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Rustbuilt and Citiparks team up to bring Squirrel Hill its first farmers market

The new Squirrel Hill Farmers’ Market debuted in the parking lot that runs from Bartlett Street to Beacon Street — directly behind the old Gulliftys — last weekend on Sun., June 1.
City Councilman Corey O’Connor cut the ribbon Sunday, marking the official opening of Squirrel Hill’s first farmers market and Citiparks’ first weekend farmers market.
The Squirrel Hill Farmers’ Market is a unique partnership between Citiparks and RustBuilt, a nonprofit working to nurture next-generation entrepreneurship and innovation in Pittsburgh and throughout the Rust Belt.
Nearly a thousand people wandered through, according to Alec Rieger, executive director at RustBuilt. He said vendors were almost completely sold out by noon — and the market runs from 9AM to 1PM
“I would say it was a really big success,” Rieger says. 
Featuring more than 20 vendors, Rieger says produce and food products “run the gamut.” He says the market offers high end organic food, mixed organics, prepared food, cheese, meat, baked goods, Italian ice, artisan vinegar and, he joked, no market would be complete without kettle corn.
“Meaningful public health and environmental arguments aside, this market is both a community development and economic development initiative, with the overarching goal of leveraging the neighborhood’s human capital, in order to create greater communal connection, cohesiveness, and commerce in Squirrel Hill and beyond,” says Rieger about the event.
He adds that the market fosters public health, environmental consciousness and, most importantly, community. Rieger says he hopes the market is a space where one does “not just grab your broccoli and go.” He says he wants people and families to sit and stay awhile. 
To create a neighborhood atmosphere, the market will begin hosting music as early as this weekend and hopes to have crafts and activities for children in the future.
The Squirrel Hill Farmers’ Market is also partnering with local social service agencies to provide market access to nearby homebound elderly and will accept EBT and FMNP vouchers.
The market will be open from 9AM to 1PM every Sunday through the end of November.
Source: Alec Rieger, RustBuilt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strong tweeted the menu yesterday.

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

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

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

Eat + Drink: Mead in Carnegie, a new bar in Squirrel Hill and dark brews at East End

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

Penn brewer will open meadery in Carnegie
Dave Cerminara might brew beer, but it’s mead he loves.

That’s why he’ll leave his job as assistant brewer at the North Side’s Penn Brewery later this year to open Apis Meadery at 212 E. Main Street in Carnegie.

Though its popularity has waxed and waned, humans have been making mead — a wine whose fermentable sugar is derived from honey — for at least 4,000 years.

“It’s been something I’ve been thinking about for eight or nine years now,” Cerminara says. “When you get into the world of mead, there are so many varieties. It doesn’t have to be just honey wine. It can be melomels or fruit wine — it can be lots of things. We’re trying to show people what mead really can be.”

Cerminara says that by the time he’s ready to open, he hopes to have between six and ten varieties ready to go. Among them will be standard meads for summer and winter made from clover honey, melomels (fruit wines) flavored with peaches and apricots or blackberries and raspberries, and pyments.

“Pyment is specifically grape and honey blended. For the grapes, we chose a Sangiovese, and I’ve been making that one for about nine years,” he says. “It has that robust richness, but it has the nice honey finish on the back.”

Cerminara says he hopes to open for business by early July.

New Squirrel Hill bar will specialize in local brews
Local attorney Peter Kurzweg new venture, the Independent Brewing Company, is set to take over the space at 1704 Shady Avenue in Squirrel Hill, which until late last year was occupied by Fanattics sports bar. Independent plans to offer a definitive selection of locally brewed beers. An opening date hasn’t yet been confirmed.

East End to host Festival of Darkness
Reeling from not having seen the sun in two months? East End Brewing can’t really help with that, so they’re embracing the darkness.

The brewery will host its Festival of Darkness on Saturday, February 1st. For $5 (which goes right toward East End's collection for Light of Life) you can taste 12 of East End’s darkest ales, stouts and porters. The full lineup includes everything from their year-round and seasonal brews to one-offs, such as Homewood Reserve 2013 — Black Strap Stout aged for nine months in Maker’s Mark barrels.
You can view the full lineup on the festival’s event page.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Dave Cerminara, Peter Kurzweg

Eat + Drink: Fish, fireplaces, macarons by mail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein

ACTION Housing to redevelop long-vacant Squirrel Hill property

After sitting vacant for nearly a decade, the space that formerly housed Poli restaurant in Squirrel Hill has been acquired by ACTION-Housing and will be redeveloped into a mix of residential and office units.

After more than a year of effort, ACTION acquired the property at 5685 Forward Avenue through a sheriff’s sale in September. It will partner with Jewish Residential Services to convert the site into a multi-purpose facility after demolishing the existing structure.

“We’d build up four or five stories,” says Linda Metropulos, ACTION-Housing’s director of housing and neighborhood development. “We’d build the building as a condo, and JRS would have the ground floor. We’d have the residential space above.”

Metropulos adds that JRS would likely use its portion of the space to build out its offices and improve the Howard Levin Clubhouse — a non-profit facility assisting people affected by mental illness — which currently sits in the space adjacent to the former restaurant.

She also says that while plans are very premature, the project will cost somewhere between $12 and $15 million to complete. Though ACTION hasn’t formally enlisted an architecture firm, Metropulos said it is doing preliminary consultations with Downtown-based FortyEighty Architecture.

“We’d probably start construction at the end of 2015,” Metropulos says. “It’s a lengthy process.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Linda Metropulos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Tim Russell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Gail Klingensmith, Dan Ventanovetz

Eat + Drink: A French patisserie in Squirrel Hill, an outdoor dinner in Downtown and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City's weekly romp through news which makes your mouth water.

Gaby et Jules brings fine French pastries to Squirrel Hill
Fred Rongier and David Piquard’s grandfathers shared the dream of opening bakeries in France. Neither ever did, but their grandsons are living out those dreams in Pittsburgh.

Gaby et Jules, a French patisserie from Paris 66 owner Rongier and Piquard, his master pastry chef, will hold its soft open at the end of August with a grand opening to take place in September. The shop is located at 5837 Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill, which formerly held the Oliver Flower Shop.

“In France, a bakery is a boulangerie.” says Rongier. “That’s not what we’re doing. This is a patisserie. Everything looks better and tastes better.”

Rongier says that in addition to Piquard’s famous French macarons, the shop will offer all manner of French baked goods which have helped make Paris 66 the city’s premiere spot for authentic French cuisine.

“He likes to make things,” Rongier says of Piqurad. “He’s going to wake up like an artist in the morning and he’s going to create a dessert. He doesn’t want to copy someone else’s. He does his own. He’s the one with the golden fingers.”

In addition to retail business, Rongier says he expects Gaby et Jules to develop a solid wholesale business, as Paris 66 already sells a lot of baked goods in larger quantities to local restaurants.

“We’ll do a lot of wedding cakes, for sure. If you go to someone else’s house and you want to bring a tart, you’ll have it,” Rongier says. “You won’t even want to eat it, it’s so nice.”

Bloggers will host outdoor dinner in Downtown
Local food blog eatPGH is teaming up with the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership to host what’s being called Pittsburgh’s first urban supper.

“It’s basically dinner outside,” said eatPGH’s Laura Zorch. “Everybody’s doing farm dinners, which are fantastic, but how about something between skyscrapers?”

The dinner, which will take place on September 14th in the lot at 919 Liberty Avenue in Downtown, will feature a seven-course meal designed and cooked by local chefs Richard DeShantz of Meat & Potatoes and Keith Fuller of Root 174.
Zorch says that final details will be announced later this week, but that tickets for the dinner will cost $125 and include both the meal and an open bar.

“We’re still working out right now how many people we can fit in the space. We’re hoping to have up to 100,” Zorch says.

Full Pint Brewing opens an in-house pub
Since its inception in 2009, Full Pint Brewing has become one of Pittsburgh’s most popular local breweries.

Now, the North Versailles-based craft beer maker has added a scaled-down brew pub to its facilities.

In addition to growler sales and a bar, Full Pint now offers a menu of appetizers and sandwiches, served in an endearingly informal atmosphere in its warehouse brewery. The pub is open from 5 to 9 p.m. Monday through  Wednesday, from 5 to 11 p.m. Thursday and Friday and from noon to 11 p.m. on Saturday. Hours are subject to change if the pub is empty after 9 p.m.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Fred Rongier, Laura Zorch

Eat + Drink: Mineo's Pizza expanding, Rebellion Ciderworks adds tasting room

Eat + Drink is Pop City's weekly look at the news from a food-and-libations standpoint.

Mineo’s expanding
Mineo’s Pizza House, a Pittsburgh favorite since it first opened in 1958, will extend its operations into a neighboring building on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill.

The expansion will allow Mineo’s to install a full-service bar, broaden its menu and increase its seating capacity by about 40.

The shop has possessed a full liquor license for three years, but until now, has only sold beer and other malt beverages.

The expansion will take over the building which formerly held Engel’s Market, a small, independent grocery store which Claire Engel and her family operated for 46 years before shutting its doors in April.

Rebellion Ciderworks opens tasting room
Seven years ago, Slippery Rock farmer Derek Kellogg started making small batches of hard cider as a hobby.

“I wanted a product that I could grow from start to finish,” Kellogg said. “When I started reading about the tradition and history behind cider, not only here but around the world, I became obsessed with it.”

That obsession led Kellogg to establish Rebellion Ciderworks in 2010. He started selling his hard cider at farmers’ markets and to Slippery Rock’s North Country Brewing Company.

Last month, he opened a tasting room at his farm.

Kellogg, who juices his apples by hand using a wooden rack-and-cloth press dating to 1921, currently imports many of his apples from New York, but that’s soon to change.

“My orchard isn’t producing yet. I just started planting it,” Kellogg says, adding that Rebellion’s orchard will contain different kinds of apples, from wild varieties and popular English apples to historical breeds, like the Virginia crab apples favored by Thomas Jefferson.

Rebellion currently offers three kinds of cider. A sweet cider, which Kellogg calls “a starter cider” is a blend of dessert apples, and preferred by people new to hard cider. He also makes a semi-sweet cider entirely from Macintosh apples, and an English-style dry cider made using four kinds of British cider apples.

So is cider the new craft beer?

“It’s going to take a while for traditional cider to really become more mainstream,” Kellogg says, “but it’s the fastest-growing sector of the alcohol market right now.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Derek Kellogg

Schenley Park to get two new water management systems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Erin Copeland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gateway at Summerset accepting applications

The Gateway at Summerset, a new rental community overlooking Homestead and the Monongahela River from the southern end of Squirrel Hill, already has residents living in its first completed building, and more scheduled to move into its second building later this month.

Co-developed by Ralph A. Falbo, Inc. and Pennrose, The Gateway, which is located inside the Summerset at Frick Park development, has already pre-leased many apartments in as-yet-unfinished buildings. The six-building rental complex is “pretty full through mid-July, though we do still have some available in the first building,” says Pennrose’s Stephanie Fuchs.

Though its initial target demographic was young professionals, Fuchs says that the community's close proximity to the rest of the East End, South Side and Waterfront, as well as a host of on-site amenities, has drawn a wide array of tenants.

“We have some people who are downsizing and looking toward retirement, and we have a handful of people who are relocating for residency opportunities,” Fuchs says. “It’s so close to the city, but when you pull in, it has that traditional neighborhood feel.”

In addition to one-bedroom units, the community has two different styles of two-bedroom units, each of which are customizable and contain multiple amenities, including private laundry facilities in each unit.

The community also offers a plethora of shared spaces, including a community center, pool, fitness center, basketball court and playground.

To learn more about The Gateway at Summerset, visit its website or call 412-422-1144

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Stephanie Fuchs

Schenley Drive to get skinny; Panther Hollow watershed restoration

Schenley Drive is going on a diet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Erin Copeland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer:  Andrew Moore

Eat + Drink: 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

Designer Days Boutique opens in Squirrel Hill, supports community service and advocacy programs

Designer Days Boutique (DDB) has moved to a larger, more prominent location in Squirrel Hill, expanding the opportunity to combine shopping with a good cause.

The consignment shop, which opened Monday at 5873 Forbes Avenue, sells upscale designer clothing, including items by Alexander McQueen, Alice+Olivia, Armani, and Betsy Johnson, among others, as well as jewelry and designer purses.  In addition, the boutique has just begun to offer designer clothing for men.

But because the boutique operates on a non-traditional business model, purchases at DDB do more than make you look good, they benefit the community as well.

DDB is a project of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), Pittsburgh Section. The boutique is one of three social enterprises run by NCJW that generates revenue to support nonsectarian community service and advocacy programs aimed at increasing the economic independence of women.  

NCJW's programs include the Suit Yourself Voucher Program, which provides free business clothing to women re-entering the workforce; Back to Work, an internship program for at-risk and low-income women; and Back to School, which allows children to shop for free at NCJW's Thriftique shop for back-to-school clothes.

At DDB, 50% of sale revenues are given back to consigners, with the other half funding NCJW's community service work.

The new space, which replaces the former Occasions dress shop, will also be used to host NCJW's Girls' Night Out event series which raises funds for local nonprofits.  

In addition to DDB, NCJW operates two other retail stores, a thrift shop, Thriftique, and a home furnishings consignment shop, Home Consignments, both located in Swissvale.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Jennifer Honig, NCJW

Love Your Block projects complete, next round in spring

Mayor Ravenstahl’s first round of neighborhood Love Your Block projects have come to an end.  Rebecca Delphia, chief service officer in the mayor’s office, says 47 blocks were impacted by the program, with 5,800 pounds of littler collected, over 660 individual volunteers, and 3,000 hours of service.  

The neighborhood projects were also able to leverage a combined total of $7,000 in additional resources, through cash or in-kind donations.

A total of 11 projects took place in different neighborhoods throughout  the city, and included improvements to basketball and tennis courts, establishing community gardens, and the creation of a pop-up café in front of a vacant storefront in Morningside.

“They’ve been diverse and they’ve been specialized to fit the needs of that particular community,” Delphia says.

Last Friday, Pittsburgh Allderdice High School celebrated enhancements to their athletic field, funded in part by the program’s $500 grant, marking the end to their fall project.

And the final Love Your Block celebration in 2011 will take place on November 11th, when the West End Village will hold a Veterans’ Day Celebration, unveiling enhancements to the Veterans monument located in front of the Carnegie Library on 47 Wabash Street.

Delphia says these projects are a good start for city-wide revitalization efforts.

“This is another tool that's now available for communities that have been doing this work for a very long time, to move their visions forward,” Delphia says.

Applications for the Spring 2012 Love Your Block projects will be released in the early part of next year.  

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Rebecca Delphia

Aji Picante opens in Squirrel Hill, serving Latin fusion, Peruvian cuisine

Aji Picante has opened in Squirrel Hill, serving Latin American food with an emphasis on Peruvian cuisine. Co-owner Gail Klingensmith says she hopes to offer something new to the sophisticated East End dining scene and to specifically showcase the flavors of Peru.

