| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter RSS Feed

Architecture : Development News

190 Architecture Articles | Page: | Show All

Haunted History: Senator John Heinz History Center

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

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

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

PNC Financial tops off its new global headquarters Downtown

The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. celebrated the topping off of its new global headquarters, The Tower at PNC Plaza, Tuesday. Officials, labor dignitaries, construction workers, PNC’s employees and project partners gathered to sign the final steel beam before it was placed atop the building structure.  

The 33-story, 800,000-square foot tower—located on the southeast corner of Fifth Avenue and Wood Street—will house approximately 2,200 employees upon its opening in fall 2015. The building will help accommodate PNC’s growth and support further business development in Downtown Pittsburgh. PNC says they expect 2,500 people to be hired during construction of The Tower at PNC Plaza.   

“The tower’s construction is a reflection of PNC’s commitment to Pittsburgh and a testament to our tremendous growth over the past decade,” says PNC Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Demchak. “The new headquarters will serve as a statement about the importance that we place on sustainability and innovation and on providing the best-possible environment for our employees.” 
 
With a double-skin facade and a solar chimney, the tower is anticipated to ventilate naturally at least 42 percent of the year and consume 50 percent less energy than a typical office building. The building’s floor-to-ceiling windows and narrow floor plates will allow daylight to illuminate 90 percent of all open workspaces, and a water recycling system is expected to decrease the tower’s annual water consumption by 77 percent.  PNC says they believe that the building will exceed Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum certification and set the new standard for green building. 

“In 2000, the 650,000-square-foot PNC Firstside Center opened as the first U.S. LEED-certified financial services building and the largest LEED-certified building in the country,” a statement from PNC explains. “Since then, PNC has certified 225 projects to LEED standards, including more newly constructed LEED-certified buildings than any other company."
 
Source: PNC

Local architect's home featured in Dwell magazine

The Lawrenceville home of Andrew Moss, president of mossArchitects, and Michelle Yanefski, an electrical engineer, is featured in the July/August issue of Dwell magazine.
 
Moss says he and his wife Yanefski sent Dwell images of the home some time ago. They are being featured in the magazine for their “budget driven,” “modern” home.
 
Moss and Yanefski designed the space together.

“We worked to have a modern home,” Moss says. He adds that it is a unique experience to design a house based on one’s own lifestyle. “It’s a great opportunity to design your own home.”
 
He explains that the materials used to build the home were distinct and reminiscent of Pittsburgh’s industrial past — for example, the house’s metal siding. Another noteworthy aspect of the Lawrenceville abode is how it’s sited, according to Moss. The house is not part of a series of row houses, like much of the neighborhood.
 
“It’s an honor,” Moss says about being featured in Dwell. “I also think it’s a great thing for Pittsburgh.”
 
In conjunction with Moss’s mention, Dwell is running a Pittsburgh City Guide online with tips from Moss. Butler Street businesses Cure and Who New? in Lawrenceville are on the list alongside Pittsburgh institutions such as the Andy Warhol Museum.  
 
 
Source: mossArchitects, Andrew Moss 

Throwback Thursday: Dome sweet dome

Have family or friends coming to visit Pittsburgh? Don’t have the space to put them up? Recommend a stay in Pittsburgh’s “Igloo,” available on airbnb.com.
 
“Is it a spaceship? A yurt? A tent? No, it's a Yaca-Dome! And it's not just any old Yaca-Dome. It's the original Yaca-Dome! But we just call it ‘The Igloo,’” the airbnb profile for the states.
 
But, what is a Yaca-Dome?
 
According to the lodging website, the home was built in 1969 by Pittsburgh native Joseph Yacoboni, who received a US Patent in 1975 for the construction method. Yacoboni had a vision that the design would be the way of the future. 
 
This original Olivant Place dome in the Lincoln–Lemington–Belmar neighborhood was Yacoboni’s private home, according to a 2010 article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The article also claims that a tree once grew in the center of the circular dome. 
 
The airbnb page explains that the house was designed to withstand earthquakes and hurricanes. “Not something we here in the 'Burgh normally have to worry about,” the listing reassures. This innovative design was featured in the January 1975 issue of Popular Science.
 
Yacoboni and his wife Carmel moved to Florida and built more Yaca-Domes. His personal website discusses his vision of utilizing the design for emergency buildings, panels on space stations, pop-up shelter for the homeless and a community of domes.
 
Yacoboni passed away in 2011 at the age of 89; and though his designs may not have made it to the moon, Pittsburgh still boasts first Yaca-Dome.
 
The igloo has had many visitors. The airbnb profile has more than a dozen positive reviews from those pleased with their stay in the three bedroom, 1,250 square foot home.  One reviewer called it “a gem.”
 
Another review praised, “We love our dome away from home.”
 
Source: airbnb.com, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, josephyacoboni.com
 

Throwback Thursday: The Church Brew Works

For more than 17 years, The Church Brew Works has been a Lawrenceville watering hole that attracts Pittsburghers from near and far. It’s obvious that the building was not always a brewery — in fact, that is a part of the Brew Works’ namesake and its charm and appeal.
 
St. John the Baptist Church on Liberty Avenue was built in 1902 by twin brothers Louis and Michael Beezer with John Comes as lead architect, according to Sean Casey, The Church Brew Works owner.  Beezer, Beezer and Comes were employed to design the church, rectory, school and convent.
 
“Catholics would build [the] church first,” Casey said. “Pay [the] debt, and raise funds and build a school and convent next.”
 
He added that the rectory would be built last, St. John’s was constructed in 1923.

This team of architects were known as some of the period’s best craftsmen. They produced the church’s most loved details like the hand-painted cypress beams on the high vaulted ceiling, the intricate glass windows and the campanile.
 
St. John the Baptist survived a fire in 1915, both World Wars and the Depression. When the Diocese of Pittsburgh underwent a major reorganization in 1993, after years of declining congregations and financial constraints, the Lawrenceville church had to close its doors.
 
In 1996, The Church Brew Works revitalized the site after three years of dormancy. Casey said he was inspired to open a brewery in the space out of appreciation for its architecture and “experience having been in some legacy brewpubs in Germany that have been around for two hundred years.”
 
The legacy of St. John was considered during its transition into The Church Brew Works. Their website details the “painstaking effort” that was taken to preserve the church’s glory.
 
Mini pews were constructed from the church’s original benches for guest seating, and the excess oak from shortening the pews was used to build the bar. The original Douglas Fir floors were uncovered and restored after being hidden under plywood for decades. And, the blue apse is perhaps The Church Brew Work’s most iconic detail.  This classic altar is now the heart of the Brew Works as it houses its steel and copper tanks.

This post is part of a “Throwback Thursday” series highlighting Pittsburgh’s revitalized historic buildings.

Writer: Caroline Gerdes
Source:  Sean Casey, Patty Goyke, The Church Brew Works

Carnegie Mellon architecture professor and students recognized for Garfield cityLAB efforts

The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture recognized cityLABUrban Design Build Studio and Carnegie Mellon University architecture professor John Folan with the 2014 ACSA Collaborative Practice Award for cityLAB's 6% Place project in Garfield.
 
CityLAB is a small nonprofit that produces local economic development projects, its website describes “6 percent” as the magic number for a tipping point.  
 
“If a neighborhood can get that many creative workers, it becomes an attraction in its own right,” the site states. “CityLAB has been testing out this hypothesis in Garfield, an overlooked neighborhood in Pittsburgh’s East End, since 2011. Our goal is to fill in the neighborhood’s vacancies with creative workers who will be good neighbors, invest in the community and help the neighborhood grow sustainably.”
 
Sara Blumenstein, cityLAB program manager, explains that the initial idea to draw creative neighbors stemmed from  data that showed that after creative types move into a region, development follows. She said the initiative had multiple goals: to improve the community and to put Garfield on the map for prospective residents.
 
During the fall of 2011, Folan’s students worked with Garfield community members to come up with proposals for 16 ideas for Garfield cityLAB, detailed in the 6% Place book.
 
“[It was an] opportunity to get experience that they wouldn’t get in school,” Blumenstein says about Folan’s CMU architecture students. She explains that students worked with neighbors while applying classroom skills to budget costs and develop plans.
 
Two projects have taken flight from the 16 fledgling ideas: the Tiny Houses project and the Garfield Night Market.
 
The Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation’s Garfield Night Market is returning Friday May 2, with assistance from cityLAB. Blumenstein says visitors to the market can expect a street fair setting with paper lanterns, food and crafts. She notes that the market does more than draw families and patrons to Garfield for a good time — it is also a business incubator. 
 
Garfield community members who have the goal of running a small business can get the training and skills they need by starting at the Garfield market. About a dozen of the market’s current vendors are Garfield residents, but Blumenstein says it is a goal to eventually have Garfield entrepreneurs host at least half of the market.
 
 
Writer: Caroline Gerdes
Source: cityLAB, Sara Blumenstein

Throwback Thursday: Children's Museum of Pittsburgh

Though its Northside campus has since expanded, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh’s original building has a storied past. 
 
When the museum opened in 1983, it was located in the lower level of the historic Allegheny Post Office Building, constructed in 1897. The Children’s Museum shared the building with the organization that saved the site from demolition, the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, according to the museum’s deputy director Chris Siefert.
 
“The area has a lot of history because it used to be the center of Allegheny City,” Siefert said. Allegheny was annexed by Pittsburgh in 1907.
 
Siefert explained that young preservationists, who later created the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, saved the Allegheny Post Office Building in the ‘60s — after 500 Allegheny City buildings were demolished. In 1987, the conservation group expanded and deeded the building to the Children’s Museum, which has continued to grow.
 
The Post Office Building was located across the street from Buhl Planetarium, constructed in the 1930s. When the planetarium was vacated by the Carnegie Science Center in 1991, the Children’s Museum worked with the city to expand their campus and connect the two historic buildings. This expansion opened in 2004, Siefert said.
 
The 115 plus year-old building has some historic holdovers. Siefert pointed out the museum’s post office architecture, with Greek columns, dentils and a rotunda.
 
Siefert said while the building was in use as a post office, the dome was restricted — the public had to stay on its perimeter. This rotunda still has an original safe door, though today it does not function as a safe and is permanently sealed.
 
This post is the first in a “Throwback Thursday” series highlighting Pittsburgh’s revitalized historic buildings. 

Writer: Caroline Gerdes
Source: Chris Siefert, Children's Museum of Pittsburgh 

Mergers result in the closure of three churches

Dwindling congregants and financial concerns have led to the closure of three Catholic churches, effective April 28.
 
According to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, Holy Cross Parish in East Pittsburgh will merge into Good Shepherd Parish in Braddock. At that time, the two church buildings now in use by Holy Cross Parish, Saint Helen and Saint William, will close.
 
Good Shepherd parish will retain its name and its current pastor, Father Albert Semler. Father Miroslaus Wojcicki, the current pastor of Holy Cross, will be reassigned.
 
Only six months after Bishop David Zubik assessed the need for a Catholic Parish in Monongahela, he announced that there will be one parish with one church building on Main Street. This merger will result in the permanent closure of Saint Anthony Church.
 
In 2012, the Holy Cross Parish had one baptism and 19 funerals, and that trend was unlikely to reverse according to the Diocese. The general population of the territories of Holy Cross and Good Shepherd has declined 21 percent since the 2000 census.
 
The merged parish will have 1,744 registered parishioners. Holy Cross currently has 346 registered members and Good Shepherd has 1,398. The Diocese of Pittsburgh currently has one parish priest for every 2,800 parishioners, which was one of several reasons for the merger.

With a total of three new closures, Pittsburgh is no stranger to vacant church buildings. According to the Diocese's website, more than 130 church properties have been sold since 2003. 

Some of these sites, with approval from the Diocese, have gone on to be transformed into residential properties, breweries and more.

"Different buildings have different feels and configurations and some may lend to  dining venues, some may lend themselves to art galleries, some may be good for a banquet facility, some may work for music studios and some may work for housing," said Sean Casey, owner of The Church Brew Works, a repurposed church on Penn Avenue. Casey also  purchased St. Kieran's in Lawrenceville last year, which will be converted into residential property. 

A closed church building remains the property of the parish and it is up to the parish to determine the fate of the building, explained John Flaherty, Secretary for Parish Life at the Diocese of Pittsburgh. 

"They can mothball the building against some future use, demolish the building, lease it, sell it or re-use it for some other parish need," he said. "The Diocesan bishop would have to approve any lease, sale or demolition of the former church building."
 
Writer: Caroline Gerdes
Source: Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, Sean Casey, John Flaherty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Bill Peduto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Michael Lotenero, John Zerrer

AIA recognizes local firms for design excellence

The Pittsburgh chapter of the American Institute of Architects announced the winners of its 14th annual design awards competition Thursday during a gala at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Education center in Downtown. Pittsburgh presumptive mayor Bill Peduto presented the awards, which were open to submissions from any members of AIA Pittsburgh or AIA members from across the country who worked on a project within AIA Pittsburgh’s 11-county region of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

For a refresher, here's our slideshow roundup of this year's nominees in Pittsburgh.

The winners are:

People’s Choice Award: IKM Incorporated for St. Clair Outpatient Center
Historic Preservation Award of Excellence: Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff + Geotel, with Deborah Berke Partners for the 21C Museum Hotel; Strada Architecture for Fourth Avenue Dollar Bank Renovation
Design & Innovation Award of Excellence: Urban Design Build Studio for PURIFLUME
Architectural Detail & Craftsmanship Awards of Excellence: Astorino for St. Thomas A’Becket Church – East Wall; Bohlin Cywinski Jackson for Campus for a Global Entertainment Company – Glass Wall
Young Architects Studio Competition Honor Award: Drew Weinheimer for Light Trail
Interior Architecture Certificates of Merit: EDGE Studio/GBBN Architects for MAYA Design; WTW Architects and Gensler for Reed Smith LLP Office Interiors
Interior Architecture Honor Award: Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff + Geotel, with Deborah Berke Partners for the 21C Museum Hotel
Green Design Citations: studio d’ARC Architects for SOTA Construction Services, Inc. Office Building; The Design Alliance Architects for Center for Sustainable Landscapes
Green Design Certificate of Merit: Pfaffmann + Associates for Café at the Point
Architecture Honor Awards: DRS Architects, with Sasaki Associates for the Robert M. Smith Student Center; Rothschild Doyno Collaborative for Saint Lespwa Center Of Hope

This year’s jury was comprised of New Orleans AIA members Steve Dumez, Anne Marie Decker and Maurice Cox. Decker was on hand to provide the jury’s comments on its selections.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: AIA Pittsburgh

Two Downtown Pittsburgh programs garner international recognition

During its World Congress and annual conference in New York City last week, the International Downtown Association recognized a two of Downtown Pittsburgh’s innovative improvement programs.

The Paris to Pittsburgh Sidewalk Activation and Façade Improvement Program received a Downtown Pinnacle Award, and the Peoples Gas Holiday Market claimed a Merit Award. Both programs are the work of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.

“The façade program, we were told, was chosen because of its longevity. When you walk around Downtown, it’s easy to see the impact that this program has had,” says PDP spokesperson Leigh White. “In Market Square, there’s hardly a single restaurant which hasn’t taken advantage of Paris to Pittsburgh. It’s definitely changed the face of the city.”

As a Pinnacle Award recipient, the PDP is responsible for producing a webinar on its winning project, and spreading its methods of downtown revival to other cities making to look improvements. That’s nothing new for the PDP, whose staffers are regularly asked to make presentations on Project Pop Up to other downtown associations looking to innovate.

The holiday market, on the other hand, is a relatively new program.

“It was just introduced last winter, and we’re really excited to bring it back this year,” White says. “The whole reason for doing it is that we felt there was a need to have something anchored for the season in Downtown Pittsburgh.”

The holiday market, which serves as a benefit for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, raised $25,000 last year. White anticipates eclipsing that mark this year. The market will open the day after Light Up Night and run an extra week. The PDP plans to more than double the number of participating vendors and make Market Square “feel more like a village,” according to White.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Leigh White

Pittsburgh StepTrek will showcase step preservation in the South Side Slopes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Briand Oswald

1135 Penn Condos offer significant tax credits to buyers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Art Lubetz

ACTION-Housing completes Passive House-certified home in Heidelberg

A single-family home in Heidelberg developed by ACTION-Housing has been certified as Western Pennsylvania’s first “Passive House.”

The energy-efficient home, which was completed in October of 2012, uses 80 percent less energy than a standard single-family home and is only the 45th house in the United States to receive the designation.

“Passive House thinking is pretty simplistic,” says Linda Metropulos, ACTION’s senior housing development officer. “It’s about performance. We were concerned about meeting this very low number to heat and cool the building.”

Built without a furnace or any duct work, the Heidelberg Passive House uses its super-insulated envelope, 18-inch-thick walls and triple-glazed windows designed to maximize the value of passive solar heat gain in the winter, but not in the summer. Because the building is nearly airtight, a ventilation system which operates around the clock continuously brings in fresh air which can be heated and cooled.

It was designed by Thoughtful Balance Architects and built by TBI Contractors.

“What we were able to do was spend a lot of money on the envelope and no money on mechanical equipment,” says Metropulos. “ACTION-Housing has understood for a long time the connection between affordability and energy costs. It’s something we’ve been working on for years and this felt like an extension on those efforts.”

Metropulos says that ACTION has plans for three more passive buildings in the area, including facilities in McKeesport, Hazelwood and Uptown.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Linda Metropulos

South Side organization seeks to redevelop former Duquesne Brewery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Rick Belloli

Frick Art & Historical Center announces $15 million expansion project

A groundbreaking this Thursday will kick off a three-phase, $15 million expansion project at The Frick Art & Historical Center in Point Breeze.

The family home of industrialist Henry Clay Frick and his daughter, philanthropist Helen Clay Frick, will add several new buildings while restoring an old one as well.

Phase 1 will involve the construction of a new Orientation Center between the Frick’s café and Car and Carriage Museum. The entirety of the Frick’s facilities will remain open throughout the Orientation Center’s construction.

“We didn’t want to build a pseudo-historic building,” says Frick Director Bill Bodine. “We thought we ought to go with a contemporary style that uses elements found within the site.”

Those elements include slatted wooden roofs, tile floors and Pennsylvania sandstone. The Orientation Center, which is scheduled to open in the summer of 2014, will also house a new museum gift shop.

That will free up the location of the current gift shop in the Frick children’s playhouse — an original structure from 1897 — to be restored as a resource for children during subsequent building phases.

Bodine says the playhouse, which contains a 19th century bowling alley, will eventually be used to engage children with the kinds of games and entertainment that were common during Helen Clay Frick’s childhood.

Phases 2 and 3 will include a new carriage gallery, an education center in the area currently serving as the carriage gallery, a community center and additional collection storage facilities. The Frick has engaged the architechtural teams of Schwartz/Silver and Associates of Boston and Pittsburgh-based Loysen + Kreuthmeier to design the expansions and renovations. 

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Bill Bodine

City of Asylum wins $300,000 ArtPlace grant for a garden to garden project on the North Side

ArtPlace America awarded City of Asylum/Pittsburgh (COA/P) a $300,000 grant yesterday for the group's plans to build the Pittsburgh Central Northside Artway Connector.

Chosen among 54 national grants from 1,200 entrants as an exemplary plan of creative place making, the garden-to-garden Artway will connect two new COA/P projects — the Alphabet Reading Garden on Monterey Street and the Alphabet City literary center in the Garden Theater complex on North Avenue, which POP City profiled in January.

The Artway will feature a series of both temporary and permanent literary-themed installation art works.

“It’s coming from a very interesting and important coalition of funders,” says COA/P Communications Manager Elizabeth Baisley. “It’s an enormous privilege and pleasure to be receiving a grant from ArtPlace America, and we’re very excited about what it makes possible for us.”

ArtPlace America is a collaborative effort between 13 national foundations, six of the country’s biggest banks, the Domestic Policy Council and the White House Office of Management and Budget. It seeks to help facilitate the introduction of art into communities for the development of creative spaces.

The organization has awarded more than $42 million in 134 grants to 124 projects in 79 communities. Its grant to COA/P marks the first time a Pittsburgh project has received an ArtPlace America grant.

Among its many activities, COA/P renovates dilapidated houses to serve as both public works of art and residences for writers from other countries living in exile.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Elizabeth Baisley

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

New grocery store Downtown? One developer has a plan

Residents of Downtown Pittsburgh haven’t had a grocery store since Seventh Avenue’s Rosebud Fine Food Market and Deli closed in 2010. If all goes according to developer Ralph Falbo’s plan, that could soon change.

Falbo is in talks with the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation about opening a grocery in the Thompson Building at 435 Market Street in Market Square.

“One of the things that’s missing in Market Square is a place to buy groceries,” Falbo says.

The tentative plan, a joint-venture with the owners of Vallozzi’s restaurant, would offer high-end produce, fresh bread, fine meats, cheeses and wines, among other basic grocery items. His plan also includes a bar, a multi-purpose area that could be used for events such as wine tastings, and a basement kitchen for cooking prepared foods.

The grocery would occupy about 4,600 square feet of real estate, and Falbo says he hopes to draw a women’s fashion boutique into one of the building’s upper floors.

Earlier this month, the Pittsburgh Downtown Community Development Corporation filed an application with Allegheny County for a $250,000 Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund grant in support of opening a Downtown grocery store.

Falbo initially pursued the establishment of a Downtown grocery in 2005, when he sought to bring an upscale market into the former G.C. Murphy’s building, also near Market Square.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Ralph Falbo

Mackey Lofts nearing completion in Uptown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Andrew Schull

Riverlights celebration, concert to mark reopening of Point State Park fountain

It’s been a long time since anyone has seen the Golden Triangle at its best. On June 7, that will change when the fountain at Point State Park is turned on for the first time in four years.

“For a lot of Pittsburghers, [this] is their equivalent of the Golden Gate Bridge or the Gateway Arch,” says Stephan Bontrager of Riverlife.

The fountain has been shut off since 2009 as a part of the major renovations to Point State Park, which started in 2007. At a total cost of $35 million, the park’s facelift represents “the largest park project in commonwealth history,” according to Bontrager.

The evening festivities, dubbed Riverlights at The Point, will serve not only to celebrate the restarting of the fountain, but as the opening to the 2013 Three Rivers Arts Festival. Following a 5 p.m. ceremony during which the fountain will be turned on, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros will play a free concert, for which local band Donora will open.

Complementing the park’s new LED lighting for the weekend will be a public artwork, “Pittsburgh: Spectral Ascending,” which will be visible after sunset from June 7 to 9. A collaboration between artist Yvette Mattern and Pittsburgh’s Lightwave International, the piece consists of six projectors atop PPG Place, projecting light onto the fountain’s 150-foot column of water.

“The overarching theme of June 7 is putting the best face on Pittsburgh,” Bontrager says.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Stephan Bontrager

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Stephen Glassman

Locomotive Lofts opening soon in Lawrenceville, 34 new market-rate apartments

Locomotive Lofts, a residential adaptive-reuse of the former H.K. Porter Co. building, is on track to open May 1st in Lawrenceville. Developer Ernie Sota says the project is the most state-of-the-art apartment complex in the neighborhood.

Locomotive Lofts LP is a partnership between Sota and Tony Rodriguez. Paul Rodriguez is the project architect.

Located at the corner of 49th and Harrison Streets, Locomotive Lofts includes 34 market-rate apartment units, and was designed to achieve LEED Gold Certification. Each unit features numerous energy efficiency measures, such as LED lighting, web-based thermostats, and Energy Star appliances. Sota says units have been air-tested and are draft-free.

The former office building was once home to H.K. Porter Co., a manufacturer of compressed air locomotives. Total redevelopments costs were $5.4 million.

One- and two-bedroom units range from $1,050 to $1,850, and secure, off-street parking is also available.

Sota says green landscaping and the integration of art and natural materials was done to create a warm feeling at the redeveloped site. A sculpted entry wall features the fossil-like image of plants, created by pressing bamboo into wet stucco. And several site walls feature a combination of custom railing and weathering steel panels.

Sota Construction Services recently achieved LEED Platinum Certification for its own office building, earning the most LEED points ever awarded to a project in Pennsylvania, and the fifth-highest score in the entire LEED system worldwide. Sota is also responsible for developing Pittsburgh’s first net-zero home—a home that generates as much energy as it uses annually—on the South Side.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Ernie Sota

Penn A Caster Loft Offices want to rock the Strip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Andy Schaer

New apartments coming to Downtown's quiet First Avenue

Developer Todd Palcic is planning to bring 35 new apartment units to a quiet, village-like corner of Downtown Pittsburgh.

The project is a renovation of the eight-story former Graphic Arts building located at 422 First Avenue on one of Downtown’s least-traveled corridors. “It’s almost like a mini Greenwich Village,” Palcic says, because it’s quiet and clean, yet bounded by the much busier Boulevard of the Allies and Fort Pitt Boulevard.

And though it’s quiet, the First Avenue apartments will be near many Downtown institutions, including the Art Institute of Pittsburgh—which is just across the street—and Point Park University, which Palcic says will also soon occupy two existing buildings on First Avenue.

Palcic has also bought an adjacent lot at the First Avenue site to be used for tenant parking.

The First Avenue apartments will be a mix of one- and two-bedroom apartments, though the specifics are to be determined. Half of the units will feature views of the Monongahela River, South Side, and Mount Washington. Indovina Associates Architects are the project architects.

Palcic is looking for ideas for the first-floor retail space, as well the built-out, semi-finished basement. “Between the two I think there are a lot of possibilities,” he says.

The developer has had success in Downtown’s Cultural District to the point that he says there’s very little development work left in that neighborhood. Palcic has already created 24 condo units in Downtown, at L'Enfant Lofts and other projects. And the soon-to-open Lando Lofts development will add 27 new apartment units at 907-909 Penn Avenue.

Renovation of the structure is expected to begin next year, and Palcic hopes to have it completed in 2015.


Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Todd Palcic

Federal Hill final phase now under construction, 44 new homes in Northside

The third and final phase of the Federal Hill development is underway in the Central Northside, a project that has brought a total of 44 new homes to the historic neighborhood.

The current phase (2A) of six new townhomes brings to a close the five-year project.

Federal Hill is a project of the Central Northside Neighborhood Council (CNNC), S&A Homes and the URA, along with architects Rothschild Doyno Collaborative. The three- and four-bedroom homes range from 1,400 to 2,300 square feet, and units on the corners of each block include a third-floor, open-air balcony.

All of the new homes are under contract with buyers. Andy Haines of S&A Homes says his company receives continuous calls of interest for Federal Hill.

“It's one of our best selling developments throughout the three states we work in,” Haines says.

Every home in each previous phase has also been sold. Home prices range from $130,000 to $220,000, with individualized upgrades up to $80,000. The majority of new homes were built along Federal Street, however a few infill homes were constructed on adjacent Alpine Street.

Federal Hill is one of several redevelopment projects in the neighborhood, including a new branch of the Carnegie Library, which opened in 2009, several new businesses including El Burro Comedor and Crazy Mocha, and the ongoing redevelopment of the Garden Theater Block.

Haines says that although the project has been challenging in terms of financing—with funds from state and local agencies—the satisfaction level has been very high.

“The end result is we made a difference on the street, we made a difference in the neighborhood,” Haines says. “It's a good investment of public dollars.”


Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Andy Haines

CCAC celebrates opening of K. Leroy Irvis Science Center

The Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) celebrated the opening of the new K. Leroy Irvis Science Center on Monday at its Allegheny Campus on the Northside. The five-story, LEED certified building features state-of-the art science equipment, e-learning capabilities, and supports biotechnology, microbiology, and astronomy, among several other programs.

The 65,000-square-foot science center contains eight classrooms, numerous study areas and 16 laboratories. A rooftop observatory, capable of electronically projecting images into classrooms, is scheduled to be completed soon.

"You can do so many things with all of those variations in technology," says Campus President Donna L. Imhoff. "There's so many different ways to teach now."

The building is named for the late State Representative K. Leroy Irvis, a champion of community colleges in the Commonwealth.  His co-sponsorship of the Pennsylvania Community College Act of 1964 created the state's community college system, and led to the founding of CCAC three years later. “If not for him, community colleges wouldn't exist at all,” Imhoff says.

The science center, located at 808 Ridge Avenue, was designed by Hayes Large Architects and has earned a LEED Silver Energy rating.

Other programs that will be served by the new facility include biology, anatomy and physiology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, geology, and physical science.
 

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Donna Imhoff

Pittsburgh office building earns highest LEED ranking in state, fifth best in world

One of the Pittsburgh region's leading construction companies has a new headquarters that's now among the "greenest" in the world.

Sota Construction Services Inc. achieved LEED Platinum Certification recently for its own office building, in Bellevue, earning the most LEED points ever awarded to a project in Pennsylvania, and the fifth-highest score in the entire LEED system worldwide.

The office building includes passive and high efficiency active radiant slab heating and cooling; natural ventilation; use of natural materials including straw bale and cob wall construction, reused and recycled materials; day lighting; rainwater harvesting; and low water use fixtures.

Ernie Sota, President of Sota Construction Services, says that while many new LEED structures are criticized for high energy consumption, this building is actually performing better than energy models had projected. "We focused on energy here very much from the original design," he says.

In addition to having an efficient thermal envelope, rooftop solar panels are producing up to 70 percent of the building's energy needs.

Sota says the building's use of cob wall construction—an ancient building method that is a mixture of sand, clay, and straw—demonstrates the viability of it and other "self-assembled" materials in Southwestern Pennsylvania. "Those natural building materials," he says, "[are] possibly a pathway to a kind of unlimited green future for all of us.”

Design and construction was done by a large local and international team, including evolveEA, Studio d’Arc , ARUP International, Building Science Corporation, Iams Consulting, Tudi Mechanical, Greenweavers, and Construction Junction.

The Green Building Alliance will offer tours of the building during its Earth Day at Ernie’s event on Thursday, April 18th, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. For more information and to register, visit the GBA’s website here.
 

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Ernie Sota

New restaurant and office space to fill East Liberty development gaps

Anthony Dolan’s new development projects aim to fill in the gaps of East Liberty's ongoing redevelopment.

Dolan's company, Alphabet City Co., plans to build a 20,000-square-foot retail and office structure at the corner of Penn Avenue and Penn Circle East, across from Target. Plans also call for a 5,000-square-foot rooftop restaurant featuring outdoor seating.

Once a lead tenant is identified, construction is expected to be complete within 15 months. Oxford Realty Services is handling leasing and marketing for the project. Three existing buildings, including the current location of Yen's Gourmet Chinese Restaurant, would be razed.

Dolan says it's important for the building to be an amenity to the neighborhood and to complement the existing structures.

"Whatever happens here is going to set the tone for the rest of that block as new development moves into the core," he says.

The site is surrounded by several high-profile developments in East Liberty. Dolan praises the early development work of Mosites and that company's plans for new residential units at the Eastside III, as well as Walnut Capital's restoration of the residential Highland Building.

"But we do need a balance of office space and residential units in the core," Dolan says, "to make sure that we have enough daytime population to feed the businesses that are currently there and ones that want to locate there in the future."

David Morgan, of Morgan Associates, is the project architect. Dolan says Morgan has a strong history with the neighborhood and was an original board member of East Liberty Development, Inc.

Alphabet City Co.'s second project in East Liberty is renovating existing warehouse structures near the future Ace Hotel. At 5915 and 5921 Baum Boulevard, the refaced buildings will be converted for retail and restaurant uses. Dolan's goal is to have these structures available by the end of this year, around the opening of the Ace Hotel.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Anthony Dolan

City of Asylum/Pittsburgh to open literary center in Northside's Garden Theater block

City of Asylum/Pittsburgh has found a new home for its planned literary center Alphabet City. The non-profit announced Monday it would open the center—which will contain a bookstore, café and performance space—in the Northside’s prominent Garden Theater block on North Avenue.

COA/P co-founder Henry Reese says the new location will allow for heightened activity and greater accessibility to a broader community.

“By building Alphabet City in the heart of Allegheny City Central’s redevelopment commercial district, rather than in the residential interior, we are able to grow beyond our original plans,” he said in a statement.

Allegheny City Central is the new, rebranded name of the Central Northside neighborhood.

The center was originally planned for a triple lot in the Mexican War Streets, but that location—which required zoning board approval—was challenged by two neighbors. The proposal was rejected by an Allegheny County judge last November.

Alphabet City will be located in three redeveloped storefronts of the former Masonic Temple. Reese says the historic structure’s façade will not be altered, but the interior will reflect COA/P’s informal, salon-style events with a “living-room-feel.” It will have a 150-person capacity.

