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Category Archive: Easements

  1. The Lamp Needs Hefty Fundraising to Shine Again

    Thursday, October 28, 2010
    By Norm Vargo

    Will the Lamp shine again?

    The once-popular movie theater in downtown Irwin closed in 2005. Its marquee still boldly predicts “the Lamp will shine again.”

    But $500,000 is needed for that to happen.

    Westmoreland Cultural Trust acquired ownership from Irwin-based KCS Real Estate Services in 2007. KCS purchased the property in early 2005.

    The Trust spent more than $400,000 on renovations, but the project stalled nearly two years ago when that Greensburg-based nonprofit ran out of funds.

    Renovations included a new roof, plumbing and electrical work, and a clean-up of the interior and marquee.

    In 2008, S&T Bancorp donated $5,000 for a new heating, ventilating and air conditioning system.

    The shuttered 75-year-old landmark, viewed as a key to the economic revival of Irwin’s business district, has become an eyesore along Main Street. The first phase of a state-funded $1.9 million Streetscape project should start in February.

    Trust officials, however, estimate that $500,000 more is needed to complete renovations, according to Irwin council president Deborah Kelly. And she said the Trust does not have the money to resume the project.

    Residents of the borough and surrounding areas may be asked to chip in as part of a public-private fundraising effort to complete renovations and reopen the Lamp as a cultural center/movie theater.

    That option was discussed recently when concerned borough and Irwin Project officials met with state, county and Trust representatives to discuss the future of the theater-restoration project, Ms. Kelly disclosed.

    “Timing is critical to the revitalization of downtown,” Ms. Kelly said. “I set up the meeting with the Trust to determine if we’re going anywhere with the Lamp Theatre. They say it is still over $500,000 away from completion of renovations.

    “That said, we did some brainstorming to meet some of that funding issue. We’re going to form a committee to explore some fundraising options from the borough and from within the community.”

    She added that the borough has asked the Trust to provide a business plan for the renovations, an operating plan once they are completed, and will look into grant funding.

    “Once we have that information,” she said, “we can have a more informed discussion about any involvement in fund raising options.”

    Earlier this year, the Trust was awarded a $15,000 grant sponsored by state Rep. James E. Casorio Jr., D-North Huntingdon, to develop plans to complete work on the marquee.

    Meanwhile, council on Oct. 13 unanimously adopted a resolution that will designate Irwin Park, Pangolin Park and Bell Park as smoke-free. The ban will take effect in November.

  2. Youth friendly music venue The Red Theater Makes Noise in Historic Polish Hill Building

    The Red Theater

    Youth friendly music venue The Red Theater makes noise in historic Polish Hill building

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010

    Pop City Media

    A beautiful piece of Polish Hill history is experiencing a second life as an all ages performance venue. The stately building at 3028 Brereton Street once housed the Emma Kaufmann Clinic, later served as the headquarters for the Pittsburgh branch of the Polish Falcons, and on October 9 had its grand opening as The Red Theater.

    The building is owned by Architect Stephen Mesich, who lives in the building and rents space out to artists. Mesich began hosting scattered musical performances out of the building’s 1600-square-foot upstairs social hall last year, but it wasn’t until five weeks ago that The Red Theater was cemented as a serious alternative music venue for a wide variety of artists when Mesich teamed up with event promoter Sardonyx Productions.

    The venue boasts a large 19th century concert hall with a 12-foot-deep stage and room for up to 300 people.  Rich architectural details include a 35-foot ceiling, colorful lighting, and a spacious bar serving non-alcoholic beverages.

    “A lot of parents don’t want their kids going to an alcoholic place, and we want it to be a good place for young kids to see live music. Parents will feel a little more secure about that,” says Mike Moscato, owner of Sardonyx Productions.

    Sardonyx Productions has already produced two shows at The Red Theater and has two more scheduled in the coming months. On November 24, The Thanksgiving Eve Hip Hop and Rock Party will star rapper Ego. On December 24, a Christmas Party featuring The Long Knives, Dante Romito Band, and Sean O’Donnell will take place. Both events begin at 7 p.m. and cost $10.

