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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

Bar Marco now open in the Strip, European-style wine bar and restaurant

Bar Marco has opened in the Strip District after nearly 6 months of remodeling work in the former No. 7 Engine Co. building.  The historic space has been transformed into a European-style wine bar and restaurant, with an emphasis on communal dining and a menu designed for sharing.

Bobby Fry, one of four co-owners, says the remodeling was done to bring the space back to its original beauty.  Floor tiles have been removed, dry-wall torn down to reveal classic subway tile, and a drop ceiling has given way to an original tin installation from 1905.

The first floor's symmetrical design is intended to encourage conversation among strangers, and create a sense of comfort.  A large bar seats five to six, and opposite, a drink rail lines the window facing Penn Avenue.  In between are three large communal tables, with combined seating capacity at 40.  All furniture was designed by co-owner Michael Kreha, and built in-house, with welding provided by Gray's Welding of Braddock, PA.

Bar Marco is the first dining project of four childhood friends--Justin Steel, Kevin Cox, Fry and Kreha.  Each left various professional careers, coalescing in Pittsburgh around a shared passion for food and drink.

The menu, which Fry describes as European bar food, will change on a regular basis, but recently featured “snack” plates like patatas bravas, arancini, frico, and a duck BLT; and large entrees, also meant for sharing, such as chicken enchiladas, baked caponata, and ribeye with chimichurri.

Bar Marco offers a range of small production wines, and inventive mixed drinks, such as a tequila gimlet featuring house-made lime cordial, and the Bar Marco Manhattan, made with orange bitters.

The second floor, while still a work in progress, is used as an art gallery and private event space.

Bar Marco opens at 5 p.m. and is open late, serving their full menu until 2 a.m., Wednesday through Saturday.  2216 Penn Avenue, Strip District.  724-875-2738.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Bobby Fry

Pittsburgh Riverhounds to build soccer stadium at Station Square

With the announcement of a new stadium to be built at Station Square, professional soccer will soon have a home in Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds announced plans last week to build a $7 million, 3,500-seat multi-sport stadium in Station Square.  The stadium will overlook the Monongahela River, and north to the city's other two riverfront stadiums, Heinz Field and PNC Park.

CEO Jason Kutney says this development is an opportunity for the Riverhounds to be considered a “real” franchise, located in the same area as Pittsburgh’s other professional teams.

“Our focus really is to make this the most accessible downtown stadium, where we're looking to get year-round usage,” Kutney says. 

In addition to the Riverhounds, the stadium is planned to be home to a number of local schools and colleges, the Pittsburgh Passion women’s football team, and a few rugby clubs.  And in wintertime hockey rinks will be installed on top of the turf.

Although they’ve been in the region for several years, the Riverhounds have spent the past five years playing at the Chartiers Valley High School.  The Riverhounds participate in the United Soccer League (USL), which is recognized as the second highest level of soccer, just below the top-tier Major League Soccer (MLS) league. 

The Riverhounds mascot's name, AMO, stands for the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers, and the new stadium will be located near the confluence of those three rivers.

“It is pretty cool to see that the Riverhounds are finally going to be in Pittsburgh, and the name of the mascot, AMO, will finally make sense,” Kutney says.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Jason Kutney

Wild Stuff pop-up vintage sale, Saturdays only in Lawrenceville

(Note: Due to a technical glitch, this story didn't appear on the home page last week so we are running it again this week,)

Wild Stuff, a new pop-up vintage sale, opened in Lawrenceville on Saturday.  A partnership between Wildcard, Botero Development, and Zombo Gallery, the Saturday-only event features a range of items including original art, clothing, tiki glasses, vintage typewriters, scavenged building materials, and furniture. 

Brian Mendelssohn, of Botero Development, says he and his fellow collaborators were brainstorming uses for the vacant storefront when they identified a common thread: basements, closets, and warehouses filled with vintage and historical items, and works of art.

Mendelssohn says because Botero Development acquires many historic buildings in Lawrenceville, he has accumulated a plethora of items, such as historic light fixtures, cast iron bath tubs, and other random building supplies, that are currently in demand.

“We want everything to go to a good home as opposed to throwing it away,” Mendelssohn says.

Wildcard hosts an annual vintage sale at their Lawrenceville boutique, but are able to display many more items in the Wild Stuff storefront.  Since 2009 Wildcard has sold the city’s best in handmade goods, such as t-shirts, stationary, buttons, and greeting cards.

And although Zombo Gallery officially closed a year and a half ago, Zombo still has many works of art (offered here at lower prices), vintage musical instruments, plus tons of music and mixes from the Zombo’s Record Party radio show. 

Located at 4300 Butler Street in the former Arsenal Bank building, the sale will continue on Saturdays only, from 11a.m. to 7p.m., through March 31st.

