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Category Archive: Legislative / Advocacy

  1. Civic Arena May be Spared Until Summer

    By Jeremy Boren
    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    Pittsburgh could be deep into summer by the time an effort to save the Civic Arena is settled.

    The Historic Review Commission is expected Jan. 5 to review a nomination to dub the 49-year-old, silver-domed arena a historic structure, a designation that would protect it from the wrecking ball.

    The commission’s public hearing on the nomination is scheduled for Feb. 2, with a final vote set for March 2. All meetings are open to the public. The final decision by Pittsburgh City Council might not occur until late August depending on how the process plays out.

    Penguins officials want the arena to be demolished to make way for a mix of retail, residential and office development on a 28-acre site.

    The city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority, which owns the arena, approved the demolition in September.

    The city Planning Commission approved demolition in a unanimous vote Nov. 22. Advocates attempting to save the arena immediately nominated it as a historic structure, which means it can’t be demolished during the review process.

    “(Our) goal has always been to find a economically viable community-based reuse plan, not to delay demolition,” said Rob Pfaffmann, an architect who heads Reuse the Igloo, a grassroots group that helped draft the nomination.

    In this case, the Planning and Historic Review commissions make only recommendations to City Council.

    The commissions’ recommendations must be made within five months of nomination. Council must hold a public hearing and take a final vote within 120 days of receiving those nominations, according to city code.

    If each group takes the maximum amount of time, council wouldn’t vote until August.

    The SEA had planned to demolish the arena in April.

  2. 3 Options Offered to Revitalize South Park

    By Matthew Santoni
    Thursday, December 2, 2010

    A cluster of former fairground buildings along Brownsville Road in South Park could get a green makeover, under three plans officials presented Wednesday night as part of Allegheny County’s effort to revitalize the park.

    Titled the “modified,” “campus” and “picturesque” concept plans, each offers an increasing degree of replacing parking lots, roads and rundown halls with green space and walking paths, said Todd Brant, project manager for Homestead-based GAI Consultants.

    The modified plan would demolish Schoonmaker Hall, replace some parking lots with grassy areas that can still support overflow parking and add more pedestrian pathways to the site, which Brant said is “a sea of asphalt.”

    “The fairground is unique in this large concentration of buildings, but it’s not as park-like as the rest of the park,” he said.

    The campus plan would go slightly greener by moving more parking near McCorkle Road, cutting out sections of access roads and demolishing a few more of the old fair buildings.

    The picturesque concept would go furthest by removing the oval track and replacing it with a more meandering walking trail. The bleachers, tennis and basketball courts would be removed and replaced with trees, and the concrete channel for Catfish Run would be removed for a more natural-looking stream.

    County Parks Director Andy Baechle emphasized that the plans, which won’t be finalized until the end of the year, will only be a guide until funding to make the changes is found.

    “We don’t have funding in hand to do things right away,” he said. “But with this plan and good public participation, we’re more likely to get money from foundations, from the state and federal governments.”

    The plans will be posted online today and public surveys can be taken until Sunday at

  3. Plans for South Park Fairgrounds to be Aired Wednesday

    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

    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.

  4. Preserve Pittsburgh Community Meetings in December

    PHLF News
    November 17, 2010

    Preserve Pittsburgh, a component of PlanPGH ( is discussing cultural heritage and historic preservation, specifically the draft recommendations for the PreservePGH component of PLANPGH.

    PLANPGH is pittsburgh’s first ever comprehensive plan–it will be the gameplan for the City’s growth over the next 25 years.

    The goal of the PreservePGH component is to develop policies and strategies for the protection and preservation of Pittsburgh’s historic and cultural assets.

    Monday, December 6th
    6:30 to 8:00pm

    South Side Market House
    1 Bedford Square (S 12th St at Bingham St.)
    South Side Flats

    Tuesday, December 17th
    6:30 to 8:00pm

    new Hazlett Theatre
    5 Allegheny Square East
    Allegheny Center

    Monday, December 13th
    6:30 to 8:00pm

    Bakery Square
    6425 Penn Ave
    (Park in the Bakery Square garage)

    Click here for more information.

  5. Buying Here: Beechview

    Saturday, November 13, 2010
    By Kevin Kirkland, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    The city's Urban Redevelopment Authority has foreclosed and put on the market four buildings -- 1600, 1601, 1602 and 1619 Broadway Ave. == with hopes of enticing developers to invest in this business district and begin its turnaround. Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette

    The panoramic views of the South Hills from the third-floor balcony of 1600 Broadway Ave. are a sight for sore eyes — especially if you live in Beechview.

