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New bike shop in the Strip aims to make pedaling around PGH more accessible

Kindred Cycles, the new full service bicycle shop in the Strip District, will open next week. The closest bicycle shop to the center of Downtown Pittsburgh and three blocks from the Strip District Trail, Kindred Cycles specializes in commuter and folding bikes as well as repair and maintenance.

Owners Katharine Jordan and Aaron Stein have a mission of love and support for people using pedal power. With more than a decade of combined professional experience wrenching, they see an opportunity to include average Pittsburghers in the growing bike-riding community.

“More and more people are realizing that biking puts a smile on your face. The best trip is one that I would have used my car for,” gushes Aaron. “When you bike you see the neighborhood differently.”

Kindred Cycles hopes to grow with the riding community by promoting accessibility for new riders through programs like Positive Spin, partnering with local businesses, and eventually organizing classes and group rides.

“We want to encourage the average Pittsburgher to bike by giving everyone access to a friendly and inclusive community-driven bike shop,” Katharine summarizes.

Kindred Cycles fits like a true spoke in Pittsburgh’s continuing transportation evolution. Last month, Mayor Bill Peduto gave the opening address at the National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C. and announced that the PeopleForBikes Green Lane Project selected Pittsburgh to develop protected bike lanes. The Pittsburgh Bike Share Partnership will start this summer. The David L. Lawrence Convention Center will host the Pro Walk/Pro Bike/Pro Place National Conference in the autumn.
Writer: Adam Schøtt Hovne
Sources: Katharine Jordan and Aaron Stein

Riverlife launches guide to aid Pennsylvania's riverfront development

Pittsburgh’s importance in the founding and forging of America owes a great deal to its rivers. For the last 15 years, Riverlife has worked with property owners, community groups and elected officials to restore Pittsburgh’s riverfront territories as assets which have helped to once again set the city apart.

Now, Riverlife is sharing its methodology with the world. This week, the organization released a new resources guide for river towns looking to duplicate Pittsburgh’s success in reviving waterfront property.

“We have 86,000 miles of rivers and streams in Pennsylvania. We have more river communities than most places in the world,” says Riverlife President and CEO Lisa Schroeder. “The guide compiles what we’ve learned here at Riverlife over the last 15 years as we’ve worked on projects on and adjacent to the river.”

Schroeder added that in creating the guide, which took about a year, Riverlife tried to make its lessons and processes applicable to communities of all sizes, and thinks it will be of particular help to river towns in and around the Rust Belt.

The guide is divided into four sections. The “Natural” section encompasses information about ecological conservation. The “Connections” section details best practices for maximizing public access to riverfront developments. “Built” covers elements of design, materials, stormwater management and river-adjacent structures, and “Character” touches on everything from landscape architecture and invasive species management to integrating public art projects.

“Whether a community hopes to build a park or a stormwater garden, we hope this gives them the sense not only that they can do it, but of how to go about it,” she says. “We’re very pleased we’ve been able to layer in years of experience from accomplished professionals.”

The Benedum Foundation financed the creation of the guide and has helped to make it widely accessible. Complimentary hard copies are available through Riverlife, and a digital, print-friendly version is posted on the organization’s website.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Lisa Schroeder

Remaking Cities Congress will convene in Pittsburgh this October

Twenty-five years ago, urban planners, architects and civil engineers from around the country and the world convened in Pittsburgh with the specific aim of addressing the problems facing historically industrial cities in a post-industrial world.

The gathering, called the Remaking Cities Institute, involved days of closed-door meetings, idea exchanges and ultimately, a set of recommendations and principles for industrial cities around the world to set about pulling themselves out of their post-industrial funk.

From October 15th to 18th, the organization, now called the Remaking Cities Congress, will gather 300 of the world’s leading urbanists here once again to review what worked, what didn’t and to issue a new list of recommendations which will inform and guide the next generation of urban planning policy for post-industrial cities from Pittsburgh to Germany’s Ruhr Valley.

“There were policy recommendations, and people walked away from [those sessions] and said, ‘we’re going to see how these affect our urban centers,’” says Pam Wigley, the director of media relations for Carnegie Mellon’s College of Fine Arts, who is helping to organize the congress. “The delegates have closed-door sessions on urban planning. They vote, they make decisions on policy, research and economic impact, among other things.”

Pittsburgh has benefitted from several of the recommendations put forth by the last gathering, including making substantial efforts to reclaim riverfronts and redevelop brownfields. Other involved areas, such as Detroit, have had substantially less success.

