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Pittsburgh PARK(ing) Day is back Friday with installations throughout the city

For one day only, parking spaces will transform across the city into small parks, green spaces and even a beach in an effort to get citizens talking about sustainability and transportation.

Tomorrow, Sept. 19, is PARK(ing) Day, an annual, international one-day event where artists, designers and citizens can transform parking spots into small parks and art installations.
 
This is PARK(ing) Day Pittsburgh’s seventh year. The event began in San Francisco in 2005 and its message has travelled around the world. PARK(ing) Day is an opportunity to get communities talking about improvements, green space and transportation while thinking creatively.
 
This year, Pittsburgh’s pop-up parks stem from neighborhood improvement initiatives and fun. PARK(ing) Day Committee Member Thor Erickson said the Polish Hill Civic Association will use traffic cones to create a discussion about street traffic.  Erickson said the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group, Pittsburgh Parking Authority, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Penn Future, Design Center and Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership are collaborating in the 900 block of Liberty Avenue, downtown, to showcase urban improvement efforts.
 
Mayor Bill Peduto and City Council members will transform their parking spaces into a beach, according to Erickson.
 
The Lawrenceville Bike and Pedestrian Committee organized a mini golf course along Butler Street, between Doughboy Square and 39th Street, as part of the neighborhood’s PARK(ing) Day initiatives. Breakfast, lunch and dinner golfing sessions will be offered, with a party and music by DJ Duke to follow in the Iron City Bikes and Franktuary parking lot from 6 PM to 8 PM.
 
To find PARK(ing) Day events in your neighborhood, Parking Day Pittsburgh has provided a map with events and times listed throughout the city. 
 
 
Source: PARK(ing) Day, PARK(ing) Day Pittsburgh, Lawrenceville Pittsburgh, Thor Erickson, Lawrenceville Bike and Pedestrian Committee 

Principal of evolveEA named to international committee for creating ecodistricts

Christine Mondor, principal of Pittsburgh-based evolveEA, has been selected as one of eighty international experts, practitioners and leaders to be part of the Ecodistricts Global Protocol Advisory Committee, convened by Portland, Ore., non-profit Ecodistricts.org.
 
The Global Protocol Advisory Committee will discuss goals, milestones and deliverables for establishing a broad adoption of ecodistrict planning and sharing of knowledge. Ecodistricts.org holds an annual summit to promote sustainable urban design principles. 
 
“In order to accelerate sustainability, you need to think at the neighborhood scale,” Mondor says. This is where ecodistricts comes into consideration. Instead of acting as a single home or business owner, ecodistricts encourage action at the neighborhood or block level.

Ecodistricts creatively synthesizes ecology, economics and placemaking to create strong communities and community planning projects across the country. 
 
EvolveEA has worked with communities in Western Pennsylvania to incorporate innovative energy, water and food systems into the design of neighborhoods, planned developments and urban districts.
 
Ecodistricts.org describes the Protocol as, “a platform for building district governance and leadership, a framework for unleashing innovation, a system for encouraging and rewarding leadership and a blueprint for creating just, sustainable and resilient cities and neighborhoods for all.”
 
Mondor presented at the annual summit in Boston in November 2013, was part of a Pittsburgh team at the 2014 Ecodistricts Incubator in Portland, Ore. and will be presenting this fall at the Ecodistricts Summit in Washington, D.C.
 
Mondor calls the summits a place where people from around the world working on sustainable projects find “commonalities” in their efforts. She says those who attend conferences and apply for the Global Protocol Advisory Committee hail from across the globe, from Boston to San Francisco, to Europe and even South America.
 
The committee hosted their first meeting earlier this month. Mondor says in addition to sharing common experiences, the committee plans to create a framework for cities starting ecodistricts—providing guides and training tools.

Sustainability consulting and design firm evolveEA has led ecodistrict planning, design and stakeholder education initiatives in a number of communities since 2009. The firm’s approach to promoting equity for community members by fostering grassroots capacity-building has been recognized with design awards and invitations to collaborate nationally and internationally.
 
“I think Pittsburgh is in a really good spot right now to take leadership in this movement,” Mondor says, adding that the city is “ahead of the curve in a lot of ways” and noting green building efforts. She calls the Global Protocol Advisory Committee a convergence of a national movement and local leadership.
 
Source: Christine Mondor, evolveEA

Goats at work in Polish Hill

Tree Pittsburgh got a little help from a special breed of volunteers Tues., July 8 when 30 goats lent their efforts to a hillside restoration project in Polish Hill.
 
Tree Pittsburgh worked with Eco-Goats of Annapolis, Maryland to clear a hillside at West Penn Park of invasive species like knotweed and poison ivy.
 
Goats were provided by a farm in Butler County and began work at 8AM, snacking to prepare the hillside for planting 110 trees grown by Tree Pittsburgh’s Point Breeze nursery. The project was organized by Tree Pittsburgh and funded by the Alcoa Foundation and American Forests’ Global ReLeaf Partnership for Trees.
 
The goats were secured by fence in the tenth of an acre parcel procured by Tree Pittsburgh and worked until 3PM. The event served not only as a restoration project but eco-workshop.
 
Danielle Crumrine, Tree Pittsburgh executive director, called Tuesday’s efforts a teaching opportunity and demonstration, noting that eco-groups across the country use goats for outdoor restoration and that this was an educational experience for local environmental groups. Those who attended the event were able to witness Brian Knox, supervising forester of Eco-Goats, handle the goats.
 
Tree Pittsburgh says goats are attractive in vertical clearing efforts because, “unlike human volunteers, goats can navigate the steep hillside terrain without issue or safety concern. They also eat many invasive species, including some that may be dangerous to humans. Goats are light on their feet, so the trampling from their hooves will prepare the soil for planting later in the year.”
 
The goats in Polish Hill were visible from West Penn Park and Brereton Street.
 
“Cars were pulling over all day, taking pictures,” Crumrine says. She added that children in the adjacent park came over to see the goats, several of them doing their best goat impressions with bleets and bahs.
 
Crumrine says they will be working at the site for about a year and half and noted that in addition to their lot, the entire hillside is fighting invasive species.
 
“You have to shade it out, you have to be diligent,” she says about the uphill battle. The 110 trees will be planted to help reduce sun exposure to the non-pioneer plants.
 
The goats produced a noticeable difference and cleared much of the invasive species Tuesday, but there is work left to be done. Had they been able to stay for 24 hours, Crumrine says, the goats may have been able to clear the small plot.
 
Crumrine says she hopes to see more goats in Tree Pittsburgh’s future.
 
“This is something that Tree Pittsburgh and other local environmental groups would like to continue,“ she says. “[But] goats aren’t free.”

Source: Tree Pittsburgh, Danielle Crumrine

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

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

ULI Placemaking awards honors five Pittsburgh projects; Tom Murphy issues a challenge for Pittsburgh

The first Placemaker awards from the Urban Land Institute Pittsburgh, “to celebrate the places that make Pittsburgh great,” were announced last week at a luncheon at the Fairmont in 3 PNC, a building lauded for its excellent design and green features. 

Tom Murphy, former mayor of Pittsburgh, received the 2013 Inaugural Placemaker award and two standing ovations from the crowd of 300—before he spoke and after, when he finished his talk by issuing a challenge to Pittsburgh to never settle for less in design and building.

The ULI PLacemaker award winners are:
  • Award for Excellence, Catalytic Place: Market Square Place
  • Award for Excellence, Visual Place: Point Park University – the Academic Village Initiative The Village Park and Wood Street Corridor Enhancements
  • Award for Excellence, Community Place: East End Cooperative House
  • Award for Excellence, Cool Place: Assemble
ULI Pittsburgh received 38 nominees in the first competition. 

In his talk, Murphy referenced an article in the Washington Post which wondered, "How does it happen that in a Rust Belt city with no money, they built a masterpiece of a stadium? These pundits who write about the lack of economic development with stadiums and arts and culture need to come to Pittsburgh."

And in what Murphy said is the best recognition for the city, his three children “have come back to Pittsburgh because it works for them.

“Don’t settle for ‘it will do,’” he warned. "It’s about the quality of what we build. When people come through that tunnel, there’s a collective wow. Challenge yourself to build to the highest quality. Pittsburgh is on a roll and it will continue to be on a roll only if we challenge ourselves to reach.”

Writer: Tracy Certo
Source: ULI, Tom Murphy

New storm water garden will help reduce runoff, beautify Larimer

It rids a community of a blighted brownfield. It redistributes rainwater to help prevent flooding. And to boot, it’s a squarely beautiful sight.

Sunday afternoon saw local leaders cut the ribbon on a storm water management garden — a new addition to the Environment and Energy Community Outreach Center, at the corner of East Liberty Boulevard and Larimer Avenue in the Larimer section of Pittsburgh.

“I wanted to have a show-and-tell place — somewhere where people could see these materials,” says state Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park. “You’ll see storyboards explaining why the storm water garden is important.”

The Penn State Center’s Lisa Vavro designed the park, and the Pittsburgh department of public works handled the construction. The park’s opening coincided with the second annual Larimer Green Street Fair.

The EECO Center, which opened last June on property which previously held an abandoned gas station, offers the community classes, workshops and services designed to help low-income residents in the East End not only be more energy efficient, but save money in the process.

“One of our goals is to build a greener, smarter and sustainable future, and this is a place that people can come and learn about these issues,” Ferlo says.

Storm water runoff is one of the bigger environmental problems facing Pittsburgh, as evidenced by the tragic flash flooding deaths which occurred on Washington Boulevard last year — flooding to which runoff from Larimer contributed.

“Building one garden is not going to mitigate that issue, but as we keep building with public dollars, we need to build smarter,” Ferlo says. “I want this to be a launching pad.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Sen. Jim Ferlo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Sara Innamorato

Schenley Park to get two new water management systems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Erin Copeland

WindStax opens new plant in the Strip District

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Ron Gdovic

Zip line course opens in North Park

Those with the urge to strap themselves into harnesses and fly between trees hundreds of feet above ground may now satisfy that urge in North Park.

On Saturday, Go Ape Treetop Adventures held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its latest outdoor adventure course, nestled in the pine forests of Allegheny County’s largest park.

After about 30 minutes of safety training and instruction, participants traverse across the course’s five sections, comprised by a myriad of rope ladders, bridges, swings and cargo nets that link its five zip lines. The lines — which stretch more than 1,400 feet around the canopy — move between platforms. Participants complete the entire course in two to three hours without ever touching the ground.

“There are tons of things to do in North Park, which is very attractive for us,” said Chris Swallow, Go Ape’s business development director. “We knew Pittsburgh was a market that appreciates outdoor activity.”

Admission runs $55 for adults and $35 for children ages 10-17. Children must be at least 10 years old to attempt the course, and participants must weigh less than 285 pounds.

Swallow said that Maryland-based Go Ape, which installs courses exclusively in public parks, expects the course to draw between 12,000 and 15,000 people in its first year. The North Park installment is the company’s fourth in the United States.

For more information or to book reservations, visit the course’s page on Go Ape’s website.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Chris Swallow

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

Schenley Drive to get skinny; Panther Hollow watershed restoration

Schenley Drive is going on a diet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Erin Copeland

Over $800,000 awarded for conservation, recreation at future Allegheny Land Trust site in Richland

Redevelopment of the former Pittsburgh Cut Flower property in Richland Township has received a huge financial boost: the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) announced it will invest $509,500 to the project, along with a $300,000 contribution from the Colcom Foundation.

The site, which includes 150 acres of undeveloped land, will be conserved as open space by the Allegheny Land Trust (ALT).  The DCNR's contribution is through a state conservation and recreation grant.

Thanks to those recent investments, ALT now has 75% of the needed $1.4 million purchase price.

The Colcom Foundation has previously supported the effort with a $50,000 grant that was used to bring the property under contract with ALT and the site's current owner.

The property has been vacant for 20 years with dozens of unused buildings at the site. Although ALT plans to permanently protect 80% of the site, which consists of ponds, streams, meadows and woodlands, the remaining 30 acres will be used for a variety of economic development projects.

ALT's Roy Kraynyk says a recent planning charrette with community members produced a number of possible uses for the former commercial site, including a community farm, an environmental learning lab, and perhaps even a solar  energy farm.

The land under conservation will be open to passive recreation, such as hiking and fishing, and will likely include historical as well as natural interpretations of the site.

Carol Zagrocki, of the Colcom Foundation, said in a statement that the conservation values of the property include biodiversity, water management, natural scenery, and restoration.

"The land has captured a charitable and conservation ethic in the local community. It is a privilege to support Allegheny Land Trust in advancing the conservation ideals of Colcom's late founder, Cordelia S. May," she said.

The ALT project is one of 198 statewide that has received a total of $26.5 million for recreation and conservation through the DCNR's Community Conservation Partnerships program.
 
Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Roy Kraynyk


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

$300,000 grant to fund Sports and Athletics Complex at Montour Junction

Sports and recreation have been given a boost in Allegheny County, as County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced yesterday a $300,000 grant from the Community Conservation Partnerships Program (C2P2) for the Sports and Athletics Complex at Montour Junction.

The Sports and Athletics Complex at Montour Junction is a 78-acre parcel of land shared by three communities: the Borough of Coraopolis, Moon Township and Robinson Township.  A former brownfield site, the $15 million development will include 15 to 18 grass and synthetic turf fields for non-traditional sporting uses such as soccer, rugby and lacrosse for school-aged children. 

 “The grant is one of the larger amounts awarded, and we are proud that such a significant investment is going to be made in the county,” Fitzgerald said in a statement.

Fitzgerald called this a tremendous opportunity to increase recreational opportunities in the county.  He cited the complex’s proximity to the Montour Trail, a pedestrian and bicycle path now totaling over 40 miles, as well as Montour Run, a stocked trout stream which bisects the property.

Funds will also be used to for a half-mile extension of the Montour Trail and various landscaping at the site, and the complex will eventually act as a new trailhead.

