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Marty's Market, a destination food store, to open in the Strip

Marty’s Market, a new specialty food market and café, will be open this spring in the Strip District.  Owner Regina Koetters says the market will be right-sized, sourcing products from farms and other producers within a 150-mile radius.

Koetters moved to Pittsburgh in 2008 to be a part of the region’s redevelopment, and because she was impressed by the city’s offerings.  It is in that vein that she hopes to create a community gathering place centered around food, and describes the market as a community minded business.  

“I didn't see any need to go beyond the community to get something going,” Koetters says.  “Instead, I wanted a business that celebrated what already exists in Pittsburgh's community, and furthered it in some way.”

Marty’s is located in the former Right By Nature space, but Koetters is quick to say customers should not expect a similar supermarket concept.  

“I’m certainly building on what was great about Right By Nature, but Mary's Market is quite different in concept and function,” she says.  

Marty’s will only occupy 2/3 of the former tenant’s space.  In addition to specialty foods, the market will stock pantry staples, like flour, sugar, and salt.

None of the produce at Marty’s will have been treated with chemicals or pesticides, nor any meat with hormones or antibiotics.  Koetters wants customers to enter the market and not have to worry about those issues, and to know that the products here are of high quality.

“It allows the [customer] to focus on the product, the flavor, the freshness, and what they want to do in their kitchen, as opposed to reading labels the entire time they're in the store,” she says.

In the coffeehouse and café section of the shop, well-known chefs and amateur cooks will be held in equal esteem.  Koetters hopes to develop a menu and product selection that will celebrate Pittsburgh’s diverse communities, while bringing people together around food.

Koetters is currently searching for an executive chef to run the café at Marty’s Market.

“I think I'm building a really cool playground for someone who knows how to do stuff with food,” she says. “I’d love that person to show up and just have a great time, and unlock the potential that I’m creating here.”

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Regina Koetters

Landmarks Housing Resource Center to host green building workshop, Saturday

If you've ever wondered what it really means to "build green,” a workshop this weekend will seek to answer that question and more.  The Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation is partnering with Artemis Environmental to explore green building definitions, and will be offering demonstrations for do-it-yourselfers as part of the event.

Ian Miller, of Artemis, says many factors, including material types, travel distances, and emissions, can distinguish a building  as green or not.  At the workshop, Miller will focus on two aspects of green design: flooring and wall finishes.

Attendees will learn about flooring made of cork, bamboo, locally-timbered wood, and a marmoreal.  Miller says none of these products require advanced technical know-how, and he will demonstrate to home-owners how to prepare and install each item.

Artemis Environmental started in 2005 as a green building products supplier, but is now adding design and installation service to the company’s offerings.

Janice Webb Donatelli, Artemis' founder, says although green building has grown in popularity, many of the techniques employed aren’t actually new.

“Being green is reconnecting to the past,” she says, and points to American Clay as an example.  That company offers a line of wall finishes, made from mud and natural pigments, which belongs to a centuries-old tradition.

And Donatelli says this clay-based finish is not just healthy for the environment, but is also good for the body and wellness.  The clay acts as an ion neutralizer and is porous, allowing walls to breathe and improving indoor air quality.

Karamagi Rujumba, of the PHLF, says historic preservation is a fundamental aspect of green building.  Saturday’s event seeks to demonstrate that innovations in green building can be applied to older structures, as well as new.

The free workshop is part of an ongoing series, located in the Landmarks Housing Resource Center, in Wilkinsburg.  To RSVP, contact Mary Lu Denny at 412-471-5808.  744 Rebecca Ave, Wilkinsburg, PA 15222.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Karamagi Rujumba; Ian Miller, Janice Webb Donatelli

Kevin Sousa's Station Street Hot Dogs East Liberty

A sign at Station Street Hot Dogs boasts service since 1915.  Although it had close for a while, the shop has reopened, and looks exactly the same on the inside--same counters and stools, still serving hot dogs and fresh-cut fries. The main, critical difference though is that this time it’s a project of local chef Kevin Sousa.

At Station Street, Sousa is offering a basic hot dog, a vegan dog, and a host of other types: the New York Dog, with just sauerkraut and mustard; the Hawaii Dog, with pineapple salsa, bacon, sweet soy and mint; even a Banh Mi dog, with pork liver, pickled vegetables, and the standard toppings of this Vietnamese favorite.

