Category Archive: Legislative / Advocacy
Wednesday, January 05, 2011 05:00 AM
*Open Letters is a place where the letters to the editor published by the Post-Gazette are offered up for broader comment and discussion.
The late 19th-century Queen Anne Victorian house on Brownsville Road in Carrick (“Some in Carrick Strive to Save Victorian House,” Dec. 24) is a gem that must be preserved.
The Carrick-Overbrook Historical Society has done a yeoman’s job by documenting the property known as the Wigman House and nominating it for historical designation. One hopes that other area historical societies and individual philanthropists will join together to assure its salvation.
While I was growing up on Madeline Street in Carrick, dozens of comparable homes in the area reflected the personalities of the moguls who built them on high ground in order to contemplate the night sky burned red by the glow of steel mills blazing far below.
My family’s physician, Dr. Askins, was able to purchase one such mansion on Brownsville Road during the Depression. The exterior, painted contrasting shades of green, emphasized the eerie atmosphere that would have captivated the Addams Family.
Each time we visited his office, I was startled by creaking sounds — veritable moans — coming from one of the turrets. When I asked him about them, he tossed me a sly smile. “Those are the ghosts of the original owners,” he said. “They cannot bear to leave the tower and lose sight of the city they built.”
Just as those ghosts clung to the past, so must the ghosts of the last remaining Victorian mansion in Carrick be appeased.
EMILY PRITCHARD CARY
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.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
By Mark Belko, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The city is looking to brighten up some “dark corners” Downtown.
Aided by a $4 million state redevelopment assistance grant, the Urban Redevelopment Authority hopes to target rundown buildings Downtown and work with property owners to upgrade them.
The project is designed to supplement a larger revitalization in the Golden Triangle that already has included the construction of the Three PNC Plaza office tower and the redevelopment of a former five-and-dime store and a department store into residential, retail and other uses.
With much of that work completed, the URA has decided to go after properties “in need of some reinvestment” — not to buy but to approach and work with the owners about making improvements.
“This is really a building-by-building, block-by-block approach,” said Yarone Zober, URA board chairman and chief of staff to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.
Mr. Zober said the genesis for the idea came during walks he and Mr. Ravenstahl had Downtown.
“One thing the mayor and I noticed at street level were individual buildings that needed work … or didn’t have street-level appeal. They detracted from the general feel and look of the Downtown corridor,” he said.
“It became very clear that we needed new tools to continue the revitalization of Downtown.”
Funds from the grant, awarded by Gov. Ed Rendell earlier this month, can be used to make facade improvements or to address “life safety” issues that prevent property owners from using upper floors for residences or other purposes.
Life-safety improvements could include stairwells, elevators or other measures to bring buildings up to code. URA executive director Rob Stephany said such improvements typically run $250,000 at the minimum.
While projects like Three PNC, Piatt Place and Market Square Place have helped to transform Downtown, there are other buildings still in need of work, including some near the upscale Capital Grille restaurant at Fifth Avenue and Wood Street, Mr. Stephany said.
“You go to wait for the valet to bring your car back and there’s blight staring you in the face,” he said.
Properties the city initially is targeting for possible work include the Thompson Building on Market Street between Fifth and Market Square and a building owned by the Order of Italian Sons & Daughters of America at Wood and Forbes Avenue that once housed a McDonald’s restaurant.
Also on the list are three buildings at the western corner of Fifth and Wood that house a jewelry store and other retail outlets and a couple of buildings on Wood owned by the URA itself.
Mr. Zober said the URA already has had discussions with the property owners about potential improvements.
David Kashi, owner of the Fifth and Wood properties, said he hopes to secure funds to upgrade the facades of the buildings. He plans to install new windows and perhaps add a marquee to the front of the buildings. He also is thinking about placing a “big clock” on the corner building.
“We’re going to make Downtown beautiful,” he said.
Mr. Kashi said he already has had one meeting with the URA and plans to have another next month to work out plans and budgeting. He had no estimate for the cost of improvements.
He likes the city initiative.
