouse is moving to Cranberry in 2009 and we weren't interested in looking there," says McGinnis. “I was drawn to Casimir for a number of reasons—the old building, layouts, charm, and the South Side has so much to offer. I just couldn’t get the building and the units out of my head. Now we’re able to do more Downtown.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Lynne Bingham, Howard Hanna; Cynthia McGinnis, Westinghouse

Image courtesy Howard Hanna

$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

$48M mixed-use development coming to SouthSide Works, includes high-end hotel

A new $48 million mixed-use development is coming to SouthSide Works. Spearheaded by DOC-Economou, the project will feature a 140-room upscale hotel, for-sale condos, a world-class spa, and event, office and retail space.

In addition to 23 private residences ranging in size from 1,800 to 4,700 square feet, the live-work development will house an 18,000-square-foot event center, 20,000 square feet of riverfront restaurant and retail space and an 8,000-square-foot, two-story ballroom boasting panoramic views of Downtown. Condo residents will have access to the hotel’s many amenities and services.

“It will be on the scale of a five-star hotel—the best thing to hit Pittsburgh and certainly one of the few hotels with these types of mixed-use amenities,” says Phil Hugh, with DOC-Economou. “We couldn’t move fast enough when we heard Soffer was interested in doing a hotel. They’ve done a tremendous job revitalizing the old steel mill. It's a city within a city.”

The complex calls for a variety of upscale eateries, such as a sushi restaurant and steakhouse. “We’re doing projects all over the country—Pittsburgh is my hometown. We like that we can give back and create jobs from a hospitality and career perspective,” adds Hugh, who says that 400 temporary and full-time construction jobs and 100 hotel and hospitality jobs will be created. “We’re working in concert with SouthSide Works to deliver the best possible project to Pittsburgh.”

The project will break ground in March of 2008 and open during the summer of 2009.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Phil Hugh, DOC-Economou

Image courtesy of Economou Partners

Allegheny County projects receive $2.7M as part of $39.4M DCNR funding

A total of $2.7 million for Allegheny County projects was released on Dec. 6 by the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). The funding is part of a $39.4 million package designed to help revitalize communities and protect natural resources statewide.

Two of the largest awards went to the Urban Redevlopment Authority and Sports and Exhibition Authority for the further development of Pittsbrugh’s urban green spaces. Upcoming work on the $10.5 million South Shore Riverfront Park will involve constructing a stage and water feature, completing ADA access and installing park furniture and utilities.

Plans for the $8 million Convention Center Riverfront Park call for new docks, plaza space and trails connecting the Strip District and the Point. “It’s to make the area between the roadway and river more useable and create access to the river,” says Mary Contoro with the Sports and Exhibition Authority. Funds will also be used for new greenery, benches and lighting. Contoro, who expects designs to be completed by LaQuatra Bonci Associates by the summer of 2008, says the project will take eight months to construct.

A number of projects involving outdoor amenities in Allegheny County also received grants, including $200,000 for improvements to Hartwood Acres Mansion, $80,000 for the redevelopment of Library St. in Braddock and $162,000 to build a soccer field and walking trail in Green Tree Borough Park. Pine Township Community Center will use $250,000 to construct exercise facilities and the Port Authority of Allegheny County was awarded $200,000 to build Gateway Station Plaza.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Mary Contoro, Sports and Exhibition Authority; Christine Novak, DCNR

Image courtesy of Sports and Exhibition Authority

Clear Story Studio brings emerging creative companies to Pittsburgh's South Side

Clear Story Studio, home to three emerging companies whose owners are all under 35, is opening on Dec. 13 at 1931 Sidney St. on the South Side.

With a moniker that reflects the studio’s dramatic architecture and each company’s creative sensibility, the 6,000-square-foot space houses five offices, an enclosed shop and a gourmet theatrical kitchen.  

Home to lighting design company Clear Story, Inc., design-build firm Matthew Clifford & Company and independent media financing company Headwater Films, the space embodies a collaborative spirit. “With the synergy and interaction between us and our clients, and being in the same building, there’s a reciprocal crossover that happens,” says Rob Long, whose company Clear Story is production manager/technical director for the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s 2008 International Festival of Firsts.

Studio designer Matt Clifford recently completed the Sprout Fund’s new offices and is designing Phantom of the Attic's new Oakland store. On the sustainable front, 35% percent of the studio’s interior framing was reclaimed, doors were culled from Construction Junction and 90% of the lighting is dimmer controlled. The studio features 12- and 21-foot ceilings, resurfaced concrete, natural linoleum, and post-consumer elements. Built as a horse stable—possibly for a funeral home—the space once housed a grocery warehouse and plumbing showroom.

"Having the energy of people egaging in creative projects is refreshing," says Headwater Films' Henry Simonds, who is busy producing a documentary about Florida State University Seminoles' Bobby Bowden, the NCAA's all-time winningest Division I coach.

Calling it “a space where people are inspired to think differently," Long—whose clients include the Festival of Lights and Andy Warhol Museum—hopes the studio’s output can elevate the perception of Pittsburgh artists both at home and abroad.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Rob Long, Matt Clifford and Henry Simonds, Clear Story Studio

Image courtesy of Rob Long

$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

PHFA awards $4.8M to housing and commercial developments in three counties

Housing and commercial developments in three western Pennsylvania counties received $4.8 million from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA), as part of seven state grants that were awarded on Nov. 19.

Development organizations in Allegheny, Butler and Westmoreland counties received a total of $4,828,500 as part of the PHFA's Homeownership Choice Program. The funding is designed to support the development or rehabilitation of single-family homes in urban communities. Grants will also support the rehabilitation of the upper floors of storefronts located along commercial corridors of urban neighborhoods and core communities that will create rental or ownership housing opportunities.

“It's competitive funding. We’re looking for impact projects to get the turn around started or to continue it. We felt these would have the most impact in these communities. ,” says Brian Hudson, with the PHFA. “These had the strongest need, they’re all ready to go projects. A lot have been in the works for a long time, and there are multiple funding partners. We’re looking for leveraging and partnerships.” Hudson says the awarded projects were able to successfully leverage additional funding, which is a key criteria considered by the PHFA.

The renovation of a 10,600 square-foot historic bakery in Homestead, which will feature 16 residential units and 6 commercial spaces, received $480,000. Four additional Allegheny County projects received PHFA grants: the Beneficial Building on the Southside ($250,000); The Lennox Building in Forest Hills ($260,500); Wylie Homes in the Hill District ($1,058,500); and a revitalization plan for Homestead and Munhall.

In the Westmoreland County town of Jeannette, the South Sixth St. Neighborhood Revitalization Project received more than $1 million. Franklin Court Homes, located in Butler, PA, received $335,000 in funding.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Brian Hudson, PHFA

160,000 sf Quantum V office complex next up for 34-acre SouthSide Works

Soffer Organization is planning Quantum V, the latest addition in its 34-acre SouthSide Works.

The 160,000 square-foot office building will feature five, 30,000 square-foot levels and offices with nine-foot ceilings.

Part of the redesign of a block along S. Water St. that will also feature a 140-room, five-star boutique hotel, for-sale condos and Hofbrauhaus, Quantum V will be constructed near South Shore Riverfront Park.

"The first floor can be a traditional office layout or signature restaurant with riverfront dining. We're in the process of pre-leasing right now," says Steven Kasunich, with Soffer. Plans call for up to 30,000 square feet for first-floor retail.

"Retail is doing very well here; we're ninety-eight percent occupied on the retail level. For some merchants, Pittsburgh is their best location. We're ninety-five percent cccupied as far as offices, and we have 84 units of lofts and flats that are well leased," says Fulton, describing SouthSide Works. Soffer is currently evaluating design proposals for Quantum V. 

“We'd like to get a headquarters type of lease in there before we break ground,” says Scott Astorino with Grant Street Associates, the project’s leasing agent. The commercial real estate firm will market Quantum V, secure an anchor tenant and handle ongoing leasing. Grant Street Associates recently represented American Eagle Outfitters in the relocation of its headquarters to SouthSide Works’ Quantum II complex; the retail giant will also occupy Quantum III as part of the expansion of its corporate campus.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Chris Fulton and Steven Kasunich, Soffer Organization; Scott Astorino, Grant Street Associates

Image of Quantum IV courtesy of Soffer Organization

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

VO bike tour spotlights Pittsburgh's green buildings and outdoor amenities

Green living and green building collide during a new Venture Outdoors (VO) program that will showcase Pittsburgh’s natural and architectural resources.

“Green Pittsburgh Biking Excursion” takes place on Sept. 29th at 1:00p.m. The moderately paced trek will begin at the Three Rivers Rowing Association boathouse in Millvale. Bikers will cross the 7th St. bridge, continue around the Point and along riverfront trails, and head to the South Side, where they will tour four examples of sustainable design—WYEP, CCI Center, REI, and MAYA Design.

“Being in the nonprofit sector, you see things that are happening in Pittsburgh in positive areas. We’ve noticed how many green buildings are going up—the number is absolutely outstanding,” says Rob Walters, with VO. “It’s such a positive thing for our environment. We want to show it off.”

In collaboration with the Green Building Alliance, VO designed the tour to highlight the growth of LEED-certified building projects in Pittsburgh. Boasting four more than cities like Atlanta, Pittsburgh features 20 LEED-certified buildings. Walters hopes that more businesses will see the benefits of investing in economically efficient and environmentally friendly buildings, and that the region will become nationally known for its mix of sustainable design and recreational amenities.

“We’re a direct result of this city’s desire to make Pittsburgh a cleaner, greener eco-tourism city. It’s fun to bring exercise into everyday life,” adds Walters, who says that next summer, VO will host walking tours of CMU and the North Side. “Our membership just hit 2775. We were at 900 at this time last year. We’re taking off and busier than ever. Participation is up forty-four percent.” To register, go here.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Rob Walters, Venture Outdoors

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

Glassworks Lofts sells 4 of 5 condos on Pittsburgh's South Side

Glassworks Lofts has sold four of its five units. Located at 50 S. 15th St. on the South Side, the project features three town homes and two lofts.

The remaining town home, which is selling for $499,500, features three bedrooms, two balconies and a sky room. The building’s additional units which sold for between $497,500 and $535,000, are fully occupied. “Initially I thought it would be doctors and athletes. We have a couple from Chicago, someone from a big data storage company, a landscape architect—it’s been all across the board,” says developer and contractor Dan Doyle.