Kimchi for the Korean dog is made in-house, as are most other toppings, including sweetbreads and smoked brisket.

As the sign says, Station Street originally opened in 1915, and moved to its current location in 1969.  But the shop was closed for several decades until 2006, when Bob and Ruth Tortorete reopened and renovated the space.

Sousa and his partners have made little changes to the interior or exterior.  The menu is written on a hanging chalkboard sign above the counter.  As a subtle sign of the changed culinary landscape, the standard pair of ketchup and mustard squeeze bottles is now joined by a bottle of spicy Sriracha.

Fresh-cut French fries come standard, $3, or fried in duck fat, which chef Mike Lefever says imparts the same flavor of duck confit onto the French fry.

Lefever will be the chef at the new Union Pig and Chicken, a second restaurant that Sousa is opening, also in East Liberty.  Union Pig and Chicken expects to be open and serving barbecue by the end of this month.

Station Street Hot Dogs, located at 6290 Broad Street, is open Monday though Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.  412-365-2121.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Mike Lefever

Oakland Portal project underway, 47-unit apartment building, office towers and hotel

Construction of the Oakland Portal project is underway, a development set to bring two apartment buildings, office towers, and a hotel to West Oakland.  The project is spearheaded by Lou W. Molnar, of L.W. Molnar & Associates, Inc.

The first four-story building, which will have views of the Monongahela River and the South Side Slopes, will consist of 47 units, and is being built over a structured parking garage.  The building is scheduled to open in July, with the second structure to be under construction by the end of this year.

The 1-and-2-bedroom apartments will be offered at $1,300 to $1,800 a month.  Skip Molnar, of L.W. Molnar & Associates, says the 2-bedroom units are designed as suites, with separate bathrooms and walk-in closets.  

As part of the construction, the sidewalk will be expanded, and will included a landscaped buffer between Fifth Avenue.  The buildings were designed by TKA Architects, and the contractor is FranjoConstruction.  

The apartments are located on bus lines into Downtown, and along the study route for bus rapid transit.

In the coming weeks, plans for the second phase of the project will go before neighborhood organizations and the City of Pittsburgh.  Molnar says his company is proposing three office towers, with one to include a hotel, for a site located across Fifth Avenue.

Included in those plans are suggestions for widened sidewalks, landscaping, and bicycle infrastructure along Fifth Avenue.

The entire project is scaled back from an earlier project proposed for this site by a different developer in 2005.

Because of an agreement between the previous landowner and Lamar Advertising Company, a permanent easement exists on the property for two billboards.  However, Molnar says designs were able to incorporate the existing billboard wall to build a secure, indoor bicycle storage facility for the building’s tenants.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Skip Molnar

Pittsburgh has more bridges than any other city, adds Eastside Pedestrian Bridge to the list

Pittsburgh can claim more bridges than any other city in the world, and will now add one more elevated span to the list.  The Eastside Pedestrian Bridge, a project of the URA, opened last week, connecting the Ellsworth shopping district with the Eastside development in East Liberty.

East Liberty Development, Inc. (ELDI) initiated the effort to build this structure, which is equal parts functional amenity and public art.

Skip Schwab, ELDI director of operations, says that while undertaking a community outreach and planning process, residents expressed a desire to have better connections between East Liberty and Shadyside.

The community wanted the new bridge design to be more open, and to have a safer feeling than the existing structures which cross the busway, Schwab says.

And in order to finance the planning and engineering of the bridge, ELDI raised funds from the private sector, including numerous foundations and individuals, to supplement the project’s budget.

Artist Shelia Klein designed the artistic elements of the bridge.  Thousands of glass sequins adorn the structure, and were made at the Pittsburgh Glass Center in the nearby Friendship.  Railings for the bridge were salvaged from the 31st Street Bridge, and restored by Keystone Metals in Larimer. 

Schwab says the bridge is part of a broader effort to repair pedestrian infrastructure lost during urban renewal of the 1960s.

“Everything that we're trying to do is to not only just rebuild the connections, but to do it in a way that is much more pedestrian friendly and accessible,” Schwab says.