"[The chef's] ideas are different, the tastes are different, and there are tastes here that you won't have anywhere else…because it's all his spin on Latin food with a Peruvian twist," Kingensmith says.

Chef José Luis del Solar, a native of Peru, has cooked for over 15 years, and trained at the London Culinary Institute. This is his first project in the U.S.

Aji is owned by Gail Klingensmith and Pam Cohen, of Pamela's P & G Diner, and Risé Cohen. Aji shares a storefront that is split with a new Pamela's Diner. The space, formerly a Panera Bread restaurant, was completely rebuilt to accommodate both spaces, and allows for a shared kitchen.

Menu items include a quinoa risotto with Andean peppers, vegetables, tomato confit, sweet corn; Crisped pork shank over Canary bean puree, with caramelized squash, carrots, and vegetables in a dark beer and cilantro sauce; Chupe, a Peruvian style bouillabaisse; and homemade drinks like a tamarind mojito and passion fruit and orange punch.

The restaurant seats 46, with an additional 16 seats on the front patio, and is BYOB.

Aji is currently serving dinner Tuesday to Thursday, and Sunday, 5 to 10p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 to 11p.m. 1711 Murray Avenue, Squirrel Hill, 15217. 412-422-0220.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Gail Klingensmith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Genalle Passanante, Sweetlix

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Children's Institute breaks ground on $1M healing garden along Shady Avenue

The Children's Institute's motto is, "Amazing kids. Amazing place."

That place is in the process of getting even more amazing.

As part of its $30 million building renovation and expansion campaign, the Children's Institute is creating a $1 million, 10,000-square-foot therapeutic garden on its Squirrel Hill campus. The groundbreaking was held on Thursday, and the garden is expected to be complete this fall. The campaign, launched in 2005 and successfully completed in May 2009, doubled the square footage of the Squirrel Hill facility from 110,000 to 220,000 square feet, which doubled its inpatient bed capacity from 39 to 82.

The Nimick Family Therapeutic Garden is named for the late Thomas H. Nimick, Jr and his late wife Florence Lockhart Nimick, who both served on the Children's Institute board until their deaths in 1981 and 2007, respectively. The garden is made possible through a $1 million grant from the Nimick Forbesway Foundation.

The garden is being designed by New Dawn Garden Design, founded by Christine Astorino, who has designed healing gardens for the Children's Hospital and the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children. Astorino will also be working with the Children's Institute through her research, strategy and design firm fathom, creating a conceptual design idea for the facility's interiors, including art, way-finding and signage.

The fully accessible garden will parallel the Shady Avenue facade of the Children's Institute. Planned features include: An interactive fountain; a shaded pavilion with sunflower umbrellas; a ramp-access treehouse built around a preexisting tree; and raised planting beds for veggies and herbs that are easily reached from wheelchairs and walkers.

"Before, the children and families didn't have a space to experience the outside except for the playground," says Astorino. "We'd see parents walking their kids in strollers around the entire block, the entire perimeter. There was nowhere for parents or staff to escape to. This creates that amenity. The healing garden is about engaging with the outdoors with different plant matters and sculptures. It's about having quiet time, as well as group activity time. And what's great is that the community is allowed to access it as well."

Like the Children's Institute's popular playground, the garden will be open to the community, as well as the Children's Institute's students, patients and families through the hospital, Day School and Project STAR.

In fiscal year 2009, the Children's Institute served approximately 7,000 children and their families, and provided $5.5 million in charity care.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Christine Astorino, New Dawn Garden Design and fathom; Helene Conway-Long, vice president of institutional advancement, the Children's Institute of Pittsburgh

Image courtesy Children's Institute of Pittsburgh

Carnegie Library turns new page on sustainable funding, sustainable design

CLP receives nearly $500,00 in grants Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) has announced its first U.S. Green Building Council LEED certification, as well as two new sustainable funding initiatives -- the Donor Plus program and a 10-member task force to find long-term money to run its branches.

CLP's 5,000-square-foot Woods Run location has been certified LEED Silver for its renovation completed in the summer of 2006. A plaque will be presented at its April 22 Earth Day celebration. Designed by Loysen + Kreuthmeier Architects, the renovation includes new mechanical systems and thermal insulation throughout, as well as new lighting and the introduction of daylighting in all occupied spaces.

Ron Graziano, CLP facilities director, says the green renovation creates a clean, high-quality environment for its occupants, and significantly reduces operating costs. Water-conserving plumbing fixtures reduce water usage by more than 30%, and high-efficiency mechanical systems create an energy cost savings of more than 15% above that required by current building codes.

"By reducing costs to run the building, we can provide more physical, hands-on services to our customers, rather than spending those funds on utilities," says Graziano.

Several other CLP branches that have been designed to LEED standards are currently awaiting certification: Allegheny ($6 million building renovation completed in 2009), Hill District ($3.15 million renovation completed in 2008), Squirrel Hill ($4.7 million renovation completed in 2005), Brookline ($2.9 million renovation completed 2004), and East Liberty, which is expected to re-open in August 2010 after a $5.6 million renovation.

In addition to sustainable design, CLP is also committed to securing sustainable funding. Last year, the Library struggled to close the gap between increasing costs and declining revenues, due primarily to state budget cuts and level RAD funding. CLP projected a $5 million deficit by 2014 and presented an Action Plan, which included service reductions and branch consolidations and closures. That Action Plan is currently on hold until January 2011 as the Library works to find long-term dedicated funding.

In February, CLP announced the creation of a 10-member public-private task force to explore alternative funding models. That group -- which includes representatives from UPMC, Reed Smith, The Pittsburgh Foundation, the City and the County -- is holding its first meeting this week.

This week CLP is also relaunching is Donor Plus library card program, which raised nearly $60,000 in 2009. The Donor Plus card -- $30 for individuals and $50 for a family card -- is tax deductible, and includes incentives such as a unique card design, special events invitations, e-newsletter subscriptions, and a 20% discount at more than 25 area Crazy Mocha locations, including at CLP - Main.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Ron Graziano, facilities director, and Suzanne Thinnes, communication manager, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Image of Woods Run courtesy of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Zipper Blues brings high-end women's fashion to Squirrel Hill

When Cheryl W accessory boutique left its 12-year Forbes Avenue storefront for a Point Breeze nook in summer 2009, Squirrel Hill lost a chic staple. Zipper Blues, which moved into the 5817 Forbes Ave. spot in late October, is filling neighborhood's need for high-quality fashion.

The store is high-end, but hardly a special-occasion-only boutique. Zipper Blues specializes in everyday luxury-- super soft solid-color tees, girl-cut sports shirts embellished with Swarovski crystals, feminine hoodies and jackets perfect for layering, and of course, the store's namesake, premium denim. Zipper Blues carries five denim brands: Citizens of Humanity, Miss Me, Red Engine, Joe's Jeans and AG Jeans. Alterations are free, and will so closely approximate the original look of the hem, you'll think the pants were made specifically to suit your body.

Zipper Blues comes to Squirrel Hill after five years on Washington Road in Mt. Lebanon. Its owners--young married couple Jamie Rohm and Matt Hinde--were ready for a change. The two live in the South Side, and were walking along Forbes one evening after dinner at Aladdin's Eatery when they saw the vacant storefront. "We were surprised to see an available storefront in Squirrel Hill," says Hinde. "Charles Spiegel had been trying to persuade us for years to come into Squirrel Hill. So we did."

Hinde says that Squirrel Hill, though it's perhaps better know for its restaurants, cafes, pizza shops and ice cream parlots, is also a great shopping destination: "There's high-end men's and women's shopping with Charles Spiegel and Zipper Blues on the same street, in addition to Dales Maxima, Occasions and Littles Shoes."

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Matt Hinde, Zipper Blues

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of Razzy Fresh

With 200 additional racks, city nearly doubles bike parking spaces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph courtesy City of Pittsburgh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph courtesy of Port Authority of Allegheny County

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph courtesy of Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

Asylum Coffee House: Uptown's first caffeination destination

The Uptown neighborhood now has its first coffee shop, a sign of the potential growth and community to come.

Asylum Coffee Bar, which opened Saturday morning at 1919 Forbes Ave., serves coffee and espresso drinks, teas and some uniquely Pittsburgh treats.

The cafe originally announced its opening in July, but delayed several months due to zoning issues that have now been resolved.

Asylum uses beans from Iron Star Roasting Company, the wholesale branch of the Coffee Tree, which has locations in Squirrel Hill, Shadyside, Fox Chapel and Mt. Lebanon. Asylum's menu also features prepared wraps, sandwiches and salads, including vegan options; baked goods and desserts from the rapidly expanding sweets empire Dozen Bake Shop; Spanish pies by Pittsburgher Daniel Aguera, who also sells his pies at Espresso A Mano in Lawrenceville; and water and energy drinks by Pittsburgh-based GIVE, which donates $.10 from every can or bottle to a charity.

Asylum's 700-square-foot space, which includes a sidewalk patio and garage-front, feels more of-the-moment bar than typical corner cafe. It's got a 40" LCD HDTV and a wall-mounted gas fireplace. The walls are exposed brick, the floor poured concrete and the coffee bar a sleek metal. Pieces by local artists are on display and for sale.

Asylum is connected to River City Flats, a 32,000-square-foot, 12-unit residential loft building owned by Asylum co-founder Chip Fetrow. Fetrow acquired and renovated the former linen factory in 2003. All apartments are currently occupied and rent for $750 to $1,050 per month.

"This neighborhood doesn't have a lot of residents, and most coffee chops survive on pedestrian traffic," says Fetrow. "But the Fifth and Forbes corridor sees thousands of people driving to Downtown for work every day, so we're planning on doing curbside service down the line to reach those customers."

General manager Matt Hoover, who lives in a loft above the coffee house, says Asylum is not just for commuters--it's a "safe haven of sort" for Uptown residents, including himself.

"In a neighborhood like Uptown, people are looking for somewhere to come together and bring about ideas of change and revitalization," says Hoover. "They need a meeting place, and we want to be that place."

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Matt Hoover, general manager, co-founder, and Chip Fetrow, co-founder, Asylum Coffee Bar

Photograph courtesy of Asylum Coffee House

Changes in store for upper, lower Squirrel Hill

Squirrel Hill, like any neighborhood, is changing.

The business corridor along Forbes and Murray Avenues is seeing some longstanding shops go out, and new shops going in; and plans are shaping up for revitalization along the lower portion of Murray Avenue, closer to Forward Avenue and the Parkway exit.

It was announced last week the Barnes & Noble bookseller, which occupies two floors at 1723 Murray Ave., will be closing this winter. The large store was an anchor of sorts for the business district, and had shared that block with Panera Bread, which closed last month and is currently vacant. Some new businesses for the area include: independent denim retailer Zipper Blues in the former spot of Cheryl W boutique (now in Point Breeze), a frozen yogurt shop near the flagship Dozen location, and an art gallery on Forbes Avenue.

Further down Murray Avenue, change is under way in the form of a "Gateway" study commissioned by the Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition (SHUC). The $12,000 study completed last year--by Strip District-based architecture/urban design firm Rothschild Doyno Collaborative and landscape architecture firm Pashek Associates--highlights the important role this area plays in welcoming people into the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, and makes recommendations on improving pedestrian safety and wayfinding, incorporating public art, and adding new lighting and greenery. The study was made possible through a grant from the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh.

"Squirrel Hill is one of the most stable neighborhoods in the city. It's a great example of how neighborhoods should be," says Steven G. Hawkins with SHUC. "The business district is within walking distance of a great number of homes, and there is a variety of housing types, which creates a diverse population. After all these years, it's time to do something to make the entrance better represent the neighborhood."

Currently, a mural is being completed on the side of Alan's Pet Shop at 2229 Murray Ave., and SHUC is looking at adding bike racks and trash cans, and has made a request to Councilman Doug Shields to include new street lights in the 2010 budget. SHUC is also working to plant between 40 and 50 trees along Murray Avenue in the spring as part of the TreeVitalize program.

The "Gateway" study's most significant component is a proposed median with trees and lighting on Forward Avenue between the Parkway and the major Murray Avenue intersection. Plans for that construction project are still in design and funding, and years from completion.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Steven G. Hawkins, Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition

Image courtesy of Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition

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

Connections made for cyclists along city streets, county trails

Pittsburgh is getting a lot more accessible to cyclists thanks to bike markings in the city streets, and trail completion along the Great Allegheny Passage.

The goal, says Scott Bricker with Bike Pittsburgh, is to create a citywide network so cyclists can navigate between where they live, work and play without getting behind the wheel.

About a week-and-a-half ago, Forbes Avenue--just east of Carnegie Mellon University up to Murdoch Road--got designated bike lanes as well as shared lane markings, or "sharrows," where the street is not wide enough or there is a steep downhill. The area also features new curb bump-outs, which slow traffic. The Forbes Avenue bike markings connect some existing bike lanes--those striped over the summer on Beacon and Wightman Streets, as well as the bike lanes on Schenley Drive and Beechwood Boulevard. Plans, according to Bike Pittsburgh, are to continue the markings through Frick Park and up to S. Braddock Avenue.

Other new markings include those along Penn Avenue in the Strip District, which received its sharrows connecting Penn to Liberty Avenue's bike lanes in August.

"What we're seeing now is the result of some concentrated efforts from Bike Pittsburgh and the city's bike/ped coordinator and traffic engineers to try to get some paint on the pavement and get work done before the weather changes," says Bricker. "We're trying to create a unified bike transportation system around the city. The idea is that one day they'll all connect."

Until about two years ago, Pittsburgh's only bike lanes were in and around the parks, says Bricker. But bicycles, he says, are more than recreation--they are also transportation, a way to get around the city efficiently and, increasingly, safely.

For those looking for recreational cycling, the Great Allegheny Passage is another step closer to completion. On Friday, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato opened the newest stretch of the 335-mile biking and hiking trail that stretches from Downtown's Point State Park to Washington, D.C. The newest stretch is a mile-long length of trail in Duquesne, Pa. that includes a 60-foot tunnel. With the opening of this new stretch, trail users will be better able to use the Riverton Bridge, a 1,200-foot span that carries the Great Allegheny Passage across the Monongahela River between McKeesport and Duquesne.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Scott Bricker, Bike Pittsburgh; Kevin Evanto, Allegheny County

Photograph courtesy of Bike Pittsburgh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dog Stop is veterinarian insured and licensed.

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

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

LGBTA center moves from Squirrel Hill to Downtown

After 13 years of making its home at the intersection of Forward and Murray Avenues in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh's Gay & Lesbian Community Center (GLCC) has packed up its offices and headed Downtown. The GLCC has signed a 10-year lease on 210 Grant St., and moved in last weekend with the help of more than 50 volunteers.

The 5,000-square-foot, ground-level space is near plenty of bus lines and parking garages, and is handicap accessible--all top criteria for the group that wants to be as inclusive as possible. GLCC worked with architect Arch Pelley to renovate the former political campaign office to its particular community needs, including carving out areas for the library, youth group events, a conference set-up and organizations that sublet space at a reduced rate, including Pittsburgh Lesbian and Gay Film Society; Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN); Gay and Lesbian Neighborhood Development Association (GLENDA); and Transpitt.