Architect Felix Fukui worked with Doyle to design floor plans for the high-end units, which range in size from 2,700 to 3,100 square feet. Constructed in 1917, the 14,000 square-foot building once housed the Ihmsen family's glassmaking operations, established in 1872. Building amenities include wrought iron gates, a heated parking lot and a courtyard. Units feature restored brick, 19th-century poured concrete ceilings and exposed steel and wood beams.
“It’s been a success," says Doyle. "It took a little longer to fill out than I thought, but given the conditions right now, I feel very lucky.” Doyle next plans to develop a 12-unit property, and feels the market is particularly strong for rental units. “I’m thinking of doing a similar building in the city with modernist, rental apartments—they might be lofts. I’d like to take an area in the city and make it like a very distinctive village," he says.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Dan Doyle, Doyle Management

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

Green Building Alliance to create innovative first stop shop in new Southside HQ

The Green Building Alliance (GBA) is designing its new headquarters to showcase regional green building products and practices. In late 2007, GBA will move into the Southside’s River Walk Corporate Centre at 333 East Carson St.

The 4,000 square-foot space is four times the size of GBA’s current headquarters. “It met our needs in terms reuse of an existing building, being close to transit, accessibility for employees and customers, and having a landlord who understands our mission and the value we bring,” says GBA’s executive director Rebecca Flora.

The project, which involves a build-out of an existing space in an historic property, will seek LEED-CI Gold certification. “We don’t want to over design it. We want it to be sensible, something that people can duplicate, to show that green building is transferable in the market,” adds Flora, whose goal is to create a first stop shop for green building.

To showcase the products behind the buildings, GBA is soliciting donations, such as workstation furniture, flooring and daylight dimming systems. The offices will feature green building products, a library and educational displays. The idea is an extension of GBA’s green building products initiative, which received a $1 million state grant. “We’re the first of this kind in the country. Most of our products will be sourced from Pennsylvania. It’s a huge growth area. We have 50 manufacturers actively engaged; that will at least quadruple,” says Flora.

LDA and Jendoco Construction Corporation, the building owner's architects and contractor, are part of the project team. LEED advisor Gary Moshier and CJL Engineering are donating services. Construction on GBA’s new offices will start this month.

Look for an upcoming feature on GBA's new offices in Pop City.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Rebecca Flora, GBA

Image courtesy of Green Building Alliance

Dick Corp. world headquarters, $14M condos to join AE in SouthSide Works

Pittsburgh's South Side is booming with the dual announcement that Dick Corporation is moving its world headquarters to the neighborhood and condominium developer Ralph Falbo is planning a $14 million residential project with riverfront views targeted for a younger market.

Dick Corp. will move from its present location in Jefferson Hills to a $31 million, 5-story office center at Hot Metal and Sidney streets. Plans call for the national contractor to expand worldwide and hire at least 200 employees in the near future. Ralph Falbo said he will construct 40 condos, 750 to 1,400 square feet, in the $225,000 to $375,000 price range across from Hot Metal Bridge along South Water St.

“It’s all part of the energy that’s being initiated on the South Side and a necessary piece of the whole puzzle,” muses Falbo, developer of the 151 First Side Condominium on Fort Pitt Blvd. downtown. “We have a lot of young people who want to live in the city and we need to get them in at a level they can afford. It's a rather romantic site, you can bike out on the trail, go running on the paths, boat, and you’re within walking distance of the magic of the South Side.”

The projects add to the spree of activity at SouthSide Works, Pittsburgh's chic retail, entertainment, office, and restaurant complex built by The Soffer Organization. On Monday teen clothing retailer, American Eagle Outfitters, moved into its corporate headquarters.

Dick Corp. will break ground this fall with completion set for end of 2008. The company plans to occupy about 25 percent of the space with room for another major tenant, yet to be named. Falbo says he will break ground for the condos by the spring of 2007. CB Richard Ellis of Pittsburgh is leasing the remainder of the Dick Building.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Ralph Falbo, Dick Corporation and Joanna Doven, City of Pittsburgh

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

$22M Riverside Mews debuts city's first luxury green condo

Riverside Mews, one of Pittsburgh’s first green residential developments, is debuting its model unit at 17 S. 18th St. on the South Side on June 29th.

The 2,651 square-foot, four-story unit features a sky room, rooftop deck and furniture designed by Craig Marcus and Tadao Arimoto. Riverside Mews is being developed by the Riverside Development Group, Inc. and designed by Perkins Eastman and Strada. General contractor is Sota Construction Services, Inc., one of the region’s leading green building contractors. Units will sell for between $379,000 and $529,000. Mews’ first eight units will be completed this fall.

Designed according to the EPA’s ENERGY STAR standards, Mews features FSC-certified wood, marmoleum and Greenguard-certified flooring materials. “We recycled ninety percent of our construction waste and sourced materials locally. Everything was carefully chosen to lessen impact on the environment,” says Linda Metropulos with ARTEMIS Environmental Building Materials, who is working with developer Ernie Sota. "Indoor air quality is also really important. We're using strategically placed windows and materials that don’t off gas. We have a great fresh air delivery system.”

Mews is located near Riverfront Park's boat launch and walking trails. "It's the premiere green development in the city. The Southside Flats is a very desirable location," says Barbara Kurdys Miller with Prudential Preferred Realty.

The project team has developed livgreenpgh.com, a new website aimed at educating people about sustainable residential design. “We wanted a starting point for people interested in green living,” adds Metropulos, who says that Riverside Mews and Windom Hill are the "guiding forces" behind the online resource. "We're also trying to get people to think about the issue of their own carbon footprint."

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Linda Metropulos, ARTEMIS; Barbara Kurdys Miller, Prudential Preferred Realty

Image courtesy of Riverside Mews

Decade brings international street style to the South Side

A new boutique is bringing international street style to Pittsburgh’s South Side. Located at 1407 E. Carson St., Decade is owned by South Hills native Steve Ford, who returned from a stint designing t-shirts in Los Angeles to open a hometown boutique.

The 1,000 square-foot shop features several California-based lines, as well as Miami’s Freegums and Plastic Island from Korea. The boutique also carries surf label Monument, Perfectly Imperfect, an organic line for women, and Punkster, a line of sassy baby wear created by Ford’s sister Leanne.

After promoting his own Dyslexia line at national trade shows, Ford began to look for space in Pittsburgh. He set up shop temporarily on Walnut St. before launching Decade. “The traffic over here is consistent. I’m right in the middle of all of the coffee shops,” says Ford, of Decade’s prime real estate.

Ford renovated the space, which was previously a pet store. “I did the store very cheaply. Everything is recycled—it’s kind of lofty.” The shop features 13-foot ceilings, a recycled floor from the Express in Shadyside and materials from Construction Junction. “I got really lucky for my first start-up. I came back here and saw an opportunity,” says Ford, who has a degree in parks, recreation and tourism management.

In addition to supporting the international t-shirt craze, Decade also sells jeans, shoes and dresses. To celebrate its grand opening, Decade is offering a 10 percent discount through June 29th.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Steve and Michelle Ford, Decade

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

YPA unveils region's top preservation sites, celebrates 5th anniversary

The Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh (YPA) unveiled its “Top Ten Best Preservation Opportunities” list at the group’s fifth anniversary celebration on May 25th.

The list calls attention to endangered properties that show potential for reuse and highlights the economic value of historic preservation. “We really wanted to do a list that would be different, not just endangered places, but where we see potential. It shapes our thinking on historic places,” says Dan Holland with the YPA, who is currently working to secure preservation grants for the National Negro Opera House in Homewood. “These are strategic and purposeful awards. Community revitalization should start with historic resources."
For the first time, the YPA identified two Washington County sites. The Coyle Theater in Charleroi, West Overton Museums in Scottdale and Pittsburgh’s former Morningside School were also recognized.

Sandee Gertz Umbach, founding executive director of Washington Community Arts and Cultural Center, won the YPA’s emerging preservation leader award. “She’s a magnet for revitalization in Washington. While we have these top ten sites, it is the people and demographics that matter,” says Holland.

To select winners, the YPA looks at architectural and historical significance, project feasibility and community interest. “It takes a huge amount of teamwork. We’re trying to encourage donors to invest in these projects.” Next fall, the YPA plans to launch technical assistance programs for  individuals, business owners, community-based organizations, and local governments.

Holland cites the Union Project and Armstrong Cork Factory as examples of preservation success stories. Of 54 sites the YPA has identified since 2003, only one is considered a loss.
Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Dan Holland, YPA

Image courtesy of YPA

Cool Space Locator spotlights Pittsburgh's hottest spaces

Cool Space Locator (CSL) shines a spotlight on Pittsburgh’s hottest spaces during its June 1st "Cool Down" awards party.
Founded in 2005, the bi-annual event highlights the role that compelling architecture, design and communities play in strengthening urban life.

This year, CSL established five criteria to guide the decision-making process: community connections, creativity, historical inspiration,  adaptive reuse and the people behind the places. “We wanted to give people a better idea of what specifically we focus on,” says Keren Shefet with CSL, which assists business owners and non-profit leaders with locating creative spaces. “Cool creative spaces need to inspire the people working in them. A lot of spaces need to connect with communities.”

Winners include the Blacksmith Studio on the Northside, Uncommon Grounds in Aliquippa and The Union Project in East Liberty. New this year is an award for two communities, Bellevue and Braddock, neighborhoods recognized for stimulating economic revitalization along business districts.

To further plug cool spaces, the event will take place at The Meter Room, a former warehouse located in Sheraden. Spearheaded by local artist John Ross, The Meter Room provides residential, work and performance space for artists. “Our event for him is like a coming out party. It brings him more attention,” adds Sheret, who says the awards promote urban revitalization by calling attention to unique workspaces located in walkable neighborhoods.

A panel of community leaders, including architect Ken Doyno and Malik Bankston of The Kingsley Association, assisted with selecting 10 winners from 48 submissions. The event is sponsored by Mellon Financial Corporation and the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Keren Shefet, CSL

Image courtesy of Cool Space Locator

Jack Horner Communications relocating HQ to South Side's Rivertech

Public relations and marketing communications agency Jack Horner Communications Inc, is relocating to the South Side’s Rivertech Office Works.