Mendelssohn says a long-term tenant will take over the space after the final Wild Stuff sale.

And although billed as a Pop-Up Vintage Sale, Wild Stuff is not to be confused with Project Pop-Up: Downtown, an initiative between the Mayor and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership which is transforming vacant storefronts into active art installations, stores, and eateries.  

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Brian Mendelssohn, Botero Development; Matthew Buchholz, Wildcard

CMU awarded $3.5 million grant to develop technologies for transportation safety and efficiency

Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pennsylvania have been awarded a $3.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation in order to develop technologies that will make transportation safer and more efficient.

The grant, titled Technologies for Safe and Efficient Transportation (T-SET), will establish the collaboration between the two universities as a University Transportation Center. 

The grant was announced last week by Senator Bob Casey. 

“I’m pleased that two of Pennsylvania’s finest research institutions will help tackle the nation’s transportation problems by finding ways to improve safety, upgrade infrastructure and ensure that the best new technologies come from American companies,” Senator Casey said in a statement.

CMU President Dr. Jared Cohon said the award will allow the two universities to bring to bear a great wealth of computational technology talent to Pennsylvania’s and the nation’s transportation sector.

“Further, it will pave the way for new career paths in intelligent transportation that will have a transformative impact on the transportation industry,” he said.

Get There PGH is advancing a plan to bring Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) to Pittsburgh, a mode of transportation that has emerged in recent years in part due to advances made in efficiency technologies.

Court Gould, executive director of Sustainable Pittsburgh, says his organization is interested in BRT because it utilizes such technological improvements, allowing for increased transit access, reduced congestion, and greater service to riders.

Gould believes the grant will allow CMU to continue work it has already begun, citing the earlier development of an iPhone app by the university, which allows riders to track busses with real-time information. 

Gould says matching CMU's information technology prowess with the needs of transportation efficiency in the region is a win for the Pittsburgh area.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Ken Walters, CMU; Court Gould, Sustainable Pittsburgh

Get There PGH advancing bus rapid transit, to hold public information meeting Thursday

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) could someday link Downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland, greatly improving the connection between these two important centers of commerce and employment.  Get There PGH, a partnership of over 30 neighborhood organizations, is advancing a plan for this transit initiative, and will host an informational public meeting throughout the day on Thursday, January 12th.

Of the 30-plus organizations, Sustainable Pittsburgh is acting as a convener in bringing the exploration of BRT to the community. 

Executive Director Court Gould says this evaluation of BRT is at the earliest stage, and Get There PGH seeks to learn whether it fits with community visions and needs, and how it could facilitate not only mobility, but prosperity, public health, and revitalization, among other issues.

“The stakeholders…are viewing the bus rapid transit as part of a larger community vision interest and need, not as an isolated transportation project,” Gould says.

BRT is a form of bus transit that operates more similar to a rail system, with dedicated stations, route priority, and platform fare collection, among other efficiency measures.  And while BRT shares design principals with rail transit, it is also far less expensive to implement.

An Alternatives Analysis and Environmental Assessment, to determine whether BRT would work in Pittsburgh, began last year.  The upcoming public information session is the first in a series as part of that study.

Supporters of BRT cite economic growth and neighborhood development along corridors as benefits of the transit mode, along with safer streets, and improved mobility for city residents and visitors. 

Gould says BRT differs from the Port Authority’s current East-West busways, noting rapid is a reference to efficiency of service and not high traveling speeds.  He says the region’s busways were innovative in their time, but that cities nationally and abroad have gone forward and applied those same attributes to on-street systems, rather than segregated facilities.

“So this would be Pittsburgh now coming full-circle to catching up with the trend that in some ways it was a pioneer of, but with a new twist,” Gould says.

Among its stakeholders Get There PGH includes the City of Pittsburgh, Port Authority of Allegheny County, Allegheny Conference on Community Development, local universities, and Bike Pittsburgh.

The information sessions will be held tomorrow, during two sessions, 12 p.m. to 2 p.m., and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., at the University of Pittsburgh Alumni Hall Ballroom, 4227 Fifth Ave. in Oakland.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Court Gould, Sustainable Pittsburgh; Scott Bricker, Bike Pittsburgh

URA home improvement loans made available to many, few income restrictions

Through a variety of home improvement loan programs, the URA is seeking to help as many people as possible in making repairs efficient and affordable.

Jenny Kohnfelder, manager of consumer programs, says one of the URA’s goals is to offer homeowners programs they can use as soon as they’ve purchase a home.

The Home Improvement Loan Program, for example, has no equity requirements, meaning new homeowners can apply for that program the very next day, immediately after purchasing a home.