“Downtown is the center of the whole Pittsburgh area. I think it’s about time someone took the initiative and improved the look. Nothing has changed in 50 or more years,” he said.
Improving the overall ambiance also “attracts investors to bring money into Downtown Pittsburgh,” he said.
The program will require property owners to match amounts received from the URA. Mr. Kashi is not thrilled about having to do so but said he would to increase the value and curb appeal of his properties.
The Thompson Building, which once housed the Ciao Baby restaurant, is owned by the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, which already has redeveloped three adjoining buildings at Market Street and Fifth.
Arthur Ziegler Jr., president of the foundation, said the organization plans to restore the facade of the Thompson Building, which likely will play host to some type of restaurant, bar or cafe.
Mr. Ziegler said the building once housed a restaurant operated by the Chicago-based Thompson restaurant chain. The chain at one time had six restaurants in Pittsburgh, but the Market Square building is the only one that has survived.
It was purchased by John R. Thompson in 1926, but dates back farther than that, perhaps to the turn of the century.
“It is an important part of Pittsburgh history,” Mr. Ziegler said.
Besides restoring the exterior, the foundation will “try to meet the green standards that we’ve established down there and we want to get the building in service as soon as possible in 2011,” he said.
The foundation spent $3 million restoring the original facades of the three adjoining buildings, which house a men’s clothing store, a shoe store and apartments. It plans to make a substantial investment in the Thompson Building but also is looking for help from the URA to fill in the gap.
“We did not do that with the first three buildings. We provided the funds. We need some help with this fourth one,” Mr. Ziegler said.
Like Mr. Kashi, Mr. Ziegler believes there is a need for the type of program the URA is starting.
“I think it’s excellent. We need to continue to recognize the value of these historic buildings and improve their exteriors and their basic interiors to meet building codes,” he said.
At the site of the former McDonald’s restaurant, the city would like to remove the burnt-orange metal facade that covers the upper floors and restore the building’s original exterior.
Mr. Ziegler said that underneath the current facade the building features an attractive stone architecture. “It was a handsome corner and we would like to see it be that again,” he said.
Officials at the Order of Italian Sons and Daughters could not be reached for comment.
While the URA has targeted some real estate, any Downtown building owner interested in upgrading a property can contact the agency about possible aid, Mr. Zober said.
The city’s effort is unrelated to six acquisitions totaling $15.15 million made by an unidentified buyer on the east side of a block bordered by Wood, Fifth and Forbes over the past eight months.
While the identity of the buyer is not known, many in the real estate community believe it is PNC Financial Services Group, which built Three PNC Plaza. A PNC spokesman has said, “We don’t comment on speculation.”
There’s much talk that the block could be the site of the next big development Downtown. In the meantime, the city is hoping to fill in the cracks.
“Our goal is to really make Downtown look complete,” Mr. Zober said.
(Dec. 2) — Preservationists outside Pittsburgh are fighting to put an abandoned steel mill back to work — not so it can produce metal, but so it can protect history.
Since the blast furnaces fired up for the last time at the Carrie Furnace in 1978, the decaying steel mill on the bank of the Monongahela River has served as a solemn reminder of the industry that turned Pittsburgh into a thriving city — then left it polluted and jobless.
Now, more than three decades after the Carrie Furnace went from being a bustling workplace for 4,000 employees to a 168-acre ghost town, a team of preservationists is trying to convert the remains of the hulking factory in Rankin, Pa., into a museum dedicated to the region’s steel history.
“Pittsburgh is known for steel,” said Sherris Moreira, a spokeswoman for Rivers of Steel Heritage Corp., the group spearheading the preservation project. “There is this pride that people here have for their steel heritage — and this is a tangible way for people to connect with that history.”
Rivers of Steel hopes to preserve the remaining structures, transforming the industrial ruin into an interactive historical center inside a park.
At the heart of the proposed preservation project are the two remaining blast furnaces, which were built in 1907 and left largely unchanged until U.S. Steel halted operations at the Carrie Furnace.
The massive ovens are rare examples of pre-World War II steel-making technology — and they could make the perfect centerpiece for the proposed museum, according to Rivers of Steel curator of collections Tiffani Emig.