The congress’s honorary chair, Charles, the Prince of Wales, attended the 1988 conference in Pittsburgh, but this time will send a delegate in his stead and deliver his address via a videotaped message.

“Prince Charles has always had an interest in urban development and community planning,” Wigley says.

In addition to a series of invitation-only sessions, the congress will include several speakers such as Richard Florida and The Brookings Institute's Bruce Katz, as well as a host of tours and mobile workshops which will showcase various aspects of Pittsburgh's resurgence as case studies in post-industrial redevelopment.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Pam Wigley

Grocery store with focus on local produce coming to Lawrenceville

Starting in October, a new joint venture between two neighborhood residents will bring organic, locally-sourced food to Upper Lawrenceville.

The 52nd Street Market will hearken back to the days of the neighborhood corner grocery while offering residents a local option for healthy food and produce.

“We really do want people to feel like it’s their corner store,” says Dora Walmsley, one of the market’s co-owners.

Walmsley, who works for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, met co-owner Deirdre Kane while working on Lawrenceville’s organic community gardens.

The market will occupy the first-floor space at 601 52nd Street, which years ago was a corner grocery called Bloomfield Market. Walmsley and Kane were looking for a location when they learned that the building had just been sold to real estate development firm PA Wealth Builders, which initially planned to use the space for its offices.

When Walmsley and Kane approached Jon Perry from the firm about using the first-floor space for a market, he was eager to help.

“He believed in our vision,” Kane says. “He believed in local food economy and remodeled the building for us at no extra charge.”

Walmsley and Kane hope to cull as much of their stock as possible from local farms and community gardens. Eventually they hope the market which is scheduled to open in mid-October, could be supplied by its own small farm.

“We hope to acquire land to have a little farmette,” Walmsley says. “The farmette will supply the market, which will hopefully sustain both the market and the farm.”

In addition to produce, the market plans to offer a selection of prepared foods, soups, salads and a coffee bar with a seating area.

“I decided Lawrenceville was not only going to be my home, but my future,” Kane says. “I really wanted to be a part of the neighborhood fabric.”

Kane and Walmsley plan to launch a crowdfunding campaign soon to help cover some of the costs of opening the market. For updates and information on how to get involved, visit the Facebook page.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Dora Walmsley, Deirdre Kane

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

Homewood getting a new 12,000 square-foot Renaissance Center

A new type of community facility will be at the center of an effort to revitalize North Homewood.

After plans to put a dollar store in the space at 7258 Frankstown Avenue fell through, Dollar Bank agreed to donate the building — valued at $2 million — for what the Homewood Renaissance Association is calling The Renaissance Center.

Among its features, the 12,000-square foot Renaissance Center will include classrooms, community space, a kitchen, a recording studio and other recreational amenities, in addition to housing the Homewood Renaissance Association’s new offices.

Apart from acting as a community center, the space will have 4,000-square feet dedicated to four retail storefront spaces. Businesses local to Homewood will occupy three of the spaces, and the fourth will act as a business incubator, according to Homewood Renaissance Association spokesperson Kelley Denny.

Collaborating with the association on the Renaissance Center are City MissionHosana IndustriesRebuilding Together Pittsburgh, along with backing from a myriad of local foundations and volunteer efforts.

On track to open in early 2014, the Renaissance Center is the prime initiative in a broader community revitalization campaign which will also see the construction of a youth home, the establishment of a transitional housing program for the homeless, the expansion of both a career skills training program for young men in Homewood and a daily after school program for children of all ages.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Kelley Denny

GoBurgh hosts Pittsburgh's first-ever Transit Day

GoBurgh, a coalition of organizations with a shared mission to promote vibrant and sustainably funded transportation infrastructure in Pittsburgh, hosted the city’s first-ever Transit Day last Thursday.

“Transit is big here,” says Chris Sandvig of the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group, which manages GoBurgh.
“Transit Day’s point is to call attention to the fact that there are a lot of people who rely on the system. We don’t generate tax revenue without transit, and it’s costing us employers.”

Transit Day arose out of PCRG’s efforts toward advocacy fundraising. The proposed 35 percent transit service cuts that were narrowly averted last year thanks to state assistance would have cost more than $300 million to Allegheny County taxpayers.

“We’re starting a conversation locally about what sort of transit system we want,” Sandvig says. “We’ve had no vision of a transit system of the future since Skybus. We have all these great ideas about light rail and commuter rail, but what comes first? That’s the conversation we need to have.”

