Category Archive: City Living
Retail, apartments slated for former Goodwill headquartersFriday, December 24, 2010By Mark Belko, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A $28 million project to convert the former Goodwill headquarters on the South Side into apartments and retail space is good to go, thanks in part to a $5 million state redevelopment assistance grant.
The grant, awarded by Gov. Ed Rendell last week, will help close a gap in the financing and enable the project to move forward, city Urban Redevelopment Authority board members were told Thursday when they authorized the receipt of the money.
Green Tree developer Burns & Scalo Real Estate plans to convert the seven-story building on East Carson Street into 87 market rate apartments and 10,000 square feet of ground level retail space.
James Scalo, Burns & Scalo president, said he expects the apartments to rent for about $1,500 a month.
He said the state money will be used to help build a parking garage within the complex, an amenity he believes will be a big selling point. He said it would be the only residential project on the South Side with secure parking within the building.
With the money committed, Mr. Scalo said he hopes to start demolition work inside the building next month. Construction work is expected to start in April, with an opening slated for spring 2012.
Burns & Scalo will clean and preserve the facade and also seek to have the Renaissance Revival building listed on the National Register of Historic Places, in part to make the project eligible for historic tax credits, Mr. Scalo said.
Burns & Scalo came under some fire last summer when it received permission from the city Historic Review Commission to demolish an adjacent Goodwill building to make way for an Aldi supermarket.
Mr. Scalo said there’s a reason the developer is seeking to preserve the Goodwill headquarters while it demolished the other structure.
“This building has a lot of historic value. The other one did not,” he said. The structure used to be the mercantile store for the J&L Steel plant on the South Side.
Also Thursday, the URA board approved a deal that allows Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises to make a $9 million lump sum payment to the URA to close out a $20.8 million loan dating back to 1984.
The loan was used to build Liberty Center, the 27-story skyscraper that houses the Westin Convention Center hotel and Federated Investors. Since the loan’s inception, Forest City had made about $9.5 million in payments. The developer, about three weeks ago, approached the URA about discontinuing $400,000 in yearly payments in exchange for one final lump sum amount.
In agreeing to the deal, the URA will be accepting about $2 million less than the original loan, not including interest. However, Rob Stephany, URA executive director, said there was a chance that future yearly payments, which were tied to cash flow, could decrease, depending on the tower’s occupancy and lease arrangements. He said Forest City originally offered $3.5 million as a lump sum payment.
A consultant hired by the URA also analyzed the deal and concluded that a $9 million buyout was a “very fair number.”
Mr. Stephany said the URA plans to reinvest the $9 million in city neighborhoods that are eligible for federal community development block grants.
“It’s a great opportunity for us,” he said
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
Pop City Media
The historic Kaufmann Center in the Hill District, home to social services and events in the neighborhood for decades, is that much closer to reopening as a state-of-the-art auditorium for community development, education, arts and cultural happenings, thanks to a $100,000 grant from the PPG Industries Foundation.
The structure – part of the six-building Hill House Association, local provider of health, education, housing and other services – had fallen into disrepair and closed in June 2009. The grant from PPG, says Foundation Executive Director Sue Sloan, will aid the Center’s $5 million renovation effort, which includes a new entryway and LEED certification of the building as a newly energy-efficient green structure.
Hill House hopes the renovated auditorium will attract regional events to the neighborhood as well. Overall, the building’s renewal should contribute to the organization’s and the neighborhood’s health, both financially and socially.
“The real value is that this will help revive and increase services for individuals in the Hill District,” Sloan notes. “This is going to make a difference to the folks who are living here and using these services.”
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Sue Sloan, PPG Industries Foundation
Tuesday, January 04, 2011By Sally Kalson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Downtown Pittsburgh is a more diverse and dynamic place than it was just seven years ago — more residents, more students and workers, more people riding bikes and running.
That’s the conclusion of Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership President Michael Edwards, based on the group’s new report about living, working and commuting Downtown.