“They were never invested in for improvements and they were never upgraded. Everything was done by hand up until the day it closed,” Emig said. “That’s what makes them special.”
Those industrial relics — along with five other furnaces that were demolished — manufactured as much as 1,200 tons of iron per day, creating metals used in the construction of the Empire State Building and St. Louis’ Gateway Arch.
When the blast furnaces were operational, they turned ore, coke and limestone flux into a molten metal that was transported by rail across the aptly named “Hot Metal Bridge” to U.S. Steel’s Homestead Works, where it was converted into steel.
The Homestead Works were razed in 1988 and the site was converted into a shopping mall in 1999. Today, all that remains of the historic steel mill are the smokestacks, which tower over a movie theater parking lot across the river from the Carrie Furnace.
The Carrie Furnace has already been deemed a National Historic Landmark, meaning it likely won’t meet the same fate as the Homestead Works. But that doesn’t mean the site isn’t in danger.
When industry moved out, nature moved in. Tree roots have undermined the stability of some Carrie Furnace buildings, and grapevines scale the superstructure of the sprawling mill. Foxes, hawks and deer have recently been spotted on the site — and they’re not the only new visitors.
The abandoned steel mill has become a destination for graffiti artists, paintball players, vagrants and vandals who strip the site and sell the stolen scrap metal.
“The wiring and anything else that can be scrapped has been taken out,” said Emig, who told AOL News she’s often chased away uninvited visitors. “With the graffiti, the paint wears off. It’s the people who are physically stripping the site who are the problem.”
Rivers of Steel plans to restore some parts of the Carrie Furnace to look the way they did when the plant was operational. But other parts — like a massive sculpture of a deer head built from metal and wire in the 1990s by the Industrial Arts Co-Op — will remain as they are today.
“We will preserve some of the graffiti, definitely the deer,” Emig said. “This site didn’t die in 1978. This place continued to be used, and we want to show that.”
Even if Rivers of Steel gets its wish and is able to preserve the remaining steel mill structures, the rest of the 168-acre property could look very different in the coming years. Allegheny County owns the entire site and began renting the Carrie Furnace buildings to Rivers of Steel in May.
County officials are looking for builders interested in bringing light manufacturing and residential development to the rest of the grassy plot.
New businesses or homes near the old steel mill will certainly change the site’s context, but they won’t compromise the Carrie Furnace as a historic site, according to Emig.
“It’s already compromised,” she said. “There’s only two furnaces left; there used to be seven. You work with what you have.”
The most important thing the Carrie Furnace has is its historic site, according to Arthur Ziegler, president of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.
“We have saved artifacts from the mills — blowing engines, a Bessemer converter and so forth — but we had to relocate them,” Ziegler said. “But this will be the first time it’s all preserved on site.”
Obviously, making the dilapidated steel mill a safe destination for sightseers isn’t going to be easy — or cheap.
The group’s “bare-bones cost estimate” for the project is $78 million. Current funding only allows for repairs of a severely damaged roof at one of the powerhouses.
To fund other projects, like securing shaky catwalks, clearing out tons of debris from the mill’s stock house, or perhaps building a monorail like the one depicted in flashy conceptual images of the historic center, the group will seek public funding and private donations.
There’s talk of approaching the National Parks Service for help, but it’s unclear whether the cash-strapped agency would be interested in or able to offer assistance.
Though finances are a concern, Moreira says she’s been encouraged by the interest in the project.
“Heritage matters,” said Moreira, whose group has given tours of the Carrie Furnace to more than 700 eager visitors in the past two months. “It’s not only important to know where we come from, but it’s important looking to the future.”
In the years since the steel industry left Pittsburgh, the “Steel City” has in many ways attempted to distance itself from its metal-producing past. But the city’s industrial legacy lives on — and not just in the name of its football team and local beer.
According to Moreira, many Pittsburghers have started looking to the city’s steel-making roots as a source of pride.
“There was a lot of bitterness when the steel went away. People wanted to move on. But now people are at the point where they want to look back,” she said.
