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Council member introduces sidewalk reimbursement plan

Pittsburgh City Council Member Darlene M. Harris (D-District 1) introduced legislation last week that could be a step toward a more pedestrian-friendly Pittsburgh.
 
The legislation would update the city’s policy for paying out city sidewalk damages caused by trees. The city currently reimburses city property owners $4.00 per square foot. Harris’ legislation would increase that amount to $8.00 per square foot.
 
According to a release from Harris’ office, the city has not increased reimbursement for tree root damage for at least 20 years.
 
“No one can recall exactly when that amount ($4.00 a square foot) had been set," Harris said. "With inflation, that original value has been cut in half. It is only fair that that there is a readjustment. It might also motivate people to make needed sidewalk repairs.”
 
The new legislation also authorizes the city solicitor to recalculate the reimbursement amount every four years based upon the consumer price index.
 
The legislation states: “Beginning on January 1, 2015, the City Solicitor shall, every four years, adjust the amount of compensation provided for sidewalk damage claims based upon the United States Department of Labor’s, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Price Index for Pittsburgh. The percentage of increase/decrease in the Pittsburgh CPI shall be the percent of the increase/decrease in compensation provided.”
                                                          
The city solicitor would provide notice to city council of any adjustment made to the amount provided for sidewalk damage claims.
 
“That would keep the Council from having to revisit this matter every few years or so," Harris said. "It is good housekeeping. Right now, the city is only covering 20% of the replacement. This legislation would make it 40% reimbursement. That’s about what it was when the $4 number was set decades ago.”

At $20 per square foot, local contractors estimate that it costs about $500 to replace one five-square-foot sidewalk slab, according to Harris. An increase in the Law Department’s 2015 judgment account would be sufficient to absorb this cost.
 
Source: Office of Pittsburgh City Council Member Darlene M. Harris
 

Sheraton Pittsburgh at Station Square completes $15 million renovation

In an attempt to make Pittsburgh's only waterfront hotel as beautiful as the views it offers of the city's skyline, the Sheraton Pittsburgh at Station Square recently finished an extensive $15 million renovation. 

Sheraton Hotels & Resorts and Pyramid Hotel Group announced the redesign of the hotel's lobby, meeting space, Trackside Restaurant and 399 transformed guest rooms, including 21 suites.
 
“The transformation of Sheraton Pittsburgh at Station Square combined with the exemplary service of our associates will help to propel it to new heights and reinforce its status as a landmark hotel in the city,” said Roger Life, Sheraton Pittsburgh at Station Square general manager. 
 
Guest rooms and suites have been modernized to include new furniture, wall coverings, carpeting and in-room guest safes. The guest rooms feature stunning views of Pittsburgh’s skyline, the Monongahela River or historic Mount Washington.
 
“There isn’t a hotel that has the ability to look onto the city like ours does,” Life said of the scenic views.
 
Trackside Restaurant, the hotel’s dining venue, has received a new look offering casual dining in a comfortable setting. Life said Trackside offers highboy tables with individual televisions for business or weekend travelers.
 
The hotel at 300 W. Station Square Drive has also refreshed more than 30,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor meeting space featuring new wall and ceiling upgrades, carpet and lighting. The centerpiece of the meeting space renovation is the 9,750-square-foot ballroom venue for meetings, workshops and seminars. The full lobby redesign includes new carpet, wall covering, lighting and furniture upgrades. In the transformed lobby, guests can enjoy complimentary wireless connections -- and all rooms offer high-speed Internet.
 
“It’s a lovely transformation for the property,” Life said. “And the city of Pittsburgh.”
 
Guests who book before December 30, 2014, are invited to experience the newly renovated hotel with a special offer for stays through March 31, 2015. For more information, visit www.sheratonpittsburghstationsquare.com/renovation or call 888-325-3535.
 
Source: Roger Life, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts

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

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

Governor Corbett highlights $28.5 million Birmingham Bridge repair project as example of Act 89

Last week, Gov. Tom Corbett stood before the Birmingham Bridge and declared that its $28.5 million repair project underscores the benefits coming to Pennsylvania because of Act 89, a transportation plan.
 
Act 89, which the governor signed in November, increases transportation investment by $2.3 billion by 2018.
 
"My administration is working hard to deliver the hundreds of additional projects for this year from Act 89 proceeds, and the Birmingham Bridge is a very visible example of what we are delivering," Gov. Corbett said at the news conference near the bridge.
 
The 2,747-foot-long, 19-span bridge opened in 1976 and carries 23,000 vehicles a day. With resources from Act 89, PennDOT was able to accelerate the timetable so work on the bridge could begin this year.
 
Act 89 also supports jobs for local workers, the governor added, noting that the transportation plan saved an estimated 12,000 jobs and will create 18,000 additional jobs this year and 50,000 jobs in the next five years.
 
PennDOT's latest projections show that more than $2.3 billion will be invested into the state's highway and bridge network this year, more than $800 million above what would have been available without Act 89.
 
In Pittsburgh, Act 89 spared the Port Authority of Allegheny County from a trend of cutting service and alienating riders, according to the Governor’s Office. Act 89 funding allows the Port Authority to target improvements, such as overcrowding on routes and on-time performance issues.
 
Joseph B. Fay Co. of Tarentum was awarded the $28.5 million contract for the work on the Birmingham Bridge. It will involve steel repairs, bearing replacements, substructure repairs, light pole replacements, a concrete overlay and a complete repainting. The work is now underway and will be finished in 2017.
 
PennDOT has started work on more than 200 Act 89-funded projects covering more than 1,600 miles of roads and 83 bridges. Overall, more than 900 projects are expected to get underway this year, both from Act 89 and prior funding streams.
 
Source: Pennsylvania Office of the Governor
 

Frick Art & Historical Center receives $3 million redevelopment grant

The Frick Art & Historical Center in Point Breeze has secured a $3 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant from Harrisburg. The funding will go toward building a new education and community center, which is the second phase of the museum's current $15 million expansion project.
 
"This remarkable gift propels the campaign toward its $15 million goal and affirms the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's support of this important project, which will greatly enhance [the] Frick's ability to provide the public with essential educational and cultural experiences," said Frick Trustee and Campaign Chair Charles R. Burke, Jr.
 
Before learning of the RACP funding, the Frick had raised just over $10.5 million toward its campaign goal. The $3 million RACP grant, part of an economic growth initiative program, puts the total raised at more than $13.5 million.
 
Funding for the Frick Education and Community Center project will serve East End neighborhoods and enhance the museum. The project will broaden the Frick's educational outreach to children and allow the museum to better accommodate bus tours and seniors. The project is expected to be completed by the beginning of 2016.
 
"We are grateful for the generous support of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and believe that the Education and Community Center project will strengthen the Frick as a cultural and educational anchor in the East End," said Carolyn Reed, Chair of the Frick's Board of Trustees.
 
This summer, the Frick opened a new orientation center, marking the completion of Phase I of the expansion project that began in May 2013. The new facility serves as a focal point for arriving visitors and includes a range of educational interactive activities. The orientation center also houses a new museum store.
 
“[Phase II] will include new learning spaces,” said Greg Langel, media and marketing manager at the Frick.
 
The second phase of the expansion project calls for a new education center in the current Carriage Gallery of the Car and Carriage Museum, a renovated facility onsite. Renovating the Carriage Gallery will also help the Frick to enhance collection storage, Langel said.

The project will allow for construction of a new community center that will provide additional education and program space and create a venue for events. The center will have a prep kitchen to better accommodate bus tours and field trips.
 
“[The community center will] increase our ability to serve greater numbers of individuals,” Langel said. “We’re really excited about the grant and it pushes so close to our total goal. It’s a statement that the Commonwealth supports arts and culture in western Pennsylvania.”
 
 

VIA Festival to use Union Trust Building for pop-up event

This year’s VIA Festival, a Pittsburgh-based music and new media celebration, will be held from Oct. 1 to Oct. 5 with 18 events at various locations across the city, including a pop-up event on Oct. 4 at the Union Trust Building at 501 Grant Street, Downtown. 
 
“It’s a music festival, combined with digital culture,” said VIA co-director Quinn Leonowicz. “[It’s] Pittsburgh’s largest celebration of music and digital culture.”
 
Now in its fifth year, VIA utilizes an underused or vacant venue every year. This year, with the help of the Mayor’s Office, VIA has acquired the Union Trust.
 
“We just try to pick non-traditional spaces, something that has been underutilized,” he said, adding that the city approved the venue only about a month ago. In the meantime, Leonowicz, co-director Lauren Goshinski and a team of volunteers have been working quickly to prepare for the festival.
 
VIA will take over a variety of spaces on the first floor and lower level of the building, including installation of a 30-foot bubble in the building’s central rotunda, which is capped by a stained glass dome. The bubble is described as an “immersive audio-visual environment” with ASMR immersive therapy and the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.
 