The large, centralized space will allow GLCC to improve and expand services, says Kat Carrick with GLCC. The center has added more health services through a partnership with Adagio Health, and will be able to reach out to elders and disabled individuals who were unable to climb the previous location's second-floor steps.

"We now have the largest LGBTA center in all of western Pennsylvania," says Carrick. "Our mission is to serve the gay, lesbian, bi, trans and ally communities in Pittsburgh. We try to do as much education and outreach and as many events as possible, and this space will help us to do that."

The Center is now open to the community, and will host a grand opening on Oct. 11 to coincide with National Coming Out Day.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Kat Carrick, vice-chair, GLCC

Photograph courtesy GLCC

Squirrel Hill center the first in region for Latino families

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Caralyn Green

Source: Sarah McCluan, Allegheny Intermediate Unit

Nine Mile Run Watershed Association puts to work $50K grant

Nine Mile Run Watershed Association (NMRWA) has received a $50,000 grant from Aquarius Spring, a Coca-Cola brand that is providing grants to community watershed organizations in 10 national markets.

This grant will aid in NMRWA's goal of restoring and protecting the Nine Mile Run Watershed through demonstration projects, advocacy and citizen engagement, including community clean-up events and the Rain Barrel Initiative, which is now about halfway to its goal of placing 4,000 rain barrels at homes around the watershed by the end of 2010.

The 6.5-square-mile watershed underwent a $7.7 million ecosystem restoration in 2006. It spans Edgewood and Wilkinsburg, portions of Swissvale and some areas in Pittsburgh, including parts of Point Breeze, Squirrel Hill and all of Frick Park, where NMRWA is holding events this week in partnership with Aquarius Spring.

On Saturday, volunteers did a "stream sweep" in Lower Frick Park, clearing away debris that's washed into the watershed as a result of recent storms.

"What people don't realize is that when you see litter in the stream, it's not necessarily because people are littering in the park," says Executive Director Brenda Smith. "Anything that's on the street anywhere near the watershed in heavy rain is going to be washed into the sewer and then directly into Nine Mile Run."

This Wednesday, NMRWA has organized a "restoration day" at Falls Ravine in Frick Park. Volunteers will be clearing sediment buildup that interferes with the natural draining process, and will be reinforcing the stream bank.

The Aquarius Spring grant is also going toward monitoring and building the Regent Square Gateway, an entrance to Frick Park that will clean stormwater and educate people about the watershed as well as stormwater problems in the region.

Writer: Caralyn Green

Source: Brenda Smith, executive director, NMRWA

Dozen Bake Shop expands with North Side, Downtown locations

Taking over and transforming Pittsburgh's bakery scene? Piece of cake!

Three-and-half years after opening its first location in Squirrel Hill, Dozen Bake Shop now has four sites throughout the city: the original on Murray Avenue; the Lawrenceville sit-down café, which opened January 2008; and now, spots in the Andy Warhol Museum on the North Side and in Downtown's Cultural District.

"What we do and how we do it is very contemporary, very modern, very cosmopolitan," says co-owner James Gray. "We use a lot of organic and local ingredients, which people are really craving right now, and everything is made in our Lawrenceville kitchen and delivered to our other shops."

Dozen celebrated its takeover of the Warhol café last week. The café, which is open to the public--not just museum patrons--had been run by big Burrito since 2001. big Burrito will continue to cater events, says Betsy Momich with Carnegie Museums.

Fresh off the Warhol opening, Dozen is set to open its retail spot within the next week at 807 Liberty Ave., in the Cultural Trust's new Arts Education Center, which will begin offering community classes this fall. The 22,000-square-foot Arts Education Center, an historic renovation of 805-807 Liberty Ave. designed by Thomas Harley Architectural Firm, will feature three floors of programming and retail space, including classrooms, dance studios, a multipurpose room and an art gallery run by Kurt Shaw, says Janis Burley Wilson with the Cultural Trust.

Dozen's 250-square-foot Downtown spot will feature a similar aesthetic to its other shops, but will be the smallest one yet, and with no seating. Gray says the shop will cater to Downtown workers as well as event-goers, with to-go sandwiches, salads, soups, boxed lunches, platters and desserts, including Dozen's signature cupcakes. The shop will serve drip coffee and tea, but no espresso drinks, so as not to compete with the nearby Crazy Mocha.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: James Gray, Dozen; Betsy Momich, director of corporate communications, Carnegie Museums; Janis Burley Wilson, vice president of education and community outreach, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

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

Paris66 brings taste of France to East Liberty

In addition to direct flights to Paris, Pittsburgh's Francophiles have something else to swoon over.

Family-owned creperie Paris66 has opened in East Liberty, at 6018 Centre Ave.

The BYOB restaurant is hosting its grand opening 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday; parking is available in a back lot on Stephenson Street.

The 1,400 square-foot space was most recently a motorcycle shop, and at one time home to Henne Jewelers. Just across from the East Side development, Paris66 sits in a row of independent shops, including Vanilla Pastry Studio, Yoga on Centre and Kelly's Bar & Lounge.

"The location feels very Parisian," says Highland Park resident Frédéric Rongier, who dreamed of opening Paris66 with his wife, Lori, for the past 15 years.

The Rongiers had a definite vision for Paris66, and worked with J.M. Sullivan, Co. commercial kitchen designer, JSK Construction and Kolano Design to achieve it. The warm yellow façade, made possible through an Urban Redevelopment Authority grant, invites patrons into a 43-seat space with an open kitchen. The cream-colored walls are covered with vintage prints and the tabletops are collaged with black-and-white photos of Paris by Frédéric's great-grandfather. A newly constructed back patio will seat an additional 20.

The Rongiers hired one full-time chef, as well as a part-time pastry chef, and much of the waitstaff comes from Squirrel Hill's Ma Provence, which closed in April when its owner passed away. The menu offers authentic French cuisine, including homemade quiches, Croque Monsieur sandwiches, Pissaladières and of course, made-to-order savory and sweet crepes.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Lori and Frédéric Rongier, owners, Paris 66

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

$2.9M Browns Hill Rd. project breaks ground at Summerset at Frick Park

A groundbreaking for long-awaited infrastructure improvements will be held tomorrow at 2:30p.m. at the entrace to Summerset at Frick Park along Browns Hill Rd. in Squirrel Hill.

The $2.9M project—a partnership between the city, county, URA, PennDOT, and project developers Summerset Land Development Associates (SLDA) and Walnut Capital—will create a much-needed entrance to Summerset and Walnut Place, and will prepare the roadway for future residential and retail development.

The first of several improvements planned from the Homestead Bridge to the Parkway entrance, the new intersections and turning lanes along Browns Hill Rd., Parkview Blvd. and Imogene St. will provide access to Summerset, Walnut Place, Riverview Towers, Weinberg Village, and Duck Hollow.

The project also sets the stage for Summerset’s next phase of 125 new homes, 132 apartments and 30,000 square feet of commercial space. “It’s a key piece and a big trigger for the entire project. Now I can actively market and plan for the commercial,” says Craig Dunham, with SLDA. “This project creates the site for neighborhood retail and services that will support commuter traffic and the captive community within Summerset.”

The project will also feature a new “leg” into Walnut Capital’s new retail development, which is nearing completion at the intersection of Browns Hill Rd. and Imogene St. The 24,000-square-foot Walnut Place will feature the city's first IHOP, as well as a 7,000-square-foot Hokkaido Seafood Buffet and the Dr. Dean Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease.

SLDA and Walnut Capital contributed $570,000 to fund designs created by GAI Consultants. Those costs provided matching dollars, enabling the project to receive full funding via federal transportation dollars.

The project will go out to bid this week; construction is expected to begin in July.

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Craig Dunham, managing general partner, Summerset Land Development Associates

Image courtesy Summerset Land Development Associates and LaQuatra Bonci Associates



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

Dozen heads Downtown: homegrown bake shop plans Cultural District location

This summer Downtown’s Cultural District will get a lot sweeter.

Three years after opening its first location in Squirrel Hill, Dozen Cupcakes will add a third operation to its burgeoning bakery business in July--a 235-square-foot retail shop at 807 Liberty Ave. Housed within a Cultural Trust property that’s under renovation, the shop will feature Dozen’s signature mix of rustic and modern interiors, with butcher block countertops and beadboard finishings.

“The retail space will act as a conduit between the Downtown market and the Lawrenceville bake shop, where we do all of the production,” says owner James Gray, 35, who expects Downtown’s Dozen Bake Shop to be popular for box lunches, platters, office parties and luncheons. “It really suits the location and the market.”

Gray had previously considered expanding into Highland Park. “We’ve known for a while that we wanted to tap into the Downtown market. This particular location is a small step for our Downtown presence,” adds Gray, who partners regularly with arts organizations and nonprofits. “You could potentially see another Dozen or two in the market.”

Downtown patrons will be able to order from Dozen’s full line of sandwiches and desserts. Located near the Harris Theater and Crazy Mocha, the new location will also feature cakes and soups.

“For economic reasons, we did a bit of restructuring at the end of last year. By doing so, we came out much better on the other side,” adds Gray, who plans to expand Dozen’s Squirrel Hill operation. “We were able to maintain the level of what we do. Ultimately, that will be the factor that spurs Dozen’s expansion.”

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: James Gray and Andrew Twigg, Dozen Bake Shop and Dozen Cupcakes

Photograph of James (left) and Andrew (right) copyright Brian Cohen

Summerset house first in Western PA to receive NAHB Gold certification

A home on Overton Lane in Summerset at Frick Park has become the first in Western Pennsylvania to receive Gold certification by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

“It’s a continuing validation that we’re building at the top level of the industry. We’ve been building green since the beginning, when we developed a set of Summerset standards with a Department of Energy grant,” says Craig Dunham, with Summerset Land Development Associates. “We started out writing the book and now it’s being rolled into much broader national standards. We didn’t stretch to get gold.”

Based on an accrual of points similar to the USGBC’s LEED certification, the gold rating means the home has met established criteria in seven green construction areas: site planning/development; resource efficiency; energy and water efficiency; indoor environmental quality; homeowner education; and global impact.

Only the sixth home to receive the designation statewide, the unit was evaluated against the first green building rating system approved by the American National Standards Institute. Built by Montgomery & Rust for Jeffrey and Roberta Letwin, the Village Cassatt home was constructed on a reclaimed brownfield and features highly efficient air sealing and HVAC systems.

”There’s an incredible story here about the power of public and private partnerships and careful planning. We control a niche market and aren’t overly ambitious about our sales and pace,” adds Dunham, who says that five Summerset homes have sold since Christmas. “People see the density and layout and quality, and it just works. We’re the only new housing in the city of this scale.”

In February, Summerset received City Planning Commission approval to complete infrastructure and utility work and build the project’s next 125 residential homes.  
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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Craig Dunham, managing general partner, Summerset Land Development Associates

Image courtesy Summerset at Frick Park

Sales remain strong for Summerset at Frick Park in 2008

Despite the unprecedented national housing crisis, new home sales at Summerset at Frick Park remained consistent in 2008. Thirty-six houses, town houses and condominiums were purchased, totaling $16 million in sales.

“We're excited,” says Craig Dunham of Summerset Land Development Associates. “So many other places have seen an absence or reduction of sales, but we're continuing to sell homes at a rate equal to any other year.”

Summerset began offering building lots in 2001. By the end of 2008 almost all of the homes in Phase One of the development had been sold--only ten condominiums remained out of the original 156 condominiums, townhouses, and single-family houses. Summerset has begun selling homes in the next phase of development, where 31 out of 46 units have already been sold.

Dunham attributes Summerset's success to the site's location since most residents work downtown and Oakland, which is a short five or ten minute commute from Summerset. He credits the quality and range of homes available, as well.

Optimistic that the sales will continue, Dunham points out that, “Qualified buyers have the opportunity to buy homes at the lowest interest rates in years. So there is a lot of incentive.”

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Writer: Rob Cullen
Sources: Craig Dunham, managing general partner of Summerset Land Development Associates

$2.2M Carriage House Children’s Center renovation awarded LEED-Gold certification

The Carriage House Children's Center (CHCC) recently received a Gold LEED certification after completing a $2.2 million renovation of the Wightman School Community Building, located at 5604 Solway St. in Squirrel Hill. It is now one of only two existing buildings in Western Pennsylvania to receive this certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The other is the CCI Center on the South Side.

CHCC worked with architect Gary Moshier and Jendoco Construction Corporation on the project, which began in Jan. 2006 and was completed in the spring of 2007. The new renovations increased the building's energy efficiency from 30% to over 90% and reduced its water usage dramatically. CHCC also implemented a building-wide recycling program and developed an environmental education curriculum to go along with the project.

As the first early childhood facility in the country to receive LEED certification, CHCC is putting together a case study of the process through which it obtained the certification in order to help other early childhood centers that wish to pursue green renovations.

“No single population can benefit more from this type of project than young children,” says Samantha Balbier of CHCC. “For us it was a priority to benefit the environmental health of the children and families we serve.”

The group next plans to renovate the roof and is exploring green roofing options. However, there are limits on how much they can do to the exterior, because not only is the Wightman School Community Building a LEED-certified, environmentally cutting-edge structure, the 113 year-old building, which CHCC shares with 10 other nonprofits that lease office space, is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Writer: Rob Cullen
Source: Samantha Balbier, director of development of the Carriage House Children's Center

Image courtesy Carriage House Children's Center

Sweet Tammy's bakes up some magic along Squirrel Hill's commercial district

A new bakery is sweetening up Squirrel Hill’s bustling commercial district. Located in the heart of the thriving East End neighborhood at 2119 Murray Ave., Sweet Tammy’s opened its doors to lovers of homemade treats Dec. 1.

Owned and operated by husband-wife team Daniel and Tamara Berkowitz, the 1,100-square-foot kosher bakery features seating for 10, and French doors that provide a glimpse into the kitchen’s magic. Moving “sight unseen” to Pittsburgh after helping run the U.S. Pavilion at the 2005 Worlds Fair in Nagoya, Japan, the pair jumped at the chance to open their own bakery when Simple Treat closed.

Originally from Venezuela, Tammy brings years of professional catering and event planning expertise to the venture. “Tammy’s pursuing a life passion. She was always standing at the apron strings of her mother— it’s literally baked into her DNA,” says Daniel Berkowitz, 31, who calls Sweet Tammy’s “nouveau Victorian—like an old Viennese pastry shop.”

Fans rave about Tammy’s chocolate chip cookies and caramel blondies. Everything—from éclairs to custom-designed wedding cakes—is made daily from scratch. What the bakery doesn’t sell goes to Squirrel Hill’s Food Pantry. “We call ourselves mom-and-pop 2.0. We firmly believe you can run your own operation, do quite well and live one block from your house. It’s the defendable model for a recession,” adds Berkowitz, an Atlanta native. “Pittsburgh is a great city for locally owned. People are loyal to the citizens of their city.”