Among the findings:
• The peak age of Downtown residents is 25 to 29.
• One-third of Downtown residents have incomes of more than $100,000.
• Of the 126,000 people working Downtown, two-thirds are in the service or finance industries.
• The proportion of students jumped from 4 percent to 13 percent since 2003.
• The use of public transit also jumped, from 48 percent to 53 percent in the same period.
• The average commute to Downtown is 13 miles, or about 38 minutes.
The report comes from four different surveys conducted in 2010. For the most part, the studies are looking at the “greater Downtown” area that includes the Golden Triangle, the north and south shores, the near-Strip District and Uptown.
The full report is available at www.downtownpittsburgh.com.
Most of the indicators are positive, Mr. Edwards said.
One piece of data that never registered before is the growing number of people coming Downtown on weekends to exercise. That, he said, speaks to the work of Riverlife, the nonprofit advocacy group, and increased riverfront activity, from kayaking to biking and running the trails.
“This is the first time we’ve seen that,” Mr. Edwards said. “It shows a more compelling place to locate, with the whole Downtown as your backyard.”
But there are two trouble spots in the report.
Commuting costs are up anywhere from 8 percent to 89 percent, looking at parking, gas, bus fares and tolls. At the same time, fewer employers are contributing to those costs with bus passes or discounts. So, while Downtown is holding its own as the region’s employment hub, those costs are a concern for the future.
Also of concern: The cost of developing new housing Downtown is 25 percent higher than what the market will bear.
There’s not much the partnership can do about commuting costs, but it does have an idea to lower the cost of building new housing. Mr. Edwards said he and others will be lobbying in Harrisburg for a state historic tax credit, a financing tool that could fill 20 percent of the gap.
“That would lower the cost to the developer significantly,” he said.
It only makes sense to make Downtown development more affordable, he said, because the residential population there has more than doubled in the past decade, from 3,050 to 7,260.Right now, the occupancy rate for Downtown residences is 97 percent, so there is good reason to believe that new units would fare just as well.
For office space, overall occupancy is 90 percent, the highest in 20 years. Hotel occupancy, at 65 percent, is still higher than national average.
“So we are performing pretty well,” Mr. Edwards said. “This information allows us to tackle the nuances and make things even better.”
The spike in students is attributable to Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12, Point Park and Duquesne universities and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. That influx, Mr. Edwards said, adds to the district’s depth because “they come at different times and spend money on different things.”
For example, comic books.
“This location thrives off the college students,” said Humes Grossman, a clerk at Comic Book Ink on Smithfield Street.
Downtown regular Premo Masullo, 40, of Brentwood, is a server at the Omni William Penn Hotel. He’s noticed changes for the better.
“I’ve been working here almost 20 years, and it’s more thriving than it was 20 years ago,” he said. “There are [more] smaller businesses Downtown. There are more kids, college kids, which increases business.”
But not every part of Downtown is benefitting equally from the positive trends, said Julina Coupland, 29, of Point Breeze.
“Pockets of it seem to be [thriving] and others are moving more slowly,” she said. “The Cultural District, the new Market Square are pretty vibrant. But mostly when I’m down here on weekends and evenings, it’s pretty quiet, not a lot is going on.”
Other findings in the report include:• Average household size increased to 1.5 people from 2008, and 4 percent of households have children.
• Top reasons for moving Downtown were convenience, desire for city living and appeal of the buildings.
• Weekly average of spending at Downtown restaurants and retailers was $183.
• Four in 10 commuters are ages 35 or younger.
• The Boulevard of the Allies is mostly traveled by students.
• Market Square and Fifth Avenue are among the busiest pedestrian areas due to recent revitalization.Staff writer Katie Park contributed. Sally Kalson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1610.
By Bill Vidonic
Saturday, December 4, 2010
A social services group wants to transform an empty Homewood school into a building where people could attend educational programs and community events.