    For the last five years, residents of that city neighborhood and riders on the LRT have had to look at mostly shuttered storefronts on Broadway that were bought — then abandoned — by investor Bernardo Katz. The city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority has foreclosed and put on the market four buildings — 1600, 1601, 1602 and 1619 Broadway Ave. — with hopes of enticing developers to invest in this business district and begin its turnaround.

    “Beechview is a very cool neighborhood,” said URA Director Rob Stephany. “I think its proximity to the T makes it interesting.”

    Mr. Katz defaulted on millions of dollars worth of mortgages and more than $700,000 in loans from the URA that he used to buy these and other commercial properties in Beechview, Oakland and Mt. Lebanon. He fled to his native Brazil in December 2007 and was charged in absentia last year with federal wire and mortgage fraud.

    Although most of the buildings were left to deteriorate, Mr Katz worked on the exterior and interior of the first floor of 1600 Broadway and briefly opened a Mexican restaurant there. The largest of the four, it’s now priced at $194,800. The newer storefront reflects its early 1900s construction while the second and third floors have a total of five apartments and another in the basement, with walkout access on Hampshire Avenue. The URA gutted the apartments to the plaster lathe, removing asbestos and all mechanical systems.

    “That’s the way developers want it,” said Dave Majcher, URA senior construction coordinator.

    Also gutted was the adjoining 1602 Broadway ($43,000), a former bar that has a new roof and a rickety rear addition that the URA says should be removed. Across the street is 1601 Broadway ($130,000), another former bar with a turret and a few architectural details that survived previous remodels — an original staircase and a columned fireplace mantel on the second floor. The views from its second- and third-floor windows are classic Pittsburgh, with small houses clustered along hilly streets.

    A half-dozen storefronts separate 1601 from 1619 Broadway ($70,000), a small former video store with an intact three-bedroom apartment behind.

    “It’s perfect for a small business owner,” Mr. Stephany said. “Someone could be in at a reasonable cost.”

    The other three buildings, however, are suitable only for developers, he said. A feasibility study the URA commissioned last year estimated exterior and interior renovation costs at $588,799 for 1600 Broadway, $409,586 for 1601 and $457,866 for 1602.

    “These are probably $600,000 events,” Mr. Stephany said.

    Even with façade grants and streetscape loans, buyers would still be looking at construction loans of at least $400,000 for each building. Everything is not bleak, however. IGA plans to reopen the shuttered Foodland next to 1602 Broadway, and brothers Kevin and Adam Costa have purchased 1603 Broadway to open their Crested Duck Charcuterie, “an artisanal meat market.” At least initially, the apartments may be the hotter part of the properties.

    “I do think the first floors will come,” Mr. Stephany said. “I’m not sure they will come first.”

    Susheela Nemani-Stanger, a URA project development specialist, believes loft apartments would suit college students who appreciate their proximity to mass transit.

    “They would be perfect for students from the Art Institute or Culinary Institute,” she said.

    For more information on 1600, 1601, 1602 or 1619 Broadway Ave., Beechview, call 412-255-6612 or go to