In July, the firm will occupy a two-story, 4,000 square-foot loft located at 3850-3854 Water St. “We find ourselves spending more time over there because it’s a nice place to meet with clients. It’s a great business hub. No one wants to meet in the conference room anymore.” says principal Jack Horner.

After selling the Westinghouse building in Forest Hills, where the firm is currently housed, Horner signed a five-year lease with Rivertech. Horner’s clients include H.J. Heinz, UPMC, the Philadelphia International Airport and Chicago’s Adler School.

“It used to be that when companies looked for new offices, you were most concerned about the building. Today you care what the building is near, what access you have,” says Horner. “Rivertech is ideal for us. We go in any direction; we have clients all over.”

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, Jack Horner also operates a Philadelphia office in King of Prussia. “We looked all over town at places that had an up and coming vibe. The South Side has already realized that energy. We wanted to be close to that,” says Horner. “We’re really fussy about our office location because we always have to have free parking. We’re in and out visiting with clients all day."

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Jack Horner

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

New hotels planned for South Side, additional neighborhoods

A new Marriott SpringHill Suites is coming to SouthSide Works. The six-story hotel will feature 115 rooms, 3,800 square feet of retail space and on-site parking. Amenities will include an indoor pool and spa, fitness center, and meeting and banquet space.

Project developer, Harmar-based Kratsa Properties, hosted a hotel groundbreaking on May 9 at 2825 South Water St. "Kratsa believes there’s a demand for hotel rooms here,” says Kevin Evanto, spokesperson for Allegheny County. “It really represents the booming economy, further proof that things are turning around here. It’s a great thing when the private sector steps in to further invest.”

Evanto says Kratsa is also planning to construct two additional large hotels in Pittsburgh, including an extended stay Residence Inn on the North Shore.“They’re conducting an impact study for another hotel in the East Liberty-Shadyside area. In addition to downtown, the North Shore and Southside becoming popular for residential, they’ve also become popular travel destinations."

Expected to create 50 jobs, the Southside Marriott represents a private investment of $13.5 million. The hotel is slated to open by July of 2008. “When all are completed, it'll mean close to 500 additional hotel rooms,” says Evanto, adding to the list of new Pittsburgh hotels a Hampton Inn and Suites nearing completion in the Strip District.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Kevin Evanto, Allegheny County

Image of Hamptom Inn in Strip District copyright © Jonathan Greene

Smart Growth Conference to convene downtown on May 18

"Focusing Growth for Regional Prosperity,” the 7th annual Smart Growth Conference, will take place on May 18 at the Omni William Penn Hotel.

The free conference features keynote speaker Don Chen, executive director of Smart Growth America, a national advocacy coalition that promotes preservation of open space and farmland, reinvestment in existing communities, affordable housing and transportation alternatives.

Attendees will be invited to respond to a draft of Project Region, a long-range transportation and development plan being developed by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission. "This is an opportunity for the public to give input on the plan," say Court Gould, executive director of Sustainable Pittsburgh. "This plan will have a real impact on the face of the region, how we will grow and develop, whether we will continue to sprawl outwardly or focus on our existing communities.”

Participants will hear progress reports from three community committees created at last year's conference: leveling the field for redevelopment, promoting regionalism and transportation funding. The event will also feature a Q&A with state, regional and local leaders.

Project Region: The Southwestern Pennsylvania Growth Plan, which must be adopted by July, aims to make regional planning processes more transparent, maximize infrastructure, and integrate transportation, job creation and economic competitiveness within a plan for regional growth.

“In light of the city's recent top livable city award, this plan will address important quality of life issues for the future. We're at an important point where the plan will steer growth and development for the next 30 years,” says Gould.

To register, go here.

Road to 2010 symposium to address region's major construction projects

The region’s major construction projects, set to occur over the next three years, will be addressed at the “Road to 2010 Symposium.” The free event takes place on May 16 at the downtown Westin and is organized by Navigant Consulting, an international firm with a downtown office.

Government officials and industry experts will share information about building plans with area construction, engineering and design communities. Sessions will address construction issues relating to infrastructure, higher education, and private and public sector development. “There’s so much development money coming in with gaming and the North Shore. The synergies between different areas will impact the labor market and the lives of all Pittsburghers,” says Jeff Burd with BreakingGround, event co-sponsor. “What an exciting time to be here. We’re at the beginning of a large wave of work.”

Jack Mascaro of Mascaro Construction Company will chair a panel featuring Joseph Fink, associate vice chancellor for facilities management at the University of Pittsburgh. Transportation officials, private developers and non-profit leaders will also participate. Major city developments, such as The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s RiverParc and the new arena, will be spotlighted.

“It’s meant to demonstrate what's coming up, facilitate discussions about what the needs are, and make sure that people understand the full breadth of the region’s three-year climate,” says Burd, a session moderator. “Four out of five experts feel we’re not going to have sufficient skilled labor. We'll need to facilitate people coming here.” Burd feels the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. markets could be a source for labor. “We’re bringing in decision makers who are in charge of funding to make it a high-level event and tie everything together.” To register, call 412.454.4100.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Jeff Burd, BreakingGround/Tall Timber Group

Image courtesy of Navigant Consulting, Inc.

Howard Hanna ranks high on REAL Trends' national list of top real estate firms

Howard Hanna Real Estate Services has received three high rankings by REAL Trends, the country’s leading publisher of residential real estate analysis. Based on 2006 production, Howard Hanna was named the country’s sixth largest firm for closed transactions and fifth largest for both sales and settlement services. 

“When you consider how hot the markets have been in California, Florida and Arizona, and here's a home grown company in Pittsburgh, it’s pretty impressive,” says Steve Murray, editor of Denver-based REAL Trends, which collects data from 800 leading brokerage firms. “This is the highest ranking they’ve ever attained."

Murray would not be surprised to see the company enter new markets. “We are actively looking for quality acquisitions of real estate companies and expanding our mortgage, title and insurance businesses with adding new locations in 2007,” says Howard W. “Hoddy” Hanna, III, chairman and CEO of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services.

Howard Hanna was also recognized as the nation’s third largest privately owned real estate firm; in 2006, the company completed 52,555 closed and settlement service transactions. “In a year that was down in overall real estate sales, it is gratifying that Howard Hanna went against the market and had another up year,” says Hanna. “The real estate market in Western Pennsylvania is of strong value, and will continue to be, with three to five percent appreciation in the next two years. This will create housing appreciation in our region to be in the top 10% nationally.”

With more than 3,600 employees, Howard Hanna has 120 offices in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and West Virginia. This year, the company is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Steve Murray, REAL Trends

Image courtesy of Real Trends

Early 20th-century schoolhouse becomes luxury loft project

A turn-of-the century Southside schoolhouse is home to 17 new luxury lofts opening on June 9th. Located at the corner of South 22nd and Jane Sts., St. Casimir School was purchased eight months ago by New York City-based developer David Forbes for $1.5 million.

“We sold our first unit last weekend to young professionals originally from Pittsburgh who are returning from California—they’re the exact prototype I think it’s perfect for,” says Lynne Bingham with Howard Hanna Real Estate Services. “With no closing costs, low condo fees and a variety of stylish condos to select from, we truly have our niche in the area," says Forbes, a loft specialist who hails from Ireland.

“Instead of just another condo on the Southside, this has full facility and financing packages. Someone just out of college can come to the table with zero down,” says Bingham. The building’s Romanesque Revival style features sandstone lintels, arched entryways, 14-foot ceilings and ornamental woodwork. Amenities include gated parking and fitness, storage and laundry facilities. The condos also feature a barbecue deck, on-site maintenance and guest suites. Bradley Michaels designed the project’s model unit. “Each unit is completely unique in size and structure—no two are the same," says Bingham of the one-bedroom units, which start at $189,000.

“He's fallen in love with Pittsburgh for a couple of reasons. There’s one-fifth of the red tape compared to a project like this in New York,” says Bingham of Forbes’ interest in the Pittsburgh market. “He said this building in New York would go for ten million. I do think he wants to do another neighborhood.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: David Forbes; Lynne Bingham

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

335-mile Great Allegheny Passage trail system nears completion

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of Allegheny County

Grand View Scenic Byway receives regional park designation

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

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

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

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

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Ethan Raup, MWCDC

Image courtesy of MWCDC

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Sean Brady, Venture Outdoors

Image courtesy of Venture Outdoors

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of CCAC

Springboard receives national and local design commissions

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

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

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

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

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Paul Rosenblatt, SPRINGBOARD


Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

Pittsburgh selected for National Association of Counties conference in 2012

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of NACO

The Library fuses eclectic fare and a love of literature

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Jeff Brunga; Jesse Best

Image courtesy of Brian Holderman

LA Fitness to open three Pittsburgh area locations

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Samuel Zamias

Karma Boutique celebrates grand opening at SouthSide Works

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Kim Jones

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

Tri-county airport partnership wins NAIOP development award

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

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

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

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

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Leo Castagnari; Ken Zapinski

Image courtesy of NAIOP

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Marc Cherna

Image courtesy of Department of Human Services

City-wide community art gallery project set to launch

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

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

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

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

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Lissa Rosenthal; Sylvia Ehler

Image courtesy of Pittsburgh Community Gallery Project

City appoints first Director of Economic and Community Development

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

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

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

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

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Office of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl

Workshops educate homeowners about green building options

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Tara Merenda

Image courtesy of CDCP

City business districts awarded $400,000 in Mainstreets funding

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

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

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

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

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Robert Rubentein; Alecia Sirk

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

Double Wide Grill opens doors on the South Side

This weekend, the Double Wide Grill joins the Southside’s eclectic array of eateries. Located at 2339 E. Carson St., the 4,300 square-foot restaurant is owned by Steve Zumhoff and Scott Kramer.

Occupying a 1930s-era gas station, the 145-capacity restaurant features indoor and outdoor bars and a large patio. Calling the Double Wide a “Texas roadside gas station,” Zumhoff, who also owns the Southside’s successful Beehive Coffeehouse and Lava and Tiki Lounges, decorated the grill with artifacts culled from swap meets and a Texas trip.