The project architects are Loysen + Kreuthmeier, who designed the nearby Allegheny branch of the Carnegie Library. The design will incorporate artwork made from more than 1,000 hand-written alphabets in 62 writing systems, collected from Northsiders and residents from around the world.

Since 2004, COA/P has provided sanctuary to literary writers exiled and under threat of persecution. Its mission also includes transforming blighted properties and energizing public spaces through public art with text-based components.

Reese says the new location meets COA/P’s goal to be an important change agent in the community.

“Helping make sure that the Garden Theater complex becomes redeveloped is really important to our community, and being a part of that is really gratifying to us,” he says.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Henry Reese

Wilkinsburg vacant lots to be transformed with art, design

The community of Wilkinsburg is poised to transform several vacant lots with art and design.

Last fall, the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation (WCDC) worked with seven landscape architecture students from Penn State University to create designs for vacant lots in the borough’s business district.

Designs feature pedestrian tunnels, public art galleries, tree plantings, and a corten steel pergola. Reimagined spaces include Gazebo Park on Wood Street and the Wilkinsburg Train Station.

The WCDC Art and Design Committee recently held a public review of these designs, all of which are available online.

Youth participating in FUSE, an organization that provides artistic and authentic learning experiences for urban youth, also worked with the WCDC and Penn State students.

WCDC’s Jennifer Alfieri says the Penn State students—who traveled to the sites multiple times from State College—were successful in engaging the FUSE youth in the design process, as well as the broader community.

“We really liked that they were getting the community input into these designs,” Alfieri says.

Additionally, Pittsburgh-based mossArchitects is developing a plan for the Penn Avenue Parklet, which includes a performance stage, benches, walkways, and green space. Previous designs for the space weren’t well received by the community, but Alfieri says the current plan has gone through a successful public review process.

The Borough of Wilkinsburg maintains site control of each lot.

Proposals for the Penn Avenue Parklet, which is a high priority, will be presented to funders in the coming months. WCDC would like to see work begin at the site by the end of the year. 

The greening of Wilkinsburg is part of a greater strategic plan to revitalize the Penn Avenue business district.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Jennifer Alfieri

Overlook at West End Pointe, new townhomes to offer city's best view

A set of new townhomes in the West End will boast one of the best views in the city, adjacent to the West End Overlook park in the Elliott neighborhood.

A project of Sierra Development, LLC, The Overlook at West End Pointe will consist of four, 3,800 square-foot townhomes.  Each unit will be five stories, including a rooftop observation terrace, and a two-car garage, with four bedrooms and three full and two partial baths. The homes are listed at $890,000.

While the façade will feature Craftsman-style details, the rear will be more contemporary with large glass windows that allow the namesake view to be visible from all floors.

The view is directly at The Point and downtown skyline, offering a panoramic of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers. A rear lawn will be created adjacent to the existing overlook park.

According to Howard Slaughter of Sierra Development, the project has recently received all approvals from the City and West End community groups, and construction is scheduled to begin this coming spring.

“Without the community’s support, and without Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith’s support, we would not be able to move forward,” he says.  Slaughter hopes that the development will be an impetus for more opportunities to strengthen the community.

 The City of Pittsburgh is offering at ten year tax abatement to potential home buyers.  Additionally, the developers are offering a $50,000 deduction to a buyer who signs before February 9th.

Offered as a third incentive, a buyer will also have access to an interior designer so that each unit will be custom designed.

 
Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Dr. Howard Slaughter; Chris Ivory

The Row at 38 will bridge old and new with renovated and newly built homes in Lawrenceville

The Row @ 38 is bringing old and new Lawrenceville together under a single new project.  Located north of Butler Street (near Coca Café), E Properties and Development is renovating three existing homes and constructing three new houses to fill in the gaps of this neighborhood block.

The older homes, built over 100 years ago, will be updated to include modern amenities and open floor plans.  Façades will offer reference to the neighborhood’s historic character, however an added third floor, which is set back from the street, will feature modern building materials including corrugated metal and cement board siding.

“It was very important for us to create something that was contextual in the neighborhood, but unique enough to stand out,” says Emeka Onwugbenu, of E Properties. 

The new home construction will have a more complete modern look, and will include off-street parking and rooftop decks.  And both options—renovation or new—will allow buyers a high level of customization and involvement in the design process.

In 2012 the Lawrenceville Corporation issued an RFP to find a developer for two empty parcels on 38th Street.  E Properties was selected for the project, but then expanded its scope by reaching out to adjacent property owners on the block to acquire four more parcels.

Renovation of the three existing homes has begun, and is expected to be complete by the end of March.  Onwugbenu hopes to break ground on the new construction in April. 

Renovated homes—one of which is already spoken for—will be listed at $250,000, and new construction at $375,000.

E Properties is behind several other developments in the Lawrenceville area, including E @ 36, a renovation of three townhomes on 36th Street.  Croghan’s Edge, an infill development on Penn Avenue’s 3400 block, won an AIA Pittsburgh architecture award in last year’s Design Pittsburgh celebration.

Moss Architects, designers of Croghan's Edge, have joined E Properties again for The Row @ 38.

 
Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Emeka Onwugbenu

$350,000 Colcom Grant to fund PDP's Paris to Pittsburgh Facade Grant Program

Efforts to enliven Downtown Pittsburgh with Parisian-esque streetscapes have been renewed thanks to a recent grant from the Colcom Foundation.  The $350,000 award will further the Paris to Pittsburgh Façade Grant Program, a project of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP).

Launched in early 2008, the program provides a 50 percent matching grant of up to $30,000 to building and business owners for exterior façade renovations in the Golden Triangle. 

The original goal of the program was to evoke a “Parisian atmosphere” by activating outdoor and sidewalk dining at local restaurants.  In 2010, the program was expanded and now includes full building façade renovations. 

The PDP’s Geof Comings says the grant program has allowed owners to invest in their businesses in ways that for many would not be possible without the assistance.

“The program has allowed them to make significant improvements that benefit not just their business, but improve the quality of Downtown architecture for all to enjoy,” he says.

According to Comings, many buildings in the program are beautiful old structures that in past decades had suffered from poorly conceived façade alterations.  And while Paris to Pittsburgh is not a historic renovation program, in many cases the restorations do bring a building’s first floor back to an earlier aesthetic period.  

Comings says that until recently downtown was still an uncertain place to invest. 

"But now that things are just looking so good in downtown, and everyone is heading in this positive direction, people are putting more money into their buildings, and it shows," he says.

In the past five years more than 50 projects have been approved and 43 have been completed.  The total investment in completed projects totals $2,057,580,of which $749,852 is grant funded.  Remaining costs were funded through private investment.

Three projects expected to be completed in the coming year include Café Milano on Sixth Street, 901 Penn Avenue–home of the new Nicky’s Thai Kitchen and the soon-to-open Sinful Sweets chocolate shop, and a storefront at 604 Liberty Avenue.

 
Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Geof Comings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
Writer:  Andrew Moore                                                                                            
Source:  Paul Svoboda

What can Apple teach architects? Cipriani Studios has an answer

Justin Cipriani wants to bring the Apple approach to architecture.  And at Bailey Park, a 15-home development planned for Mount Washington, he’ll have an opportunity to demonstrate exactly how this vertical integration approach will work.

A South Hills-native, Cipriani spent much of the last decade working in the design field in California.  Through this experience, he came to believe that in order to make truly great modern homes one had to adopt the Apple approach—become an integrated developer/architect/construction company.

“The nature of being an architect is that you make these things and then give it away,” Cipriani says.  “So much product development and coordination happens that the whole process, from entitlement to design to execution, needs to be controlled by a consistent team.”

Cipriani came home to Pittsburgh, he says, because of the city’s healthy market conditions, and for family.  Three years ago he founded Cipriani Studios.

 “We’re cradle to grave,” Cipriani says.  “It allows us to be more of like a design house.  We draw something, go engineer it, build it."

At Bailey Park—which will be adjacent to Emerald View Park—Cipriani Studios is the developer, architect, and will do engineering and other work in-house.  And the project’s construction team, Deklewa, works from a shared office space.

In July Cipriani completed work on the three-unit Neff condo building, perched on the edge of Mount Washington and offering iconic views of Pittsburgh.  Also near Emerald View Park, the four and three-bedroom units are listed from $750,000 to $850,000. 

Again borrowing from Apple, Cipriani says he intends the single-family homes of Bailey Park to be an “iPad mini” to the Neff condos.  While they’ll be half the price and size (at 1,500 square feet), they’ll have the same earthy, modern feel, he says, with natural materials, open living areas and large windows.

Cipriani expects to begin construction of Bailey Park in the spring of next year.
 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Justin Cipriani

Pittsburgh Glass Center buys a building to house visiting students and artists

Master artists and students travel to the Pittsburgh Glass Center (PGC) from throughout the country and all over the world, and now they’ll have a place to stay.  PGC has purchased a vacant building in Garfield to be used as artist and student housing.

In addition to being a convenience for artists, PGC Executive Director Heather McElwee says the added space will likely expand interest in week-long classes and workshops.

“Not only will the house help to generate some earned income from the Glass Center,” McElwee says, “but we actually think it will increase the number of people participating in our Summer-Intensive program.  I think there are a handful of people who don’t even consider our program because there isn’t a housing option right now.”  

PGC was founded in 2001 by Kathleen Mulcahy & Ron Desmett as a public access school, gallery and art glass studio dedicated to teaching, creating and promoting glass art.

Located at 5447 Penn Avenue, the three-story building is in the middle of Bride Row, named for the “Bride on Penn Avenue” mural created by artist Judy Penzer, in collaboration with Jill Watson, Corolla Zap, and Dan Anthoniesen, in 1995.  The homes are unique on the avenue as they are set back and atop a small hill.

The building, just one block from the Glass Center, was most recently home to the former Kim’s Coffee Shop, a Vietnamese restaurant.  The sale of the building was faciltated through the Bloomfield Garfield Corporation.

Although renovations are needed, McElwee says the Glass Center plans to keep with the architectural tradition of the home and the row.

McElwee expects the first-floor former restaurant space to be repurposed as a community space, available to visiting artists.  The upper floors would be developed as private and semi-shared housing space.

Ben Imhoff and Anne Chen, of EDGE studio, are working with the Glass Center on the building’s renovations.  McElwee anticipates the housing to be open by summer of 2014.

There are eight other Victorians along Bride Row, with at least one that is owner occupied.  The others are owned by Friendship Development Associates, who are working to find redevelopment plans for the remaining homes.
 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Heather McElwee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The hotel was restored consistent with Secretary of Interior standards.

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

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

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Mary Del Brady

Phipps wins International Green Award, one of the world’s most Sustainable NGOs

A Pittsburgh institution has again been lauded for its leadership in green design and sustainability.  Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens was recently recognized at the International Green Awards in London.

The conservatory was awarded the bronze level of honor in the Most Sustainable NGO category.  Organizations were judged in eight key performance areas, including energy, water, waste, resources, carbon, supply chain, transport and social.  Phipps was one of five finalists selected to demonstrate the globe’s most innovative approaches to sustainable leadership.

“It adds further validation of all the work that we’re doing at Phipps to make our organization be as green as possible,” says Richard Piacentini, Phipps executive director.  “We also think it’s great for our city.  It’s another feather in the cap for Pittsburgh and all the great things that are going on related to green buildings and operations."

The new Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL), which was unveiled to the public earlier this year, certainly drew attention from the green community.  It is billed as one of the greenest buildings in the world.

The CSL complex was built to meet the three highest green building standards: The Living Building Challenge; LEED Platinum; and the SITES landscape rating system.  It is expected to be the first building in the world to achieve all three ratings.

Other noted achievements include a green campus expansion effort that has resulted in the first LEED visitor center in a public garden; a tropical forest conservatory that is the most energy-efficient structure of its kind; and the first-ever LEED Platinum greenhouses.

The International Green Awards were established in 2006, and are judged by eco game-changers from various public sectors.

 
Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Richard Piacentini

Pittsburgh Neighborhood Renaissance Fund first round of grants of $275,000 announced

The first round of grants of the Pittsburgh Neighborhood Renaissance Fund was announced yesterday by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Steve Glassman of the Design Center and others from the URA and City Council at a press conference at the Pittsburgh Musical Theater.  The awards, totaling $275,000 and including 12 neighborhoods, are designed to help communities create neighborhood development plans, and to better align investment opportunities.

The program is targeting neighborhoods that have received relatively little community planning in the past, says Chris Koch of the Design Center, who adds that these planning efforts are crucial to attracting the right kinds of investment and development.

“It’s important because neighborhoods really have to have a collective vision and a common language about how they’re going to be an inviting neighborhood and the kind of things they want to see happen there,” Koch says.

The program was created by Mayor Ravenstahl and the URA earlier this spring, and is a partnership between the mayor’s office, the Department of City Planning, the URA, and the Design Center of Pittsburgh.

The program will be administered through the Design Center’s current Design Fund initiative, which awards community organizations and provides technical assistance to work with architects, planners, and other design professionals toward neighborhood revitalization projects.

Awards include $25,000 to West End Alliance for an adaptive reuse study for a closed and vacant school; $15,000 to Pittsburgh Musical Theater for implementation of façade improvements and expansion at its West End location; and $15,000 to Central Northside Neighborhood Council for sign and gateway design for its Allegheny City Central branding plan, among others.

The fund was established in April with an initial start-up grant of $300,000 from the mayor and the URA.  The Design Center has raised matching funds through local foundations and other funding sources.

According to Koch, the fund will be useful in directing the investment and redevelopment efforts that she expects to continue to grow in Pittsburgh.

“It’s great that the mayor’s office has really understood that planning is a great way for us to understand how to take advantage of that, and for the communities to be able to have a voice in that happening,” she says.

At the end of the press conference, students from the Pittsburgh Musical Theater performed several numbers on stage in front of a group that included the Mayor, several members of City Council, and many of the grantees.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Chris Koch

Heidelberg Passive House now complete, first in Western Pennsylvania

The first Passive House in Western Pennsylvania is now complete.  A project of ACTION-Housing Inc., the home is a prototype for affordable housing that drastically cuts energy consumption by 85 percent.  An open house celebration will be held tomorrow, November 1st, at the newly-constructed home in Heidelberg.

Passive House design was first developed in Germany as a performance-based standard which limits energy consumption to 4.75 KBTU per square foot, per year.  According to Linda Metropulos, sustainability and development consultant with ACTION-Housing, that amounts to just 10 to 15 percent of what a typical house uses.

“It’s a very ambitious, but very possible standard to reach,” Metropulos says.  “We wanted to be able to demonstrate how that standard could be applied to a house in Pittsburgh.”

The Heidelberg Passive House is built with minimal ductwork and no furnace.  Instead, the home achieves its energy performance through super-insulation, by eliminating thermal bridges, maximizing air tightness, and features high-performance windows and doors, among other techniques.

ACTION-Housing hopes to replicate this house, or versions of it, throughout the region.  But Metropulos hopes it will also inspire other developers and contractors in the region to take-on the Passive House challenge.

“We would like other people to recognize that this is possible in Western Pennsylvania,” she says.

Although the home’s Passive House certification is still pending, a quality control consultant oversaw the construction process, and conducted performance tests using robust modeling tools, Metropulos says.

ACTION-Housing has been a weatherization assistance program provider for the past 30 years.  Additionally, it does renovation and new construction of houses that are for sale to moderate income households.  The Heidelberg Passive House is for sale to a household that is at 80% area-median income or less. 

The project is a partnership between the Allegheny County Economic Development and the Borough of Heidelberg, among others.  The home was designed by Thoughtful Balance Architects.

ACTION-Housing is also in the process of conducting a Passive House-standard retrofit of the McKeesport YMCA, built in 1922.

Tomorrow’s open house will be held at 1606 W. Railroad Street, Heidelberg, PA, from 3 to 6 p.m.  Speakers include County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Heidelberg Mayor Kenneth A. LaSota and Katrin Klingenberg, executive director of the Passive House Institute US.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Linda Metropulos

$500,000 boost to historic renovations in Downtown Pittsburgh, grants available to building owners

The renovation of historic buildings in Downtown Pittsburgh has been given yet another boost.  The Colcom Foundation has granted Landmarks Community Capital (LCC) $500,000 to create a loan fund for property owners of historic structures in the Golden Triangle.  The program aims to spur more retail in downtown’s historic buildings.

LCC is the lending subsidiary of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation (PHLF).  According to PHLF President Arthur Ziegler, the loans are available for borrowing to start a business in a historic building, as well as for storefront and façade improvements.

“It’s for improvements to the physical historic real estate,” Ziegler says.  He adds that the new initiative is designed to work in concert with existing efforts, such as the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s Paris to Pittsburgh program, and the URA’s façade improvements program.

LCC will make loans to building owners ranging from $5,000 to $30,000.

Although there are several historic buildings looming tall in Pittsburgh’s skyline, Ziegler says most structures are between two and five stories. 

And downtown’s historic districts, which include the Cultural District and Market Square, may soon be expanded.  Funded in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Historic Museum Commission, Ziegler says PHLF has recently submitted an expanded districts proposal to the National Register.

This new initiative comes on the heels of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s $4 million Downtown Preservation Program, a partnership with PHLF that is restoring seven historic structures in the Wood and Market Street corridors.

For more information about the loans, and to apply, visit LCC's website.



Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Arthur Ziegler

Design Awards 2012 winners include Silver Medal Gateway T Station

The Design Awards’ Silver Medal is reserved for a project of the decade, a design considered by the jury to be flawless.  The Gateway T Station in Downtown Pittsburgh has won that award, the first project to receive the accolade since 2008.

AIA Pittsburgh’s Executive Director Anne Swager says this year’s jury placed a special emphasis on designing with the public, and for the public good.

“That Gateway T Station project, which won the Silver Medal, is just a really great example of civic architecture, architecture that’s for the people,” Swager says.

The transit station, which uses a glass structure to introduce natural lighting into the underground platform, was designed by Light/Motion Collaborative, a partnership between Pfaffmann + Associates and EDGE Studios.  Pfaffman + Associates were also designers of the Meadowcroft Rockshelter, the 2008 Silver Medal winner.

In addition to civic design, a second theme presented itself during this year’s Design Awards: the influence of the continuing recession.  Because of that, Swager says, many of the projects came from universities, which tend to be a little more resilient in lean times.

But despite economic conditions Swager says it was a very strong year for design.

“There is no question that architects are more than capable of designing well even with limited resources—they just do,” she says.  “And they can make a difference even with limited resources.  It’s the imagination and the design capabilities of architects that really counts.”

This year’s People’s Choice Award went to the University of Pittsburgh's Undergraduate Chemistry Lab by Renaissance 3 Architects, P.C.  The project also won a juried certificate of merit.  And the Young Architects Studio Competition award went to Beatrice Spolidoro for the Symphony Bridge redesign of the Fort Wayne bridge.

The 2012 Design Awards were held this past Thursday, October 11th, in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Other Pittsburgh-based projects to win awards include downtown's PNC Legacy Project, and Wigle Whiskey Distillery, EDGE Studio; University of Pittsburgh Chevron Chemistry Annex, Wilson Architects, Inc. + Renaissance 3 Architects, P.C.; Western Avenue Loft and Slopes Pylon, Loysen + Kreuthmeier Architects; Crohhan's Edge Townhomes, mossArchitects; Pittsburgh's Tribute to Children, Astorino; South Hills Retirement Residence, Rothschild Doyno Collaborative and Thoughtful Balance; and Eco Bistro, Lami Grubb Architects, LP.

Regional and urban design winners include the Allegheny Riverfront Vision Plan, Perkins Eastman; The Oakland 2025 Masterplan, Pfaffmann + Associates/Studio for Spatial Practice; Almono Vision, Rothschild Doyno Collaborative; and Market Square Place, Strada.

For a full list of this year’s Design Awards winners, click here to visit AIA Pittsburgh’s site.
 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Anne Swager

Design Awards to highlight region's best in architecture, ceremony and gala next week

It’s generally understood that local architects and planners contribute immeasurably to the quality of Pittsburgh’s built environment. But each year Design Pittsburgh honors a non-architect for using design to advance the region. This year’s Gold Medal recipient is Lisa Schroeder, Riverlife CEO.

“She’s done a tremendous amount of work with Riverlife,” says Anne Swager, AIA Pittsburgh executive director. “They’ve really set the standard for development on the rivers, and made our city in many respects a world class city because of that.”

According to Swager, Riverlife often goes beyond just advocating for healthy and sustainable riverfront developments, and has raised funds and administered several such projects itself.

“And it’s all under Lisa’s leadership,” Swager says. “She’s been a tremendous ally in the world of design.”

Design Pittsburgh is AIA Pittsburgh’s annual celebration of local architecture and architects, from work here at home, to both national and international projects.

Schroeder will be presented with her Gold Medal award at a ceremony next week. Following the reception, the winners of this year’s Design Awards will be announced during a gala and awards ceremony.

Design categories include Architectural Detail/Craftsmanship; Architecture; Design & Innovation; Historic Preservation; Interior Architecture; Regional & Urban Design; Timeless Architecture; and the Young Architects Studio Competition. The winner of this year’s People’s Choice Award will also be announced at the ceremony.

Swager believes Pittsburgh is continuing to emerge as a design center, where architects have been at the forefront of green and now evidence-based design.

“When you hear about Pittsburgh being one of the greatest cities to live in, I think that that’s a lot about the design of the city and how pleasing it is, and how well it functions,” she says.

The Design Gala and Awards will be held on Thursday, October 11th, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Education Center, 805/807 Liberty Avenue, downtown. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.


Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Anne Swager

Urban Design Associates publishes open source manual on energizing communities, Everyday Squares

It’s often the smallest of spaces that can radically transform neighborhoods.  Pittsburgh-based Urban Design Associates (UDA) has spent the past summer documenting such places in the city where cafés, galleries, and boutiques have become agents of change.

“A lot of the things that are working organically in American neighborhoods are the sparks of inspiration and hard work by small businesses,” says UDA chairman Rob Robinson.

Their findings have been published in an open source manual titled Everyday SquaresThe manual offers as case studies cafes and restaurants like Espresso A Manno, Tazza D’Orro and Round Corner Cantina, and traditional squares like the new Village Park at Point Park University.

But in addition to just providing a gathering place, Robinson says he has found Pittsburgh’s small business owners to be incredibly community minded, and willing to share their facilities for various neighborhood needs.

“They give up space for the bike club meeting, or the family planning meeting, whatever it is,” Robinson says.  “All those spaces are almost universally used for community good as well as just private gain.”

But according to Robinson, designers and architects don’t always plan for these Everyday Squares.  He says many redevelopment efforts are too big, asking tenants to lease expensive storefronts with enormous footprints.  His firm is working to address these considerations.

“We have started to design spaces where the footprint for a commercial user is tiny—400 or 500 square feet, not 1,200—which is about triple of what you really need,” he says.

Robinson hopes the manual can aid commnity development corporations and other planning agencies in revitalization efforts and new development projects.

And aside from being small and flexible Robinson says successful squares are able to blend the line between public and private space. 

Not only does blending these spaces help to build a sense of comfort and community, Robinson says, it’s also good for business.  A restaurant that is able to take advantage of sidewalk or terrace seating, for example, is often able to triple its revenue without tripling overhead.

Robinsons says it’s important for neighborhood groups and planners to find out what’s working for small entrepreneurs and to create spaces that allow businesses to share resources.

“I think everybody recognized, wow, if I had three more friends here and we were all contributing to a little piece of this neighborhood, we’d be better, and our businesses would survive better,” Robinson says.  “It would be a more interesting place.”

 
Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Rob Robinson

Buildings made of cans? CANstruction 2012 opens to public next week

What would Pittsburgh landmarks look like if they were made of cans?  At this year’s CANstruction event Heinz Field, a giant ketchup bottle and several other iconic structures will be given the tin treatment and it’s all for a good cause.

CANstruction is a national design competition that asks local groups to create buildings and other fantastical structures out of canned food.  Now in its 20th year, the event is a canned food drive for regional food banks.  This is Pittsburgh’s second year participating in the competition.

This Saturday, eight teams will gather downtown at One Oxford Center for the build-out. Beginning Monday, the Can City will be open for public viewing in the building’s lobby, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.  The structures will remain on display through Friday, September 28th.

The public will have a chance to participate by voting for their favorite structure.  Votes are cast by donating a canned food item, or a reusable tote bag.  The people's choice winner will advance to compete in the national contest.

CANstruction is partnering this year with the Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project, as the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank uses these sturdier bags to distribute food to residents in the region.

On Friday a private gala will be held, with judges awarding winners in categories such as structural integrity; best use of labels; people’s choice; and best meal.

CANstruction organizer Anastasia Herk says the judges will determine a best meal winner by looking at what kinds of canned food the structure is made of and whether it would actually make a nutritious meal.

“The food banks want healthy food,” Herk says. “If a structure is made out of a bunch of SpaghettiOs cans, that might not be as appealing to the judges as something that’s made out of beans and spinach.”

One Oxford Center is located at  301 Grant Street, Downtown. 

CANstruction Pittsburgh is an all-volunteer initiative supported by the Pittsburgh design community.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Anastasia Herk

Edgewater at Oakmont grows city to riverfront, reclaimed brownfield

In Oakmont a redeveloped brownfield site is extending the city to the riverfront.  Known as Edgewater at Oakmont, the 34-acre development brings 240 new residences to this Allegheny River town.

The neighborhood is built on the former Edgewater Steel site. The vision of developers Kacin Companies and EQA Landmark Communities was to create a neighborhood that looked like it had always been there.

“It seamlessly is an extension,” says Jason Corna of Kacin Companies.  Not only does exterior architecture resemble the town’s historic housing stock, but the Allegheny Avenue business district will continue along the Edgewater development, he says.

Edgewater’s first residents began moving in earlier this year.  Corna expects 60 homes to be occupied homes by the end of the year.

Four acres along the Allegheny River have been developed as a riverfront park, with scenic overlooks and walking trails.  Along with plans for a quarter-acre parklet within the neighborhood, and additional recreation lands, the riverfront park has been donated to the Borough of Oakmont.

The development offers single-family homes, townhomes, condos and carriage-style homes.  Corna says this diversity in housing has attracted a range of buyers from ages 24 to 84.

And buyers have come from 12 different states.

“They're people that are coming to Pittsburgh for jobs, and have really taken to Oakmont because it reminds them of the quaint small-town areas that they came from,” a community that is walkable and near to amenities, Corna says.

Site remediation began in March of 2010, and home construction began in March of 2011.

Brett Malky, founder and president of EQA, grew up in Oakmont.  His company was also a partner in Summerset at Frick Park, which is Pittsburgh’s largest traditional neighborhood redevelopment of a brownfield site.  And Kacin Companies is also one of two builders at Summerset at Frick Park.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Jason Corna

The LOFTS of Mount Washington to transform unique art deco school

One of Pittsburgh’s premier art deco buildings will soon be transformed into a unique housing development.  The LOFTS of Mount Washington will be a historic renovation and retrofit of the former Prospect Middle School into 67 units of apartment housing.

“It’s unique because there’s not a lot of art deco in Pittsburgh,” says developer Victor Rodriguez.

The school was built in 1931, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.  Rodriguez, of a.m. Rodriguez Associates inc., says the renovation will preserve exterior and interior architectural details.

One such detail is a former cafetorium, which will be reused as a main entrance, and lobby/lounge area.  The elevated space opens to a balcony, which Rodriguez says creates a dramatic entryway.

The building’s upper floors offer views of downtown, and the fourth floor looks out over both the Ohio and Monongahela Rivers.  One and two bedroom apartments will range in price from $800 to $2,000, and from 760 to 1600 square feet.

Also on the property is a former gymnasium, which is being transformed into a 6,000 square-foot fitness center that will be open to the public.  Rodriguez says there are currently no fitness centers on Mount Washington. 

A 160-seat auditorium will also be renovated, and made available for productions and semi-regular programming.  Rodriguez says the auditorium’s renovation is part of historic rehabilitation guidelines.  The project has received historic tax credits, and support from the URA.

The former school grounds will be redeveloped as outdoor terraces and other green spaces.

Rodriguez says the lofts are a 20 minute public transportation commute from downtown, including a short walk to the Monongahela Incline.

The project architect is Paul Rodriguez, and the contractor is Sota Construction Services.  Rodriguez says green building practices will be used throughout the renovation.

Construction is expected to begin by the end of the year.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Victor Rodriguez

The Spacebuster comes to Braddock, experiment in public space and art

A vacant lot, a truck, and a giant bubble turned gathering place.  This is the latest experiment in public space coming to the 600 block of Braddock Avenue later this evening.

The Spacebuster is a traveling community-space installation that is actually a giant, translucent bubble connected to the back of a large delivery truck.  It was commissioned by the Storefront for Art and Architecture, and designed by Raumlabor in 2009.

Attendees enter through the truck’s passenger door and are transported into the enclosed space, which is inflated by a large fan under the truck’s ramp.

The Storefront for Art and Architecture envisioned the Spacebuster as a way to transform public spaces into points of community gathering.  It has recently traveled throughout New York City, and is now on tour of the Rust Belt region and on loan from the Storefront.

The Flint Public Art Project (FPAP) is taking the Spacebuster on the road through Pennsylvania and Ohio to Flint, Michigan.

At tomorrow’s event, which is facilitated by Braddock-based UnSmoke Systems Artspace, barbecue will be provided by Union Pig and Chicken, as well as music from DJ Chevy and DJ Dave Zak.  The family friendly event is free and open to all.

UnSmoke proprietor Jeb Feldman says this type of event is suited to a community like Braddock which has the space to accommodate an installation of this kind. But Feldman says it’s also a great way to bring energy to Braddock’s main street, and attention to issues of public space and vacant land.

FPAP is a platform for cultural production and public engagement in Flint.  The Congress for Urban Transformation is a research and urban engagement-based conference in Flint, where the Spacebuster is ultimately headed. 

The Spacebuster in Braddock is tonight, Wednesday September 12th, beginning at 7 p.m.  600 block of Braddock Avenue, 15104.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Jeb Feldman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Suzanne Thinnes

Hatfield + Home to bring new homes to Lawrenceville, one block from riverfront

Construction of Lawrenceville’s newest housing development, Hatfield + Home, is now underway.  A mix of detached homes and duplexes, the project will bring a total of 14 new units to  Hatfield Street, approximately one block from the Allegheny River.

The development is located within the planned Allegheny Riverfront Green Boulevard corridor.  Lauren Byrne, of Lawrenceville United, says this project builds momentum for that long-term plan, allowing residents and business owners to see goals fulfilled in the short-term.

“Right now there's a lot of planning to reconnect our community and all of the great things happening there with the riverfront, and to reestablish that connection,” Byrne says.   “This specific housing project is one of the first things we actually see happening that's able to do that.”

The development will include a mix of six different plans, with two and three-bedroom units offered from the mid-$200,000 to high-$300,000 range.

Exteriors will feature brick with metal sheathing, HardiePlank lap siding, and glass.  Developer Bob Mistik says the idea is to tie the design to the history and character of Lawrenceville but also to make a statement about the neighborhood’s future. Architects Perfido, Weiskopf, Wagstaff + Goettel designed the project.

The development site was assembled by the URA with support from Mayor Ravenstahl’s office.  The URA also provided a $200,000 grant from its Pittsburgh Housing Construction Fund.

Hatfield + Home will be built in two phases.  The first phase, which is underway, will include six units scheduled for completion early in 2013. 


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Lauren Byrne

Homewood's hidden gems highlighted at upcoming event

Homewood is home to many architectural gems, and a group of neighbors wants to make sure all of Pittsburgh knows it. 

From the historic National Negro Opera Company, and churches like the Holy Rosary and the Homewood AME Zion Church, to the many works of architect Frederick Scheibler, the neighborhood is filled with historically significant buildings.

Creative Local, a neighborhood events organization, is hosting an upcoming talk and discussion in Homewood to highlight some of these structures.  It's the first in a new Homewood Arts and Culture Series presented by the group.

Yet however significant and prized they are by advocates, many of these unique buildings are in disrepair and are in need of some love, says Creative Local founder Kilolo Luckett.

“Homewood is a neighborhood that has been overlooked over the past few decades,” she says.  “We're going to use [the event] as a springboard for opportunities for people to get to know Homewood, and the people of Homewood, and various different really interesting things that are going on.”