The total project cost was $1.5 million, and included street lighting and sidewalk improvements in Shadyside, and was designed by SAI Consulting Engineers.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Skip Schwab, ELDI

Columbus Square homeowners move in; phase II beginning next week

What was once a 20-year-long vacant lot can now officially be called home, as Dean Hastings and Jon Seeley have become the first homeowners to move into the Columbus Square development in Manchester.

The five-year project has transformed the former American Electric site into the first phase of an infill development, which will culminate in the construction of 31 new homes.  Phase II will officially begin next week, as Fourth River Development LLC will release four additional lots for sale and build-out.

Dean Hastings and Jon Seeley had been looking for a home in Pittsburgh for over a year when they found Columbus Square.  Hastings says the central location and accessibility of the neighborhood were important, and the 10-year tax abatement "really pushed us over the edge."

"Most of our friends live in the city, and so we were always driving from Scott Township," to city neighborhoods for dinner, events, and socializing.  "We knew that we wanted urban living," he says.

Hastings says they have made a few adjustments to the home's interior, including the addition of a  two-zone HVAC system.  Because the home features other green building techniques, he wanted to make as many environmentally-friendly decisions as possible, and the two-zone HVAC makes it possible to heat only rooms that are in use.

Neighbors who have lived in Manchester for over 50 years have welcomed Hastings and Seeley.  And in the coming weeks, a second set of homeowners who have closed on a home in Columbus Square will join them in the adjacent house on Juniata Street.

In addition to Columbus Square, the Manchester Citizens Corporation is also in the midst of its Renaissance Housing Program, a 38-unit, for-sale redevelopment of former multi-family homes, acquired through HUD foreclosure.  

The first phase of the program includes nine units, with four on Columbus Avenue, adjacent to the Columbus Square development.  This section of Manchester will now include a mix of new home construction and renovated historic properties.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Dean Hastings; Sally Flinn, Fourth River Development, LLC

Stagioni is moving to the South Side, adding more seats and a liquor license

Bloomfield’s popular Italian restaurant Stagioni is relocating to the South Side.  The former BYOB has outgrown its intimate Liberty Avenue location, and will reopen at 2104 East Carson Street later this month.

While the new location more than doubles the restaurant’s seating capacity, co-owner Cara Delsignore says it will retain the same cozy feeling and charm.  “We’re still little Stagioni,” she says.  “Now there’s just an extra level.”

The biggest change will come as Stagioni will now have a full-service bar.  Chef Stephen Felder says he and Delsignore share a passion for both food and wine, and look forward to bringing elements of the kitchen to the bar.

“We like making fun cocktails,” Felder says, “I like to pickle things, and cure things, and to have pickled ramps in a martini, or anything else like that, makes a drink more interesting, more exciting.”

For the past year, Stagioni has hosted monthly Wine Nights, where hard-to-find Italian wines are paired with traditional dishes from the same region of Italy.  The “small but interesting” wine list at the new restaurant will also feature those wines which are not commonly available at state stores.

Reclaimed barn wood and oak timber features prominently in the bar, where the rustic aesthetic matches the traditional, farm-to-table Italian cuisine. 

Stagioni’s menu will continue to change daily, but it is known for house-made gnocchi and fresh pastas, made-to-order mozzarella, and dishes like beef braciole, braised short ribs, and locally sourced lamb and duck.  Desserts include homemade tiramisu, Nutella mousse, and ricotta cheesecake.

The new space replaces the former Le Pommier bistro, which closed over a year ago.

Felder and Delsignore opened their Bloomfield restaurant in November of 2009.  That storefront was distinguished by its Tuscan orange awning and façade.  That same color scheme will be brought to the interior of the Carson Street restaurant, as well as subtle reminders of the original location.

Stagioni, 2104 East Carson Street, South Side.  412-687-5775.
Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Stephen Felder, Cara Delsignore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wilkinsburg CDC receives $350,000 grant for revitalization efforts

Redevelopment efforts in Wilkinsburg have been given another boost.  The Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation (WCDC) has received renewed funding from TriState Capital Bank, as part of the Neighborhood Partnership Program.  

The $350,000 additional funding is the third installment of a six-year commitment to the WCDC to assist in business district revitalization, as well as affordable housing, crime prevention, green initiatives, and youth engagement.

WCDC Executive Director Tracey Evans says this grant allows her organization to work towards its mission, and to maintain its prominent storefront location on Penn Avenue.  