Sweet Tammy’s also carries bulk candies, La Prima coffee and Brooklyn-baked Challah. The Berkowitz’s, who worked with Desmone & Associates on the interior layout, hope to expand their Internet-based business and develop a supermarket line.

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Daniel Berkowitz, Sweet Tammy's

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

Summerset at Frick Park continues to show strong sales with latest development

There is no slowing down for Summerset at Frick Park, the major housing development located on more than 200 acres adjacent to Squirrel Hill. “We’ve continued to have steady interest and good sales despite the economic downturn,” says Craig Dunham, with The Rubinoff Company and Summerset Land Development Associates. “We sell about two units each month just as we’ve been doing for years. I currently have a list of over 20 perspective buyers from around the region who want to move into the city.” According to a Urban Redevelopment Authority study, 65% of people who moved to the development between 2001 and 2006 became new city residents.

Summerset’s latest phase, Overton Manor Flats, was designed by Pittsburgh based Design 3 Architecture, built by Kacin General Contractors and features single-floor, no maintenance living. Each of the building’s two floors have two units each, with approximately 2,000 square feet of space including two bedrooms and a study. Porches and verandas provide outdoor living areas on both the front and back of the unit, and each home has two parking spaces in a shared integral garage. The first of two buildings will be completed in March and one of the four units is already sold. Each home is priced from $339,900.

“This development also continues to have an incredible impact on surrounding property values,” says Dunham. According to the URA, sale prices in the Summerset block group of the city increased by 247% between 2000 and 2007, while sale prices in the city increased by 18% over the same period.

The project currently has approximately 200 individual homes, town homes, rental apartments and condominium units and will ultimately include 700 units when completed.

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Writer: Lauren Urbschat
Source: Craig Dunham, Principal, The Rubinoff Company

Image courtesy Summerset at Frick Park

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

$45M mixed-use development proposed for Squirrel Hill, public meeting planned

A high-profile corner in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood could soon be home to a major new mixed-use development.

Tentatively called Forward Square, the 150,000-square-foot project would encompass properties lining Forward and Murray Aves., where Squirrel Hill meets the Parkway.

With a price tag between $40 and 50 million, the nine-story project would feature a six-story, 130-room hotel, 20 for-sale condos and 9,000 square feet of retail. Ranging in size from 700 to 1,400 square feet, condos would sell for approximately $350,000.

Project developer Cambridge Venture Partners is currently under agreement to purchase the properties—which would be demolished to make way for new construction—from Alderson-Forward. Project parking will include 20 on-site spaces, 52 spaces at corner of Murray and Forward, and a112-space valet lot.

“We look at this as being a great catalyst for other investment dollars, to have something there that’s really a striking monument to the city. It's a great entrance to Squirrel Hill,” says Tom Chunchick with Springdale-based R.E. Crawford Construction, the project contractor. “We’re trying to work on a sustainable basis.”

Renaissance 3 is currently designing project renderings, which Chunchick expects to be ready within two weeks. A community meeting about Forward Square is set for Aug. 4 at 7 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center. Then the  project will go before the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment on Aug. 7.

Chunchick—who is unaware of a project of this magnitude in Squirrel Hill since the 1980s—says the development team has had positive meetings with Councilman Doug Shields and Steve Hawkins, president of the Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Tom Chunchick, R.E. Crawford Construction

Summerset at Frick Park unveils new Alcott Village home, reaches 60% sales mark

Summerset at Frick Park has unveiled its newest model home in Squirrel Hill. Located at 1511 Biltmore Lane near Summerset's pool and community center, the 3,405-square-foot Alcott model features four bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, a first-floor master suite, a bonus room over the garage, and basement.

Built by Montgomery & Rust, with interior design by Alberta Murphy and Andrea Graham, the Alcott is one of five Village designs. Amenities include a first-floor laundry room, Rinnai tankless water heater, active radon mitigation system, and two-car attached garage. "We've added the fourth bedroom as a standard feature. It makes this model more family-friendly. There's also a bonus room with separate bathroom that makes a great entertainment center or guest room," says Mark Rust. "With the product mix, a diverse group of people are coming into the neighborhood."

In addition to upgrades and amenities, the Village style features a 92 percent energy-efficient gas furnace and highly efficient Andersen windows. "We've built in a number of energy-efficient features. The three zones in this model add to the overall comfort. The exterior envelope and all of the ducts are sealed to prevent air loss," adds Rust, who says Icynene expandable foam insulation is available as an upgrade.

Village homes start at $460,000. The Alcott model—which can be viewed during sales center hours—is priced at $675,000. Summerset's 2A Phase is 60 percent sold or under reservation.

A project of Summerset Land Development Associates and the URA, Summerset at Frick Park features 200 homes, town homes, rental apartments, and condos. Slated to include 700 units, the traditional neighborhood development includes a diversity of home types, garages off of alleys and parks.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Mark Rust, Montgomery & Rust; Craig Dunham, The Rubinoff Company

Image courtesy Summerset at Frick Park

Avalon Exchange expanding, to join Mt. Lebanon's Washington Rd. commercial corridor

After 20 successful years in city neighborhoods, Avalon Exchange is entering a new market. In August, the independent boutique—which specializes in gently worn clothing and contemporary fashions—will expand its Pittsburgh presence with a new store at 680 Washington Rd., along Mt. Lebanon’s commercial district.

Owner Stewart McLean hopes the 3,000-square-foot shop—Avalon’s largest digs to date—will draw patrons from throughout the South Hills. “It’s the only other place in Pittsburgh that makes sense for us,” says McLean, who would love to see a record store and ice cream shop open along Washington Rd., where approximately 20,000 cars pass daily “It’s a main business corridor.”

McLean is giving the space, which previously housed The Textile Studio, a makeover. “We’re putting in a new storefront façade with a solid wall of glass,” adds McLean, whose daughter Chelsea will manage the store. "In retail, your best assets are your windows." Abraham Lopez will design the store’s fashion forward mannequin displays. Interior renovations involve building dressing rooms and offices, sanding and staining concrete floors and revamping the ceiling.

While Avalon’s target audience is ages 16-26, the store draws a diverse clientele and sells styles from all eras. The Mt. Lebanon shop will also carry sunglasses, accessories, wigs, and hosiery. “We’ll bring in very trendy girls clothing comparable to Forever 21,” adds McLean, who co-owns Rag-o-Rama, which operates stores in Atlanta, Columbus, St. Louis, and Indianapolis. “We buy designer denim and basics from places like Gap, Hollister, Abercrombie, and Express.”

Previously located in Oakland, Avalon currently operates a 2,000-square-foot shop at 5858 Forbes Ave. in Squirrel Hill, where sales are up 20 percent from last year.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Stewart McLean, Avalon Exchange

Image courtesy Avalon Exchange

Good Grief Center opens new 3,200sf space in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood

On June 2, the Good Grief Center opened its new Squirrel Hill facility at 2717 Murray Ave. in The Shops at the Morrowfield.

More than doubling the size of its original Homestead location, the 3,200-square-foot space will enable the organization to meet a growing demand for its bereavement support services. The relocation will also allow the Center to implement a comprehensive growth plan, including expanding core services, extending its reach and strengthening revenue-generating opportunities, such as its Good Grief Care Package.

“With a vibrant community like Squirrel Hill and the accessibility of the space we’ll be able to do more. We want to listen to the community and be thoughtful about the programming we add,” says Lulu Orr, with Good Grief Center. “We’re at a bus stop and right off the Parkway.”

Promoting community-based grief awareness, the Center offers one-on-one peer support, an extensive lending library and a comprehensive list of bereavement support groups, organizations and therapists, as well as customized services for corporations, hospitals, law firms and nonprofits.

The Center  houses consultation, conference and training rooms, and features 30-foot ceilings, a children’s area, couches, a fireplace, and a community bulletin board. Originally a hotel, the 1920s-era building features ornate columns, arches and a new mezzanine level. “We created a safe comfortable environment—there’s nothing clinical about this space,” adds Orr. Project architect is Alan Dunn. Construction costs for the $250,000 facility were funded by local foundations and in-kind donations.

Since opening in 2001, the Center has served more than 16,000 people, and has been supported by volunteers who have donated 11,000 hours of time.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Lulu Orr, R.N., founder and executive director, Good Grief Center

Image courtesy Dr. Mark D. Miller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy Chatham University

New Crescent Court model unveiled, 22 of 36 units sold in Squirrel Hill

The newest model at Crescent Court Condominiums was unveiled earlier this month at Summerset at Frick Park. Twenty-two of the project’s 36 units are now sold.

Newly furnished, the 1,740-square-foot model includes two bedrooms, two bathrooms, 13-foot ceilings, and a solarium. The unit’s third floor features barrel vaulted ceilings. All of Crescent Court’s condos—which sell for between $335,000 and $489,000—are corner units. Amenities include garage parking, storage units and laundry rooms. A California-based consultant created the condos’ sound proofing.

Howard Hanna Real Estate Services
was recently chosen to market the condo development which is located in Squirrel Hill. Project developer is Ralph A. Falbo, Inc. Crescent Court, which was designed by PWWG, includes three, 3-story properties that house 36 condominiums. Residents share neighborhood amenities at Summerset, including a swimming pool, clubhouse and fitness center, and gazebo. Tot lots are currently being built throughout the community.

“It’s one of the most diverse communities that I've seen. We have all age groups—semi-retired and couples with babies. It’s one-and-a-half miles from Shadyside and Oakland and private and quiet—so it’s the best of both worlds,” says Nicole Johnston, with Howard Hanna, who is site coordinator at Crescent Court.  Johnston says the location has attracted many academics and lawyers who work in the city, as well as doctors from around the country.

If buyers purchase a unit before May 1, their condo fees will be covered for one year. Howard Hanna’s mortgage program is now offering buyers $1,000 toward closing costs.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Nicole Johnston, Howard Hanna/Crescent Court Condominiums

Image courtesy Crescent Court Condominiums/Howard Hanna

Summerset at Frick Park surpasses 60% sales mark in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill

Amidst a national subprime mortgage crisis and decline in homes sales, Summerset at Frick Park has nearly sold out of the newest product available in its latest phase.

Sixty-six houses, town homes and condominiums were sold between January 2007 and February 2008, and sales are being seen across all price points. Some of the increased sales activity is attributed to recent mortgage rate reductions. Summerset’s first phase—which features Cottage, Village and Estate single-family homes, Crescent Court Condominiums, town homes, and rental units—is sold out with the exception of 15 condos. Since July of 2007, 29 of 46 phase 2A units—including single-family homes and town homes—have sold.

“In a year that’s experienced financial turmoil, we’re beyond sixty-percent sold. The whole spectrum of Summerset has continued to progress. Traditional neighborhood developments remain strong,” says Craig Dunham with Summerset Land Development Associates, who notes that homes ranging from $300,000 to $900,000 have sold during the past year. “It will ride through the economic turmoil because it has solid underpinnings—it’s efficient, walkable and close to areas of growing employment. It’s a high-quality product with all of the fundamentals of a solid investment.”

The majority of residents who were surveyed in December moved to Summerset from out-of-state, other city locations or Pittsburgh’s eastern suburbs. “Everybody said they’d recommend living in Summerset. We all know word of mouth is effective. It’s driving interest in the community,” adds spokesperson Patti Jo Lambert, who says location is a top draw.

During phase two, road and utility infrastructure will be developed at Summerset at Frick Park—which is being completed in three phases and will feature 700 homes. The next phase will be rolled out in one year.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Craig Dunham, Rubinoff Company and Summerset Land Development Associates; Patti Jo Lambert, Summerset at Frick Park

Image courtesy Summerset at Frick Park

$200K in state aid to fund Pittsburgh's first comprehensive city planning initiative

The PA Department of Community and Economic Development has released $200,000 to fund The Strategic Community Planning in Pittsburgh Project, the city’s first comprehensive and coordinated plan.

To identify common strengths, challenges and issues, more effectively allocate limited resources and jumpstart neighborhood improvements, the project will combine the city’s 90 neighborhoods into 16 sectors. Next steps will involve gathering data such as population, physical conditions and amenities, in order to create a snapshot of Pittsburgh's 90 neighborhoods.

“It’s the first of its kind, and will be phased out over four years. We need to work toward a common goal and vision. This has been expressed by a lot of community groups,” says city planning director Noor Ismail.

A consortium of government agencies, technical assistance providers, and foundations will conduct studies to ascertain best scenarios for community development. Neighborhood stakeholders will develop a vision for individual sectors, so that business districts, parks and transportation corridors are used more effectively. The plan will also address infrastructure, economic development, housing, and mixed-use and conservation projects.

“A lot of other parallel planning efforts will feed into this—there needs to be some streamlining. For example, infrastructure does not end in one neighborhood. We need to look at wider areas,” adds Ismail, citing the city’s new bike-pedestrian and ADA efforts. “We’re an older built-out city. There’s a connotation that planning is not necessary anymore but it’s tied into quality of life.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Noor Ismail, Pittsburgh planning director

Image courtesy Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development

$200K in state aid to fund Pittsburgh's first comprehensive city planning initiative

The PA Department of Community and Economic Development has released $200,000 to fund The Strategic Community Planning in Pittsburgh Project, the city’s first comprehensive and coordinated plan.

To identify common strengths, challenges and issues, more effectively allocate limited resources and jumpstart neighborhood improvements, the project will combine the city’s 90 neighborhoods into 16 sectors. Next steps will involve gathering data about population, physical conditions and amenities, in order to create a snapshot of the 90 neighborhoods.

“It’s the first of its kind, and will be phased out into four years. We need to work toward a common goal and vision. This need has been expressed by a lot of community groups,” says city planning director Noor Ismail.

A consortium of government agencies, technical assistance providers, and foundations will conduct studies to ascertain best scenarios for community development. Neighborhood stakeholders will develop a vision for individual sectors, so that business districts, parks and transportation corridors are used more effectively. The plan will also address infrastructure, economic development, housing, and mixed-use and conservation projects.

“A lot of other parallel planning efforts will feed into this—there needs to be some streamlining. For example, infrastructure does not end in one neighborhood. We need to look at wider areas,” adds Ismail, citing the city’s new bike-pedestrian and ADA efforts. “We’re an older built-out city. There’s a connotation that planning is not necessary anymore but it’s tied into quality of life.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Noor Ismail, Pittsburgh planning director

Image courtesy Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development

Dozen Cupcakes expands with second Pittsburgh location, doubles capacity

One year after opening its first location in Squirrel Hill, Dozen Cupcakes is expanding its bakery business and catering operation. On Jan. 26, Dozen Bake Shop will open at 3511 Butler St. in Lawrenceville.

The 1,300-square-foot bakery—twice as large as Dozen’s Murray Ave. space—includes café style seating for 30 and free Wi-Fi. Located in a renovated rowhouse owned by developer Lee Gross, the space features a light yellow and baby blue color scheme, exposed brick and mismatched antique furniture. “It’s an open kitchen concept, a rustic approach to a bakery café. People can see every detail of the production, which is exciting,” says owner/baker James Gray.