Creative Local was founded by Luckett, of Point Breeze, and Homewood resident Elwin Green, publisher of the online news site Homewood Nation.

The first event in the series is titled, Hidden Gems: The Architecture of Homewood, and will feature a talk and panel discussion.  Speakers include Martin Aurand, author and CMU architecture librarian; John Brewer, author and historian; architect Christine Brill; and preservation architect Terry Necciai.

Chris Moore, WQED host of On Q and Horizons, will moderate the discussion, and Pop City is an event media sponsor.

Luckett says the next step in the effort will be to organize a tour of the neighborhood’s gems.

The Hidden Gems event will be held on Saturday, September 15, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., and is free and open to the public.  Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Homewood, 7101 Hamilton Avenue, 15208.  RSVP requested:  info@creativelocal.org or 412-818-1779.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Kilolo Luckett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Diana Lynn

Market Square 2.0? $4 million Downtown Preservation Project now underway

The Downtown Preservation Project has officially begun, with $4 million in restoration work underway on seven historic structures in the Wood and Market Street corridors.  Arthur Ziegler, President of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation (PHLF), says this partnership between the mayor's office and a preservation organization is unlike any other in the country.

"I think it's unique in the United States where a mayor sees historic preservation as a primary instrument for economic revitalization and to attract downtown living," he says.

According to Ziegler the impact of historic preservation in downtown is already evident, and he cites the revival of Market Square and Fifth Avenue.  The square and its environs were severely dilapidated when PHLF undertook to restore that area, much like the seven structures currently under renovation are in great need of exterior work.

Ziegler says once the initial investment was made in the square, other investments followed their lead.

"We think that if we can improve these facades and graphics, we will find the same kind of upgrade occurring through the private market," Ziegler says. "The mayor believes in that, and we have proven that it can work, and we think it'll work again."

PHLF is being employed by the City to hire architects, oversee bidding and design, and construction supervision.  Funding for the project comes from the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program.

The project is emphasizing the Wood Street corridor as a women's retailing district, as they had emphasized Market and Fifth for men’s retailing.  Ziegler says that more than 40 businesses have expressed interest in the storefronts, and seven have said they would be ready to move in today if space and deals were available.

Of the three cast iron facades to be restored, three are now owned by PHLF.  The foundation is working with Point Park University to bring student housing to the structures’ upper floors.

Ziegler says the cast iron facades, once produced in foundries throughout the region, create remarkable buildings.  And while its unknown if these particular pieces were produced locally, Ziegler recognizes the material’s resonance in Pittsburgh.

“We’re the city of iron and steel,” he says.  “We have three of these in a row on Wood Street, they are all in very bad shape, and we will take them back to what they looked like originally.”  


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Arthur Ziegler

Pittsburgh launches ARTPGH and DESIGNPGH, first ever comprehensive public art and urban design plans

The City of Pittsburgh has recently launched initiatives to develop the city's first ever comprehensive plans for urban design and public art. The plans--known as DESIGNPGH and ARTPGH--will set guidelines for future development based on the quality and character of design, and create a strategy for the city's public art collection.

The purpose of these plans is to provide predictability in development, not uniformity, says Noor Ismail, director of city planning. "We do not want to stifle creativity," she says, but rather to have development meet a contextual purpose.

Public Art Manager Morton Brown says it would be impossible, and ill advised, to prescribe to Pittsburghers what type of public art should appear in their neighborhoods.

"You want artists to respond to the contexts of each neighborhood,” Brown says.  "And likewise with urban design, not every neighborhoods has the same built character.  We must remain flexible."

The two initiatives are just two of twelve components of PLANPGH, the city’s first ever 25-year comprehensive plan, to be completed in 2014.

Ismail says the city is not interested in reinventing the wheel, and project consultants will sift through and incorporate existing neighborhood plans. The plan will be developed following a variety of community meetings and public workshops.  Brown says the first of several meetings will seek to put community members on equal footing in terms of understanding design concepts.

"Part of it is education and bringing everyone up to a certain vocabulary level so that we can dig deeper into these conversations and learn what are the needs and desires of the community, and how can we serve them through this plan," he says.

Once the process is complete, DESIGNPGH will produce an urban design manual to guide development in the city.

Joy Abbott, assistant director of city planning, says these manuals will aid developers and community groups with a streamlined set of standards for criteria such as aesthetics in new construction, streetscape elements, and contextual design.

"It's going to make it easier for them to understand what the city is looking for in terms of what things look like," Abbott says.  "This is going to supplement our code by showing people with pictures, rather than text, what kinds of projects we're looking for and what the community wants them to look like."

Brown anticipates the first public meeting to be held before the end of the year.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source: Noor Ismail, Morton Brown, Joy Abbott

PNC Legacy Project unveiled downtown, interactive multimedia history exhibit

While PNC Bank readies the foundation for the world’s greenest skyscraper, they’re quietly opening another structure, the Lantern Building, as a tribute to the region’s banking history.

The new 800-square-foot facility, located at 600 Liberty Avenue, is part of the PNC Legacy Project, a program designed to honor, document and preserve the history of banks that PNC has acquired. 

The exhibit is free to the public, and features interactive multimedia displays that highlight the city’s culture, commerce and community.

Within the exhibit a touchscreen timeline chronicles Pittsburgh’s history from the late 19th century, and features a listening experience using oral histories collected from prominent community leaders, from the Zambelli Brothers to Carol Brown, former executive director of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

David O’Neil, an oral historian and the founder of Story Trust, produced the stories that tell of the city’s numerous transformations.  Mary Beth Corrigan, an archivist and curator who has curated other PNC Legacy Projects, oversaw the development of the exhibit.

The Innovation Wall, also part of the exhibit, recognizes 230 organizations that have recieved PNC support.

The building, redesigned by Pittsburgh-based EDGE studio, makes use of an existing storefront, but the former Liberty Travel structure is hardly recognizable.  Gone are the billboards that had once adorned the façade.  A revolving door, green and grey zinc panels, and channel glass bring the space in line with PNC’s other nearby properties.

The Lantern Building sits adjacent to the Fairmont Hotel, and its sleek modern materials complement the towering glass structure.

And while it might not be as large as the planned green tower on Wood Street, the new Lantern Building does feature a green roof that’s used to naturally cool the building and lowering energy consumption, as well as address storm water management.

The building will not be used for any banking operations,  however, its second floor will be used as a meeting space.

In addition to Pittsburgh, Legacy exhibits exist in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Cleveland, Fredericksburg and Annapolis. 

The Legacy exhibit will be open to the public on Thursday, August 2nd.
 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Emily Krull, PNC Bank; EDGE studio

Mixed-use development to bring housing, retail to Doughboy Square; renovated homes in Sheraden

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has voted to approve two projects that will bring new residences and retail or office space to the Lawrenceville and Sheraden neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, including apartments in Doughboy Square and the Neighborhood Stabilization Program in Sheraden.

The Doughboy Apartments, located in the 3400 block of Butler Street, is a mixed-used development in Lawrenceville that will include 39 residential units and approximately 17,000 square feet of first-floor commercial space. 

The infill project will be located amongst a mix of old and new structures, like The Clemente Museum’s historic Engine House 25, and newly constructed townhomes on Butler Street.

“Right now, most of this property is vacant land, so it'll provide an attractive building to anchor a pretty strategic location in the corridor,” says Tom Cummings of the URA.  “It will bring additional residents to the community that will help to bolster the main street shopping district.”

The URA approved a $1.4 million Pittsburgh Development Fund loan, and a $100,000 Urban Development Fund loan for the project, as well as a request for multifamily financing bonds up to $10 million from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. The total development cost of the project is $13 million.

Developer Ralph A. Falbo, Inc. is partnering with architect Chip Desmone, whose architecture firm is headquartered in the historic Pennsylvania National Bank building in the center of the Doughboy Square.

The apartments will be one- and- two-bedroom units, with basement-level parking.  A majority of the apartments will be market rate, while 20 percent will be offered as affordable housing.  Cummings says neighborhood organizations are very supportive of the housing mix panned for the project.

And in Sheraden, seven abandoned homes will be acquired, rehabilitated, and sold to owner-occupants through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP). 

In January the URA received a $333,400 NSP III grant from the federal program, and PNC Bank has stepped forward to provide $500,000 in acquisition construction financing.

Three of the seven homes, located on Bergman Street, have been acquired, with construction to begin within the next month.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Tom Cummings, URA

Fifth Avenue School Lofts complete, residents moving in; units available

It might be summertime, but the historic halls of the former Fifth Avenue High School are buzzing with activity.  The building's conversion to luxury lofts is now complete, and residents are moving into their new Uptown apartment homes.

It has been 36 years since classes were held in this building, now the Fifth Avenue School Lofts.  The Romanesque/Gothic Revival structure has been converted into 65 rental units, ranging from one-bedroom lofts to two- and three-bedroom units with mezzanine levels.  The average apartment size is 1,250 square feet, with ceilings from 12 to 16 feet high.  Corner units are wrapped in windows, which include historically replicated frames, and rebuilt transoms with arched or rectangular shapes.

Of the 65 units, only 9 penthouse unites are still available.

The residences are a project of Jonathan Hill, EDGE studio, and Casey Steiner, of Impakt Development, among other partners.  Steiner's previous work includes the conversion of a South Side warehouse and the Grant School in Bellevue into loft condominiums. 

The building's 200-foot main hallways feature original tilework and wainscoting, rebuilt by the Strip District's Allied Millwork, and replicated plasterwork by Steel City Plaster.

"It looks like it did 100 years ago," Steiner says.  "We were able to save the package, which was a gorgeous package."

The school’s original iron entry gates have been moved to Fifth Avenue. A “green-screen” fence will support plantings and surround a 85-car parking garage and deck that is under construction.

In addition to the preservation of historic details, Steiner says the building has been retrofitted for energy efficiency, including the addition of foam insulation throughout the interior and attic.

Built in 1894, the former school was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, and names a historic landmark by the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation and the City of Pittsburgh in 1998 and 1999 respectively. 

The lofts are located at 1800 Fifth Avenue, in Uptown.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Casey Steiner

The Gardens at Market Square moves forward; Downtown Restoration Program uncovers history

The Gardens at Market Square, the latest plan for redeveloping Downtown's Forbes Avenue, will continue to move forward as the Millcraft Industries project has gained the approval of the Pittsburgh Historic Review Commission.

The planned $81.8 million complex includes an 18-story office tower and hotel, and a 10-tier above-ground parking garage.  A revised design of the structures passed with a 5-0 vote last week.

Design revisions include changes to materials, like a lighter stainless steel frame, and a visual break between buildings, now appearing as individual segments rather than one massive structure.

Lucas Piatt, of Millcraft, says his company wanted to create a contemporary structure that complemented the historic structures in Market Square, rather than produce a replication.

“We think it is important to honor the history that Market Square embodies,” Piatt says.  “We are well vested in the square…so we fully under that and we did our best to accommodate those concerns that we heard.”

The project’s next step is to go before the city planning commission for final approval.  If approved, Millcraft hopes to begin construction this fall, with a projected completion of early 2014.

And in the neighborhood surrounding Market Square, the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation (PHLF) is proceeding with the restoration of several historic structures, as part of Mayor Ravenstahl’s Downtown Restoration Program.

At the corner of Forbes and Wood Street, PHLF has removed the orange metal paneling that had covered the building there, revealing a handsome stone structure.  Built in 1930 in the early Modern style, it was designed by the Pittsburgh firm of Hunting, Davis & Dunnells.  Its first and longtime tenant at the ground level was a Stouffer’s Restaurant diner.

The Mayor’s $4 million program also includes restoration of three cast-iron storefronts on Wood; the Thompson Building on Market Street; and a stone building at the corner of Fifth and Wood, along with two historic buildings on either side. 

PHLF has taken bids for contractors for each of these projects, which they plan to review with the City and make a decision on over the new few weeks.  PHLF President Arthur Ziegler says construction should begin within several weeks.
 


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Lucas Piatt, Millcraft Industries; Arthur Ziegler, Al Tannler, PHLF

Society of Tavern Seekers to explore Penn Brewery in storied bars, taverns, clubs event series

The Society of Tavern Seekers (SOTS) latest event is offering preservation enthusiasts a tour of one of Pittsburgh’s most historic brew houses, Troy Hill’s Penn Brewery.  Attendees will get a unique opportunity to see the brewery’s operations up-close, as well as learn about the building’s history on the Northside.

The brewery complex consists of three buildings, which began as the Eberhardt & Ober Brewing Company in 1848.  The central building and the stock house date in their present form from 1894. 

SOTS is a social gathering of historic preservation professionals and advocates, organized by the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation (PHLF).  David Farkas, of PHLF, says these programs, in addition to being great networking opportunities, are meant to be fun and educational as well.

The event will include a short presentation about the brewery and its buildings, followed by a tour of the site.  Penn Brewery’s full selection of draft beers and hearty German food will be available for purchase throughout the evening. 

SOTS is currently in its second year, and will continue to occur each quarter.  The next event will be held on September 20th, at the Teutonia Mannerchor German Social Club on the Northside.  Farkas says this is another rare opportunity to experience a private social club that would otherwise be off-limits to most.

On December 13th, the SOTS end-of-the-year event will be held at the Omni William Penn, Downtown.

SOTS will tour Penn Brewery on June 21st, 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.  800 Vinial Street, Troy Hill.  To RSVP contact Mary Lu Denny at marylu@phlf.org or 412-471-5808.
 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  David Farkas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Richard Piacentini

YPA to celebrate 10th anniversary at Union Project, Top Ten preservation opportunities list

The Young Preservationists Association (YPA) of Pittsburgh is celebrating its tenth anniversary on June 2nd at an event titled, "Ignite the Next Generation of Preservations Leaders," where it will release its annual report on the top ten preservation opportunities in the Pittsburgh area.

The event will be held at the Union Project in Highland Park, a building and institution that the YPA believes demonstrates one of the most successful adaptive reuses in Pittsburgh.

“It is a perfect example of preservation," says Dan Holland, YPA executive director.  "An old church has been restored, it's reused, it's constantly busy for events and activities.  It's really an ideal example of the kind of work we try to highlight with our organization.”

The former Union Baptist Church, built in 1903, was included in the YPA's Top Ten list in 2004.  The following year, it was awarded the YPA's Promise Award, which highlights persons or organizations showing potential in the field of preservation.

The recipient of this year’s Michael Eversmeyer Promise Award is Michael Stanton, director of East End-based Open Hand Ministries.

Holland says that this event, like all YPA programs, is intended to light a spark among young people for historic preservation.

"We feel that there's a lot of history to preserve," he says.  "At the same time, there’s a lot of history that's at risk.  And the next generation, it's placed at their feet."

The event's co-chairs are State Senator Jim Ferlo, and Cathy Niederberger, Senior Vice President of PNC Bank Community Development.  Special guest include WQED's Rick Sebak, and Tim Baker, President of Baker Leadership, who will be the event’s MC’s.  To register for the event by May 30th, visit the YPA’s site here.

Holland says he is proud that his organization has been at work for a decade, and points to a number of specific accomplishments in those years, where YPA’s advocacy has led to the restoration of numerous buildings and districts.  But most importantly, he says, is that his organization has successfully engaged young people in historic preservation.

"For the first time we have young people front and center in the preservation movement taking credit for and being part of the preservation of historic sites," Holland says. "I feel like we have accomplished our mission in that respect."


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Dan Holland

Deutschtown Gateway Project to enliven East Ohio Street, historic renovations and infill development

The Historic Deutschtown neighborhood is working to give the 50,000 cars that pass through it on a daily basis even more reason to pause.  The Deutschtown Gateway Project, which is currently underway, includes restorations of several Victorian storefronts on East Ohio Street, an effort that neighborhood organizations hope will improve the entryway of this important Northside business district.

Phase I of the Deutschtown Gateway Project is the complete restoration a Victorian-era commercial building's facade at 632 East Ohio Street.  Located near I-279, it is a highly visible landmark for commuters and visitors exiting the highway. 

Among other improvements, colored art glass windows, hidden for decades behind an earlier remodeling, will soon be restored. The building’s current tenant, Grace Period, plans to expand its administrative offices to a renovated second floor.

The restoration is part of a larger redevelopment plan of the Historic Deutschtown Development Corporation (HDDC) and the Northside Leadership Conference (NSLC). 

At 620-628 East Ohio Street, a combination restoration and infill construction project will add updated retail space to the block, whose buildings are mostly vacant.  The project will create 6,000 to 8,000 square-feet of horizontal commercial office space per floor, on the 2nd and 3rd stories of this multi-parcel redevelopment.

According to NSLC Executive Director Mark Fatla, the project will bring a type of large office space the district currently lacks.

“We’ll be able to offer the office market what it wants,” Fatla says.

HDDC is also planning renovate several other buildings it owns, including 431, 433, and 502 East Ohio Street.
 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Mark Fatla

Glenshaw historic properties tour; YPA Top Ten list

Two historic preservation organizations are offering the public an opportunity to engage with beloved old buildings, and the restoration process.

In Glenshaw Township several buildings well over a century old are under restoration, and the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation is offering a tour of those historic sites on Saturday, April 14th.

The Isaac Lightner House, built in 1833 in the Greek-revival style, is the oldest structure on the tour, and is currently under restoration.  In recent times it had fallen into disrepair, but in 2010 the home and its two outbuildings were bought by Sue and Tim Dreier.  Sue Dreier says they bought the home because they wanted to save it as a piece of history.

Lightner was a foundry owner, and according to Dreier, one of his foundries made the first cast iron water pipes for the City of Pittsburgh.  Tour guests will see the Lightner house, spring house, and summer kitchen, as well as the 179-year-old fieldstone foundation walls and original lathe in the basement.

Also on the tour is the Glenshaw Valley Presbyterian Church, built in 1885.  The church has recently benefited from the foundations’ Historic Religious Properties Program, which provides up to $10,000 for the restoration of architecturally-significant historic religious properties.

Other buildings on the tour include the restored Joseph L. Kirk house (1885) and the Glenshaw Public Library.  Space on the tour is limited, and registration closes on April 6th.

And the Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh is seeking nominations for its 2012 list of Top Ten Best Preservation Opportunities.  This annual report recognizes endangered historic sites in the Pittsburgh area that are good candidates for preservation and reuse.

Over the past eight years, many buildings that have appeared on the list have been successfully renovated, including the Union Project’s Second Presbyterian Church building, the Armstrong Cork Factory, and the Paramount Pictures Film Exchange.  Other buildings, such as the childhood home of August Wilson, and East Liberty’s Highland Building, are currently in the process of restoration.

Nominations are due by Monday, April 30th.  To find out more about selection criteria and how to submit, visit the YPA’s site here.
 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Sue Dreier; Dan Holland

Highland and Wallace buildings' redevelopment underway in East Liberty

After 25 years of vacancy, the Historic Highland and Wallace buildings in East Liberty are under renovation and will once again offer housing and retail opportunities to the community.  Construction began Monday on the 103-year-old complex, which is being converted to 129 apartments, 5,000 sq. ft. of retail space, and will include a 180-car parking garage.

Earlier this month, the URA approved the transfer of the properties to Highland Wallace Joint Venture, a development partnership which includes Walnut Capital and Massaro Properties.

Gregg Perelman, of Walnut Capital, says the work is to be “100% historic renovation,” and will restore the exteriors and interiors of both structures.  Built by Henry Clay Frick in 1909, the Highland Building was designed by Daniel Burnham, and placed on the National Register of Historic Properties in 1991.

Last year, the development hinged on two key funding components: a $4.5 million grant from the state for construction of a parking garage, and federal financing from HUD, both of which the project received.

The project is on a 14-month timeline, with the first rental units to be available by June 1st, 2013.

The apartments will feature oversized windows, stone counter tops, stainless steel appliances, high ceilings, and a washer and dryer in each unit.  The units will primarily be 1-bedroom apartments, however a few 2-bedroom units will be available.

And in nearby Larimer, the Larimer Consensus Group is inviting residents to participate in the Larimer Avenue Corridor "Vision to Action" Kick Off Event.  This will be the first in a planning series focusing on the transformation of the Larimer neighborhood.  Among many issues, the consensus group is looking for ideas on housing, education, safety, health, and commercial development.  Thursday, March 29 at 6:00 p.m., the Kingsley Association (6435 Frankstown Avenue).
 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Gregg Perelman, Walnut Properties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer:  Andrew Moore

North Shore Connector opening, new T stations dazzle

The North Shore Connector, the latest expansion of the Port Authority's "T" Light Rail service, will officially open for service on Sunday, March 25th.  The 1.2 mile extension will pass under the Allegheny River, connecting Downtown Pittsburgh with the North Shore, PNC Park, and Heinz Field.

In addition to the new transit line, three new T stations were constructed as part of the project.  The new Gateway Station features a translucent structure which brings natural lighting into the underground platform.  The station was designed by the Light/Motion Collaborative, a joint venture between EDGE Studio and Pfaffmann & Associates.

Located within Gateway Station is the restored “Pittsburgh Recollections” mural by renowned artist Romare Bearden.  Originally completed in 1984, prior to the opening of the original Gateway T station, the mural was carefully restored over a 13-month period by conservator McKay Lodge, and installed in its new location last fall.

The mural features transportation motifs, and an interpretive timeline of Pittsburgh history, from Native American culture to modern industry.

The North Side Station was designed by Cooper Carry, of New York, and the Allegheny Station was designed by Burt Hill, of Pittsburgh.

The T’s Free Fare Zone will be extended to both new North Shore stops, and will continue to include all stops Downtown.

Last month, the Port Authority announced that along with a previous agreement between the Stadium Authority and Alco Parking, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Rivers Casino would underwrite the northernmost segment of the North Shore Connector.  This will allow for free rides at all times, at no cost to the Port Authority, and is expected to last up to three years.
 
Travel time between Allegheny station (end of line) and Wood Street Station is estimated at 9 minutes.  Service will run 7 days a week, with extra service during special events.  Cars will arrive every 4 minutes during peak periods.  Schedules are available at the Port Authority website.

The $523 million project was funded through federal, state, and county funds.  According to the Port Authority, these were capital funds specific to the project, and cannot legally be applied to the agency’s operating budget deficit, or to prevent service cuts or fare increases. 

Port Authority spokesperson Jim Ritchie says that if the most recently proposed budget cuts do take place, light rail service will be cut back in September.

“Obviously, we don’t want to cut service,” Ritchie says, “So we're…looking to make sure that doesn't happen if at all possible, and we're taking the steps necessary to try to achieve that.”

Ritchie says that the future of transit in Pittsburgh, whether it be further extension of the T Light Rail service, or Bus Rapid Transit between Downtown and Oakland, is at the will of the community.

“We're going to go in the direction the community wants us to go, and that's what we’re looking for,” Ritchie says.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Jim Ritchie

Bellevue Streetscape Design kick-off; Active Living Workshop reports findings

Lincoln Avenue, the Main Street of Bellevue and Avalon, may soon get a makeover.  On Thursday, the Borough of Bellevue will host a Streetscape Design Kick-Off event, including a walking tour of the avenue, and a brainstorming session for planning the future of this important corridor.

The purpose of tomorrow's event is to identify, among residents and business owners, the likes and dislikes of the current streetscape, and to begin the discussion of what design elements should be incorporated into an improved Lincoln Avenue.

According to Douglas Sampler, Bellevue’s director of administrative services, the borough has applied for $450,000 in additional grants to actually implement and construct the streetscape improvements.   

But Sampler says it is an expensive process, with an average cost of $1 million per block for total streetscape renovations.  Because of that, the borough will chose one tangible goal--whether it be adding street trees, lighting, bump-outs, or park benches--and complete those tasks in the first phase.

This initiative comes on the heels of the recent Active Living Workshop, which was held in neighboring Avalon last November.  The goal of that event was to reinvent Lincoln Avenue, for both communities, as a “100% destination,” serving the needs of people of all ages and abilities.

The Walkable and Livable Communities Institute, which hosted the workshop with the AARP, published a report last week that detailed the strengths and weaknesses of the Lincoln Avenue corridor.  The report includes a walking audit and assessment of exiting conditions, mid-term recommendations, and a photo-visualization of proposed improvements to Lincoln Avenue.

The Borough of Bellevue received a $40,000 Community Development Block Grant from Allegheny County to hire a design firm and to develop the new streetscape plan.  A representative of that firm, Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc, will facilitate tomorrow’s public meeting.

Sampler says this streetscape beautification effort shows that Bellevue is committed to developing its downtown commercial district.

“There’s not a lot of small downtowns left in this area, and we still have a vibrant one,” Sampler says.  “We can make it better, make it more attractive, not only for our current residents, but also use it as a drawing card to bring in future residents.”


On March 22nd, the Active Living Workshop will reconvene at the Avalon Public Library Conference Room, 317 South Home Avenue; 10:00 to 11:00 a.m., or 6:00 to 7:00 p.m.

The Streetscape Design Kick-Off will be held tomorrow, March 8th, at the Bellevue Municipal Building, 537 Bayne Avenue, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.


Image:  Walkable and Livable Communities Institute, Photo-Visualization: A Vision of Bellevue

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Douglas Sampler, Borough of Bellevue; Kelly Altmire, AARP

Mt. Lebanon celebrates 100 years, new hotel, and redeveloped high school

On February 6th, the town of Mt. Lebanon will celebrate 100 years with champagne, cake, and a toast to the future from some of the municipality's founding families.  And indeed, there is much to look forward to in the near future, as Mt. Lebanon High School has embarked on a massive redevelopment project, and construction is underway on the town’s first hotel.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held last Thursday at Mt. Lebanon High School, following a 6-year planning process which had been marked by controversy, including questions about its cost.  The school board gave final approval to the project last winter.

The $109 million project will be built in phases, and is part renovation, and part new construction.

At last week’s groundbreaking, School Board President Josephine Posti said Mt. Lebanon was built around a vision for excellence in education, which has developed the character of residents and  has shaped the town’s legacy.

“This new school is a gift to the children of our community and will be used by generations of students who most of us will never know," Posti said.  "But our community's leaders did the same for many of us and for our children.”

Additions include a new academic wing, with state-of-the-art science labs and classrooms; an athletic wing, including a new pool and three gymnasiums; and a renovated Center Court, which will serve as a meeting place for students at the heart of the school.

The original Mt. Lebanon High School, built in 1931, will be completely renovated, but will remain at the campus’ entrance facing Cochran Road.

On the site of a former surface parking lot off Washington Road, work has begun on Mt. Lebanon’s first hotel, a Marriott Spring Hill Suites.  Mt. Lebanon Municipal Planner Keith McGill says it will be an upscale, 7-story, boutique hotel, with an expected completion date of March 2013.

McGill says the developers, Kratsa Properties, intend for hotel guests to capitalize on Washington Road’s existing businesses for dining and entertainment.  And as the site is near the T light rail service, guests will have easy access to Downtown Pittsburgh. 

And in Uptown Mt. Lebanon, Walnut Grove will take-over the former Molly Brannigan’s Pub.  According to owner Kirk Vogel, both interior and exterior spaces will be completely remodeled to better fit design aesthetics of the community.

Walnut Grove has two other locations, in Wexford and Fox Chapel, and Walnut Grille in Shadyside.  Vogel says the new menu will be identical to the other two Grove restaurants.  But he describes the Mt. Lebanon concept as "urban meets suburban."

The Centennial Celebration will begin at 8 p.m. on Monday, February 6th, at the Mt. Lebanon Municipal Building, 710 Washington Road.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Cissy Bowman, Mt. Lebanon School District; Keith McGill, Mt. Lebanon Municipal Planner

High school students develop and design ideas for vacant lot in Homestead

A group of high school students from Allegheny County have been tasked with reimagining a vacant lot in Homestead.  And today, after three months of planning and design, they will present their concepts and drawings to a panel of architects and community development leaders.

This is the final session in an apprenticeship program, a cooperation between the Allegheny Intermediate Unit and the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.  These two organizations have partnered for the program since the 1980s, allowing high school students with an interest in architecture to experience studio work and the design process hands-on.

The vacant lot under consideration is located at 7th Avenue and Amity Street.  According to Louise Sturgess, of the PHLF, Amity Street has become a secondary Main Street for the community of Homewood. 

Students were asked to create a design that connects the growing Waterfront complex with the historic Homestead community, using Amity Street as a connector between the two destinations.

Through a series of sessions, students have completed design challenges, a site tour, had discussions with prominent urban designers and toured professional architecture studios, and have presented preliminary site plans to architecture students at Carnegie Mellon University. 

Today, the 25 students will give their final presentations to an audience that includes professional architects and designers, Homestead community leaders, and representatives from the Mon Valley Initiative.

Sturgess says that whether or not students choose to pursue architecture in college, they have taken part in a valuable lesson on how community planning takes place.

“As adults they will know that they can become involved in community design decisions,” Sturgess says.  “We really open up their eyes to the importance of the built environment, the value of historic preservation,” and the academic training required in schools of architecture, engineering, or historic preservation, she says.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source: Louise Sturgess

Historic Deutschtown House Tour this Sunday

Early fall is house tour season in Pittsburgh and this Sunday seven homes will be opened to house and garden enthusiasts during the Historic Deutschtown House Tour.  Architecture styles featured on the tour include traditional Victorian and Italianate, as well as newly built, modern homes. 

Randy Strothman, a spokesperson for the Deutschtown community group, says one outstanding home is the newly built townhouse of local contractor Al DePasquale.  Beyond an original façade, the home was completely rebuilt to DePasquale’s own personal design and lifestyle preferences.

“It looks like it's been there forever,” Strothman says,  “very traditional of the period…but it's a very modern treatment, very personalized to his style.”  The home features five interior fountains, murals, and a garden.

Strothman says the neighborhood has been gradually revitalizing itself for the past 30 years, following the construction of I-279 which sliced through the community in the 1980’s.  He says the private market has begun to lead renovation efforts, including home renovations and the opening of new businesses.

Neighborhood business will be open throughout the tour, and include Bistro To Go, the Victory Grill, Amani Coffee, and the Park House. 

Tickets are $12 in advance; $15 at the door.  For more information call 412-321-1204.  The tour starts at the Priory Hotel Courtyard, 614 Lockhart St., 15212; free parking at the hotel’s Grand Hall. 

The Priory Hotel will also be hosting a special wine tasting event in conjunction with the tour.  Live music will be provided by a Deutschtown accordionist.  Tickets for the wine tasting are $15.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Randy Strothman

Development grants secured for Downtown and East Liberty, $8.5 million

The City of Pittsburgh has secured two key development grants totaling $8.5 million for projects in East Liberty and downtown.  The Redevelopment Assistance Capital Grants were recently released by Governor Corbett’s administration.

A $4 million grant will be used to target smaller buildings in downtown that are in need of rehabilitation.  One such structure in consideration by the city is the Thompson Building on Market Street.  Currently owned by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, the Thompson Building was most recently home to the restaurant Ciao Baby. 

Yarone Zober, chief of staff of the mayor’s office, says a project like this could not be completed without outside funding.  He says this grant will allow the city to partner with developers and private owners to further the redevelopment of Market Square and the greater Forbes and Fifth Avenue corridors. 

Other buildings being considered for renovation include the building at Wood Street and Forbes Avenue, as well at the “sister buildings” at 420 and 422 Wood Street, according to Zober.

In East Liberty, a $4.5 million grant will be used to build a parking garage between the Highland and Wallace buildings, where a redevelopment project seeks to create 130 apartment units, and 5,000 sq. ft. of retail space.  The development is a project of Walnut Capital and the Massaro Corporation.

The Highland Building was built 101 years ago and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Greg Perelman, a managing partner, said “the project would not have happened if we did not have the grant.”

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Yarone Zober; Greg Perelman

Historic Hamnett homes restored in Wilkinsburg, for sale

Three historic Wilkinsburg home renovations are nearing completion and are for sale.  Part of the Hamnett Place Restorations Phase II, these homes join four other renovations by the Pittsburgh History and & Landmarks Foundation in the National Register-listed historic district.  Buyer incentives are offered, and income restrictions apply.

David Farkas, director of Main Street programs, say PHLF believes preservation should not just result in a restored building, but should also achieve other social benefits. 

“The product that we're getting [in Wilkinsburg] is a restored house…for low or moderate income individuals, which is great,” Farkas says.  But in addition to the home itself, the restoration adds stability to the neighborhood, and residents that are engaged and want to be a part of this momentum, he adds.

All three homes--located at 517 Jeanette Street, 833 Holland Avenue and 845 Holland Avenue--are over 1,900 sq. ft. and feature new electrical, plumbing, insulation, and energy efficient HVAC systems. 