On Dec. 16, the Homewood-based Community Empowerment Association will ask the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment to change the designation of the Kelly Street building that once housed Holy Rosary school.
“We want to live up to the legacy of the Catholic Church and provide services to the community,” said Rashad Byrdsong, founder of the community association. The group wants to lease, and eventually buy, the three-story, 39,000-square-foot building from the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese, but the area is zoned for school use only.
“Any use that makes the community a better place is certainly good,” said the Rev. David Taylor, pastor of St. Charles Lwanga Parish, of which Holy Rosary was a part. “This is a very distressed community, and it needs all the help it can get.”
The diocese closed the school this summer, saying it couldn’t support two schools a mile apart. Holy Rosary merged with St. James School in Wilkinsburg to create the Sister Thea Bowman Catholic Academy. Classes began this fall in the St. James building.
Holy Rosary, which celebrated its centennial just before closing, was considered a refuge in a neighborhood that wrestles with crime and poverty.
Byrdsong said his group is talking with Taylor about the possibility of leasing the building. He would not disclose financial details because negotiations continue.
Among the group’s services, Byrdsong said, are programs to lower student dropout rates, as well as job training and community events. The group hosts programs in two buildings in the area and would consolidate operations from those buildings at the former school.
The association’s 35 full-time employees “all thought it was a wonderful idea,” Byrdsong said. “(The church) has such a long progressive and positive influence on the community of Homewood, and it would be a shame for the school to lie vacant.”
The Rev. Ronald Lengwin, spokesman for the diocese, said Community Empowerment Association hasn’t submitted a plan to the diocese, which supports reuse of its vacant buildings.
“We typically prefer they are used to benefit the community,” Lengwin said.
The diocese stopped celebrating Sunday Liturgy at the adjacent Holy Rosary Church on Oct. 24. Taylor said only 100 parishioners celebrated Mass there. They attend services at Mother of Good Counsel Church on Bennett Street.
Lengwin said the church building will host some services, including weddings and funerals.
“It’s an incredible church,” Lengwin said.
By Matthew Santoni
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Allegheny County officials will show off plans for upgrading the South Park Fairgrounds and surrounding areas Wednesday, after months of meetings and public input on what to do with the aging site of the defunct county fair.
Three plans center around improving pedestrian connections to the 80-acre site; aggressive maintenance of buildings; “greening” the grounds with vegetation and less pavement; returning nearby Catfish Run to a more natural state; and remaking the field and track next to the fairground buildings, said Jeaneen Zappa, county sustainability manager.
Each plan will tackle those goals with differing degrees of intensity, but none of the changes is intended to be drastic.
“There are things we can do more readily than others without making enormous changes,” Zappa said. “It’s not as though somebody took a drawing of the site on a chalkboard and erased it completely.”
Catfish Run, which flows through a pipe beneath the fairgrounds and a culvert between the track and an access road, could be restored to natural banks with vegetation. The Nature Center, located in the middle of “an island of asphalt,” could be moved to a fairground building closer to the stream and the head of several park trails, Zappa said.
Vehicular traffic through and around the site could be rearranged so that it is less redundant and confusing, she said.
Though county officials don’t have specific plans for the fairground buildings, many people who spoke during a public hearing in September want the county to rent more buildings to community groups.
“The best thing would be to remodel the buildings on top of the hill,” said Joseph Hedderman, chief instructor at Allegheny County Budo-Kai, a martial arts school that has occupied one of the buildings since the 1980s. “All of these little buildings could be signed over to groups and remodeled like ours.”
During the past two months, teams from Homestead-based GAI Consultants gathered ideas from people about what they’d like the county to do with the fairgrounds and parts of the surrounding park. Online surveys are available at alleghenycounty.us/parks/SPFairgrounds.
The meeting will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Buffalo Inn, off Buffalo Drive near the intersection of Brownsville Road and Corrigan Drive.
By Deborah Deasy, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Monday, November 29, 2010
t’s easy to overlook the oldest churches in Pittsburgh.