Expanding upon its current model, the new bakery's Sunday brunch will feature local produce and herbs from Grow Pittsburgh. Dozen will also carry scones, sour cream cinnamon rolls, key lime tarts, and pies. “We want to provide Pittsburgh with a new bakery experience found in larger cities. Lawrenceville is considered one of the hot spots of Pittsburgh. We wanted to be in an area where other business have that kind of vitality and mentality,” says Gray, 33, who is excited that Tamari restaurant will soon open on Butler. “Lawrenceville offers the reasonable, paced growth we’re looking for. Pittsburgh has been very good to us. There’s been such a loyal following.”

The new space will allow Dozen to expand its catering operation. “We’re hoping to increase that to fifty-percent of our overall operation, and take a large portion of our catering to Lawrenceville,” adds Gray, who often bakes 1,400 cupcakes per day.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: James Gray, Dozen Cupcakes and Dozen Bake Shop

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

JCC of Greater Pittsburgh to unveil $4M renovation and expansion in Squirrel Hill

The Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh (JCC) is completing work on The Leatrice and John M. Wolf Centerfit at its Irene Kaufmann Building located at 5738 Forbes Ave. in Squirrel Hill. Work on the $4 million renovation and expansion project will be completed by March 1.

Adding 4,114 square feet to the organization’s 20-year-old building, the project provides all members as young as 13 with access to all cardiovascular and strength training areas. Previously, only seventy-five percent of JCC members had access to this equipment.

“We expect our membership to grow by twenty percent. Already, new member signups have surpassed our expectations. Their jaws drop when we take them through," says Cathy Green Samuels, with the JCC. "We have planned generous capacity for the expected increase in usage that this appealing and accessible renovation will generate."

The modernized facilities feature a 10,000-square-foot cardiovascular area, more than 65 new pieces equipment, senior- and teen-friendly equipment, and dedicated personal training areas. The center also boasts two convertible squash/racquetball courts, redesigned spinning studios and a pool-side family waiting area.

The project allowed the JCC to add an ADA accessible restroom, upgrade locker rooms and install an environmentally-friendly pool filtration and disinfectant system. The center’s lounges now feature wireless access. The JCC's new Centerfit Platinum membership includes towel service, wood “spa style” lockers, and priority registration for court sports, classes and spa services.

Squirrel Hill-based Dunn and Associates, Inc. designed the expansion; contractor is A. Martini & Co. The renovation received funding from Gov. Rendell, Sen. Costa, Rep. Frankel and the United Jewish Federation.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Roberta Mintz Levine and Cathy Green Samuels, JCC of Greater Pittsburgh

Image courtesy Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh

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

$36M Homestead Grays Bridge renovation complete, Rankin next for bridge facelift

A $36 million renovation of the Homestead Grays Bridge project is now complete. Linking Homestead with Greenfield, the truss deck bridge serves more than 40,000 vehicles every day.

Rehabilitation work involved replacing the bridge's deck, bearings, sidewalks, and traffic barriers. “We widened the footprint of the entire bridge and put in a new PA bridge barrier that separates traffic from pedestrians. The Riverlife Taskforce has pushed for this style, especially on the Fort Pitt Bridge,” says Doug Aiken with Allegheny County Public Works. “It’s a nice new clean bridge for a major retail environment. We changed the elevation and curvature to make it a smoother ride.” Built in the 1930s, the bridge received a new coat of grey to commemorate the Homestead Grays Negro League team.

“The I-35 bridge collapse in Minnesota is a real wake-up call. We’ve been looking at this issue in the state for years,” says Aiken. “Next week we’re scheduling a new inspection of the new bridge to address those issues specifically, because it’s a similar bridge.” The Federal Highway Administration covered eighty- percent of the cost. Pennsylvania provided fifteen-percent, and Allegheny County contributed five percent.

Next in line for a major rehab is the Rankin Bridge. “We’re going to bid at the end of this year; construction should start in the spring,” adds Aiken, who says the project could cost $40 million. “For people commuting, it’s an opportunity to keep traffic flowing with new bridges and wider lanes. These are major arteries between communities. The Rankin Bridge has a big Kennywood component.

Next year, the County will construct a $10 million flyover bridge connecting Duquesne’s RIDC Park to Rte. 837.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Doug Aiken, Allegheny County Public Works

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

Summerset at Frick Park unveils new home designs, begins next residential phase

Kicking off its latest residential phase, Summerset at Frick Park unveiled new home designs and opened its sales center on Sept. 7th.

Construction is set to begin on 46 new residential units, including single-family houses and town homes in Summerset’s updated Cottage, Village and Estate styles. The Village Grant model, a three-bedroom, 2,470 square-foot plan, starts at $460,000. Summerset also debuted several two-bedroom Craftsman models that range in size from 1,520 to 1,768 square feet, and sell for between $298,000 and $329,900. Ten homes are already under agreement for sale.

“We had early excitement when houses were sold overnight; now it’s more of a steady progress. Given the national climate, which really isn’t a Pittsburgh issue, it’s still really strong,” says Craig Dunham, with The Rubinoff Company and Summerset Land Development Associates. He says they would love to have everything done by the end of 2008.

“If someone made a decision to live in the city and wants a new house with open space and amenities, this is as good as it gets,” says Dunham, who notes that Summerset features a community center and pool. While buyers have moved in from places such as Ohio, Illinois and Indiana, Dunham says, “It’s primarily Oakland employees—medical or academic—Downtown professionals, and people wanting second homes or downsizing for retirement.”

Summerset’s first phase, which included 36 condos, 40 rental units and
123 houses and town homes, is nearing completion and close to selling out. Located in Squirrel Hill near Frick Park, Summerset is being completed in three phases and will feature 700 homes.  

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Craig Dunham, The Rubinoff Company

Image courtesy of Summerset at Frick Park

$3.75M expansion and renovation project underway at Squirrel Hill JCC

On July 23rd, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh (JCC) launched a $3.75 million expansion and renovation project at its Squirrel Hill site.

At the site’s current 5,244 square-foot configuration, only 75% of JCC members have access to the cardiovascular and strength training equipment. The expansion will add 4,114 square feet to the organization’s 20 year-old building at 5738 Forbes Ave. “When we expand, all of our general members will have access to our cardio vascular machines. We’re going to attract so many new members, and increase the satisfaction of our current general membership,” says JCC fitness director Laurie Wood. “It’s going to be more open, airy and welcoming; there will be windows everywhere.”

The expanded facility will feature a 4,000 square-foot state-of-the-art cardiovascular area, cycling center, dedicated personal training rooms, and senior- and teen-friendly equipment. Upgrades will be made to the center’s popular pool, including the installation of an environmentally-friendly ultra-violet filtration and disinfectant and the creation of a family waiting area. Locker rooms will undergo a facelift, and a new HVAC system will be installed. The expansion will also allow the JCC to add wireless Internet access and new programs for women, older adults and teens. 

Squirrel Hill-based architect and JCC member Alan Dunn is designing the expansion. Contractor is Angelo Martini. The project is expected to take six months. 
The JCC recently, the JCC completed capital projects at its Henry Kaufmann Family Recreation Park in Monroeville, South Hills center and Emma Kaufmann Camp. In July, the JCC surpassed its $10 million endowment fund goal by $15,000.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Laurie Woods, JCC

Image courtesy of the Jewish Community Center

$2.3M Carriage House Children's Center seeks LEED gold, hosts GBA tour

The Carriage House Children’s Center (CHCC), located at 5604 Solway St. in Squirrel Hill, will be spotlighted during a Green Building Alliance tour on July 26th. Led by architect Gary Moshier, the tour will highlight the project's sustainable design and programmatic features. The $2.3 million dollar interior renovation project is seeking a LEED-certification gold rating for an existing building, as well as an Energy Star rating.

In addition to housing the CHCC, the turn-of-the-century property also provides space for numerous non-profit, community and arts organizations. The project involved basement and first floor renovations, including expanding the CHCC’s program space by 2,000 square feet and building a commercial kitchen. “The goal was to reduce energy consumption overall by thirty-five percent,” says Moshier, who cites a new boiler, air conditioning and daylighting controls as central to the school’s new green operations. “A significant amount of construction waste was both recycled and diverted from the site—ninety-five percent was the goal. We used recycled content carpet, low-VOC paints and FSC-certified wood.” 

The project’s green approach does not stop with the building. Building manager Bob Michel has instituted a green cleaning system, new recycling procedures and a battery recycling program, while the school has launched a green curriculum. “We used durable and non-toxic products, for the children’s safety and indoor air quality, “ says Moshier, who worked with Jendoco Construction Corporation. “We cut down their waste by twenty-five percent. It was a completely integrated process and team.”

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 40,000 square-foot, four-story building housed The Wightman School until 1979. To register for the GBA tour, go here.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Gary Moshier, Moshier Studio

Image courtesy of Green Building Alliance

YPA unveils region's top preservation sites, celebrates 5th anniversary

The Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh (YPA) unveiled its “Top Ten Best Preservation Opportunities” list at the group’s fifth anniversary celebration on May 25th.

The list calls attention to endangered properties that show potential for reuse and highlights the economic value of historic preservation. “We really wanted to do a list that would be different, not just endangered places, but where we see potential. It shapes our thinking on historic places,” says Dan Holland with the YPA, who is currently working to secure preservation grants for the National Negro Opera House in Homewood. “These are strategic and purposeful awards. Community revitalization should start with historic resources."
For the first time, the YPA identified two Washington County sites. The Coyle Theater in Charleroi, West Overton Museums in Scottdale and Pittsburgh’s former Morningside School were also recognized.

Sandee Gertz Umbach, founding executive director of Washington Community Arts and Cultural Center, won the YPA’s emerging preservation leader award. “She’s a magnet for revitalization in Washington. While we have these top ten sites, it is the people and demographics that matter,” says Holland.

To select winners, the YPA looks at architectural and historical significance, project feasibility and community interest. “It takes a huge amount of teamwork. We’re trying to encourage donors to invest in these projects.” Next fall, the YPA plans to launch technical assistance programs for  individuals, business owners, community-based organizations, and local governments.

Holland cites the Union Project and Armstrong Cork Factory as examples of preservation success stories. Of 54 sites the YPA has identified since 2003, only one is considered a loss.
Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Dan Holland, YPA

Image courtesy of YPA

Cool Space Locator spotlights Pittsburgh's hottest spaces

Cool Space Locator (CSL) shines a spotlight on Pittsburgh’s hottest spaces during its June 1st "Cool Down" awards party.
Founded in 2005, the bi-annual event highlights the role that compelling architecture, design and communities play in strengthening urban life.

This year, CSL established five criteria to guide the decision-making process: community connections, creativity, historical inspiration,  adaptive reuse and the people behind the places. “We wanted to give people a better idea of what specifically we focus on,” says Keren Shefet with CSL, which assists business owners and non-profit leaders with locating creative spaces. “Cool creative spaces need to inspire the people working in them. A lot of spaces need to connect with communities.”

Winners include the Blacksmith Studio on the Northside, Uncommon Grounds in Aliquippa and The Union Project in East Liberty. New this year is an award for two communities, Bellevue and Braddock, neighborhoods recognized for stimulating economic revitalization along business districts.

To further plug cool spaces, the event will take place at The Meter Room, a former warehouse located in Sheraden. Spearheaded by local artist John Ross, The Meter Room provides residential, work and performance space for artists. “Our event for him is like a coming out party. It brings him more attention,” adds Sheret, who says the awards promote urban revitalization by calling attention to unique workspaces located in walkable neighborhoods.

A panel of community leaders, including architect Ken Doyno and Malik Bankston of The Kingsley Association, assisted with selecting 10 winners from 48 submissions. The event is sponsored by Mellon Financial Corporation and the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Keren Shefet, CSL

Image courtesy of Cool Space Locator

Smart Growth Conference to convene downtown on May 18

"Focusing Growth for Regional Prosperity,” the 7th annual Smart Growth Conference, will take place on May 18 at the Omni William Penn Hotel.

The free conference features keynote speaker Don Chen, executive director of Smart Growth America, a national advocacy coalition that promotes preservation of open space and farmland, reinvestment in existing communities, affordable housing and transportation alternatives.

Attendees will be invited to respond to a draft of Project Region, a long-range transportation and development plan being developed by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission. "This is an opportunity for the public to give input on the plan," say Court Gould, executive director of Sustainable Pittsburgh. "This plan will have a real impact on the face of the region, how we will grow and develop, whether we will continue to sprawl outwardly or focus on our existing communities.”

Participants will hear progress reports from three community committees created at last year's conference: leveling the field for redevelopment, promoting regionalism and transportation funding. The event will also feature a Q&A with state, regional and local leaders.

Project Region: The Southwestern Pennsylvania Growth Plan, which must be adopted by July, aims to make regional planning processes more transparent, maximize infrastructure, and integrate transportation, job creation and economic competitiveness within a plan for regional growth.

“In light of the city's recent top livable city award, this plan will address important quality of life issues for the future. We're at an important point where the plan will steer growth and development for the next 30 years,” says Gould.

To register, go here.

Road to 2010 symposium to address region's major construction projects

The region’s major construction projects, set to occur over the next three years, will be addressed at the “Road to 2010 Symposium.” The free event takes place on May 16 at the downtown Westin and is organized by Navigant Consulting, an international firm with a downtown office.

Government officials and industry experts will share information about building plans with area construction, engineering and design communities. Sessions will address construction issues relating to infrastructure, higher education, and private and public sector development. “There’s so much development money coming in with gaming and the North Shore. The synergies between different areas will impact the labor market and the lives of all Pittsburghers,” says Jeff Burd with BreakingGround, event co-sponsor. “What an exciting time to be here. We’re at the beginning of a large wave of work.”

Jack Mascaro of Mascaro Construction Company will chair a panel featuring Joseph Fink, associate vice chancellor for facilities management at the University of Pittsburgh. Transportation officials, private developers and non-profit leaders will also participate. Major city developments, such as The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s RiverParc and the new arena, will be spotlighted.

“It’s meant to demonstrate what's coming up, facilitate discussions about what the needs are, and make sure that people understand the full breadth of the region’s three-year climate,” says Burd, a session moderator. “Four out of five experts feel we’re not going to have sufficient skilled labor. We'll need to facilitate people coming here.” Burd feels the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. markets could be a source for labor. “We’re bringing in decision makers who are in charge of funding to make it a high-level event and tie everything together.” To register, call 412.454.4100.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Jeff Burd, BreakingGround/Tall Timber Group

Image courtesy of Navigant Consulting, Inc.

Howard Hanna ranks high on REAL Trends' national list of top real estate firms

Howard Hanna Real Estate Services has received three high rankings by REAL Trends, the country’s leading publisher of residential real estate analysis. Based on 2006 production, Howard Hanna was named the country’s sixth largest firm for closed transactions and fifth largest for both sales and settlement services. 

“When you consider how hot the markets have been in California, Florida and Arizona, and here's a home grown company in Pittsburgh, it’s pretty impressive,” says Steve Murray, editor of Denver-based REAL Trends, which collects data from 800 leading brokerage firms. “This is the highest ranking they’ve ever attained."