The Sports Legacy Foundation donated the land in 2008 with the clause that it would be used for non-traditional sports.  The Redevelopment Authority has been working with its consultants on the development of the facility.

Construction on the complex is expected begin in the first or second quarter of 2013.

C2P2 is administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and provides funding to provide quality park, recreation and conservation opportunities.
 
Also happening in the area, Celebrate Coraopolis 2012 will take place this Saturday, December 1st.  The day-long event will feature food, music, and family activities, including sleigh rides and pictures with Santa. 

The Coraopolis Community Development Foundation (CCDF) is leading the event, which will showcase local businesses and restaurants.  Proceeds from this event will benefit the programs of the CCDF, which this year has given over $12,000 in direct assistance and provided 14,000 pounds of food assistance to over 300 families.
 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Dennis M. Davin, Allegheny County Economic Development

Building Healthy Communities to be focus of upcoming Commonwealth Awards

At this year’s Commonwealth Awards, the 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania’s signature event, the theme of “Building Healthy Communities” will be emphasized in honor of the late Mark Schneider. 

A former Chairman of 10,000 Friends, Schneider was a leader in smart growth and sustainable development in the region.  In recognition of his impact, the organization’s highest individual award, the “Friend of Pennsylvania” Award, will be presented to Mark posthumously and will be renamed the “Mark C. Schneider Memorial Friend of Pennsylvania” Award.

And this year’s keynote speaker will be Dr. Richard J. Jackson, co-author of the book and host/narrator of the public television series, Designing Healthy Communities.  Dr. Jackson is a recipient of the 2012 Heinz Award for the Environment.

Regional Director Grant Ervin says Schneider’s numerous projects in Pittsburgh are great examples of Dr. Jackson’s message—that the built environment has a direct correlation on public and individual health.

“Projects like Summerset and Washington’s Landing have set the bar high and have provided recognition that people want these types of products,” Ervin says.  “They were trailblazers at the time.”

10,000 Friends will also honor several southwest Pennsylvania awardees from the first round of the Pennsylvania Community Transportation Initiative (PCTI) funding.  Schneider also helped develop the vision for PCTI and was one of its chief advocates.

Founded in 1998, 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania is a statewide advocate for smart growth.  It has operated a Pittsburgh office since 2004.

The 2012 Commonwealth Awards will be held at Point Park University, Lawrence Hall 201, Wood Street, Downtown Pittsburgh.  For more information, and to register, click here.

 
Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Grant Ervin

5th Annual Arbor Aid celebrates the life and death of trees, at The Wheel Mill

Throughout the year, Tree Pittsburgh advocates for healthy trees in the city, and physically tends to the vast urban forest.  But at Saturday’s 5th Annual Arbor Aid, the focus is on trees that are no longer living.

The event, to be held November 10th at The Wheel Mill in Homewood, will feature the woodwork of more than 40 artists, and over 60 pieces of artwork and furniture, much of which is made of reclaimed wood harvested from the Pittsburgh region.  It is the non-profit's largest fundraiser.  

Pieces range from large dining room tables to chairs and sculptures, as well as smaller items such as cutting boards, candle holders, and pictures frames.  One artist, a painter, has even incorporated a salvaged stainless steel panel from the former Civic Arena into her work.

Tree Pittsburgh’s Caitlin Lenahan says Arbor Aid is a unique opportunity to have Pittsburgh’s woodworking community gathered and showcased all under one roof.  She says a number of cities throughout the country are known for their crafting communities, and Pittsburgh should be numbered among them.

“We have a great craftsman community here,” Lenahan says.  “I think that Pittsburgh’s community of woodworkers definitely rivals other cities.”

This year’s event will also allow the public an early preview of the future The Wheel Mill, a planned indoor bicycle park.  Harry Geyer, carpenter and owner of the park, has constructed 75 percent of the course’s infrastructure from reclaimed lumber. 

“The mountain biking community naturally cares a lot about trees and the forest, so I think it’s a great way to mix the two together,” Geyer says. He hopes to be open by the beginning of next year.

And as the fall planting season comes to an end, Tree Pittsburgh has just planted its 15,000 tree, of its 20,000-tree goal, as part of TreeVitalize.  The program is a partnership between Tree Pittsburgh, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the City of Pittsburgh, County Parks, and Pennsylvania DCNR.

Saturday’s event begins with the Soil Mixer, from 6:30 to 8:30, with food and drink, and woodworking demonstrations.  And the Main Event, from 8:30 to midnight, will feature live music along with food and drink from local establishments.   Click here for tickets and more information.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Danielle Crumrine, Caitlin Lenahan

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

What's one way to revitalize Wilkinsburg? Plant 500 trees.

The Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation (WCDC) has one primary goal: to improve the community and business district.  One way it’s working to meet this goal is by planting more than 500 trees in the borough.

This past Saturday, 77 new trees were planted along the Penn Avenue commercial corridor in Wilkinsburg.  It was the fourth planting since the effort began, with a total of 109 trees in the business district, and the rest in Wilkinsburg’s residential neighborhoods.

“There’s one more planting to finish it up, but we’ve finally gotten to that point where we have a nice set of new street trees all though the business district,” says WCDC Executive Director Tracey Evans.

Officially known as the Wilkinsburg TreeVitalize Project: Rooted in Wilkinsburg – 500 Tree Initiative, the effort is a partnership between WCDC, TreeVitalize Pittsburgh, the Borough of Wilkinsburg, and the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association. 

The tree plantings are funded by a grant from PennVEST, a state agency whose primary purpose in the initiative is to address stormwater runoff. 

And while addressing stormwater is also a priority for the partners in Wilkinsburg, street trees have numerous benefits to the community beyond affecting water quality. 

“It’s important because we have 27,000 cars a day drive down Penn Avenue,” Evans says.  As her organization works to bring businesses into vacant storefronts, street trees are part of a vibrant streetscape that will help attract those new tenants.

Types of trees include elm, gingko, hackberry, honey locust, Kentucky coffeetree, Japanese tree lilac, and maple.

WCDC began as an all-volunteer organization in 2007, and a fulltime staff was hired in 2010.  In the past two years the organization has implemented other streetscape improvement projects including new borough banners in the commercial district, fixed lamp posts, and purchased trash receptacles. 

Additionally, WCDC has marketed 40 commercial properties and helped to fill several vacant storefronts with new businesses.
 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Tracey Evans

Pittsburgh Botanic Garden opens for tours, 24-years in the making

The Pittsburgh Botanic Garden (PBG) is opening to the public for the first time with "Peak and Preview" tours beginning tomorrow.  It's the first opportunity for the general public to see the 460-acre garden's progress after more than 20 years of work which includes the remediation of a former strip mine.

Kitty Vagley, PBG director of development, says these tours are encouraging to the project's supporters and staff, and are a milestone for this long-awaited garden.

"It's a way to say to all these people who have kept faith that we are finally emerging from the environmental morass and producing something worthwhile," she says.

Vagley says the garden is at a halfway mark, with approximately three miles of trails built, and interactive exhibits for families and children such as a child-sized bird nest.  Twelve acres have been cleared of invasive species, with over 2,000 native plantings.  And soon a drainable limestone bed will be installed for remediation of acid mine drainage, which would otherwise render a pond in the woods lifeless.

The organization knew that former mines on the land had created environmental issues for the garden, but after the damage of Hurricane Ivan in 2004 those problems were revealed to be far greater than they imagined.

"For eight years we have struggled with the environmental problems that no one knew we were signing up for," Vagley says.  "So the fact that we can actually point to this site and say we are moving ahead, we are real, is a big accomplishment.”

Weekly tours are currently scheduled through November, and space can be reserved by calling the garden or through its website.  Tomorrow, Dr. Doug Tallamy, an entomologist form the University of Delaware, will lead a tour and give a lecture on the importance of native plants in a diverse ecosystem.

More extensive tours are also available on request, which will allow guests to see the Dogwood Meadow, and the Eastern European and English Woodlands.  412-444-4464.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Kitty Vagley

PARK(ing) Day 2012 approaching, open call for creating parks in streets

Once a year parking spaces throughout the city are transformed into actual parks, street-side oases of greenery and relaxation.  PARK(ing) Day 2012 is fast approaching, and will be Pittsburgh’s fifth year participating in this worldwide celebration of car-free urbanism.

Last year’s one-day-only event saw the city’s largest turnout yet, with over 30 parks installed on Pittsburgh streets.

The all-volunteer group behind PARK(ing) Day Pittsburgh is partnering this year with the Pittsburgh chapter of the American Institute of Architects Young Architects Forum (YAF).   Upcoming workshops will be held to help interested participants bring their designs to the next level, with assistance on building materials and other structural elements.

“We always encourage plants, park benches, seating areas, just a place for people to relax and enjoy themselves,” says organizer Chuck Alcorn.  “The more creative you can be the better.”

Participation is open to everyone.  Alcorn hopes to grow to beyond 30 parks this year, and encourages groups and individuals to tour the numerous installations if not creating spaces themselves. 

Last year park amenities included electricity-generating stationary bikes, games, food, plants, couches, and even artificial turf.  Several bicycle tours were organized of the various parks throughout the city.

The deadline to apply is Friday, September 14th, a week prior to the event.  Once all applications have been received, a map of all parks will be available online for download.  The year's event will take place throughout the day on Friday, September 21st.

PARK(ing) Day was created by the San Francisco art and design studio Rebar in 2005.  In addition to North America, events now take place in Australia, Europe, South America and Asia.

Alcorn says the purpose of the event is to get residents thinking about the built environment and the amount of space that is dedicated to cars, as well as the numerous benefits of parks in cities.

For inspiration, click here to see photos from PARK(ing) Day Pittsburgh 2011.


Writer: Andrew Moore
Source:  Chuck Alcorn

What does a community want in a park? Aspinwall speaks up.

Last year, the Allegheny River community of Aspinwall led a successful grassroots campaign to buy a private marina and turn it over to the public.  Now, in anticipation of the new Aspinwall Riverfront Park, project directors have turned to the community once again to find out exactly what area residents want in a park.

Top activities include walking, running, bicycling, playground areas, and nature appreciation.  According to Friends of the Riverfront (FOR), who facilitated the survey,17 percent of respondents expressed a desire to create a natural park that focuses on the river with fishing, rowing, and canoeing or kayaking.

"What was important to us is that we create something that is really valuable to the public, and that meets their needs," says Susan Crookston, of Aspinwall Riverfront Park, Inc.  "And by doing this survey we wanted to incorporate people's ideas and their own dreams for the park too."

But residents want the park to be enjoyed by non-humans as well.  Crookston's organization was delighted to find a river otter on the property last week, an animal which has only recently been reintroduced to the Allegheny.  Bald eagles and hummingbirds have also been spotted in the park.

"There's a really unique ecosystem…that we'd like to protect and cherish," Crookston says.  "We really want to get people back to the river and interacting with the river, so that's an exciting possibility for us."

FOR purchased the marina on behalf of the Aspinwall community last October from David Kushon, who retired after more than 40 years on the river.  The purchase was made possible through the community's grassroots fundraising, an effort which Crookston spearheaded in 2010, raising over $2.3 million.

FOR has also announced the local design team that will create a Master Plan for the park, which includes Pittsburgh-based Environmental Planning & Design (EPD) as team leader and landscape architect of record.

EPD is joined by NIPpaysage of Montreal, Quebec; studio d’ARC architects of Pittsburgh; Lennon, Smith, Souleret Engineering of Coraopolis; blue tomato design of Pittsburgh; and 360 Intelligent Marketing.

Crookston says there is also an interest in having canoe and kayak rentals at the site, among other amenities, but that the specifics are still being developed.

"It's an enormous task that we're trying to undertake here, to not only run a  business that generates several million dollars a year and has several employees," she says, "but what we hope will be a treasure for our community for years to come."


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Susan Crookston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Lena Andrews, URA

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

Kayak Millvale to launch at Allegheny River, boat and bicycle rentals seven days a week

For a town whose name echoes the industry of its past, Millvale has made huge strides to transform polluted waterways into public amenities.  And on May 26th, when Kayak Millvale begins operating a kayak and bicycle rental facility, it will be that much easier for residents to access a cleaner, healthier Allegheny River.

Kayak Millvale, a project of Venture Outdoors, will have an initial fleet of 20 kayaks and 15 bikes available for rent, seven days a week.  Prices for one- and- two-person boats range from $15 to $20 an hour. 

Venture Outdoors operates two other kayak rental programs, one in North Park, and the North Shore-based Kayak Pittsburgh, which was launched in 2004.  Last year, the organization rented-out over 14,000 kayaks to paddlers on the Allegheny. 

According to Millvale Borough Council Vice President John Kelley, the boat rental program is just one of many upgrades coming to Millvale’s Riverfront Park and outdoor recreation areas.  An existing walk-in boat launch will soon be joined by new finger piers and a new dock for non-motorized boats, as well as additional facilities.

Kelley says Kayak Millvale is a great fit for the borough, and expects the service to become very popular.

“[Kayak Millvale] knows the river like the back of their hand,” he says.  “These guys were born to have their concession in this spot.”

The Millvale Borough Development Corporation and borough council approached Venture Outdoors about bringing their concession to the Riverfront Park.  Kelley says the town's current leadership is committed to improving the public's access to waterways, and increasing opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Jon Lucadomo, of Venture Outdoors, says his organization will start by offering a small fleet of boats while gauging the public's demand.

Kelley, himself a member of the Three Rivers Rowing Association, which also uses Millvale’s waterfront facilities, says paddling in the middle of the Allegheny is a “revelation.”

“It’s a completely different point of view,” he says.  “I just hope that everyone in Pittsburgh has a chance to come out and experience this.” 

Kayak Millvale will be located along the Allegheny River at Millvale Riverfront Park, River Front Drive, Millvale, PA 15209; open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to dusk; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to dusk.
 