A former department store will be turned into a digital sculpture gallery and will simulate real life and virtual experiences with custom iPad apps, video games and virtual figure drawing classes, using the online platform Second Life.

The lower level of the Union Trust Building will turn into a multi-stage nightclub for audio-visual performances featuring local, national and international artists such as Zebra Katz, Blue Hawaii, L-Vis 1990, Traxman, Cakes da Killa, Cities Aviv, Diode Milliampere and Troxum.
 
While entertainment and experiences will vary from audio showcases to film, VIA also has an educational element. On Oct. 3, a conference at Carnegie Mellon University will feature artists discussing Ableton Music software, workshops and musical performances.
 
Leonowicz said he sees VIA as an umbrella for future events, including upcoming VIA performances in Chicago. Although Leonowicz said VIA will always be based in Pittsburgh, he hopes this collaboration between Pittsburgh and Chicago will form an artist exchange. He compared it to other arts events that start in cities like New York and spread across the country.
 
For more information about VIA, please visit, via2014.com.
 
Source: Quinn Leonowicz, VIA 

Mellon Square is reopening after a $10 million spring cleaning

More than 3,500 daffodils are emerging from planters in Mellon Square, heralding the imminent completion of a three-year, $10 million construction project to restore a historic landscape site to its original, 1950s elegance.
 
The project to rejuvenate Mellon Square in downtown was born from the efforts of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and the City of Pittsburgh with funding from the Richard King Mellon Foundation and BNY Mellon. Heritage Landscapes lead the design team.
 
Restoration of the space has remained true to the mid-century design of its principal creators, John Ormsbee Simonds of Simonds & Simonds and James A. Mitchell of Mitchell & Ritchey. In 1955, they completed a revolutionary concept put forth by Richard King Mellon and Mayor David Lawrence.
 
The space was developed to anchor the city’s business hub and spur economic development during Pittsburgh’s post-World War II renaissance. The project also provided a memorial to Richard King Mellon’s father, Richard B. Mellon, and his uncle, Andrew Mellon.
 
Despite efforts by the city to maintain the space, “lack of resources, time, weather, use, pigeons and vandalism took their toll on Mellon Square,” and the park began to deteriorate, according to the Parks Conservancy.
 
The damage was not just cosmetic, explains Susan Rademacher, parks curator for the Parks Conservancy. By 2007, when plans to renovate the park were initiated, the original, cold war technology was beginning to fail. Corrosion corrupted the fountain, mechanical, electric and plumbing systems were broken and some terrazzo paving had deteriorated.
 
“By the end of the 20th Century, much of the original elegance had been lost,” she says. “Our overarching goal is to bring back Mellon Square as an urban oasis.”
 
New features from the restoration include the Interpretive Wall — telling the story of Mellon Square and its relationship to the Mellon family — and the construction of an elevated terrace overlooking Smithfield Street based on an original concept by Simonds and Mitchell. New lighting has also been installed for nighttime viewing and to set off plantings and architectural features.
 
“Mellon Square was created to be a refreshing oasis in the heart of the city, and throughout our restoration process we have carefully honored the legacy and intent of its visionaries,” says Parks Conservancy President and Chief Executive Officer Meg Cheever. “Visitors will see the grand Central Fountain once again animating the square with choreographed water displays pouring into its nine, 3,500-pound bronze basins, each of which has been repatinated. The signature terrazzo paving has been repaired, and people at street level will see the Cascade Fountain spilling its way through basins along Oliver and Smithfield.”
 
A $4 million permanent investment fund has been established as part of the $10 million project for long-term maintenance of the Square. This, together with an agreement with the city giving the Parks Conservancy a significant role in the ongoing management and maintenance of the space, will help to ensure that the restored Mellon Square will endure.
 
Rademacher said the park is meant to serve those living and working in downtown. She noted that the space was intended to be enjoyed two ways, looking below from a towering office or “looking up.” She said the panorama from the Square creates a view of Pittsburgh’s iconic architectural drama.

The rededication and grand reopening of Mellon Square will be Wed., May 28 and Thurs., May 29.  A cocktail reception is planned for the evening of May 28. The public celebration on May 29 will also kickoff the Thursdays at noon summer jazz series in the square.
 
Source: Pittsburgh Parks Conservatory, Susan Rademacher, Ellis Communications

Mergers result in the closure of three churches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Bill Peduto

Local grocer bringing market to the Mexican War Streets

The space at 1327 Arch Street in the Mexican War Streets has been a corner grocery store since the building first went up in 1895. Most recently, it spent 18 years as Doug’s Market before owner Doug Nimmo closed up shop in December.