“This isn’t just steel; it’s about emotions.”
December 16, 2010
PENNSYLVANIA AT RISK 2010 ANNOUNCED
Preservation Pennsylvania announces the annual listing of the Commonwealth’s most endangered historic resources.
Preservation Pennsylvania, a statewide non-profit historic preservation group, released its annual Pennsylvania At Risk list today, which highlights 11 endangered resources.
Pennsylvania At Risk serves as a representative sampling of the Commonwealth’s most endangered historic resources. For the purpose of the list, endangerment is defined as threat of demolition, significant deterioration, vandalism, alteration, and/or loss of its historic setting. It is Preservation Pennsylvania’s belief that publishing this list draws statewide attention to the plight of Pennsylvania’s historic resources, promotes local action to protect resources, and encourages additional state funding for historic sites.
Resources included on the Pennsylvania At Risk 2010 list include:
East Stroudsburg Railroad Station (East Stroudsburg, Monroe County)
Built in 1864 as the Stroudsburg station on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, the East Stroudsburg Railroad Station is a landmark in the community. The depot’s presence led to rapid commercial growth, establishing Crystal Street as the business hub of a rapidly expanding community. Thanks to the efforts of East Stroudsburg’s residents and supporters, and the partnerships between community groups, non-profits, private corporations and individuals and the borough, the building was saved earlier this year after demolition of the station had begun. However, initial funding to save the 1883 building only covers partial reconstruction and restoration, so efforts to secure the long-term future of the station will need to continue.
U.S.S. Olympia (Philadelphia, Philadelphia County)
Built by the United Iron Works of San Francisco in 1890-1893 and commissioned in 1895, the cruiser U.S.S. Olympia is a National Historic Landmark that represents critical points in American history. She served as the flagship of the Asiatic Squadron in the Spanish-American War, and it was from the Olympia’s bridge on May 1, 1898 during the Battle of Manila that
Commodore George Dewey issued the famous command: “You may fire when you are ready, Gridley.” Its final mission was bringing home the body of World War I’s Unknown Soldier from
France in 1921. It was decommissioned in 1922, then opened as a museum in 1958. Since taking ownership of the ship in 1996, the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia has spent $5.5 million on repairs, inspections and maintenance of the Olympia; yet, without major a refurbishment and plans for its future use/preservation, the Olympia will either sink at its moorings, be sold for scrap, or be scuttled for an artificial reef off Cape May, New Jersey. While efforts to secure private or public funding for the project have been unsuccessful to date, the National Park Service has begun working with stakeholders to seek a positive preservation outcome. The U.S.S. Olympia was scheduled to close to the public November 22, 2010. However, it was recently announced that she will remain open until January.
Schuylkill School (Schuylkill Township, Chester County)
Schuylkill School was built in 1930 and brought children together from a number of area one- and two-room schoolhouses. Construction of the school was made possible through the philanthropy of Frank B. Foster, who helped fund three consolidated schools in Chester County (the other two of which are still in use). In 2002, the Schuylkill School was determined eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places; that same year the Phoenixville Area School District began to consider the school’s demolition. Despite studies that have identified several potential new uses for the building, the Phoenixville Area School District plans to begin demolishing the building in December 2010. The ground where the historic school now stands will become a parking lot.
Stewartstown Railroad (Stewartstown to New Freedom, York County)
From 1884 to 1972, the Stewartstown Railroad connected farmers and manufacturers to markets in Baltimore. The Stewartstown Railroad remains in business under its original charter of 1884–the only such operation in existence that did not merge with another railroad or was subjected to any form of corporate reorganization. Seven railroad structures along the 7.4-mile line have been listed in the National Register of Historic Places and the line itself has been determined eligible for inclusion in the National Register. The financial generosity of George Hart, President of the Stewartstown Railroad, kept the company operational through recent tough times; however, this resulted in a substantial lien against the railroad. Arrangements to forgive the $352,000 sum were not made in Mr. Hart’s estate plans as expected. Now, unless the Bucks County Historical Society, beneficiary of Mr. Hart’s estate, will agree to defer payment of the lien for several years, the Stewartstown Railroad would be forced to liquidate its assets to raise the $352,000 that it owes.