    Writer: John Farley
    Source: Mike Moscato, Sardonyx Productions

    Photograph copyright John Farley

  3. Leechburg Hotel Project Comes Together a Piece at a Time

    By Brian C. Rittmeyer, VALLEY NEWS DISPATCH
    Sunday, October 24, 2010

    Linda Alworth of Gilpin points out a portion of a common area in the second floor of the future Lingrow Inn on Market Street in Leechburg. Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch

    With its cracked walls, broken windows and dust-covered floors, any attempt to bring back a once-grand hotel on Leechburg’s Market Street would seem like an overwhelming task.

    And then there are the ghosts.

    It is a daunting task. The only way Linda Alworth can even approach it is one piece at a time.

    “All this means nothing to me,” Alworth said recently as she looked around the dark area of the gutted building that will soon become a pub. “I can see it finished. I take one small area of it at a time.”

    Alworth’s $2.2 million project to turn the 110-year-old building at 127 Market St. into the Lingrow Inn is moving into high gear. She expects a first-floor restaurant and bar to be open for business early next year.

    During its life, the building has carried many names. In the 1920s, it was the National Hotel, and home to a pharmacy.

    “We want to try to bring it back to the way it was, with a new fling,” Alworth said.

    Borough council President Tony Defilippi’s grandfather, Joseph Defilippi, owned the hotel. He has a photograph of the hotel lobby with his grandfather, who died in 1925, behind the registration desk.

    “It will be very nice to see the hotel being used again. I hope to see the entire building be renovated soon,” Defilippi said. “It adds a lot to the downtown area.”

    Leechburg's National Hotel on Market Street was a lively place in the 1920s. Submitted

    David Farkas, director of the Main Street program for the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, called the project important not just for Leechburg, but for the entire region.

    “When the project is complete, there will be an expanded dining offering in Leechburg (and) a place for people to stay who are visiting the area to take advantage of all the outdoor activities that are possible here in the Kiski Valley,” he said. “It will allow people who are visiting or here for special events or weddings to stay close by in Leechburg. We expect that to have an impact on the surrounding businesses in Leechburg and the whole area.”

    In Defilippi’s old photo, a grand staircase leads up to the second floor. The hotel section of the building has been closed off for nearly 40 years, although the first floor has been home to various bars and restaurants in subsequent years. The roof had a bad leak, and there has been significant damage to the upper floors of the four-story building.

    Closed off behind a wall and tiny doorway, the stairs are part of the charm Alworth plans to bring back.

    “It will be grand. I can see the bride walking down the staircase,” Alworth said.

    Hard work and tackling big projects come naturally to Alworth, a 56-year-old Gilpin resident who turned an 1850s barn in Gilpin into Lingrow Farm, one of the region’s top wedding venues. It was rated by local brides as a “best of weddings” pick for Southwestern Pennsylvania by the wedding magazine The Knot.

    A granddaughter of immigrants from Poland and Germany, Alworth was one of five children who grew up on her family’s farm in Washington Township. Her father didn’t believe in sending girls to college.

    “You have to believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, you’re never going to do anything,” she said. “How do you get things done? You do it. You don’t talk about it.”

    Alworth started a landscaping business, Lingrow Landscaping, 17 years ago. She bought the farm at an auction six years ago and the event center is now in its fourth year of hosting weddings.

    The inn will serve the farm with food and a place for guests to stay, once its 27 planned rooms are completed. But Alworth sees the building as serving the borough as well.

    “I love this town. I love the people in the town. I believe in the businesses here. I believe they can do so much more,” she said. “I really want more business to come into Leechburg. This will be an anchor building.”

    Alworth had a feasibility study done.

    “We need places for people to stay and not just for the farm. We found out there is a real need,” she said. “We have the river. We have the kayaking now. We have great stores. We’ve been left in the dust long enough.”

    Alworth paid $100,000 for the building in May 2009.

    The economy has not been her friend. Getting the financing to do the work was not easy, and there were times Alworth thought it would never come and she’d be best to unload the building. But the financing finally came together.

    Loans and her own money are paying for the work.