The 11-month, $1 million project has received funding from the PHLF, the Allegheny Foundation, and the Allegheny County Department of Economic Development.  Over $11 million in development has gone into the Wilkinsburg area.

“Part of the reason that PHLF is investing so heavily with its partners in Wilkinsburg is because of the wonderful historic buildings that exist in the neighborhood,” Farkas says.  “And because we’ve been at it now for a number of years, we're really starting to see the results of that work in conjunction with the residents that are living in the area.”

A tour of the homes will be held on Saturday, September 10th, from 11:00a.m. to 12:30p.m.  The tour will include information about the restoration process and financial incentives for potential buyers.  For more information and to RSVP, contact MaryLu Denny: marylu@phlf.org, 412-471-5808 ext.527.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  David Farkas

Mt. Lebanon Historical Society leads Saints and Stained Glass tour on Friday

This Friday the Historical Society of Mount Lebanon will lead the Saints and Stained Glass tour inside the St. Bernard and Mt. Lebanon United Presbyterian churches. As Mt. Lebanon celebrates 100 years in 2012 the Historical Society hopes to help area residents learn more about their community's past.

"This [tour] is one way of educating and letting the people know about the wonderful history and architecture that we have in the community," says M.A. Jackson, president of the Historical Society.

In addition to stained glass, St. Bernard's features eight frescoes by internationally known artist Jan Henryk De Rosen. Among murals and mosaics in Europe and the United States, De Rosen also completed a mural for Pope Pius XI's private chapel. The mural at St. Bernard's, which tells the story of the Book of Revelations, received a minor restoration in 2006.

The 200-plus-year-old Mt. Lebanon United Presbyterian church is the oldest and first church in the community. One "Gospel" window in the church was designed by Howard Gilman of the Pittsburgh Stained Glass Studios.

The complex includes a 1929 Gothic sanctuary, a 1961 modernist education wing, and a new multi-purpose building designed by Celli-Flynn Brennan Architects & Planners. Stained glass panels and limestone medallions were salvaged from a demolished 1922 education wing and are included in the church's expansion.

The cost of the tour is $5 for Historical Society members, and $10 for non-members. The tour begins at 6 p.m. on Friday, August 12th, and will run approximately 90 minutes. Patricia Calvelo and Judy Sutton will lead the tour which leaves from the Presbyterian church parking lot on Washington Road.

E-mail info@hsmtl.org or call 412-563-1941 to make a reservation.


Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: M.A. Jackson

Historic Cultural District building to become jazz club, restaurant, and apartments

A new mixed-use renovation is planned for a historic building in the Downtown Cultural District. A jazz club and restaurant will occupy the first floor, while upper floors will be converted into six loft apartments.

Art Lubetz, of Front Studio Architects, will be responsible for the renovations of the building, which was built in 1879. Located at 811 Liberty Avenue near the Harris Theater, Lubetz says the upper floors of the building have been vacant for nearly 40 years.

Lubetz is one of three partners in the project, and is joined by Al Dowe and Marty Marra. Dowe, of the Etta Cox & Al Dowe Band, will lead the jazz club, which is expected to seat 135 people, with an additional 60 in the restaurant.

Lubetz says the façade will be meticulously restored, and they plan to donate the façade to the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation in order to preserve the structure for future generations.

In addition to exterior renovations, existing window frames will be utilized in the upper-floor lofts.

"This whole project, it's going to be about light--different hues of light, translucent light, transparency, and reflectivity. What we're doing downstairs in the club will carry through in the floors of the apartments above," Lubetz says. "This whole thing will become like a light installation."

The building is seven floors, including a basement. Construction is expected to begin late August, and will run six to seven months. Lubetz says they are planning a Christmas move-in date.


Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Art Lubetz, Front Studio Architects, LLC




Point Park University a step closer to new playhouse

Point Park University has recently bought the former Honus Wagner Co. sporting goods building, located downtown on Forbes Avenue, for approximately $1.1 million. The university has sought this parcel as part of the school's plan to relocate the Pittsburgh Playhouse from it's current location in Oakland to the center of campus downtown, phase II of the Academic Village Initiative.

The Honus Wagner store had sold sporting goods and merchandise downtown for 93 years, before closing last winter. For the past 59 years the store operated from the Forbes Avenue location.

The university now owns a total of six parcels in the Forbes Avenue area, two of which are surface parking lots. It is unclear what will happen to the buildings on Forbes, and there is no set timeline for the playhouse project. "We are still in the process of evaluating all of those properties," says Mary Ellen Solomon, spokesperson for the university.

University plans show the construction of a new complex with three theaters, 150 to 400 seats each, production and teaching areas, a residence hall, an exterior balcony, and retail space.

The first phase of the university's $244 million Academic Village Initiative is on track to be completed by the end of 2012. The initiative's first phase includes a student and convocation center, an urban corner park, and improvements to the Wood Street corridor.

The school's urban corner park, which is transforming a surface parking lot into a park setting, with tree coverage, an outdoor cafe, glass stair tower, and water feature, is expected to be completed in the next two months.


Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Mary Ellen Solomon, Point Park University


City Council hearing on Wigman House historic nomination in Carrick

The Wigman House in Carrick is being considered for historic landmark status by the City of Pittsburgh. City Council held a public hearing yesterday on historic designation for the Crown Jewel Victorian which had been threatened by plans for demolition earlier this year.  Eight residents spoke at the hearing, all in favor of historic designation.

"Anybody that passes this house, this is the highlight of their day," says John Rudiak, of the Carrick-Overbrook Historical Society. "It's just marvelous the way the sun shines on this house all the time, and it always looks magnificent and grand. It makes people smile, it really does."

The Queen Anne Style home, built around 1902, was nominated for historic designation last year by Rudiak and the Historical Society.

The Society was galvanized to preserve the home when state Rep. Harry Readshaw, a potential buyer of the home, said he would consider demolishing the house to create a parking lot for his neighboring funeral home business.

The home is still for sale, but Rudiak says current owner Grace McClory now hopes to see it preserved. In February, the Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh named the Wigman House one of the region's top ten preservation opportunities as part of their annual report.

Rudiak cites three other grand, Queen Ann homes that have been demolished in Carrick, one for a road, a second for a parking lot, and a third for a strip mall.

"Everyone that we've talked to in the neighborhood said that it would be a shame to destroy this house," Rudiak says, "This house is the last Queen Anne in Carrick."


Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: John Rudiak




Swissvale House Tour unveils Madonna del Castello condos

At the second annual Taste of Swissvale House Tour this Sunday, guests will be able to explore the recently renovated Madonna del Castello church, which has been converted into four condominiums as part of the Kopp Glass Gateway Redevelopment Project.

The fundraiser is sponsored by the Swissvale Economic Development Corporation (SEDCO), with samples of food, wine, and beer to be donated by local businesses.

The Mon Valley Initiative (MVI) has partnered with SEDCO for this $4.14 million project to renovate a section of Swissvale that had once been home to nuisance bars and had suffered a period of neglect, according to Leanne Aurich, MVI community outreach specialist.

"It was an area that had kind of been abandoned for a really long time," Aurich says. "[SEDCO] actually identified the area and worked with the Mon Valley Initiative to also identify homes that we could go in and renovate or construct."

This phase of the project includes five homes and the church condos, "which we're really excited about," Aurich says. "To date we have around 17 houses that we're working on throughout the area."

While working to preserve the historic character and integrity of these homes, Aurich says each unit has received an Energy Star rating to improve their energy efficiency.

In addition to touring the homes, food and drink will be provided by Home Towne Tavern, Pub in the Park, Cafe dez Artz, Map Room Grill & Bar, Boomerang Bar & Restaurant, and more.

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased on the day of the event, along the park at Park Avenue, between Palmer Street and Monongahela Avenue, 1pm-4 pm.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Leanne Aurich, MVI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Croghan's Edge in Lawrenceville to bridge history with modern townhouses

When it came to naming a new development of townhouses in Lawrenceville, Emeka Onwugbenu decided to put the question to neighborhood residents. And so after conducting a naming contest in partnership with Lawrenceville United, the sloping, island-like parcel of land on Penn Avenue came to be known as Croghan's Edge.

The townhouses, which are designed by mossArchitects, will feature a combination of corrugated metal, cedar wood, and cement siding facades. E Properties and Development held a groundbreaking ceremony at the site on Tuesday.

Onwugbenu says the triangular, sloping site was initially viewed as a challenge from a design perspective, but that they were able to engage mossArchitects to overcome that. "We turned what seemed like site problems into opportunities," Onwugbenu says.

"Working with moss, they kind of created this box-like feel to it, where they pushed, pulled, and stretched different levels of boxes to create townhouses you've not seen in Lawrenceville before," Onwugbenu says.

The interior spaces will be in keeping with a contemporary/modern feel, Onwugbenu says, including nine-foot ceilings on all levels, designer kitchen layouts, and granite countertops. E Properties expects the homes to be move-in ready by September.

The name Croghan's Edge refers to George Croghan, who was know as "the king of the traders." One of the area's first settlers Croghan built his home in the vicinity in the 1760s, long before modern Lawrenceville was conceived.

The new homes will be located in a part of Lawrenceville which hasn't seen as much redevelopment activity as the bustling Butler Street corridor. Onwugbenu hopes this transformation of an under-utilized space into new and unique housing is a trend that other builders will follow.

The development is breaking ground in more ways than one, and "speaks to the next level of growth in the area," Onwugbenu says. "I feel Croghan's Edge is the continuation of the renaissance [and] rejuvenation of Lawrenceville."

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Emeka Onwugbenu, E Properties and Development

Community Design Center of Pittsburgh hires new president Stephen A. Glassman

The Community Design Center of Pittsburgh will begin a new era under future president Stephen A. Glassman this coming Monday. Glassman will succeed Anne-Marie Lubenau, who is beginning a Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University later this summer.

Glassman comes to Pittsburgh after 25 years of practice as principal architect of his own Maryland and Pennsylvania-based firm, Art and Architecture Design.

In addition to his firm, Glassman has served as chair of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission for the past eight years, which has an office in Pittsburgh. In that time he came to know and love Pittsburgh, and says, "For me it's a very comfortable and exciting move."

Glassman says the mission of the CDCP, to help improve the region's neighborhoods through education, advice, and advocacy, and the openness and engagement of the group's board, were the most attractive things about the position.

Building on that mission, Glassman says he would like the CDCP to use more social and public policy as tools for improving neighborhoods and communities.

"I would like to expand upon the rich, 40 year history of CDCP's work in Pittsburgh," Glassman says. "To respond to the needs of marginalized and minority communities, and to create opportunities to build healthy and vital neighborhoods in one of American's greatest cities."

Glassman is no stranger to community-based work. In Baltimore, he served a five-year term as Civic Design Commissioner, which helped to place public art throughout the city.

"This position is an ideal opportunity for me to bring my past experience in architecture and design, public policy, and the political realm together, in order to make a valuable contribution to the city of Pittsburgh," Glassman says.

In East Liberty, where Glassman will be relocating to, he says, "It's a great opportunity to live in a neighborhood that is burgeoning, and revitalizing itself, and in the heart of social change in Pittsburgh."

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Stephen A. Glassman, Community Design Center of Pittsburgh.

YPA announces Top 10 Preservation Opportunities and winner of its Michael Eversmeyer Promise Award

Last week the Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh (YPA) announced its annual list of Top 10 Best Preservation Opportunities. Topping the list at number one is Main Street Waynesburg.

Chief Executive Office of YPA Daniel Holland says the list is a celebration of preservation and the investments and jobs it creates, a more positive complement to the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Endangered List. In its eight years, the Top 10 list has generated more than $80 million of revitalization through preservation of the sites.

"It sends a message that these are important historic sites and there are good things happening with preservation," he says.

Other places on the list include Elizabeth's Grand Theatre, the Highland Building in East Liberty, the Stables Building in Allegheny West and the Wigman House in Carrick. Locations are chosen based on four criteria: age, historic and architectural significance, threats to the site, community input and feasibility of the solution.

Holland says Main Street Waynesburg was chosen as number one because of the success of the Main Street program, but also due to the demolition threats along the Main Street. He explains that making it the top choice demonstrates its potential for revitalization.

In addition to the Top 10 List, YPA announced that Pittsburgh Peabody High School won its Michael Eversmeyer Promise Award. The award is given to an emerging preservationist (or group of preservationists), and Peabody High School students are writing a book about their community that will be released in June.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: Alex Audia
Source: Daniel Holland, YPA

Construction begins on pedestrian bridge between East Liberty and Shadyside

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: Alex Audia
Source: Rob Stephany, URA

Image courtesy of the URA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: Alex Audia
Source: Jennifer Fox, CDCP

Need help finding a Main Street commercial space for your small business? Get the Best Fit

Peter Margittai has seen the scenario too many times: a small business owner, daunted by the challenges of finding an urban commercial space, settles for a logistically simpler suburban strip mall storefront. The principal of Peter Margittai Architects approached the URA Main Streets team over a year ago with plans to start a program called Best Fit, designed to take the headache out of the urban commercial space-finding process.

"The Best Fit program came out of the idea that these small business owners really ought to be located in the city and it would be perfect if they could find a space on one of the many main streets we have. They just need a little bit of help, and the apprehensions they have about the zoning and the codes are real things that need to be addressed, but we want to take the time to help our clients with those things," says Margittai.

"We thought it was a great idea," says Josette Fitzgibbons, coordinator for the URA Main Streets program, who had noticed the same problem. Through the Best Fit program, the URA supplies a $2,000 grant to provide assistance with startup costs, and Margittai assists the entrepreneur with their decision-making.

"We shepherd small business owners through the initial process and at the same time work with them to define their requirements, their space needs, their furnishings, and any kind of equipment they need, so that at the end of the day they not only find a space that suits them well, but they can also start negotiating their lease terms and construction cost estimates," says Margittai. After a space is selected, Margittai will happily assist with additional design-related services.

Best Fit applicants must meet certain requirements, which include finding a location under 6,000-square-feet within one of Pittsburgh's 11 Main Streets districts. Best Fit has already helped several clients find spaces, including the new Los Cabos restaurant in Bloomfield.

To apply for the best Fit Program contact peter@margittai.com or Quianna Wasler from the URA at qwasler@ura.org

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Sources: Peter Margittai, Peter Margittai Architects
               Josette Fitzgibbons, URA

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

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

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

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

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

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Source: Lisa Schroeder, Riverlife

Image courtesy of Riverlife

Comprehensive plan charts a course for Neville Island, Stowe, and McKees Rocks

The neighboring riverfront communities of Neville Island, McKees Rocks, and Stowe face many shared obstacles. Over a year ago, community officials hired the firm Environmental Planning and Design (EPD) to conduct a cross-community study in order to identify and propose solutions to those obstacles.  Their efforts concluded at a public meeting last week with the release of the Char-West Municipal Comprehensive Plan.

The 160-page plan, funded in part by a $90,000 state grant, identifies many common problems and offers concrete solutions. Perhaps the greatest hurdles are that 50% of land in these communities is vacant or industrial, and that 40% of the population was lost between 1970 and 2000. Essentially, the plan states that if the communities are going to attract new businesses to fuel future development, they must start by attracting new residents.

"There are recommendations on where they should be focusing their redevelopment efforts. New riverfront housing akin to what they've done in Blawnox and Washington's Landing is needed. They need to get new people moving into new housing," says Andrew Schwartz, managing principal of EPD.

While reclaiming the riverfront is a key step, a great deal of existing housing is vacant and burdened with unpaid property taxes. Thus, the plan suggests the creation of a housing bank. "A housing bank uses some federal funding to eliminate tax delinquent properties and demolish those properties, so they can then focus on new construction along the riverfront," explains Schwartz.

But new residents won't come just for the housing. Quality of life must be improved. Thus, the plan calls for 12 essential implementation initiatives, aimed largely at reconnecting the communities with their natural assets. Among the recommendations are improvements to parks and the creation of new recreational opportunities, forming and connecting new community organizations, and a major transition from industry-friendly transportation and infrastructural systems to community-friendly ones with two-way streets, more traffic lights, and greater accessibility. The plan also indicates multiple sources of funding for these projects.

In early summer, the community governments will likely vote whether or not to officially adopt the plan and begin implementing changes. "The plan is drafted. What they do after that is the great question," says Schwartz.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Source: Andrew Schwartz, EPD


LA Fitness location might finally solve Bloomfield's Don Allen dilemma

The former Don Allen Auto Center on Liberty Avenue has sat vacant for three years, posing a huge challenge to groups wanting to redevelop the site. Despite its superb location at the entrance to Bloomfield from Shadyside and Oakland, community groups concerned with traffic congestion halted a proposed $230 million hotel project in 2008. Now, however, it looks as if LA Fitness may have better luck with their plans for a new 56,782-square-foot fitness center at the Don Allen location, as they try to avoid past mistakes.

The site, located on Liberty between South Pacific and South Atlantic streets, contains the former Mazda building and adjacent parking lot, but not the three-story brick building at the corner of Liberty and Baum Blvd, which may become a hotel at a later date. LA Fitness proposes tearing down the Mazda building and constructing a new facility that would house a fitness center and indoor parking under one roof.  The unique design would help reduce the traffic impact, while preserving the streetscape aesthetics. LA Fitness approached City Councilman Bill Peduto with their plans in January.

"We've been having meetings since February with different stakeholders. There have been a lot of questions about traffic and parking impact on the neighborhood," says Peduto. "There's a lot of issues but they've been great about answering them and using their architects and development team to really engage the community's concerns."

The next step is for LA Fitness to go before the Planning Commission with their design. If they're approved, construction might begin as early as this summer, which Peduto believes would benefit the community both economically and health-wise.

"LA Fitness usually offers low-cost memberships the community can afford. At the other end of the neighborhood, they've closed down the Rec Center. Even though you've still got the Exercise Warehouse, that is for one type of clientele. This would be a more general community clientele. It will be a positive step for the neighborhood," says Peduto.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Source: Bill Peduto, City of Pittsburgh

Photograph copyright John Farley


Best Practices from Chicago metro planning at Design Excellence lecture

Want to learn about successful strategies for progressive regional collaboration and promoting civic engagement in public planning? On Monday April 4, The Community Design Center of Pittsburgh (CDCP) will host Chicago Metropolitan Planning Council president MarySue Barrett in their Design Excellence Lecture Series. 

"While typically in our series we've had more of a discussion about architecture and design, this one will be more about the process of municipal change and metropolitan planning," says Kate McGlynn, director of community programs for the CDCP.

The Metropolitan Planning Council is a non-profit organization founded in Chicago in 1934, which promotes community-focused, regionally collaborative approaches to sustainable urban growth and improved low-income housing situations. President since 1996, Barrett has a track record of utilizing data in order to advocate and provide technical assistance for sustainable development initiatives and public-private partnerships.

"Following her talk will be a panel discussion with local folks, and that's really where we bring the conversation back to Pittsburgh," says McGlynn. The panelists leading the discussion include Steve Craig, chairman of Lawrence County Commissioners and secretary treasurer of Southwest Planning Commission, and Doug Heuck, executive director of Pittsburgh Today. Anne-Marie Lubenau, president of the CDCP, is the third panelist. The conversation will be moderated by Jim Denova, vice president of The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

The lecture will take place Monday, April 4 from 6-8 p.m. at Point Park University's George Rowland Theater, located at 414 Wood Street in Downtown Pittsburgh.  Tickets are $20 and can be purchased here.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Source: Kate McGlynn, CDCP

Image courtesy of CDCP

71 new apartments to be built for Liberty Park Phase II in East Liberty

With the first 124 mixed income rental units of the $14 million Liberty Park fully occupied, construction is scheduled to begin this spring on 71 one, two, and three-bedroom apartments as part of the second phase of this housing development in East Liberty.

The phase II site is situated south of East Liberty Boulevard and east of Collins Avenue, just north of the phase I units. "Phase II covers 13 different buildings,"says Will Hopkins, associate architect for Tai + Lee, the architecture firm. "The majority of it is townhouse buildings and there is also three apartment buildings that include 12 apartments total. We're going for a contextual look. There's brick and some columns, but they'll have a modern edge to them."

Mistik Construction will start building as soon as this spring with completion intended for early next summer.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority has authorized Liberty Park developers McCormack Baron Salazar, in collaboration with East Liberty Development, to hire A. Liberoni Inc. to carry out the public improvement portion of the project, which includes extending and connecting Kalida Drive and Princeton Place, and installing utilities and lighting.  SAI Consulting Engineers have been hired for construction management services.

Since the Liberty Park project began in 2006, its aim has been to supply a variety of housing options to people of all income levels, and reconnect parts of the community that were disjointed by past redevelopment.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Source: Will Hopkins, Tai + Lee
             Gigi Saladna, URA

Photograph copyright John Farley

Second phase of Dinwiddie Street Housing will bring 23 new homes to the Middle Hill District

Last week, the Urban Redevelopment Authority approved the sale of land along the 200 and 300 blocks of Dinwiddie Street in the Lower Hill District to TREK Development  Group for $34,500, officially beginning the second phase of the Dinwiddie Street Housing development. The 28-units included in the first phase of the project are almost complete and will begin leasing in April, and the $7.6 million second phase will include five new buildings with 23 townhouse and apartment units. Construction is scheduled to begin in May.  The Dinwiddie Street housing is an exciting development, because Dinwiddie Street connects the the Middle Hill District to Uptown.

"Phase II will include 12 one-bedroom apartment, six three-bedroom apartments, and five two-bedroom apartments with an office space and a small community space," says John Ginocchi, director of development for TREK Development Group, who are the URA's general development partner on the project. Mistik Construction is the contractor for the project and the architect is Rothschild Doyno Collaborative.

TREK Development was awarded Low Income Tax Credits from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency for Phase II, and the units will be offered to households at or below 60% of the area median income. Rents will range between $650-700 for a two-bedroom, and go up to $885 for a three-bedroom. The tax credit terms stipulate that the townhouse units remain rental properties for 15 years, but after that can be sold to the tenants.

It's not certain when Phase II will begin leasing, but the completion of Phase I could be well-timed, since a nearby apartment building is currently undergoing demolition and several of that building's tenants will likely move into Dinwiddie housing.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Source: John Ginocchi, TREK Development Group

Photograph copyright John Farley

Will East Liberty's historic Highland Building finally get a second life?

Built in 1909 by Henry Clay Frick and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991, the towering Highland Building in East Liberty has proven itself a worthy adversary against four past developers who backed out of plans to renovate the vacant structure at 121 South Highland Street. However, a large and determined consortium of development groups has their fingers crossed that this time will be different, as they await approval from the Governor's Office for $4.5 million in RACP funds for a parking garage, as well as Department of Housing and Urban Development financing that will make their project possible.

Last year, the Urban Redevelopment Authority approved partnering developers Walnut Capital and Massaro Properties' plans for a $23 million conversion of the Highland Building and neighboring Wallace Building into 129 one-bedroom apartments, a new parking garage, fitness center, and small retail storefronts.

"They'll be loft style apartments with oversized windows, stone counter tops, stainless steel appliances, high ceilings, and a washer and dryer in each unit. The Highland Building is going to have the great views," says Jerilyn Donahue, underwriter for the project for Bellwether Real Estate Capital, who are helping to secure financing. TKA Architects drew up the preliminary design, which essentially calls for a total gutting of the interiors, while leaving the historic façade structurally intact.

While other developers have failed to tame the Highland Building, the parties involved believe they have a good chance of success.  For one, development of the East Liberty corridor has boomed in the past several years. With the advent of Bakery Square and the Google offices, Home Depot, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, lofts, new restaurants, and an upcoming Target, the surrounding area is far more vibrant than it was at the time of the last attempt in 2006.  More directly, past developers could not secure a parking solution for the building.

Everything is dependent on the receipt of a large HUD financing package containing loans and historic tax credits, which was applied for in February, and will hopefully be approved within the next two months.  The HUD financing, though, is dependent on the Governor's Office allowing funding for the parking garage to be built.  "We're trying to get that accomplished. We're partnering with Massaro, so we think it's a good opportunity to make this work," says Gregg Perelman, managing partner for Walnut Capital, who also developed Bakery Square.  The Mosites Company is the developer for Target.

According to URA special projects manager Paul Svoboda, the parking garage that's been designed will fit the context of the surrounding neighborhood without interfering with traffic or surrounding buildings.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Source: Gregg Perelman, Walnut Capital
             Jerilyn Donahue, Bellwether Real Estate Capital
             Paul Svoboda, special projects manager for the URA

Photograph copyright John Farley

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

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

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

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

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

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Source: Ralph Horgan, CMU

Image courtesy of CMU

Second phase of Susquehanna Street Homes project brings ten new houses to Homewood

Construction on the second phase of the Susquehanna Street Homes in Homewood is underway, with 10 new houses scheduled for completion by early May.

The project began in 2003 when developer Building United of Southwestern Pennsylvania teamed up with the Urban Redevelopment Authority to demolish 43 nuisance properties along Susquehanna Street, with plans to build 30 homes in three phases. The first 10 homes were built in 2008 and all were sold by the end of 2009.

"The houses are detached two-story homes with two-and-a-half-bathrooms, three-bedrooms, a front and side yard, backyard, and garages," says Rev. Samuel Ware, executive director of Building United, who is working with Mistik Construction and local architect Marvin Miller on the project.

Buyers are currently being sought for the homes, which start at $130,000. Second deferred mortgages are available through the URA for moderate and low-income buyers.

"The URA is our development partner," says Ware. "We've worked with them since the very beginning. They recommended the architect to us, and they've helped us with funding and grants for $1.4 million."

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Source: Rev. Samuel Ware, Building United
             Gigi Saladna, chief information officer for the URA

Image courtesy of the URA

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

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

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

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

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

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

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

Image courtesy of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

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

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

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

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

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

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

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

Image courtesy of The Mansions on Fifth

Millcraft Industries to build mixed use high rise and turn State Office building into apartments

After receiving approval from the Urban Redevelopment Authority last Thursday, Millcraft Industries is moving forward with plans to build a 15-story, $50 to 60 million LEED certified multi-use high rise on Forbes Avenue called The Gardens. The developer also plans to begin construction next month on Rivervue, a $40 million conversion of the former State Office building at 300 Liberty Avenue into 218 luxury apartments.

Since 2006, Millcraft Industries has held options on several parcels on Forbes, between Market Square and Wood Street, which will be the future site of The Gardens.  Until now they have been focusing primarily on the completion of their Market Square Place project and the transformation of the former Macy's Lazarus building into the mixed-use Piatt Place. They hope close on the sale of the properties they've long held options on in the coming months and break ground on the The Gardens by the end of this year.  A projected time-line places the end of construction in 2013.

"It will feature street-side retail, parking within the building, a limited service concept hotel, and 10,000-square-feet of office space," says Brian Walker, chief financial officer for Millcraft Industries. "It's the same concept we believe works really well. There will be about 25,000-square-feet of retail space. We can't wait to get started."

Additionally, Millcraft has been working with architects Design 4 Studio and contractor Turner Construction on plans convert the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania office building into a luxury apartment facility called Rivervue.

"Anticipated groundbreaking is mid-March. So, in just about four weeks from now we'll be breaking ground on the 218 residential units. The views overlooking the Point are going to be unbelievable," says Walker. Units will range in size from single studios to four-bedroom duplexes. The ground floor will feature limited retail space and built-in parking with 24-hour valet service. Millcraft Industries hopes to have the apartments available for move-in by the beginning of 2012.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Source: Brian Walker, Millcraft Industries

Photograph copyright John Farley

Mt. Lebanon approves $113.2 million high school renovation project

Last Tuesday, Mt. Lebanon commissioners approved the $113.2 million renovation of Mt. Lebanon High School in a 3-2 vote. The project has been subject to much debate since it was proposed in 2006, following a feasibility study performed by DeJong-Richter. While controversy has stemmed from the cost of the project, its proponents argue that the 83-year-old high school suffers from outdated infrastructural systems, limited classroom space and technological resources, and a generally inefficient layout, and that the renovation is necessary to bring the school into the 21st Century.

"It's a combination of new construction and renovation of existing space. The new construction is going to include a new academic wing along Horsman Drive and a bridge that will connect the academic center to the new field house," says Cissy Bowman, director of communications for The Mt. Lebanon School District. "The field house will have one central gym, two auxiliary gyms, and a new eight-lane pool."

Within the next six weeks, the District will finalize documents in order to put the projects up for architectural and construction bid, and ideally ground will be broken by May. The new facilities will target LEED certification, and renovations will correct many current issues, such as failing heating systems, outdated roofs and windows, and a lack of handicapped accessibility. The construction will be carefully phased in order to prevent educational disruption.

"The goal has always been that we're going to be housing students in different sections of the high school as we build these new buildings. There was a very clear desire from parents that they did not want trailers. So, we're going to be building certain sections of the project first and then moving students to different parts of the building. There will be a phased construction process that will last about 48 months," says Bowman.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Source: Cissy Bowman, Mt. Lebanon School District

Image courtesy of Mt. Lebanon School District

Construction begins on 19 new homes for second phase of the $15 million Federal Hill development

Construction on phase II of the three-phase, $15 million Federal Hill housing development in the Central Northside is underway. The housing initiative is a collaboration between S & A Homes, The Central Northside Neighborhood Council (CNNC), and the URA, and this portion of the project will bring 19 townhouses to the once blighted intersection of Alpine and Federal Streets.

Between November 2009 and September 2010, the entirety of the 23 phase I townhouses, located one block downhill from the phase II site, were sold. Developer S & A Homes is working to have the second phase homes completed by spring 2012. The houses will range in size between 1,400 to 2,300-square-feet and sell for between $140,000 and $299,000.  All will offer at least three bedrooms and one-and-a-half bathrooms.

"Customers can put in options, they can individualize the property. They can choose the appliances they want, change walls, and change the flooring. They're not spec houses.  The customer gets to customize them," says Andy Haines, vice president of S & A Homes.

The Federal Hill project began in 1994 when the URA and CNNC worked together to declare the area blighted in order to pave the way for major redevelopment. Indeed, since the completion of phase I, Federal Street looks radically different.

"I get a lot of calls from people looking for older homes to restore in the area, so it's certainly spurred the housing market and continued the momentum of the neighborhood," says Tom Hardy, development consultant for the CNNC.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Sources:  Andy Haines, S & A Homes
                Tom Hardy, CNNC

Photograph copyright John Farley

Market Square shines with Jos. A. Bank and crazy diamonds

This spring, mens' clothing store Jos. A. Bank will be moving from its current Downtown location at 527 Smithfield Street to Market Square.  Another recent Market Square development includes the upcoming installation of a beautiful work of public art.

Jos. A. Bank signed a deal with developer Millcraft Industries at the beginning of February to lease space in the 40,000-square-foot Market Square Place development, located in the former G.C. Murphy building. Herky Pollock of CB Richard Ellis represented Millcraft Industries in the deal. Jos. A. Bank will share ground floor retail space in Market Square Place with the recent additions of Liberty Travel, DiBella's Old Fashioned Submarines, Chipotle, and Vallozi's.

"This relocation, which will feature the Jos. A. Bank's new prototypical layout and design, further validates the success of our vibrant central district and all the new energy that has been harnessed with the new development project in the corridor," says Pollock.

Keep your head up when entering Market Square from Fifth Avenue this spring as artist Carin Mincemoyer's light sculpture "Diamond, Diamonds" will soon be hanging around.  The piece entails the installation of 80 glass "diamonds" lit with LED lights and hung from two poles--a nod to the public space known as The Diamond, which was located at the Market Square site until it was demolished in 1961.  Mincemoyer won a design competition to illuminate the connection between the square and the Cultural District after the City's Office of Public Art put out a call for proposals.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Sources: Herky Pollock, executive vice president of CB Richard Ellis
               Hollie Geitner, vice president of marketing and communications for the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership

Row of vacant Lawrenceville houses being restored with historic exteriors, custom interiors

Since they were left vacant in 1995, the row of five historic brick houses on 48th Street, between Hatfield and Butler Streets, in Lawrenceville have fallen into terrible shape. With creative design and green construction, the homes are being restored to look the way they would have when they were built in the 19th century, but with customized modern interiors.

The City of Pittsburgh acquired the buildings, with the help of the Lawrenceville Corporation, in 2007 at very low cost using a tax lien process. After receiving proposals from many eager developers, the Lawrenceville Corporation closed on the sale last week with Botero Development, who's principal Brian Mendelssohn lives in the neighborhood.