Holland Hall “Huidekoper Mansion” (Meadville, Crawford County) Holland Hall was built by Arthur Clark (A.C.) Huidekoper in 1899 and it survives as Meadville’s only Gilded Age mansion. Holland Hall is currently threatened with demolition. Following the death of Frances Reynolds Huidekoper in 1932, Holland Hall was occupied by Allegheny College’s Phi Delta Theta fraternity who occupied it from 1935 until 1995. It was then sold and has remained vacant for fifteen years. In order to prevent the demolition or continued neglect of Holland Hall, a buyer interested in acquiring and rehabilitating this architecturally significant building is needed.
“Plantation Plenty” Isaac Manchester Farm (Avella, Independence Township, Washington County) Plantation Plenty is a farm of just over 400 acres that has been owned and occupied by the members of the Manchester family for 210 years. The house, completed by Isaac Manchester in 1815, is one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in Western Pennsylvania. The property is currently operating as a multi-faceted organic farm, producing milk, beef, pork, eggs and a variety of fruits and vegetables. While much of the significance of Plantation Plenty is clearly visible through its buildings, it also contains potentially important prehistoric and historic archaeological sites. Despite the property’s importance, it is now threatened by longwall mining. Subsidence caused by longwall mining under the farm, which causes the ground to drop between 4 and 6 feet at the surface, may cause severe damage to the historic buildings, and will fracture the rock that forms springs and wells which may alter or eliminate them. In addition, a large ventilation shaft is proposed immediately adjacent to the 3-acre protected farmstead. This would be a visual intrusion on the historic farm, and would alter the farm’s setting by introducing noise inappropriate to the quiet, agrarian landscape.
122-124 and 126 West Miner Street (West Chester, Chester County)
The National Register listed West Chester Historic District (Boundary Increase) is locally significant as a governmental and commercial center that reflects period architectural styles and the community’s development. Residential structures built circa 1844 and 1837, respectively, the buildings at 122-124 and 126 West Miner Street in West Chester are contributing elements to the West Chester Historic District. Both buildings are currently threatened with demolition. They are owned by the adjacent First Presbyterian Church, which proposes to tear them down to make room for additional facilities. The current proposal is a complete reversal from the Church’s originally presented plan which incorporated the two buildings into the expanded facility. The demolition of these two historic buildings will result in a significant loss of the community’s historic fabric and will erode the historic character of the larger community.
Laverock Hill “Sims” Estate (Cheltenham & Springfield Townships, Montgomery County)
One of the last intact Gilded Age country estates in Montgomery County, the centerpiece of the Laverock Hill Estate is an 11,000 square foot residence created in a neo-Georgian style. The 42-acre property also includes a 19th century stone dwelling, the farm’s original horse and cattle barn, the former dairy barn (now a residence), and four additional dwellings. The Laverock Hill mansion has been vacant for nearly three years, as have the stable, carriage house and greenhouse. In early 2008, Hansen Properties, LLC acquired the 42-acre tract, and proposed a development that would include 216 residential units targeted for sale/rental to adults age 55 and over. No plans have been submitted yet for the portion of the property in Springfield Township, but the developer has expressed an interest in building at least 120 cluster housing units with requisite parking, roads and utilities on that portion of the estate. The property has been determined eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, however, it is not located in a local historic district that is regulated by a historic preservation ordinance. In an attempt to preserve the site, over 150 neighboring families have informally organized into a group called Save Laverock Hill. Their goal is to have the current permit application denied, and to work to find an alternative plan for the use of the property.
