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Koolkat Designs to take over big red barn as The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh

Since its inception eight years ago, Mt. Lebanon art boutique Koolkat Designs has nurtured local artists and fostered a supportive creative community throughout Pittsburgh. Now, the artist collective is going big, with a re-branding, an expansion into a roomy red barn, and a partnership with one of the neighborhood's most recognizable family businesses.
 
In spring 2015, Koolkat Designs will relocate to the iconic big red barn where Banksville Road becomes McFarland Road in Mt. Lebanon. Koolkat owner Kate McGrady, creative director Kate Wagle Hitmar and Bob, Chuck and Doug Satterfield are working together to create this 10,000-square-foot art and cultural center in the South Hills. The Satterfield brothers are the third-generation owners of Rollier's Hardware; the business occupied the barn space from 1953 to 1994 before moving to its current location on Washington Road in Mt. Lebanon.
 
The new art space will continue in the Koolkat tradition, fully dedicated to showcasing the talents and creations of greater Pittsburgh artists, though the business will be renamed The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh.
 
The building's barn facade appealed to McGrady. 

"There are many art barns throughout the United States. The arts and barns are a natural fit,” she said. “Artists and farmers share a history of producing, crafting by hand, creating something new from the ground up and valuing their communities.”  
 
This expansion was born from Koolkat’s success in the community as the go-to spot for handcrafted jewelry, accessories and art made locally. In its eight years in business on Washington Road, Koolkat grew from 22 local artists to more than 200.
 
"We have truly amazing and loyal customers," McGrady said. "We have ideas and talent that far exceed our existing store's capacity. The Pittsburgh region is overflowing with creative energy, and we want to serve that need in the South Hills.”
 
Wagle Hitmar said she attributes some of this support to the “Buy Local” and “Support Small Business” movements. 
 
"People want to support the arts and their community, and feel connected to the businesses with which they interact. The Satterfields, [McGrady] and I are all Pittsburgh-born and raised; our love for the city is innate. When people shop with us, they're not only supporting our small business, but the creative enterprises of hundreds of fellow Pittsburghers," said Wagle Hitmar.
 
The Satterfields still own the art barn, situated at a well-traveled location not far from where Mt. Lebanon and Dormont meet the City of Pittsburgh. Doug Satterfield, who creates ceramics, explained the need for the Satterfields and McGrady to join forces.

"We decided to put our best qualities together, combine our strengths and to bring something unique to Pittsburgh at a scale not usually seen," Doug Satterfield said. "We share the vision and want to see this develop."  
 
The barn will undergo substantial interior and exterior renovations in the coming months. Berryman Associates Architects of Shadyside are consulting on the design. Tedco Construction Corp. of Carnegie will manage the construction.  
 
The first floor will include a significantly expanded showroom and a café with a performance space for live events, such as musical performances, lectures and life drawing. Larry Lagattuta of Enrico Biscotti will supply artisan foods to the cafe. The downstairs, affectionately dubbed "The Underground," will have additional showroom space, a revolving exhibition gallery and a dedicated teaching space.  
 
In addition to a fresh coat of paint and a new color scheme, 1635 McFarland Road will see other improvements including a re-graded parking lot, a new main entrance, outdoor seating, landscaping, lighting and space for art installations. McGrady said she plans to take full advantage of the outdoor space, using it to host food trucks, farm stands and outdoor eating.  
 
"The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh will be a destination, and help bridge the South Hills to the Greater Pittsburgh arts community. We look forward to collaborating with this community to enhance everyone's exposure and experience with local art, music and food," McGrady said.  
 

Source: Koolkat Designs
 

Landmarks Community Capital Corporation awards $99,000 loan to Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation

Landmarks Community Capital Corporation, a nonprofit lending subsidiary of Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, closed on a $99,000 construction loan to the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation in September to renovate its storied community center.
 
The loan will provide rehabilitation funds for BGC's community center, located on North Pacific Avenue in Garfield. This building, a former Methodist church constructed in 1898, serves as a primary meeting place for public events in the Garfield community.
 
Rick Swartz, BGC executive director, explained that the Landmarks Community Capital Corporation was interested in the community center as an important part of the neighborhood. Although the 19th-century church is not a certified historic landmark, the building has a lot of history, Swartz said.
 