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  John Kelly; Jon Lucadomo, Venture Outdoors

Larimer's EECO Center aims to be hub for energy-efficiency and conservation, opening soon

Construction of the Environment and Energy Community Outreach (EECO) Center has finished, and the project’s supporters hope it will soon be offering East End residents a new way to go green and save money. 

When it opens in June, the center’s goal is to help low-income residents in the East End make their homes more energy-efficient through education and resources, to promote household water conservation, and to raise awareness about utility assistance programs.

And the facility itself will be a living demonstration of all the green technologies it advocates, such as rainwater harvesting, LED lighting, low-water use plumbing fixtures, geothermal walls, solar panels, urban gardens, and more. 

The current EECO Center project grew from State Senator Jim Ferlo’s vision for a vacant lot in Larimer that had been the site of a BP gas station.  In 2009 the site was donated to the Urban Redevelopment Authority, and after several years of revisions and collaborations, the project’s building is complete.

Senator Ferlo says he hopes the ECCO Center will be a cornerstone for the ongoing efforts to redevelop Larimer on the principles of sustainability, and a greener neighborhood environment. 

Pittsburgh Community Services, Inc. (PCSI) is currently using the building for its neighborhood safety programs, as well workforce development, and nutritional assistance programs, among others.  After the grand opening, PCSI will continue to staff and manage the facility, directed by a programming advisory board.

In the coming weeks, the site is set for perimeter tree plantings by Tree Pittsburgh, an adjacent storm water management installation, and sustainable landscaping, all of which will work toward the vision for the EECO Center as a hub of all things green.
 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Senator Jim Ferlo; Shad Henderson

Love Your Block recipients announced for round two of revitalization initiative

Last fall, Mayor Ravenstahl's Love Your Block program collected over 5,480 pounds of litter, impacted 47 city blocks, and engaged over 660 volunteers.  With a new round of grants announced last week, neighborhood volunteers throughout the city are set to do it all over again.

Some of this latest round's projects include the CAPA 6-12 school's literature-meets-urban-garden showcase; vacant-lots-turned-community gardens in Homewood, led by the YWCA; improved landscape around a municipal building in Uptown; and more gardens and improvements in Polish Hill, Oakland, the Hill District, Elliott, and Deutschtown.

Chief Service Officer Rebecca Delphia says that Love Your Block projects have been successful in engaging long-standing organizations as well as first-time volunteers.  

In some cases, as with a vacant-lot transformation in Brighton Heights, projects have been a catalyst for continued neighborhood involvement.  Delphia says in this case, volunteers are not only continuing to maintain a newly installed rain garden, but they have built lasting connections to complete additional projects in the future.

Love York Block was launched last year, and is one of seven components of the mayor’s servePGH initiative, which engages volunteers to address challenges in the City.  The Home Depot Foundation has donated $10,000 toward the program in the form of $500 Home Depot gift cards, and City services are coordinated to assist with certain tasks.

Delphia says Mayor Ravenstahl is committed to dramatically growing servePGH, and hopes to bring the program to up to 50 neighborhoods a year, starting in the fall.

Look for the current round of projects to begin sprucing-up neighborhoods later this spring, in May and June.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Rebecca Delphia

Pittsburgh Green House now open in East Liberty, an eco-home training facility

In East Liberty, a 110-year old home has been given new life as the Pittsburgh Green House.  A project of ACTION-Housing, Inc., the Green House will be a weatherization training and educational facility, where classes and workshops will focus on residential energy and water savings, and making homes healthier.

ACTION-Housing is the largest provider or weatherization assistance to low income residents in Pennsylvania, serving Greene, Washington, and Allegheny County.  However, according to program administrator Lindsay Ruprecht, the Green House will offer a new service that is unlike any other resource  in the region.

Ruprecht says that while other institutions do offer great weatherization training, because they’re often in sterile, classroom settings, contractors aren't necessarily prepared for the rough conditions of the region’s aging housing stock.  To address that, the Green House has been left intentionally "raw," so that learners can experience hands-on what it's like to retrofit a home more similar to the majority of houses in Pittsburgh.

"We wanted to do it in a real house where the contractors would have real opportunities, in a 110-year-old house, to really see what happens in something that's wonky," Ruprecht says. "Things aren't perfect."

In addition to providing this training, Ruprecht says her organization wanted to fill what it perceived to be a middle-class resource gap.  For those households that don't qualify for low-income programs, Ruprecht says the Green House will allow greater access to do-it-yourself projects that can reduce a home’s carbon footprint.

Classes will be taught on a rotating basis by ACTION-Housing staff, as well as product specialists and experts from local nonprofits.  For contractors, hands-on training includes building science, weatherization skills, blower door technology, and Building Performance Institute certification.  Some courses are free, while others have associated fees.

The Pittsburgh Green House, 308 N. Sheridan Avenue, is open for public tours Wednesday through Saturday.  Call 412-362-4PGH for more information.

Upcoming classes:

March 21st, Home Energy 101, 12pm.  Learn easy, inexpensive ways of cutting your energy consumption around the house. Focus areas will be water, light, heating/cooling and electricity.

March 22nd, Water Use in the Home, learn about the different ways to save water in your home, and why decreasing burden on Pittsburgh's water system is important.  6pm.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Lindsay Ruprecht

evolveEA project in East End wins Design Award, sparks ecodistrict conversation

evolveEA has created a blueprint for transforming two city neighborhoods based on environmental equity.  
 
Their project, Living City Masterplan: Larimer-Homewood,  recently received AIA Pittsburgh’s Honor Award in Urban Design.  Christine Mondor, founder of evolveEA, hopes this recognition will kickstart and redirect the ecodistrict conversation in Pittsburgh.

Planning for an ecodistrict includes considering sustainable development practices, and aims to reduce the ecological footprint of a community.  Mondor says this type of planning is often done for new developments, but should be given equal attention in existing communities.

“I think that places like Larimer and Homewood are interesting because they have that texture, that history, and they've got great people to build upon to make a richer type of community,” Mondor says.  

Living City Masterplan analyzed those two neighborhoods in three basic terms: water, energy, and nutrients.  It asked, what might Larimer and Homewood look like if those three components actually started to build resiliency and economic opportunities, both for existing residents and those attracted to the neighborhood?

One of Mondor’s most interesting findings was uncovered while addressing issues of flooding near Washington Boulevard.  Although currently an industrialized setting, Mondor says the site was most likely a wetland area at one time.  

By addressing the issue of storm water runoff in an environmentally sensitive way, Mondor says it creates an opportunity to create a park-like setting that serves multiple purposes.

“You get this great opportunity to make public space that is both an amenity, but a functional landscape, and improve the general appearance and improve the connection between the neighborhoods,” she says.

Mondor says the masterplan is a tool for guiding future developments in the neighborhoods, but allows room for change as projects develop.  But ultimately it has outlined a set of principles that can guide those developments.

In terms of building progressive systems for water, energy, and food, Mondor says, “it’s one of the few systems articulated that makes the connection between the people in the community and how they need to develop the decision making capacity and take ownership.”


Click here to see a complete list of AIA Pittsburgh's 2011 Design Award Winners.


Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source: Christine Mondor

Floral company greenSinner grows sustainable cut flowers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Jonathan Weber


An East Liberty home produces more energy than it consumes

Pittsburgh's first net-zero renovation is now complete in East Liberty. The one-hundred year-old home at 710 North St. Clair Street now produces as much energy as it consumes, thanks to an energy-conscious renovation by West Penn Energy Solutions.

The roof of the three-story Colonial Revival home is covered in photovoltaic solar panels, which have already begun producing enough surplus energy to sell back to the power company. Once the house is lived-in electricity bills might fluctuate, but at year's end the total bill should balance to a net-zero electricity bill.

In addition to solar panels, polyisocyanurate insulation envelopes the entire house, which Michael Merck, owner of West Penn Energy Solutions, says is probably the single most important factor in energy conservation.

The first floor is radiant-floor heated, while the upper stories are baseboard heated. Low-flow water fixtures have been installed for conservation, as well as CFL light bulbs. And although the house has no air-conditioning, a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) acts as the lungs of the house, exhausting stale air while taking in fresh air.

East Liberty Development, Inc. owns the home and partnered with Merck for the renovation. With this first renovation complete, Merck is now turning next-door for his second project. He says on a holistic scale, this type of renovation and new-home building is just the right thing to do.

"We need to be more conscious of the materials that we use in a house, the waste that is generated…and the person who's going to live in it, what their utilities bills are going to be like," Merck says. "It should be the standard, and it's slowly starting to happen."


Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Michael Merck

EPA funds brownfield development in McKees Rocks

The former P&LE Railroad site in McKees Rocks is another step closer to being redeveloped. At a ceremony last Monday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which had provided the funding for an environmental assessment, announced the launch of redevelopment of the site.

Trinity Commercial Development, LLC, the redevelopment contractor, has purchased the parcel and is ready to rehabilitate it. At the same ceremony, the EPA also awarded $1 million in new federal funding for environmental assessments of other brownfield sites in the region.

"We were thrilled to be a part of this groundbreaking event which truly demonstrates the link between environmental protection and economic growth, through the EPA brownfields program," says Roy Seneca, spokesperson for the EPA.

The 52-acre property is located five miles west of downtown Pittsburgh, and is located within the state-designated Ohio River Towns Enterprise Zone. Trinity Commercial Development, LLC owns the property, and hopes to create a "flex" business park by utilizing and rehabilitating existing structures, as well as new construction.

The Pittsburgh Regional Alliance estimates that 1,172 operational jobs will result if the entire redevelopment and build-out occurs.

The Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad began business on the site in 1879. The site has been home to many industrial uses over the past hundred years, including a maintenance and repair facility for the railroad, as well as three steel mill facilities. Currently the site is used for storage and as a scrap yard.

"The community of McKees Rocks is really the type of community where we really like to see our funds go, where we can really see progress, and see things going," Seneca says.

The P&LE site brings the total brownfield projects in the Pittsburgh region to 12,000 acres of developed and undeveloped land, including Washington's Landing, Summerset at Frick Park, and the Pittsburgh Technology Center.


Writer: Andrew Moore
Source, Roy Seneca, EPA


EPA to invest $1.4 million for redevelopment of abandoned sites

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced that Southwestern Pennsylvania will receive $1.4 million in investments to assess abandoned industrial properties for potential redevelopment.

North Side Industrial Development Company in Pittsburgh and Washington County Redevelopment Authority will receive EPA brownfields grants to help transform vacant and contaminated lands into safe, healthy, and economically viable properties.

EPA Press Chief Roy Seneca says his agency looks upon brownfields grants as investments in communities. "These brownfields initiatives really demonstrate how environmental protection and economic development go hand-in-hand," he says, "to strengthen communities and help rebuild the economy in struggling areas."

The North Side Industrial Development Company partners with 20 other coalition members, including 19 municipalities along the Ohio and Allegheny Rivers, and the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh.

In communities where heavy industry and mining practices once dominated the economy, potentially hazardous waste will remain in the landscape. "A lot of this money [from the EPA brownfields grants] will be used to assess these properties," Seneca says. Once cleaned, buildings can be reused using creative and green techniques, and community parks can be developed, among other options.

The South Side Works is perhaps one of the most notable examples of a local brownfield reuse. The 123-acre former LTV Steel site was cleaned and transformed into a mixed-use development following the city's purchase of the property in 1993.

Seneca says the EPA tries to award grants in communities where there is a need. "A lot of times they'll go to communities where there's distress and some poverty," he says. "Where they can really make a difference with these funds."

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Roy Seneca, EPA

Cue the falcons: the Aviary sky deck opens!

When the National Aviary opened its new Sky Deck this weekend, visitors received an up close view of birds of prey swooping and diving above the open-air rooftop.  

A martial eagle, lanner falcons, and six black kites are the stars of the show.

Coaxed by lures sent flying by their trainers, the birds zoom above the building.  The lures they seek range from frozen pieces of chicken to leather straps disguised with feathers.

Each bird is trained extensively before its debut, to ensure that they do not fly away.  The lanner falcons are still completing training after a rainy spring, but they are expected to join the show soon.

The Aviary in Allegheny Commons Park is the only place in the country where you can see a martial eagle fly freely and black kites fly in unison.   It is also the only aviary recognized by an Act of Congress. The National Aviary took its name in 1993.

According to Laura Ellis, of the organization's marketing staff, the parking lot is consistently filled with out of town license plates, especially during the summer.

"It's a remarkable experience," she says.  "It's the opposite of a zoo experience.  You're having a chance to observe birds in a way that you would never see in captivity."

The Sky Deck is open at 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. daily until Labor Day.  Tickets are available online and at the Aviary on the North Side.  Reservations are recommended.

Writer: Lindsay Derda
Source: Laura Ellis, National Aviary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of OPDC

Comprehensive Active Allegheny plan strives to improve carless commuting

Last week, Allegheny County released Active Allegheny, its first overarching improvement plan for non-vehicular transportation including cycling, walking, skateboarding, and kayaking.

Using a $300,000 state grant, the County and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) have been working with organizations and commuters across the Allegheny County's 130 municipalities since last July in order to identify the major bicycle and pedestrian commuter arteries that go from the north, south, east, and west into Pittsburgh, as well as the most dangerous streets and largest obstacles to commuter safety.

Active Allegheny consists of five major components, containing many short and long-term projects to improve cycle, pedestrian, and river connections and public steps, as well as the identification of potential funding sources. The plan includes three "complete the street" prototypes designed to show various stakeholders how to best enhance multi-modal transportation and ADA accessibility, with detailed guidelines for creating bike lanes, increasing signage, and lowering speed limits. While the County and PennDOT will be tackling ten priority projects directly, the plan proposes a wide variety of tasks to be implemented by a long list of municipalities, organizations, and other stakeholders.

"The main thing here is that we've identified major infrastructure projects to serve the county so that other groups that want to connect and help make a full system for the whole county can identify the arterial routes for bikes and pedestrians," says Lynn Heckman, assistant director for transportation initiatives for the County's Department of Economic Development. "When they're doing their projects they'll know what to aim for so that we'll have a full system."