Murray would not be surprised to see the company enter new markets. “We are actively looking for quality acquisitions of real estate companies and expanding our mortgage, title and insurance businesses with adding new locations in 2007,” says Howard W. “Hoddy” Hanna, III, chairman and CEO of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services.

Howard Hanna was also recognized as the nation’s third largest privately owned real estate firm; in 2006, the company completed 52,555 closed and settlement service transactions. “In a year that was down in overall real estate sales, it is gratifying that Howard Hanna went against the market and had another up year,” says Hanna. “The real estate market in Western Pennsylvania is of strong value, and will continue to be, with three to five percent appreciation in the next two years. This will create housing appreciation in our region to be in the top 10% nationally.”

With more than 3,600 employees, Howard Hanna has 120 offices in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and West Virginia. This year, the company is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Steve Murray, REAL Trends

Image courtesy of Real Trends

$12M 5859 Beacon sells 20 condos, receives top construction awards

Squirrel Hill’s newest condominium 5859 BEACON, located within walking distance to the neighborhood’s business district, has sold 20 of its 28 units and won two top construction awards.

The project team--developers S & W Investment Properties, LLC, which consists of Charles Staley and Fran Wymard, contractor BRIDGES and Company, Inc. and architects Renaissance 3--received two 2006 "Excellence in Construction" Eagle Awards from the Associated Builders and Contractors.

Site manager Marie Louise Vaughn cites the Beacon’s central location, concrete and steel construction and Traco windows as criteria which led to the industry accolades. “It’s the design. The way it’s situated, there really isn't a deep dark unit. They’re all bright," she says.

The $12 million project features 28 for-sale condos, a fitness center and pet grooming facilities. Two- and three-bedroom units range in size from 1,360 to 2,451 square feet, and include balconies,11-foot ceilings and customized interiors designed by Londonbury Homes.

With 71% of its condos sold, Vaughn expects interest to continue. “It's so interesting, because we have an elderly couple in their 80s, and then we have a sophomore in college. We also have couples in their 50s, professors, active and retired physicians, and an economist who worked for the government. It’s truly a mix,” she says. "We're really hoping it sells out by July." Residents will move in during the next three months. Units in the four-story condominium start at $385,000.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Marie Louise Vaughn, Howard Hanna

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

$9.4M Crescent Court sells 21 condos, hosts opening events

To welcome new residents and mark the completion of construction, Crescent Court Condominiums hosted an open house on April 27-29th. The $9.4 million project has sold 21 of its 36 units.

“Three-fourths are from the Pittsburgh area, and of that, ten percent are coming into the city from suburbs. The rest are from places outside the region. We have many older couples, working people associated with Oakland, and a very large group of middle-aged, single women,” says Craig Dunham with The Rubinoff Company. “Now that the building is visible, sales are moving. As people move in, it’s not abstract anymore.”

Designed by Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff + Goettel Architects and built by Mistick Construction, the three-story, 87,000 square-foot Crescent Court features one-, two- and three-bedroom condos ranging in size from 1,100 to 1,860 square feet. Units, which have sold for between $299,000 and $489,000, feature large solariums. “We hope they’re perceived as very generous, gracious floor plans,” says Dunham. LaQuatra Bonci Associates completed master planning and landscaping.

Developed by Ralph Falbo, Inc. and Pennrose Properties, Crescent Court is the latest addition to Summerset at Frick Park, a project of Summerset Land Development Associates and the URA. Adjacent to Squirrel Hill, the 200-acre project includes 200 single-family houses, town homes, rental apartments and condos. When completed, it will feature 700 units, and the addition of 100 acres to Frick Park.

“There’s a diversity of housing types. Streets are interconnected with no cul-de-sacs, garages are in the back, the houses are uniformly set back 20 feet, and small parklets are interspersed throughout,” says Dunham, of Summerset’s New Urbanist approach.
Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Craig Dunham, The Rubinoff Company

Image courtesy of Summerset at Frick Park

335-mile Great Allegheny Passage trail system nears completion

The 335-mile Great Allegheny Passage is one step closer to connecting Point State Park to Washington, D.C. The U. S. Steel Corporation has transferred 1.5 miles of land to the Regional Trail Corporation to help complete the biking and hiking trail. Valued at $2 million, the land is located in West Mifflin and Duquesne.

To prepare the site for recreational use, U.S. Steel removed a former coke-oven gas pipeline and cleared the trail surface. With funds from the Allegheny Regional Asset District, Allegheny Trail Alliance and Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Regional Trail Corporation purchased the land for $550,000.

“It’s a real tool to get people here and keep people here. Here we are being named most livable city again, and taking another step to improve quality of life. These amenities really do help us with economic development,” says Kevin Evanto, spokesperson for Allegheny County. “We hope to have all of the property transferred by the fall of 2008 so that for Pittsburgh’s 250th, you could ride from D.C. to the Point." Twelve landowners, including Kennywood, own the remaining 7.5 miles needed to complete the route, which aims for class A trail status.

“Once completed, the Great Allegheny Passage will enhance the quality of life in Western Pennsylvania and serve as a dynamic pathway for visitors to experience our region’s unique qualities and history,” says John Surma, CEO of U.S. Steel. “The impending celebration of Pittsburgh's 250th anniversary has been a definite catalyst for completing the project,” says Erin DiPietro, spokesperson for U.S. Steel.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Kevin Evanto, Allegheny County; John Surma, Erin DiPietro, U.S. Steel Corporation

Image courtesy of Allegheny County

Grand View Scenic Byway receives regional park designation

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

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

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

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

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Ethan Raup, MWCDC

Image courtesy of MWCDC

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Sean Brady, Venture Outdoors

Image courtesy of Venture Outdoors

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of CCAC

Pittsburgh selected for National Association of Counties conference in 2012

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of NACO

LA Fitness to open three Pittsburgh area locations

LA Fitness International will open its first western Pennsylvania locations in three Pittsburgh area sites. The 45,000 square-foot fitness centers will be located on William Penn Hwy in Monroeville’s Miracle Mile Shopping Center, on Rte. 51 in Pleasant Hills’ Southland Shopping Center and on Washington Pike in Bridgeville’s Great Southern Shopping Center.

“These are like super stores, if you will; it’s their largest prototype and they’re coming into Pittsburgh in all three locations,” says Samuel Zamias, president and CEO of Johnstown-based Zamias Services, developer/owner of the properties. Each location will feature a full line of exercise equipment, swimming pool and racquetball courts. “LA Fitness boasts some 10,000 members per unit--that’s what they believe Pittsburgh will do.” The health club also offers personal training, kids programs and full court basketball.

Three fifty-year-old properties will be demolished in order to build the fitness centers. “In the original design, these were JCPenneys, who vacated and went to the malls, and then a variety of tenants were put in,” says Zamias. “LA Fitness saw the opportunities in terms of these vacant places and were up for doing this for a while.”

“All three will open in March 2008 at the latest,” says Zamias. “With any luck, they’ll open during the fall.” Construction is expected to begin within 60 days. "We intend to use a Western Pennsylvania contractor. We try to keep things local, and Pittsburgh is a great base for general contractors."

Zamias says that the privately-held LA Fitness operates 14 locations in Pennsylvania and 188 nationwide.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Samuel Zamias

Tri-county airport partnership wins NAIOP development award

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

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

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

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

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Leo Castagnari; Ken Zapinski

Image courtesy of NAIOP

Costco to open third Pittsburgh area location

The wholesale retailer Costco is opening its third Pittsburgh area location on March 8th at the Waterfront in West Homestead. Located at 501 West Waterfront Dr. behind LongHorn Steakhouse, Costco sits between Loews movie theater and Sandcastle Waterpark, in a section of the Waterfront that will soon boast a new amphitheatre. The 143,000 square-foot store will employ 165 people.

“We’re happy to have them as part of the Waterfront family, especially to have some other new businesses toward this end,” says Pat Safran, managing partner of Longhorn Steakhouse, which opened 1 ½ years ago in a space adjacent to Costco. “It definitely fills a void in the area; I’m excited to have them open right next door.”

Costco is hosting a store preview for local business owners on March 7th; its grand opening is set for March 8th at 8 a.m. The Issaquah, Washington-based membership warehouse club is also located in Cranberry and Robinson Township.

Costco operates 508 locations worldwide. Originally opened to serve small businesses, the company was founded as Price Club in San Diego in 1976; the first Costco warehouse opened in Seattle in 1983. The first company ever to grow from zero to $3 billion in sales in less than six years, Costco’s total sales recently exceeded $50 billion.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Teresa Sommerville, Costco; Pat Safran, LongHorn Steakhouse

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene


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

County announces 65-acre expansion of North Park

On Dec. 14th, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato announced plans for a 65-acre addition to North Park. Currently a brownfield adjacent to the 3,010-acre park, the land will serve as a collection site for material dredged from North Park Lake and will then be converted to park and recreation space. Dredging of the lake will begin in 2007.

“This is a critical piece of property for the North Park Lake dredging project,” said County parks director Andy Baechle. “We wouldn’t be able to move forward without this land.”

The Richard King Mellon Foundation donated half of the $460,900 cost to purchase the land; funds from Growing Greener II, a voter-approved $625-million bond issue, will cover the remainder. At the end of December, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy will act as the fiscal agent for the purchase of the land.

“This is another successful example of Allegheny County converting brownfields into  greenfields,” said Onorato. “This former industrial site will not only allow us to perform the critical dredging project to return North Park Lake to its former glory, but it will also add acres of recreational and green space to the park.”

Located in Hampton Township and one of nine County-operated public parks, North Park features a nature center, golf course, pool, and skating rink.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Office of the Allegheny County Chief Executive

City to buy back tax liens on 11,000 parcels in $6.5M deal

On Dec. 7, Mayor Ravenstahl announced that the City of Pittsburgh will buy back tax liens on 11,000 parcels of property currently unoccupied and undeveloped. Part of the Mayor’s plan to assist Pittsburgh neighborhoods with revitalization and economic development efforts, the $6.5 million deal will be financed through the city’s general fund and is expected to be completed by the end of March 2007.

“Our neighborhoods can no longer be neglected,” said Ravenstahl.  “Now, properties previously unavailable for re-development because of their high tax-liens, can finally be developed. This has been the hurdle we faced over  and over again.”

The deal with Capital Asset, a subsidiary of MBIA Inc., the Armonk, New York-based bond insurer, was negotiated in partnership with the Pittsburgh Public Schools and Water and Sewer Authority. From 1996 through 1999, the city sold tax-liens on 14,000 parcels to Capital Asset Research Corporation for $64 million. 

“This plan reflects one of my top priorities for the New Year: the need to shift our mindset from one of managing decline to one of building a Pittsburgh for the future,” said Ravenstahl. "We talk about bringing our neighborhoods back, we talk about reinvesting in our neighborhoods. This is unprecedented; it's something that will give us control."

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Mayor Luke Ravenstahl

Rachel Carson Homestead launches centennial events

On Dec. 5, the Rachel Carson Homestead Association (RCHA) launched its 2007 Centennial Celebration. Designed to highlight Carson’s environmental legacy and southwestern PA’s leadership in environmental, conservation and eco-tourism initiatives, the year-long celebration of the author, scientist and Springdale native will feature major events throughout the region.

Recently named leading environmental campaigner of all time by the U.K. Environment Agency, Carson is credited with founding the green movement after publishing Silent Spring in 1962. “This is where the base of who she became was started--current day environmental organizations trace back to her,” says Patricia DeMarco, RCHA's executive director, who calls Carson a “Pittsburgh icon.”

The centennial will spotlight Carson’s hometown and encourage people to consider all aspects of a green lifestyle. “We’re trying to propagate her ideas and philosophy,” says DeMarco, who hopes the centennial will educate people about creating a permanent footprint of sustainability, as well as how to achieve full functionality for area rivers.

The RCHA and local partners will present a birthday block-party, programs about global warming and sustainable agriculture, and a symposium at CMU. Activities will include plays, concerts and films, a national women’s health conference and a groundbreaking for a new downtown monument to Carson.

In April, the RCHA will announce a legacy challenge encouraging individuals, businesses, institutions and government to make permanent, measurable changes in behavior and policy that promote Carson’s environmental ethic.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Patricia DeMarco

Image courtesy of the Rachel Carson Homestead Association

Onorato signs landmark riverfront park legislation

On December 1, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato signed legislation to support the development of a 128-mile long riverfront park along the Allegheny, Monongahela, Ohio and Youghiogheny Rivers.

Last month, County Council members David Fawcett and Jim Burn introduced the countywide park proposal. On November 21, Council unanimously approved an ordinance that authorizes County officials to start acquiring properties and begin the park's mapping, design and engineering phase. Touching more than half of Allegheny County’s 130 municipalities, the amenity will become the world’s longest urban linear park.

“Once you connect the trails, the usage of the parks will go up enormously,” says Fawcett, who has received more positive e-mails about the park than about any other topic since Council was created in 2000. “Cyclists, joggers and commuters can get from one place to another without interruption.”

New amenities will include picnic sites, athletic facilities, fishing areas, and rock climbing spots. “There's a focus on waterfront development throughout the world,” says Fawcett, citing examples like Chicago, Chattanooga and Vancouver. “Ours could be the most spectacular and largest, because you have the greatest length of waterways.”

Though funding information has not been released, Fawcett says there is “expression from a lot of different sectors for funding, which is in line with this being economic development, not just another park.”

Three County departments—Parks, Public Works and Economic Development--will undertake the project, which is expected to exceed $100 million and take several years.

“This follows Chief Executive Dan Onorato’s plan to develop our brownfield and riverfront sites as part of his economic development plans," says Dennis Davin, director of Allegheny County's Department of.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: David Fawcett; Dennis Davin

PHFA announces $1.5M excellence in design initiative

The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) has launched a new
$1.5 million Excellence in Design Initiative (EDI). Unprecedented nationally, the demonstration program will reward design excellence and encourage statewide architectural, engineering and construction standards in affordable housing.

Qualifying submissions may be eligible for design grants made payable to the development team’s architect. Teams may include for-profit and non-profit developers, architects and community development organizations.

“We’re looking for creative, functional designs that integrate green building if possible,” says PHFA’s executive director Brian Hudson. “We’d like to incorporate some of these designs into our ongoing work.” Funds may be used to support affordable housing and mixed-use developments that include rehabilitation and new construction.

The Community Design Center of Pittsburgh (CDCP), Community Design Collaborative of AIA Philadelphia and Penn State University’s Hamer Center will assist with reviewing submissions and conducting site visits. Applicants must attend a training seminar in Harrisburg on December 1; funds will be distributed based on amounts required by best projects.

“It's an opportunity to demonstrate that quality design results in added value,” says Jason Vrabel with CDCP who says local governments must provide matching funds. “I’ve met with the URA and they are prepared to partner on this.

“I’m hoping we see projects with strong community development angles,” he adds.  “It’s a very innovative opportunity to set a statewide precedent for housing agencies--we think it could become a national model.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Brian Hudson; Jason Vrabel

Image courtesy of PHFA

Duquesne University hosts business technology conference

On Nov. 28, Duquesne University’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and School of Business Administration will team up to present the region’s first Pennsylvania Business Technology Conference. The event will focus on how businesses can use technology to improve profitability and productivity.

“Technology changes so rapidly—corporate and business worlds have a hard time keeping up with how it can improve performance,” says SBDC director Mary McKinney. “We’re presenting technologies that are most able to assist businesses with growth.”

Keynote speaker Dan Miklovic, of the leading technology research firm Gartner Inc., will predict the next three years’ hottest technology issues. U.S. Congressman Mike Doyle will discuss how technology can support community revitalization. A roundtable discussion will feature representatives from Google, Oracle, Summa Technologies, and iGATE.

“While small and medium-sized businesses are very open to adopting new technologies, they often lack what’s needed to take new resources to fruition,” says Ken Saban, with Duquesne’s School of Business Administration. “We looked at technology’s impact on business performance and found there wasn’t a neutral platform for people to get unbiased information.”

More than 100 people are expected to attend. “It’s an opportunity to connect business owners and managers and with technologists,” says Saban. “People will walk away with critical insights.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Mary McKinney; Ken Saban

Image courtesy of Duquesne University

Area organizations host transportation funding forum

On November 16 at 8:00 a.m., The Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Leadership Pittsburgh, Inc. and Sustainable Pittsburgh will present Transportation Funding for Our Region's Prosperity, at the Omni William Penn Hotel downtown.

Timed to follow the November 13th release of the Governor's Transportation Funding and Reform Commission’s final report, the free forum will educate the public about the report’s content and provide a Q&A with transportation officials. Larry King, PennDOT’s deputy secretary for planning, will review key findings and recommendations.

“Transportation--and in particular public transportation--are critical to the region’s sustainable development,” says Court Gould, executive director of Sustainable Pittsburgh. “To have public transportation facing annual funding shortfalls is not a position of competitiveness for our region.”

Panelists include Stephen Bland, CEO of Port Authority and Jim Roddey, a member of the Transportation Funding and Reform Commission, who will provide perspectives about solving the funding crisis and strategies for implementing recommendations.

“We’re not just fixated on funding alone--funding should be used to entice additional reforms, such as tying investment in transportation to community revitalization,” says Gould.

“Southwestern Pennsylvania needs to come to a consensus voice and approach--we need our elected officials in Harrisburg to grab this in the name of economic development," says Gould. “Here’s an opportunity to put the Governor’s Keystone Principles for Smart Growth to work, and be smarter about how to leverage those dollars."

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Court Gould, Sustainable Pittsburgh

Boyce Park to undergo $1 million renovation

Boyce Park Ski Area, one of nine public parks operated by Allegheny County, is undergoing a $1 million renovation and improvement project. Built in the 1960s, the 1,096-acre park at 675 Old Frankstown Road in Monroeville serves 13,000 visitors annually.

Renovations include the construction of a new snowtubing attraction and two new magic carpet lifts. Existing chairlifts will be upgraded in order to meet new state regulations. “We’re hoping this generates more attendance,” says Tom Donatelli, director of Public Works for Allegheny County. ““The more family activities we can bring in, the better it is for the park.”

Pashek Associates, a Northside-based landscape architecture and community planning firm, is designing the park’s snowtubing facility, a popular attraction at national parks and resorts. Strip District-based CDM is providing geotechnical assistance. Renovations are expected to be completed by August of 2007.

“It’s going to provide a new venue and serve another demographic of the community,” says John Buerkle with Pashek Associates. “We hope more families will go there together.”

The project is funded by the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Allegheny County, the Allegheny Regional Asset District, and a voter-approved bond issue.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Tom Donatelli, Allegheny County; John Buerkle, Pashek Associates


Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership hosts North Shore Connector session

On November 9, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP) will host an information session for the public about the North Shore connector. Construction on the 1.2-mile expansion of Pittsburgh’s 25-mile light rail transit system begins in late November and is slated to conclude in 2011.

The free event is from 10 a.m. to 12 noon on the 31st floor of the Regional Enterprise Tower, located downtown at 425 Sixth Avenue. Port Authority and construction representatives will provide a project overview, construction timeline and detour plans.

“This demonstrates the momentum that downtown has,” says Lucinda Beattie, vice president of transportation with the PDP, which is co-sponsoring the event with Port Authority and Sustainable Pittsburgh. “So much is happening over the next couple of years--getting information is key.”

Beattie says the Port Authority is working to design detour routes that are sensitive to upcoming downtown events. “If people know ahead of time what to expect, they can make adjustments.” Construction will initially close the Tenth Street Bypass and later impact the Gateway area.

Port Authority is hosting a second public session on November 9 from 5 to 7 p.m. on the fifth floor of the Heinz 57 Center located downtown at 345 Sixth Avenue.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Lucinda Beattie, PDP

Image courtesy of PDP

Allegheny Places seeks public input

From Nov. 8-15, Allegheny Places—the County’s first comprehensive plan--is holding community input sessions on issues ranging from housing and jobs to transit and the environment.

Launched in May by County Executive Dan Onorato and the Allegheny County Economic Development planning division, Allegheny Places is working to set county-wide policies for land development, conservation, and economic initiatives, via a public process that involves government, businesses, non-profit organizations and citizens, including the City of Pittsburgh.

Manager Marilyn Gelzhiser notes that Allegheny is by far the biggest county in the state to do this. "It’s a plan for the entire County--everyone has to be a partner for implementation.”

By developing a framework for how the County grows,  the plan aims to more efficiently guide investments by public and private interests, optimize resources, and attract more new residents. Meetings, which will occur throughout the County, will feature presentations on a preliminary future land use plan. The public will view maps and participate in break-out sessions. Meeting data will be shared via the project’s website. Allegheny Places will issue a final draft in early 2007, followed by a six-month adoption process.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Marilyn Gelzhiser, Allegheny County Department of Economic Development

Image courtesy of McCormick Taylor, Inc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of Environmental Planning and Design

Green Building Alliance receives major funding, launches regional initiative

Southside-based Green Building Alliance (GBA) has received $1 million from Pennsylvania’s Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority and $250,000 from The Heinz Endowments to launch a regional initiative that utilizes green building manufacturing to stimulate regional economic development. Funds will allow GBA to expand its staff and possibly relocate its offices.

“We’re the first in the U.S. to launch this type of initiative,” says GBA’s executive director Rebecca Flora. “We can now put infrastructure and programming in place in order to grow this industry in our region.”

GBA’s mission is to integrate environmentally responsible and high performance design, construction and operating practices into the regional market. “We’ve established leadership in this market--we had an early start in green building, with our existing industry base and university research," she says.

Flora says next steps include formalizing key partnerships in order to strengthen existing companies, support start-ups and new product development and recruit firms interested in relocating to the area. “My job is to show the economic value of green building. We are absolutely and uniquely positioned to make that argument,” says Flora. “We will clearly be hard to beat--we can truly make this a green region.”

GBA has identified 1,820 building product firms in western PA. “It’s an opportunity to promote companies already doing it and help others retool products once they understand how big this market is," Flora says.

She hopes to educate the public sector about what she calls "connecting the dots between green building, jobs and the economy.” “It’s a major industry trend--this adds another layer of the market.”

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Rebecca Flora, GBA

Photograph copyright © Jonathan Greene

Onorato, Ravenstahl establish county-city efficiency committee

On October 19, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato and Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced the formation of a Citizens Advisory Committee on the Efficiency and Effectiveness of City-County Government.

Charged with developing cooperative strategies for increasing government effectiveness and saving money, the independent, nonpartisan committee will hold its first meeting in the next three weeks. “There’s an honest interest in making things more effective,” says Megan Dardanell, an Onorato spokesperson, “If this works with our two biggest entities, then maybe it will continue.”

Onorato cites the consolidation of city-county 911 procedures, fingerprinting operations and municipal courts as examples of successful cooperation.

“A full city-county merger might come up--they are welcome to discuss and propose this,” adds Dardanell. “There is no pre-conceived notion of what  should be looked at—anything is on the table.”

University of Pittsburgh chancellor Mark Nordenberg will serve as committee chair, with Kathleen McKenzie, Allegheny County deputy manager and Yarone Zober, City of Pittsburgh chief of staff as vice chairs.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Megan Dardanell, office of the Chief Executive

PA pledges $25 million for Point State Park

On October 11, Governor Rendell released $25 million from Pennsylvania’s capital budget for the restoration and improvement of Point State Park.

Set to being this fall for completion in late 2007, phase one includes infrastructure and amenity work, such as constructing a four-acre lawn and stage pad as well as new landscaping, benches and lighting and wireless Internet access.

“The whole park will be renovated,” says Christine Novak with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

Contractors are S.E.T. Inc., Lone Pine Construction and Power Contracting Company. Pressley Associates, Inc., Landscape Architects developed the park’s master plan.

In collaboration with DCNR, Riverlife Task Force and Allegheny Conference on Community Development developed a 2004 master plan, with significant public input, that addressed the deteriorating park.

“This was unique for us--it let the community play a role,” says Novak. “We’re trying to accommodate different types of users.”

Phase two includes creating cycling paths, water steps to the rivers, and new connections between the Park and the Three Rivers Heritage and Great Allegheny Passage Trails.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Christina Novak, press secretary, DCNR

Image courtesy of Riverlife Task Force

Trader Joe’s to celebrate grand opening

On October 27, Trader Joe’s opens the doors to its first Pittsburgh location, a 10,500 square-foot store at 6343 Penn Avenue in East Liberty.

The much-anticipated opening will kick off with a ceremonial lei cutting and will feature product demos and food tastings. 
The store’s festive décor combines traditional cedar-covered walls, Hawaiian-inspired elements and local flare. Its design pays tribute to Pittsburgh’s beloved bridges with large models and murals of the city at night. Built in the 1900s as a post office, the building features 20-foot ceilings and 16-foot windows.

"We’re eager to be part of the neighborhood,” says Alison Mochizuki with Trader Joe’s. “There are a lot of foodies in Pittsburgh.”

Known as a “store of stories,” the company’s reputation is built on distinctive products, great deals and a light-hearted atmosphere. Considered “traders on the culinary seas,” employees don signature Hawaiian shirts and offer insightful product background.

“They’ve been a pleasure to do business with--from operations to real estate to in-store personnel,” says Lori Moran of Ballymoney & Company, Inc., developer of EastSide Village, where the grocery is located.

The store carries domestic and imported products including artisan breads, Arabica bean coffees and frozen entrées, along with basics.

To maintain low prices, Trader Joe’s purchases directly from manufacturers and sells its 1,000 items under a private label. Popular favorites include Trader Darwin's vitamins, Trader José's salsas and Trader Giotto’s sauces. 

Introducing a dozen new items weekly, Trader Joe's employs buyers who scour Europe, South America and Asia for unique products at great values. Thousands of items are tasted annually to identify products for both “culinary adventurers and microwave aficionados.”

Pittsburghers can soon expect Trader Joe’s now-legendary “Fearless Flyer” in mailboxes. Dubbed a cross between Consumer Reports and Mad Magazine, the often-irreverent newsletter highlights products and recipes.

Founded in 1958 in Los Angeles, Trader Joe’s has 260 stores in 22 states.  

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Alison Mochizuki, Trader Joe’s; Lori Moran, Ballymoney & Company, Inc.

Photograph copyright © Lori Moran

Guyasuta Fellowship hosts transportation summit

To address issues facing statewide transportation, Pittsburgh’s Guyasuta Fellowship, a young citizens’ forum tackling regional issues, is hosting an on-air summit to be broadcast live on WQED-TV on October 26 at 8 p.m.

The summit will engage citizens and regional leaders in a discussion about transportation funding, priorities and planning.

“The idea is to open up this issue to people’s living rooms throughout the region,” says Guyasuta Fellow Joshua Punchur.

The event features program fellows, along with representatives from city council, Port Authority, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, and the Pittsburgh Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers, who will share perspectives about highways and bridges, bike infrastructure and public transit.

The public is invited to participate through phone calls and online exchange. “We’re looking at transportation in a comprehensive manner,” says Punchur.

Beginning on October 20, WQED’s website will post discussion questions designed for public input. Following the summit, public recommendations will be gathered via e-mail and a transportation blog.

“We hope to stir up conversation around these topics,” says Punchur. 

Program fellows will submit a final report to city council and others in November. 

Created by Councilman Peduto in 2002, the fellowship annually welcomes 100 young Pittsburghers to meet with leaders in specific fields throughout a ten-month period.

“It’s critical in these discussions that you give young people the chance to participate--they are going to have to live with and pay for these decisions,” says Peduto.

Source: Bill Peduto, City Council; Joshua Punchur, Guyasuta Fellowship

Atria’s coming to Schenley Plaza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph copyright © Joshua Franzos

Forum spotlights opportunities for regional businesses in China

On October 12, more than 120 people attended the U.S. Chamber of Commerce forum China Business 2006: Expanding Opportunities for U.S. Companies downtown.  

Designed to advise regional businesses on export and investment opportunities in China, the forum featured Li Hiyan, China’s counselor for economic affairs and Mike Byrnes, senior advisor with Yuan Associates.

“This signifies how serious we are about exporting to China,” says Joe Fawkner with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “China is in the midst of market reform and Pittsburgh’s strong companies can offer services.”

Fawkner suggested that PNC could provide banking services and that Westinghouse could assist with energy resource development.

“There’s an incredible need in China for environmentally friendly technologies,” says Fawkner. “Pittsburgh is a model of how effectively a city can be cleaned up.”

Co-organized by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, the Pittsburgh forum, one of eight nationwide, provided business owners with opportunities to network with trade reps and learn from success stories. 

“This the first time we’ve promoted better awareness of China’s business environment. It’s cutting edge,” says Fawkner. “We targeted cities that reflect more of the reality in America.”

In Pennsylvania, Fawkner sees a growing interest in trade and investment in China. He cites local companies already invested in China, such as PPG and Fairfield Scientific, as examples.

China is Pennsylvania’s fifth largest export market; since 2001, exports to the country have risen 238 percent. In 2005, Pennsylvania exported $933 million in goods and services to China.

As a follow-up to the forum, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development is organizing a trade mission to China in 2007.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Joe Fawkner, associate director, Northeast Asia, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Allegheny Conference on Community Development

Image courtesy of Allegheny Conference on Community Development

Pittsburgh to host 2,500 for National Preservation Conference

On October 31-November 5, Pittsburgh hosts the National Preservation Conference, the country’s premier educational mechanism for historic and community preservation.

Presented by The National Trust for Historic Preservation, with support from partner Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation (PHLF), the event presents strategies for protecting and restoring historic structures and communities.

“We’ll have planners, advocates, preservationists, municipal officials and leaders in community revitalization from across the county,” says Cathy McCollum, PHLF’s chief programs officer.

Over 2,500 participants are expected to attend fifty educational sessions to learn from best case studies and approaches. Author, historian and Pittsburgh native David McCullough will present the keynote address.

Pittsburgh was chosen because of its historic sites, livability and surrounding countryside. The conference will utilize Pittsburgh as a laboratory for exploring current issues surrounding preservation and revitalization, including green building practices.

Thirty site visits--including Manchester, Station Square, the Hill District, and Ambridge--will investigate neighborhood and downtown revitalization, affordable housing, Brownfields, transportation, and tourism.  

“The host city becomes the workshop for participants,” says McCollom. “We'll be out and about in the city.”

New this year are free public events. These include an address by PHLF president Arthur P. Ziegler, Jr on October 31 at 5:30 p.m. at the Byham Theater, a premiere of local filmmaker Ken Love’s documentary Saving Fallingwater on November 4 at 1:45 p.m. at the Hilton and an Exhibit Hall and Old House Fair on November 1-3 at the Hilton.

The public is invited to join Mayor Ravenstahl, Senator Ferlo and the URA for a reception at the City County Building on October 31 at 7:30 p.m.

“National conferences are usually rolled out with a lot of sameness,” says McCollum. “From the beginning, we wanted this to be different.”

Planners worked with the African American Preservation Alliance to address diversity in preservation and PHLF awarded 100 local scholarships.

Two thousand people have registered for the conference and organizers are hoping for a record turnout. To register, go here.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Cathy McCollom, PHLF

Image courtesy of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Green building events will help set national agenda

Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Association (PHLF) and Green Building Alliance (GBA) will present two events that examine green restoration and building on Oct. 30-31 as part of the Greening of Historic Properties National Summit.

The events will occur in conjunction with the National Trust for Historic Preservation Conference in Pittsburgh Oct. 31-Nov. 5.

A free Town Hall Meeting on Oct. 30 at 5:30 p.m. at the Heinz History Center brings green building and historic preservation experts together to share strategies for integrating the goals of both disciplines. The meeting will solicit public input and announce the formation of a national green building planning team. Meeting outcomes will be reported during November’s 2006 Greenbuild conference in Denver.

“Green-building issues are helping to create new alliances among preservationists, environmentalists, conservationists, clean water activists, and others,” says Cathy McCollum, PHLF’s chief programs officer. “The result may be an influx of young people into preservation.”

On Oct. 31 at the Convention Center, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) presents "Using LEED" for new construction on historic projects, a workshop that will cover methods for leveraging LEED concepts into historic projects, green strategies and modifications necessary for sustainable design, and tips for achieving LEED compliance. Green building case studies and resources will be shared.

Conducted by leading green building practitioner Ralph DiNola, the workshop targets industry professionals who wish to enter the rapidly growing green building market and learn more about USGBC’s LEED for New Construction Green Building Rating System. Architects, manufacturers, engineers, developers, contractors and government officials are encouraged to register.

A national green building leader, the Pittsburgh region features 13 newly-constructed buildings and nine historic renovations that have achieved LEED Certification.

To register for the Town Hall Meeting, go here. To register for the USGBC workshop, go here.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Cathy McCollom, PHLF; Ryan Snow, GBA

Image courtesy of PHLF and GBA

$2 million grant will assist Children’s Institute expansion

The Children’s Institute, a provider of pediatric post-acute and rehabilitative care located at 1405 Shady Avenue in Squirrel Hill, has received a $2 million state grant to renovate and expand its facility and services.

Funding will allow the institute to add five new classrooms and a day hospital program, and increase its bed capacity from 39 to 82. The organization will also expand its sub-acute and skilled nursing care, and respite services for children with autism, brain injuries, chronic pain and eating disorders.

"The incidence of autism supports why we are expanding services and
adding classrooms to care for children with autism," says Helene
Conway-Long, director of development and marketing with the Children's Institute. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism is a developmental disability that now affects one in 166 births.

The Children's Institute serves over 3,200 patients and their families annually from throughout the Pittsburgh region, central, northwest and southwest PA, eastern OH and northern WV.

For its specialized programs, the Institute also treats patients from around the U.S. and world. The only one of its kind in the country, the Institute's Prader-Willi Syndrome/Behavioral Disorders Program is an inpatient hospital program that has cared for more than 800 children and adults with the disease since 1981.

The Children's Institute also provides $3-$4 million annually in charity care. The institute purchased the Shady Avenue property from UPMC in 2005. Architects are Burt Hill Kosar Rittelmann Associates and the contractor is MBM Contracting.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source Helene Conway-Long, director of development and marketing, Children's Institute

Photograph copyright © Lockwood Hoehl

$2.2 million green renovation of Carriage House Children’s Center underway in Squirrel Hill

Carriage House Children’s Center (CHCC), located at 5604 Solway Street in Squirrel Hill, is undergoing a $2.2 million green renovation that will be completed by the spring of 2007. Built in 1896 by Ulysses Peoples and listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, the 40,000 square-foot, four-story building housed The Wightman School until 1979.

“The whole community will benefit. This building is a real asset--one of Squirrel Hill’s best-loved secrets,” says Natalie Kaplan, executive director of CHCC, and a Wightman School alumnus.

Pittsburgh’s Moshier Studios designed the renovation, and the contractor is Jendoco Construction Corporation. A renovation of the building’s 9,720 square-foot childcare facility and a comprehensive overhaul of its HVAC system will enable CHCC to increase programming space by over 2,000 square feet, entertain future expansion, save 20% on energy costs, and stabilize fees paid by non-profit tenants.

The project, which will be the country’s first silver LEED certification for a childcare facility in an existing building, will be featured during the National Preservation Conference held in Pittsburgh this fall.

“We will tie green design into our curriculum and work with environmental specialists to educate families,” says Kaplan, who believes parents are entitled to environmentally healthy childcare facilities.

Founded at Chatham College in 1974, CHCC serves 200 children, ages six weeks through eight years. Ten non-profits, including Group Against Smog and Pollution and the Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition, lease its office space and hundreds of community members use its conference rooms, gymnasium and dance studios.   

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Natalie Kaplan, executive director, CHCC

Image courtesy of Carriage House Children's Center

$14 million Crescent Court Condominiums sells first 12 units, slated for completion in spring 2007

Crescent Court Condominiums at Summerset at Frick Park is slated for completion in spring 2007.

The  $14 million, 87,800 square-foot development features 36 units, twelve of which are now sold or reserved. The one-, two- and three-bedroom units range in size from 1,100 to 1,860 square feet.

“We are selling a lifestyle more than a condominium. I don't  think people buy bricks and mortar as much as they do neighborhood and lifestyle. It is another choice for Pittsburghers, a brand new traditional neighborhood in the city,” says Ralph Falbo with Falbo Pennrose.

Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff + Goettle designed the condominiums and the contractor is Mistick Construction. The developer, Summerset Land Development Associates, is comprised of Falbo Pennrose, The Rubinoff Company and Montgomery & Rust. Tennesee-based architectural firm Looney Ricks Kiss creates the overall design standards for Summerset at Frick Park.

Crescent Court is located minutes from downtown and Oakland, and near Squirrel Hill and The Waterfront. Residents have access to a pool and fitness room, hiking and biking trails and historic Frick Park.

“It is integrated into the community, so residents can participate in the creation of a new neighborhood,” says Craig Dunham with The Rubinoff Company.

Each residence, ranging from $235,000 to $495,000 is a single-floor corner unit, featuring nine-foot ceilings and glass-walled solariums.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Sources: Ralph Falbo, Falbo Pennrose, General Partner, and Craig Dunham, Principal, The Rubinoff Company

Rendering courtesy of Summerset at Frick Park

Four new homes underway, two new townhouses planned for Squirrel Hill

A project of new houses and townhomes is underway in Squirrel Hill. Four houses, located at 272-285 Anita Avenue, are being designed and developed by Alan Dunn of Dunn and Associates and College Development.

The project comprises slightly less than one acre. Two houses are now complete and occupied; one is currently under construction and one lot is for sale. The four houses, single-family dwellings, vary from 6-8,000 square feet.

“What is unusual is that I live within a block of the development and have taken a strong personal interest in the project,” says Alan Dunn. “Lots are often controlled by builders who generally discourage interaction between architects and buyers. In this instance, I incorporated a caveat that I would work with the buyers to custom fit the houses. We kept the door open for competitive bidding to find a contractor that best fits the owners’ interests.”

“This is a small enclave of homes that incorporates elements not generally found in the city and suburbs. This represents the only new single family residential housing in Squirrel Hill other than Summerset” adds Dunn.

The contemporary homes will feature green elements such as daylighting, radiant heat and HEPA filters and snowmelt systems.

Construction on the two townhomes is set to being in the fall.

Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Alan Dunn, College Development and Dunn and Associates, Inc.

Photo copyright © Jonathan Greene

Former Steeler brings southern soul food and blues to town

Former Steeler JT Thomas, who developed a successful Applebee’s franchise in PA and WV, opened Red Hot & Blue at the Waterfront on May 25.

The only Southern Grill and Bar of its kind in the region, the $1.5 million investment behind RH&B brings authentic southern fare along with a lively bar scene to Pittsburgh. 

“The Waterfront is centrally located and a mecca for the Pittsburgh market. It is more like a destination. We make people feel at home, like an outing or a picnic. In the Southern hemisphere, everyone is family,” says owner Thomas.

A veteran restaurateur, Thomas' mission was to expand Pittsburgh’s dining options with a place unique in ways locals would appreciate. His vision for authentic Southern cuisine aims to make guests feel “so comfortable you’d think you were in your mama’s kitchen.” 

Thomas, a Southern native, brings to town such items as Hoochie Coochie Cajun Burger and Caramel Applesauce. “The only thing sweeter than our sweet tea is our disposition,” he says. 

The 6,300 square foot restaurant boasts an extensive menu of southern favorites that includes collard greens, mac and cheese and "Mamma's meatloaf." Ample outdoor seating, a spacious bar and a relaxed, casual décor are enhanced with Blues and sports memorabilia. Glass “garage doors” provide open-air gathering.

Writer: Jennifer Baron

Source: JT Thomas, owner, Red Hot & Blue

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

14 of 28 condos at 5859 Beacon pre-sold

Pre-sales have reached 50% at 5859 Beacon, a $14 million, 28-unit condominium project by S&W investment properties.

5859 Beacon is one of several new construction developments in Squirrel Hill over the last several years, including the Mosites Company’s condominium project at Forbes and Murray, Cozza Enterprise’s three-story retail and office development at Forbes and Murray, and the renovation to the Squirrel Hill branch of the Carnegie Library.

Prices for the units at 5859 Beacon range between $375,000 and $691,000. Buyers can select between a wide variety of one, two and three bedroom floor plans, ranging in size from 1,400 to 2,400 s.f. Buyers will also have the opportunity to customize the finishes in their space. “We wanted to design a building that both Squirrel Hill and the city as a whole could be proud of,” said Charles Staley, the project’s developer.

Staley expects the sales office to be ready for the public in September, and to have units ready for buyers by November of this year.

The project boasts a wide range of amenities, including on-site parking, an exercise room, bike storage, wine storage, balconies, and granite counters. Additionally, S&W is offering to buyers one year of free movies at the Squirrel Hill and Manor theaters. “Squirrel Hill is such a great walk-able neighborhood that we wanted to provide an amenity that would encourage people to take advantage of all that the neighborhood has to offer,” said Staley.

For more information on this project, call Charles Staley at 412-897-2599, or visit 5859beacon.com.

Source: Charles Staley, S&W Investment Properties

Photo copyright © Jonathan Greene

$2.2 million green renovation under way

The Carriage House Children’s Center is about to break ground on a $2.2 million “green” renovation to its Squirrel Hill facility at 5604 Solway Street.  The buildng, built in 1896 as the Wightman School, houses the Carriage House’s child care facility, which serves 200 children each year.

“The renovations will allow us to become the first child care facility in the country certified under the LEED program for existing buildings [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design],“ said Samantha Balbier.  LEED is a national ratings system sponsored by the US Green Building Council, which recognizes energy efficient, environmentally friendly buildings throughout the country.  

The first phase, to be completed by September of 2006, will consist of a renovation to the 9700 s.f. first floor, which currently houses the Carriage House’s infant and toddler care.  Additionally, Balbier says, there is a plan to make the whole building “green”.  The second phase, which will be complete by 2007, will retrofit the rest of the building with energy efficient heating and cooling systems.  Currently, the upper floors are occupied by a variety of non-profit tenants, including GASP, the PA Association for the Education of Young Children, and the Pittsburgh Chess Club.  

Several funders have contributed to this effort to date, including the Richard King Mellon Foundation, the Grable Foundation, Kresge Foundation, and others.

The project team includes Moshier Design, Jendoco Construction, and the Green Building Alliance.

Source: Samantha Balbier, the Carriage House Children’s Center

Photo copyright © Tom Altany

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 `

Thai tapas restaurant opening in Squirrel Hill

A new Thai restaurant, the Silk Elephant, is opening at 1712 Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill on April 24th, by the owners of Bangkok Balcony, the only Thai-government-certified Thai restaurant in the region.

While the latter is more “western traditional”, the Silk Elephant --with a bar and seating for 90-- will feature tapas and wine for dinner. Although the Spanish coined the term “tapas”, the Thais have been eating that way for generations, says Eileen Nareedokmai, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Norasett. “That’s really how the Thais eat. They eat four or five things at the same time and everyone shares them,” she says.

The couple assumed ownership of the Squirrel-Hill based Bangkok Balcony from a relative in January, 2004 and took steps to earn it the distinction of the Thailand Brand Award, a certification of authenticity by the Thai government. “It’s their way to combat the fusion food movement,” says Ms. Nareedokmai.

The authentic Thai food she explains, has a “Thai sensibility, an elaborate interplay and a tension in the food that make it interesting--herbal and sweet, salty and spicy, three or four things going on at the same time.” The name reflects that, she adds. “We capture that tension—strength in elephants (the national symbol) but beauty and flexibility and softness in silk.”

To enhance the Thai experience, the Nareedokmais participate in the Q Visa program which allows them to bring Thai residents to the U.S. for a year to hire as cooks or dancers in the restaurant.

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

Laptop library: three Carnegie branches now offer free wireless

Recently, the city’s Carnegie Library system added a 21st-century amenity to the very modern renovations in three of its branches: Free, public wireless access.

Starting just a couple weeks ago, the main library in Oakland discretely activated its new wireless access points, posting a couple small signs on the worktables. Wireless is also available at two other recently renovated branches, Downtown and Squirrel Hill.

Currently, it’s a pilot program, says the Carnegie’s information technology director Mike Nangia, and Oakland users will need to configure their browsers slightly to access the network. “We haven’t really advertised it yet, but the feedback so far has been great.”

The wireless network is available to any member of the public who brings in a wireless-enabled laptop. And as before, internet access is also available to any library card holder via the library’s public desktop PCs.

 “We think it’s the wave of the future,” Nangia says. “You can download audiobooks, podcasts. This is part of seeing where the library should be five, 10 years from now.”

As funding becomes available, Nangia says, “our goal is to put wireless in all 17 branches and Main. It’s not just your traditional old books and encyclopedias anymore. This is how libraries can transform themselves to the digital age.”

Source: Mike Nangia, information technology director, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Photo copyright © Tom Altany

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