“It is something of a historical asset in the neighborhood,” Swartz said. 
 
The first phase of building improvements include: new flooring in the main hall, window replacements, heating and cooling upgrades, new entry doors, painting and enhanced lighting. Exterior brickwork, window replacements and outdoor painting are also planned to enhance the building as a visible part of the neighborhood.
 
The BGC serves Bloomfield, Garfield and Friendship; the center provides programming for those communities, including a BGC children’s summer camp. Swartz says these improvements will benefit events and programming.
 
He said renovations will make the space more attractive for neighbors seeking a family-friendly venue. He said he hopes the upgrades to lighting and lower-volume heating and cooling can attract more professional and job orientation sessions. The improved temperature systems will also help with costs to the nonprofit.
 
Swartz said it is difficult to find grants and gifts for building improvements of this kind. But the loan from the Landmarks Community Capital Corporation is helping the BGC get started.  Swartz noted that the Urban Redevelopment Authority did assist the BGC with a $5,000 grant for community center renovations. And, he said, Garfield resident and architect Gary Cirrincione is lending a hand by assisting in plans and overseeing construction.
 
“We’re just trying to make it … a space you feel very comfortable in,” Swartz said, adding that he hopes neighbors see it as a place for meetings, baby showers and anniversary parties in the future.
 
Construction on the BGC community center should be completed December 2014.
 
Source: Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, Rick Swartz

Heinz History Center opens new Museum Conservation Center

The Senator John Heinz History Center opened its new Museum Conservation Center last week, providing Pittsburgh with a place to bring heirlooms -- from family Bibles to photographs -- for professional services and advice on caring for antiques.

By appointment, trained staff will provide visitors with information on how to preserve their treasures, including works of art, photographs, wedding dresses, and furniture. The Museum Conservation Center also connects visitors with conservators should their heirlooms require professional repair.
 
With the opening of the new Conservation Center, the History Center becomes one of the first museums in the nation to provide professional conservation services directly to the public.
 
“It’s a place where visitors can link with professional services and seek advice,” said Barbara Antel, Conservation Services Manager.
 
The Conservation Center provides visitors with access to the same quality assessment and treatments that the museum provides for its own collections. 
 
The center is also an education resource. It opened to the public with a hands-on workshop focusing on preserving paper documents. Experts provided tips on how to best preserve birth certificates, passports, letters and other materials.
 
“The process of conservation is to preserve an object from further deterioration,” Antel said about the center’s educational efforts.
 
The next family archives workshop is Nov. 22. A “Holiday Heritage Workshop,” discussing care for delicate ornaments, linens and antique china, will be held Dec. 11.
 
In addition to conservation services, the nine-floor LEED-certified green building also houses the History Center’s collection of more than 32,000 artifacts. The new 55,000-square-foot storage space features Smithsonian-quality lighting, temperature, humidity, pest control and security.
 
The Conservation Center is located behind the History Center in the Strip District at 1221 Penn Ave. and is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, primarily by appointment.
 
 

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 

Pittsburgh Public Market hosts first-ever Food Swap

From spicy wing sauce to eggs laid by backyard hens, if it's homemade or homegrown, it's up for grabs at the city's first-ever food swap.

The Pittsburgh Public Market and Good Food Pittsburgh’s Emily Catalano are hosting the Pittsburgh Food Swap on Saturday, Sept. 20 from 2-4 p.m. at the market.
 
Catalano says that the city has played host to smaller canning and themed swaps in the past, “but this is something that is a little more than canned goods.”
 
She says she first got the idea for while living in Philadelphia, where she attended food swaps. She was delighted to see the community come together — while some goods were made by professionals, the majority were shared by home chefs.
 
“It was a really awesome community feeling,” she said. 
 
When it comes to what foods can be swapped, almost anything goes. In Philadelphia and with swaps she's attended, Catalano saw homemade truffles, jam, extracts, cookies, whiskey, marshmallows and ravioli.
 
So what can’t be swapped?
 
“No Oreos,” Catalano said with a laugh. She also asked that any questionable homemade goods stay in the home pantry.
 