The three most immediate projects the County will be handling include the replacement of dangerous grates and scuppers on bridges, the installation of bike racks on all Port Authority buses, and major infrastructural improvements to the North Park bike and pedestrian path.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Lynn Heckman, Allegheny County Department of Economic Development

Image courtesy of Kevin Smay

City introduces 20 year Allegheny Riverfront Vision Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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


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."

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Writer: John Farley
Source:  Brian Mendelssohn

Image courtesy of Botero 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.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Esther Barazzone, Chatham University
             Robert Berkebile, BNIM

Image courtesy of Chatham University and BNIM

Support local restaurants and urban farming with Grow Pittsburgh's Let Us Eat! dinner series

Looking for a good excuse to eat out?  Look no further than the Let Us Eat! monthly dinner series, a collaboration between community urban farming non-profit Grow Pittsburgh and some of the city's best restaurants.

Let Us Eat! is a new initiative happening at different restaurants on the second Thursday of each month.  10% of the restaurant's profits for the night will be donated to Grow Pittsburgh in order to further their mission of teaching and promoting responsible food production.

The money will support Grow Pittsburgh's internship program, Edible School Program, and City Growers, an initiative designed to help communities grow food from scratch.  The funds will also support Grow Pittsburgh's Greenhouse in Frick Park and farm in Braddock, where Grow Pittsburgh produces fresh ingredients for local restaurants.  

"We get a lot of calls from local chefs who are interested in supporting us but don't necessarily have the ability to purchase the small quantities of food we have to offer," explains Julie Butcher Pezzino, executive director of Grow Pittsburgh.  "We decided that we still want to count these chefs and restaurants among our supporters and thought that if they were willing to host a dinner party in support of us that would be another great way to help our organization."

The Let Us Eat! Dinner Series begins on January 13 at Avenue B in Bloomfield.  Click here for a complete list of restaurants and dates.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Julie Butcher, Pezzino, Grow Pittsburgh

Image courtesy of Grow Pittsburgh

Emerald View Park acquires 11 new acres overlooking the West End

In a major transfer of land from the Allegheny Land Trust to the City of Pittsburgh last week, Emerald View Park in Mt. Washington gained 11 additional acres bringing the total size to 243 acres . 

The land, which runs along Greenleaf Street, was acquired by the Allegheny Land Trust in 2008. Last Tuesday, the City and the Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation signed a joint lease agreement, allowing them to maintain the land. Funding for the land transfer was provided by Colcom.

 "Not only does the acreage protect some beautiful land and wooded areas that prevent soil erosion and help with stormwater management, but we'll be able to incorporate this property into our park by adding trails," says Ilyssa Manspeizer, director of park development and conservation for the MWCDC, who co-manage the park with the City.

The newly acquired parcels also contain parking and trailhead space, which is wonderful given the neighborhood's limited parking resources. In addition, the area boasts stunning views of the West End and Saw Mill Run valley. The ALT is currently looking to acquire another 14 acres, which would then be transferred to the City and MWCDC to better connect the park's main 9-mile walking loop.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Ilyssa Manspeizer, MWCDC

Photograph copyright Ilyssa Manspeizer

Pittsburgh's greenest welcome party saved

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy's famous Welcome Gardens at the entrance and exit of the Fort Pitt Tunnel medians have greeted and seen off uncounted millions of vehicles traveling through Pittsburgh since they were created in 1998, but a drop in corporate sponsorship due to the recession nearly forced the gardens to close this year. Fortunately for lovers of natural beauty, the gardens have been saved thanks to a sponsorship from one of Pittsburgh's newest neighbors, Huntington Bank.

"I think it's hard for people to realize that these sites always need new partnerships to keep them going. It takes a huge amount of participation and planning, so these partnerships are incredibly valuable," says Judy Wagner, senior director of community gardens and greenspace programs for the WPC.

Huntington approached the WPC in October after a 30% drop in corporate gifts forced them to put a "Financial Support Needed" sign at the garden earlier this year, and while the donation amount remains undisclosed, the gardens are already being renewed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the tunnel.

Since the gardens lost a number of trees during last winter's epic snowstorms, Huntington helped the WPC plant the first two of many year-round Evergreens, and indicated that they wish to continue volunteering with the WPC to maintain the 7,390-square-foot flower beds, which is no small task. Out of the Conservancy's 140 gardens, the Welcome Gardens are the most difficult to maintain, both financially and physically, because of their size and hairy location in the middle of busy Parkway West. As a result, the WPC continues to seek financial support for the gardens. You can help by calling Gavin Deming at 412-586-2394.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Judy Wagner, WPC

Image courtesy of the WPC



How $1.5 million will help restore our natural assets and revolutionize our public transit

The Allegheny Riverfront Green Boulevard Project, the most recent component of the Mayor's one-year-old Allegheny Riverfront Vision Plan, has ambitious goals. Thanks to a $1.5 million federal planning award that was announced last Wednesday the City of Pittsburgh, Riverlife, Allegheny Valley Railroad, and the URA will now begin the task of transforming 6.45 miles of Allegheny Riverfront from an underdeveloped former industrial area into a 21st century site of recreation, environmentalism, transit, and business.

After conducting an initial engineering study, Green Boulevard partner Allegheny Valley Railroad recognized the potential to use their already existing riverfront freight tracks to accommodate simultaneous light rail passenger trains. While plans are still falling into place, it is expected that these trains would shuttle passengers from Downtown through The Strip District, Lawrenceville, Morningside, and Highland Park.

In conjunction with the light rail, Riverlife is developing a dedicated bike and walking trail adjacent to the rails. The URA is working to develop a housing plan that goes with the transportation elements. This developmental trifecta will create jobs, strengthen the local economy, reconnect our neighborhoods to the river, and significantly reduce gridlock along Butler Street and Penn Avenue. A focus on reversing over a century of industrially wrecked havoc on the rivers is at the forefront of the Green Boulevard Project.

"Since Pittsburgh has an older sewer system we have combined sewage overflows. When we have a major rain event that rainwater comes down on paved surfaces and sends all the pollutants into those combined sewage overflows, which are overwhelmed, so raw sewage goes into the river. Everyone can understand why that's not a good idea," says Stephan Bontrager, director of communications for Riverlife.

Over the next ten years, Riverlife plans to restore a natural riverbank along the Allegheny with a gentle grade, which will reduce stormwater runoff and diminish our dependence on antiquated combined sewage overflows. The restored riverbank will also foster the rejuvenation of native plants and animals in the area.

Now that the $1.5 million grant is secured, along with approximately $68 million in grants from the Department of Transportation and Department of Housing and Urban Development, planning is rapidly underway with the possibility of implementation by 2012.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Stephan Bontrager, Riverlife
             Joanna Doven, City of Pittsburgh

Image courtesy of The Allegheny Riverfront Vision Plan




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.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Michael Clements, 308 Forbes Avenue developer

Photograph copyright John Farley

Improve your community and eat fresh through the Urban Farming Initiative

Applications are now being accepted for the second year of the Allegheny Grows Urban Farming Initiative. The program provides financial support, materials, and technical and educational assistance to motivated Community Development Block Grant eligible communities in order to replace vacant lots and blighted properties with gardens to grow fresh food.

The program was created last year by Allegheny County, which contracted with Grow Pittsburgh  and the Western PA Conservancy. In its first year, the initiative helped eight communities start growing locally. This year, funds will be allocated to two communities, and applications are open to any community group or individuals willing to take on a leadership role.

"It's structured differently in each community, and it's really up to the community to decide what structure the garden takes," says Jessica Mooney, assistant manager of business development for Allegheny County. "In Millvale, they decided they had enough community engagement that they wanted to do individual plots. In McKees Rocks it looked a little bit differently, instead of having individual plots, they decided they would rather have a garden that could be taken care of by the community, and then the produce could be distributed through a local food bank."

Regardless of structure, The County will provide the communities with the physical materials and planting supplies necessary, while Grow Pittsburgh provides on site experts who can give helpful advice about how to create the best garden possible, and make sure things go smoothly until the community is ready to run the garden on its own. The Western PA Conservancy brings helpful construction related input, and suggestions about planting schedules.

However your garden grows, the Urban Farming Initiative is a great way to improve your community, teach children about healthy eating habits, better the environment, and eat delicious food.

Applications are due November 18. Those interested in applying can do so online, or by calling 412-350-1198.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Jessica Mooney, Allegheny County

Image courtesy of Allegheny County

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.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Christina Novak, DCNR

Image courtesy of Riverlife


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.

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Source: Melissa Bilec, University of Pittsburgh
Writer: John Farley

Restoration of Panther Hollow makes huge progress with $1 million grant

The Richard King Mellon Foundation recently awarded a $1 million grant to the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy to create a management plan for Panther Hollow watershed. Panther Hollow, located in Schenley Park, has long been plagued by pollution and invasive species, and the grant will be a huge boost in the effort to restore the important body of water, which once featured a boathouse, and was a popular destination for families.

"We'll use professionals, and we will bring in consultants to help us create a longterm management plan that will create permanent change," says Michael Sexauer, director of marketing and membership for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.

The first thing the plan needs to address is educating the public about runoff from the hillsides. "One of our biggest challenges is education of the residents who surround Schenley Park, and pressing on them the importance of being aware of how their lifestyle choices impact Panther Hollow watershed," says Sexauer.

Another considerable challenge, which the plan will address, is the replacement of harmful invasive species with plants that will bring stability to Panther Hollow's ecosystem. Additionally, the grant will allow the Parks Conservancy to continue the work they've been doing for years, such as installing catch basins and removing debris.

On September 15, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy will present "What's in the Panther Hollow?", a public meeting to address the problems and solutions. Parks Conservancy staff will provide an overview of the Panther Hollow issues, and guest speaker Michele Adams, principal engineer and founder of Meliora Design, will lecture on the importance of sustainable resources engineering and environmentally sensitive site design.

The event is free, and will be located in Botany Hall, adjacent to Phipps Conservatory. Seating is limited, and attendees should RSVP by September 13 through email, or by calling 412-682-7275.

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Source: Michael Sexauer, director of marketing and membership for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy
Writer: John Farley



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.

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Source: Darla Cravotta, County Special Projects Coordinator
Writer: John Farley

Photograph copyright John Farley

Wilkinsburg Community Develoment Corporation gets new hire and installs locally designed receptacles

The Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation is continuing it's mission of greening up its Penn Avenue business district with the installation of 22 new litter receptacles, and the recent hire of new Beautification Coordinator, Michael Yellets.

The 45 gallon litter receptacles were designed by Penn Avenue based Technique Architectural Products founder and CMU alum, Ray Appleby.  Appleby is a notable sculpture artist, who has exhibited in galleries in New York and Pittsburgh, and has been perfecting the design of the receptacles for the WCDC over the course of the last year.

"Appleby has completed the prototype, and he's currently manufacturing 22 receptacles, which should be out on the street in the next four to six weeks," says Tracy Evans, Executive Director of the WCDC. "We will be continuing to seek funds to do make receptacles. We know we probably need between 65 and 75."

In addition, the WCDC recently hired lifetime Wilkinsburger Michael Yellets as its Beautification Coordinator. Yellets will be responsible for hands on cleanup projects in the business district, such as litter and flier removal.

Founded in 2007, The Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation has been funded primarily by the Tri-State Capital Bank's Neighborhood Partnership Program, with additional support from local businesses.

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Source: Tracy Evans, Executive Director of WCDC
Writer: John Farley

Image courtesy WCDC.


Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium begins hilltop expansion with vet hospital and Komodo Dragons

The Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium is gearing up for a large three phase expansion, with new facilities that will be located on top of the vacant five acre area above the bear exhibits.

Excavation has already begun on a new vet hospital, which will operate both as an actual medical center for the zoo's animals, as well as a play area for children, which will simulate what it's like to be an animal veterinarian. The current vet hospital was built in 1985, and although an expansion was added in 1993, the zoo has begun to outgrow the building. "We have a vast collection of animals, and if we want to keep bringing in new large animals, we need a new facility," says Henrey Kacprzyk, Curator of Kids Kingdom and Reptiles.

Additionally, the zoo will begin planning for a 10,000 square foot glass reptile house in October. The facility will feature a breeding center for Komodo Dragons, the largest lizard species in the world, of which there are only 5,000 left. Kacprzyk says the zoo also plans to house the endangered Philippine Crocodile, whose numbers are estimated to have dwindled to only 200 in the entire world. Besides the exotic reptiles, the zoo hopes to display a number of amphibians, including some rare local species.

Although plans for phase three are currently in development, they entail the construction of 10 to 12 outdoor mammal exhibits, possibly featuring Orangutans, Snow Leopards, and Jaguars.

Connecting the three facilities will be a series of rustic meandering sylvan pathways, which will allow visitors to take advantage of the scenic surroundings of Highland Park.

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Source: Henry Kacprzyk, Curator of Kids Kingdom and Reptiles
Writer: John Farley

$275,000 in grants to double the size of restored viewing area at Emerald View Park

The Mount Washington Community Development Corporation has received a $200,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, and a $75,000 grant from the Colcom Foundation to continue the restoration of Emerald View Park.

Opened in 2005 in Mt. Washington, Emerald View is Pittsburgh's newest park. Since its inception, 1,500 trees have been planted, 1,200 pounds of native grass seed spread, 10,000 pounds of organic fertilizer applied, and half a mile of irrigation has been installed. Currently, many large and invasive species of trees block the public viewing area of the park, which overlooks the City.

"The grants from the Mellon and Colcom Foundations will allow us to continue to work with partners like Civil and Environmental Consultants, Inc. and the City to double the area of restored viewshed to 5.5 acres," says Illyssa Manspeizer, MWCDC Park Manager.

Once the invasive trees are removed, they will be replaced with low lying native trees and vegetation. Beyond opening up the park to more spectacular vantage points, the new plants will help restore the natural ecosystem in the park, and reduce storm water runoff, and reduce erosion of the slopes.

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Source: Illyssa Manspeizer, MWCDC Park Manager
Writer: John Farley

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen.

PLANPGH asks Pittsburghers to fill out surveys to help with Open Space project

The City of Pittsburgh, through the Department of City Planning, is beginning the process of creating OPENSPACEPGH, one of twelve components of PLANPGH, a comprehensive plan for the city's development over the next 25 years. The purpose of OPENSPACEPGH is to determine the best uses for open spaces in the city, and the organizers are asking Pittsburgh residents to fill out an online survey, in order to provide public input into the decision-making process.

"The survey is just one prong of public engagement. The ultimate goal is to try and cast as broad a net as possible, and try to reach as many segments of the population as possible. We will have traditional public meetings, where we will be presenting the plan as we move forward, and we'll be having events in the parks," says Department of City Planning Senior Planner Andrew Dash.

The overall plan for OPENSPACEPGH, along with the other components of PLANPGH, is expected to be completed by mid to late 2011, when it will be adopted by City Council. The initiatives encompassed in the plan will take four to five years to complete.

So far, the ideas for the plan include utilizing vacant land in the city for traditional parks, as well as storm management, energy production, urban forestry, and public gardens.

"All the data and population indicators state that the decline in population is really going away, and as we're starting to turn the corner, it makes a lot of sense for us to start planning for natural areas to be preserved as we move to an era where there will potentially be a population increase," explains Andrew.

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Sources: Andrew Dash, Senior Planner for the Department of City Planning
               Noor Ismail, Director of the Department of City Planning
              Joy Abbot, Deputy Director of the Department of City Planning
Writer: John Farley

YWCA's new green roof contributes to revitalization of the Wood Street corridor

The 42-year-old YWCA building at 305 Wood Street received a $175,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation and Eden Hall Foundation to build a new green roof.

The new retro-fitted roof will protect the building envelope from moisture penetration, with a final layer of plantscaping, and is scheduled to be completed by late Fall of this year. Benefits of the new roof will include a longer material lifespan, energy savings, sound insulation, and improved aesthetic appeal and air quality for the neighborhood.

The roof, which the YWCA hopes will contribute to securing LEED certification, will be a landmark for the green revitalization of the Wood Street corridor, and it's coming at a great time. Point Park University's new $244 million state of the art Academic Village is under construction nearby.

"In the spirit of being a good neighbor as Point Park undertakes this effort, we would like to restore and aesthetically enhance our facility to become a part of this transformation, as well as create a more environmentally friendly option that safely houses our programs and services," says Carmelle Nickens Phillips, Vice President of the YWCA's department of Development and Communications.

Following the Richard King Mellon Foundation and Eden Hall grant, several other local foundations stepped up to help provide support for the new roof, including FISA Foundation, The Hillman Foundation, the PNC Foundation, and one anonymous source.

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Writer: John Farley
Sources: Carmelle Nickens Phillips, VP of YWCA department of Development and Communications

Greenprint Projects help remap the Hill District's psychological geography

Walter Hood is a man who literally sees the forest for the trees.

"Part of the history of Pittsburgh is people living within a wooded landscape," says Mr. Hood, the principal of urban landscape and architecture firm Hood Design, and lead consultant for the Hill District Greenprint Initiative. "With the Hill, our argument is that instead of trying to put development back into things that once existed, whether it was industrial or post-industrial, we can create a vocabulary out of this landscape, which basically owes its history to the rivers."

This concept of moving beyond Pittsburgh's industrial past, and instead attempting to better connect the city with its far more historical natural assets has been a major factor in the city's successful revitalization. In the Hill District, where development in the past has sometimes worked against this movement, many members of the community are celebrating the progress of Greenprint, a series of ongoing projects created by a partnership between Hood Design, Find the Rivers!, The Parks Conservancy, and the Hill House Association, which will help put value back into the land upon which the Hill District was built.

Leaders of these organizations announced several plans for upcoming projects at an unveiling ceremony last week, which include creating a walkable entrance to Cliffside Park, along with a new nature playground and performance space. Another project in the works is a trail, which would connect the northern perimeter of the community with its parks and open spaces. A third project entails rebuilding the well-worn staircases that connect pedestrians in the Hill to the rest of the city, as well as the Hill's own landscape.

At the unveiling ceremony, Mr. Hood referred to the Hill as one of the greenest pieces of landscape in Pittsburgh. This statement might raise an eyebrow from those who don't live in the Hill, due to negative outside perceptions of the neighborhood. Community members, however, cheered his belief, and that positive attitude towards revitalization is exactly what is hoped the Greenprint projects will reinforce, beyond merely promoting a sustainable agenda and redevelopment of green spaces.

 "We want to build on the natural and cultural landscape, but also the (Hill District's) psychological landscape," says Mr. Hood.

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Writer: John Farley

Sources: Walter Hood, principal of Hood Design

Construction to begin on Connelley Center project next fall

State Senator Jim Ferlo and the board of Pittsburgh Green Innovators hosted tours of the former Clifford B. Connelley Vocational School last Thursday in the Hill District, in order to explain the progress that has taken place in their project to turn the former high school into a green center for sustainable education.  The Connelley Project will be a major force in Pittsburgh's movement towards green workforce development.

The Connelley project is organized by a partnership between Pittsburgh Green Innovators, and the developer Pittsburgh Gateways Incorporated, who are currently leasing the building from the school district. The school district had to shut it down in 2004 due to funding issues.

"The building purchase will be finalized in August, once the school board has finished moving all of its equipment out," explains Deno de Ciantis, director of the Penn State Center, which plans to be an anchor program in the building.

After the purchase is made, the project will enter phase one of building construction. Both PGI and Green Innovators expect it should be completed by Fall of 2011. They intend to develop approximately 190,000 square feet of the facility's 230,000 square feet.

"Capital fundraising efforts are on track. Upgrades to the building will include deep energy retrofits, the purchase of energy production equipment, and costs associated with LEED certification," says Senator Ferlo.

Although a wide number of organizations have expressed interest in securing space at the building, de Ciantis says that leasing on spaces will not begin until after the purchase has been made. What de Ciantis and Ferlo are certain about, however, is that using the Connelley building to educate and train students and adults with the skills they need to excel in green job fields is critical to the growth of the green economy in Pittsburgh.

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Writer: John Farley

Sources: Deno de Ciantis, Director of the Penn Center
               Senator Jim Ferlo

Photograph Copyright John Farley

Pittsburgh beekeepers create nation's first community apiary in Homewood

Pittsburgh is now home to the U.S.'s first community apiary -- a community garden of sorts, but instead of herbs and veggies being grown, it's bees being kept.

The apiary hosted a ribbon cutting on Friday at its new site on a strip of long-vacant, blighted land along the East Busway and across the street from local microbrewer East End Brewing Company. Beekeeping nonprofit Burgh Bees was granted a free, five-year lease from the URA and the Mayor's office, says co-founder Meredith Meyer Grelli.

"This is going to be a great site for beekeepers and also a great place for the community," says Meyer Grelli. "We wanted to come up with a site that inspires creative reuse of the urban land with an eye toward the environment."

Meyer Grelli says other apiaries around the country are oriented more to demonstration, but Burgh Bees' cooperative apiary is an entirely new model for the U.S. The apiary hosts five hives exclusively for teaching new beekeepers, and also offers space to newly trained beekeepers to keep hives of their own. It also hosts a pollinator garden that is maintained by community volunteers, including residents and students. The apiary itself is funded with donations from individuals and foundations, and by sales from honey.

Burgh Bees had will continue to operate the hives it installed this past year in Mt. Washington at the Pittsburgh Zoo, but will close its hives in Hazelwood and Braddock to focus on the Homewood headquarters.

Burgh Bees has about 400 members, and in the last two years, has trained about 110 Pittsburghers in beekeeping.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Meredith Meyer Grelli, Burgh Bees

Image courtesy of Burgh Bees


Emerald View Park: Pittsburgh's newest park gets new name, $3M trail plan

New park, new name.

Mt. Washington's Grandview Scenic Byway Park is being renamed Emerald View Park, saving Pittsburghers syllables and breath that will just be taken away again once they check out the park's views.

The 235-acre park was created in December 2005 by a unanimous vote of Pittsburgh's City Council, and declared a Regional Park by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl in April 2007. The renaming process included a public voting process organized by the Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation (MWCDC), co-stewards of the Park with the City of Pittsburgh.

All of the park's anchor parks -- Grandview Park, Olympia Park and Mt. Washington Park -- will retain their own names, but be known as part of the larger Emerald View Park.

"One of the taglines that comes out of this naming process is that Emerald View Park is one wild urban adventure," says Ilyssa Manspeizer with MWCDC. "There's such a sense of wilderness in these woods but you're just a stone's throw away from the city, literally. We have views that amazing of Downtown Pittsburgh, and along the back, you see the West End and I-279 surrounded by lush, green hills. You see this vision of Western Pennsylvania as a very green forested area."

Earlier this May, Councilwoman Theresa Smith submitted legislation to City Council to change the name of Mt. Washington. The public hearing for approval will be held May 25.

MWCDC is currently working with Allegheny Land Trust to raise funds to add 19 acres of privately owned land to Emerald View. MWCDC hopes to raise 10% of the $224,000 through community fundraising, and is already it its 50% mark for that 10% goal.

MWCDC is also in the process of raising $3 million to develop its comprehensive trail plan. MWCDC would like to combine trail development with workforce development -- to work with youth under the age of 25 to provide green job training. The trail plan could also lead to economic development, says Manspeizer with MWCDC. Mt. Washington already has more than a million visitors a year -- Emerald View trails could engage them with the business districts beyond just the view from the Incline.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Ilyssa Manspeizer, MWCDC

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen


From industry to community: Rethinking the Allegheny riverfront

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perkins Eastman suggests to:

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

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

Image courtesy Allegheny Riverfront Vision plan

· 


Carnegie Library turns new page on sustainable funding, sustainable design

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image of Woods Run courtesy of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph courtesy of Sota Construction Services, Inc.


Prospect Terrace public housing gets $7.4M green makeover using stimulus funds

An East Pittsburgh housing project is starting construction this month on major renovations that will take about two years to complete.

The project is creating between 100 and 150 jobs, says Jack McGraw with Allegheny County Housing Authority (ACHA).

Prospect Terrace, owned by ACHA, was awarded almost $4.5 million in federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to make energy-saving and green updates. The rest of the funding for the $7.4 million project comes from the county. The eco-friendly facelift is projected to save more than $85,000 a year in gas and electricity costs.

Prospect Terrace was originally constructed in the mid-1960s, and has not been renovated since.

The work will include all new geothermal heating and cooling systems for 94 units of existing housing, new Energy Star roofing, triple-glazed windows, and Energy Star appliance and lighting. New bathrooms fixtures will be installed, low VOC paints will be used, and new landscaping--including trees for shading and an outdoor picnic area--will be added. Street lighting will be energy-efficient LED.

The renovations are designed by Lami Grubb Architects, and the general contractor is Liokareas Construction Company.

"Prospect Terrace will be a model for green public housing. Pittsburgh should be proud," says Suzan Lami with Lami Grubb Architects.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Soures: Jack McGraw, Allegheny County Housing Authority; Suzan Lami, Lami Grubb Architects

Image courtesy of Lami Grubb Architects


Cleaning, greening Larimer: East End neighborhood sees continued revitalization

Larimer--the in-transition neighborhood behind the Bakery Square complex--continues to be a hub of community development.

Last month, Public Allies Pittsburgh and Larimer Green Team organized a community-wide cleanup with residents and with participants from the Kingsley Association, GET:Larimer, Pittsburgh Cares and the Boys and Girls Club. Bags, gloves and other supplies were provided by Senator Jim Ferlo's office. Despite the early-on rain, about 60 volunteers participated.

In conjunction with the cleanup, Public Allies did some community canvassing to find out what Larimer residents want to see happen in their neighborhood. Priorities included creating jobs and cleaning and maintaining vacant properties, as there are currently more vacant than inhabited lots in Larimer, says Joel Moore from Public Allies. One of Larimer's most noted projects that re-purposes vacant property is its community garden at the corner of Larimer Avenue and Mayflower Street. The 17-bed food garden was planted in 2009, says Julie Pezzino with Grow Pittsburgh, and will expand this growing season.

With the information attained during last month's canvassing, Public Allies is working with the Kingsley Association to create a resident outreach and leadership program. The initial goal is to recruit at least 10 Larimer residents who previously have not been involved in their community, and to help them become the "voice of the residents," as many leaders in Larimer's revitalization are not neighborhood residents.

Public Allies and Kingsley Association will hold at least two focus group events, and will continue with survey work. One goal, says Moore, is to increase attendance at Kingsley Association activities, and also to get residents more involved in everything from the Larimer Consensus Group to the community garden.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Joel Moore, Public Allies; Julie Pezzino, Grow Pittsburgh

Photograph courtesy of Public Allies


Allegheny Grows: County initiative supports urban farming, community gardening

County Executive Dan Oronato has launched "Allegheny Grows," an initiative to encourage urban farming and community gardening on vacant lots and blighted properties throughout the region.

The program offers startup materials, as well as technical and educational assistance.

Nine municipalities will participate in the inaugural year. McKees Rocks and Millvale will create urban farms with the partnership of Grow Pittsburgh and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy; and Bridgeville, Elizabeth Borough, Millvale, Sharpsburg, Stowe Township, Swissvale, Tarentum and Verona will develop sunflower bioenergy gardens with GTECH Strategies.

Urban farms and community gardens offer a host of environmental, economic and social benefits, says Kevin Evanto with the County. Gardens can combat blight, cool urban areas and reduce runoff from rain and pollutants in the air. Additionally, explains Julie Butcher Pezzino with Grow Pittsburgh, "Gardens bring fresh produce to communities in the most simple way possible--by communities growing food themselves. They can save money on grocery bills and can supplement their incomes by selling their vegetables."

With $19,704 from the County, the McKees Rocks project will further expand the eight-bed farm already established in the Bottoms neighborhood by the McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation, Youth Advocate Programs and several borough residents. When completed, there will be a total of 15 vegetable beds.

With another $19,704 committed to Millvale, the County will work with the borough, Millvale Community Development Corporation and Allegheny River Towns Enterprise Zone to develop a brand-new farm of 15 raised beds on a cluster of vacant lots on Butler Street.

The County will provide between $4,000 and $5,000 to each Bridgeville, Elizabeth Borough, Millvale, Sharpsburg, Stowe Township, Swissvale, Tarentum and Verona for planting sunflower gardens on vacant lots in their business districts. With the assistance of GTECH Strategies, the communities will harvest the sunflowers to produce biofuel, and the sunflower seeds will be packaged and sold to the East End Food Co-Op and Whole Foods.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Kevin Evanto, Allegheny County; Julie Butcher Pezzino, executive director, Grow Pittsburgh

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green


Downtown lunch spot Franktuary gets even greener with help of CORO Fellows

Already a bastion of conscious eating, Franktuary is taking steps to be even more eco-friendly and accessible.

The gourmet hot dog shop already gives 2 percent of all profits to charity; serves the ever-popular grass-finished, organic, all-beef Locavore dog; offers auto-free bike delivery in the Downtown area; and has plenty of vegetarian options, including the tofu frank, salads and soups.

Now, the lunch spot in the basement of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, at 325 Oliver Ave., is taking steps to leave an even smaller carbon footprint. With the help of two CORO Fellows, who worked with Franktuary from January until recently, the eatery has starting planning a composting program that will get under way once the warm weather's here to stay; will be temporarily taking chicken products off the menu until a more sustainable poultry source is established; is transitioning from disposable to permanent flatware; and has vowed to move away from Styrofoam cups and containers once the current supply is exhausted. Also, Franktuary has eliminated all high-fructose corn syrups from the beverage case and--at the recommendation of a Fellow with cerebral palsy--Franktuary has lowered the waste/recycling area so that it's more accessible for customers in wheelchairs.

Frankuatry's mission, co-owner Megan Lindsey says, is to "redeem fast food, one frankfurter at a time."

"We are really concerned about stewardship," Lindsey says. "Franktuary is in a new phase of existence. We've really redefined our vision. We want to be an educating force in the food industry, which sounds pretty insane, given how small we are. I really think, though, that people latch onto good practices when they see them done well, done truthfully, done without guilt hanging over their heads."

Franktuary's biggest green push is yet to come, though. This April, Franktuary will open a second location--on wheels. Unlike the store, which has mixture of "organic and regular products," says Lindsey, Franktuary's roaming food truck will serve only grass-feed beef and locally made vegetarian patties and hot dogs, as well a locally made pirogues and homemade soda. The truck will keep customers informed about its whereabouts via social media, and has plants to team up with nomadic local bakeshop, The Goodie Truck.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Megan Lindsey, Franktuary

Image courtesy of Franktuary


The Grandview: LEED-designed residence for older adults to open in Verona in fall

A LEED-designed residence for older adults is currently under construction in Verona. The model unit of The Grandview at Longwood opened March 3, and the facility is slated to open in September 2010. Construction started in mid-2008.

The 89-unit apartment building is part of a multi-phase $69 million expansion project at Longwood at Oakmont Retirement Community, an affiliate of Presbyterian SeniorCare. Previously, the facility completed a major renovation of its 59-bed Hanna HealthCare Center, and after completing The Grandview, renovations will start on the clubhouse, and the community will introduce additional wellness programming.

The Grandview will feature an 89-spot underground parking garage, and units in the five-story building will range from 1,300 to 1,800 square feet.

Seventy percent of the units have already been sold, says Jim Pieffer with Presbyterian SeniorCare.

"We really believe in the cost savings of being energy efficient, and in being good stewards of our resources. We also think our potential residents are committed to the idea of going green," says Pieffer. "The choice to go green is really just keeping up with the Pittsburgh market. A lot of people don't realize it, but Pittsburgh is one of the greenest cities in America. This effort is in keeping with that spirit."

Lancaster-based architecture firm Reese Lower Patrick & Scott designed The Grandview, and the general contractor is Mistick Construction.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Jim Pieffer, senior vice president, and Patricia Kornick, director of communications, Presbyterian SeniorCare

Image courtesy of Presbyterian SeniorCare


Local Food Showcase: Inaugural event to strengthen local food infrastructure in western PA

Do good for yourself; do good for the world.

Eating locally not only tastes better and is better for your body, but also has a positive impact on local economies (imagine what we could do with all those dollars kept in our communities rather than siphoned off to multinational corporations). Agriculture is a top industry in Pennsylvania, with many farmers and food producers located right here in western Pennsylvania. With the goal of connecting the region's food growers and makers with the region's food buyers and eaters, Penn State Cooperative Extension, Allegheny County and co-sponsor Chatham University, in collaboration with PASA, have launched the first-ever Local Food Showcase.

The Local Food Showcase runs 1 to 4 p.m., Thurs., March 11 at Chatham University's Anderson Dining Hall. The entrance fee is $5, and parking will be available in the University's Library/Theatre Lot accessible via Murray Hill Avenue.

"If you grow food, cook food or eat food, this event is for you. We invite anyone with an interest in where their food comes from, anyone looking to make connections for the upcoming growing season," says Heather Mikulas with Penn State Cooperative Extension.

The event will present resources for finding local sources of fresh and processed foods for retail, restaurant, wholesale, CSA (community supported agriculture), farm markets and home use. There will be demonstrations, tastings and educational information on local farms, biofuels, composting and gardening.

The 40-plus participating vendors include the expected--East End Food Co-Op and tons of farms, including Kretschmann, Cherry Valley Organics and Frankferd--as well as local eateries Six Penn/Parkhurst and Enrico Biscotti, Purple Spoon Jams and Lebanese food from Najat's Cuisine.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Heather Mikulas, Penn State Cooperative Extension

Image courtesy Penn State Extension


Larimer energy center will provide sustainability resources for low-income Pittsburghers

For architect Anne Chen of EDGE studio, the Larimer Energy and Environment Community Outreach Center has been a fun exercise in green design--an opportunity to explore and combine all the eco-friendly technologies on the market. But for low-income residents in the East End, the center is less of a playground and more of a classroom on how to save money by saving the world.

The center will help low-income residents in Larimer-Lincoln, Homewood, East Liberty, Bloomfield and Garfield make their homes more energy-efficient through education and resources, and be a "one-stop shop" to learn more about, and apply for, utility assistance programs. Additionally, the facility will demonstrate all the money-saving green technologies it advocates, such as rainwater harvesting, LED lighting, low-water use plumbing fixtures, geothermal walls, solar panels, urban gardening and more.

The center will break ground on its renovations in April, and is expected to be open by August 2010. The design team includes: EDGE studio, Fukui Architects, Allen & Shariff Corporation and KAG Engineering. It will be located on the URA-donated site of a former BP Gas Station at East Liberty Boulevard and Larimer Avenue.

"This is a really cutting edge, progressive project," says Megan Stearman with the URA. "It's using all sustainable design practices to combat poverty- to lower energy costs in the neighborhoods that are typically lower-income. This is something we haven't seen before."

On Thurs., Feb. 11, the URA approved a commitment of $100,000 toward the project, and is seeking state approval for $85,000 towards $450,000 budgeted for the project. Pittsburgh Community Services, Inc. (PCSI) has dedicated $800,000, through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, toward staff and management. PCSI is getting the programming up and running now at its Hill House offices. PCSI began hiring in Nov. 2009, and has already filled 10 of the budgeted 24 green jobs, says Annette Condeluci with PSCI.

The Larimer Energy and Environment Community Outreach Center is a partnership of the URA, Senator Jim Ferlo, local utility companies, Conservation Consultants, Inc., Larimer Green Team, Penn State University Cooperate Extension, Action Housing, the Kingsley Foundation and PCSI.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Anne Chen, EDGE studio; Megan Stearman, URA, Annette Condeluci, PSCI

Image courtesy of EDGE studio


Nearly $500K helps TreeVitalize increase Downtown tree population with 250 plantings

Downtown's concrete jungle is going to get greener this spring.

TreeVitalize Pittsburgh has received $470,000 from the Colcom Foundation to plant 250 trees in the Golden Triangle. Downtown currently has about 700 trees, so this mass planting is going to make a significant difference in the landscape, says Jeffrey Bergman, TreeVitalize director.

TreeVitalize is working closely with the City to determine ideal locations for the street trees. The initiative will start with 25 to 30 trees on Grant Street in the vicinity of the City-County Building.

Though TreeVitalize often uses community volunteers, the Downtown plantings will be handled by landscaping contractors, as the trees are larger than usual and because conditions Downtown are complicated by underground utilities. However, TreeVitalize is counting on Downtown residents to get involved in caring for the trees. "We've discovered how vital it is to have residents invested in the trees for their survival, to advocate for their maintenance," says Bergman.

The funding for this planting could not come at a better time, says Bergman, as many of the city's trees have been damaged in recent snowstorms. The ornamental pear trees along Penn Avenue in the Cultural District were hit especially hard. New trees will be planted in locations that do not yet have trees, and will also replace trees lost due to damage from the wet, heavy snow.

TreeVitalize is a joint project of Allegheny County, the City of Pittsburgh, PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. TreeVitalize's goal is to plant 20,000 trees in the Pittsburgh area by the end of 2012. TreeVitalize has planted more than 4,500 trees to date, which is ahead of projected numbers.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Jeffrey Bergman, TreeVitalize Pittsburgh

Photograph courtesy of TreeVitalize Pittsburgh


Proposed zoning ordinance could create changes for urban agriculture

Pittsburgh's urban agriculture community showed up in full-force yesterday at a public hearing to address proposed zoning that could impact city gardeners and keepers of bees and chickens. After hearing several hours of comments, the commission suggested the city planning department work with the local urban agriculture organizations to develop a set of ordinances that suit for everyone's best interests.

The City's proposed urban agriculture ordinance is a "good first step for the city to take on urban agriculture issues in a real, formal way," says Julie Pezzino with Grow Pittsburgh. But there are a number of aspects of the ordinance that can be improved upon to really encourage healthy local food systems and reuse of vacant land, say leaders in the local food community, including Burgh Bees, the East End Food Co-op, Penn State Cooperative Extension, Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture and Pittsburgh Food Policy Council.

Concerns addressed permit fees in excess of $300, which could serve as a barrier to residents, especially in low-income, historically disadvantaged areas where many vacant lots are already thriving as urban gardens.

The community also expressed concern about the proposed square footage required to keep bees and chickens. Properties smaller than 2,500 square feet would be prohibited from housing hives, and on top of that, the hives would have to be set back 15 feet from adjacent property lines. This would eliminate about half the lots in Pittsburgh from keeping bees, and would also deem most individual city vacant lots ineligible to have bees, including two existing Burgh Bees demonstration apiaries. And the 3,000 square foot rule for keeping chickens, as well as the prohibition of roosters, would deem illegal many well-maintained chicken operations in the city and limit the self-sustainability of a flock.

Pittsburgh's urban agriculture community asked the city planners to consider lowering or eliminating fees, to consider enacting provisions that focus on bees' flight path rather than hive placement, and to lower the square footage for keeping bees and chickens. The local food community requested a month to craft alternative language for these areas, after which, they would like to return to the commission with recommendations.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Julie Pezzino, Grow Pittsburgh

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph courtesy of Walnut Capital



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

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

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

The course will offer sessions in the Strip District, Larimer, Greenfield, Mt. Washington and Riverview Park. The sessions will train residents in tree biology, structure and function, and teach the basics of tree planting, pruning and care. After completing the course, Tree Tenders can work in their communities to plant, care for and prune young trees.

Pittsburgh had about 30,000 street trees in 2005, the year of the most recent inventory. More than 3,000 of those trees have been removed due to disease, vandalism or neglect, and thousands more are at risk of being removed if they do not receive much-needed care. Organizations such as Friends and TreeVitalize (a partnership of several organization, including Friends, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, DCNR, the city and the country) are working to preserve and replenish the urban forest, and they rely on volunteers--such as trained Tree Tenders--to do much of the community work.

Caitlin Lenahan, with Friends, says Pittsburgh residents stand to benefit in numerous ways from investing in tending to their neighborhoods' urban forests: Other than just beauty, Lenahan points to studies that say street trees slow down and calm traffic, making streets safer. Also, streets with trees have higher property values, which impact not only home sales, but also retail sales--customers are willing to pay more for goods and services when there are street trees. Additionally, street trees have a huge impact on the environment--Pittsburgh in particular, with its sewage overflow, can benefit from fewer hard surfaces and more landscaping that absorbs stormwater, Lenahan stresses.

Treevalize has planted about 4,500 trees since 2008 with the help of nearly 2,000 volunteers. The goal is to plant 20,000 trees by 2012. To meet that goal, about 2,500 trees must get planted this spring in the Pittsburgh area, says Lenahan. Programs like Friends' Tree Tenders course help make possible that goal.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Caitlin Lenahan, education and outreach coordinator, Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest

Photograph courtesy of Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest


$85K bike center creates secure indoor parking Downtown

Pittsburgh will soon offer a secure parking situation for commuters who cycle rather than drive into town.

The Bicycle Commuter Center has been built on the northern side of the Century Building in the Cultural District. The concept is simple: Two shipping containers have been converted into indoor bicycle storage with space for 26 bikes. The bikes in the facility will be safe from vandalism, theft, rain and snow--elements to which they may be vulnerable with on-street parking. Annual leases will begin April 1, and are available for $100, with a $10 key deposit. There are also 21 wall-racks and official BikePGH racks outside, available for free for short-term Cultural District parking.