"They're going to be a high quality product. We're going to restore the exteriors using real materials, meaning real stone and real slate, and install stone steps and things like that to make them look like when they were built," says Mendelssohn, who is working with Moss Architects on the project. The interiors will be custom-built for the aesthetic whims of the individual buyers, blending historic elements and original materials with modern features, such as stainless steel appliances, and energy efficient design aspects, like a 2-inch white rubber roof.

The homes, which are currently for sale, include four 1,900-square-foot, 3-bedroom units with rear yards. Two come with 2.5-baths and the other two have  2-baths. One 1,250-square-foot unit has 2-bedrooms and 2-baths. The houses will be completed by next October and are priced between $180,000 and $265,000. A sixth building was beyond repair, but its lot will serve as a private courtyard for the $265,000 unit.

"I feel the prices are below market value for what these buildings are," says Mendelssohn. "It will be good for the neighborhood not to start charging $300,000 for homes in Lawrenceville. You don't want to gentrify your own neighborhood, you want to keep it what it is."

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Source:  Brian Mendelssohn

Image courtesy of Botero Development

$10 million PHLF redevelopment projects restore three homes and create 27 apartments in Wilkinsburg

When Pop City last reported on The Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation's Wilkinsburg redevelopment projects in 2008, four homes in the Hamnett Place neighborhood had successfully been restored. The PHLF recently announced that three more historic Hamnett Place houses, as well as the two-building, 27-unit Crescent Apartment development, are scheduled for completion by fall of 2011.

"It really is one big project because all of these things are kind of interlinked. We also launched a housing resource center in the same area last year and we've done a lot of cleaning and vacant lot work around the area. There are a lot of initiatives happening right now in Wilkinsburg that total over $10 million," says Michael Sriprasert, director of real estate for the PHLF.

"Right now the three properties at 833 and 845 Holland Avenue and 517 Jeanette Street have undergone interior demolition and we have begun construction," says David Farkas, director of main street programs for the PHLF, in regard to the second phase of the Hamnett Place project that began in December. The PHLF received assistance from Allegheny County Economic Development and The Allegheny Foundation for the restoration of these homes, which will have buyer incomes restricted to 120% of the area median income.

The PHLF is 30% finished with the redevelopment of two buildings in the $8.6 million, 27-unit affordable Crescent Apartments, which was funded by The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, Allegheny County's Office of Behavioral Health, and private sources.

The PHLF worked with architects Landmarks Design Associates on both the Hamnett Place and Crescent Apartments projects, and with Mistick Construction and Sota Construction on the Hamnett Place and Crescent Apartments, respectively.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Sources: Michael Sriprasert and David Farkas, PHLF

Image courtesy of PHLF

Historic Swissvale church receives second life as condominium development

The church at 7416 Duquesne Avenue in Swissvale has sat vacant for five years since its congregation left, leaving the unique brick building to fall into considerable disrepair. The church will experience new life as condominium complex thanks to a partnership between the community, The Mon Valley Initiative, and the Swissvale Economic Development Corporation, who have begun construction that will incorporate many of the church's original architectural features into the redesign.

Built in 1923 by the Madonna del Castello parish, the church has changed hands several times since the original inhabitants moved to a larger building on South Braddock Avenue in 1965.  "Its reuse as a church wasn't going to be feasible so we looked at other options to maintain this part of the neighborhood," says Patrick Shattuck, senior real estate developer for The Mon Valley Initiative, who purchased the property last September for $10,000.

Working with plans by Lami Grubb Architects, Mistick Construction is currently installing structural steel supports and expects the project to be completed by late spring or early summer. The plaster moldings and original arches will stay, becoming part of the new townhouse-style condos.

Three of the four condos will be 1,600-square-foot, two-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bathroom units. The fourth condo will be a 2,400-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom unit, which will feature the large dome that is currently over the altar as part of the space. The condos will range in price between $80,000 to $105,000.

A former rectory and convent next door to the church had to be demolished but the vacant lot where they once stood will soon be put to good use. "We had hoped to renovate the buildings, but ultimately they proved to be too far gone. It is a buildable lot, so whether we include that in the future phase for a house or whether we leave it for public green space will be determined," says Shattuck.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Source: Patrick Shattuck, The Mon Valley Initiative

Image courtesy of The Mon Valley Initiative

LA Fitness and Hilton moving into McCandless Crossing

Last week, AdVenture Development LLC revealed the third phase of their 130-acre McCandless Crossing development on McKnight Road will include a new LA Fitness club and 121-room Hilton Homewood Suites hotel.

The project is being carried out by AdVenture Champion Partnership, an alliance between Champion Real Estate and North Carolina based AdVenture Development.

LA Fitness closed on a 5.08-acre parcel on the property and will likely be open by mid-July of this year depending on weather. "I happened to be on site yesterday and I think we will be seeing walls popping up shortly. The utilities are already installed and the foundation has been laid," says Kevin Dougherty, principal of AdVenture Development and a Pittsburgh native.

AdVenture Champion has entered into a sales agreement with developer Widewaters McCandless LLC out of DeWitt, New York for the sale of a 3.58-acre parcel at the southernmost corner of the property, which will be the site of a new Hilton Homewood Suites. According to Dougherty, the sale is expected to close in March.

AdVenture has been working for several years to develop the entirety of the 130-acre McCandless Crossing site, which currently contains a Lowe's Home Improvement store and a Fidelity bank.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Source: Kevin Dougherty

Image courtesy of AdVenture Development

Chatham University unveils master plan for nation's first sustainable campus at Eden Hall

Since 2008, when The Eden Hall Foundation donated the 338-acre Eden Hall Farm in Richland Township to Chatham University, the school has been hard at work developing plans for a revolutionary second campus on the property. Last week, Chatham unveiled its master plan for the Eden Hall Campus, which will house the newly formed School of Sustainability and the Environment and will be the first campus in the nation to integrate sustainable development, learning, and living.

"Eden Hall Campus and the School of Sustainability and the Environment are at the leading edge of a global movement toward a sustainable future," says Dr. Esther Barazzone, president of Chatham University. "Together, the school and the campus will be a one-of-a-kind living laboratory, advancing understanding and progress as we seek sustainable answers to the world's social, economic, and environmental concerns."

Chatham worked with architects Berkebile Nelson Immenschuh McDowell and landscape designers Andropogon Associates to develop the master plan, with financial support from Richard King Mellon Foundation and PNC. The plan calls for 20 years worth of projects including LEED certified dorms, academic facilities, greenhouses, and wetlands, designed not only for The School of Sustainability and the Environment but for many other programs to utilize. For instance, the first facilities will feature kitchen teaching space for The Food Studies department.

Chatham hopes to break ground by late spring on the estimated $30 million first phase of the project, which entails one to three years of intensive landscape restoration, and the conversion of two existing barns and construction of a new building into the Mueller Center Campus facilities. The buildings will serve as classroom space, two small dorms, a dining hall, an aquaponics facility, and two greenhouses.

The Mueller Center Campus is one of four sections of the overall campus detailed in the master plan, which calls for development of only half of the 338-acres.  The rest will be left to nature to develop.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Source: Esther Barazzone, Chatham University
             Robert Berkebile, BNIM

Image courtesy of Chatham University and BNIM

The Beauty Shoppe fosters startup success with affordable, flexible coworking space

The Beauty Shoppe, an innovative new space co-working space opening this month is hoping to put East Liberty on the map as the next young tech hub by offering affordable, flexible space and all the resources a startup could ever ask for.

"We are really interested in thinking about how we can structure the space so that it's scaled down to the point where it's as flexible and accessible as possible and we spread the costs across as many organizations as we can," says Matthew Ciccone, founder of Edile, the real estate development organization responsible for The Beauty Shoppe.  Edile has worked on the project in partnership with Nate Cunningham of the East Liberty Development, the landlord.

After graduating from Heinz College at CMU three years ago, Ciccone immediately co-founded the green technology startup GTECH Strategies.  Ciccone had several needs specific to most startups—cheap and flexible space that would allow GTECH to quickly grow and change, as well as typical office supplies.  Ciccone realized that a simple space with shared resources that could be cohabited by several startup organizations would provide everything he needed at the right cost.  The only problem was that space did not yet exist in Pittsburgh.

After founding his second startup, Edile, last September, Ciccone decided to turn an underutilized 4,000-square-foot space on the second floor of 6014 Penn Avenue into his startup dream office and turn East Liberty into a centralized hub for innovation.  At the same time, Paul Burke, president of the Austin-based tech company Thinktiv and a CMU graduate, was looking for the same kind of space in order to expand his operations in Pittsburgh.  

Ciccone and Burke worked with architect Jen Bee to build out the space, which offers month-to-month leases on small, medium, and large work bays designed to suit companies ranging in size from two to eight employees, priced between $100 and $175 per month.  Included in the deal is an office environment with large windows in close proximity to resources, as well as shared internet, conference rooms, cleaning services, private meeting spaces, a physical mailing address, and a shared kitchen.  Click here to find out how to lease space at The Beauty Shoppe.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Sources: Matthew Ciccone, Edile
               Paul Burke, Thinktiv

Image courtesy of The Beauty Shoppe

Buncher Co. to redevelop Terminal Produce Building and build on unused riverfront land

The Urban Redevelopment Authority has agreed to lease--with an option to sell--the 130,000-square-foot Fruit Auction Terminal Produce Building on Smallman Street in the Strip District. The Buncher Co. plans to turn the building into a thriving commercial space.

To purchase the building, Buncher must commit to building 75-units of residential housing on the 55-acres of surface parking behind the Terminal Building. The firm must also promise to preserve the historic architecture.

"The building really is at the end of its useful life. It needs anywhere from $6 to $10 million in capital improvements to bring it up to code and preserve it," says Rob Stephany, executive director of the URA.

According to Stephany, Buncher is about 20% of the way into their planning process, having selected the renowned historic preservation architect Albert Feloni to create a master plan for the Terminal Building. Astorino is under contract to do the master plan for the vacant surface parking along the river between the convention center and 41st Street.

Once Buncher submits the master plans to the URA for review, the gears of construction can really start turning. Stephany says a recently conducted market analysis indicates the building would best benefit from restaurants, office, and showroom spaces on the platform, citing the Society for Contemporary Craft and The Pittsburgh Public Market as examples of forward-thinking reuse of these kinds of buildings.

As part of the project, the URA and the City recently declared part of the Strip as a blightedt area, causing concern from some neighborhood stakeholders who thought the URA might be preparing for eminent domain seizures. Stephany says that while this is certainly not the case, they didn't do a good of a job in communicating their plans. Their intent was to make funds from investors more flexible.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Source: Rob Stephany, URA

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

The Big Red Room Cafe at The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh is open for healthy eating

The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh has been busy revamping their café since October, and the newly completed Big Red Room Café is now open to for lunch with a wider variety of food options and a greater emphasis on healthy eating and efficiency.

"We're doing some re-branding with the redesigned café," says Chris Siefert, deputy director of The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. "It's now called The Big Red Room Café, named after the large front hall of the old Buhl Planetarium building. The walls are painted a deep red and we have new uniforms for our staff. It's a very crisp, modern room now."

The Big Red Room Café offers a large line of fresh health-conscious made-to-go wraps, salads, and sandwiches in addition to their pre-existing grill fare like burgers, hot dogs, and pizza.

The Children's Museum worked with Forty Eighty Architecture on the structural components of the $300,000 project, while San Monica-based architects Koning Eizenberg executed the aesthetic aspects. The renovation is quite ample in terms of construction and required The Children's Museum to move its retail store to another part of the building.  With seating for 150, the dining area is significantly larger than in the old cafe, and there is an outdoor patio for warmer weather dining.

According to Siefert, the new café will be a great addition not only for visitors to the museum, but for the employees of the Allegheny Center and surrounding offices who make up a large portion of the café's clientele.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Source: Chris Siefert, The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh

Image courtesy of The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh


Pop City gets a sneak peek at Stage AE

Pittsburgh's newest entertainment venue, Stage AE, opens this Friday with Girl Talk's brand new mashups. Pop City took a preview tour of the 20,000-square-foot of the complex that will bring in hundreds of mid-sized acts that might not otherwise make it to Pittsburgh, generating some serious revenue for the North Shore.

"We're looking at over 100 events per year so we think we'll be very good for local business," says Pat Lucas of PromoWest Productions, who is in charge of Stage AE's operation.

The inside was impressive. Stage AE is split into two levels and with a minimalist, concrete-heavy design, courtesy of architects WD Partners, it feels like a cross between an opera theater and the set for a film about an early 90s warehouse rave. The upper level features VIP box seats that come in sets of four for a cool $20,000 annually, which gets you concierge service and swivel chairs with the best views. Behind the box seats are tri-level bleachers open to general admission attendees.

The downstairs space in front of the stage is SRO/ Shakespearean pit style and can hold 400 people.  Behind the stage is a massive garage door that can unfold to reveal the outdoor amphitheater and lawn spaces that can hold 5,500 in warmer months.

Other notable features include the VIP exclusive Lounge AE, a large bar area behind the concert space that can be closed off for smaller events, and a multi-media conference room for special events. In addition, Point Park University is negotiating an internship program with Stage AE where Sports and Entertainment Management Program students can get hand-on experience.

Stage AE serves beer, wine, and liquor, and general food items like hot dogs and nachos.  "This is not gourmet food we're serving but we expect that people coming to events here will eat at all the great nearby restaurants," says Lucas.  In other words, the venue is likely to be an economic  boom for the Northshore restaurant industry, which until now has relied mainly on sports crowds.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Source: Pat Lucas, PromoWest Productions

Photograph copyright John Farley

$110.5 million Pitt expansion projects will create 778 jobs

As part of their 12 year facilities plan that began in 2007, The University of Pittsburgh announced Monday that the Board of Trustees approved four major construction and renovation projects, as well as two lease extensions, totaling $110.5 million. In addition to creating new facilities targeting LEED certification and updating buildings for the expansion of new research opportunities, the projects are expected to create 778 construction jobs and produce $35,616 in annual property taxes.

The largest project, a $50 million addition to Salk Hall, entails building new laboratory and office spaces for the School of Dental Medicine and the School of Pharmacy. The facilities are registered to achieve LEED Silver certification and completion is expected by 2013. A $39.9 million renovation of four floors in Benedum Hall and the building of a mezzanine level will eventually accommodate laboratories and conference rooms.

A $13.9 million renovation of the Thomas E. Starzl Biomedical Science Tower will allow for the expansion of the Vascular Medicine Institute and School of Medicine's Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care. $6 million will be allocated for the renovation of Crawford and Langley Halls, where a new Department of Biological Sciences facility will be constructed, allowing bacteriologists and virologists working in those buildings to expand the scope of their research.

"A huge amount of the funds for the projects announced today came from the Commonwealth," says John Fedele, associate director of news for Pitt. "The Commonwealth allocates funding for construction and $50 million of the Salk Hall renovation comes from the Commonwealth, while $30 million was through the Commonwealth for Benedum Hall." The Starzl Tower project is being funded entirely through the National Institute of Health's National Center for Research Resources, and the majority of the funding for the Crawford and Langley Hall renovations comes from internal sources.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Source: John Fedele, University of Pittsburgh

$22 million sustainable reuse project transforms former Mt. Washington School

Abandoned for over 25 years and once the location of Mt. Washington's highest crime rates, the former South Hills High School building at 101 Ruth Street is being reused and transformed into a 160,000 square-foot sustainable and affordable mixed-use community asset as the South Hills Retirement Residence.

"The building fell into terrible disrepair," says Laura Nettleton, an architect at Thoughtful Balance Inc., who co-designed the building with Rothschild Doyno Collaborative. "There was a lot of water damage and the neighbors were dismayed when their property values fell."

Working with developers Rodriguez Associates, Sota Construction, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the architects installed 106 1- and 2-bedroom apartments for seniors, 22 of which are market rate and 84 that are age and income restricted. The ground floor contains a 7,500 square-foot space that will become a YMCA community fitness center and a 4,500 square-foot space that will become a daycare center.

The architects and developer expect to receive LEED Gold certification for the project, which contains sustainable features like a full-building spray foam insulation and an energy efficient mechanical system. The project team was awarded a grant for alternative energy systems, and there is a 27 kilowatt photovoltaic array on the roof and a gas fueled co-generation plant in the penthouse that generates power on site.

Funding for the $22 million project came from multiple sources, including the Pennsylvania Housing and Finance Agency, the URA, and Allegheny County.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Source: Lura Nettleton, Thoughtful Balance

Image courtesy Thoughtful Balance

Carnegie Library approves plans to renovate historic South Side branch

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Board of Trustees has unanimously agreed to make plans to renovate the South Side branch a top priority with funding to come from the Libraries for Life capital campaign that has set aside $2.7 million for renovating the aging building.

"The South Side does not have air conditioning and it's a little over 100 years old. It's not compliant with the guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act," explains Suzanne Thinnes, communications manager for the Carnegie Library. "We find that when libraries are renovated they bring a new excitement to the community. More people discover the library and we see our circulation and account numbers go up."

While the renovation process is in its early stages and an exact date for the project's completion is currently ambiguous, a community meeting is scheduled at the South Side branch on November 17 at 6 p.m. to hear from the community about what they'd like to see preserved and changed about the library. Karen Loysen of Loysen + Kreuthmeier is the architect for the project and the upcoming meeting marks the start of a public dialogue that will create a vision for the library hoping to satisfy as many people as possible.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Source: Suzanne Thinnes, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Image courtesy Carnegie Library

AIA Pittsburgh announces 2010 Design Award winners

The winners of AIA Pittsburgh's 2010 Design Awards were announced this month at the Design Pittsburgh event held at The August Wilson Theater.

EDGE Studio won the design and innovation award of excellence for their work on the Boathouse River Pavilion near the 40th Street Bridge. Koning Eizenberg received an excellence award for their preservation work on the Century Building in the Downtown Cultural District. Two awards were given in the category of regional and urban design. A certificate of merit was awarded to Studio for Spacial Practice for their Hill District Greenprint, and Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff + Goettel won an honor award for their design of the National Center for Youth Science Foundation.

The largest award category was architecture, in which seven various awards were bestowed. Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff + Goettel received their second award of the night for their West General Robinson Parking Garage. While the jurors made most of the decisions, the event also featured a People's Choice award based on a record 2,337 public votes that was awarded to Street Dixon Rick Architecture for Founders Hall at Juniata College.This year's categories included architecture, design and innovation, historic preservation, and regional and urban design.

Each year, a jury composed of design and architecture experts from a different city presides over the event, and this year's jury featured three architecture firm principals from Miami who critiqued 80 entries.

View all of the winners and photos here.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Source: Joseph Mewid, AIA Pittsburgh

Image courtesy AIA Pittsburgh


308 Forbes Avenue update: Penn Avenue Fish Company and two new loft apartments under one roof

Since purchasing the three-story building at 308 Forbes Avenue in 2007, Michael Clements has been transforming the long vacant property into a multi-use complex. Clements' first tenant, Penn Avenue Fish Company, opened their second restaurant location on the ground floor on October 12, and two large loft apartments on the upper floors are scheduled for completion by the end of November.

The building, which is Clements' first foray into development, took some time to complete. "Basically, I picked the worst time possible to start this project with the credit freeze happening just as things were getting underway," explains Clements. Bad timing or not, his project was completed with the help of Fourth River Development and The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership since it is part of the major redevelopment projects happening at and nearby Point Park University's Academic Village and Market Square.

Working with architect Robert Indovina, Clements used a variety of sustainable building techniques to transform the 850 sf and 950 sf lofts, space, from large windows that allow for natural light and high efficiency heating and cooling to water saving features, bamboo floors, and concrete counters. The apartments will lease from about $1,300 to $1,600 per month.

Having maintained a successful operation in The Strip District since opening in 2007, This is the second location for Penn Avenue Fish Company which opened in the Strip in 2001. The new location is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and serves a variety of fresh seafood lunch entrees and sandwiches. In the coming weeks, they plan to become BYOB friendly.  The restaurant's interior is hip, featuring brick walls and rustic redwood counters.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Source: Michael Clements, 308 Forbes Avenue developer

Photograph copyright John Farley

Stage AE will rock December with Girl Talk, Wiz Khalifa, and George Clinton lineup

Pittsburgh's newest entertainment venue, Stage AE, is scheduled to open around Thanksgiving weekend, and what's more, three great concerts have been scheduled for December. Who, you beseech? Only the likes of Pittsburgh raised, now nationally renowned artists Girl Talk and Wiz Khalifa, and funk gods George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic.

Anticipation has been building for the American Eagle sponsored, $12 million venue since ground was broken last March. Owned by The Pittsburgh Steelers and Continental Real Estate Companies, the venue was designed to fill an important missing market for Pittsburgh entertainment, that space between the stadium-filling megastars of yesterday and smaller acts that might only manage to fill a bar.

Indoor seating at Stage AE can hold 2,400, and a seasonal outdoor amphitheater holds an additional 5,500.  The indoor area boasts 22,000-square-feet of space, with an additional 30,000-square-feet of outdoor space in the warmer months.  With this setup, Stage AE should be able to accommodate a slew of acts that might not have found an appropriate Pittsburgh venue in the past.

"January is generally a slow month for touring, but we'll be really starting to amp up in March. The outdoor amphitheater will open in mid-May and stay open through September. You'll be seeing a lot more shows that usually only go through cities like Columbus and Washington D.C. coming through Pittsburgh in the future," says Pat Lucas, director of marketing for PromoWest Productions, which is in charge of Stage AE's operation.

Chartiers Valley High School alum Girl Talk, a.k.a. Greg Gillis, will mashup bits of Jay-Z, Roy Orbison, and hundreds of other clashing samples pulled from the last century of pop music for a double header on December 3 and 4. Speaking of samples, perhaps the most heavily sampled artist of all time, George Clinton and his cult-like band of musical freaks, will bring fans aboard the mothership on December 10. Taylor Allderdice High School alum, and genre-hopping rapper Wiz Khalifa closes the month on December 16.

All tickets go on sale through Ticketmaster this Saturday at 10 a.m. Tickets for Khalifa are $23, $28 for Clinton, $22 for one night of Girl Talk, or $40 for both nights.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Source: Pat Lucas, PromoWest Productions

Image courtesy of KDenny and Partners

The Intentional Citizen is the theme for the Design Excellence Lecture Series

How does a community shape itself? The Community Design Center of Pittsburgh will address the question head on in the coming months during their third annual Design Excellence Lecture Series. The Lecture Series was created in 2008, in order to promote a dialogue about decisions regarding public planning and design, not only for design experts, but anyone interested in developing a broader understanding of these issues.

"The theme of this year's lecture series is The Intentional Citizen, which we envisioned as building on last year's theme of The Intentional City, so it's really gearing the speakers and discussion towards civic engagement and public discussion," says Kate McGlynn, community programs manager for The Community Design Center of Pittsburgh.

The first event of the lecture series on November 1 features speaker Dr. Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer. Lukensmeyer's experience includes being the founder and president of AmericaSpeaks, a consultant to the White House Chief of Staff, and Chief of Staff to the Governor of Ohio. According to McGlynn, Dr. Lukensmeyer will be speaking about civic engagement and its influence on public policy.

On January 31, Maurice Cox, a professor of architecture at The University of Virginia, and former mayor of Charlottesville, Va, will be presenting on how design can influence quality of life. Given Cox's experience in both design and public leadership, it should be a highly informative lecture. The series concludes on April 4, with MarySue Barrett, President of Chicago's Metropolitan Planning Council since 1996.

Following each lecture event, there will be a panel discussion with local experts on the topic with a reception afterward.  Each of the three events will be held at Point Park University Center at 414 Wood Street, and begin at 6 p.m. Tickets can be purchased individually at the price of $20, or $45 for the entire series. Student tickets will be sold for $10 exclusively on the night of each event. Preregistration for the popular event series is recommended, and tickets can be purchased online.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Source: Kate McGlynn, Community Design Center of Pittsburgh

Image courtesy of the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh

Construction begins on first phase of Point Park's $244 million Academic Village

Last Sunday, Point Park University began construction on the first phase of its $244 million Academic Village Initiative, a massive effort to rejuvenate the campus and surrounding areas of downtown Pittsburgh. The first phase entails a streetscape improvement project along the Wood Street Corridor, and simultaneous construction on a new park and restaurant at the intersection of Boulevard of the Allies and Wood Street.

After University Architect Elmer Burger, in collaboration with GAI Consultants Inc. and the University, produced a design for the first phase in fall of 2008, the University received a $3.95 million grant from the Pennsylvania Community Transportation Initiative. Over the next 18 months, major construction will be done along Wood Street, from Fort Pitt Boulevard to Third Avenue, which will improve transit around the University, and beautify the neighborhood. New curbs and sidewalks will be put in place, new signaling and signage will be installed, new handicapped ramps will be built, and the street will be repaved. Frontier Elm trees, which produce leaves of very rich colors, will be planted along Wood Street.

In the coming weeks, construction will begin on a new park, which is separate from the Wood Street improvement initiative in terms of funding, but part of the overall Academic Village Initiative. "It's a combination of planted and paved areas. We've been looking at the possibility of an LED projection on one wall," says Burger.  "It's pretty much the center of our campus, and this will be one of the few open areas where people can sit and gather outside."

Additionally, Point Park University will be performing structural improvements to their building at 100 Wood Street, which includes the creation of a new restaurant on the ground floor. While plans for what they will serve are still underway, Burger says that it will feature large amounts of daylight and outdoor cafe seating, which will open out into the new park. The park, and possibly the restaurant, is expected to be completed by the end of next summer, just in time for the new school year.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Source: Elmer Burger, Point Park University


Sustainable cafe coming soon to Point State Park

Construction began this week on Cafe at the Point, a new $567,000 sustainable cafe and patio area in Point State Park. The project, which is part of the ongoing effort to transform the Point into a more attractive destination  for families and visitors, was made possible with a donation from PNC Financial Services, with additional support from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Riverlife.

The cafe will be located off the pathway on the southern side of the park, with a terrace that will provide space for tables, and various design features that will highlight the historical significance of the Point. While the project is a collaborative effort between PNC, Riverlife, and the DCNR, Pfaffmann and Associates handled the design, which all parties expect to receive LEED certification. Construction is being carried out by DiMarco Construction Company.

Cafe at the Point will contain a living roof, as well as plant covered walls. The cafe will make extensive use of natural lighting, high efficiency light fixtures, a storm water control system, local building materials, and feature a large amount of recycled steel and masonry.

The cafe is scheduled for completion by Spring of 2011, and while a concessionaire has yet to be selected, the DCNR says the focus will be on family-friendliness and affordability.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley
Source: Christina Novak, DCNR

Image courtesy of Riverlife


Community and civic leaders celebrate the completion of Braddock's Field Development Project

On September 23, community members and leaders gathered in North Braddock to celebrate the completion of the final six homes of Braddock's Field Development Project, designed by architects Lami Grubb. The five year, $7.6 million development initiative consists of 30 affordable housing units in Braddock and North Braddock, new basketball courts, a renovated bus stop, landscaping, infrastructure improvements, and the transformation of Maple Way into a pedestrian only walkway.

Three of the six new constructions, which are three bedroom homes averaging about 16,050-square-feet, are already under agreement. The other 24 homes, built over the last several years, have all been occupied by this point. The units are priced between $65,000 and $70,000, and those dollars go towards the repayment of the Mon Valley Initiative's loans.

The completion of Braddock's Field Project is a major feat for revitalization in the Mon Valley, as construction involved the demolition of 20 abandoned houses, and the consolidation of 50 tax delinquent vacant lots plaguing the Braddock area. The project was made possible through a partnership between the Mon Valley Initiative, BEDCO, and North Braddock Cares, with financial assistance from the Allegheny County Development Corporation, PHFA, DCED, the Federal Home Loan Bank, and MVI.

"With the completion of Braddock's Field Project, we've created affordable housing, developed recreational opportunities, and provided service programs to attract families and encourage growth in those communities," says Dan Onorato, county executive for Allegheny County. "This project not only eliminated blight by redeveloping vacant and abandoned buildings, but it also helped us put thousands of dollars back on the tax rolls for these two communities."

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Source: Richard Ranii, housing manager for Allegheny County Department of Economic Development
Writer: John Farley

Image courtesy of Allegheny County Department of Economic Development


Total transformation of Allegheny Public Square moves forward with completion of final design phase

The City of Pittsburgh, in partnership with The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, community members, and Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture, have completed the second major phase of design for the revitalization of the Northside's Allegheny Public Square Park.

Since San Francisco based Cochran won the competition in 2007 to produce the final design for the park, a large amount of redesign has been done to the original plans, based on the concerns and wishes of the community and various stakeholders.

"To her credit, after three or four community meetings, Andrea went back to the drawing board and came back with a refined design that has been lauded, and I think reflects the community input extensively," says Chris Seifert, deputy director of The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh.

With the final designs completed, the project will go to bid for construction next March, with an estimated construction budget of $3 million. Over $4 million of the estimated $6 million overall budget has been raised. Due to the economy, the capital campaign was delayed for a brief time, but was able to get back on course last Spring.

By 2012, what is now merely a sunken concrete area in very poor condition will be transformed into huge public green space with sophisticated sustainable systems in place. In addition to a large meadow area, six dozen trees will be introduced to the park, along with a variety of low-maintenance native species. A large piece of public art will be installed in the center of the park, which will feature fog spraying devices to reflect light and allow visitors to cool off in the hot summer months.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Source: Chris Seifert, The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh
Writer: John Farley

Image courtesy of The Children's Museum

How sustainable is architecture? $2 million PITT study will answer the question

Researchers at The University of Pittsburgh have begun a four year, $2 million federally funded study in order to explore more deeply how various sustainable building techniques are actually impacting our environment.

"We're using a scientific base model called life cycle assessment, and what we're doing is we're moving from a kind of a static predictive model to a dynamic model, so we'll be able to track the energy performance," says Melissa Bilec, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pitt's Swanson School of Engineering, who is leading the study.

Bilec received an Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation grant in Science in Energy and Environmental Design for the study from The National Science Foundation, which will be used to lead her team of PITT and CMU researchers. The importance of this study lies in its intention to recalibrate building life cycle assessments, the process which analyzes a building's prospective impact on the environment over its entire lifetime. Strides in sustainable building over the years have outpaced much of the life cycle assessment criteria. For example, life cycle assessments currently look at the emissions produced when carpeting is manufactured, but not the gases emitted by adhesives in the carpeting in a building over many years. Bilec's team hopes to address these types of gaps in life cycle assessments to create a greener future for building.

The team will look at case studies of current sustainable buildings, and also distribute electronic surveys to professionals in the green building field who frequently use life cycle assessments, in order to find out what's lacking in the current assessment model. Over the next four years, they will use the information they collect to build a digital interface that will predict the potential environmental impact of a given building. Bilec hopes to create a public component of the study as well, as part of the final phase.

"We hope to display that information on an iPad like kiosk, where users can learn about their behaviors, and learn how they will ultimately impact the performance of the building," says Bilec.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Source: Melissa Bilec, University of Pittsburgh
Writer: John Farley

Major renovations at One and Two PNC Plaza and Heinz Hall garden

Huge renovations are expected to be completed at One and Two PNC Plaza by November. The project, which began in early August, "will feature a new four-toned terrazzo paving surface that will bring a cohesiveness and identity to the plaza," says Fred Solomon, vice president of corporate communications for PNC Financial Services.

According to Solomon, the emphasis for this construction is on sustainability, with landscaping features like drought-tolerant native plants and an irrigated rainwater collection system. High recycled content materials were used extensively, new planters composed of granite removed from the PNC One Plaza site, and a waterproofing system made with 25% post-consumer recycled tire rubber.

The architecture firm La Quatra Bonci designed the plaza, and PNC used a three shift construction schedule to minimize noise and disruption during business hours.

Another significant downtown renovation was completed last week, with the reopening of the Heinz Hall garden. The $3 million two phase project began last winter, after the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra realized their building's famous garden waterfall contained a slow leak into the basement. The sidewalks around Heinz Hall were dug up and replaced, and the waterfall had to be excavated and waterproofed.

"The waterfall is a major component of the garden, it brings out the garden's ambiance and beauty," says Jim Berthen, vice president of public affairs for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Now that it is reopened, visitors can once again escape from the downtown hustle and bustle for lunch at the garden, catered by The Common Plea restaurant.