    She didn’t get any government handouts. There are no grants out there for a for-profit business, unless she did a full and even more costly historical restoration. She will benefit from a program that phases in the property taxes on the value of the improvements to the building over 10 years.

    Alworth’s landscaping employees are now gutting the building.

    The guys talk of hearing people walking around upstairs. They’ve heard someone playing a piano that remains on the second floor. Sometimes the “ghost” is Alworth playing pranks, but other times…

    They’ve removed the facade, exposing brick columns, and torn away plaster walls inside, exposing more warm brick.

    They found an elegant arched doorway inside that had been covered up — and a significant crack near the front of the building. But Alworth says a structural engineer found the building to be in good condition, worthy of rehabilitation.

    The restaurant and bar are coming first, to start a revenue stream. An architect is finishing plans, after which she’ll apply for building permits.

    The bar, Olde Henry’s Pub, will be named for a brother, Henry Bazella, who lives in Georgia. Alworth says it will be like a New York bistro.

    Most of the antiques of value in the building are long gone, but Alworth found a pile of solid old pub chairs – marked made in Poland – that she plans to have refurbished and use in the bar.

    There’s an old cooler in the basement, where Alworth envisions a wine cellar.

    The 90-seat restaurant will be named for her mother, Olive Bazella. The menu is a work in progress, but Alworth says the restaurant will serve healthy, good, affordable food.

    “She was a wonderful cook, a wonderful mother,” Alworth said. “She’s probably looking down right now thinking, girl, you’re crazy.

    “You have to be a little bit crazy,” she said.

  4. Some Seek to Save Bantam Building

    Thursday, October 21, 2010
    By Karen Kane, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    As the community prepares to shine a headlight on the historic pairing of the jeep and Butler, efforts have been ongoing to promote the preservation of the site where the jeep was manufactured: the Bantam building off Hansen Avenue in Pullman Center Business Park.

    Butler Downtown, an organization committed to the revitalization of the city, coordinated a community drive to raise $25,000 toward the preservation of the building. A representative of AK Steel, which owns the building, said the company was willing to listen to any proposals.

    In September, Becky Smith, Main Street manager for Butler Downtown, entered the building in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “This Place Matters Community Challenge.” The prize was $25,000 for the site that had the most computer clicks in the challenge.

    Of 119 community projects, Butler’s Bantam Building ranked 23rd with more than 600 votes.

    “We’re not going to win the money, but this effort raised awareness of the historical significance of the building,” Ms. Smith said.

    The winner was a theater project in Austin, Texas.

    The building is not being used, and its structural integrity is in question — the roof has a hole in it. Ms. Smith said the prize money could have been used to further the cause for placement on the national historic register or turned over to AK Steel to help with building repair costs.

    She said several entities — including Downtown Butler, the Butler County Tourism and Convention Bureau, the Butler County Historical Society and the city of Butler — support the effort to have the building preserved as an important historical place.

    The building was constructed in 1899 and 1900 by the Davis Lead Co. After a couple of owners, it ended up in the hands of American Bantam Car Co. in 1929. It was the site of the jeep’s initial manufacture in 1940.

    In May, The Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh named the Bantam building to its “Top 10 List of Best Preservation Opportunities in the Pittsburgh Area.” The list is designed to encourage investment in historic sites throughout southwestern Pennsylvania.

    A spokesman for AK Steel said the practical concerns were standing in the way.

    “We have a sense of history ourselves, and we understand the interest in the history of the building; but I don’t know if it’s realistic,” said Alan H. McCoy, vice president for government and public relations.

    Mr. McCoy said the building, which hasn’t been used by the company since the 1970s, not only has deteriorated but it is also on a site that is still used by AK Steel.

    “It’s not just a matter of transferring ownership of the building. How would they then access it? There are substantial hurdles,” he said.

    Still, Mr. McCoy said the company remained open to discussion. “We haven’t said ‘no’ to the idea, and we haven’t said ‘yes’. We just have to see how things unfold.”

  5. From Bad Movies to Good Food

    Thursday, October 21, 2010
    By Mark Belko, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    A former porn theater would become a food market and apartments would anchor the upper floors of buildings under a plan to redevelop a rundown block of North Avenue on the North Side.