Through this program, homeowners are able to hire their own contractor, or even do the work themselves.  If they chose the do-it-yourself route, the loan would only cover materials, not labor.  The program has a 5.99% interest rate, and a $15,000 limit.

For the HIRP, there are income restrictions based on neighborhoods. But if a home is within a Target Neighborhood, no income restrictions apply.

Target Neighborhoods are determined based on Census and IRS data, Kohnfelder says.

“There are no income guidelines in those areas because we want to encourage people to move into these neighborhoods that are suffering a little bit,” Kohnfelder says.

And if a homeowner does not meet the requirements for the HILP loan, Pennsylvania's Keystone Renovation & Repair Program addresses income restrictions, where household income can be as high as $98,550.  The minimum loan amout is $2,500, and the maximum is $35,000.  This program also requires little to no equity for eligibility.

Through the Keystone R&R program, the URA will provide technical assistance with rehabilitation work, finalize a write-up, and will arrange contractors to competitively bid on the work, if the homeowner does not already have one. 

And the Pittsburgh Home Rehabilitation Program, which Kohnfelder says is perhaps the URA’s best, offers a 0% interest rate.  Although under that program, a two-family household income cannot exceed $41,000. 

Kohnfelder says the URA offers these various programs so that as many people with different incomes can take part in home restoration. 

For more detailed information on the URA’s loan programs, visit their website here

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source: Jenny Kohnfelder 

James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy opens, Pittsburgh jazz standard revived

James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy has opened in Deutschtown, evoking the spirit of a former Pittsburgh jazz hangout, while offering an updated menu of food and drinks.

Located at the intersection of Foreland and James Streets (just north of East Ohio Street), the large building was originally built for the Perry Homestead Loan and Trust Company in the 1800's.  More recently, the Classical Revival-style structure has been home to a string of neighborhood restaurants and other quirky uses.

The first floor restaurant space, while repaired and renovated, appears much like it might have in years past: exposed brick, a handsome, dark-wood bar, and wooden booths.  Autographed musician photographs line one wall, mementos inherited from the former jazz club once located here, the James Street Tavern.

The James Street Tavern was a beloved local venue and restaurant, serving Louisiana-style cuisine.  Co-owners Adam Johnston and Lisa Saftner say when local musicians heard that “James Street” was back, they were overwhelmed with enthusiasm and support.

“I had no idea that there was such a huge jazz community in Pittsburgh,” Saftner says. 

James Street is already booked with jazz and blues three nights a week (Friday through Sunday) through May.

Performances are held in the "speakeasy" basement level, where bands take the stage in an intimate setting, at arm’s length from seated patrons.  Scheduled performers include the Boilermaker Jazz Band, Roger Humphries Quintet, and the Etta Cox & Al Dowe Band.

The Pittsburgh Jazz Society has also relocated their weekly Sunday Night Jazz series to the speakeasy.  On January 15th, the Kevin Howard Quartet will take the stage at 6 p.m.

Johnston says the menu at James Street was designed to be as eclectic as this Northside neighborhood.  That means everything wings and burgers, to Cajun oysters, short ribs, and chicken fried steak.  There’s also plenty of appetizers and small-plates to chose from, for sharing with friends during a set of live jazz.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Lisa Saftner, Adam Johnston

East End Eden wellness collective opening in East Liberty

East End Eden, a new wellness center collective in East Liberty, will open January 20th, offering city residents another space to unwind, and recharge both the mind and body. 

The 1,200 sq. ft. collective, located on the mezzanine level of the Liberty Bank building, is run by Emily Escalante, and a group of other independent practitioners of massage therapy, reiki, yoga, and other fields of wellness. 

Escalante says the center, with extra-large windows, beautiful floors, and lots of natural light, has a kind of lounge feel, where participants could sit and enjoy tea before and after yoga classes, stretch, meditate, or other peaceful activities.

“It's kind of like hanging out in your friend’s cool loft and getting well at the same time,” she says.

During the January 20th opening, from 6 - 9 p.m., cocktails will be served, coupons and prizes will be given away, and those interested can meet the different wellness practitioners of the East End Eden collective. 

On Tuesday, January 24th, the center will conduct a visioning workshop, where attendees can create a mental map of one’s life and goals.

“If you visualize where you want to go, you can kind of create the life that you want to live,” Escalante says. 

And every Thursday morning, a yoga class will be given for stress management.  Escalante says it’s a very gentle, restorative class, intended to be more meditative than an intense workout.

Escalante is a graduate of the Pittsburgh School of Massage Therapy, and is experienced in Swedish massage, reiki levels 1 + 2, reflexology, hydrotherapy, and aromatherapy, among other types of massage. 

East End Eden is located at 6101 Penn Avenue, Suite M01, East Liberty.  412-361-4850.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Emily Escalante
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