The Transit Day celebration, which took place in Market Square, offered attendees free Eat’n Park smiley cookies and entertainment from comedian Gab Bonesso and Meeting of Important People’s Josh Verbanets.  

Additionally, commuters who used the Carnegie, Wilkinsburg and Showcase Cinema Park and Ride installations were treated to free coffee and Transit YES! buttons.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Chris Sandvig

Pittsburgh's Bus Rapid Transit effort gets grant from Rockefeller Foundation

The initiative to get Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) rolling between Downtown and Oakland has been given another boost with a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. The grant will support research, communications, and community outreach efforts to engage and educate the public on the benefits of BRT.

GetTherePGH, a BRT Stakeholders Advisory Committee, facilitated by Sustainable Pittsburgh, welcomed last week’s announcement as well the opportunity to continue working with the community to raise awareness about the BRT project.

Though specifics of the grant are yet to be determined, Sustainable Pittsburgh’s Court Gould says the Rockefeller Foundation has shown an interest in enabling citizens to have a voice in determining what BRT projects should look like, let alone whether they should be implemented at all.

BRT is a form of bus transit that operates similarly to a rail system—though less expensive to implement—with dedicated stations, route priority, and platform fare collection, among other efficiency measures.

The Rockefeller Foundation has awarded $1.2 million to be split among four cities: Nashville, Boston, Chicago, and Pittsburgh. The funding initiative is part of the foundation’s Transform Cities effort.

“Rockefeller having competitively identified Pittsburgh in the echelon of the other three is a significant validation of several years of concerted effort here to study the benefits of Bus Rapid Transit,” Gould says.

Pittsburgh’s BRT effort is an outgrowth of recommendations from the Port Authority of Allegheny County’s 2009 Transit Development Planning Process, a comprehensive review of the agency’s entire system.  BRT served as a key component of serving Downtown to Oakland, and to the East End, Gould says.

The Bravo Group, a public relations firm, has been selected to lead the outreach effort in Pittsburgh.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Court Gould

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Ernie Sota

A new bike sharing system is coming to Pittsburgh

A new bike sharing program is in the works for Pittsburgh, a service that will enhance the city's ever-growing bicycle culture.

The 500-bike system planned for Pittsburgh is expected to debut in summer 2014. The service will give users unlimited "free" 30 to 60 minute rides through annual or 24-hour memberships. Bikes, which are available 24/7, can be returned to any of the 50 solar-powered stations in the system.

Bike Pittsburgh's Scott Bricker says the service will be a game changer for cycling in the city, and will help to mainstream bikes as a mode of transportation. "It'll be much easier to integrate bicycling into daily life for regular people," he says.

A preliminary map of potential bike-share stations shows locations throughout Downtown and Oakland, as well as in the East End, North Side, and South Side.

Bike sharing systems typically involve making bicycles available throughout a city, with corrals located at strategic transportation centers. They allow users to ride without owning a bike, and are ideal for visitors as well as residents making quick one-way trips.

The Pittsburgh Bike Share Partnership (PBSP), a newly formed non-profit, announced plans for the system on Monday during an event at Bakery Square. At that facility a smaller-scale bike-share program is available to commuters between Carnegie Mellon University and Google.

A $1.6 million grant from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program will help fund the $4 million bike share project.

Bike share programs already exist in over 200 cities worldwide, including Paris, with 20,000 bicycles, and the Hangzhou Public Bicycle program in China, which at 66,500 bicycles is the largest in the world. And several American cities, including Denver, Minneapolis, D.C., Boston, and Miami Beach have also launched bike shares.

PBSP is an alliance of the City of Pittsburgh, Bike Pittsburgh, and Walnut Capital.

Two upcoming public information sessions will allow residents to learn more about the proposed system: 6 p.m., Tuesday, April 2nd at CMU, McKenna-Peter-Wright Rooms; and 12 p.m., Wednesday, April 3, 2013, at Point Park University’s Lawrence Hall Ballroom, 201 Wood Street.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Scott Bricker

Great Allegheny Passage on track for spring completion; celebration date set

Mark your calendars: the final segments of the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) will soon be complete.

On June 15th, a celebration will be held to mark the opening of the new trail segments, currently under construction at Sandcastle Waterpark and Keystone Metals.

The event, titled Point Made!, will take place in West Homestead and at Point State Park in Downtown Pittsburgh.

