Archive: Feb 2011
February 28, 2010
The Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri), base in Redlands, California, approved a software grant for mission-related work of specialized GIS software, ArcInfo, to the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation that has a valued at $160,000. The award was announced February 25.
“PHLF does a significant amount of work in historic and urban inner-city neighborhoods,”, said Landmarks Chief Information Officer Ronald C. Yochum, Jr., “and understanding the raw data we collect via sophisticated mapping technology helps us better visualize and achieve our goals of successful and sustainable neighborhood revitalization.”
PHLF has been using a version of ESRIs ArcView GIS software to produce maps for our efforts in Wilkinsburg, PA., however we wanted to expand the level of spatial analysis of the raw data, so Mr. Yochum approached Esri and applied for their Non-profit Organization program.
Landmarks will be using Esri’s ArcInfo GIS software for an upcoming quantitative analysis of PHLF activities over the history of the company and will be developing maps of the regions historic assets. The software will also help support staff projects in our education, neighborhood development, Main Street and Elm Street programs, and other bricks and mortar projects.
Esri offers a variety of programs to support groups working for social and environmental benefit. Organizations use GIS to analyze complex situations, visualize problems, and create plans and solutions, as well as increasing efficiency, reducing costs, and helping people make faster and better decisions. More information on this software can be found at www.esri.com.
An urban farming and community garden project that started as a part of PHLF’s vacant lot reuse initiative in Wilkinsburg was one of three recipients of a $20,000 grant from Allegheny County in February. The funds will help residents of Hamnett Place a National Register-listed historic district cover implementation costs, including the purchase of gardening tools and materials, seedlings, and technical expertise over a two-year period. Currently, PHLF is in partnership with the non-profit social enterprise Growth Through Energy and Community Health (GTECH Strategies) to help the community craft a site map of the garden on a 19,000 square-foot lot at 502-504 Jeanette Street.
More than 200 people attended the book-signing celebration hosted by the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, Historic Hill Institute, and Hill Community Development Corporation on Saturday, February 26 at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. “This guidebook to places associated with playwright August Wilson’s life and work is the result of the cooperative efforts of many people,” said Louise Sturgess, executive director of Landmarks, “and its power is not to be underestimated in terms of its substance and impact.”
Lead donors Kenya Boswell from BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania and Gerry Kuncio of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission offered brief remarks, along with the authors Laurence A. Glasco, Christopher Rawson, Kimberly C. Ellis, and Sala Udin. The authors and PHLF presented complimentary books to high schools, colleges, and libraries in the city and county.
The guidebook was supported by a Preserve America grant from the National Park Service, administered under the Preserving African American Heritage in Pennsylvania program of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. The Multicultural Arts Initiative and 75 PHLF members and friends also contributed to the guidebook.
August Wilson is one of America’s great playwrights. He lived in Pittsburgh from his birth in 1945 to 1978, when he moved to St. Paul, MN, and later to Seattle, WA. He died in 2005 and is buried in Pittsburgh. Wilson composed 10 plays chronicling the African American experience in each decade of the twentieth century––and he set nine of those plays in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. He turned the history of a place into great theater.
“It’s very exciting to be part of an excellent project that results in a resource that will help make Wilson’s life and work more accessible to the public, become the basis for public tours, and encourage people to care for and preserve the Pittsburgh places connected with the African American playwright,” said Gerry Kuncio.
To order a book ($8.95 plus sales tax), click here.
The Historic Religious Properties Committee awarded $78,600 in 14 grants and five Technical Assistance awards to congregations in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. An Awards Reception will be held from 3 to 3:45 pm in the Grand Concourse Restaurant Board Room on March 2. George Dorman, chairman of the HRP Committee, and PHLF Board Chairman Mark Bibro will give brief remarks.
Immediately following, from 3:45 to 5:00 pm award recipients and new PHLF members will be invited to tour PHLF offices and libraries on the fourth floor of The Landmarks Building at Station Square.
Congratulations to the following grant recipients:
- Congregation Poale Zedeck, Squirrel Hill, for brick pointing and masonry repairs.
- First Presbyterian Church of Edgewood, for refinishing of exterior doors.
- First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh, Downtown, for refinishing of exterior doors.
- First Trinity Evangelical Church, Oakland, for repairing box gutters and replacing missing slates.
- Mt. Lebanon Presbyterian Church, stained glass window restoration.
- Pittsburgh Mennonite Church, Swissvale, for brick pointing.
- Sacred Heart Church, Shadyside, for stained glass window restoration
- South Side Presbyterian Church, for replacement of main roof.
- Stewart Avenue Evangelical Lutheran Church, for brick pointing and masonry work.
- St. Nicholas Catholic Church, Millvale, for repair and repainting of the exterior woodwork on the main structure of the church.
- St. Paul Baptist Church, Pt. Breeze, for box gutter relining and replacing missing slates.
- Waverly Presbyterian Church, Regent Square, for masonry repairs on main entrance stairway area.