    The team of Zukin Development Corp. and Collaborative Ventures is proposing to convert the former Garden Theater into an independent or co-op food market or perhaps a restaurant-small market combination.

    Kirk Burkley, president of the Northside Tomorrow board, said Wednesday that the market might be similar to the East End Food Co-op, an IGA or Trader Joe’s. It would be focused on providing healthy, locally grown food for the area, he said.

    Conversion of the former porn palace is just one element of a plan developed by Zukin and Collaborative Ventures to redevelop the long-neglected block.

    The team also is proposing to add about 38 apartment units in the block, mainly utilizing the upper floors of existing buildings. The Bradberry building would become all residential, with 16 apartment units, Mr. Burkley said.

    Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority board members are expected to vote today on whether to enter into exclusive negotiations with Zukin and Collaborative Ventures for the next 90 days. Zukin is based in Philadelphia and Collaborative Ventures is owned by two South Hills men.

    The time would allow the team to refine its proposal, develop a site plan, and line up and secure the financing for the undertaking, which is expected to cost $12 million to $13 million.

    Zukin and Collaborative Ventures are being recommended to the URA by Northside Tomorrow LLC, a collaboration between the Northside Leadership Conference and the Central Northside Neighborhood Council.

    The Zukin team was selected over four other developers that responded to a request for proposals issued in May for redevelopment of the theater and other properties. Only two of those proposals offered to redo the entire block.

    Mr. Burkley said the Zukin/Collaborative Ventures proposal was selected because it seemed to best correspond with the wishes of the North Side community.

    “They’re the best horse for the course,” he said. “They have what we believe to be the most realistic proposal that also meets the desire and goals for the community and in accordance with priorities set forth in our community plan.”

    A big component of that plan relates to community gardens, community agriculture and healthy foods, he said. There also is a desire to increase the number of residential units in the block, to preserve facades and to create jobs.

    “We see this proposal as being best able to meet those needs in the near future,” Mr. Burkley said.

    While the Zukin team plans some alterations to the backs of buildings to create more parking, it intends to keep the facades intact, he said.

    Apartments in the Bradberry Building are expected to rent for about $750 a month. Others will range from roughly $1,000 to $1,200 a month.

    The developers are also planning first-floor retail in most of the buildings to supplement the apartments and the food market. Potential retail uses include bakeries, takeout restaurants and coffee shops.

    Financing is expected to include about $3.5 million in public funds and $4 million from a North Side community loan fund. The development team also expects to put in about $1 million in equity. The remainder would be financed privately.

    Mr. Burkley said the goal was to start construction next year. But he added it might be more realistic to start facade and stabilization work next year, with full construction in 2012.

  6. Civic Arena Decision Coming Thursday

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010
    By Mark Belko, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    The future of the Civic Arena, the iconic silver-domed structure that has graced Pittsburgh’s skyline for nearly half a century, could be decided Thursday.

    City-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority members are scheduled to vote that day on whether to demolish the 49-year-old landmark to clear the way for an office, residential and commercial redevelopment proposed by the Penguins.

    The decision to schedule the vote came after SEA consultants Oxford Development Co. and Chester Engineers concluded in a final report after an eight-month historic review process that demolishing the arena with its distinctive retractable dome was the “recommended” option for redevelopment.

    Removing the building would create an “unencumbered development site” and allow for the restoration of the street grid that once connected the Hill District and Downtown, one destroyed when the arena was built, the report said. It also stated an unencumbered site “is more attractive to developers.”

    The option favored by preservationists, keeping the structure in place, “presents a challenge to proposed site development, marketing and construction strategies,” the report stated. “Reuse considerations which keep the historic characteristic (the operational dome) require significant initial and ongoing public support and also fail to generate economic activity sufficient to justify forgoing redevelopment opportunities available [with demolition].”

    The vote was scheduled the same day Reuse the Igloo, the group seeking to save the arena, came forward with its plan to transform the building into a venue for bowling, annual Christmas and Halloween-related events, bicycle polo, book festivals and weddings and other celebrations.