Dutch Corner Rural Historic District (Bedford Township, Bedford County)
The Dutch Corner Rural Historic District includes over 30 historic farmsteads as well as a church, a school and multiple cemeteries. Evitts Mountain is a dominant natural feature that clearly forms the physical, visual and legal edge of the Dutch Corner district. Atlantic Wind, LLC, a subsidiary of Iberdrola Renewables, proposes to develop 24 40-story wind turbines in a chain along the top of Evitts Mountain, surrounding Dutch Corner on two sides. The development will involve removal of trees from the mountain, as well as blasting and bulldozing rock then pulverizing it for use as fill to flatten the mountain top for the turbine pads, access road and cable trench. In addition to reshaping the mountain, the blasting will fracture the bedrock and disrupt the flow of groundwater to the area. Operation of the wind turbines will result in a noise increase of 15 to 20 dBA, replacing the natural sounds of a rural community with constant noise. This development will result in drastic changes to the Dutch Corner Rural Historic District, and will severely compromise qualities of the district that contribute to its significance.
Eagles Mere Historic District (Eagles Mere, Sullivan County)
Eagles Mere Historic District is an intact turn-of-the-century resort community consisting of cottages, boat houses, commercial buildings, churches and outbuildings situated around a natural spring-fed lake 2,100 feet above sea level in the Allegheny Mountains. The district also includes Eagles Mere Beach, hiking trails, pristine wooded areas, and is surrounded by thousands of acres of forest. Since its establishment in the 1880s, people have been working to preserve Eagles Mere as a secluded retreat for visitors and residents. However, the setting of this historic district is currently threatened by natural gas extraction from Marcellus shale. Unlike many places whose economy could benefit from natural gas extraction, if the District’s water supply/quality is damaged, its beautiful setting is altered, or the peaceful, secluded nature of the area is disrupted by increased truck traffic and the operation of heavy equipment, those very features that make Eagles Mere attractive and economically viable will be lost.
Neuweiler Brewery (Allentown, Lehigh County)
Construction of this large brewery began in 1911 and the facility opened in 1913 producing traditional German style beers. Designed by architects Peuckert and Wunder to satisfy the demands of owner Louis F. Neuweiler, the brewery was more elaborately adorned than most industrial facilities of its day. The company closed its doors in 1968, and the site has remained mostly vacant since then. Underutilization of the buildings has led to their neglect and deterioration, which threaten the resource’s survival. The Redevelopment Authority of the City of Allentown (RACA) now owns the property. Recognizing its significance, they have conducted a study that shows that the vast majority of the complex is still structurally sounds. RACA is taking initial steps to facilitate rehabilitation of the brewery, but a developer will be needed to complete the rehabilitation and put the building back in use to prevent further deterioration or the need for demolition.
Updates on Previously Listed Properties
The Pennsylvania At Risk list also includes updates on previously listed properties. Articles about the J. W. Cooper High School Shenandoah, Schuylkill County (PA At Risk 2001); Saylor Cement Kilns Coplay, Lehigh County (PA At Risk 2005); and Church of the Assumption on Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia (PA At Risk 2009) are featured in the 2010 issue. For additional information on updates, please see the attached link for the Pennsylvania At Risk publication or contact Preservation Pennsylvania at 717-234-2310.
The Pennsylvania At Risk 2010 list is released in partnership with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Committee (www.phmc.state.pa.us). Preservation Pennsylvania is a statewide, not-for-profit, educational and advocacy historic preservation organization and serves as a statewide voice on historic preservation issues. For more information, visit the website at www.preservationpa.org or contact Preservation Pennsylvania at 717-234-2310.
Pop City Media
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
The Urban Redevelopment Authority has agreed to lease–with an option to sell–the 130,000-square-foot Fruit Auction Terminal Produce Building on Smallman Street in the Strip District. The Buncher Co. plans to turn the building into a thriving commercial space.
To purchase the building, Buncher must commit to building 75-units of residential housing on the 55-acres of surface parking behind the Terminal Building. The firm must also promise to preserve the historic architecture.
“The building really is at the end of its useful life. It needs anywhere from $6 to $10 million in capital improvements to bring it up to code and preserve it,” says Rob Stephany, executive director of the URA.
According to Stephany, Buncher is about 20% of the way into their planning process, having selected the renowned historic preservation architect Albert Feloni to create a master plan for the Terminal Building. Astorino is under contract to do the master plan for the vacant surface parking along the river between the convention center and 41st Street.