Additionally, a new outdoor brick walkway was built as part of the renovation. Bricks can be purchased for $250, and dedicated in writing to your loved one. For $350, you can purchase a dedicated brick paying homage to your pet, as part of the new Paws program. The extra hundred dollars will be donated to the animal rescue league, or animal shelter of you choice. Bricks can be purchased by calling The Pittsburgh Symphony, or online.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Sources: Fred Solomon, vice president of corporate communications for PNC Financial Services
               Jim Berthen, vice president of public affairs for The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Writer: John Farley

Image courtesy Jetson Green


Support the Braddock Carnegie Library at Library Pop!

Help support Andrew Carnegie's first public library this Saturday, by having fun, enjoying food, making cool stuff and exploring the normally closed off areas of the beautiful Braddock Carnegie Library at Library Pop!

Library Pop! is a unique collaboration between The Andy Warhol Museum, the Carnegie Braddock Library, Neighborhood Screen Printing Shop, and Levi's.

"The library is a really incredible building, and like all of Carnegie's libraries it was really a community resource," says Dana Bishop-Root of the Neighborhood Screen Printing Shop and Transformazium. "Unfortunately, over time lack of funding and resources made the center narrow down, so that the library now only has one area open for books."

All that will change on Saturday, when the entirety of the library reopens for the public to explore, free of charge. Levi's has donated screen printing equipment for the event, which will be available for visitors to make custom t-shirts and tote bags. There will also be book binding workshops, with volunteers to help you use a letterpress. Braddock residents will be serving a wide variety of food.

The Braddock Carnegie Library is not part of the State library system, and in recent years narrowly escaped demolition. The organizers of Library Pop! believe that this event will spark a renewed wave of excitement about the library. Although the event is free, they request donations to help make the library a more sustainable and community enhancing vehicle.

"I think we've restricted the way we think about libraries, but books are very alive, and libraries can be community centers. In the last year, the library has been very special, because no matter what state Braddock is in, the library has been very alive. It is a space that the public feel like they can come to, and are figuring out more and more how to utilize," says Bishop-Root.

Sign up
to receive Pop City each week.

Source:  Dana Bishop-Root, Neighborhood Screen Printing Workshop
Writer: John Farley

Image courtesy Library Pop!

Explore Pittsburgh's neighborhoods with the "Walking Our Mainstreets" series

The second annual "Walking Our Mainstreets" tour series begins this Saturday, September 25th in Lawrenceville, and promises a slew of unique views into what's happening on Butler Street.

A collaboration between the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation and the URA, the "Walking Our Mainstreets" series features free expert guided walking tours of seven mainstreets, from this Saturday to November 6, which last roughly an hour and a half.

"The tours were so popular last year, because people not only hear about the architecture and history on a tour, but they also hear about the challenges that the main street managers are dealing with, the changes that are happening, and they really get to have an intimate look at how we can use these historic main streets as a point of community revitalization," says Louise Sturgess, executive director of PHLF.

Sturgess says this year's tour series will feature exciting new routes and guides, who will come to the tour with specialized perspectives on their given neighborhood. In addition to Lawrenceville, other events will explore Bloomfield, South Side, The Strip District, Allegheny West, West End Village, and East Liberty.

Besides the Mainstreets series, PHLF hosts a number of other walking tours in Pittsburgh. This Saturday, they will offer the Fifth and Market Downtown Walking Tour, which will explore the newest places to eat, shop, and explore in downtown Pittsburgh. On Sunday, Sturgess will guide a morning tour, beginning at the Heinz History Center, which promises awesome downtown views. PHLF has also been running Car Free Walking Tours on Saturdays in conjunction with Bike Pittsburgh. The final Car Free Tour will take place October 2.

To find out more information click here. To make reservations for any of the tours, email Mary Lu Denny.

Sign up
to receive Pop City each week.

Source:  Louise Sturgess, executive director of PHLF.
Writer:  John Farley


New Shadyside townhouses building material saves up to 80% on heating and cooling

Two new homes, built with innovative energy efficient materials and design, are nearing completion in Shadyside. The 2,100 square foot townhomes at 5433 Elmer Street feature polysteel insulated concrete forms, an affordable building material that can save up to 60% on heating and cooling costs.

"It's the only way to build. Once you use this product, you love it. Anytime an architect uses it, they're sold," says Jason Lardo, president of Integrity Construction Company, Inc., who are the builders for the project.  Integrity have been building exclusively with the material for ten years, because of its exceptional strength, r-40 insulation value, four hour fire rating, and 50 decibel soundproof wall rating. While geothermal heating and cooling systems can offer similar energy saving benefits, Lardo points out that his method can achieve nearly the same efficiency at a vastly cheaper price, by building with a strong base material, 95% efficient furnaces, ten inch Insulright spray foam in the ceilings, and 1 1/2 ton air conditioning units.  Integrity worked closely with architect Harry Levine and project manager John Frey to maximize the energy efficiency and space of the rectangular design-built homes, which are intended to complement the architectural vocabulary of the neighborhood.  The homes will be ready within thirty days.

The houses each feature three bedrooms and three and a half bathrooms, with access to a roof that overlooks Shadyside, and two car garages. Interesting features can be found throughout, such as sprawling open first floor layouts, and large retractable windows that open up the wall atop the garage spaces. Lardo estimates the heating costs will top out at around $80 per month, due to the insulated concrete forms.

Integrity Construction Company, Inc. was launched twelve years ago, and has since built many of the houses in and around Pittsburgh that employ insulated concrete forms, and according to Lardo, their focus is on building more energy efficient homes in the city.

"We're big believers in Pittsburgh, and we just want to do our part to make it a better place," says Lardo.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Source: Jason Lardo, president of Integrity Construction Company, Inc.
Writer: John Farley

Photograph copyright John Farley



Paramount Pictures Film Exchange hosts first open house on September 22

Next Wednesday, September 22, the Paramount Pictures Film Exchange invites the general public into its building for an open house. The event will include guided tours showcasing the building's rich cinematic history, plans for the future, film screenings, and live music.

"This building represents a forgotten period of film history, in which Pittsburgh was very important," says project manager Rick Schweikert, who purchased the building last January.

Built in 1926, the 8500 square-foot building was first used as a screening room and vault, back when Paramount was more like a distribution center for renegade filmmakers than a major studio. Stars the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Cecille B. DeMille graced the screening room, as they toured with their famous films.

The building hasn't been functional since the 1960's, so there's been a great deal of renovation since it was purchased this year. Schweikert established the building as a corporation, PFEX, which anyone interested in investing in the community can buy into. Architect Jason Roth helped the budding corporation replace the roof, and is helping reinstall utilities, and fix the windows. A lot of work must be done still, and half of the shares are still up for grabs.

Schweikert hopes that by showing off the building, he'll be able to locate the rest of the investors, so that the space can be fully transformed into a café with live music performances, a screening room, and second floor offices. A theater company will eventually have space on the first floor. The open house will begin at 10 a.m and go to 10 p.m. Live music and films will start at 7 p.m., with performances by Bob and Jeff and Rustic Cowboys.

The Paramount Pictures Film Exchange Building is located at 1727 Boulevard of the Allies. Reservations can be made through email at rpschweikert@verizon.net.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Source: Rick Schweikert, project manager
Writer: John Farley

Image courtesy PFEX

The Fairmont update: hotel receives LEED Gold certification and introduces new jazz program

On August 24th, the Fairmont Pittsburgh announced its receipt of LEED Gold certification, making it the only LEED certified hotel in the city.

"We are proud to continue Fairmont Hotels & Resorts' tradition of operational sustainability and responsible tourism here at the Pittsburgh location," says Leonard S. Czarnecki, general manager of the Fairmont. "In fact, Fairmont Pittsburgh is the first LEED certified project for Fairmont, and we are looking forward to growing our reputation as a responsible member of this community."

The luxurious Fairmont Pittsburgh, designed by Gensler architects, opened on March 29, 2010 as part of Three PNC Plaza, a 23-story multi-use complex owned by PNC Financial Services. "The owners of PNC Bank, who own this building, are very passionate about LEED Certified buildings. They have one of the largest collections of LEED certified buildings in Pittsburgh," says Joan Harvey, director of marketing for the Fairmont.

The Fairmont achieved Gold certification, the second highest level of the U.S. Green Building Council certification system, with a variety of innovative sustainable features. The Fairmont was built to a large extent from materials recycled from the previous site on which the building now stands. Approximately 99% of the waste produced during construction was successfully diverted from landfills. Additionally, the Fairmont features a large number of energy saving features and appliances, such as water conserving fixtures that save about 930,000 gallons of water annually, a restaurant that uses local ingredients, and guest room furniture sourced from within 50 miles of Pittsburgh.

In addition, the Fairmont will begin the Jazz at Andy's series beginning September 8. From 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and from 6 to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, the lobby bar will host some of the most talented jazz acts in town in a hip and classy setting.  You can learn more about the schedule at Andy's website.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Source: Joan Harvey, director of marketing for The Fairmont Pittsburgh
             Leonard S. Czarnecki, general manager for The Fairmont Pittsburgh
Writer: John Farley

Photograph copyright John Farley

E Properties & Development restore abandoned Lawrenceville houses

E Properties and Development is nearing completion on the transformation of two blighted properties on 38th Street in Lawrenceville, contributing to the major revitalization efforts taking place on the hill between Butler Street and Penn Avenue.

The two connected townhouses at 234 38th Street sat neglected for some time, until E Properties and Development principal Emeka Onwugbenu purchased them last June.

"In terms of challenges, people suggested that the properties be demolished," says Onwugbenu. "Our team of architects and engineers created value-based solutions that would restore the structural stability of each building while building on its architecture."

Onwugbenu and architect Andrew Moss extended the foundations of the houses to create a more open environment with two added rooms, and installed bamboo floors throughout the buildings. They are also raising the second and third floors, and installing clear story windows, which will allow light to pour through the master bedrooms that will open into unique balcony decks overlooking downtown. The exterior, which is currently composed of vinyl siding, will be swapped out for cement board side material. Coldwell Banker has signed on to market the homes, which will start in the low $200,000 range, and are slated for move-in by Thanksgiving.

Onwugbenu, originally from Nigeria, attended Penn State for industrial engineering, and is currently in his final semester of the MBA program at CMU. He started E Properties and Development in 2007, in order to create unique value-added properties, which mix traditional design with a modern feel.

In addition to the homes at 234 38th Street, architect Andrew Moss is currently building his dream home one block away at 221 38th Street. Two other homes, at 236 and 238 38th Street, are currently being renovated by private owners, within steps of the 234 buildings.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Source: Emeka Onwugbenu, principal of E Properties and Development
Writer: John Farley

Image courtesy Emeka Onwugbenu


Friendship House Tour highlights "innovation and tradition"

Be sure to purchase your tickets in advance for the 17th annual Friendship House Tour on September 19, which this year focuses on houses exemplifying tradition and innovation. 

The tour will allow visitors to explore seven homes that have been extensively renovated by their owners, in order to highlight either historic preservation, or unique redesign.

"Friendship is an incredible community with unique homes and homeowners who welcome diversity, appreciate historic and distinctive architecture, and embrace preserving the buildings and green spaces for future generations," says Kim Mangan, house tour committee co-chair.

Some of the highlights include Dan Holland and Kasia Sudol's 19th century house on 127 Roup Avenue, which respects the original floor plan, but features a slew of contemporary conveniences and touches. Another home to check out is Robin Snyder's at 108 South Fairmont Street, which boasts a specially designed mud room and vaulted third floor ceiling.

In addition to the historic houses, guests will also be invited to tour four apartments at the Glass Lofts at 5491 Penn Avenue. Each of the lofts has been personalized by its owner, with a wide variety of quirky designs.

As an added bonus, visitors will be offered free food from an assortment of the finest restaurants in the East End.

The Friendship House Tour is organized by a seven member committee, with the help of individual homeowners interested in displaying their homes' historic architectural touches.

Tickets for the tour cost $20 the day of, or $18 in advance from Friendship House Tour.

Sign up
to receive Pop City each week.

Source: Emily Parkinson, media contact for Friendship Development Associates
Writer: John Farley

Image courtesy Friendship Development Associates


$18.5 million National Aviary expansion to open Labor Day weekend

The National Aviary is currently undergoing an $18.5 million expansion and renovation project known as Project Phoenix, which will add 25,000 square feet, target Silver LEED certification, introduce a more seamless environment, and provide more bird-friendly facilities.

"The building is a major work of architecture for Allegheny County. It's designed to be legible as a bird building, in other words, we want people to recognize it as being for birds," says Paul Rosenblatt, founding principal of Springboard Design, who are in charge of the expansion. Part of this bird-legibility entails the construction of a giant wing sculpture on the new Arch Street entrance to the Aviary.

In addition to the new entrance, which leads into an atrium and café, the focal point of Project Phoenix is the 125 seat Flight Zone Theater. "This theater incorporates sound, light, and bird performance. It's the first purpose built bird theater in the world," says Rosenblatt.

The building will also host a new bird holding area, an outdoor cage space for birds to get fresh air, fritted glass designed specifically to prevent birds from flying into it, and a Rooftop Raptor Theater for Raptor demonstrations. For humans, there will be a new education center, decked out with state of the art technology.

Some of the building's features which aim for LEED certification include the extensive use of recycled materials, parking spaces for energy efficient vehicles, and a light colored roofing material that reflects sunlight.

The expansion will be ready for visitors Labor Day weekend, although some additional work will be done through the end of September.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Source: Paul Rosenblatt, founding principal of Springboard Design
Writer: John Farley

Photograph copyright John Farley


Critical missing piece of the Heritage Trail along Route 28 to be completed in September

The Heritage Trail, which spans 21 miles along both sides of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers, will receive a vital missing piece, between the 31st Street Bridge and Millvale, by the end of September.

"Even though it will only be about a half mile long, I can't emphasize how critical it is, because it's a crucial link between the City and Millvale as the trail moves up the Allegheny," says Thomas Baxter, executive director of Friends of the Riverfront. Friends of the Riverfront are the project managers, and have been working closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation on the project. Michael Baker Engineering Inc. designed the trail, and it was built by Brayman Construction.

The reason this segment is so crucial is due to the danger of cycling or walking along Route 28, where the new segment of the trail is being built. While most trails in Pittsburgh tend to meander along the river banks, the new part of the Heritage Trail will actually be a long bridge structure, emphasizing both safety and the most scenic views of the Allegheny River.

The trail expansion is part of the Route 28 Relocation project, which the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Friends of the Riverfront have been planning for two years. "It's really important we build now," says Baxter. "Not only is this the right thing to do, but also there is a tremendous economy of scale by doing both projects at the same time."

The cost of both projects is $5 million, and many of the construction materials purchased overlap both projects, so it's difficult to gauge exactly how much is being spent on the trail alone, but it is roughly $2.8 million. Funding for the project comes from private sources, such as The Laurel Foundation and The Richard King Mellon Foundation, as well as from public sources, including the DCNR and DCED.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Source: Thomas Baxter, Executive Director of Friends of the Riverfront
Writer: John Farley



Brand new Propel Braddock Hills School opens for classes

Propel Braddock Hills, Propel's sixth and newest school, opened this Monday to 300 students, grades K through fourth, and high school grade nine.

Since Propel opened their first school in 2003 in Homestead, students of the public charter schools have been consistently outperforming students in traditional Pittsburgh public schools.

"At Propel, it's particularly evident that the teachers are incredibly passionate, and because we're a charter school, the teachers have a little more flexibility in the classrooms, which makes a difference," says Anne D'Appolonia, director of development for Propel.

After Propel's Woodland Hills Community School saw an overwhelming demand from local parents, and Propel East School was burdened with a 500 students waiting list, Propel decided to apply for the Braddock Hills charter in July of 2008.

The new facility is located in the former Builder's Square, a 42,000 square foot building, which underwent extensive redesign by TKA Architects. Some of the new features include a beautiful indoor courtyard painted with murals, multiple skylights, a state of the art computer center, and a creative arts room.

Joe Oliphant, the school's Principal, was the former Technology Director for Propel, and received the 2010 Leader of the Year award from the Pennsylvania Association for Education Communication and Technology.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Source: Anne D'Appolonia, director of development for Propel
             Jeremy Resnick, executive director for Propel
Writer: John Farley

Image courtesy Propel Schools

AIA Pittsburgh and the Sustainable Design Assistance Team to help revitalize the Route 51 corridor

A group of seven municipalities along 16 miles of Route 51, spanning from the Liberty Tunnel to Elizabeth, PA, are teaming up with local architects and the American Institute of Architects to try and solve some of the major infrastructural issues that have long plagued the corridor.

Community leaders and local architects from Pittsburgh, Whitehall, Brentwood, Baldwin, Pleasant Hills, Jefferson Hills, West Mifflin, and CMU's Remaking Cities Institute and Ruthann Omer, president of Gateway Engineers, have invited the AIA's Sustainable Design Assistance Team to help create a strategic plan to revitalize the Route 51 corridor during a three day workshop from October fifth through seventh.

"For quite some time there's been traffic congestion problems," says Jen Bee, an architect who's co-chairing the steering committee for the project with Anne Swager, Executive Director of AIA Pittsburgh. Adding to the traffic issue, Jen also cites blight, frequent flooding, and a lack of proper pedestrian pathways as problems that the SDAT team, a diverse group of architects, hydrologists, and other specialized professionals, will be working with the communities to solve.

On October fifth, the SDAT team will tour the corridor with civic leaders, local architects, and CMU students in order to explore the challenges, followed by a town hall style meeting, where community members can offer input into the plan. Intensive smaller meetings and brainstorming will occur over the next two days, which will ultimately result in a large-scale set of guidelines, which the municipalities will base their revitalization efforts off of over the following year. In addition, the AIA will offer $15,000 in funding for the project, and the SDAT team will return in October 2011 to oversee how the municipalities have utilized the suggestions in their comprehensive plan.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Source: Jen Bee, AIA LEED AP
Writer: John Farley

Image courtesy Jen Bee.


Allegheny County Office Building receives a sustainable, beautiful, and educational green roof

On Friday August 13, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato dedicated an 8,400 square foot green roof that's been constructed on top of the Allegheny County Office Building at 542 Forbes Avenue.

"The roof was designed more as an educational model, so our goal is to be able to bring people up there. We want to bring building owners and building operators up to the roof, and talk to them about the benefits of green infrastructure," says Darla Cravotta, County Special Projects Coordinator.

Planning for the roof began last August, when the Allegheny County Office received a $621,400 grant from the Department of Energy. The County selected Cuddy Roofing as the contractor for the project. Eisler Landscapes was responsible for planting the roof, and John Buck of Civil and Environmental Consultants provided monitoring equipment and protocol.

The roof was completed in mid-June, and features four different types of green roofing methods, including mat, tray, intensive, and semi-intensive systems. The roof was also designed with aesthetics in mind, and contains native shrubs, flowers, valleys, and rolling hills that reflect the geography of the region. Four data lockers, a weather station, a non-green control section of the roof, and 90 sensors monitor a number of variables that gauge the effectiveness of the roof, such as amounts of water retention, temperature, humidity, and energy savings.

"One of our largest rains, on July 9th, was an inch rain, and we maintained 60% of that. This is on a roof that is not fully matured, and if we had a fully matured roof, we would have retained 100%. We're seeing energy savings. We have very preliminary data that shows we're saving between six and seven thousand dollars per month already," says Cravotta.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Source: Darla Cravotta, County Special Projects Coordinator
Writer: John Farley

Photograph copyright John Farley

Development begins on new 185,000 square foot office building in Cranberry Woods Office Park

Pittsburgh based McKnight Realty Partners and Trammel Crow Company have signed a lease agreement to build a four story, 185,000 square foot office building on 17 acres of land in the Cranberry Woods Office Park.

400 Cranberry Drive will be the fifth building owned by McKnight on Cranberry Woods Drive, and it will be 50% larger than the other buildings, which boast a 98% occupancy rate. Completion of the building, designed by Herring & Trowbridge architects, and developed by C.B. Richard Ellis owned Trammel Crow Company, is expected by the second quarter of 2012.

"In terms of design, it's going to be brick and glass construction, and will feature dramatic two story atriums, and extensive landscaping. These are true Class "A" institutional quality assets," says Tripp Merchant, Vice President of C.B. Richard Ellis, who will be responsible marketing and leasing.

400 Cranberry Woods Drive will utilize an efficient large floor plate for ideal tenant functionality, and feature extensive landscaping in order to integrate the building into the natural surroundings as greatly as possible. Additionally, the building will have a parking ratio of 5 spaces per 1,000 rentable square feet.

The 327 acre Cranberry Woods Office Park, which opened in December of 1999, is located a quarter mile from I-79, and contains the Regional Alliance Learning Center. The center is a collaborative effort between regional universities, which offers education and training services to students.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Source: Tripp Merchant, VP of C.B. Richard Ellis
Writer: John Farley

Columbus Square update: Fourth River Development accepting bids for public infrastructure

Fourth River Development is accepting bids for the public infrastructure component of the massive Columbus Square project in the Manchester neighborhood on the Northside.

Bids from qualified contractors are due by August 16th, and call for construction of 4,050 yards of public roadway, 2,060 feet of concrete curb, 1,180 feet of public sidewalk, 3,350 yards of excavation and site demolition, storm sewer, electric, and cable utilities, traffic, parking, signage, erosion control, and landscaping.

The Columbus Square project has been in the making for four years, and is a public/ private partnership between the Manchester Citizens Corporation and the principles of Fourth River Development. When the project is completed, the lot that sat vacant for two decades will be filled with 31 new single family homes that are designed to fit into the architectural vocabulary of the surrounding neighborhood.

"We hope that construction will start late September, because the bids are due August 16th," says Sally Flinn, Principle of Fourth River Development. "We will issue a notice to proceed in September, and we anticipate this construction will take 6 to 9 months, depending on conditions."

Residential Development Construction Inc. will be responsible for building the homes, which will be completed in phases of five to six houses, depending on pre-sales. At the same time, the chosen public contractor will be working on the necessary components to make Columbus Square into a livable community.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Source: Sally Flinn, Principle of Fourth River Development
Writer: John Farley

Image courtesy Fourth River Development


Challenge grant generates $100,000 for Historic Religious Properties Program

Thanks to $25,000 in challenge grants from two anonymous donors, The Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation is reviving its recently troubled Historic Religious Properties Program, which provides matching grants to help congregations perform exterior maintenance on their facilities.

"Since 1997, we've been giving an average of 70 to 80 thousand dollars a year in grants.  When we hit economic hard times in 2010, we suspended the grant program, because there just wasn't enough money," says Carole Malakoff, coordinator for the religious properties program.  

With the grant program in limbo, two donors stepped up three weeks ago, giving the foundation 60 days to match the grants.  The foundation's President put up $12,500, and over 288 donors contributed gifts totaling $62,710, bringing the total grant package available for the 2011 grant cycle to over $100,210, making this the most successful annual appeal in the Pittsburgh History and Landmark Foundation's 46 year history.

Applications for grants will be due by December 1, 2010, and provide matching grants up to $10,000 to Allegheny County churches that are over 50 years old.  

"Over the years, the majority of our grants have gone to stained glass window work, roof and gutter repair, and masonry work," says Malakoff.

As a result of the generous outpouring of support, PHLF has decided to host a technical assistance workshop on September 20 at the Calvary Episcopal Church in Shadyside.  Experts will provide demonstrations to members of congregations on green building, handicap accessibility, and all that it entails to maintain a historic building.

"We sent out a letter in June to see if there was enough interest, and we've had 30 congregations call to say they are interested.  So, we've had a wonderful response, and we're still accepting people to come," says Malakoff.

The workshops go from 10:30 a.m. to two p.m.  Interested parties can contact Carole Malakoff at 412-321-3612.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Source: Carole Malakoff, coordinator for PHLF Religious Properties Program
Writer: John Farley

Franklin West nearing completion of former Ronald McDonald House properties

When Ronald McDonald House Charities of Pittsburgh needed to move from their beautiful Victorian mansions at 500 and 512 Shady Avenue in preparation for their move to new facilities in the Oakland Children's Hospital in 2008, they sold the homes to Franklin West, Inc, a family managed real estate company.  Since then, major renovations were done to the interiors of the buildings in order to transform them into spacious apartments that retain their historic charm.

Nine pre-existing apartments were renovated with new hardwood floors, silver finish appliances, and an elevator, and quickly leased last Spring.  The apartments rented for between $1,400 to $1,700 per month. Additionally, Ronald McDonald House had two large open spaces, where their offices were housed.  The final renovations on those spaces are being completed, and a one bedroom apartment will be available September 1st, with another one bedroom apartment will be available October 1st.

The towering red Victorian at 500 Shady Avenue is currently being prepared for renovation, which entails converting what was previously a 16 room boarding house into 10 luxury one and two bedroom apartments.  Franklin West says the apartments are scheduled for move in by next Spring.  The building will feature its own parking area, washers and dryers in each suite, and preservation of the original stained glass windows and fireplace mantles.

The architect behind the renovations on both properties is Kevin Wagstaff of Perfido, Weiskopf, Wagstaff, and Goettel.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Source: Caroline West, General Counsel for Franklin West, Inc.
Writer: John Farley

Image of 500 Shady Avenue courtesy Franklin West, Inc.




Mixed-income redevelopment East Liberty Place North is ready for tenants

Last Thursday, 100 East Liberty community members, along with The Community Builders Inc. and The Urban Redevelopment Authority celebrated the grand opening of the $12.3 million East Liberty Place North, a mixed-use and mixed-income redevelopment of the Northern section of the former East Mall high rise.

East Liberty Place North features 54 apartments, with rents ranging from $325 to $11,000 per month. In addition, the building contains 11,000 square feet of retail space, which is expected to fill up quickly. The Community Builders began construction on East Liberty Place North in March of 2009, which was designed by Strada, using a wide range of green building practices, which they anticipate will make the building eligible for LEED Gold certification.

"East Liberty Place North reflects our vision for creating vibrant city neighborhoods by combining the energy of residents and retail uses," says Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. "The new professionally managed apartments will provide spacious and quality housing options for both the former residents of the East Mall high rise, who lived in substandard housing for much too long, and newcomers to East Liberty, who have high expectations for what city life has to offer."

Demonstrating the growing demand for new housing in East Liberty, only four of the building's apartments have yet to be leased, and The Community Builders report that they have letters of intent with tenants for all of the commercial spaces on the building's ground floor.

Plans to transform the Southern part of the former East Mall high rise are currently in predevelopment, but The URA and The Community Builders anticipate East Liberty Place South will hold 75 apartments and 24,000 square feet of retail space.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Source: Gigi Saladna, Chief Information Officer for the URA
Writer: John Farley

Photograph copyright John Farley



Hide and seek for a new home at the Glass Lofts

After three years of planning and construction, the $6.4 million Glass Lofts development at 5491 Penn Avenue, in the heart of the Penn Avenue arts district, is ready for residential occupancy, and they're inviting interested buyers to a quirky open house event on the evening of Thursday, July 22.

Friendship Development Associates, with the help of Obscure Games Pittsburgh, is hosting the Glass Lofts Hide and Seek event in the building, where guests can have free run of the building's excellent hiding spaces, such as retractable glass garage doors and open-air balconies. An assortment of free food will be provided by the contemporary American bistro, Avenue B.

The Glass Lofts were designed by architect Arthur Lubetz, and feature high efficiency heating and cooling, low impact materials, high ceilings with skylights, and concrete floors. The eighteen loft spaces, which will be set for move-in by the beginning of August, range from 845 to 1,873 square feet, and start at $180,000. In addition, the Glass Lofts features several artist studios, and a 3,200 square foot restaurant space.

If you'd like to come hide, seek, eat, or receive more information, you can contact Sarah Dileo at 412-441-6147 extension 7, or at sarah@friendship-pgh.org.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Source: Sarah Dileo, Marketing and Communications Manager for Friendship Development Associates
Writer: John Farley

Photograph copyright John Farley

Architecture for Humanity invites you to a photo scavenger hunt for urban renewal

Architecture for Humanity Pittsburgh is hosting a fun event for a good cause on Saturday, July 24.

Your mission is to assemble a two to five person team, armed with digital cameras and transfer cables, for a photographic scavenger hunt.  Teams will explore a route by foot, starting at Voluto Coffee and ending at The Sharp Edge, documenting the beautiful and the ugly in Pittsburgh's neighborhoods. 

"We're going to finish with a happy hour at the end of the scavenger hunt, where we'll look at the photos, and talk about the locations, using them as a starting tool for discussion," says Architecture for Humanity member Sophia Berman.  The participants will pose questions about the spaces they've photographed, such as, "could we put a bench here, could we fix this place up, and who do we need to talk to in order to get these projects going," Sophia adds.

Prizes will be awarded to the teams that produce photographs which best identify needs that could be met, and include a $50 gift certificate to Construction Junction and a four class pass to BYS Yoga on the Southside.  Architecture for Humanity will also be selling screen printed t-shirts and bags at the event.

Registration for the scavenger hunt begins at Voluto Coffee on 5467 Penn Avenue at 9:30 a.m.  The hunt will end at The Sharp Edge on 302 St. Clair Street at four p.m.  Registration for student teams is $15, and $25 for professional teams.  Pre-registration is encouraged, which can be done by contacting Architecture for Humanity by email.

Architecture for Humanity Pittsburgh is a grassroots organization that provides pro-bono design services for the purpose of improving the city.  Some of their past projects have included designing a fence in Lawrenceville, to make a vacant lot more appealing as a community space, and making dollhouses out of recycled products for under-privileged children. 

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Sources: Sophia Berman, Architecture for Humanity
Writer: John Farley

Image courtesy Architecture for Humanity.





Plans to convert Allegheny West's warehouse district into lofts gaining momentum

"Allegheny West is a really charming neighborhood, with very distinct characteristics and architecture," says Paula Maynes.  "In between the industrial zone north of the neighborhood and the residential zone, there is an old warehouse district that has the potential to become a very exciting and vital loft district with close proximity to downtown."

Maynes' architecture firm, Maynes Associates, was contracted by the Allegheny West Civic Council in 2007 to develop an urban design analysis of the neighborhood, in order to define the characteristics that make it unique, so that they could be successfully carried into what is slated to become a massive loft district. 

That analysis and its suggested improvements have culminated in the Civic Council's Loft District Master Plan.  Currently, there are four large vacant warehouse properties that the plan proposes be converted into lofts, including the historic former Stables Building, the Hipwell Factory, and the Value-Added Foods building. 

"The AWCC's goal is to preserve and transform the late nineteenth century industrial corridor along W. North Avenue into an exciting mixed-use area that will include green spaces, a community garden, a dog walk park, new lighting, street landscaping, and enhanced traffic patterns," says AWCC President John McDanel.

While the overall planning process is still being explored, sales for at least two of the buildings are becoming tangible.  The sale of the Hipwell Factory is nearing completion.  The buyer is the head of Smart Solutions, who plans to rent a number of spaces, house his company headquarters in the building, and live there with his wife.

Last month, the AWCC, along with Re/Max Select Realty Agents and the Northside Leadership Conference, began offering tours of the 24,000 square foot Stables Building, priced at $325,000.  The Stables Building was built in 1895, has been designated a historic structure by the City, and features towering ceilings, large windows, and attractive brick walls; all the trappings of a fashionable loft complex.

After the success of the AWCC's Western Avenue Renewed! project, which resulted in the opening of half a dozen new businesses in Allegheny West, the neighborhood organization is making the loft district its main focus, and hopes for the future of the plan are running high.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Sources: Paula Maynes, Maynes Associates
              John McDanel, President of AWCC
Writer: John Farley

Image courtesy Allegheny West Civic Council








Preservation Pittsburgh announces design competition for reuse of the Mellon Arena

The Penguins will soon be moving their franchise to the newly constructed Consol Energy Center, leaving the Mellon Arena empty. Three years ago, the Sports and Exhibition Authority announced that the Mellon Arena would be demolished at their expense, and would be redeveloped as a parking lot for the Consol Energy Center. The non-profit Preservation Pittsburgh, along with a growing number of concerned citizens, believes that demolition isn't the answer. Preservation Pittsburgh is holding a design competition called Civic Minded, calling for creative proposals about how to best reuse the arena, in order to engage the community and demonstrate to local political leadership that alternatives to demolition exist.

What could the Mellon Arena be used for?