    Todd Poole, president of Philadelphia-based 4ward Planning LLC, the Reuse the Igloo consultant, estimated the various events could generate as much as $2 million a year, enough to cover annual operating costs of $1.9 million.

    Rob Pfaffmann, the Downtown architect who heads Reuse the Igloo, said that if SEA members vote to demolish the arena, his group would file for a court injunction to block it.

    Mr. Pfaffmann said he is “extremely concerned” that tearing down the arena could amount to anticipatory demolition under the National Historic Preservation Act and jeopardize future federal funding related to the development.

    “The battle is far from over from the point of view of Reuse the Igloo,” he said.

    SEA board chairman Wayne Fontana wouldn’t say which way he planned to vote, and SEA executive director Mary Conturo refused to speculate about the outcome.

    “All I can tell you is that it’s on the agenda,” she said.

    The SEA has moved the start of its meeting up by one hour to 9:30 a.m. to allow for public comment in advance of the vote, Ms. Conturo said.

    The Penguins, which want to redevelop the land with offices, housing and commercial uses, welcomed the vote.

    “We think it’s clear that the best thing for the future of the city and the region is to tear down the old arena, clear the land for development and re-connect the Hill District to Downtown,” spokesman Tom McMillan said.

    Board members will take up the matter even as Reuse the Igloo unveiled details of a reuse plan Tuesday that include the development of a 24-lane bowling alley in the bowels of the arena. It also called for conversion of some of the arena’s suites and luxury boxes into rental space for meetings and parties, weddings and other celebrations.

    Reuse the Igloo is pushing its plan as an alternative to the Penguins’ proposal to demolish the arena and redevelop 28 acres of land.

    Like the Penguins, the group also has plans for housing and office space on part of the site. But Mr. Poole said one of the advantages of the group’s plan is that it works even if no development takes place around the arena.

    “Even if it didn’t happen for 10 years, you still have civic space that can be programmed and stand on its own,” he said.

    Reuse the Igloo estimates conversion costs at $14 million. It believes the transformation to civic space would take three years.

  7. Artist’s Eclectic Space on the North Side Combines Found Art, Plants and Her Vision

    Saturday, October 16, 2010
    By Mary Thomas, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    Rose Clancy in her GardenLab@516 project at 516 Sampsonia Way in the Mexican War Streets. Pam Panchak / Post-Gazette

    Never overlook the potential of a small lot.

    Pittsburgh artist Rose Clancy’s 22-by 90-foot space in the North Side’s Mexican War Streets neighborhood is much more than a garden. It’s also an art installation, autobiography, environmental statement, archaeological dig and strategy for building community.

    GardenLab@516 began humbly but, as gardens do, it grew. Ms. Clancy had purchased a dozen past-their-prime white baking potatoes that were beginning to sprout in a supermarket to conduct growth experiments on. When they outlasted the original project, she decided they deserved to continue.

    “I admired the potatoes’ will to survive and go to the smallest bit of light and to grow,” Ms. Clancy said.

    She asked Mattress Factory museum co-directors Michael Olijnyk and Barbara Luderowski whether there was a spot among the Sampsonia Way properties adjacent to the North Side museum for the plants, and she was offered a vacant lot next to an empty home fronted by a long-term Mattress Factory-sponsored installation by artist Ruth Stanford, “In the Dwelling-House.”

    This plaster bust, created by Rose Clancy's mother while she was in high school, is being transformed as rain flows into the pots above that contain black walnuts and then drizzles an "aging" stain onto the artwork. Pam Panchak/Post-Gazette

    The property at 516 Sampsonia was filled with debris tossed over the fence through the years, but that didn’t deter Ms. Clancy. In April, she began cleaning it up and carried several bags of garbage out. The rest she turned into planters and sculpture.

    The site is quirky and personal, with its own brand of surface beauty underlain with metaphor. It has also become an active part of the neighborhood.

    Ms. Clancy’s late father, Thomas, was a true blue Irishman from County Galway, who “grew potatoes as a crop for his family. [As a child] I ate a ton of potatoes,” Ms. Clancy said. So the garden is in part a tribute to him.

    Her late mother, Ruth, who Ms. Clancy said was an excellent gardener, is also present in the form of a plaster bust she sculpted in high school but never finished.