Once Buncher submits the master plans to the URA for review, the gears of construction can really start turning. Stephany says a recently conducted market analysis indicates the building would best benefit from restaurants, office, and showroom spaces on the platform, citing the Society for Contemporary Craft and The Pittsburgh Public Market as examples of forward-thinking reuse of these kinds of buildings.
As part of the project, the URA and the City recently rezoned part of the Strip as a redevelopment area, causing concern from some neighborhood stakeholders who thought the URA might be preparing for eminent domain seizures. Stephany says that while this is certainly not the case, they didn’t do a good of a job in communicating their plans. Their intent was to make funds from investors more flexible.
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Writer: John Farley
Source: Rob Stephany, URA
Photograph copyright Brian Cohen
Pittsburgh Business Times – by Tim Schooley
Date: Thursday, December 9, 2010, 10:27am EST
In a bid to spark a transformational wave of development in the Strip District, Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority will vote on a plan to beat a path to the Allegheny riverfront this week through the red brick walls of the Pennsylvania Railroad Fruit Auction Terminal Building.
At its board meeting scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 9, the URA is expected to vote for the city to enter into an agreement in which it would lease the six-block-long building to the Buncher Co., giving the local development company an option to buy the property. A vote of approval by the mayor-appointed board is expected to provide Buncher with the opportunity to develop the building in tandem with a 75-unit apartment project on riverfront land Buncher owns behind the building, according to URA Executive Director Rob Stephany.
Stephany described the plan as a key move to kick-start development of approximately 55 acres Buncher owns that extend along Smallman Street and the Allegheny River from 11th to 23rd streets, a tract of largely undeveloped urban land he believed is as large as any of its kind in the country.
“The produce terminal is kind of at the end of its useful life. It needs to be part of something bigger,” Stephany said. “My gut tells me there’s a real strong appetite by the Buncher Co. to really begin this project in earnest.”
Calls to Buncher were not immediately returned.
Stephany said Buncher has demonstrated its commitment to push forward with development there by hiring MacLachlan, Cornelius & Filoni Inc. to handle the preservation and design for the renovation of the 130,000-square-foot terminal building, a project he estimated will cost from $7 million to $10 million. The redevelopment of the terminal building, now home to number of produce wholesalers as well as the Pittsburgh Public Market, which opened a few months ago, will serve as a gateway project that should allow Buncher to being to develop the 12 to 15 acres behind it that have been largely blocked from any new plans by the building.
The redevelopment will include building two access routes through the property, Stephany said, which he said was a requirement for making any new project behind the building viable.
“It’s so big and so long, if you did two penetrations to it, it’s almost negligible from an impact standpoint,” Stephany said, predicting the changes will concern preservationists.
Art Ziegler, president of Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, said his organization is supportive of the goal of redeveloping the building as well as establishing access through the building to enable development behind it, as long as that access is for pedestrians.
“We think that the building can be a landmark for the new project. It frames and defines the project,” Ziegler said. “We do not object to a pedestrian passage and maybe two. Our only objection is to make roadways (for cars) through the building.”
The building transaction is part of a larger collaboration between the city and Buncher. In the summer, the city reached an agreement with Buncher for a swap of properties that included the terminal building, a riverfront warehouse building in the 9th ward of Lawrenceville and the former Tippins steel property on the riverfront at the 62nd Street Bridge in Lawrenceville’s 10th ward.
Stephany said the URA continues to work with the building’s established produce wholesalers to identify potential new locations for them. He expects the building will be redeveloped for a host of office users, restaurants, studios and other uses, noting the terminal’s four-foot elevation above Smallman Street likely won’t work for retail. The infrastructure costs for the project have not yet been determined, Stephany said.
The URA also is working to establish a district for tax increment financing and redevelopment for the Strip District. Those proposals drew strong neighborhood criticism at a planning hearing on Dec. 7, and Stephany emphasized the TIF district and redevelopment zone are under consideration to improve the neighborhood’s eligibility for state and federal funds — and not for eminent domain.