While there are arguments for both demolition and reuse, architect and Preservation Pittsburgh member Rob Pfaffmann believes that transforming the technically innovative dome from a symbol of urban displacement to a beacon of hope for the future will generate more economic development than demolition.  He has introduced ideas for a youth recreation center, food market, hotel, and restaurants in the arena.  If you have other ideas, Preservation Pittsburgh wants to hear them. 

The deadline for registration is July 15, but your actual submission does not need to be in until August 6.  A fee of $24 will be required for each submission.  If you wish to propose an adaptive reuse idea, you can fill out the form online.

"Fifty years ago, we made the mistake of tearing down our heritage when the arena was built and we demolished the Lower Hill District, and I'm afraid that today we're doing the exact same thing," says Scott Leib, President of Preservation Pittsburgh. "We're tearing down our heritage, instead of appreciating it, and finding a way to incorporate it into our future."

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Sources: Scott Leib and Rob Pfaffmann, Preservation Pittsburgh
Writer: John Farley

Image courtesy Preservation Pittsburgh.

Mt. Washington hotel project design approved

Mt. Washington is one step closer to housing a new building. The final design plan for One Grandview, a $90 million hotel and condominium project, was approved last week by the Pittsburgh City Planning Commission.

Last February, the Pittsburgh City Council approved necessary zoning changes for the project, which is spearheaded by Sycamore Grandview Development Company. This is the Company's first Pittsburgh project. Beau Beemsterboer, project manager of One Grandview, said they decided to build here because they saw an opportunity.

"Pittsburgh seems to be going through another renaissance," Beemsterboer said. "There's a lot of energy for Pittsburgh's future and a lot of people working to sort of reinvent Pittsburgh once more. We just want to be a part of it."

One Grandview will be a 20-story high rise at the intersection of Grandview Avenue and Wyoming Street, home of the former Edge Restaurant. It will feature a 163-room hotel, as well as 58 condominiums. Two restaurants are planned, in addition to a fitness/wellness center, meeting rooms and a public terrace with downtown views. A 472-car parking garage will also be built.

As for design, Beemsterboer said they want to retain the neighborhood feel, but also be worldly and modern. "We had to build something iconic, something to bring attention to the city and be the feather in the city's cap in terms of hospitality construction," he explained.

Now that the design is approved, the search for investors begins. "We hope to have our financing in place by Spring 2011, at which point the site will be ready for construction," Beemsterboer said.

Demolition of the Edge Restaurant building, along with several other abandoned buildings, will begin soon to make room for One Grandview.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Source: Beau Beemsterboer, Sycamore Grandview Development Company
Writer: Alex Audia

Northside Tomorrow receives proposals for redevelopment of the Garden Theater block

It was a great week for the continuing revitalization of the Northside, after it was announced that five major proposals were received from national and local developers looking to redevelop the Garden Theater block.

Northside Tomorrow LLC, a joint venture of Northside Central Neighborhood Council and the Northside Leadership Conference, issued a call in May for proposals to develop individual buildings or the entire block. The eleven buildings, maintaining various states of structural integrity, have all been gradually acquired by the Urban Redevelopment Association over the last several years.

Although the exact content of the proposals has yet to be released, "most of them involve a heavy residential component with limited retail services," says Kirk Burkley, Board President of Northside Tomorrow.

Northside Tomorrow held meetings with the community in order to create a master plan for the Garden Theater block, which they gave to interested developers to draft their own plans around the needs and desires of the Northside's residents and businesses. In addition, they have secured $7.5 million in financing for the project from the URA and Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development.

"This is an important milestone and we have much work to do. Community input will be key to selecting the best possible project partner for this transformative development," says Greg Spicer, President of the Central Northside Neighborhood Council.

The proposals will be presented at a community meeting in July, with a date and location to be announced on the project website.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley

Sources: Kirk Burkey, Board President of Northside Tomorrow, LLC
               Greg Spicer, President of Central Northside Neighborhood Council

Image courtesy GardenTheaterBlock.com



Pittsburgh architects win SEGD award for Monastery Street Park design

Pittsburgh based architects Loysen + Kreuthmeier won a Jury Award from the Society for Environmental Graphic Design's Award Program for their work in the Southside Slopes' Monastery Street Park.

The project, which began in 2007, was a team effort between Loysen + Kreuthmeier and landscape architecture firm Klavon Design Associates.

Previously, the site was a vacant lot filled with overgrowth. It contained, however, a greeting sign for the Southside Slopes, and a large set of concrete stairs, serving as the primary pedestrian route connecting the Slopes to the Southside Flats.

Loysen + Kreuthmeier have revitalized the site, by constructing a beautiful 48 foot steel sign and retaining wall with illuminated steel cutouts representing an abstract interpretation of the neighborhood.

"Like many other neighborhoods, the people who live here share this kind of magnetic attraction to what makes this place endearing, memorable, and one-of-a-kind. This project tries to capture that, and put the message out there for all to see," says architect Peter Kreuthmeier.

The SEGD jury lauded the design for its bold statement and elegant use of a single material.

Due to overwhelmingly positive community response, Loysen + Kreuthmeier will be constructing a second phase of the project later this summer. Part two of the project, called the Slopes Pylon, is a 16 foot solar powered marker for the gateway to the slopes, for the triangular site at the corner of South 18th and Josephine Streets.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: John Farley

Source: Peter Kreuthmeier, Loysen + Kreuthmeier

Photograph courtesy Loysen + Kreuthmeier



National Aviary raises final steel beam of $18.5M multiphase expansion

Last week the National Aviary marked the progress of its $18.5 million expansion and renovation with a topping off ceremony and a raising of the project's final steel beam.

The project includes construction of the Helen M. Schmidt FliteZone Theater for live bird presentations, films and educational programming.

"The FliteZone Theater will be the nation's first indoor educational theater designed to incorporate free-flight bird demonstrations as a critical part of conservation education programming," says Patrick Mangus, executive director of the National Aviary. "Conservation-focused classes and presentations will be designed to help educate visitors about individual bird species, and about the importance of wildlife, biodiversity and the preservation of natural habitats."

The project also includes the creation of new facades and a grand entrance along Arch Street; a new cafe operated by North Side's Bistro To Go with indoor and outdoor seating; an open-air rooftop Sky Deck for raptor demonstrations and special events; and a new education classrooms with state-of-the-art multimedia features. Significant renovations to the existing facility are also taking place.

Work is expected to be complete in September 2010, and to achieve LEED certification. In addition to the design being eco-friendly, it's also bird-friendly. Millions of birds die each year from collisions with glass windows, so to reduce bird strikes, the design will employ extensive use of fritted glass, a dotted material that lets in light while appearing opaque enough from the exterior for birds to recognize the glass as a surface rather than a transparent space.

The Aviary's expansion and renovation are designed by Springboard architecture firm, located in the River Walk Corporate Centre on the South Side.

The first phase of the project (the 2,3000-square-foot Penguins Point exhibit and renovated Main Hall) opened Memorial Day 2009. Construction on the Grasslands exhibit concluded in March 2010.

The National Aviary's building was originally constructed in 1952. The wetlands area and large greenhouse structure were added in 1968. 1996 saw the addition of the atrium area and gift shop, and a parking lot was added around that time as well.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Patrick Mangus, executive director of the National Aviary

Image courtesy of National Aviary


54-unit mixed-use East Liberty Place nears completion on Penn Ave.

East Liberty Place is nearing completion.

The four-story mixed-use, mixed-income development includes about 11,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and 54 residential units. No commercial tenant has been signed yet, but interest has come from some East End restaurateurs and from some neighborhood retailers who are already familiar with the market, says Tamara Dudukovich with site developer The Community Builders.

The new structure was designed by Strada with input from the community, and is part of a master development plan for connecting East Liberty and Garfield/Friendship via Penn Avenue.

The building fills the entire block between Penn Circle West and Beatty Street. Brick and metal siding are used to break up the facade and give it "pattern and rhythm" so it fits within the neighborhood context, says Dina Snider with Strada.

The project also adds about 15 street trees to East Liberty, as well a "tot lot" playground for residents.

Construction started about a year ago, and is expected to be complete by the end of this month.

East Liberty Place was designed to meet the LEED for Homes certification process, and has been built by Sota Construction.

Developer Community Builders has also developed the nearby New Pennley Place and Penn Manor Apartments adjacent to it. With East Liberty Place, The Community Builders now owns and managers 287 units in East Liberty.

So far, 45 of the 54 East Liberty Place units have been leased, and all of the 16 market-rate units have been leased. At market rate, the one-bedrooms are renting for $825 a month, and the two-bedrooms for $1,100.

"We're about two-and-a-half months ahead of where we expected to be at this point in time," says Dudukovich with The Community Builders. "This reflects a shift in how people find apartments. It proves that even mixed-income communities can be attractive to folks who have a plethora of choices."

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Dina Snider, principal, Strada; Tamara Dudukovich, regional director of development, The Community Builders

Image courtesy of Strada


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.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

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


$321M Consol Energy Center offers more seats, better views, eco-friendly design

Last week AIA Pittsburgh offered a tour of the new Consol Energy Center through its Young Architects Forum program.

The tour, attended by 60, was led by leaders from Oxford Development, including project manger Mike Bernard, and by Michael Maruschak from Chester Engineers, which is working with Sports & Exhibition Authority on the new hockey arena.

The Sports & Exhibition Authority of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County own the building. Populous (formerly HOK Sport) is the architect of record and PJ Dick/Hunt is the construction manager.

The tour showed off the $321 million, 18,087-seat arena from bottom to top--from the "elephant door" for the circus to the steel beam, signed by Penguins players, high above the uppermost catwalk.

The design features lots of steel and glass, with natural sunlight flooding the expansive, high-ceilinged public spaces. Views of Downtown--including of Mellon Arena (for now)--flash at every turn.

The arena, which is expected to achieve LEED Gold-certification, promises more legroom and more comfortable seats than what's at Mellon Arena. Seat installation started on the upper concourse level last month, and will finish on that level soon. The new arena also has greatly increased restroom capacity.

A major highlight of Consol Energy Center is its lack of obstructed views and its "top down loading" approach. Fans walk down to their seats, rather than up, and will even be able to see the ice as they're waiting in line for concessions. The enormous 15-by-25 foot HD JumboTron helps, too.

Not visible to the game-going fan is a labyrinth of offices, locker rooms and storage areas. The Penguins' locker room features an impressive steam room, and will include rooms for training and hydrotherapy, while the visitors' locker room is much smaller and more basic (at least it's not pink, like University of Iowa's infamous visitors' locker room). There are also two sets of auxiliary locker rooms, which will be used for NCAA and high school finals, meaning that six teams could essentially be at the arena at the same time.

Owner Mario Lemiex's office is understatedly small (he supposedly doesn't spend much time at his desk, Maruschak says), but Suite 66, named after Lemiex's longtime number, will be as ornate as anything. Situated directly next to the players' tunnel to the bench, the seating area will be reserved primarily for major sponsors.

The arena should be completed by August 1.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Michael Maruschak, Chester Engineers

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green


Condos on Penn: $6.4M Glass Lofts open model unit, almost ready for occupancy

The Glass Lofts condo building is nearing completion, and is expected to be certified by occupancy by May 1.

The model unit, staged by Christine DreGalla of Strip District-based Emphasis Interiors, opened during Friday's Geek Art/Green Innovators Festival in conjunction with Penn Avenue Arts Initiative's monthly Unblurred art crawl.

The $6.4 million project has been taking shape at the intersection of Penn Avenue and Fairmount Street since its mid-2008 groundbreaking. Units range from 831 to 1,959 square feet, and from $127,500 to $375,000. All units have polished concrete floors, high ceilings, Dwell magazine-worthy plywood walls and retractable glass garage doors that open to personal balconies. Many units also have skylights. The building features high efficiency heating and cooling, and low-impact materials. Indoor and outdoor parking will be available to condo residents.

The Glass Lofts was designed by Arthur Lubetz Associates Architects, and the general contractor is Sota.

None of the 18 units have been sold yet, but Matthew Galluzzo from Friendship Development Associates says that several are currently under agreement. Galluzzo says the condos' modern, industrial design and green features are only part of the appeal; the Keystone Opportunity Zone tax incentives are also a big draw (Galluzzo explains that, depending on income, a Glass Lofts condo could cost only $400 a month plus condo fees, which start at around $150 for the smaller units).

Plus, there's the ground-floor artist studios and restaurant/bar (details are classified for now, but more info will be released soon), as well as proximity to area amenities such as Voluto Coffee, the Quiet Storm vegetarian cafe, and a variety of hospitals, schools and grocery stores, including Whole Foods and Trader Joe's.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Matthew Galluzzo, Friendship Development Associates

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green


The Fairmont: 185-room eco-friendly luxury hotel opens its doors Downtown

Fairmont Pittsburgh officially opened Monday in the top 10 floors of the new Three PNC Plaza.

The 23-story Market Square development is the largest high-rise construction project in Pittsburgh in the last two decades, and one of the largest mixed-use buildings in the U.S. to be LEED-certified.

The luxury hotel, which is expected to achieve LEED Gold certification, is the newest of more than 60 Fairmont Hotels & Resorts worldwide.

The Fairmont features 185 guest rooms, 12,000 square feet of event space, and a 6,000 square-foot health club, as well as Habitat, a full-service restaurant, and its feature bar, Andys (named for Warhol and Carnegie).

Rooms feature LCD HDTVs, iPod docking stations, separate tubs and showers in each bathroom, and floor-to-ceiling windows.

The hotel's design celebrates Pittsburgh's "past and present as a leader in art and industry," says General Manager Len Czarnecki. Glass and steel are prominently featured, and guest rooms and public spaces highlight original pieces by Pittsburgh artists as well as artifacts uncovered during early site excavation, such as lithographs and hand-painted porcelain dolls from the late 1800s.

An opening event with Mayor Luke Ravenstahl was held on Monday. An invitation-only grand opening gala will be held on Sat., April 10.

Now through June, Pittsburgh residents can take advantage of a special offer that includes a room with a view of PNC Park for $179 a night, 25% off spa services and $75 credit at any of their dining venues.


Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Len Czarnecki, general manager, Fairmont Pittsburgh

Photograph courtesy of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts


UPMC Passavant opens LEED-certified $140M, 220,000 sf Patient Pavilion

After four years of planning and construction, UPMC Passavant in the North Hills has opened its 220,000-square-foot Patient Pavilion.

The LEED-certified facility was designed by Burt Hill, and P.J. Dick served as contractor. Total project costs were $140 million.

The seven-story Patient Pavilion, which has 88 private patient rooms, provides cancer, cardiac and spine care in new state-of-heart surgical and medical facilities. The Pavilion also houses an expanded emergency department that increases the hospital's capacity from 35,000 to 60,000 visits annually, and has concierge and valet services, patient and family resource centers and an outdoor healing garden.

Along with the new Pavilion construction, UPMC Passavant's entrance and exit routes have been redesigned and reconstructed to make arrivals and departures easier, and UPMC Passavant has created Cumberland Road, a new public thoroughfare that connects Babcock Boulevard with Peebles Road.

UPMC Passavant has evolved from a community hospital into a "world-class tertiary care clinic," says Teresa Petrick, president of UPMC Passavant. In the past six years, the hospital's inpatient volume has grown more than 30 percent, and the number of inpatient and outpatients who come to UPMC Passavant from outside of Allegheny County and Pennsylvania has doubled.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Teresa Petrick, president, UPMC Passavant

Image courtesy of UPMC


20 images, 20 seconds each: Pecha Kucha gets Pittsburgh creatives fast-talking

Since originating in Tokyo in 2003, the Pecha Kucha concept has spread to more than 260 cities around the world, including Pittsburgh.

And what concept is that? Creative types gather; creative types talk. Each person presents 20 slides of their work, and gets 20 seconds to talk about each slide. The dialogue is structured, but for all the confines, there's a lot of fun to be had, and a lot of different things to be seen and said.

Pittsburgh has already hosted several Pecha Kucha Nights, including its first-ever at the annual Design Pittsburgh awards in October 2008. The next Pecha Kucha Night is 7 to 11 p.m., Fri., March 19 at SPACE, 812 Liberty Ave., Downtown. Presentations begin at 8 p.m.

Friday's presenters include architect Terry Oden of Rothschild Doyno Collaborative; author and educator Carrie Zuberbuhler Kennedy; interaction designer Roderick McMullen of MAYA Design; interior designers Rachel Furmanski and Lindsey Masarik; Michael Hellein, co-founder of Bearded Studio; and Adam Murray with Adam Designworks and NXUS|5 Architecture and Design.

Hosted by local AIA and AIGA chapters, the evening aspires to entertain, and also to get Pittsburgh architects, designers, artists, crafters and visual storytellers talking--not only to the audience, but with one another.

"I think that whenever you give the design community the opportunity to get together and do something together, it demonstrates how in the creative process it is wonderful to include other people," says Anne Swager with AIA . "The benefit in the long term is making new connections, and going forward, using those connections to create."

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Anne Swager, executive director, AIA Pittsburgh

Photograph courtesy of AIA Pittsburgh


Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre breaks ground on student housing in Lawrenceville

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

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

Photograph courtesy of PBT


Aviary expansion progresses as new Grasslands exhibit sets March opening date

The National Aviary on the North Side has announced the opening of Grasslands, its newest exhibit space. The flight-free space will celebrate its grand opening Saturday and Sunday, March 20-21.

The exhibit highlights species native to grasslands around the world, such as Gouldian finches, paradise whydah, Sudan golden sparrows, shaft-tail finches, melba finches and blue ground doves. A boardwalk trail and simple rope railings will minimize the barrier between visitors and free-flying birds. The exhibit's plantscape includes sea oats, bayberry, birch and dogwood, as well as other greenery.

The opening of the Grasslands exhibit is part of the National Aviary's $23 million multi-phase expansion and renovation project, designed by Springboard architectural firm, located at the River Walk Corporate Centre on the South Side. The project is shooting for LEED Silver certification.

The first phase of the project (the 2,3000-square-foot Penguins Point exhibit and renovated Main Hall) opened Memorial Day 2009. Construction on the Grasslands exhibit started in December 2009.

Elements scheduled to be complete in fall 2010 include: the 125-seat Helen M. Schmidt FliteZone Theater, which will be the nation's first indoor educational theater built to incorporate free-flight bird demonstration; the rooftop Sky Deck theater for open-air raptor demonstrations and special events; a cafe with indoor and outdoor seating (the Aviary currently has no dining option); and classroom space with state-of-the-art multimedia features. The facelift will also add a new Arch Street entrance, which will feature an innovative, bird-friendly fritted glass window that will block reflections and reduce bird strikes, says Erin Estell with the Aviary.

"We're doing this entire renovation because we feel that by getting visitors to get close to the animals, they start to really care about them and want to do something to protect them in the wild," says Estell. "We're doing this because we want to protect wild birds."

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Erin Estell, assistant director, manager of the Helen M. Schmidt FliteZone Theater, National Aviary

Image courtesy of National Aviary


Incentives encourage shopping in under-construction Market Square

Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP) is making shopping even more fun by offering gift card opportunities to Market Square customers.

The marketing campaign's goal is to thank regular customers of Market Square establishments, and encourage new ones, says Hollie Geitner with the PDP. There are two ways customers can win the $25 gift cards: (1) Make a purchase at any participating Market Square merchant and be entered in a weekly raffle, or (2) take a photo of themselves with a purchase and a Market Square bumper sticker (available at participating merchants), and email it to the PDP to be posted on Facebook and voted on by other PDP Facebook fans.

The campaign runs March 1 through 31.

Local business districts have suffered this winter due to record amounts of snow, and Market Square has been hit especially hard, says Geitner, as it is already in the midst of a major construction project that limits access. Market Square is receiving a $5.1 million makeover to turn it into a pedestrian-friendly European-style piazza. The project, designed by Klavon Design Associates, broke ground in August 2009 and is expected to wrap up by July 2010.

The square's iconic 1902 Landmark Tavern closed in February, but the area has also seen some new businesses open recently (restaurants Las Velas and Bella Sera, and retailers Nettleton Shoe Shop and Larrimor's).

"We want a vibrant Downtown, and to have that we have to support the businesses that are here," says Geitner. "We want people to become engaged through this marketing campaign, to get creative. It definitely draws attention to the businesses. A lot of people don't realize what all is here. Market Square is more than just Starbucks and Primanti Brothers. There's Serendipity for handbags and accessories, and a dry cleaners and a floral shop and more."

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Hollie Geitner, Pittsburgh Downtown Parntership

Photograph courtesy of Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership


Head of Philadelphia planning commission to speak at Design Excellence Lecture Series

A good city doesn't happen by chance. Rich architecture, unique neighborhoods, lush landscapes, usable riverfronts--those are the result of deliberate planning and quality design; the result of intention. With the theme of just that--"The Intentional City"--this year's Design Excellence Lecture Series welcomes its second speaker, Alan Greenberger, who has been instrumental in Philadelphia's reemergence as a good city.

Greenberger has been with the City of Philadelphia since 2008. In addition to his role as head of the planning commission, he is also the Acting Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, and Director of Commerce. Prior to joining the city administration, he was in private practice for 34 years as an architect and planner. Among his notable projects are the Salvation Army Kroc Corps Community Center in Philadelphia, the West Chester University School of Music and Performing Arts Center, the renovation of Lehigh University's historic Linderman Library, new campus plan and pavilions at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, the America on Wheels Museum in Allentown, new campus plan and buildings for the National Foreign Affairs Training Center, and the mater plan for the Centennial District in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park.

"It always helps to see your own city through an outsider's perspective, and that will come out of the conversation with Alan Greenberger," says Anne-Marie Lubenau, AIA, president and CEO of event organizer the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh.

Lubenau says the Design Excellence Lecture Series, now in its second year, is so important because it helps connect residents with Pittsburgh's own current comprehensive planning process, which was launched several months ago. It is the first comprehensive plan the city is undertaking, and is examining elements including transportation, cultural resources and parks and green spaces.

The lecture series is sponsored by the Fine Foundation, the Laurel Foundation, The Pittsburgh Foundation, PPND, Point Park University and WDUQ 90.5. The event, which costs $20 to attend (buy tickets), will be held 6 to 8 p.m. at George Rowland White Theatre, University Center at Point Park University, 414 Wood St., Downtown.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Anne-Marie Lubenau, Community Design Center of Pittsburgh

Photograph courtesy of Community Design Center of Pittsburgh


Lawrenceville's Doughboy Square could see $30M commercial, residential development

With its striking statue and historic architecture, the Penn Avenue entrance to Lawrenceville is one of the grandest neighborhood gateways in the whole city. Yet Doughboy Square, as it currently stands, lacks much of the revived vigor of Lower Lawrenceville just a block down Butler Street.

The area, however, could soon be the site of a $30 mixed-use development spearheaded by October Development, which has been instrumental in reviving the North Side's Deutschtown (still known to many as the East Allegheny neighborhood). At a community meeting last week held at Enginehouse 25 on the Square, October Development leadership--along with the Lawrenceville Corporation and Lawrenceville United--presented the plan, which includes new residential, commercial, office and senior housing space along Penn Avenue between 34th and 35th Streets.

The plan, which will be done in several phases, will include about 25,000 square feet of retail, 40,000 square feet of office space, five to 30 residential units and lots of off-street, tree-lined parking.

The development team includes Bob Baumbach (residential architect), Ralph Murovich, Sr. (commercial architect), Grant Street Associates (commercial agents) and Coldwell Banker (residential agents). Al DePasquale of October Development said Dollar Bank is financing the project.

As for a timeline, DePasquale said they could start building in three to six months, but could not yet commit. Construction will depend on October Development's ability to acquire certain properties, and also on community feedback. Many community members expressed excitement about a collective vision for developing Doughboy Square, but would like to see more attention go into the design--they would like to see architecture with a "wow factor" that integrates into the area's historic aesthetic, and also speaks to Pittsburgh's role as a leader in innovative, green building.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Al DePasquale, October Development

Image of previous Doughboy Square plan courtesy of Lawrenceville Corporation, Pfaffman + Associates


Final approval given for rezoning: $90M One Grandview hotel/condo clears another hurdle

Pittsburgh City Council gave final approval yesterday for the rezoning of land in Mt. Washington that will streamline the construction of One Grandview. Following the unanimous 9-0 decision, the project must still be approved by the city planning commission before construction can start.

Groundbreaking could occur as early as next year.

"The zoning is key to move forward with the project, because without this change to mixed-use zoning, we would not be allowed to put a structure on that parcel that is consistent with a five-star hotel and condo," says Chris Beichner, executive director of Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation.

The 115-room luxury hotel and 55-condominium project, which is estimated to cost about $90 million, will be built on the site of the former Edge restaurant, which has been vacant for some 30 years. It will include a 500-car parking garage; a spa and fitness center; a public grand plaza with an outdoor dining area; and one, two and three-story condos. Some proposed elements include a classroom space where students could learn about the site's coal mining history and how the energy sector is still key in the Pittsburgh region, as well as a grand staircase from Station Square to the top of Mt. Washington that would serve as a tourist attraction. Additionally, One Grandview plans to connect the Mt. Washington hiking trail system through the site, says architect Luke Desmone.

Developer Steve Beemsterboer and architects Desmone & Associates have engaged the Mt. Washington community over the course of about 30 meetings in shaping what the project will look and feel like, and how it will impact the neighborhood. The original concept was scaled back so the building will not impair residents' views of Downtown. Desmone describes the asymmetrical shape of One Grandview as a "sail" that will bookend Mt. Washington and preserve the integrity of the skyline.

"I live in Regent Square. I frequently come down the Parkway, and when I pass through the tunnels, there's a spit second where the topography allows me to see our site. It's just a flash, a poof, then it's gone. The road turns and I lose it. Then I go around another bend and I see it again. And then I drive into the city, and it's there all the time," says Desmone. "It's going to be fun for me to watch this thing grow up from the ground. It's going to be an amazingly delightful experience I'm very much looking forward to."

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Chris Beichner, executive director, Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation, and Luke Desmone, AIA, LEED AP, principal, Desmone & Associates Architects

Image courtesy Desmone & Associates Architects


Dick's Sporting Goods opens expansive $150M corporate headquarters by airport

After three years of design and construction, Dick's Sporting Goods plans to fully occupy its new corporate headquarters by the end of February.

Employees are starting to move in now; about 1,200 Dick's employees will occupy the space initially.

The $150 million, 670,000-square-foot complex occupies 116 acres of land beside the main runway at the Pittsburgh International Airport in Findlay. The center is the first phase of what eventually could be a 2 million-square-foot complex.

The complex, which is pursuing LEED certification, includes a large hanger for the company's fleet of jets, as well as extensive recreational facilities and amenities for the staff. Highlights include a full health club with a basketball court, a couple racquetball courts, exercise machines and a running track as well as outdoor basketball courts and an outdoor soccer field and baseball diamond. There are also walking trails around the site, and a large lawn where Strada architect Edward Shriver says Dick's market researchers will be able to test equipment sold in the stores.

Strada assisted developer Horizon Properties as the architect, site planner and landscape architects. Mascaro Construction Company served as contractor, and DL Astorino was involved in the interiors.

"There's a very healthy lifestyle sort of culture at Dick's," says Shriver with Strada. "When we talked about the space itself, their idea was stadium meets lodge, so we used a lot of stone and wood elements to achieve that. And it was important to us to make a connection between the inside and the outside. The waterfall-like fountain in the every-season hall goes outside and feeds into one of the existing streams in the area, and from the hall there are views into the woods and out over the lawn."

The new Findlay complex is Dick's third corporate headquarters since moving from New York state into the Pittsburgh region about 15 years ago. Dick's now operates about 420 Dick's Sporting Goods stores in 40 states. The company also owns Golf Galaxy, Inc., with 91 stores in 31 states, e-commerce websites and catalog operations.

Dick's most recent former headquarters was about 200,000 square feet, says Shriver. "They were completely filled, converting filing and copy rooms into offices. They knew they needed more space. Dick's growth over the last 10 years has been phenomenal. They decided to make this 2 million-square-foot masterplan to make sure they have enough room to keep growing."

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Edward Shriver, AIA, CCS, principal, Strada; Jeff Hennion, EVP & chief marketing officer, Dick's Sporting Goods

Photograph courtesy of Strada


Fairmont Hotel to bring luxury, sustainability, about 180 jobs to city

The Fairmont, Pittsburgh's newest premier luxury hotel, has announced its opening date as March 29, 2010.

The hotel plans to open with about 150 employees, and anticipates reaching as many as 180 colleagues during peak season. The hotel currently has about 15 employees, and is now accepting applications for unfilled positions.

The Fairmont will feature 185 guest rooms, 12,000 square feet of event space, and a 6,000 square-foot health club, as well as Habitat, a full-service restaurant, and its feature bar, Andys (named for local Andys Warhol and Carnegie). Rooms feature LCD HDTVs, iPod docking stations, four-fixture bathrooms and floor-to-ceiling windows with views of Pittsburgh's neighborhoods and rivers.

The hotel's design celebrates Pittsburgh's "past and present as a leader in art and industry," says General Manager Len Czarnecki. Glass and steel are prominently featured, and guest rooms and public spaces highlight original pieces by Pittsburgh artists as well as artifacts uncovered during early site excavation, such as lithographs and hand-painted porcelain dolls from the late 1800s.

The Fairmont is housed in the top 10 floors of 23-story Three PNC Plaza, the largest high-rise construction project in Pittsburgh in the last two decades, and one of the largest mixed-use buildings in the U.S. to be LEED-certified. By its opening, Fairmont Pittsburgh expects to achieve LEED Gold certification. Three PNC Plaza also accommodates offices for PNC and Reed Smith, as well as luxury condos and a new location for 21st Street Coffee and Tea on the ground floor.

The Fairmont will not only be an asset to travelers, says Czarnecki, the general manager; it will also benefit Pittsburghers who live, work and play Downtown. The Fairmont offers spa services, eating and drinking, and spaces for planning work and social events.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Len Czarnecki, general manager, Fairmont Pittsburgh

Photograph courtesy of Fairmont Pittsburgh



Carpenters Union builds $15M training center along Airport corridor

The Greater PA Regional Council of Carpenters--the Carpenter Union--has invested $15 million of private funding into the future of itself and of building in the region.

"The construction industry is constantly changing its technology and building practices, and if we don't stay on the cutting edge of the changes, we'll fall behind the curve. We look at this new Training Center as our future," says Lou Gilberti with the union. "There are two ways to do business. You can either control or compete. As carpenters, we don't control, so we have to compete. And the only way to stay competitive is to train people in the best skills and attitudes."

The new center was built specifically for training carpenters. Currently, the union operates a training facility in the former high school on Neville Island. When the union realized it needed a bigger and better space, Gilberti says it decided to invest in constructing a new center from the ground-up on two acres next to its 42,000-square-foot headquarters off Route 22/30 near the new Settlers Ridge shopping center.

The union broke ground in September 2008, is finishing up construction now, and expects the facility to be fully occupied the second week of January.

The 93,000-square-foot, two-story space was is used for various fields of carpentry training, including commercial, residential, heavy highway, floor covering and cabinet making. It includes vehicular access on both floors and all-glass garage doors that let in tons of natural light. The first floor ceilings are about 22 feet high, and the second floor are about 32 feet.

"We have the capacity to build a two-story house inside the Training Center," says Gilberti.

The Training Center was designed by Astorino, and Mosites Construction Company served as general contractor.

The Carpenter Union currently has about 915 apprentices and 20 full-time instructors. Its graduation rate is more than 85 percent, which Gilberti says is higher than the national average.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Lou Gilberti, council representative, Greater PA Regional Council of Carpenters

Photograph courtesy Greater PA Regional Council of Carpenters


Downtown's Market at Fifth wins national historic rehabilitation award

Market at Fifth has been awarded the "Best Market-Rate Residential" honor by the National Housing & Rehabilitation Association, which recently paid tribute to ten outstanding historic rehab projects throughout the U.S. that use federal historic rehabilitation tax credits.

"They seem to think this is one of the best examples in the country of reusing historic buildings that were in very poor condition. Market at Fifth is a good example because it not only achieved higher restoration standards, but also LEED standards," says Arthur P. Ziegler, Jr., president of Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, which is behind Market at Fifth.

Market at Fifth was designed by Landmarks Design Associates, and is awaiting LEED Gold certification. There are only five or six national register-quality historic buildings in the country that are LEED Gold, Ziegler says.

Renovations started about 18 months ago, and the nearly $6 million project is about 65 percent complete. Four of the seven apartments have been leased and are occupied, and two-thirds of the retail space is finished and being used, says Ziegler. Street-level shops include Heinz Healey's men's store and Nettleton Shoe Shop, both of which opened around the G-20 summit in September.