    “She never said what she had to do to finish it,” so Ms. Clancy is doing so by “aging it.” With fall rains, dark liquid leached from black walnuts found in the lot began to transform the white face, staining it.

    "The Collection Box" contains found objects that Ms. Clancy discovered while clearing the lot. Pam Panchak / Post-Gazette

    A project comprising a line of small tangerine trees growing through a barn-wood plank will conclude with the roots forever separated, referencing the artist and her seven siblings who “grew as siblings together but our roots were not allowed to mingle.”

    Adjacent neighbors and passers-by stop to talk, and some shared in an unexpectedly large bean harvest that matured on the vines she’d planted, along with morning glories.

    “I didn’t grow with the intention of raising a crop, but I got a crop,” she said.

    From discarded tires, she created raised-bed planters. Occasionally something is brought to the site. On one drive to the garden, Ms. Clancy picked up two large discarded clay pots containing ginger mint and ornamental peppers and placed them on the street side of the fence that fronts the garden. She said they are markers that “something’s happening here; treat it with respect.”

    Yeaka Williams, a neighbor whose property backs onto Sampsonia, volunteered to care for the pots and watered them twice a day during the hot, dry summer. Another neighbor introduced CAPA student Kimi Hanauer to Ms. Clancy, who gave her space to create an artwork:

    “The same way that Mattress Factory has given me, I’ve given her,” Ms. Clancy said.

    Elsewhere, rows of pottery shards, bottle glass, dishes, a cream separator from an old glass milk jug and other objects reflect the lot’s history. Some of the found artifacts — Christmas tree ornaments, a radiator key, Minnie Mouse head — are mounted in “The Collection Box,” which visitors crank to view.

    “There’s no trash coming in anymore,” Ms. Clancy said.

    She’s preparing the garden for winter, dismantling the potato planters and moving some of the sculpture indoors.

    She plans next to string “Connectivity Wires” high across the lot in the direction of neighborhood people the garden has connected with. These will be embellished with beveled glass and mirrors intended to create “a light show in here throughout the winter” as they move in the wind and in and out of sunlight.

    Ms. Williams will be connected by lines painted across Sampsonia.

    “She’s so important,” Ms. Clancy said.

    Ms. Clancy continues to work in the garden, although less frequently as the seasons change. She welcomes visitors when she’s there. And when she isn’t, you can always see it through various openings she’s provided in the now “Swiss cheese fence.”

  8. Chipotle Grill Slated for Market Square

    Tuesday, October 12, 2010
    By Mark Belko, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    May the best burrito win.

    Chipotle Mexican Grill is the latest restaurant headed for Market Square, claiming about 2,300 square feet of space on the first floor of the former G.C. Murphy store.

    It will compete against another Market Square Mexican-style restaurant, Moe’s Southwest Grill.

    Chipotle is the first known tenant to sign on to lease part of the 27,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space available in Market Square Place, the conversion of the Murphy store and other structures. The project also is home to the Downtown YMCA and apartments.

    Lucas Piatt, chief operating officer for Millcraft Industries, the Market Square Place developer, said he expected Chipotle to be open by the end of the year. “We’re very excited, and we think they’ll be a nice fit for Market Square,” he said.

    Herky Pollock, a CB Richard Ellis/Pittsburgh executive vice president and broker for the retail space, said luring Chipotle “further validates the strength of the redevelopment of the Fifth and Forbes corridor.”

    “To have one of the pre-eminent fast casual concepts opening its only Downtown location in the Fifth and Forbes corridor is a tribute to years of hard work by many public and private participants,” he said.

    Mr. Piatt said he expected to announce additional retail or restaurant tenants in the near future but wouldn’t identify them. Mr. Pollock called one upscale. “The to-be-named tenants will raise many eyebrows, given their quality,” he said.

    Chipotle isn’t the only new restaurant announced recently for the remodeled square.

    Last week, Yves Carreau, owner of Sonoma and Seviche restaurants in the cultural district, detailed plans to open NOLA, a New Orleans style bistro, in the former 1902 Landmark Tavern.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633