Stephany said there is nothing in the city’s agreement with Buncher that guarantees the new Pittsburgh Public Market will remain in the building but that both the URA and Buncher are excited about its start and see it as part of a larger redevelopment plan. The time frame for Buncher’s development is not yet set.
“The end result of this isn’t going to be known for a while,” Stephany said.
Chuck Hammel, an owner of the nearby Cork Factory apartment building, described the URA’s plan to turn the terminal building over to Buncher as an important step in bringing new development to the neighborhood’s riverfront. One possible hurdle, he said, will be reaching a final agreement between Buncher and the Allegheny Valley Railroad over right-of-way issues, something Hammel hopes will be resolved for the good of everyone involved.
Hammel is working to develop a 90-unit apartment project near the almost fully occupied Cork Factory and said there is a steady influx of would-be tenants for more housing in the area.
“We have probably 20 to 30 people who look at the Cork Factory each week,” he said. “There’s a fair amount of out-of-town people being located here.”
Thursday, December 09, 2010By Margaret Smykla
The public put its money where its mouth was during a public meeting last week about the future of the South Park Fairgrounds.
Everyone in the audience was given $500 in fake money to play a kind of board game, placing the “money” on an element that the player thought was a priority.
Elements receiving heavy play included removing Schoonmaker Hall, improving the oval fields/track surfaces and enhancing the park gateways.
A popular write-in item was “improving bathrooms.”
The input from this meeting, as well as another public meeting in September and focus groups and an online survey will be incorporated into a report from GAI Consultants, of Homestead, that is planned for completion at month’s end.
The study is supported by the Richard King Mellon Foundation, the Heinz Endowments and the county.
While there is no money in hand for improvements, the county is more likely to receive funding from foundations, and the state and federal governments, if a plan is in place, said county parks director Andy Baechle. There is no timetable.
The process was set in motion through a master plan created several years ago for all nine county parks. One of its recommendations was the formation of a nonprofit parks foundation to which tax-deductible donations could be made.
That done, the master plan was again addressed, such as its call for a detailed vision of the 76 county-owned acres from Corrigan Drive to McCorkle Road encompassing the Fairgrounds, exhibit hall buildings, amphitheater, police barracks, Nature Center, tennis/basketball courts, and more.
“This area has a tons of potential, but it has lagged,” said Jeaneen Zappa, the Allegheny County’s sustainability manager.
At the meeting, three options — titled “Modified,” “Campus” and “Picturesque” — were presented to solicit comments from the audience.
The “Modified” option is based on what can be done fairly easily and economically, such as removing/repairing bleachers, improving oval fields/track surfaces and enhancing park gateways.
With “Campus,” which emphasizes pedestrians, the recommendations include removing Agricultural Hall for additional parking, adding a “green” parking lot at McCorkle and Brownsville roads and reclaiming the southern end of Catfish Run.
“Picturesque” focuses on the naturalistic quality of the park’s original planning, such as reconfiguring the oval track to curvilinear shape, relocating the tennis/basketball courts and relocating the nature center adjacent to Catfish Run.
Ms. Zappa said the final report will likely include elements of all three,
Christine Fuller, executive director of the Allegheny County Parks Foundation, said the organization will review the final report and work with the county on the next steps.
After the meeting, Jeff Danchik, director of the Mon Valley Express, a drum and bugle corps which leases space from the county at Brownsville Road and Corrigan Drive, said the area needs more attractions, such as a craft shows or flea markets.
“A lot of people don’t know we’re here,” Mr. Danchik said.
Walt Sackinsky of South Park said he would like to see the infrastructure addressed, such as aging water, gas, and sewer lines, and fire hydrants.
For Terry Tressler of South Park, priorities include improvements to Corrigan Drive such as adding a middle turning lane with room on each side of the road for walkers and bikers.
His wife, Donna Tressler, would like to see Schoonmaker Hall, which is used for storage, razed. “It is falling down and dangerous, with kids going in and out,” she said.
A big priority for both is improving the bathrooms.
The couple, lifetime park users, are hopeful for change after attending both public meetings.
“I’m impressed with the caliber of people who seem to want to improve the park,” he said.