The apartments are priced from $1,150 to $2,200 per month, and include gourmet kitchens and 15-foot ceilings. Eco-friendly elements include the use of original and recycling building materials, flooring made of rapidly renewable bamboo, energy-efficient appliances and windows, and a green roof that provides a cooling effect and reduces stormwater runoff.

The apartments also provide proximity to some of Downtown's highlights. It's a block from 3 PNC Plaza, Triangle Park and the Cultural District, and is adjacent to Market Square, which is undergoing $5 million renovations to turn it into a European-style piazza.

Sign up to receive Pop City each week.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Arthur P. Ziegler, Jr., president of Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

Photograph courtesy of Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation


Science Center gives SportsWorks $5M facelift with new building

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of Renaissance 3 Architects


Strip District sees new historic loft apartments, condo groundbreaking

Residential living is flourishing in the Strip District with the opening of a new loft apartment building and the groundbreaking on new historic condominiums.

31st Street Lofts, located at 3080 Smallman St., features 14 for-rent loft units in a former schoolhouse. The building, which was constructed in 1871, last served as an educational facility in 1934, and has been used as a warehouse and as Crucible Steel Company's administrative headquarters over the years. In 2000, it was purchased by Bonn and Art McSorley, who leased its spacious showrooms to interior design and decorative accessory retailers. The McSorleys then made the decision to convert the building into housing. The $3 million renovations were designed by architect Vince Finizio, and Bridges Construction served as the contractor. Prices go from $1,350 for a one-bedroom to $1,575 for a two-bedroom. Two apartments have been rented, and a grand opening celebration will be held Nov. 10.

The nearly 40,000-square-foot, four-story building (with a full basement that includes a wine cellar) features original hardwood floors, 12-foot-high ceilings, in-unit laundry facilities and green elements such as Energy Star appliances, non-VOC paints, energy-efficient lighting and bike racks. Each unit is different: Some have bathrooms where fireproof concrete vaults used to be, others have two levels of lofted space and all have views packed with distinctive Pittsburgh landmarks (Polish Hill's church, Downtown's skyline, the Allegheny River).

Bonn McSorley says most interest, so far, has come from young professionals and empty-nesters who are "tired of suburban living" and ready to reconnect with the city and one another.

In addition to the 31st Street Lofts, the Otto Milk Condominiums are adding to the Strip District's residential options. Construction broke ground earlier this week on the $19 million rehabilitation of the historic Otto Milk Building at 25th and Smallman Streets. The structure was built in 1865 and formerly housed to two brewing companies and the Otto "Milk" Company. It will be transformed into 56 condos and two commercial spaces by developer Jack Benoff, president of Solara Ventures, which previously rehabbed 17 condos at 941 Penn Ave., Downtown.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Bonn McSorley, 31st Street Lofts; Joanna Doven, city of Pittsburgh

Photograph courtesy 31st Street Lofts


New Hazlett Theater receives grant to re-imagine future community use

The New Hazlett Theater, which is housed in the historic Carnegie Library at Allegheny Center on the North Side, recently received a grant to create plans for the 120-year-old building's future architecture and preservation needs.

The $10,000 Design Fund grant from the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh, will go toward creating a master document. The New Hazlett Theater will match this amount. The theater applied for the grant in August, and received it in September. The next step is to develop an RFP, says the theater's executive director Sara Radelet.

The building, which also currently houses a senior citizen center, previously housed the Carnegie Library (which reopened this summer in its new brand-new home at 1230 Federal St.) and Pittsburgh Public Theater (which occupied the space from the 1970s until 1999, when it relocated Downtown).

The New Hazlett Theater was founded as nonprofit in 2004 with the mission to "cultivate the arts and provide a venue for world class and neighborhood cultural events." In 2004, the building underwent more than $2 million worth of renovations, designed by EDGE studio, with Turner Construction serving as contractor. The New Hazlett is available for corporate functions and independently organized events, and has six anchor tenants, including Prime Stage Theater, Attack Theatre, Dance Alloy Theater, the Warhol Museum and Pittsburgh Musical Theater.

Andrea Lavin with the Community Design Center says the Design Fund grant will help the New Hazlett "take stock of the building," and figure out how the space can be used to expand theater and community needs, and also help the facility become a model for green, sustainable technologies in an historic building setting. Radelet, the New Hazlett's executive director, says she'd love to see the second floor of the unused space split into offices, and have the first floor include a public component that meshes with the arts and family focus of the surrounding amenities such as the Children's Museum.

The New Hazlett building is owned by the City, and the New Hazlett Theater holds a long-term lease.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Sara Radelet, executive director, New Hazlett Theater; Andrea Lavin, Community Design Center of Pittsburgh

Photograph courtesy of the New Hazlett Theater


Architectural building product PR group moves to architecturally interesting space

LarsonO'Brien Marketing Group has relocated from offices in Mt. Lebanon to a converted train station at 3591 Ridgeway Dr. in Bethel Park. This is the first time the train station will be used as an office space. The building was previously used as a warehouse.

LarsonO'Brien signed a five-year lease, and changed addresses effective Oct. 30.

The train station offered LarsonO'Brien the opportunity to design the interior entirely to its own specifications, with the help of Pittsburgh-based Design 4 Studio. The open office space encourages collaboration among the firm's advertising, public relations, interactive and continuing education arms, says CEO Ron Larson. The space also include whiteboards that encircle the entire conference room, and energy-efficient elements, including large east and west-facing windows that promote a high degree of natural sunlight without heat gain.

LarsonO'Brien previously had offices Downtown, and was in Mt. Lebanon on Washington Road for about five years. The new, 3,600-square-foot space is about the same size as LarsonO'Brien's former Mt. Lebanon facility, but its open layout works better for the groups' collaborative nature, Larson says. The office currently houses 15 employees, but could easily fit 10 to 12 more, adds Larson.

LarsonO'Brien, which is in its 37th year of operation, specializes in PR for architectural building products manufacturers. LarsonO'Brien is a member of the Second Wind Network of Advertising Agencies and the United States Green Building Council.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Ron Larson, Lauren Ban, LarsonO'Brien

Photographs courtesy of LarsonO'Brien


Highland Park home renovations embody green living at its most luxurious

Homeowners Nathaniel Glosser and Lissa Rosenthal want to show Pittsburgh that green living doesn't just feel good; it can also look great.

When the then-couple decided to renovate their Highland Park home--which has been in Glosser's family since 1942--they knew they wanted the renovations to be as eco-conscious as possible to reflect their personal and professional passions. Rosenthal's a PR specialist who worked as the first development director of the Pittsburgh Glass Center, and Glosser is a community activist most recently involved in the Three Rivers Climate Convergence around the G-20 summit.

"We were looking to make a healthy house for individuals living there and for the planet," says Glosser. "Homes are routinely built with materials that use toxins, which contribute to a variety of illnesses. So that's one part of it. It's also that we have one planet and we're using it up, and if we don't make some changes we're going doing to see terrible climate change and deforestation."

The renovations, designed by architect Stuart Horne of Seigle, Solow & Horne, were completed between 2006 and 2007 with the help of Lawrenceville-based Artemis Environmental Building Products.

The five-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath home balances the best in green living technology with the most up-to-date in opulence. Luxury touches include a first-floor open plan; a gourmet kitchen with a 14-foot island and Italian glass tile wall treatments; a three-story glass sculpture by Pennsylvania artist Ben Cunningham; and an extra deep air-jet bathtub.

In terms of green elements, there are far too many to name, but some standouts include the use of sustainable and eco-friendly materials such as formaldehyde-free bamboo, Paperstone (a soap-stone-like material made of recycled paper and organic resins) and Isynene (an environmentally friendly closed-cell co-polymer foam used to insulate the exterior and interior walls and ceilings). All the heating and cooling is energy-efficient, of course, and all products used are formaldehyde-free with zero to low-levels of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. And the main roof is made of eco-friendly synthetic tiles from DaVinci Roofscapes, with a 50-year warranty.

The home is located at 1422 Greystone Dr., on a quiet cul-de-sac near Highland Park's Bryant Street commercial district, and is listed at $589,000 through Coldwell Banker.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Nathaniel Glosser, Lissa Rosenthal

Photograph courtesy Nathaniel Glosser and Lissa Rosenthal


Design Pittsburgh shines spotlight on year's best architectural achievements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph of Children's Hospital courtesy of AIA Pittsburgh


Old Stone Tavern in West End gets historic status

West End's Old Stone Tavern was granted historic status last week in a unanimous vote by Pittsburgh City Council, supported by the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.

The building, at 434 Greentree Rd., was nominated in February and may be the oldest commercial structure in the city. Old Stone Tavern's cornerstone is etched with the date 1756; however, the building's age has not been authenticated, and some historians believe it to be built in the 1780s. The Fort Pitt Block House in Point State Park, which was built in 1764, has long been regarded as Pittsburgh's oldest building.

"Old Stone Tavern has been standing during every single American presidency," says Michael Shealey, an architect with the Pittsburgh Housing Authority--and avid amateur historian--who drafted the historic designation nomination. Shealey says Pittsburgh has so few buildings this old due to the "Great Fire" of 1845, which wiped out much of Downtown.

Old Stone Tavern was built shortly after the American Revolution by Daniel Elliott, who served in the war. It was continuously operated as a restaurant or bar until a few years ago, when it was purchased by Lee Harris, the owner of Harris Masonry, which is adjacent to the property. Harris intended to demolish the tavern and replace it with a parking lot, but has been "so understanding and supportive and civic-minded" in the preservation efforts, says Shealey.

This historic designation means Harris is not permitted to demolish the structure or make changes to the exterior, but it does not dictate how the building should be used. However, it definitely will play a central role, Shealey insists, in the West End's current master plan process, which issued a request-for-proposal last spring. Shealey says the possibility of getting the Old Stone Tavern on the National Register of Historic Places is being investigated.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Michael Shealey, historian

Photograph courtesy of City of Pittsburgh, Department of City Planning


Carnegie Mellon completes $3.3M addition to business school

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Jonathan Golli, EDGE studio

Photograph courtesy of EDGE studio


Philips Respironics opens $32M manufacturing center in Upper Burrell

Philips Respironics is hosting a grand opening this Thurs., Oct. 1 for its new $32 million manufacturing center.

The center is devoted to high-volume production of sleep therapy devices used in treating obstructive sleep apnea, a condition characterized by a cessation of breathing during sleep, which impacts about 18 million Americans.

The 175,000-square-foot, two-level facility was built on 34 acres in Westmoreland Business & Research Park in Upper Burrell, Pa., seven miles from Philips Respironics' 32-acre main campus in Murrysville. The Murrysville manufacturing facility, which opened in 1990, will continue the production of ventilation and neonatal products used in the hospital and homecare markets.

"We were truly outgrowing the Murrysville facility," says Maryellen Bizzack, with Philips. "There was the option of building elsewhere, like overseas, but we opted to build in western Pennsylvania. We've got our historical roots in the Pittsburgh region, and have a tremendous workforce here."

The new facility, which broke ground in November 2007, began operating over the summer and will be fully operational by year's end. It will employ about 325.

Philips Respironics, which was founded in western Pennsylvania in 1976, grew to a billion dollar business, and in 2008 was acquired by Royal Philips Electronics of the Netherlands. Philips Respironics has about 5,346 employees worldwide, 1,716 of whom are in Pennsylvania.

The new center houses manufacturing, engineering, quality control, testing and automation involved in the production of sleep therapy devices. It features 13 conference rooms, a cafeteria, truckers' lounge, fitness center, basketball court, walking trail, bike racks and 575 parking spaces. Philips is pursuing LEED Silver certification for its environmentally friendly design, and is instituting a paperless production process at the new center, as well as founding a recycling program at its Murrysville facility, where there previously was none.

The new center's project team includes North Side-based WTW Architects; Bridges & Co., Inc.; Fahringer, McCarty, Grey, Inc.; BDA Engineering; Fallon Electric; Janus; and Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corporation.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Maryellen Bizzack, director of marketing and communications, Philips Home Healthcare Solutions

Photograph courtesy of Philips Respironics


Friendship Development Associates celebrates two decades of growth

Friendship Development Associates (FDA) is marking its 20th year of neighborhood revitalization this weekend with its birthday celebration.

"We're a real estate nonprofit community development organization," says Sarah DiLeo with FDA. "We do the things that private developers don't want to touch. We change markets."

Over the past 20 years, FDA has leveraged more than $15 million in private homeowner investment, and has been instrumental in the success of the URA's Housing Recovery Program. FDA has constructed 142 housing units, ranging from very low to moderate-targeted categories, and has renovated and/or developed 68,000 square-feet of commercial space.

Among FDA's biggest triumphs is the Penn Avenue Arts Initiative, which was formed in 1998 with Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation.

"In the late '90s we came to the realization that the future of the neighborhood rests along Penn Avenue," says DiLeo. "Spinning Plate Artist Lofts in East Liberty was one of first artist incubator spaces in the East End. Huge amount of artists wanted to be there, but there wasn't enough space for them. The idea was that if we have all these vacant buildings along the Avenue, maybe we could use them to help revitalize the neighborhood. We started by acquiring 16 buildings, and sold those to artists who converted them to live/work spaces."

Since the initiative's creation, the vacancy rate along the Penn Avenue Arts corridor has dropped from 78 percent to 21.1 percent, and the group has attracted nearly $56.5 million in investment along the Avenue, and converted nearly 150,000 square-feet of vacant property into artist live/work space.

Upcoming FDA projects include: the Glass Lofts, the second phase of a 3.2-acre development; townhouse construction at 5416-22 Penn Ave.; still in-development plans for 4800 Penn Ave.; and addressing the blighted buildings near the Bride Mural at 5439-5441 Penn Ave. with a committee of stakeholders and Penn Avenue-based architects Loysen + Kreuthmeier.

The FDA 20th birthday celebration is 6 to 9 p.m. on Fri, Oct. 2 at the Glass Lofts construction site on the corner of Penn Avenue and N. Fairmount Street. The event is part of the Penn Avenue Arts Initiative's monthly art crawl, Unblurred.

FDA is supported by Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, URA, Advisory Commission on Community Based Organizations and Pittsburgh City Council.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Sarah DiLeo, Friendship Development Associates

Photograph courtesy of Friendship Development Associates


Carnegie Mellon dedicates $98.6M computer science center

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University


Construction to begin on North Hills mixed-use development

Work is set to begin on the long-awaited McCandless Crossing, a 1,000,000-plus square-foot mixed-use development in the North Hills.

AdVenture Development announced last week construction will be underway by the end of the month on the Lowe's Home Improvement parcel. Lowe's and a Fidelity Bank branch will be the first businesses to open, in the fall of 2010. AdVenture president Kevin Dougherty, a Pittsburgh native, has been working on the property, plan and financing for McCandless Crossing since 1992.

Downtown-based Strada architects designed McCandless Crossing, and Trumbull Corporation of West Mifflin is serving as the site contractor.

The project consists of about 130 acres along the east and west sides of McKnight Road at Cumberland Road and Duncan Avenue, close to UPMC Passavant Hospital, LaRoche College and Pittsburgh Office and Research Park. At completion, it will include retail space, along with two hotels, a variety of residential units, office/medial office space, a fitness center and entertainment components.

The project's "Town Center" will serve as a "central downtown-type area that will tie together all the surrounding amenities," says Jonathan Jenkins with AdVenture. "It will be a walkable, livable community with green spaces and sidewalks."

"We believe in Pittsburgh's market," says Jenkins. "We've been impressed lately, especially within the last year, that there are so many articles coming out about the strength of the Pittsburgh economy."

The construction of McCandless Crossing will create hundreds of area jobs, says Jenkins, and at full build-out, the development will create an estimated 2,143 jobs.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Jonathan Jenkins, AdVenture Development

Image courtesy of AdVenture Development


Falk Laboratory School expands with $20.3M green addition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph courtesy University of Pittsburgh


Construction association completes renovations of new headquarters

It's a tired saying, but it doesn't make it any less true: You've got to practice what you preach.

And as Master Builders' Association (MBA) members are responsible for 90 percent of the square footage of LEED-certified buildings in the Greater Pittsburgh region, it was time for MBA to go green.

The contractor association has completed renovations of its new Green Tree headquarters, and is expecting to receive LEED Gold certification, the second highest rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. Green elements include a sophisticated air ventilation system, motion sensors to reduce energy consumption and new exterior walls and windows for proper insulation.

The two-story, 10,000-square-foot building at 631 Iron City Drive was designed by Strip District-based Rothschild Doyno Collaborative, and the contractor was F.J. Busse Company, Inc., which Jon O'Brien with MBA says has a "forte in interior build-outs." The project was 100 percent union-built, and finished on time, says O'Brien.

MBA purchased the building in 2007, after about 30 years in a property it owned at the corner of Poplar Street and Noblestown Road that is now occupied by a Rite Aid. MBA employees moved into the new offices in May 2009 after extensive renovations to the building that was originally constructed in the 1970s.

"We totally gutted it down to the steel," says O'Brien. "We wanted a state-of-the-art building our members and industry in general would be proud of. We wanted to show the region in the appropriate way."

The first floor houses MBA nonprofit Christmas in July and its three staff members, as well as a large conference center that can seat up to 80. The second floor houses offices for six MBA employees.

MBA will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house celebration on Thursday from 3:30 to 8 p.m.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Jon O'Brien, Master Builders' Association

Photograph courtesy Master Builders' Association


Friendship House Tour showcases creative city living

Friendship is putting on its Sunday best and opening up its homes this weekend for the 16th annual House Tour.

This year's event will showcase eleven homes' kitchen and bath renovations. The tour features a mix of inspirations and innovations, from grand Victorian restorations with crown moldings and ornate woodwork to sleek, modern lofts and townhouses.

Once a prestigious "streetcar suburb," Friendship experienced a decline, but is "on the upswing with the rest of the East End," says Sarah DiLeo with Friendship Development Associates (FDA). The neighborhood, which was named one of Pittsburgh's "10 Neighborhoods You Need to Know About" by Pittsburgh Magazine in 2006, offers residential opportunities for everyone from young professionals looking for apartment leases to families looking for homes to grow in.

Many of the older Victorians that were split into rental units over the years are now being converted back into single-family homes, says DiLeo. This brings more ownership to the area—and, consequently, more investment in the revitalization, and pride in it.

In the first quarter of 2009, eight homes were sold in Friendship, and the second quarter saw the sale of another 14 homes, says DiLeo.

Of this year's participating homeowners, some have been in the neighborhood since the mid-'90s, and others are fresher transplants. Dutch MacDonald, who has been in Friendship with his family since 1992, is looking forward to sharing their home's newly renovated kitchen, which won a Superior Interiors Design Award from Pittsburgh Magazine in 2008. The architect, formerly of EDGE studio, said Friendship is the perfect neighborhood in which to raise their two sons, especially with the 2006 addition of Pittsburgh Montessori, a PreK-8 magnet school on S. Graham Street.

Tickets for Sunday's tour, which runs 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., are $15 in advance and $18 the day of the event.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Sarah DiLeo, Friendship Development Associates; Dutch MacDonald, homeowner

Photograph courtesy Friendship Development Associates


Wilkinsburg sees start of Sustainable Living Center

Ask any urbanite, and they'll tell you. A porch makes a community. Just think of all those suburbs, with neatly tended front lawns, and private, hermetically sealed back decks. Compare that to a city block lined with porches, from which residents chat with passing neighbors, catch up on local goings-on. News is spread, dialogue thrives, relationships are cemented and strengthened.

Knowing the importance of a porch to a community, the porch is the first thing to be built at the Hamnett Homestead Sustainable Living Center in Wilkinsburg.

A project of the Institute for Ecological Innovation (IEI), and Carnegie Mellon University's Urban Design Build Studio (UDBS) and Urban Laboratory, the Sustainable Living Center is being developed in a turn-of-the-century Victorian at the corner of Holland Avenue and Center Street. The building is adjacent to Garden Dreams Urban Farm & Nursery, which is run by Mindy Schwartz, a co-founder of IEI and staff member at Construction Junction.

The Sustainable Living Center, when complete in four to five years, will be a resource for all of Wilkinsburg and the rest of the city, providing a community gathering and education spot that will focus on sustainable living technologies and practices, with a concentration of how these practices (such as catching rain water and gardening) can economically benefit lower income individuals.

The porch was prefabricated by Carnegie Mellon architecture students over the summer, and will be fully installed by November 2009. More of a pavilion than a porch, the 100-foot-long shelter was constructed of new, recycled and reconstituted materials harvested from local deconstruction projects, and 100 percent of the rain water will be collected from the roof and used for agricultural purposes.

"The porch is the first step," says John Folan, a Carnegie Mellon University architecture professor and the executive director of IEI. "Most community members don't really understand when you're talking about a master plan with a 20 or 25 year timeline. We're trying to make sure something from the plan is implemented immediately so they can see some tangible physical change in the community. It establishes a sense of hope."

The Sustainable Living Center and the efforts of the UDBS and IEI have been supported by the Heinz Endowments and a Carnegie Mellon Alumnus gift.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: John Folan and Mindy Schwartz, Institute for Ecological Innovation

Image courtesy of Institute for Ecological Innovation


$21M Seton Hill Performing Arts Center opens

Seton Hill University has completed and opened its long-awaited Performing Arts Center, which broke ground in November 2006.

The 73,000-square-foot, $21 million building houses Seton Hill's programs in Music and Theatre, which have outgrown their on-campus spaces. The facility will be used for concerts and theater productions, as well as for classes and office space.

The Performing Arts Center includes classrooms and faculty offices, set and costume design rooms, rehearsal spaces, a music hall that seats nearly 500, and a theater that seats about 250. Massaro Corporation served as general contractor, and the building was designed by Downtown-based MacLachlan, Cornelius & Filoni Architects, Inc., which is responsible for the renovation and restoration of the Benedum Center, the Byham Theater and Heinz Hall, as well as the new Center for the Creative & Performing Arts.

"The Performing Arts Center helps create a cultural district in the city of Greensburg," says Curt Scheib with Seton Hill University. "A lot of economic revitalization has happened and is happening now around the building."

The Performing Arts Center is located off-campus in downtown Greensburg, at the corner of Harrison Ave. and W. Otterman St., near the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, the historic Palace Theatre, the restored Greensburg Train Station, and various cafes, restaurants and bookstores.

The building's construction created more than 630 new jobs.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Curt Scheib, chair of the Division of Visual and Performing Arts, Seton Hill University

Photograph courtesy Seton Hill University


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



Deutschtown historic district sees new constructions, rehabs

The North Side's historic Deutschtown neighborhood is seeing recent development in the form of new residential constructions and rehabs of older homes.

"Deutschtown is probably the busiest neighborhood on the North Side," says Greg Jones with the Northside Leadership Conference (NSLC). "It's so convenient to Downtown and the North Shore, and you have a beautiful park right there. There's been about $2 million in new investment in housing in the last year-and-a-half in Deutschtown. In that time, there's been three new houses, and four rehabs."

Deeply involved in Deutschtown development has been October Development.

"Despite the fact that there hasn't been a whole lot of development across the city, October Development has come in and is working with NSLC, and has been successful with selling eight or nine units above market value before completion," says Jones.

Alli DePasquale of October Development says the group is taking advantage of the North Side's "architectural stock." "There are plenty of homes that are completely run down here," he says, "but they have great architectural value, so we think saving them is a priority. We like to do modern interiors, and maintain the historic integrity of the exteriors."

October Development recently worked with NSLC and the URA to build three new townhomes on the 900 block of James Street (they sold for $229,000 each and were finished early spring), and to rehabilitate two single-family homes on Tripoli and Suisman Streets, one of which is complete, the other of which will be done by late fall.

NSLC is also working with East Allegheny Community Council and the URA on two new historic rehabs on Tripoli Street that are going for about $215,000 each, and designed by TAI + LEE architects. One has already sold, and the other is still on the market.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Greg Jones, Northside Leadership Conference; Alli DePasquale, October Development

Photograph courtesy Northside Leadership Conference



After three years, North Side Carnegie Library reopens

Three years ago, the North Side branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) was struck by lighting and severely damaged.

This weekend, that branch will reopen in a new location, in a new building, with a new set of services and sense of community.

The branch, called Allegheny in honor of the North Side's history, is located at 1230 Federal St, just two blocks away from the old library at 5 Allegheny Square. The former location is now being used as a book depository, and the building also currently houses the New Hazlett Theater and a senior care center.

The 15,500-square-foot CLP Allegheny was designed by Friendship/Garfield-based Loysen + Kreuthmeier Architects, and Massaro Corporation served as contractor. The single-level library is staffed by nine, and includes an outdoor terrace, an historic reading room and a children's room. It will offer free education, entertainment and career resources to residents of the North Side and the surrounding neighborhoods that have been library-less for the past few years.

The library will host a ribbon-cutting event and celebration Sat., Aug. 29, complete with tours, storytimes, crafts and activities.

Suzanne Thinnes, with CLP, encourages all library-goers to voice their support of CLP to funders and community leaders. The Library currently estimates expenses for the system will begin to exceed revenues beginning in 2010, and that the deficit will grow to more than $6 million by 2014.

"One of the biggest misconceptions is that Andrew Carnegie provided long-term funding to operate the library system, when he didn't," says Thinnes. "He thought that each community should be responsible for their own library. I think people take libraries for granted. But it's up to us to protect Pittsburgh's libraries and make sure branches stay open and programming continues."

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Suzanne Thinnes, communication manager, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Photograph courtesy Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Duquesne University receives first campus LEED certification

Duquesne University has achieved LEED Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for the $30 million, 13,000-square-foot Power Center.

This is the university's first LEED certification.

The Power Center, which is equivalent to eight stories tall, and located at the corner of Chatham Square and Forbes Avenue in Uptown, includes a Barnes & Noble, a Jamba Juice and Red Wing restaurant, recreational facilities and a 7,500 ballroom capable of holding up to 700 people. The building is connected to the heart of campus by the Sklar Skywalk, the city's highest pedestrian walkway.

Downtown-based DRS Architects designed the building. Construction began in March 2006, and was completed in December 2008. The building opened January 2009.

"We have a track record here of being involving with sustainability projects. It's part of our mission," says George Fecik, Duquesne's executive director of facilities management. "We have a commitment to doing what's right for our students and our community and the planet in general."

Duquesne sustainability initiatives include: Generating campus electricity using clean, natural gas; creating a highly efficient cooling system that relies on ice; committing to green cleaning products and paint; and establishing an MBA in Sustainability, which is ranked eighth on Aspen Institute's Global 100. The university also has submitted for LEED certification the renovation of its student union, which saw the addition of a new health services area, computer store and study space after the bookstore moved from the Union to the Power Center.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: George Fecik, executive director of facilities management, Duquesne University

Photograph courtesy Duquesne University

Zelienople theater reopens after $1.5 million renovation

After nearly eight years of renovation efforts, Zelionople's Strand Theater has reopened.

The theater, which was constructed in 1914, has been completely revamped, restored and revitalized. When Ron Carter, president and executive director of the Strand Theater Initiative, first discovered the structure in 2001, the building was an "eyesore" and had been out of operation since 1984. Carter spearheaded efforts to undo the years of vacancy and neglect, resulting in a $1.5 million facelift designed by mossArchitects of East Liberty. The theater's seating, which was previously long and narrow, has been rotated 90 degrees so that now no patron is more than 30 feet from the stage.

The theater draws from the suburban areas north of Pittsburgh, as well as the surrounding rural areas, which are often underserved by cultural programming, says Carter.

"We also see the Strand as a potential partner for the Pittsburgh cultural scene," says Carter. "Those organizations need to do some outreach and find new audiences. The Strand is the perfect venue for them to present samples or smaller performances that will attract audiences to the full-scale ones Downtown."

The Strand's recent programming includes sold-out shows by Debbie Reynolds, a jazz set by Joe Negri and a classic film series.

Future construction plans, which are currently in the funding stages, include larger stage area and dressing rooms, an elevator to the mezzanine seating, a two-level parking deck and a multipurpose center for special events.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Ron Carter, Strand Theater

Photo courtesy Strand Theater

Tours explore historic Downtown, expand to neighborhood main streets this fall  

Pittsburgh's buildings have stories to tell. Sometimes, we just get too caught up in the daily grind to listen.

The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation (PHLF) is helping is reconnect to our urban environment. The organization has long hosted walking tours of Downtown Pittsburgh, and now--this fall--they'll be adding other neighborhoods to the repertoire.

Previous Downtown walking tours this summer have focused on Grant Street, Market Square, the Penn-Liberty Cultural District and more. During the month of August, PHLF is hosting free tours every Friday at noon of the historic Fourth Avenue and PPG Place area. One of 18 National Register Districts in the city, Fourth Avenue showcases buildings designed by more than a dozen distinguished architects, in styles from Greek Revival to Post Modern, constructed between 1836 and 1983. Reservations are not necessary, but are recommended.

The Downtown walking tours project, which occurs from May through October, has been running for about 20 years. This year is the first year PHLF will also be hosting Saturday walking tours through Pittsburgh's other neighborhoods, including Mt. Washington, Friendship/Garfield, Lawrenceville, the Strip District, Bloomfield and East Liberty.

This new program, presented in cooperation with the Urban Redevelopment Authority and Mainstreets Pittsburgh, will begin the Saturday of Labor Day weekend and continue throughout the fall.

"We hope tour-goers will leave with a better appreciation for the built environment; not just the old, but also the new," says Mary Lu Denny with PHLF. "We're looking to show history and preservation in these areas, but also development. We hope to bring some attention to neighborhood businesses, so that people will go back to them as customers."

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Mary Lu Denny, Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

Photo courtesy Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

Three PNC Plaza opens first element of city's newest high-rise

PNC Financial Services Group opened a new flagship branch this Monday in Three PNC Plaza.

The branch is the first element to be completed in Three PNC Plaza, Downtown Pittsburgh's first office high-rise in two decades.

"The branch offers the Downtown community an introduction to Three PNC Plaza, which is the largest mixed-use green building in the world," says Fred Solomon with PNC.

The 750,000-square-feet, 23-story building will house the offices of PNC and top 15 international law firm Reed Smith (on floors three through six, and seven through 13, respectively), as well as a LEED-certified Fairmont Hotel, luxury condos and a 334-space underground garage. The entire structure will be completed and available for occupancy by December 2009.

The design team includes global firm Gensler, along with Pittsburgh-based Astorino and green engineer consultants Paladino & Company of Seattle.

With seven LEED-certified green branches in Pittsburgh region, PNC has more newly constructed LEED-certified green buildings (66) than any company in the world. Two weeks ago, PNC announced it is building the largest living wall in North America. The wall, along with PNC Triangle Park, will be complete in time for the G-20 summit in September.

PNC's flagship branch was previously located in One PNC Plaza. That space will re-open in early 2010 as Larrimor's, a high-end men's clothing store.

Writer: Caralyn Green

Sources: Fred Solomon and Alan Aldinger, PNC


Local architects get LEED-accredited

Eleven architects at Downtown-based firm Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff + Goettel (PWWG) have achieved accreditation as LEED Professionals.

LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, has become the benchmark system for green and sustainable design. LEED Accreditation recognizes attainment of the specialized knowledge and skills necessary to design green buildings.

"Most architects can already design green, but LEED-certification is a good marketing tool," says Anne J. Swager, Hon. AIA, executive director of AIA Pittsburgh.

PWWG has about 20 people on staff, including administrative support.

"A good majority of out graduate architects and registered architects are now LEED-certified," says Sheldon Goettel, AIA, LEED AP, with PWWG. "We started doing the sessions in January on Saturdays. Eleven people sat for the test, and eleven people passed."

PWWG has recently worked on several LEED-certified projects: They renovated of the historic Oglebay Hall at West Virginia University; are working on design of a LEED Silver renovation of the historic Building 3 at the West Virginia State Capitol complex in Charleston; and are beginning a LEED Silver design the Operating Engineers of Western Pennsylvania's new facility in New Alexandria

"This group is looking forward to their facility being a model of sustainability, partly because they want to use the facility itself as a training tool to demonstrate to every class that comes through the kinds of sustainable building and site technologist they need to learn to be a part of a new way of constructing the world," says Goettel.

PWWG, which was founded in 1976, has been in its second generation of leadership since around 2000.

Writer: Caralyn Green

Sources: Sheldon Goettel, PWWG; Anne J. Swager, executive director, AIA Pittsburgh

190 Architecture Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts