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Downtown Reflections. Photograph by Brian Cohen.
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Architecture : Development News

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Carnegie Mellon architecture professor and students recognized for Garfield cityLAB efforts

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

Throwback Thursday: Children's Museum of Pittsburgh

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

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

Mergers result in the closure of three churches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Bill Peduto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Michael Lotenero, John Zerrer

AIA recognizes local firms for design excellence

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

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

The winners are:

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: AIA Pittsburgh

Two Downtown Pittsburgh programs garner international recognition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Leigh White

Pittsburgh StepTrek will showcase step preservation in the South Side Slopes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Briand Oswald

1135 Penn Condos offer significant tax credits to buyers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Art Lubetz

ACTION-Housing completes Passive House-certified home in Heidelberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Linda Metropulos

South Side organization seeks to redevelop former Duquesne Brewery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Rick Belloli

Frick Art & Historical Center announces $15 million expansion project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Bill Bodine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Elizabeth Baisley

Gateway at Summerset accepting applications

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Stephanie Fuchs

New grocery store Downtown? One developer has a plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Ralph Falbo
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