- The Byzantine Seminary, in Perry Hilltop, received a grant from The Kim and Miller Family Fund at PHLF, payable over a four-year period, to help with repairs.
- Calvary United Methodist Church, in Allegheny West, received a grant from the Barensfield Fund at PHLF, to help with its handicapped-ramp project.
In addition, this year’s Barensfeld Fund Grant, of $1,100 was awarded to Calvary United Methodist Church in Allegheny West, to go toward the church’s handicapped ramp project.
The following received Technical Assistance Awards:
- Bethesda Presbyterian Church, Homewood
- Brown AME Chapel, Central North Side
- Ethnan Temple Seventh Day Adventist Church, Wilkinsburg
- Greenfield Presbyterian Church, Greenfield
- Jesus’ Dwelling Place, North Braddock
Pittsburgh— We are pleased to announce that Michael Sriprasert, director of Real Estate Development, for the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation has also been named President of Landmarks Community Capital Corporation. This subsidiary was created in 2007 to undertake various forms of community revitalization activity. Since then, LCC has been repositioned as the lending arm of PHLF and will house all the loan funds, which serve non-profit and for-profit organizations.
Sriprasert, 30, who joined the PHLF staff five years ago, has been active in assisting the Board in this new focus. Under his leadership, LCC has applied for designation as a Community Development Financial Institution from the United States Treasury Department and received a grant from Treasury to help formulate the program.
“I am very excited at the opportunities LCC has to expand lending for preservation related projects in Pittsburgh and beyond. We will be focusing our efforts on increasing the pipeline of deals and raising additional capital for lending,” said Sriprasert.
Significant initial capital to launch LCC was provided by the Sarah Scaife and Allegheny Foundations, charities of Richard M. Scaife.
A graduate of Kenyon College, and Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College of Public Policy and Management, Sriprasert is also a 2011 candidate for the Master’s of Business Administration degree at CMU’s Tepper School of Business.
Thursday, February 24, 2011By Laurie Bailey
It’s important for retired history teacher Barbara Calloway that her children and grandchildren realize the impact of Salem Township’s Fairview Park on her own family and a generation of area African-Americans.
“They really can’t imagine the whole segregation thing. It’s part of our integrity, our history and part of who we are,” she said.
The park was selected earlier this month to be on the National Register of Historic Places. It was developed in 1945 by the Monongahela Valley Sunday School Association — a group of African-American churches from Westmoreland and Allegheny counties. At a time when segregation restricted access to other public amusement parks, Fairview Park was a place the African-American community could call its own.
“The designation is a recognition of what the people who founded the land had to go through,” Fairview Park Association president Ernest Jackson said.
The idea for a safe, welcoming place for African-American families, many from urban communities, to have fun and fellowship was actually conceived in 1918, Mr. Jackson said.
“No banks were lending money for land to black folks at that time,” he said. A banker himself, Mr. Jackson is vice president of operations for Dollar Bank.
People put up their own cash, even mortgaged their homes to develop the 100 acres of land where a roadside gas station and restaurant once stood along Route 22. “It wasn’t an easy transaction,” Mr. Jackson said.
By the 1940s and 1950s, the park established itself as the first African-American-owned amusement park and the place to go for church picnics and other gatherings. In its heyday, it featured a roller coaster and merry-go-round for small children, a swimming pool, softball fields, playground equipment, petting zoo and even hot air balloon rides.
“We took our picnic baskets and visited. The church picnic was the highlight of the year,” said Mrs. Calloway, of Point Breeze. Most churches had buses to transport those without cars to the Westmoreland County park.
“If you trace the history of the Civil Rights movement, you could determine when the park was most popular,” Mr. Jackson said.
Attendance started to decline in the late 1960s with the Civil Rights movement.
As money was needed throughout the park’s history, parts of the land were sold, including 33 plots that created the first black community in Salem Township. Part of the land was sold to pay real estate taxes — a cost that should have never occurred, Mr. Jackson said. Because the proper paperwork had not been filed, tax-exempt, non-profit status wasn’t official until 1998.
Now the association’s goal is to develop the park, which is still functional and used by a variety of groups. Costs for maintaining the existing 52 acres come entirely from donations, mainly from the dozen or so churches actively involved in the association. Volunteers cut the grass and do repair work.
But significant funding is required to meet the park association’s short term plans for updating the existing three shelters and bathroom facilities, playground equipment and ball field. The group is hoping to find someone to offer expertise in grant writing, Mr. Jackson said.
Along with its new national historical status, the park is eligible for consideration in federally assisted projects and qualifies for federal grants for historical preservation when funds are available, according to the website for the National Register of Historic Places: www.nps.gov/nr.
The association has a dream of further developing the park into a retreat center, providing facilities for church groups and businesses.
“With over 50 acres of land, there are many things we could do,” Mr. Jackson said.
But for now, as in the early days, church picnics successfully prevail, introducing today’s children to old-fashioned traditions like sack races, baking contests and bingo.
“They are things that kids don’t do now, but once they catch on, it gets competitive,” Mr. Jackson said.