All food must be individually packaged. Containers of soup are great, but don’t bring a pot. Participants must sign a waiver that their food is safe for family, friends and neighbors to enjoy. She suggests labeling food with safe-to-consume-by dates.
 
Catalano said she went on a spicy kick for the swap and is contributing wing sauce, pickled jalapenos and bread and butter pickles. She said others who have signed up are bringing eggs from backyard hens, strawberry plants and baked goods.
 
Only those sharing items can participate in the swap, and attendees must register for this free event online. The swap begins at 2 p.m. with mingling and sampling; after 30 minutes of greetings and tastings, the swap commences.
 
Catalano said contributors should bring samples for others to try. It works like this: Bring 15 packages of cookies, leave with 15 different items from other swappers. Catalano suggested bringing 10 to 15 items to trade.
 
Sometimes you don’t get everything you want. "But most of the time, you end up getting a pretty decent haul,” Catalano said.

 

24/7 artist workspace to expand in Etna

448 Studios, a community studio space in Etna where artists and musicians can practice their craft, is expanding to provide 20 more artist studios next month.
 
The workspaces were opened in 2013 by STORExpress, after the self storage company noticed customers were using their units in other locations creatively. STORExpress saw a market and realized they could open a facility for artists and musicians to store and create their work.
 
Jesse Ament, STORExpress marketing manager, says they saw original uses for spaces from a small gym to band practice area.
 
“We’re in the business of space,” he says. 

The first floor of the 448 Butler Street facility is a band floor. It features 27 rooms with sound resistant walls built specifically for local bands. The second floor provides artist studios. And, they were designed with creating art in mind, the workspaces feature natural lighting and industrial sinks.
 
There are currently 40 studios at 80 percent capacity with metal workers, painters, jewelry makers and designers.  Ament notes that one 448 Studios artist was commissioned by the 49ers football team to outfit their new stadium. 
 
Rooms are equipped with wi-fi, heating and cooling. There is a community lounge, kitchenette and restrooms provided for artists. Ament said occupants are free to display art in these common spaces. 

The 448 Studios building is accessible 24 hours a day and work and equipment are secure with electronic coded access.
 
“We are trying to build a community,” Ament says. “You’re not just renting a space, you’re getting access to other artists in the community.”
 
The expansion should be complete October 1. For more information about the studios, visit https://www.facebook.com/448Studios/info
 
Source: Jesse Ament, STORExpress, 448 Studios Facebook

Love Your Block announces 14 fall grant recipients

Mayor William Peduto announced last week the 14 organizations that will receive funding for the seventh round of the Love Your Block grant program, a servePGH initiative.
 
The block revitalization program, with help from sponsors, awards $1,000 to purchase supplies and tools to implement a block improvement project that mobilizes community volunteers to transform blighted lots into neighborhood assets. 
 
Sabrina Shaner, LYB coordinator and neighborhood service associate, says the project provides a creative and sustainable solution while “promoting public safety, encouraging real estate and pride.”
 
Melanie Ondek, City of Pittsburgh grants officer working with servePGH, explains that while Pittsburgh is currently growing, the city faced a declining population for five decades resulting in blight. She says community engagement efforts revitalize neighborhoods and improve the quality of life of citizens. 
 
LYB uses “citizen service to tackle city needs,” Ondek says. She adds that, “We see our most successful projects happen when the entire block is engaged.”  
 
The mini-grant initiative began in 2011 and has funded Pittsburgh blocks every fall and spring since its inception. Ondek says LYB has completed 104 projects and assisted 321 blocks with more than 1,000 volunteers who have removed 30,000 plus pounds of litter. Ondek adds that LYB has touched 43 of Pittsburgh’s 98 neighborhoods.
 
“I am happy to announce that LYB is once again uniting neighbors, community members and volunteers to improve their neighborhoods by turning blighted properties into usable green space,” says Mayor Peduto. “These projects exhibit the sense of pride and spirit of volunteerism that are regularly demonstrated by so many citizens that live in the unique neighborhoods of Pittsburgh.”
 