The grant gives funding to the WCDC through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's Department of Community and Economic Development’s (DCED) Neighborhood Partnership Program (NPP).

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation will receive a portion of these funds as part of a collaborative redevelopment initiative in the Hamnett Place neighborhood of Wilkinsburg, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

PHLF has invested more than $11 million in that neighborhood, including the renovation and sale of seven historic homes, and the two-building, 27-unit Crescent Apartments development.  

The homes and apartments are made available to low and moderate income individuals and families, and is funded in part by the Allegheny Foundation, and the Allegheny County Department of Economic Development.

In addition to development work, PHLF will use this funding to support programing at the Landmarks Housing Resource Center, where it encourages and educates do-it-yourselfers to restore and maintain homes, and improve energy efficiency.

This coming October, the Borough of Wilkinsburg will celebrate 125 years.  Evans says her organization is partnering with the mayor, borough, and various volunteer community groups in support of those anniversary activities.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Tracey Evans, WCDC; Michael Sripraser, PHLF

More new restaurants coming to Market Square; Bluebird Kitchen to open in March

The new restaurants in Market Square just keep coming.  Several eagerly awaited openings are almost ready, as Vallozzi's and Bluebird Kitchen put finishing touches on interiors and menus, and several restaurants have already celebrated grand openings.

Bluebird Kitchen, which in August became the final tenant to complete the Market Square Place redevelopment, is hoping to have construction finished and a soft opening by early March.

Owner Liz Moore-Pessaro says Bluebird Kitchen aims to offer high-quality, quick-service food for people working Downtown.  The cafe will offer breakfast and lunch, and a full-service coffee and espresso bar, featuring direct-sourced, Counter Culture beans.

Moore-Pessaro says Chef Steven Thompson will lead the kitchen, with a lunch menu that includes soups, salads, sandwiches, and hot plates like quiche, and corned beef and potato hash.  Chef Thompson has worked for many years in Pittsburgh, notably at Nine on Nine, Lucca, and Hyeholde.

Bluebird Kitchen will be open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

La Cucina Flegrea, formerly of Squirrel Hill, opened last fall at its new location in Market Square.  Located in the former Costanzo's space (near Bella Sera), La Cucina Flegrea is open for lunch and dinner six days a week, serving regional Italian cuisine.

Owner Anna Fevola says she wanted to relocate to a great lunch location, and thought there was no better place than Downtown and Market Square.

Of the public space’s recent renovations, Fevola says, “It looks so nice now, sort of a European look.”

Noodles & Company, a Denver-based chain noodle shop, opened in the square last month.  And last fall, the popular Mt. Lebanon restaurant Il Pizzaiolo announced they would be bringing a similar Neapolitan pizza concept to the former Lubin and Smalley flower shop next to Starbucks.

Finally, Vallozzi's, the 33-year old Greensburg Italian restaurant, is nearing completion of its Fifth Avenue space, and has begun hiring.  Julian Vallozzi says he hopes to have the restaurant open within four weeks.  

In addition to the main space, an adjacent take-out-only section, Mattiniero, will serve breakfast and lunch, offering sweet and savory pastries, and made-to-order sandwiches and salads.

Writer:  Andrew Moore

McKees Rocks development awarded $4 million for property acquisition and remediation

A redevelopment effort of the P & LE Railroad site in McKees Rocks has been awarded over $4 million in additional funding.  A combination of grants and loans, these funds will allow for additional property acquisition, site preparation, and construction of a storm water management system that is part of a the public-private partnership.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and State Senator Wayne Fontana announced the award on Monday.  In his statement, Fitzgerald praised public officials and developer Trinity Commercial Development, LLC, for their cooperation.

“Not only does this project reclaim a former brownfield site, it is also expected to generate approximately 1,172 new jobs in the community,” Fitzgerald said.  “This will be a great boon to McKees Rocks and the surrounding community.”

McKees Rocks Borough was awarded a $984,795 Penn Works grant for construction of the storm water management system it is building in partnership with Trinity Commercial.  And Greenville Commercial Properties, LP, a subsidiary of Trintiy Commercial, was awarded a $3,139,500 Business In Our Sites loan through the Commonwealth Finance Authority.  