The GAP trail is a 141 mile car-free route for cyclists and hikers running from Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland, Maryland.  In Cumberland the GAP joins the C&O Canal Towpath, which together creates a continuous, 325-mile long trail from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C.

Allegheny Trail Alliance President Linda Boxx says the idea for the GAP trail was first discussed over 40 years ago in 1973. Since then, the project has chugged along with trail segments built over time, occasionally just a mile at a time.

And in the Mon Valley, the Alliance didn’t have access to railroad properties. “We were basically negotiating with individual property owners piece by piece to put that alignment together,” Boxx says.

The event will begin a ribbon-cutting near Sandcastle, followed by a bike ride to The Point, where the party will take place. Boxx says the ride will be a bicycle parade party.

Construction of the final segments, which began last October, will actually be completed ahead of the event, by late May.

Point Made! will be preceded by a week-long bicycle ride from Washington D.C. to Pittsburgh, as well as a 24-hour relay that will leave D.C. on Friday and arrive Pittsburgh on the 8th

“There will be a lot of opportunities for communities to jump in and help us celebrate this great accomplishment,” Boxx says. “So many hands over so many years.”
Writer: Andrew Moore
Source:  Linda Boxx

City to sponsor Edible Gardens throughout Pittsburgh, $100,000 Cities of Service grant

As urban gardening continues to gain momentum, the City of Pittsburgh is now sponsoring a targeted edible gardens program.

Part of Green Up Pittsburgh, Mayor Ravenstahl’s new Edible Gardens program seeks to transform vacant lots into food producing spaces that not only feed the community but beautify it too.

The funds will enable neighborhood volunteers to purchase materials for constructing raised beds, purchase tools, seeds, or even fruit trees and shrubs. The program is targeting 10 to 15 low-income neighborhoods where access to fresh produce is limited.

For several years the City has supported neighborhood organizations and allowed gardening on city-owned properties. Through Green Up Pittsburgh, more than 125 green spaces have been created, says mayoral spokesperson Joanna Doven. And existing garden groups can also apply for funding.

Edible Gardens is made possible by a $100,000 Cities of Service Impact Volunteering Fund grant, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies. The funds were awarded to support two of the administration’s servePGH initiatives.

The grant also funds a city “cool roofs” initiative, where city-owned buildings are topped with reflective white paint, keeping facilities cooler and offering savings on summer energy costs. 

Of 60 applicants, Pittsburgh is one of 19 cities to receive the Cities of Service grant. Partners in the project include Grow Pittsburgh and The Penn State Center.

Applications are required, and those received by February 22 will be given priority.  Applications will continue to be accepted throughout the growing season. The first gardens are scheduled for planting in March and April. 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Joanna Doven

Smart Growth Conference to focus on transportation, green infrastructure, redevelopment financing

One of the Pittsburgh region’s greatest challenges is a long-term solution to transportation funding.  And it’s one of three major topics to be addressed at tomorrow’s 12th annual Southwestern Pennsylvania Smart Growth Conference.

The conference is a gathering of business leaders, local government, and other professionals and non-profit groups.  According to Sustainable Pittsburgh’s Court Gould, the region’s challenges—including transit—are issues that can only be solved by cross-sector coordination.

“The solution for public transportation funding won’t just be found in Harrisburg,” Gould says.  “Rather, it has to be shouldered by our region.”

At the conference, Barry Schoch, PennDOT’s Secretary of Transportation, will give a talk titled Beyond quick fixes.  According to Schoch, transportation funding has historically involved short-term infusions but not long-term solutions. 

“As we look at this to the future, for all modes, we’re looking at solutions that we believe will grow in time, that will be fair and user-fee based,” Schoch says. 

Specifics of the plan will be announced early next year.

This transit conversation comes just days after Governor Corbett’s recent pronouncements that his administration is committed to finding a plan for funding transportation in Pennsylvania.

Although Secretary Schoch won’t be providing specifics on the plans being developed by his department and the governor, he intends to use the conference as an opportunity to hear from the audience about local transportation priorities.  He says this information will help shape those future plans.

The Smart Growth Conference, created by Sustainable Pittsburgh, is co-presented this year by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and Local Government Academy.  Other conference topics include green infrastructure and urban redevelopment financing. 

The Smart Growth Conference will be held tomorrow, Thursday, December 13th, from 8 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Court Gould, Sustainable Pittsburgh; Barry Schoch, PennDOT

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
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