“Then, you come inside and see how beautiful it is,” says Sean O’Donnell, secretary at Smithfield United Church of Christ, one the city’s four oldest houses or worship.
The others — all soaring stone structures within blocks of each other — are the First Presbyterian Church and Trinity Cathedral, both on Sixth Avenue, and the First English Evangelical Lutheran Church on Grant Street.
One claims the grave of a Shawnee Indian chief. One has 13 Tiffany stained glass windows insured for $2 million. One boasts the world’s first architectural use of aluminum. One has a marble, wood and brass altar once exhibited at the Carnegie Museum of Art.
Each offers an oasis of quiet — at no charge — and sights to please even the most agnostic art lover. All offer free, informational brochures and tours upon request.
“These are real treasures for people to look at,” says the Rev. Catherine Brall, canon provost at Trinity Episcopal.
Visiting the churches helps one appreciate the city’s architectural history, along with “the depth of faith and piety that created these beautiful buildings,” says the Rev. David Gleason, senior pastor at First English Evangelical Lutheran Church.
On a recent Friday, the First Presbyterian Church wowed curious passers-by from Wyoming, Arizona, Ohio and Virginia.
“I think going to a church is a beautiful thing, regardless of your religion or politics. There are so many aspects that can be shared and appreciated,” says Morrison Simms of Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Simms’ companion — Stuart Herman of Scottsdale, Ariz. — believes a visit to such places helps couples discover and appreciate each other’s interests. “It opens dialogue,” he says.
Two of the churches — Trinity Cathedral and First Presbyterian — also offer sit-down eateries for weekday visitors. The Franktuary at 325 Oliver Ave. — under Trinity Cathedral — offers vegetarian, organic beef and gourmet hot dogs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays to Fridays. Our Daily Bread at 320 Sixth Ave. — under the First Presbyterian Church — serves hot lunches, soups, sandwiches and salads from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays to Fridays.
Trinity Cathedral (1872), Architect: Gordon W. Lloyd.
A plaque on the cathedral’s black iron fence describes the site as Pittsburgh’s “oldest unreconstructed landmark.”
Trinity Cathedral and the First Presbyterian Church share a former American Indian burial ground deeded by William Penn’s heirs to the congregations’ forefathers. French soldiers at Fort Duquesne (1754) and British soldiers at Fort Pitt (1758) also used the ground for burials.
Today, Trinity Cathedral maintains the last 128 marked graves of an estimated 4,000 people once buried on the site. The identified remains of many have been moved to other cemeteries. The unmarked bones of many others remain interred within a crypt in the sub-basement of First Presbyterian.
Prominent folks recorded on the present tombstones include Red Pole, principal chief of the Shawnee Indian nation, and Dr. Nathaniel Bedford, Pittsburgh’s first physician and a founder of the University of Pittsburgh.
Inside the cathedral, visitors will find hand-carved pews of white mahogany, a stone pulpit covered with intricate carvings of prophets, saints and bishops, plus, stained glass windows dating back to 1872.
Trinity Cathedral, 328 Sixth Ave., Downtown. Hours: 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. Services available at 12:05 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays and 8:45 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, and 8 and 10:30 a.m. Sundays. Details: 412-232-6404 or here.
First English Evangelical Lutheran Church (1888), Architect: Andrew Peebles.
A 170-foot-spire distinguishes the First English Evangelical Lutheran Church, second oldest structure on Grant Street. Only nearby Allegheny County Courthouse & Jail is older.
Interior decorations include a contemporary cross by Virgil Cantini; the 500-square-foot “Good Shepherd” window of Tiffany Favrile glass, and a free-standing marble, brass and wood altar once displayed at the Carnegie Museum of Art.
Also notable is the “The Presentation of Our Lord in Temple” lunette, a shimmery glass mosaic and cloisonne work made in the late 1800s. It hangs high above the church’s permanent marble altar.
Newest additions to the landmark include a 100-drawer columbarium for the cremated remains of church members and friends of parish. “There’s enough room for 200 bodies,” says senior pastor Gleason. “It’s designed as a special reliquary. … These are the bones of our saints.”
First English Evangelical Lutheran Church, 615 Grant St., Uptown. Hours: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays to Fridays; 8:30 to 12:30 p.m. Sundays. Services available 12:10 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, 8:30, 9:45 and 11 a.m. Sundays. Details: 412-471-8125 or here.
First Presbyterian Church (1903), Architect: Theophilus Parsons Chandler
Tiffany Studios designed 13 of the church’s 26-foot-by-7-foot stained glass windows, now insured for $2 million. All were hand-painted, making them unique among Tiffany windows.
“Each of the windows cost $3,000 when the building opened in 1905,” says Bob Loos, a deacon who gives tours. “As soon as you get a little sunlight coming in, they take off in brilliance.”
The Tiffany windows, however, are just a few of the 253 stained and leaded glass windows throughout the sandstone church.
Also notable are two 80-foot ceiling beams — each cut from 150-foot Oregonian oak trees — plus, a pair of rolling, two-ton, 30-foot oak doors in the sanctuary. “They operate on a track in the floor. … and are so perfectly balanced that one person can open or close each one,” reports the church’s free guide for visitors.
Visitors also will notice untold carved birds, animals and insects on the church’s interior stonework, including an eagle, butterfly and dove on the pulpit — representing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
First Presbyterian Church, 320 Sixth Ave., Downtown. Hours: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, 9 a.m. to noon Sundays. Services available at 12:25 p.m. Tuesdays and 10:45 a.m. Sundays. Guided tours offered after the 10:45 a.m. Sunday service. Details: 412-471-3436 or here.
Smithfield United Church of Christ (1926), Architect: Henry Hornbostel
An airy, 80-foot aluminum steeple — supported by interior steel beams — marks the multilevel Smithfield United Church of Christ. It’s the sixth house of worship for the city’s first organized Christian congregation. The spire “has the distinction of being the first architectural use of aluminum in the world,” according the church’s Spire bulletin.
“The sanctuary reminds me of some of the big cathedrals in New York City,” says O’Donnell, the church secretary. “I was most taken by the plaster work.”
Interior features include a 19-foot rose window made in 1860, and 12 towering, stained-glass windows that illustrate Biblical scenes and Pittsburgh history, including an 1861 visit by President-elect Abraham Lincoln.
Smithfield United Church of Christ, 620 Smithfield St., Downtown. Hours: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays to Fridays; 9:45 a.m. to noon Sundays. Services available at 12:10 p.m. Wednesdays and 11 a.m. Sundays. Details: 412-281-1811 or here.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
The Winter Flower Show opens Friday at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Oakland. Nine of the indoor gardens will be bedecked with topiary snowmen, decorated trees, hanging baskets, thousands of lights and more than 2,000 poinsettias. Newer varieties of poinsettias will be on display, including ‘Polar Bear,’ ‘Winter Blush,’ ‘Ice Punch,’ ‘Visions of Grandeur’ and ‘Tapestry.’
Also on display is the garden railroad with operating trains and miniature living scenery that includes dwarf conifers. The show, which runs through Jan. 9, was designed by the conservatory staff with help from Michele McCann.
“The show is a wonderful combination of horticulture and whimsy, with beautiful new poinsettias and common annuals used in unusual ways,” says Margie Radebaugh, Phipps’ director of horticulture and education.
Special seasonal events include:
• Visits by Santa Claus on Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 19.
• A “Garlands & Gifts” sale on Dec. 2-3 from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m.
• Phipps stays open until 10 p.m. daily, beginning Dec. 6, with candlelit walkways and live entertainment.
Admission is $12 for adults; $11 for seniors 62 and older and students with valid ID; $9 for children ages 2 to 18; free for children under 2. Information: www.phippsconservatory.org or 412-622-6914.