Fall 2014 grant recipients are as follows: 900 Block of Liberty, Beechview Community Garden, The Borland Garden Cooperative, Beltzhoover Neighborhood Council, Grow Pittsburgh, Lawrenceville United, Northside Coalition for Fair Housing, Observatory Hill, Inc., South Pittsburgh Development Corp, Southside Community Council of Pittsburgh, Troy Hill Citizen, Inc., Uptown Partners, West End Alliance and YWCA.
 
LYB is made possible thanks to Peoples Natural Gas, the PNC Foundation and The Home Depot. Peoples Natural Gas donated $15,000 and the PNC Foundation added an additional $10,000, while The Home Depot is providing $9,100 worth of supplies. LYB is also supported by the Corporation for National Community Service, the AmeriCorps VISTA program and it's based on the Cities of Service Blueprint of the same name.
 
Additionally, a special $2,000 prize will be given to the organization that carries out the most successful block transformation, according to identified criteria. Fall project implementation will take place from August 31 to October 31, 2014.
 
Source: Office of Mayor William Peduto, Sabrina Shaner, Melanie Ondek, Love Your Block
 

A bag of produce is your ticket to Red, Ripe and Roasted at Phipps

A bag of fresh produce can gain you admittance to the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens 10th annual Red, Ripe and Roasted tomato and garlic festival Sun., August 24.
 
Held on the public garden’s sustainably managed front lawn and in the Outdoor Garden, this family-friendly event features cooking demonstrations, a tomato contest, a farmers’ market and activities for kids—all to benefit Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
 
“In general, the event is a celebration of summer and the bounty of summer,” says Jordyn Melino, Phipps exhibit coordinator. She says it's also about sharing this “bounty” with those in need.

While highlighting western Pennsylvania’s quintessential crops, the festival encourages guests to share the season’s harvest with the Food Bank. In 2013, the festival resulted in the collection of 2,174 pounds of food.
 
By donating a bag fresh produce to help community members in need, festival participants will be admitted for free to both Red, Ripe and Roasted and to the conservatory. Guests can experience attractions from the Butterfly Forest to the Summer Flower Show, featuring bright blooms and model train displays, during event hours from 11AM to 4PM.
 
Café Phipps will prepare and share a variety of delicious dishes to sample, there will be cooking demonstrations, a Phipps-grown garlic roast and a farmers’ market featuring organic and Certified Naturally Grown produce—guests can purchase their produce for donation at this market.
 
Another popular festival activity is a tomato contest where home gardeners are invited to enter their ugliest, smallest or largest ripe tomatoes for a chance to win prizes. The event will host a variety of discovery activities to entertain children of all ages. Let’s Move Pittsburgh and several other local organizations will also be in attendance to engage event-goers.
 
Garden writer and television/radio host Doug Oster — author of Tomatoes, Garlic, Basil — and food writer Miriam Rubin, author of Tomatoes, will also be in attendance to present some of their favorite recipes and sign copies of their books.
 
Source: Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Jordyn Melino

Free day at Phipps next week

Thanks to a generous grant from the Jack Buncher Foundation, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens will open its doors free of charge on Monday, Aug. 4. Community members of all ages are encouraged to attend between 9:30AM and 5PM.
 
“We believe that everyone should have the chance to experience the extraordinary beauty and inspiration to be found at Phipps,” says Jack Buncher Foundation Chair Bernita Buncher. “It is one of Pittsburgh’s finest treasures, and we are thrilled to be able to share it with our community in this special way.”
 
Guests who attend this year’s free admission day will enjoy the colorful booms and whimsical model train displays of Summer Flower Show, featuring bright blooms and lush tropical plants.
 
“Our current show is Summer Flower Show, which, this year, has a train theme,” says Liz Fetchin, Phipps director of marketing and communications.

The show incorporates interactive train displays that guests—and children—can operate with the push of a button.

“We invite people of all ages, there is something for everyone to see in the gardens," Fetchin says.
"It really is a great experience for families and children.”
 
The outdoor gardens at Phipps are in full bloom from the Children’s Discovery Garden and Rooftop Edible Garden to the Sustainable Perennial Beds and Aquatic Garden. Fetchin notes that the vegetables and herbs from the Edible Garden are used in programming and in the Café Phipps, named one of the best museum restaurants in the U.S. by Food & Wine Magazine earlier this year.  