Craig Rippole, president of Trinity Commercial Development, says this development would never have been possible without the help of so many government agencies.

"It's a case study in inter-governmental cooperation," Rippole says.  "Everybody played their role to get us this far."

Last summer, the project was awarded a $600,000 environmental assessment grant from the EPA in order to assist with brownfield remediation efforts.  

Trinity Commercial plans to create a flex business park on the site, with new construction and adaptive reuse of existing structures.  With the newly awarded funds, the developer plans to acquire three adjacent parcels, bringing the total development site to 52 acres.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Aime Downs, Allegheny County; Craig Rippole, Trinity Commercial Development, LLC

Cure restaurant opens in Upper Lawrenceville; Wild Purveyors soon to follow

The latest restaurant to open in Upper Lawrenceville is Cure, a project of Chef Justin Severino.  Severino, an accomplished chef who has worked in kitchens throughout California, is best known in Pittsburgh as the former Executive Chef of Elements Cuisine in Downtown.

Cure is an intimate, neighborhood restaurant with a small menu, offering what it describes as "local urban Mediterranean" cuisine.

While living in Santa Cruz, California, Severino opened a small charcuterie shop called Severino’s Community Butcher, where he produced traditional cuts of pork using locally-sourced whole hogs.  

Severino brings much of that previous experience to Cure, and he remains committed to ethical farming practices and humane animal husbandry.  In addition to regular dinner service, Severino even plans to host hog butchering classes, as well as traditional wine tasting events.

The menu features plates such as sunchoke soup, with venison chorizo, kale, goat cheese, and crispy shallots; a cassoulet with boudin blanc, duck, smoked chicken, and pork belly; and beef cheeks with apple cider, gnocchi, mushrooms, and a celery root puree.  

And  on the same block, Wild Purveyors plans to open their storefront location at 5308 Butler Street in March.  

Brothers Cavan and Tom Patterson are best known among chefs, as wholesalers of foraged food and fresh, local produce.  But when the new shop opens, those small-production items and elusive wild goods will now be available to the general public.

The new shop will offer local, organic produce, cheese from 20 different Pennsylvania creameries, a wide range of local meats, and, of course, seasonal wild edibles, including morel, chanterelle, and black trumpet mushrooms, wild watercress, elderberries, raspberries, ramps, and pawpaws.

“We’ll be offering everything that’s coming up in abundance,” Cavan Patterson says.

In addition to quality sourced goods, Wild Purveyors plans to sell house-made items such as sauerkraut and kimchi, and to host wine, beer, and cheese pairing events on Friday and Saturday evenings.

The shop will maintain a rustic character, making use of reclaimed barn wood and butcher block counters.  Patterson says the store will remain open late, until 9 p.m., six days a week.  

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Cure; Cavan Patterson, Wild Purveyors

Three projects are filling vacant lots and empty storefronts in the Central Northside

In 2010 the Central Northside Neighborhood Committee (CNNC) released their vision for the community: to transform vacant lots and empty storefronts by filling them with thriving individuals, commerce, and families of all kinds. Three projects on Federal Street are helping that organization meet its ambitious goal.

The latest phase of the Federal Hill housing development is near complete, and the first tenants have already moved in. The $15 million initiative is a collaboration between S & A Homes, CNNC, and the URA. The current phase brings 12 new townhomes to the intersection of Alpine and Federal Streets. Houses range in seize between 1,400 to 2,300-square-feet, and all but two are sold.

Closer to North Avenue, developer Bill Barron has begun renovating the former Toula’s restaurant building at 1108 Federal Street. This is his third project on the same block, where Barron has transformed two other dilapidated buildings into successful spaces for commerce.

Barron’s previous two renovations culminated in leases with Crazy Mocha and the Deli on North, and two apartments, developments that have greatly improved this important intersection and gateway to the Central Northside.

And for the current project on Federal, Barron already has a tenant lined-up: Derek Burnell, co-owner of Round Corner Cantina, is planning a take-out Mexican restaurant for the first floor.  Remodeling work is scheduled to be complete by early summer, and the second floor will be renovated as a one-bedroom apartment.

And finally, stabilization work has begun on two Federal Street properties in the Garden Theater block, the long-awaited redevelopment project that supporters hope will be a cornerstone for the neighborhood.