Now, another local grocer has emerged to revive the market and keep the tradition going.

Rob Collins, a Manchester resident who owns the Bryant Street Market in Highland Park, is refinishing the space and will open as the Allegheny City Market later this month.

“We’ll have a whole mix of conventional, organic, natural and gluten-free products,” Collins says. “We’ll have fresh bread delivered every day, and anything local that we sell over at Bryant Street we’ll add here, like eggs, chocolate and dairy.”
The store will also offer a small variety of prepared food, including sandwiches made on site. According to Collins, the sandwiches are among his other market’s most popular items.

War Streets residents are eager for a new local grocery, especially if it’s able to cater to the whole of the community, which has seen the wealth gap amongst its residents grow over the last 10 years.

“There’s still an extreme wealth spectrum in this neighborhood,” says Brian McGuirk, who with his wife, Caitlin, bought a home in the War Streets last year. “I think it would be good if it could serve both ends of the community. It’s exciting to see something like that come in. If we could get by supporting a local place, we’d definitely do that.”

That’s exactly what Collins intends to do.

“Like I tell everybody over at Bryant Street, we’ll have everything you need to survive except booze,” he says.

Collins is aiming to open the Allegheny City Market on March 22.


Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Rob Collins, Brian McGuirk

Pittsburgh developer courting European light manufacturer

A Slovenian LED manufacturer looking to establish a North American hub is giving further consideration to Pittsburgh.

Officials from Washington County-based Millcraft Investments are in Slovenia this week meeting with Robert Grah, owner Grah Lighting, about establishing a major base of operations in Pittsburgh to go along with a massive LED streetlight project.

“This aligns nicely with what Mayor Peduto has been fighting for,” says Kevin Acklin, Peduto’s chief of staff. “When he became aware with what they were looking for, he traveled to Slovenia. That was followed up by a trip [Grah] took to Pittsburgh.”

The latter visit, which Grah made last November, saw him tour the Almono brownfield site in Hazelwood, warehouses in the Strip District and meet with Peduto, then mayor-elect. After those meetings, according the Acklin, Millcraft reached out to Peduto’s administration, offering to help organize investors and raise the capital Grah is looking for.

“We know [Millcraft], we’ve worked with them and they know the landscape of the development. They stepped up. That’s something the city government can’t do by itself,” says Acklin, Pittsburgh and the potential of its Almono site stand an excellent chance of bringing the business to the region.

“He liked the Midwest presence, he liked the people, and he liked the proximity to other markets,” Acklin says. “We’ve made a very strong statement that this is something we want to see happen.”

Pittsburgh is thought to be one of two finalists for the location of Grah’s new factory. Cleveland is the other.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Kevin Acklin

Councilwoman proposes creating Pittsburgh land bank

Though it might be hard to believe amid all of Pittsburgh’s recent development, the number of blighted or abandoned properties within the city is around 35,000 — about 19 percent of the city’s land. Every year, Pittsburgh spends about $20.5 million managing these properties.

Last Tuesday, District 7 Councilwoman Deb Gross introduced a bill which if passed would lay the legal groundwork for Pittsburgh to establish a land bank — a public, non-profit authority designed to streamline the process of redeveloping these tax-delinquent parcels. The land bank would be independent from the city and be run by a board of seven directors — four mayoral appointees and three city-council appointees.

“The first thing that it could do is accept property so that it would have assets. That’s why it’s important as to why it’d be independent and not a city agency,” Gross says. “If your only job is to clear title assets and sell them, you have a clean purpose and unencumbered operation.”

“I’ve talked to [the department of] city planning to try and seek out how this might happen in the next year or two, and they’ve given us 7,000 to 8,000 that are sort of out in the nebula which they call surplus. They don’t spend any time at all thinking about them. They’re just there and they’d be happy to unload them,” she added.

Under a state law passed in 2012, Pittsburgh has the authority to establish a land bank, and that bank has the ability to accept free property. It could also recoup about half of the money collected from outstanding taxes and liens when tax-delinquent parcels are sold through city treasurer’s sales. The land bank would not have the power of eminent domain.

Once established, the land back would replace the city’s current “land-recycling” method and use proceeds from sales of its assets to create a more focused and specific approach toward redeveloping these properties. Using the city’s current method at its current pace, it’s estimated that clearing the backlog of blighted properties would take about 60 years.  

Gross also noted that a Pittsburgh land bank could work in concert with municipalities outside the city, such as Wilkinsburg, to help faster spur community development projects.