Plans to run school board candidates to block Crafton Elementary closureThursday, February 24, 2011By Kim Lawrence
A parents group in the Carlynton School District plans to run a slate of candidates in an effort to reverse the decision to consolidate Crafton and Carnegie elementary schools.
Carlynton school directors voted 5-4 last Thursday to close the two schools and construct a new elementary building for approximately $30 million in the vicinity of Carnegie Elementary. The Honus Wagner athletic field would remain untouched.
Thomas Brown, Patricia Schirripa, Thomas DiPietro, Ronald McCartney and Sandra Hughan supported the proposal, which has been discussed since last year.
Parents opposed to the plan have argued that a better use of funds would be to renovate the elementary buildings.
Crafton resident Megan Schriver said the slate will seek nominations May 17 for five school board seats as advocates of saving neighborhood schools, keeping neighborhoods intact and thriving, and being fiscally responsible with renovations and upkeep of school buildings.
“We don’t have the candidates yet, but they all will be individuals who understand the importance of neighborhood schools,” Mrs. Schriver said, noting that not all of the candidates will be from Crafton.
She is a member of Carlynton Save Our Schools, a group described on its website as parents, residents and business owners promoting fiscal responsibility by keeping and renovating community schools.
SOS has posted green and gold “save our neighborhood schools” yard signs throughout the district, which covers Carnegie, Crafton and Rosslyn Farms.
While there are no schools in Rosslyn Farms, the borough had sent a letter to the district, requesting school officials to consider reasonable and affordable renovations to the elementary schools and consider merging with another district.
The decision to consolidate was among 10 options presented in a feasibility study by L. Robert Kimball & Associates to renovate or expand schools or construct a new building.
The junior-senior high school was built in 1969, Carnegie Elementary was built in 1954 and Crafton Elementary was build in 1913. Each building has had at least one renovation.
At the Feb. 17 meeting, Crafton parents again pleaded their case about keeping their neighborhood school, and several Carnegie parents welcomed the idea of a new school in their neighborhood.
Mr. DiPietro said that because of Crafton council’s resolution and continued public pledge to keep Crafton Elementary School, the board was forced to chose Carnegie as the site for the new elementary school.
He said the district was dismayed by Crafton’s efforts to stop the building. He said sarcastically, “It’s a great message to send to the kids to have council threaten the school board.”
Director Sharon Wilson, the only board member who lives in Crafton, voted via speaker phone against the proposal.
She said she didn’t want to cut programs or maintain an empty building, but she wanted to have an increase in space and she wanted the cost of infrastructure to balance with the cost of education.
Director Betsy Tassaro who also voted no said, “I don’t feel like we’ve done enough.” She said she recognized that the communities want to keep their schools.
Comments from parents were heard for about an hour and a half prior to the vote.
Carnegie council members were also in attendance cheering the board on.
Councilwoman Carol Ann Covi said, “My bottom line is the children. I would love to see both schools renovated. We would welcome a new school in Carnegie.”
Carnegie council President Patrick Catena thanked the school board for its due diligence with the financial analysis.
He said renovating the schools would only be putting a Band-Aid on them and that everything would be more expensive a few years later.
“Carnegie council believes in consolidation,” Mr. Catena said. “It makes the most sense.”
By Craig Smith
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Michael Sriprasert had an exciting week.
He got engaged to his girlfriend, Gladys Perez, 32, of Bloomfield, and was named president of Landmarks Community Capital Corp., the financing division of Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.
“It’s been a heck of a week,” said Sriprasert, 30, of Bloomfield.
Sriprasert, who has been with the foundation for about five years, will retain his title and duties as director of real estate development. Wearing two hats is nothing new.
“I’m used to it. It’s not out of my skill set,” he said. “I like to keep busy.”
A 2005 graduate of the Heinz School of Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University, he is completing a Master of Business Administration degree at the university’s Tepper School of Business.
At Landmarks Community Capital, he’ll oversee about $8 million in assets. The agency funds four to six large projects a year, something Sriprasert hopes to see increase.
“I want to raise the deal flow … we’re going to be ramping it up,” he said.
He will push for Landmarks to win a Community Development Financial Institutions Fund designation from the U.S. Treasury Department. The application is pending.
The CDFI Fund certifies organizations to provide financing and related services to communities and populations that lack access to credit, capital and financial services. The designation would open the door for more money to flow into the region for preservation and other projects.
“I’m excited. … It will further the mission of Landmarks,” Sriprasert said.
The CDFI designation will “elevate the image of our work with banks and financial institutions and make us eligible for Treasury support,” said Arthur P. Ziegler Jr., president of Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.
The foundation formed Landmarks Community Capital in 2007 to provide investment capital, development expertise and pre- and post-technical assistance to low- and moderate-income communities during the early stages of development.
A substantial amount of funding for the startup came from Dick Scaife, owner of the Tribune-Review, Ziegler said.
The Sarah Scaife and Allegheny foundations gave more than $500,000, he said.