As reported in November of last year, developer Wayne Zukin has letters of intent from three Pittsburgh restaurants to develop new entertainment concepts for the Northside neighborhood.

Chris D’Addario, president of CNNC, says that people are resoundingly happy to see working begin on that block.

“To know that that anchor of our neighborhood is going to be an area that’s going to draw people, instead of scare people, is quite exciting to all that live here,” D’Addario says.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Bill Barron; Andy Haines, S & A Homes, Chris D’Addario

Tree Pittsburgh at work on city's first Urban Forest Master Plan

Although master plans in Pittsburgh guide transportation, historic preservation, and open space policy, the city has never had any such comprehensive plan addressing trees.  But that could change soon Tree Pittsburgh works to develop Pittsburgh’s first ever Urban Forest Master Plan (UFMP). 

The organization has been leading this planning effort for over a year, and is now inviting the public to provide detailed input for creating a shared vision for "protecting, growing and maintaining the City's urban forest."

Danielle Crumrine, executive director of Tree Pittsburgh, says the intent is to have the plan codified and adopted by City Council.  She believes the UFMP could be a useful tool in the City’s PLANPGH effort.

“We've done a lot of research, so we understand the size and condition of our urban forest,” Crumrine says.  “This is all valuable data that could be used in any planning effort, including the City's OPENSPACE plan.”

But this information would not only be useful to City and County agencies. Tree Pittsburgh hopes city residents and private developers will benefit from the research as well.

According to Tree Pittsburgh’s research, private citizens own a majority of the Pittsburgh urban forest.  Crumrine says this might come as a surprise because of the numerous hillsides covered in trees, plentiful parks, and the many newly planted street trees. 

And while that is all true--Tree Pittsburgh has planted over 10,000 trees in the city--Crumrine says the future of Pittsburgh’s tree canopy will indeed come down to the engagement of private citizens.

The plan's core focus areas are aimed to address growing environmental challenges; create a coordinated vision for the urban forest; develop baseline metrics and clear goals; cultivate long-term advocates and civic participation; and efficiency with city-wide partners.

The first of four public meetings were held earlier this week in the East End and Northside.  A third meeting will be held tonight beginning at 5:30p.m., at the WYEP Community Broadcast Center, 67 Bedford Square, South Side.  On February 13th, a fourth meeting will be held at the Banksville Park Shelter, Banksville Park, at 5:30p.m.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Danielle Crumrine, Tree Pittsburgh

Sound Cat Records opens in Bloomfield

As one record store exits, another enters.  Sound Cat Records has opened in Bloomfield, picking up the reins from neighborhood-favorite Paul's CDs.  Sound Cat Records sells new and used vinyl records, and CDs, from jazz, blues, and funk, to rock, pop, punk, and metal.

Sound Cat is owned by Karl Hendricks, who has worked at Paul’s for the past 18 years, and at Jim’s Records in the same location before that.

Hendricks is well aware of the difficulties facing brick-and-mortar music shops in this digital age of instant streaming, and both legal and illegal downloading. But he’s also confident in the value local businesses add to the community.

Hendricks says shops of all kinds, “make up the fabric of our existence outside of screens,” and if they were to go away, there would be a tremendous loss.

“I think people recognize that…[and] that's why more and more young people are coming in, because they don’t want to live their lives strictly on screens.”

Michael Seamans is co-owner of Mind Cure Records in Polish Hill.  His store has been open just under two years, and he says it’s a strong, loyal customer base which keeps Mind Cure in business.  Seamans acknowledges there’s been a major resurgence in collecting records, especially among young people, and says it’s a reaction to digital media in general.

Seamans says in these times operating a records shop is  not unlike owning a used bookstore or antique shop.

“My main business is more of a collectors market,” Seamans says.  “And that doesn’t even have to mean high-end--it's just people that really want to have vinyl records.”

At Sound Cat, Hendricks says it’s exciting to have younger people interested in vinyl, alongside customers who have shopped at Paul’s CD and Jim’s Records for over 20 years.

“It’s interesting to see a format go though a lot of changes over the past couple decades, but it's still hanging in there even with all the changes in technology,” Hendricks says.  “People of all ages and all demographics are still buying music.”

Sound Cat Records, 4526 Liberty Avenue, Bloomfield.  412-621-3256

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Karl Hendricks; Michael Seamans
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