“Every year, a free day gives many people the opportunity to pass through our doors and explore the wonders of nature,” says Phipps Executive Director Richard V. Piacentini. “We express our sincere gratitude to the Jack Buncher Foundation for making this gift to our community possible through their great generosity.”
 
Visitors will have the chance to see the Center for Sustainable Landscapes too, and discover one of the greenest buildings in the world. More details can be found at phipps.conservatory.org.
 
 
Source: Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Liz Fetchin

The Neighborhood Flea debuts Sunday in the Strip

A new artisan marketplace is coming to the Strip District. The Neighborhood Flea will feature vintage clothes, repurposed furniture, crafts, food trucks and more at its inaugural market Sun., July 27.
 
Carrie Nardini, organizer of The Neighborhood Flea, started the I Made It Market seven years ago. She and Stephanie Sheldon, who she met through I Made It Market, were inspired by urban flea markets such as the Brooklyn Flea, and started The Cleveland Flea last year with Ohio community development organization St. Clair Superior.
 
Nardini says she and Sheldon worked together in Cleveland to bring farm fresh produce, mid-century collectibles from furniture to housewares, clothing and handmade goods to The Cleveland Flea.  
 
“[It was] a cool experience to be able to bring all of these small businesses together into one space,” she says. Nardini added that this experience helped her branch out of the homemade circuit she usually works with in Pittsburgh.
 
She says she sees a lot of potential in Pittsburgh for this kind of bazaar because of the pride the city has in its neighborhoods.
 
“The act of shopping at the flea encourages dialogue and neighborly exchanges," she says. "Meet the vintage aficionado whose plates remind you of Sunday dinner at your grandmother’s. Learn about the woodworker who forages the fallen trees of your favorite park. Sip the city’s finest coffees and eat the best mobile food [the] community has to offer.
 
The flea will start as a monthly event in the Strip, but Nardini says she hopes to see it expand to other Pittsburgh communities. The market will be hosted monthly in the parking lot across from Marty’s Market until winter.
 
Nardini says this is not the sort of dusty, overstock “flea” many associate with the word. Instead, The Neighborhood Flea is a curated arts event.
 
“The Neighborhood Flea is a vibrant, pop up urban marketplace offering an inspired shopping experience in Pittsburgh's historic Strip District,” she says.  “[It] is a celebration of the craft and time of vendors who make and curate fine collections. In bringing together top-quality vendors and discerning customers in an urban setting, a new neighborhood magically emerges.”
 
Nardini explains that visitors to Neighborhood Flea can expect a wide range of vendors specializing in vintage clothing, home goods, locally made bath and body products, handcrafted items, foods and “strong brews.”
 
Some vendors that have already signed on for July 27 kickoff include Red Pop Shop, Natrona Bottling Company, PGH Taco Truck, A-Boss Opticians (specializing in vintage frames) and Royal Establishment. Wigle Whiskey and Marty’s Market are also participating in the event.
 
Nardini describes these businesses as “hidden treasures [from] all around the city” that Neighborhood Flea is bringing together in one place.
 
The Neighborhood Flea is located at 2300 Penn Avenue in the parking lot across from Marty's Market. Pop up dates are currently set for July 27, August 24  and September 28 from 11 AM - 4 PM. For more information, follow The Neighborhood Flea on Facebook at facebook.com/neighborhoodflea.
 
Source: Carrie Nardini

Mayor Peduto launches initiative to bolster immigration

Last week, Mayor William Peduto launched Welcoming Pittsburgh, an effort to improve quality of life and economic prosperity for immigrants and native-born residents alike.
 
Peduto announced the program Wed., May 28, with more than 100 community leaders in attendance at the Kingsley Association in Larimer. The initiative is part of Welcoming America, a national and grassroots-driven collaborative that promotes mutual respect and cooperation between foreign-born and U.S.-born Americans.

The ceremony included community leaders who spoke to their own immigrant stories and performances by Balafon West African Dance Ensemble and local, Latin American music group Bésame.

Through Welcoming Pittsburgh, the city will support efforts such as resettling refugees eager to build new homes in the city; working with organizations including the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Global Pittsburgh and Vibrant Pittsburgh to support efforts that keep international students in the city; reviving its Sister Cities program with the help of the World Affairs Council; and supporting job growth of all kinds, from small businesses to manufacturing to high-tech.

“Pittsburgh has long been home to generations of immigrants — it drew my family here and so many others — but there is much more we can do, especially in supporting business opportunities and innovation among all our residents, old and new. While we celebrate our immigrant past, we need to build on a welcoming future,” Peduto says.

Studies show Pittsburgh lags behind most peer cities in net immigration, yet the immigrants it does host are among the highest-educated in the nation. As of early 2013, the city had more than 1,300 Bhutanese, nearly 500 Burmese, almost 200 Iraqi and more than 260 Somali citizens who resettled in Pittsburgh. The landscape is also changing for the region’s Latinos — across the county, there are 24,000 Hispanics, most of which live in the city.

June is Immigrant Heritage Month, and speakers at the Welcoming Pittsburgh event talked about the Global Great Lakes conference coming to the city June 12, and a regional Puerto Rico outreach strategy that includes a concert by El Gran Combo on June 22. Both are free events and open to the public.

“It was our great honor to host Mayor Peduto’s kickoff of Welcoming Pittsburgh,” says CEED Executive Director Rufus Idris. “As an immigrant from Nigeria and someone who works directly with this population, I see firsthand every day the numerous contributions the immigrant community is making in Pittsburgh through innovative startups and new business ventures.”

The city is currently taking applications for those seeking to join a Welcoming Pittsburgh Advisory Council to contribute to the rollout the effort’s implementation plan and set key initiatives. Policies will be shaped with the guidance of this core team. The Council will also be tapped to lead a listening tour to engage community members every step of the way. 

Those interested in joining the Welcoming Pittsburgh Advisory Council may apply at: http://pittsburghpa.gov/personnel/jobs/pittsburgh_advisory_council.  The application will remain open until June 20.
 

Source: Office of Mayor William Peduto
 

4th Annual Community Development Summit held downtown

“In Detroit and across the country, we look to Pittsburgh for hope,” Detroit native and Local Initiatives Support Corporation Vice President, Anika Goss-Foster, remarked at the reception of Pittsburgh's 4th Annual Community Development Summit.

About 600 community leaders from Pennsylvania and surrounding states convened in the grandeur of the Omni William Penn Hotel to learn about and discuss community development this week. The two day event centered on the theme of “Reaching Across Boundaries” and aimed to break down jurisdictional, sectoral and interpersonal barriers for the betterment of the community.

The Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG) partnered with the Urban Land Institute to host the summit. PNC Bank has been the title sponsor of the summit for the past three years.

Participants were able to engage with different concepts of community development through mobile workshops, breakout sessions, keynote speakers and networking events.

For instance, one breakout session featured a panel of entrepreneurs and community planners who focused on the relationship between creativity and community development.

Janera Solomon, the Executive Director of the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, emphasized the importance of making culture and creativity an integral part of everyday life and taking a more thoughtful approach at utilizing creativity.

In another workshop, developers and engineers exhibited the value of integrating industrial land use into community development and addressed the challenges that accompany ventures such as zoning, physical development and feasibility issues.

Katie Hale, the Neighborhood Policy Manager of PCRG, says that the summit is about celebration and optimism. The event aims to inspire and motivate participants to make positive changes themselves.

“We want participants to leave with a tenacity to go into their communities or neighborhoods and think outside of the box and collaborate,” Hale says.

According to her, the mobile workshops mix fun with hands on experience and allow leaders to learn about their neighbors while witnessing young people making things happen in Pittsburgh.

During the event, PCRG hosted an award ceremony that recognized community leaders. The Ballfield Farm, a community farm in Perry Hilltop, was among the award recipients in the “homegrown” category. The farm has brought fresh produce to Perry Hilltop and also runs an ecology program to educate children on the process of growing food.

Joanna Deming, a member of the summit planning committee and a board member of PCRG, volunteers at Ballfield Farm with her husband.

“I submitted Ballfield Farm because I feel like it’s a little known gem on the North Side where people are working hard and benefiting from their experience in many different ways,” Deming says.

Deming says that the Community Development Summit gives Pittsburgh positive exposure.