“That’s stuff the URA wouldn’t be allowed to do but the land bank could,” she says.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Deb Gross

Developments to watch from the new administration

After taking the oath of office Monday, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto pledged in his inaugural address to “build the Next Pittsburgh.” Here are two major building projects initiated on Luke Ravenstahl’s watch — one which could see some drastic changes, the other the new mayor will have the opportunity to help shape — before they become part of the Next Pittsburgh.

Riverfront Landing
The Buncher Company’s original $450 million plan to redevelop riverfront space in the Strip District included an office and residential complex, extending 17th Street all the way to the Allegheny River and demolishing about a third of the iconic produce terminal on Smallman Street in order to make it happen.

The plan has drawn criticism from historic preservationists who don’t want to see any part of the building razed. Yesterday, Buncher agreed to put its plans for the building on hold while it works with Peduto’s office to try and find a solution agreeable to both sides

City council tabled a vote in December which would have granted the terminal an historic landmark designation and made it vastly more difficult for anyone to damage it.

Peduto has said that he would like to see the terminal reused without demolishing any part of it, and has compared it to Seattle’s Pike Place Market, which before its overhaul was also scheduled for demolition.

Almono site
In November, city council approved an $80 million tax-increment financing plan (TIF) — the largest in Pittsburgh’s history for the site of the former LTV Coke Works in Hazelwood.

While contractors will likely spend most of 2014 grading and building interior roads and utilities on the 178-acre site, no plans for its actual development have been finalized.

Peduto has said that he would like development of the site to include significant green infrastructure to help manage stormwater runoff and alleviate some burden from the city’s already overloaded sewer system. Such measures could include canals, shallows and stormwater gardens and parks, like the one built last year in Larimer.

Writer: Matthew Wein

Community group seeking buyer for historic North Side church

If Pittsburgh has taught us anything, it’s that you can convert an old church to suit almost any need.

Between community centers, art studios, bars and restaurants, a preponderance of old churches has proved one of Pittsburgh’s greatest assets during its ongoing reinvention. Now, there’s an absolute gem on the market.

But don’t expect it to be there for long.

The church which housed the First Immanuel Evangelical Congregation, built by German and Swiss immigrants in 1889 is for sale by its owner, the Community Alliance of Spring Garden and East Deutschtown. The alliance purchased the church four years ago to save it from demolition, and had a congregation using its sanctuary as recently as last month.

Now, it’s looking for a new owner to bring economic potential to the neighborhood while taking care of the historic building.

“We want someone who’d love and care for it, but who’d also bring some kind of economic stimulus to the neighborhood” says Nancy Noszka, a development consultant who’s working with the alliance to help sell the building at 1000 Madison Avenue at Tripoli Street.

Noszka adds that the alliance is working to have the building designated an historic landmark with the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, and that among the interested parties are people who would look to turn the space into an artists’ social club, gallery space or concert venue.

The church itself occupies a little about 16,000 square feet, including two adjacent buildings which are not a part of the original structure. The building is in pretty good shape for being nearly 125 years old, and sanctuary is in nearly pristine condition — including leaden stained glass windows which, though boarded on the outside, trace their origins to a turn-of-the-century Highland Park glassmaker.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Nancy Noszka

ACTION Housing to redevelop long-vacant Squirrel Hill property

After sitting vacant for nearly a decade, the space that formerly housed Poli restaurant in Squirrel Hill has been acquired by ACTION-Housing and will be redeveloped into a mix of residential and office units.

After more than a year of effort, ACTION acquired the property at 5685 Forward Avenue through a sheriff’s sale in September. It will partner with Jewish Residential Services to convert the site into a multi-purpose facility after demolishing the existing structure.

“We’d build up four or five stories,” says Linda Metropulos, ACTION-Housing’s director of housing and neighborhood development. “We’d build the building as a condo, and JRS would have the ground floor. We’d have the residential space above.”

Metropulos adds that JRS would likely use its portion of the space to build out its offices and improve the Howard Levin Clubhouse — a non-profit facility assisting people affected by mental illness — which currently sits in the space adjacent to the former restaurant.

She also says that while plans are very premature, the project will cost somewhere between $12 and $15 million to complete. Though ACTION hasn’t formally enlisted an architecture firm, Metropulos said it is doing preliminary consultations with Downtown-based FortyEighty Architecture.

“We’d probably start construction at the end of 2015,” Metropulos says. “It’s a lengthy process.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Linda Metropulos
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