“It’s going to change the whole dynamic of the street,” says general manager Brendan Byers, who thinks the Double Wide will bridge Southside Works with Carson. Zumhoff and Kramer worked with architect Val Zarro, LaQuatra Bonci Associates and Flynn Construction on the building’s renovation and landscaping. Oil City-based McCullough Brown designed the kitchen.

“It’s kind of trailer chic,” says Byers, who previously worked at the Pittsburgh Athletic Association. “I haven't been this excited about a project in years.” Telling the “Double Wide story,” the grill’s menus depict the life of Hank and Tessie Mae, who fixed cars and sold barbecue.

The grill serves burgers, steaks and vegetarian potpies; specialties include build-your-own TV dinners, sushi grade tuna and “hubcap potatoes.” Sides include sweet potato risotto and pineapple saffron rice. The Double Wide serves weekend brunch and a late-night menu until 1:00 a.m.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Steve Zumhoff; Brendan Byers

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

City to buy back tax liens on 11,000 parcels in $6.5M deal

On Dec. 7, Mayor Ravenstahl announced that the City of Pittsburgh will buy back tax liens on 11,000 parcels of property currently unoccupied and undeveloped. Part of the Mayor’s plan to assist Pittsburgh neighborhoods with revitalization and economic development efforts, the $6.5 million deal will be financed through the city’s general fund and is expected to be completed by the end of March 2007.

“Our neighborhoods can no longer be neglected,” said Ravenstahl.  “Now, properties previously unavailable for re-development because of their high tax-liens, can finally be developed. This has been the hurdle we faced over  and over again.”

The deal with Capital Asset, a subsidiary of MBIA Inc., the Armonk, New York-based bond insurer, was negotiated in partnership with the Pittsburgh Public Schools and Water and Sewer Authority. From 1996 through 1999, the city sold tax-liens on 14,000 parcels to Capital Asset Research Corporation for $64 million. 

“This plan reflects one of my top priorities for the New Year: the need to shift our mindset from one of managing decline to one of building a Pittsburgh for the future,” said Ravenstahl. "We talk about bringing our neighborhoods back, we talk about reinvesting in our neighborhoods. This is unprecedented; it's something that will give us control."

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Mayor Luke Ravenstahl

Rachel Carson Homestead launches centennial events

On Dec. 5, the Rachel Carson Homestead Association (RCHA) launched its 2007 Centennial Celebration. Designed to highlight Carson’s environmental legacy and southwestern PA’s leadership in environmental, conservation and eco-tourism initiatives, the year-long celebration of the author, scientist and Springdale native will feature major events throughout the region.

Recently named leading environmental campaigner of all time by the U.K. Environment Agency, Carson is credited with founding the green movement after publishing Silent Spring in 1962. “This is where the base of who she became was started--current day environmental organizations trace back to her,” says Patricia DeMarco, RCHA's executive director, who calls Carson a “Pittsburgh icon.”

The centennial will spotlight Carson’s hometown and encourage people to consider all aspects of a green lifestyle. “We’re trying to propagate her ideas and philosophy,” says DeMarco, who hopes the centennial will educate people about creating a permanent footprint of sustainability, as well as how to achieve full functionality for area rivers.

The RCHA and local partners will present a birthday block-party, programs about global warming and sustainable agriculture, and a symposium at CMU. Activities will include plays, concerts and films, a national women’s health conference and a groundbreaking for a new downtown monument to Carson.

In April, the RCHA will announce a legacy challenge encouraging individuals, businesses, institutions and government to make permanent, measurable changes in behavior and policy that promote Carson’s environmental ethic.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Patricia DeMarco

Image courtesy of the Rachel Carson Homestead Association

Onorato signs landmark riverfront park legislation

On December 1, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato signed legislation to support the development of a 128-mile long riverfront park along the Allegheny, Monongahela, Ohio and Youghiogheny Rivers.

Last month, County Council members David Fawcett and Jim Burn introduced the countywide park proposal. On November 21, Council unanimously approved an ordinance that authorizes County officials to start acquiring properties and begin the park's mapping, design and engineering phase. Touching more than half of Allegheny County’s 130 municipalities, the amenity will become the world’s longest urban linear park.

“Once you connect the trails, the usage of the parks will go up enormously,” says Fawcett, who has received more positive e-mails about the park than about any other topic since Council was created in 2000. “Cyclists, joggers and commuters can get from one place to another without interruption.”

New amenities will include picnic sites, athletic facilities, fishing areas, and rock climbing spots. “There's a focus on waterfront development throughout the world,” says Fawcett, citing examples like Chicago, Chattanooga and Vancouver. “Ours could be the most spectacular and largest, because you have the greatest length of waterways.”

Though funding information has not been released, Fawcett says there is “expression from a lot of different sectors for funding, which is in line with this being economic development, not just another park.”

Three County departments—Parks, Public Works and Economic Development--will undertake the project, which is expected to exceed $100 million and take several years.

“This follows Chief Executive Dan Onorato’s plan to develop our brownfield and riverfront sites as part of his economic development plans," says Dennis Davin, director of Allegheny County's Department of.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: David Fawcett; Dennis Davin

PHFA announces $1.5M excellence in design initiative

The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) has launched a new
$1.5 million Excellence in Design Initiative (EDI). Unprecedented nationally, the demonstration program will reward design excellence and encourage statewide architectural, engineering and construction standards in affordable housing.

Qualifying submissions may be eligible for design grants made payable to the development team’s architect. Teams may include for-profit and non-profit developers, architects and community development organizations.

“We’re looking for creative, functional designs that integrate green building if possible,” says PHFA’s executive director Brian Hudson. “We’d like to incorporate some of these designs into our ongoing work.” Funds may be used to support affordable housing and mixed-use developments that include rehabilitation and new construction.

The Community Design Center of Pittsburgh (CDCP), Community Design Collaborative of AIA Philadelphia and Penn State University’s Hamer Center will assist with reviewing submissions and conducting site visits. Applicants must attend a training seminar in Harrisburg on December 1; funds will be distributed based on amounts required by best projects.

“It's an opportunity to demonstrate that quality design results in added value,” says Jason Vrabel with CDCP who says local governments must provide matching funds. “I’ve met with the URA and they are prepared to partner on this.

“I’m hoping we see projects with strong community development angles,” he adds.  “It’s a very innovative opportunity to set a statewide precedent for housing agencies--we think it could become a national model.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Brian Hudson; Jason Vrabel

Image courtesy of PHFA

City announces $50,000 riverfront development grant

On Nov. 16, Mayor Ravenstahl announced a $50,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission for the construction of a new kayak landing and canoe access site along the southern bank of the Monongahela River. Construction begins during the spring of 2007 and is expected to be completed next fall.

Located at the end of 4th St. on the South Side, the project marks the latest development in Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Water Trail system, a network of access sites along the city’s three rivers. Each site is within an easy paddle of one another and features water and land signage directing users to landings and public amenities. The project will also include short term kayak and canoe storage facilities.

"We’re not only providing residents with amenities, we’re helping to attract people to the City,” said Ravenstahl.  “We're using our rivers in 2006 in a much different way than we did when the steel industry was here, but we've transformed our city, we've transformed the way we do business, and it's a great story to tell."

Formerly the River Rescue Center, the site is also near the Community Bike Program and the East Carson Street business district. Additional funding is provided through matching funds and in-kind services from Pittsburgh's Department of Public Works and services and furniture by Friends of the Riverfront. 

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Dick Skrinjar, Office of the Mayor
Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

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

$2.4 million Windom Hill Place completes phase one

Windom Hill Place’s first four town homes, located above 10th Street on the South Side, are now complete. The project’s model unit was showcased during an opening celebration on November 9.  

The three-story, 2,800 square-foot units feature three bedrooms, 2 ½ bathrooms and finished lower levels. Amenities include ten-foot ceilings, two-car garages and balconies overlooking downtown. The contemporary craftsman style town homes were designed by John Martine of Strada Architects and constructed by Sota Construction Services; developer is Windom Hill Place, LLP.

“We were careful to make decisions with a lot of thoughtfulness, so that when we were done, we would not need to change much,” says Ernie Sota, whose work on Windom Hill was recently profiled in The New York Times.

Sota, who expects phase two to begin soon, is particularly excited about the use of native plants, such as American cranberry and asters, which require lower maintenance and provide a habitat for birds and butterflies.

Designed to significantly reduce energy consumption, Windom Hill is Energy Star compliant, meeting strict guidelines set by the EPA and U.S. Department of Energy. The project utilizes renewable and recycled materials, including bamboo and cork flooring, exterior aluminum panels and cast stone.

“The high quality design, meticulous attention to detail and sustainable green features are what everybody should be conscious of in the way they live,” says Barbara Kurdys Miller with Prudential Preferred Realty, who is marketing the four untis now for sale.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Ernie Sota; Barbara Kurdys Miller 

Image courtesy of Sota Construction Services, Inc.

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


Ulterior Motive joins Carson Street business district

Ulterior Motive is the latest boutique to set up shop on the South Side. Founded by brother-sister team Brian and Kelly Freed, the 1,250 square-foot boutique opened last month at 1103 East Carson.

The twenty-something Freeds, who hope to “support the city’s evolution,” recently returned home to Pittsburgh after studying business and fashion design in Florida. “We happened to see the building--it looked beat up, but had beautiful, old wood floors, a basement and exposed brick,” says Brian Freed. “It’s a central location with tons of traffic--the trolley stops right in front.”

When selecting designers, Freed looked to places like Japan and New York City. Dubbed “part Beastie Boys with a twist of the Adams Family,” the shop carries limited run items by international clothing, sneaker and jewelry designers, along with art, furniture and notions.
“The concept is to not re-order or flood the market—we keep cycling through new deliveries,” says Freed. Prices range from $20-$140 for t-shirts, $45-$600 for jeans, and $100-$240 for sneakers. Designers include Married to the Mob, Futura Laboratories and Kenzo Minami.

Artist Gavin Benjamin designed the shop using recycled tiles and building products from ARTEMIS Environmental Building Materials, bleachers culled from Construction Junction and hand-printed wallpaper.

“The Southside is a great place to express yourself—it’s always been artsy,” says clothing designer Kelly Freed. “It’s the perfect place for our clientele.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Brian and Kelly Freed

Image courtesy of Brian Freed

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.

MAYA Design hosts World Usability Day game show

On Nov. 14, MAYA Design, a  Southisde design consultancy and technology research lab,  is hosting a “Usability Game Show” to coincide with World Usability Day.