“It’s meant to attract people from different cities and different states so one of the things it does is raise the profile of Pittsburgh,” she says.

In addition, the PCRG annually gives a Neighborhood Leader Award in memory of Bob O’Connor. This year, Reverend Tim Smith, the executive director of Center of Life, received the award for his devotion to the community of Hazelwood.

On Thursday, participants enjoyed both a breakfast and lunch keynote. During breakfast, Shelley Poticha, the director of the Natural Resources Defence Council's Urban Solutions Program, emphasized the need for environmental and community goals to converge.

"People are aware that we can actually intervene. We can make a change," Poticha says.

David Rusk, the former mayor of Albuquerque, presented the lunch keynote. He spoke of the benefits of less fragmented or “big box” states in comparison to Pennsylvania’s current “little box” make up and proposed a plan for more communal action.

Mayor Bill Peduto presented a speech before the breakfast keynote on Thursday morning and moderated a panel of experts entitled “Shaping the Cities of Tomorrow” later in the day.

Hale says that though the Community Development Summit has received gracious remarks from public officials in the past, this is the first time this caliber of public official was so actively engaged in the event.

Aggie Brose, the chair of the PCRG board, praised Mayor Peduto before his speech.

"We are very fortunate to have a leader with so much vision and optimism in our mayor," Brose says.

Mayor Peduto spoke of the importance of advancing all of Pittsburgh's neighborhoods through the revitalization of housing and business districts.

"Every community and every community group has the ability to get it done," Peduto says.

Locals create Indiegogo campaign to save Bloomfield sandwich shop

Mama Ros’ Sandwich Shop customers have taken to Indiegogo.com, a crowdfunding website, to help the local business known for helping others.
 
When Jonathan Tai and Jon Potter grabbed lunch at Mama Ros’ (also known as The Bloomfield Sandwich Shop), the two men ended up making new friends and leaving with a mission.
 
While eating at Mama Ros,’ Tai and Potter met the Mama and the Papa themselves, Rosalyn Dukes and her partner Mike Miller. In a video on the Indiegogo page, Tai states, “Just as in Game of Thrones, the winter has been long and hard, and now they need our help.”
 
Tai added in a phone call that the winter business was slow and the shop is in need of a boost to help with operating costs.
 
He said the restaurant has a reputation for wanting to feed everyone, even those who can’t always afford it. And, this campaign can help Dukes and Miller continue to do just that.
 
In the video, Tai introduces the shop’s famous Thanksgiving meals.
 
“We try every year, as best we can, to serve as many people as we can a free Thanksgiving dinner,” Dukes says.
 
She added that patrons are welcome to eat in the diner or they can take the traditional turkey dinner home with them. Last November, Mama Ros’ served more than 200 Thanksgiving meals — using 15, 20-pound turkeys.
 
“It’s for everybody,” Miller adds. “College kids that can’t come home. People that have families who just can’t, right now, afford to have a good turkey dinner.”
 
This spirit is what led Tai and Potter to volunteer to create the online fundraiser and lend their professional services as prizes for donating to the campaign.  
 
Tai is a magician and Potter is a paraglider. Ten $100 donors can receive a 20-minute magic performance from Tai. Potter is giving away paragliding lessons to ten $150 donors. Yes, Potter is the Pittsburgh paraglider who made news for his goal to paraglide off the Seven Wonders of the World — including Machu Picchu.
 
Tai said local response has been great so far and he noted that Pittsburgh rallied behind the restaurant after a fire a couple of years ago. He said people know the shop and have continued to support it.
 
“It’s about so much more than just food. It’s about community,” he says.
 
 
Source: Jonathan Tai, Indiegogo “Saving Mama Ros' Sandwich Shop”

Neighborhood Allies names inaugural president

Presley L. Gillespie has been hired as the first president of Neighborhood Allies, a community development organization that focuses on incorporating people-based and place-based strategies into its work.
 
Neighborhood Allies, whose predecessor organization was the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development, launched in 2013 with the purpose of including 21st century community development approaches.
 
The organization is known as an intermediary funder to help neighborhoods in distress and addresses local issues like blighted buildings and homelessness. Innovative, resident-driven development strategies have worked extremely well in other Great Lakes cities such as Detroit, Cleveland and Youngstown, and Gillespie has been at the forefront of this work for the last five years.
 