Scott Bricker, with BikePGH, suggests employers could encourage cycling by paying for or partially subsidizing secure bike parking spaces, which could be reimbursed through the new Federal Bicycle Commuter Tax Credit.

The center is visible from as far away as the North Shore, thanks to its striking design--the containers are painted a bright green and surrounded by three stories of matching bright green paint; the look is completed by an iconic black-and-white bicycle mural.

The center is the first of its kind in Pittsburgh. Other cities, such as Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., have secure bike stations with shower and locker facilities as well as bike rentals.

The Bicycle Commuter Center was created through a partnership led by Bill Gatti from TREK Development Group, which is also responsible for the Century Building, the affordable loft development catty-corner from the Benedum Center. The Cultural Trust contributed the land on which the center is built; Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission's CommuteInfo supplied a $65,000 grant; and TREK provided an additional $20,000 of funding. Guardian Construction served as the general contractor, and Moshier Studio and Koning Eizenberg Architecture, which also worked on the Century Building, designed the project.

Gatti with TREK says, "We think the vitality of Downtown is contingent upon the creation of a 24-hour residential traffic. That was the inspiration behind the Century Building--that this critical mass will only be achieved through the development of moderately priced living options for a variety of income levels. And bicycle commuting is a natural extension of our goal to create an environmentally healthy and sustainable living community Downtown."

The Century Building, which opened in July, achieved 100 percent occupancy within three months. It is still at 100 percent occupancy, and has a waiting list of more than 200 names. The building is awaiting its LEED certification. It was designed to LEED Silver standards, though Gatti anticipates it may even earn Gold.

Another of TREK's current developments is the construction of townhouses in the lower Hill District, linking Crawford Square to Uptown to the new arena. TREK is working with the URA and the City of Pittsburgh. Construction on the first 23 homes is expected to begin within the next 45 days, and there are plans to build an additional 40, Gatti says.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Scott Bricker, BikePGH; Bill Gatti, TREK Development

Photograph courtesy of TREK Development


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.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Len Czarnecki, general manager, Fairmont Pittsburgh

Photograph courtesy of Fairmont Pittsburgh



Monroeville a hub with 191-room Doubletree Hotel, $16.2M green Convention Center

Monroeville, which lost its sprawling ExpoMart and Radisson Hotel complex last year, is back with a new convention center/hotel campus. The facilities are located just off the Pennsylvania Turnpike, next to the Monroeville Mall.

The $16.2 million Monroeville Convention Center opened in September 2009 in the former Wickes furniture store building. Developed by Oxford Development Co., the 100,000-square-foot facility was designed specifically for small- to medium-sized conventions and trade shows. It accommodates as many as 5,400 visitors, features 1,800 free parking spaces, a state-of-the-art sound system and Wi-Fi capabilities, and includes green elements such as energy-efficient heating and cooling systems and a white roof that reflects sunlight.

Just a few steps from the Convention Center is the Doubletree Hotel, which hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week. The 320-room Radisson, which closed in November 2008, was completely renovated, and one of its towers was demolished, to create the 191-room Doubletree. All public spaces were redone, safety upgrades were made, and the hotel's decor was updated. The Doubletree also features a Share Wine Lounge & Small Plate Bistro on its first floor. The restaurant serves eclectic American cuisine and more than 30 wines by the glass.

The Doubletree was developed by Oxford Development Co., and is managed by Davidson Hotel Company, which also manages the Convention Center. Hotel project costs were around $16 million.

"One of our goals is to support the entire Monroeville community," says Craig Bollman with the Doubletree and Convention Center. "We have a lot of future events we're working on. By keeping the center busy, we're keeping revenue coming through the entire community of Monroeville."

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Craig Bollman, director of sales, Doubletree Pittsburgh/Monroeville Convention Center

Photograph courtesy Doubletree Pittsburgh/Monroeville Convention Center


Burgh Bees to transform Homewood vacant lot into community apiary

Burgh Bees is one step closer to achieving its goal of founding a cooperative urban apiary.

The local beekeeping nonprofit has been granted a five-year lease for a block-long lot on Susquehanna Street in Homewood, across the street from the East End Brewing Company. The long-vacant lot cannot be developed in the traditional sense because of its shape (long and narrow) and its proximity to the East Busway, says Meredith Meyer Grelli with Burgh Bees. The property, however, is perfect for beekeeping, thanks to that fact that it's flat, gets lots of early morning sunshine the bees love, and is conveniently located for many Burgh Bees members.

Burgh Bees worked with the URA and the Mayor's office to secure the site. It will host about a dozen honey bee hives as well as a demonstration pollinator garden, and will serve as Burgh Bees' outdoor beekeeping classroom. The group will get the basic infrastructure in place in March 2010, and install the hives in early spring. Burgh Bees will be offering beekeeping training sessions at the Homewood site in spring and summer of 2010.

To turn the now-vacant space into a community asset, Burgh Bees has partnered with Homewood residents, Mayor Ravenstahl's Green Up Pittsburgh program and Penn State Cooperative Extension.

"We've always hoped to have a place to really call our own, a centralized location where we could put all the Burgh Bees hives, host classes and offer space to beekeepers who live in dense neighborhoods and can't beekeep at home," says Meyer Grelli. "This will allow Burgh Bees to continue to grow this next year."

Over the past year, Burgh Bees has established four demonstration apiaries--in Hazelwood, Mt. Washington and Braddock and at the Pittsburgh Zoo. These demonstration apiaries served as hands-on classrooms for the 35 aspiring beekeepers in Burgh Bees' first-year beekeeper training program.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Meredith Meyer Grelli, Burgh Bees

Image courtesy of Burgh Bees


Parental Stress Center leads youth to create East Liberty green space

The Parental Stress Center (PSC) is taking a vacant lot in East Liberty and, with the help of area youth, turning it into a community green space.

A few years ago, a cement block building next to PSC's Family Center was torn down as part of a planned construction that never actualized. Since then, the lot was fenced in and has been filling with weeds and other unwanted elements that plague vacant lots, says Bob Feikema with PSC. Volunteers from BNY Mellon helped clean up the lot over the summer, and community kids are now planning the parklette's design before spring, when planting and other work can get under way.

"At the Parental Stress Center, our mission is the prevention of child abuse and neglect," says Feikema. "Families don't exist in a vacuum. They live in communities. We try to empower families and youth to be active and engaged members of their communities. This project makes the community a better place in small but significant way."

The half-acre plot is on Penn Circle West between Baum Boulevard and Commerce Street near Whole Foods Market. Feikema says the goal is to create a safe, clean neighborhood spot, where peoples can enjoy some greenery, perhaps while enjoying some takeout from the nearby EastSide development.

The parklette will feature a variety of flowers and shrubs, and as well as an urban vegetable garden (PSC hopes to sell whatever's harvested at the East Liberty farmers' market). Also, a portion of the parklette will be dedicated to glowing sunflowers, which--with the help of GTECH--will be used for the production of nontoxic, renewable, carbon-free biofuel.

PSC's green space project is funded, in part, by a $7,400 grant through Heinz Endowments' youth philanthropist program. PSC is also partnering with Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy for information on native plants, and the East Liberty Home Depot for landscape design assistance.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Bob Feikema, program director, Parental Stress Center

Photograph courtesy Parental Stress Center


Regional Enterprise Tower harnesses solar power after $3M upgrade

The Regional Enterprise Tower has become the first Downtown building to use solar panels to generate power.

The installation of 56 roof-top solar panels last week was the final piece of the yearlong, $3.1 million project to retrofit the building to bring it up to current standards and make it more energy-efficient. The solar field generates enough energy to power the 31st floor. Other updates include the installation of energy-efficient lighting and water-saving bathroom fixtures, improvements to the heating and ventilation systems, and replacing parts on each of the building's 2,100 windows.

Matt Pavlosky with the building's owner, Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission (SPC), says SPC should see a return on the investment in a relatively short time--over the next 15 years, the green improvements should save SPC about $5.2 million.

The 31-story aluminum skyscraper was built in 1953 on Sixth Avenue, Downtown. Formerly the Alcoa world headquarters, the Regional Enterprise Tower is now home to many high-profile nonprofits, including the Chamber of Commerce and Visit Pittsburgh, and smaller groups, like Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Program (PUMP) and Sustainable Pittsburgh.

"When we took the building over, the idea was to create an original space for collaboration that would demonstrate how the region could work together," says Pavlosky with SPC. "The Regional Enterprise Tower demonstrates that spirit of collaboration, and sets an example to Downtown and other neighborhoods that the creation of green buildings can be done not just through new construction, but also through retrofitting."

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Matt Pavlosky, Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission

Photograph courtesy of Thomas Straw, Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission


$7M Penn Circle conversion to right historic East Liberty wrong

Penn Circle is set to be converted from a confusing one-way ring of traffic into a pedestrian-scale area that opens up East Liberty's business district.

In 2002, part of Penn Circle South was reconfigured, at the request of Whole Foods, during the construction of the EastSide development. The City of Pittsburgh is now working with East Liberty Development, Inc. (ELDI) to convert the next major section of the road into two-way traffic, from Highland Avenue to Penn Circle North. The bus loop and parts of Penn Avenue, and Broad Street near Penn Circle will also be reconstructed.

Construction on the yearlong, $7 million project will start in spring 2010, and is expected to finish by summer 2011 for the opening of the two-story Target. This "private market push" was instrumental in getting done what community groups have been advocating for decades, says Nate Wildfire with ELDI.

"This is fixing a giant flaw that occurred in the neighborhood redevelopment in the '60s and '70s," says Wildfire. "The whole goal back then was to divert traffic around the business district, but as we found out, that was a horrible idea. It created this four to five-lane moat of high-speed traffic around our business district and took energy and vitality away from our core. Who wants to cross five lanes of chaos? I can't think of a better way to dissuade residents from shopping in their own commercial district."

The new Penn Circle plans will not only add two-way traffic, but also make the area more environmentally, pedestrian and bike-friendly by adding bus shelters with green roofs, bike racks, street trees and energy-efficient lighting.

The $15 million to $20 million conversion of the rest of Penn Circle is planned to start design work in 2012.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Nathan Wildfire and Katherine Camp, East Liberty Development, Inc.

Image courtesy of East Liberty Development, Inc.


Bella Sera Urban Trattoria: Dining green on Market Square

Owner Jason Capps describes Bella Sera Urban Trattoria as a "white collar watering hole," but that description does the place injustice. Instead of loosened ties and room-temp draft beers, imagine classic cocktails, local microbrews, tables handcrafted from imported volcanic rock, and a commitment to not just good food (tried-and-true Italian pub eats and grab 'n go staples), but also good, sustainable business practices.

Bella Sera, on Market Square, Downtown, opened this November, and is one of just two Pittsburgh spots to be Green Restaurant Association-certified (the other is the café at Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens). The restaurant is an extension of Capps' catering business, Greco's, which he started a decade ago, and his 18,000-square-foot banquet hall in Canonsburg, which hosts weddings and events for up to 400 guests.

Capps says a variety of chefs inspired Bella Sera's direction: Mario Batali (all the celebrity chef's restaurants are Green Restaurant Association-certified); Jose Garces (recently named the Food Network's newest Iron Chef, his Philadelphia eateries have elegant, intimate interiors Capps unabashedly emulates at Bella Sera); and all the home-cooks in Capps' Italian family (his Grandma Greco instilled in him the importance of recycling and composting, and his mother's organic farm provides much of the produce, including the ingredients for the house pesto and pickles).

Bella Sera's green initiatives include: energy-efficient appliances, composting, using local products and eco-friendly cleaning products, recycling fryer oil into biodiesel, bottling and bubbling their own water, and, weather-permitting, "zero emissions catering," through delivery by Green Gears Pedicabs.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Jason Capps, Bella Sera

Photograph courtesy Bella Sera


$3M Mon Wharf trail dedicated, Route 28 trail ready for construction

Pittsburgh's interconnected trail system is coming together with the completion and the construction of new portions along the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers.

On Monday, a 2,017-foot long stretch of riverbank between the Fort Pitt and Smithfield Street Bridges was dedicated as the Mon Wharf Landing. The $3 million project transformed parking spaces into a park with public riverfront access. The area features new lighting, seating and steps to the Monongahela River, as well as native shrubs and plants. The park was designed by South Side-based LaQuatra Bonci Associates to withstand flooding, and construction was overseen by Pittsburgh-based Clearwater Construction.

The Mon Wharf Landing is the first phase of a project that will eventually connect Point State Park to the Eliza Furnace Trail and the Great Allegheny Passage.

"Right now it's a little island of a park," says Stephan Bontrager with Riverlife. "But for the cycling community, patience is going to pay off. This trail will eventually lead to Washington, D.C."

Support for the project was provided in part by Riverlife, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, PennDOT, the K. Mabis McKenna Foundation, the Heinz Endowments and the Richard King Mellon Foundation.

Additionally, Friends of the Riverfront announced this week that construction is starting on new section of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail as part of PennDOT's Route 28 East Ohio Street Improvement Project. The half-mile segment will offer users a dedicated trail corridor along the Allegheny Riverfront between Pittsburgh and Millvale.

To complete this $2.8 million segment, Friends of the Riverfront is partnering with the City of Pittsburgh and PennDOT. Funding has been provided by PennDOT through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, Federal Earmarks, Laurel Foundation, the Heinz Endowments and membership support from Friends of the Riverfront.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Stephan Bontrager, director of communications, Riverlife; Thomas E. Baxter, executive director, Friends of the Riverfront

Before and after photographs of the Mon Wharf Landing courtesy of Riverlife


A place for smiles: Eat'n Park constructs first LEED-built restaurant in city

Eat'n Park has announced it's breaking ground this month on a new Fox Chapel restaurant. The location, which is scheduled to open May 2010 in the Waterworks shopping plaza, will be the first LEED-built restaurant in the city of Pittsburgh, and the second in Allegheny County, according to Eat'n Park officials.

The restaurant's design will feature outdoor seating and a drive-up window. Green elements include Energy Star equipment, recycled building materials and a solar reflective roof that minimizes heat gain, as well as lots of natural light, energy-efficient lighting and parking spots reserved for carpooling and low-emissions vehicles.

Eat'n Park is shooting for LEED Silver certification, and potentially reaching for Gold, depending on costs, says Andy Dunmire, vice president of design and construction. This will be Eat'n Park's first LEED-built restaurant; however, others have been retrofitted with green elements, says Dunmire.

Green building design is just one component of Eat'n Park's green initiatives, says Jamie Moore, Eat'n Park's director of sourcing and sustainability. The company has taken other eco-friendly steps, such as eliminating placemats to reduce waste; seeking local and artisanal produce, dairy, meats and baked goods (working with Harvest Valley Farms in Gibsonia and Parma Sausage in the Strip District, among others); and converting fryer oil into biodiesel fuel (since 2004, almost 120,000 gallons have been converted).

For 2010, Eat'n Park is focusing on expanding recycling efforts, which means more recycling dumpsters at more locations. Eat'n Park is also working with students at Duquesne University's Sustainable MBA program to determine the carbon footprint of several restaurant locations, says Moore.

The Eat'n Park Hospitality Group was founded in 1949 as a family car-hop, and now includes Eat'n Park Restaurants, Parkhurst Dining Services, CURA Hospitality and Six Penn Kitchen.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Andy Dunmire, vice president of design and construction, and Jamie Moore, director of sourcing and sustainability, Eat'n Park

Image courtesy of Eat'n Park Hospitality Group


With 200 additional racks, city nearly doubles bike parking spaces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph courtesy City of Pittsburgh


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


$100M Settlers Ridge shopping complex brings new businesses, jobs to Robinson

No tricks, only treats: Settlers Ridge will officially open this Friday, October 30. The $100 million mixed-use open-air shopping center brings food, fashion, recreation and more to a 77-acre former coal mining property that had been vacant for two decades.

At full-build out, the center will be 600,000 square feet and create 2,100 jobs. Project developer CBL & Associates Properties, Inc., of Chattanooga, Tenn, is currently completing the 450,000-square-foot first phase, and hopes to begin the second phase in 2010.

The project broke ground about 18 months ago, and has been seven years in the making, says David Locke with CBL & Associates.

Businesses include a 16-screen Cinemark Theatre, P.F. Chang's, Omaha Steaks, Panera Bread and REI, as well as a 150,000-square-foot Giant Eagle Market District, which Locke describes as "different than anything else in the area, probably even the country." Opening the first week in November, it is the first entirely new Market District location (the Shadyside and South Hills Market Districts were retrofitted), and will also be one of the first two area supermarkets granted a license to sell beer, a decision approved by the state Liquor Control Boar last week. Future Settlers Ridge businesses include a Barnes & Noble, LA Fitness and 124-room Courtyard by Marriott.

Green design features include an energy-conserving white roof and a bio-retention storm drain system, which funnels rainwater under the facility instead of sending it into neighborhood creeks.

Located off Campbells Run Road along the airport corridor, Settlers Ridge is at the hub of more than 4.5 million square feet or retail space, including The Mall at Robinson and Ikea, and is about 20 minutes from Downtown Pittsburgh.

The Civil engineer for project was GAI Consultants. KA Inc., based in Cleveland, was architect. The general contractor was EMJ Corporation based in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: David Locke, CBL & Associates Properties, Inc.

Image courtesy of CBL & Associates Properties, Inc.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph courtesy of Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy


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


Riverlife helps raise final $1M for Point State Park fountain renovation

Riverlife is helping raise the funds for Point State Park fountain renovations, and you can help Riverlife raise those funds.

To encourage fundraising efforts, the Colcom Foundation has pledged to match up to $1 million raised by the "Friends of the Fountain" campaign before Nov. 24. This funding will serve as the final piece of funding needed to complete the historic renovation of the iconic landmark.

The "Friends of the Fountain" campaign began as a partnership between Riverlife, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), PNC Financial Services, the R.K. Mellon Foundation, the Heinz Endowments and the Pittsburgh Foundation. To date, the Pittsburgh businesses and corporations have contributed more than $475,000 to renovate the fountain. Now is the time for Pittsburghers to step in and show pride in their city by donating whatever they can to take the project to the finish life, says Stephan Bontrager with Riverlife.

"The phenomenal thing about this campaign is that people a have recognized that when the fountain it off, it really does feel like the city is naked and that the Point is bare," says Bontrager.

The fountain received a temporary fix, thanks to Alcoa, for fall events such as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the G-20 and the NFL Home Opener. Permanent repairs are necessary, though, to update the antiquated electrical systems and damaged pumps. Additionally, the restoration will include the creation of a seating area, the installation of new lighting and more. The design team includes landscape architects Marion Pressley Associates in Boston, Cranberry-based HRG and Johnstown-based H.F. Lenz, and DCNR.

The fountain, which is expected to be complete by 2011, is the last piece of the $42 million Point State Park master plan.

Riverlife is also involved in creating a riverfront park by the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. That $7.6 million project, designed by LaQuatra Bonci Associates, is being overseen by the Sports & Exhibition Authority, and should be getting underway any day now, says Bontrager.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Stephan Bontrager, Riverlife

Image courtesy of Riverlife


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


Irma Freeman Center brings education, arts to Penn Avenue

By now you've surely noticed the mirrored mosaic adorning the facade at 5006 Penn Ave. The 25-by-20 feet creation, which proclaims, "The Irma Freeman Center for Imagination," took Sheila Ali six months to complete, and stands out--sparkling--amongst the aluminum siding, red brick and glass block windows that make up the majority of Garfield/Friendship's storefronts.

The center opened quietly over the summer with some initial classes and outreach programming, and hosted its grand opening Friday night for its inaugural show--"The Art of Salvation & The Vision Art a Irma Freeman," a group exhibition paired with pieces by Ali's grandmother and the center's namesake, Irma Freeman, who left a legacy of more than 500 paintings before passing away in 1994 at the age of 90.

The center, which has been in the works since Ali bought the building in January 2008, pairs art with education and sustainability. The center's goal, according to its website, is to "enrich and diversify the local community by building positive experiences in a multicultural progressive setting." In other words, as Ali explains, "More than an art gallery, we want to be a community center," along the lines of the Union Project in East Liberty or the Kingsley Center in Larimer.

Ali says she's noticed many of the residents of Garfield feeling alienated from the changes along Penn Avenue, and wants to help residents connect with the arts, the environment and one another. In addition to exhibiting visual art (including a rotating collection of her grandmother's paintings), the Irma Freeman Center offers classes (for now, yoga, mosaic-making and parent-child workshops in green technology), and maintains a strong focus on sustainability. Ali and the center's other staffers--including director of operations Brett Boyle--installed radiant floor heating under the mosaic floor, and sprayed soy-based insulation in the walls and ceiling. Long-term green goals include the construction of an indoor atrium using grey water systems, and a small garden roof.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Sheila Ali and Brett Boyle, Irma Freeman Center for Imagination

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green


Bioneers conference addresses community through environment

Three Rivers Bioneers is holding its first-ever conference this weekend. The goal of the conference is to foster a local movement of citizens and organizations who are cultivating sustainable communities in Pittsburgh.

The conference, hosted by the Urban Ecology Collaborative, is a satellite gathering of the main Bioneers conference in California, which is celebrating its 20th year. The Pittsburgh conference will broadcast 15 speakers from the national conference, including holistic medicine expert Andrew Weil, M.D., and Michael Pollan, author of bestseller The Omnivore's Dilemma.

The Three Rivers conference will localize the national agenda by addressing green jobs, sustainable agriculture and environmental restoration in the Pittsburgh region. Among the 40 local presenters include Khari Mosley, director of Green Economy Initiatives for GTECH Strategies, and Greg Boulos, Western director of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture. Sessions include "Involving people in Re-Imagining Pittsburgh," "Energy Conservation for Healthy Families" and "Progressive Urban Water Design and Reuse."

"I went to my first conference three years ago, and it completely blew me away. But each community is different, and that wasn't my community," says Maureen Copeland of Three Rivers Bioneers. "We want to have something in Pittsburgh that will connect the people and neighborhoods here. You can't have a healthy community if you don't have a healthy environment. The goal is to bridge environmental work and social justice work, and see how we can work together toward a vision for the city."

The conference will take place this weekend, Oct. 16-18 at the Pittsburgh Project on the North Side. It costs $125 for all three days. Reduced rates and scholarships are available. Registration will be limited to 250 due to space constraints.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Maureen Copeland, Three Rivers Bioneers

Photograph courtesy of Three Rivers Bioneers


Tour explores green, grassroots development in blighted Larimer

Larimer is a neighborhood in transition. It's blighted now, sure, but amidst the decaying houses and empty storefronts, there's change in the air.

Bringing attention to this change, and at the forefront of future change, is USED (Urban Solutions for Ecological Development), a for-profit project launched by the recently formed economic development firm S & G Holdings.

USED hopes to turn vacant properties into tax-generating ones, raise property values, enhance public safety, increase individual investment and promote community engagement in Larimer. USED led a tour on Fri., Sept. 25 (in the midst of the G-20, it managed to attract nearly 40 attendees), highlighting how individuals and organizations are turning the community into a site for sustainable economic development and social entrepreneurship.

"Larimer is a distressed neighborhood, similar to how East Liberty used to be," said Shadow Lounge owner Justin Strong, who's also vice president of S & G Holdings. "Development is now pushing in its direction. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a Starbucks in Larimer in five years."

There's evidence of this development: Where vacant corner lots once unfurled, now there are gardens--made possible through GTech, Grow Pittsburgh and the Larimer Green Team--lush with tomatoes and thyme, tended by community members, and fitted with rain barrels, from Nine Mile Run Watershed Association, that capture stormwater and prevent sewer overflow. Vibrant murals, through the MLK Community Mural Project, add color and excitement to the concrete (and increasingly green) landscape. And the former elementary school, which has been vacant for some 30 years, has been bought and is under development for a $14 million eco-friendly, mixed-use renovation.

There's plenty of untapped potential for change, too: The neighborhood's impressive Roman Catholic church, along with its adjacent 18-unit apartment building, is for sale for around $175,000. It exudes promise not unlike that of the Union Project, which has catalyzed revitalization in East Liberty by turning a long-vacant church into a community center.

Larimer development is about leveraging the area's existing assets, too, says Strong. These assets include the Kingsley Community Center, Lincoln K-8 school and LA Grocery, a small market along Larimer Avenue. There's also a Community Conservation and Energy Assistance Center in the works that's using stimulus funds to renovate a once-gas station into a hub of education and outreach, including energy bill assistance. The $300,000 renovation is anticipated to be compete by April 2010, and will see about $800,000 of programming in the next year and a half.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Justin Strong, USED

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green


Overrun South Side Park to get reclaimed, revitalized

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph courtesy South Side Local Development Company


Hill District to revitalize green spaces and river views

The Hill District's views rival Mt. Washington's. The Downline skyline, the Allegheny and Mon Rivers, the bridges and slopes. It's all there. It's just hiding, or ignored, say the organizers of Find the Rivers!, and it's time to do something about it.

Find the Rivers!, formed in 2002, has brought on Oakland, Calif.-based landscape architect/artist Walter Hood to help reconnect the Hill to its natural resources. Hood, who has also been commissioned to design an August Wilson-inspired pedestrian walkway at Uptown's new arena, is spearheading Find the Rivers!'s Greenprint project. The project is in its early stages now, and aims to preserve, improve and sustain the health and beauty of the Hill District's natural and built landscape.

Hood will reveal the community green space plans at 6 p.m. Thurs., Sept. 3 at Downtown's August Wilson Center for African American Culture, which is hosting its facility grand opening gala on Sept. 17. These plans are the result of much community dialogue and collaboration, says Denys Candy, co-founder of Find the Rivers!, a partnership of The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Hill House Association, Hill District Consensus Group and the Community Partners Institute.

Greenprint plans could include a number of projects, says Candy, including refurbishing city steps to connect different parts of the neighborhood, building overlooks, planting food farms and biofuel crops in vacant properties, and cleaning up and updating playgrounds and parks.

"We're still in the first phase, the concept phase," says Mike Sexauer with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. "These projects could take years to get off the ground, but we hope to start in 2010."

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Denys Candy, Find the Rivers!; Mike Sexauer, director of marketing, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

Photograph courtesy Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy


Rain gardens in North Park, Downtown improve stormwater management

Allegheny County is advancing on two recent rain garden projects in Downtown and North Park, the first rain gardens the County has planned.

Last week, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato announced the construction of a 1,200-square-foot rain garden at the intersection of Lake Shore Drive and Walter Road in North Park. The garden, designed by Gateway Engineers, is a joint effort between Allegheny County and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. It is currently under construction.

"The rain garden will help protect the watershed from pollutants in runoff from impervious surfaces such the roads and parking lots," says Kevin Evanto with the County. "The garden will also retain stormwater and help reduce flash flooding."

In May, the County announced its Downtown Office Building would be receiving a green roof (the first green roof on a public building in the County), and that planters in the Courthouse Courtyard would be converted into rain gardens. The green roof is still in the RFP process, and could be under construction in September, says Evanto, and the Courtyard gardens are currently under construction. The four existing planters have been retrofitted and converted into rain gardens, meaning the four spouts have been diverted into the planting beds, and the planters have been filled with new soil and drainage material, and are being filled with drought-tolerant native plants.

In Southwestern Pennsylvania, an average storm can produce two inches of rain in a 24-hour period. Even two inches of rain falling on a roof can result in more than 600 gallons of water rushing through downspouts and into sewer systems. As little as 1/10 inch of rain can cause combined sewers to overflow.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Kevin Evanto, Allegheny County

Photograph courtesy Allegheny County

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Caralyn Green

Source: Brenda Smith, executive director, NMRWA


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

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