Now in its second year, World Usability Day promotes the value of usability engineering and user-centered design with 36 hours of global activities. “Everyone has a product they hate or can’t use because its design is so confusing,” said Dave Bishop of MAYA.

To attract submissions, MAYA distributed colorful postcards seeking products that best reflect “mis-design.” The public is also invited to submit products via MAYA’s website. “It’s everybody's responsibility to ask for things to work better,” says MAYA’s Francine Gemperle, echoing the day’s credo.

The game show will pit a team of experts from MAYA, CMU and local companies against unusable products. They'll critique products, offer re-design recommendations and select winners. “It’s an entertaining way to connect to people who do similar things to what we do, and to people using products we design,” says Gemperle. 

After the game show, MAYA will compile all submissions online.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: MAYA Design

Image courtesy of Maya Design

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of Environmental Planning and Design

Green Building Alliance receives major funding, launches regional initiative

Southside-based Green Building Alliance (GBA) has received $1 million from Pennsylvania’s Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority and $250,000 from The Heinz Endowments to launch a regional initiative that utilizes green building manufacturing to stimulate regional economic development. Funds will allow GBA to expand its staff and possibly relocate its offices.

“We’re the first in the U.S. to launch this type of initiative,” says GBA’s executive director Rebecca Flora. “We can now put infrastructure and programming in place in order to grow this industry in our region.”

GBA’s mission is to integrate environmentally responsible and high performance design, construction and operating practices into the regional market. “We’ve established leadership in this market--we had an early start in green building, with our existing industry base and university research," she says.

Flora says next steps include formalizing key partnerships in order to strengthen existing companies, support start-ups and new product development and recruit firms interested in relocating to the area. “My job is to show the economic value of green building. We are absolutely and uniquely positioned to make that argument,” says Flora. “We will clearly be hard to beat--we can truly make this a green region.”

GBA has identified 1,820 building product firms in western PA. “It’s an opportunity to promote companies already doing it and help others retool products once they understand how big this market is," Flora says.

She hopes to educate the public sector about what she calls "connecting the dots between green building, jobs and the economy.” “It’s a major industry trend--this adds another layer of the market.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Rebecca Flora, GBA

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

Onorato, Ravenstahl establish county-city efficiency committee

On October 19, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato and Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced the formation of a Citizens Advisory Committee on the Efficiency and Effectiveness of City-County Government.

Charged with developing cooperative strategies for increasing government effectiveness and saving money, the independent, nonpartisan committee will hold its first meeting in the next three weeks. “There’s an honest interest in making things more effective,” says Megan Dardanell, an Onorato spokesperson, “If this works with our two biggest entities, then maybe it will continue.”

Onorato cites the consolidation of city-county 911 procedures, fingerprinting operations and municipal courts as examples of successful cooperation.

“A full city-county merger might come up--they are welcome to discuss and propose this,” adds Dardanell. “There is no pre-conceived notion of what  should be looked at—anything is on the table.”

University of Pittsburgh chancellor Mark Nordenberg will serve as committee chair, with Kathleen McKenzie, Allegheny County deputy manager and Yarone Zober, City of Pittsburgh chief of staff as vice chairs.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Megan Dardanell, office of the Chief Executive

PA pledges $25 million for Point State Park

On October 11, Governor Rendell released $25 million from Pennsylvania’s capital budget for the restoration and improvement of Point State Park.

Set to being this fall for completion in late 2007, phase one includes infrastructure and amenity work, such as constructing a four-acre lawn and stage pad as well as new landscaping, benches and lighting and wireless Internet access.

“The whole park will be renovated,” says Christine Novak with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

Contractors are S.E.T. Inc., Lone Pine Construction and Power Contracting Company. Pressley Associates, Inc., Landscape Architects developed the park’s master plan.

In collaboration with DCNR, Riverlife Task Force and Allegheny Conference on Community Development developed a 2004 master plan, with significant public input, that addressed the deteriorating park.

“This was unique for us--it let the community play a role,” says Novak. “We’re trying to accommodate different types of users.”

Phase two includes creating cycling paths, water steps to the rivers, and new connections between the Park and the Three Rivers Heritage and Great Allegheny Passage Trails.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Christina Novak, press secretary, DCNR

Image courtesy of Riverlife Task Force

Trader Joe’s to celebrate grand opening

On October 27, Trader Joe’s opens the doors to its first Pittsburgh location, a 10,500 square-foot store at 6343 Penn Avenue in East Liberty.

The much-anticipated opening will kick off with a ceremonial lei cutting and will feature product demos and food tastings. 
The store’s festive décor combines traditional cedar-covered walls, Hawaiian-inspired elements and local flare. Its design pays tribute to Pittsburgh’s beloved bridges with large models and murals of the city at night. Built in the 1900s as a post office, the building features 20-foot ceilings and 16-foot windows.

"We’re eager to be part of the neighborhood,” says Alison Mochizuki with Trader Joe’s. “There are a lot of foodies in Pittsburgh.”

Known as a “store of stories,” the company’s reputation is built on distinctive products, great deals and a light-hearted atmosphere. Considered “traders on the culinary seas,” employees don signature Hawaiian shirts and offer insightful product background.

“They’ve been a pleasure to do business with--from operations to real estate to in-store personnel,” says Lori Moran of Ballymoney & Company, Inc., developer of EastSide Village, where the grocery is located.

The store carries domestic and imported products including artisan breads, Arabica bean coffees and frozen entrées, along with basics.

To maintain low prices, Trader Joe’s purchases directly from manufacturers and sells its 1,000 items under a private label. Popular favorites include Trader Darwin's vitamins, Trader José's salsas and Trader Giotto’s sauces. 

Introducing a dozen new items weekly, Trader Joe's employs buyers who scour Europe, South America and Asia for unique products at great values. Thousands of items are tasted annually to identify products for both “culinary adventurers and microwave aficionados.”

Pittsburghers can soon expect Trader Joe’s now-legendary “Fearless Flyer” in mailboxes. Dubbed a cross between Consumer Reports and Mad Magazine, the often-irreverent newsletter highlights products and recipes.

Founded in 1958 in Los Angeles, Trader Joe’s has 260 stores in 22 states.  

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Alison Mochizuki, Trader Joe’s; Lori Moran, Ballymoney & Company, Inc.

Photograph copyright © Lori Moran

Guyasuta Fellowship hosts transportation summit

To address issues facing statewide transportation, Pittsburgh’s Guyasuta Fellowship, a young citizens’ forum tackling regional issues, is hosting an on-air summit to be broadcast live on WQED-TV on October 26 at 8 p.m.

The summit will engage citizens and regional leaders in a discussion about transportation funding, priorities and planning.

“The idea is to open up this issue to people’s living rooms throughout the region,” says Guyasuta Fellow Joshua Punchur.

The event features program fellows, along with representatives from city council, Port Authority, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, and the Pittsburgh Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers, who will share perspectives about highways and bridges, bike infrastructure and public transit.

The public is invited to participate through phone calls and online exchange. “We’re looking at transportation in a comprehensive manner,” says Punchur.

Beginning on October 20, WQED’s website will post discussion questions designed for public input. Following the summit, public recommendations will be gathered via e-mail and a transportation blog.

“We hope to stir up conversation around these topics,” says Punchur. 

Program fellows will submit a final report to city council and others in November. 

Created by Councilman Peduto in 2002, the fellowship annually welcomes 100 young Pittsburghers to meet with leaders in specific fields throughout a ten-month period.

“It’s critical in these discussions that you give young people the chance to participate--they are going to have to live with and pay for these decisions,” says Peduto.

Source: Bill Peduto, City Council; Joshua Punchur, Guyasuta Fellowship

Forum spotlights opportunities for regional businesses in China

On October 12, more than 120 people attended the U.S. Chamber of Commerce forum China Business 2006: Expanding Opportunities for U.S. Companies downtown.  

Designed to advise regional businesses on export and investment opportunities in China, the forum featured Li Hiyan, China’s counselor for economic affairs and Mike Byrnes, senior advisor with Yuan Associates.

“This signifies how serious we are about exporting to China,” says Joe Fawkner with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “China is in the midst of market reform and Pittsburgh’s strong companies can offer services.”

Fawkner suggested that PNC could provide banking services and that Westinghouse could assist with energy resource development.

“There’s an incredible need in China for environmentally friendly technologies,” says Fawkner. “Pittsburgh is a model of how effectively a city can be cleaned up.”

Co-organized by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, the Pittsburgh forum, one of eight nationwide, provided business owners with opportunities to network with trade reps and learn from success stories. 

“This the first time we’ve promoted better awareness of China’s business environment. It’s cutting edge,” says Fawkner. “We targeted cities that reflect more of the reality in America.”

In Pennsylvania, Fawkner sees a growing interest in trade and investment in China. He cites local companies already invested in China, such as PPG and Fairfield Scientific, as examples.

China is Pennsylvania’s fifth largest export market; since 2001, exports to the country have risen 238 percent. In 2005, Pennsylvania exported $933 million in goods and services to China.

As a follow-up to the forum, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development is organizing a trade mission to China in 2007.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Joe Fawkner, associate director, Northeast Asia, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Allegheny Conference on Community Development

Image courtesy of Allegheny Conference on Community Development

Pittsburgh to host 2,500 for National Preservation Conference

On October 31-November 5, Pittsburgh hosts the National Preservation Conference, the country’s premier educational mechanism for historic and community preservation.

Presented by The National Trust for Historic Preservation, with support from partner Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation (PHLF), the event presents strategies for protecting and restoring historic structures and communities.

“We’ll have planners, advocates, preservationists, municipal officials and leaders in community revitalization from across the county,” says Cathy McCollum, PHLF’s chief programs officer.

Over 2,500 participants are expected to attend fifty educational sessions to learn from best case studies and approaches. Author, historian and Pittsburgh native David McCullough will present the keynote address.

Pittsburgh was chosen because of its historic sites, livability and surrounding countryside. The conference will utilize Pittsburgh as a laboratory for exploring current issues surrounding preservation and revitalization, including green building practices.

Thirty site visits--including Manchester, Station Square, the Hill District, and Ambridge--will investigate neighborhood and downtown revitalization, affordable housing, Brownfields, transportation, and tourism.  

“The host city becomes the workshop for participants,” says McCollom. “We'll be out and about in the city.”

New this year are free public events. These include an address by PHLF president Arthur P. Ziegler, Jr on October 31 at 5:30 p.m. at the Byham Theater, a premiere of local filmmaker Ken Love’s documentary Saving Fallingwater on November 4 at 1:45 p.m. at the Hilton and an Exhibit Hall and Old House Fair on November 1-3 at the Hilton.

The public is invited to join Mayor Ravenstahl, Senator Ferlo and the URA for a reception at the City County Building on October 31 at 7:30 p.m.

“National conferences are usually rolled out with a lot of sameness,” says McCollum. “From the beginning, we wanted this to be different.”

Planners worked with the African American Preservation Alliance to address diversity in preservation and PHLF awarded 100 local scholarships.

Two thousand people have registered for the conference and organizers are hoping for a record turnout. To register, go here.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Cathy McCollom, PHLF

Image courtesy of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Green building events will help set national agenda

Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Association (PHLF) and Green Building Alliance (GBA) will present two events that examine green restoration and building on Oct. 30-31 as part of the Greening of Historic Properties National Summit.

The events will occur in conjunction with the National Trust for Historic Preservation Conference in Pittsburgh Oct. 31-Nov. 5.

A free Town Hall Meeting on Oct. 30 at 5:30 p.m. at the Heinz History Center brings green building and historic preservation experts together to share strategies for integrating the goals of both disciplines. The meeting will solicit public input and announce the formation of a national green building planning team. Meeting outcomes will be reported during November’s 2006 Greenbuild conference in Denver.

“Green-building issues are helping to create new alliances among preservationists, environmentalists, conservationists, clean water activists, and others,” says Cathy McCollum, PHLF’s chief programs officer. “The result may be an influx of young people into preservation.”

On Oct. 31 at the Convention Center, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) presents "Using LEED" for new construction on historic projects, a workshop that will cover methods for leveraging LEED concepts into historic projects, green strategies and modifications necessary for sustainable design, and tips for achieving LEED compliance. Green building case studies and resources will be shared.

Conducted by leading green building practitioner Ralph DiNola, the workshop targets industry professionals who wish to enter the rapidly growing green building market and learn more about USGBC’s LEED for New Construction Green Building Rating System. Architects, manufacturers, engineers, developers, contractors and government officials are encouraged to register.

A national green building leader, the Pittsburgh region features 13 newly-constructed buildings and nine historic renovations that have achieved LEED Certification.

To register for the Town Hall Meeting, go here. To register for the USGBC workshop, go here.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Cathy McCollom, PHLF; Ryan Snow, GBA

Image courtesy of PHLF and GBA

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

WYEP’s new $2.7 million studio spotlighted during green building tour

On September 15 at 3:30 p.m., the Green Building Alliance presents a public tour of WYEP’s new radio studio located at 67 Bedford Square.

Designed for maximum performance, the innovative restoration project includes mechanical systems that utilize recycled and renewable materials.

“We all came to the realization, our board and staff, that building green was not a debate, it was what we had to do. The decision was unanimous and fit our mission,” says WYEP’s general manager Lee Ferraro.

WYEP worked with dggp Architects and Sota Construction Services to create the green studios. Completed in 2006, the 19,084 square-foot site received a LEED-NC Silver rating.

“We also wanted to do this for Pittsburgh, not just for us. We recognized that it was good for the city,” says Ferraro.

The studio features fiber-optic and high-speed cable, enclosed printers, studio furniture constructed from wheat board and recycled doors and windows. Natural light fills ninety percent of the building.  

“Feedback has been great. Whenever I give a tour, particularly with younger people, they are very excited to learn that blue jeans and milk jugs were recycled to create the ceilings and floors,” adds Ferraro.

Ferraro, who says that the building will pay for itself over time, has surprised some in the business community when talking about the facility’s significant reduction in energy costs.

“In conventional spaces you walk into a cubicle. Here you feel connected to the world around you,” says Ferraro, who loves opening windows at work. “When you look at health issues, it is full of common sense. These are things you want in your home.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Lee Ferraro, WYEP

$2.5 million awarded to URA for South Shore Riverfront Park

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has received a $2.5 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant from the state to create a large public park from a 123-acre brownfield along the Monongahela River, adjacent to SouthSide Works.

When completed, the $30 million South Shore Riverfront Park will provide access to the Monongahela waterfront, including boat docking, six acres of green space, and a link to the ten-mile Three Rivers Park Trail.

“The goal is to get pedestrians down to the river. It is an opportunity to reclaim industrial sites along the water,” says Jerry Dettore, director of the URA. “The end benefit is enormous.”

Governor Rendell secured the funds in order to support new leisure opportunities for the area, improve quality of life for the community, and meet the recreational needs of the South Side’s residents and employees.

The downtown-based firm Environmental Planning and Design is designing the park in phases. “The design is trying to incorporate some of the remnants of the industrial mills, the old relics and parts of the walls,” says Dettore. The project is close to reaching seventy percent of its funding goal.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Jerry Dettore, executive director, URA

Image courtesy of the URA

New concept hotel in development for SouthSide Works

The Soffer Organization is working to bring a new concept hotel to Pittsburgh’s SouthSide Works (SSW). The developer is currently in talks with Concord Hospitality Enterprises about the project, which could become the first hotel at SSW.

Introduced in 2005 by Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc., the "aloft" concept is a moderately priced, select-service brand of boutique hotel.

“A hotel is an important part of the environment of Southside Works. In addition to retail, office and residential development, to have a hotel and amenities such as a riverfront park, really makes it a place," says Christine Fulton, Soffer's vp of external relations and real estate.  

Soffer is still identifying the size of the hotel, which will most likely feature 120-150 rooms. “It will be a new hotel category for our area, and will offer great views of the Mon River Valley right to downtown,” says Fulton.

The new hotel will be located on a riverfront property adjacent to South Shore Park, Cheesecake Factory, walking trails and a planned Hofbrauhaus.

A construction start date has not yet been determined.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Christine Fulton, vice president of external relations, Soffer Organization

City Theatre completes new artist housing

Southside-based City Theatre (CT) has completed the second phase of a development project located across from its Bingham Street complex.

In 2004, CT purchased the 35,000 square-foot Walter Long Manufacturing site in order to create evening patron parking, sell leases for daytime parking, and—most recently—to construct housing for visiting actors, directors and designers.

The new artist housing was previously a neglected eight-unit apartment building at the corner of Muriel and 13th Streets.

“The property needed attention. It improves the quality of the neighborhood, doubles our artist housing and gives us more flexibility,” says Greg Quinlin, managing director of CT.

Project developer is 1300 Muriel Streets Associates, a team consisting of South Side-based Renaissance 3 Architects and WJM Contracting. Architect Deepak Wadhwani led the project. Transformed into a contemporary housing complex, the property features two suites that can accommodate up to four people.

CT Board Secretary Tamara Dudukovich was instrumental in guiding the purchase and development process. “This was a substantial rehabilitation. The neighborhood is a big part of the theatre’s charm for patrons and artists. CT’s managing and artistic directors are both Pittsburgh transplants and Southside homeowners. This project really makes an investment in the neighborhood,” she says.

CT will soon begin planning for the third phase of the Walter Long development. The company will analyze its business model and Southside campus and consider options for a third theatre, new administrative offices or additional production facilities.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Greg Quinlan, managing director, Margie Romero, director of communications, and Tamara Dudukovich, board secretary, CT

SouthSide Works set to be third Stateside location for Hofbräuhaus

The popular German beer hall Hofbräuhaus will open at SouthSide Works in October 2007. Hofbräuhaus inked the deal during a lease-signing ceremony on July 28.

The Munich-based establishment will occupy a 17,000-square foot riverfront site near the Hot Metal bridge and The Cheesecake Factory.

“The Soffer Organization is very excited to add Hofbräuhaus to its tenant mix. It is a unique restaurant and entertainment venue that is perfect for not only the SouthSide Works, but the City of Pittsburgh,” says R. Damian Soffer, president/CEO of Soffer Organization.

Pittsburgh’s Hofbräuhaus joins Las Vegas, NV and Newport, KY as one of only three U.S. locations. The restaurant will be operated by an investment group led by Nick Ellison, who operates Newport’s location. “We are proud to join in a rich brewing tradition in Pittsburgh," Ellison said.

In keeping with its long history, the well-loved Hofbräuhaus features Bavarian beers brewed on site, traditionally decorated rooms and German and American fare. The venue will include a 600-seat Bier Hall, 400-seat Biergarten and dining room.

A visiting brew master from Munich will oversee the production of beers, such as lager, weizen, dunkel, pilsner and marzen. Menu items include pretzels and bier cheese, kartoffelpfannkuchen (potato pancakes), sauerkraut balls, and fritierte gurken (fried pickles).

The first Hofbräuhaus brew was crafted 500 years ago, when Wilhelm V., Duke of Bavaria became dissatisfied with beer in Munich, and in 1589, recruited master brewer Heimeran Pongraz, of the Geisenfeld Monastery, to develop the first “brown.” Hofbräuhaus was born at “Alter Hof” (Old Court) in 1592. Munich’s sprawling Hofbräuhaus am Platzl was completed in 1897.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Pamelyn McMahon and Jill Stroh, Soffer Organization

Image courtesy of Soffer Organization

Riverside Mews to bring 48 new town homes to South Side

Riverside Mews, the South Side’s newest residential development, celebrated a ground breaking on July 27.

The town homes, located at 18th Street and Merriman Way, are being developed by Riverside Development Group, Inc. Architects Perkins Eastman and Strada have created a contemporary design that combines brick, metal, glass, and pre-cast stone. Sota Construction Services, Inc. is the general contractor. Steven Winter Associates worked with developers on a green deisgn for the town homes.

Riverside Mews will consist of 48 town homes priced from $300,000 to $500,000.  Owners will choose from ten open and flexible floor plans. Two and three-bedroom units range in size from 2,300 to 3,200 square feet. Amenities include fireplaces, dens, guest rooms, integral garages and optional rooftop terraces or sky rooms.

Near Riverfront Park along the Monongahela, the Mews is located within walking distance to the East Carson business district, numerous public transportation stops and South Side Works, and is easily accessible from downtown and Oakland.

The development is being constructed in three phases; phase one expects a spring 2007 completion.

“We are working to produce a real quality development,” says Ernie Sota, president of Sota Construction Services, Inc.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Ernie Sota, president, Sota Construction Services, Inc., and
Barbara Kurdys Miller, Prudential Preferred Realty

Image Courtesy of Riverside Mews

$1 million Bedford Square property under new ownership, welcomes new tenants

Zoltun Properties has purchased a building at 10 Bedford Square on the South Side. Built in 1914, the structure once housed an egg warehouse.

The 10,000 square-foot space will house Zoltun Design and computer businesses. Zoltun plans to occupy the building by September, moving from a current 19th Street office.

Rick Zoltun, president of Zoltun Design and a Penn Hills native, purchased the three-story brick building from Robert and Ada Brandegee for $1 million. Drawn to its large open spaces and existing features, including concrete floors and a giant built-in scale, he is currently researching the site history.

“It will be a showcase by next spring. I want to dedicate the lobby to the building’s history,” says Zoltun.

With Krieder Printing vacating its nearby warehouse, Zoltun envisions exciting reuse of the square. “There are a lot of people trying to fix up the area. It is unique, kind of overlooked. There is only one other historic square in the city,” says Zoltun who notes that there is an extensive plan for the Bingham Street corridor, with trees lining the streets. "It could be a cool, artsy street,” he says.

Founded in 1990, Zoltun is a print, Web and catalog design firm with 17 employees.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Rick Zoltun, president, Zoltun Design, partner, Zoltun Properties

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

Pittsburgh natives open JUPE boutique, bring an eye for style to Carson Street

JUPE Boutique, located at 2306 East Carson Street, bridges the historic business district with the expansive South Side Works, and blends its owners combined international fashion and independent business sense.

“The South Side is becoming a destination. It is absolutely working out with the new development. We are in the middle of it all,” says Cara Moody, who researched the area’s demographic before starting Jupe with Amanda Plesco. Both women are 29 and native Pittsburghers.

“We looked all over Pittsburgh, even in Cranberry. But there are more people coming here, more residents and more business opportunities,” says Moody, who cites the free South Side shuttle as a business booster.

Moody studied fashion design in Paris and worked for French label Sharagano in NYC. She plans to create original products within the 600 square-foot boutique. Plesco juggles Jupe and a marketing job at Ketchum.

Due to the shop's success since opening in March, Jupe is adding a new line of prestigious purses and will host “handbag parties” featuring Jennifer Velarde, whose 1154 LILL custom-designed products are taking the nation’s fashion circles by storm.

Named for the French word for skirt, Jupe features designers such as Kenzie, To the Max and Indigo Six. Jupe carries cotton-knit camisoles, stretchy dresses, skinny-leg jeans and jewelry.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Cara Moddy, co-owner, Jupe

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

$2 million award-winning Bausman Street Independent Living Project hosts ribbon cutting, open house

On July 27 at 11:30 AM, Bausman Street Independent Living (BSIL) welcomes tenants and community members with a ribbon cutting, barbecue and tours. Located in the 200-block of Bausman Street in Knoxville, the project received a 2006 Commonwealth Design Silver Award, sponsored by 10,000 Friends of PA.

Perkins Eastman Architects designed the twelve fully accessible apartments which include green elements such as high-efficiency AC, compact fluorescent lighting and ample green space. Sota Construction Services acted as contractor. BSIL was co-developed by the South Side Local Development Company (SSLDC), Neighborhood Development Ventures and ACTION- Housing, a United Way agency.

“Everyone is impressed by the design and it fits tenants’ needs. It is also contextually sensitive to the surroundings. We have heard that it is an asset to the neighborhood," says Kevin Hanley of SSLDC.

The apartments were filled by May 2006. Major funding was provided by HUD’s Section 811 program, which provides capital funds for projects geared to low-income people with disabilities.

This is the first residential project of its kind developed by SSLDC. “The HUD process is very competitive. ACTION-Housing has a good background and management experience,” says Hanley.

“The idea developed a long time ago with conversations with our board when someone from the local MS Society mentioned a lack of accessible housing in the city,” says Hanley.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Kevin Hanley, Manager of Real Estate & Housing Programs, South Side Local Development Company

Glassworks Lofts sells first unit, nears completion

Construction is nearing completion on Glassworks Lofts, located at 50 South 15th Street on the South Side. Glassworks includes three town homes and two lofts ranging from 2700 to 3100 square feet. One of the five units has already been sold. Units range in price from $475,000 to $499,500.
Town homes feature three bedrooms, a den/study, open floor plans, and balconies or terraces. Loft-style condos feature 2 bedrooms, den and a sky room. Glassworks architect is Felix Fukui and the contractor is Dan Doyle.

“I have known about this building for some time now. It was languishing and I always thought it had great potential,” says Dan Doyle of Doyle Management.

Architectural historian Carol Peterson wrote Glassworks’ site history, which details the 1917 building’s role in Pittsburgh’s pre-steel “city of glass” identity. The property once housed the operations of the Ihmsen family glassmakers, a prominent German family who set up shop along 15th and Muriel Streets in 1872.

“I love the location because it is in the center of the South Side. There is so much activity there. Glassworks is off Carson so it is more quiet; every morning birds are chirping,” adds Doyle.

Building amenities include wrought iron gates, heated parking lot and a courtyard. Units feature restored brick, 19th-century poured concrete ceilings, and exposed steel and wood beams. Units also feature stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, ceramic tile and outdoor showers.

“We exceeded building codes for insulation, used environmentally friendly AC units and recycled old brick,” says Doyle.

Glassworks is framed by South Side’s legendary domed churches, colorful row houses, riverside parks and lively nightlife. Residents will enjoy city views, walks to the Carson Street business district and easy access to public transportation.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Dan Doyle, Doyle Management

Photo copyright © Jonathan Greene

Diesel fuels Pittsburgh’s nightlife with new $1.5. million South Side club

The latest addition to Pittsburgh’s nightlife is club diesel lounge, located at 1601 East Carson in the South Side. Diesel’s doors swung open on June 9, occupying a 7,000 square-foot,  multi-level renovated space that formerly housed Nick’s Fat City.

Diesel features local, regional and national bands as well as resident DJ H, formerly of Sanctuary. An exclusive VIP lounge features giant glass panels that overlook the main bar.  

“You can reserve space in our VIP area. It is very hospitable; our goal is to make you feel at home,” says Emily Geyman, marketing director.

What impresses people, she adds, is the lighting. “We have an LED wall with lights that move with our music. We worked with lighting designers from Miami who are among the biggest in the world,” says Geyman.

And they’re bringing back bands to Carson that are popular in the area. “Pittsburgh loves live music,” says Geyman.

Diesel’s kitchen serves light fare, such as quesadillas, shrimp, and "Pittsburgh sushi”--Diesel Maki, BBQ chicken and pizza rolls.

Owners Adam and Michael DeSimone (nicknamed “diesel,”) along with father Patrick, opened diesel after recognizing “the upscale trend of Southside.” Adam is a retail real estate developer and commercial broker with The Paradise Development Group, while Michael works as a planner with American Eagle Outfitters.

“I've seen Southside town homes and row houses double in price since I graduated from Duquesne University five years ago. That's a good indication of a hot real estate market," says Adam DeSimone.

With a capacity of 700, diesel is available for private parties and events.  

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Emily Geyman, marketing director, diesel.

Photo courtesy of Diesel

Angel's Arms condos and South Side on network TV and house tour

Angel’s Arms, located at One Pius Street, was recently featured on Fine Living Network’s “What You Get for the Money.” The national TV spot praised the property and its urban environs. Those craving city living can tour Angel’s Arms during the Historic South Side Home Tour, presented by Howard Hanna and Station Square, on June 3.

Touting Pittsburgh as a “once again up-and-coming metropolis,” and Angel’s Arms as a “historic church converted to hip digs,” the program boasts that $200,000 will fetch “contemporary style and rich history” and a “sound investment in a neighborhood on the move.”

Viewers worldwide learn that Angel’s Arms once housed St. Michael’s—built in 1863 as Pittsburgh’s first Roman Catholic Church. Located in a stable residential neighborhood, the building is a five-minute descent to lively Carson Street. Amenities include expansive windows, roof patio, vaulted ceilings, and mosaic and terrazzo floors.

The June 3rd tour showcases seven residences, including the former Duquesne Brewery and Birmingham School.

“One thousand people attend the tour. The direct economic impact is huge,” says Amy Camp, manager of marketing for the South Side Local Development Company.

“Our first ticket sold was to a Waynesburg resident coming into the city for the first time in 22 years.  She sold a 1950s truck to Pittsburgh Jeans Company and hopes to visit the store,” says Camp, underscoring a community connection. The tour encourages “detours” to South Side business, including treks up city steps.

“This is more than a house tour. We show how people live in a variety of ways in a wonderful live-work community,” adds Camp.

Source: Amy Camp, manager of marketing and communications for the South Side Local Development Company (SSLDC).

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

Rivertech Office Works brings $4 million investment to South Side

Rivertech Office Works, the last development piece of the LTV South Side Works project, is now leasing a unique brand of loft-style workspace. Conveniently located along South Water Street on Pittsburgh’s vibrant South Side, Rivertech Office Works comprises 3 ½ acres of land and seven loft-style office properties.

Available units include four buildings consisting of 5,200 square feet and two buildings totaling 7,200 square feet. Properties are flexible and can be divided into 1,300 square foot suites. All units feature a first floor office area with polished concrete floors, loft space with spiral staircase access, ceiling fans, and a kitchenette and restroom.

Distinct South Side amenities make Rivertech Office Works a prime location for prospective tenants, as the property sits adjacent to scenic walking trails, abundant free parking and an impressive array of restaurants, businesses and shops. Tenants will enjoy tranquil river views, lunch in the Steelers cafeteria and a convenient proximity to access points throughout the city, including downtown and Oakland.

Rivertech Office Works has already attracted notable tenants such as the FBI Crime Investment Lab, PRC Commercial, the National Center for Juvenile Justice, marketing company Agnew Moyer Smith and law firm Brabender Mascetta, LLC. Architects for the project are Penner & Associates.

"The location is very convenient. We are close to downtown; our lawyers head back and forth to the courthouse. They are completing beautiful landscaping; everyone is pleased to be here," notes Donna Hogan, Receptionist for Brabender Mascetta.

Barry Lhomer, a Principal with Lhormer Real Estate Agency Inc, explains, “Rivertech Office Works is a unique project in that it offers seven individual loft-style office buildings. The project represents a $4 million investment in Pittsburgh’s South Side.”
Tours of Rivertech Office Works can be arranged through David Hanley, Associate Broker, PRC Commercial.

(Source: Barry Lhormer, Principal, Lhormer Real Estate Agency,
and David Hanley, Associate Broker, PRC Commercial).

Photo copyright © Jonathan Greene

75 new condos, new H&M store at Southside Works

Southside Works continues to grow with the addition of new retail--the hip H&M, for the latest international styles in men, women's and children's clothes opens in June--and its first residential project: two new condominium buildings by the Soffer Organization on South Water St. 

Plans for Phase One of the condos call for a 180,000 square foot,  75-unit building designed by Cambridge Seven Architects and the Pittsburgh firm of Perfido Weiskopf Architects. Completion is expected in late 2008. Phase Two, also by Soffer is not yet designed. Price range has not been established for the condos.

Although the Southside Works has 84 rental lofts and flats, and there are condos nearby, this is the first within the development. Demand is high as the area continues to grow with a mix of offices, retail and residential.

"It's a wonderful place to live within the Southside Works and the vibrant South Side community," said Christine Fulton of the Soffer Organization.

H&M will join retailers such as BCBG, MAZ Azra, American Eagel Outfitters, Cole Haan, Kenneth Cole New York, Roberta Weissberg Leather, Steve Madden Urban Outfitters and Forever 21, among others.

Source:    Christine Fulton, Soffer Organization

Photo copyright © Jonathan Greene

Pittsburgh ranked # one in sustainability study

Pittsburgh has captured the number one spot in a national sustainability study. SustainLane, a web site dedicated to sustainability issues, has published a 2006 U.S. City Rankings Study which looks at many sustainability issues, including use of local food. With a population of just under 350,000, Pittsburgh leads U.S. cities in its use of local food, boasting seven farmers markets. That’s two per 100,000 people, and all of them accept food stamps.

In addition, the city also features a notable number--188--of community gardens.

Pittsburgh also tied for third place for the number of LEED (Leadership in Environmental & Energy Design) rated buildings per capita, with six LEED-certified and twenty-nine LEED-registered buildings as of April 2005. Those buildings include the world’s first Gold LEED -certified David Lawrence Convention Center, the AIA Pittsburgh award-winning Children’s Museum, PNC FirstSide Center, the CCI Center on the Southside, CORO Center for Civic Leadership and the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center.

Rebecca Flora, executive director of the Green Building Alliance expects another 15 buildings to become certified this year, which may propel Pittsburgh back into the number one spot.

Source: SustainLane `

$60m Surety Center supports international business – right here on the Mon

Coming up for final approval of the city planning commission this month is the Surety Center, a bland name for an unusual project to be built next to the Hot Metal Bridge on the South Side.

The Surety Center, designed by architects Pfaffmann + Associates, will be a 325,000 square foot office condominium building, created as a “home office away from home” for East Asian businesspeople – especially those from China and Korea – working in the United States.

The condos will be made up of 800-square-foot modules, Pfaffmann says, which can be linked together to form larger office spaces. Depending on how many sub-units each occupant buys, up 220 office condos could be sold.

The design is novel, too. Inspired by an East Asian “lucky fish” shape, the nine-story design incorporates Feng Shui principles. The ground floor will feature a pan-Asian restaurant and a business club, among other amenities. Because the developers -- a group of American and Asian investors -- anticipate that occupants will take advantage of the pedestrian-friendly Carson Street and South Side Works and will take public transit to and from the airport, a smaller parking field will be required, Pfaffmann adds.

“I asked and everybody asks, ‘Why Pittsburgh?’” Pfaffmann says. “In surveys [of potential buyers], they tended to be family-oriented. They want an affordable place where they can raise children, a place less intense than Los Angeles or New York. Also, they wanted to be near the creative innovations in technology at Carnegie Mellon and Pitt.”

Construction on the $60 million project is expected to begin at the end of 2006.

Source: Rob Pfaffmann, Pfaffmann + Associates

First eight of 45 new homes in Beltzhoover almost done

The first eight of 45 new homes in the Beltzhoover and Allentown neighborhoods are nearly finished, says Tom Hardy, assistant director of the South Side Local Development Company.

The eight new houses, which will replace vacant buildings or fill vacant lots, are on Beltzhoover Ave., just off Warrington, Allentown’s main street, and not far from Mt. Washington and Knoxville. “It’s a pretty critical area for all those neighborhoods,” Hardy says. “Everyone agreed that to have an impact, we wanted to do something of considerable scale.”

Built by South Side-based Jaxson Development, the two-story houses will have three bedrooms and full basements that can be finished by the buyers. Seven will have detached garages on the alley, and all will have front porches. 

Funded in part with $1 million from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, qualified buyers can also obtain deferred second mortgages from the Urban Redevelopment Authority, which can make the $125,000-$140,000 houses affordable for low- to moderate-income buyers, Hardy explains.

Prospective buyers can get a tour from a local: Neighborhood resident Jennifer Cash Wade will be selling the houses through Northwood Realty.

Source: Tom Hardy, South Side Local Development Company

Photo copyright © Tom Altany

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

$240,000 awarded to five neighborhoods to support Elm St Initiative

Last week, the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority gave its official go-ahead to release about $48,000 each to five neighborhoods in the state-funded Elm Street program.

The Elm Street initiative – part of the Department of Community and Economic Development’s (DCED) New Communities Program – funds the residential equivalent of the “Main Streets” program for business districts. Last year, the neighborhoods completed a year of planning; for the next five years, they’ll be funded to implement their plans.

“Healthy communities aren’t just businesses,” commented Kim Graziani of the North Side Leadership Conference at the March 9 URA board meeting. The North Side is one of the grantees; their program will focus on the residential areas to either side of East Ohio Street. “We’re looking at the gateways to the community, and working with Allegheny General [Hospital] and Giant Eagle.”

Some of the funded activities include: planting street trees, installing trash receptacles, installing porch lights to existing houses, demolishing alleyway houses, repairing sidewalks, providing low-income homeowner sewer grants, tree removal and other landscaping activities.

The other four Elm Street neighborhoods are: East Liberty, Friendship, the South Side (to focus on the South Side Slopes) and Lawrenceville (focusing on Upper Lawrenceville).

Source: Urban Redevelopment Authority board meeting, March 9, 2006.

Living history: Pittsburgh historic neighborhood tours go online next month

If your relatives visiting Pittsburgh have already logged more miles on the Mon Incline than a pair of teenage lovebirds, you’ll be glad come April.

Next month, organizers in seven city neighborhoods – Bloomfield, Lawrenceville, Mount Washington, Oakland, The Strip, North Side and South Side – will debut their newly crafted historic neighborhood tours online at www.pittsburghneighborhoodtours.com.

According to the South Side Local Development Corporation’s Amy Camp, the featured restaurants, galleries, bookstores and local miscellanea will be the sorts of places where locals and tourists alike can strike up lively conversations and gather great material for their blogs … and even the odd travel diary.

Rather than tours focused on a single neighborhood, the self-guided tours will be theme expeditions, such as “Real Pittsburgh Food,” “Arts Big and Small,” “Literary Pittsburgh,” and a tour of the local soundscape called “Pittsburgh Roars.”

The project was funded with a $50,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. According to Camp, the grant was one this year largest, and the first for promoting neighborhood tourism, as opposed to marketing large cultural institutions.

Another novel strategy is presenting the tours primarily online, rather than in printed brochures that visitors would have to write away for. “We found that visitors will do some researching online, then make a quick decision about whether to go and where to go,” Camp says.

The project, which the neighborhood groups developed with the assistance of the Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, will target “heritage tourism” enthusiasts, but also the much larger group of Pittsburghers who are hosting out-of-towners. “There’s a term: VFR’s,” Camp says. “Visiting friends and relatives. We borrowed the term ‘kitchen concierge’ from New Orleans. You can look at these tours sitting around the kitchen table, saying ‘What do you want to do tomorrow?’”

Source: Amy Camp, South Side Local Development Company

Photo copyright © Tom Altany

Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau, www.visitpittsburgh.com;
South Side Local Development Company, www.southsidepgh.com

A greener hillside: Ernie Sota’s domestic ecology

Pittsburgh’s abundance of old, inexpensive houses makes new residential construction within city limits less common than renovation -- even more so on the city’s steepest hillside neighborhoods.

It’s easy to see why. Looking up from the Monongahela riverside towards the South Side Slopes, it’s impressive that the old houses have managed cling so tenaciously to its terraced streets.

Now, just off Windom Street -- roughly above the South Side Flats’ 10th Street -- Ernie Sota’s company is carefully placing a group of nine new townhouses on the Slopes’ precipice.

 “To an extent,” Sota continues, “any development in the City of Pittsburgh is sustainable. If you’re building out in the suburbs where you have to drive 20 miles, it isn’t. We’re reinforcing the worth of the city’s access to public transportation and walkable neighborhoods.” The Windom Hill houses are walking distance from Carson Street and close to a pedestrian bridge that spans the railroad tracks and McArdle Roadway.

Though nearby older homes on the Slopes can be bought inexpensively, a well built new house can demand much more, Sota says. He’ll offer the new Windom units at about $575,000. “Yeah, if there’s 400,000 people in Pittsburgh, 395,000 people won’t be interested,” Sota says. “But we’ve only got nine units to sell. Townhomes of lesser quality have sold for more.

 “These aren’t your vinyl-siding type thing,” he adds. Designed by architect John Martine of Strada Architects LLC in a contemporary craftsman style, they’ll have details like cast stone exteriors and custom grillwork.

Besides their own value, Sota believes the new houses will add something worthwhile to the neighborhood. “When I had less working capital, I’d take $30 out of my paycheck and go buy a new doorknob for the place I was renovating: ‘Here, house, are you satisfied now?’ And of course the house would say no,” he laughed. “These will add value to homes around them.”

Source: Ernie Sota, Sota Construction

Photo copyright © Tom Altany

Sota Construction: www.sotaconstruction.com. www.windomhillplace.com

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