Gillespie was most recently the founding executive director of the Youngstown Community Development Corporation, the first city-wide community development corporation in Youngstown, Ohio.
 
In addition to Gillespie’s nonprofit work, he has experience in private sector banking. Prior to his work with YNDC, he had a successful 18-year banking career, primarily focused on community development lending and revitalization.
 
“Throughout my 23-year career, I have been deeply engaged in mobilizing capital and engaging residents to transform under-served neighborhoods," Gillespie says. "My experience as a community development leader in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors has led to a life-long commitment and passion to improving the quality of life of people affected by blight and disinvestment."
 
Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto was enthusiastic about the selection of Gillespie and the experience he brings to his new position.
 
“He has a proven track record of scaling up community development work and bringing millions in federal resources to local communities," Peduto says. "I am so pleased that Neighborhood Allies was able to attract a leader of his caliber to Pittsburgh to help us work collaboratively to rebuild our communities most in need.”
 
Gillespie added that he is excited to take the helm at Neighborhood Allies as its objectives go hand-in-hand with his personal and professional goals of local development. “First and foremost, I deeply believe in their mission,” he says.
 
In addition to his enthusiasm for the organization, Gillespie says he has “long admired Pittsburgh” as a post-industrial city that continues to flourish.
 
“Pittsburgh is a great city,” he says. “With a strong urban core and diverse and historic neighborhoods, it is poised for significant, continued growth.”
 
While Gillespie has plans to re-imagine, re-invent and re-tool the system with new cross-sector, strategic partnerships meant to foster the transformation of Pittsburgh's neighborhoods, he says he knows that the beginning of his term will be met with a lot of listening and learning.
 
Gillespie will begin his term as president mid-May. With his wife Nora and two children, he will be relocating to Pittsburgh this spring. He said the family is excited to call Pittsburgh home and take advantage of what the city has to offer.
 
“I look forward to visiting its world-class theaters, botanical gardens, green trails and sports venues,” he says. “The quality of life amenities in Pittsburgh are second to none.”

Writer: Caroline Gerdes
Source: Neighborhood Allies, Presley L. Gillespie

Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership celebrates 20 years by planning for the future

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership hosted their 20th Anniversary Annual Meeting April 1, touting the development of Downtown and their ongoing neighborhood projects.
 
Governor Tom Corbett provided opening remarks at the event, held downtown at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, about the investments the state has made in Downtown and how these ventures have positioned Downtown Pittsburgh to be a competitive central business district.
 
“Pittsburgh continues to see renaissances; evolving, growing and becoming a model for other cities,” Corbett said.  
 
Mayor William Peduto provided the keynote presentation, speaking about his vision for the future of Downtown Pittsburgh. His remarks focused on several areas: the revitalization of the Smithfield Street Corridor, his commitment to attract 20,000 new residents to Pittsburgh and the importance of a multi-modal transit system serving the city. The mayor announced plans to create the city’s first protected bike lane later this year and news of Bike Share coming soon to Downtown.
 
In celebration of the PDP’s 20th anniversary, a weeklong series of events are being planned for the week of July 15 through July 21. This celebration will include special editions of some of the PDP’s most popular summer activities, like Christmas in July at the Market Square Farmers Market. There will also be outdoor activities including a member’s day at PNC Park, a Project Pop Up Fashion Market highlighting the local retail scene and a partnership with national fitness-wear retailer Lululemon Athletica offering free outdoor yoga classes for 13 weeks in Market Square on Sundays throughout the summer. The PDP will also produce a series of public film screenings in collaboration with the Pittsburgh Filmmakers.
 
The annual report also highlighted many PDP programs and services. The PDP Clean Team provided 32,816 labor hours, including the removal of 1.291 million pounds of trash and 3,080 instances of graffiti; the PDP Street Team addressed 320 panhandling incidents, nearly doubling the number of homeless outreach contacts over the previous year with 1,286 occurrences; and, the PDP Volunteer Program welcomed 1,842 volunteers who performed 6,005 volunteer hours.  

Writer: Caroline Gerdes
Source: Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership
 
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