    2009 2010
    SALES 138 147
    MEDIAN PRICE $45,000 $62,000
    HIGHEST PRICE $505,000 $380,000


    2009 2010
    SALES 143 134
    MEDIAN PRICE $121,250 $137,000
    HIGHEST PRICE $800,000 $595,000


    2009 2010
    SALES 141 137
    MEDIAN PRICE $12,000 $13,000
    HIGHEST PRICE $750,000 $669,000


    2009 2010
    SALES 462 467
    MEDIAN PRICE $65,000 $68,000
    HIGHEST PRICE $625,000 $465,000


    2009 2010
    SALES 245 208
    MEDIAN PRICE $33,000 $31,800
    HIGHEST PRICE $200,000 $255,000


    2009 2010
    SALES 121 148
    MEDIAN PRICE $49,000 $45,000
    HIGHEST PRICE $133,000 $147,500


    2009 2010
    SALES 58 54
    MEDIAN PRICE $9,900 $10,100
    HIGHEST PRICE $77,000 $55,000


    2009 2010
    SALES 45 72
    MEDIAN PRICE $66,000 $63,000
    HIGHEST PRICE $147,400 $335,000


    2009 2010
    SALES 115 119
    MEDIAN PRICE $67,000 $73,000
    HIGHEST PRICE $226,000 $229,550


    2009 2010
    SALES 58 55
    MEDIAN PRICE $16,201 $20,000
    HIGHEST PRICE $79,500 $76,500


    2009 2010
    SALES 17 23
    MEDIAN PRICE $43,100 $22,000
    HIGHEST PRICE $169,900 $125,000

    Beechview Map

    At a glance
    • Website:
    • Size: 1.46 square miles
    • Population: 8,772 (2000 census)
    • School district: Pittsburgh Public (
    • Enrollment: 25,326
    • Average 2010 SAT scores: 425 verbal, 446 math, 423 writing
    • Taxes on a property assessed at 100,000 : $2,870; City: $1,080 (10.8 mills), school district: $1,392 (13.92 mills), county: $398 (4.69 mills), wage tax: 3 percent (1 percent to the city, 2 percent to the school district)
    • Claim to fame: Named for the many beech trees found on its hillsides, Beechview (incorporated as a borough in 1905 and annexed to the city four years later) has the steepest street in hilly Pittsburgh, and quite possibly the world. Canton Street has a grade of 37 percent — that is, it rises 37 feet per 100 feet of run. So steep is the bottom half, that residents aren’t supposed to drive down it.

  6. $25,000 Grant a Major Boost in Restoring Wilkinsburg’s Business District

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    Pop City Media

    Wilkinsburg’s main commercial district on Penn Avenue suffers from a 38% vacancy rate, but a $25,000 grant from State Representative Joseph Preston Jr. to the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation is the most recent achievement for the growing two year old organization hard at work to revitalize their community.

    A great deal of the grant money will be used for promotional materials that will make the transformation efforts in the business district more visible and help visitor’s better identify the borough’s locality.

    “We’re going to be getting new light pole banners. We’re making a business district map and brochures that we can put online and in print form. We also do a monthly newsletter,” says Tracy Evans, the WCDC’s first full-time executive director, who was hired in June.

    A major benefit entails the creation of a new WCDC website that will better connect the Wilkinsburg community, visitors, and businesses. According to Evans, the website will likely be up by Spring 2011.

    Additionally, Wilkinsburg has partnered with TreeVitalize in order to apply for a grant that will allow for 500 new trees to be planted along Penn Avenue. While the grant is still pending, WCDC beautification coordinator Michael Yellets is currently working with local business owners to select the most suitable tree species for various segments of the Penn Avenue sidewalk.

    Writer: John Farley
    Source: Tracy Evans, WCDC

  7. Church Will Be Turned into Condos

    Saturday, November 06, 2010
    By Marylynne Pitz, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    The Madonna Del Castello Church on Duquesne Avenue, Swissvale, is being renovated and converted into condo units by the Mon Valley Initiative. Bob Donaldson/Post-Gazette

    By next summer, Madonna del Castello Church in Swissvale will be transformed into four condominiums.

    Located at 7416 Duquesne Ave., the former Roman Catholic church has been empty for the last five years, said Patrick Shattuck, senior real estate developer for the Mon Valley Initiative.

    Mt. Zion Fire Baptized Holiness Church of God of America purchased the church from the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1987 for $55,000. About five years ago, the congregation moved out, Mr. Shattuck said. In September, Mon Valley Initiative purchased the property for $10,000.

    The church has a front Flemish-style gable, a barrel-vaulted ceiling and a large dome over the altar; all of these elements will be incorporated into the redesign.

    “The space will certainly be dramatic with the high, barrel-vaulted ceilings. The altar will become a dining room with the dome over it,” Mr. Shattuck said.

    Inside the church. Bob Donaldson/Post-Gazette

    The building has been reconfigured by Lami Grubb Architects; renovations will be done by Mistick Construction. The building has stood empty and open to the elements, sustaining major water damage.

    “The congregation that took it over actually put a dropped ceiling in. They were unaware that the water damage was substantial. So, they repaired the roof but a good portion of the plaster ceiling fell onto the dropped ceiling. That was when they were forced to move out,” Mr. Shattuck said.

    The plaster was actually helping to hold the building together, he said. When structural engineers examined the building, they found gaps between the walls.

    “You can see daylight between the front wall and the side walls,” Mr. Shattuck said.

    Another view inside the church. Bob Donaldson/Post-Gazette

    Three of the new units will have 1,600 square feet, two bedrooms and 1 1/2 baths and be priced at $85,000. The fourth unit, which incorporates the dome over the altar, will have three bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, a study and 2,400 square feet of space. It will cost $105,000.

    Asbestos has been removed and the red brick exterior is being cleaned. Cast plaster moldings, six Corinthian capitals and arches in the church will be recast and incorporated into the design. The church sits on a quarter of an acre and there will be off-street parking for residents.

    “We own a double adjacent lot next to it. There were two buildings that we had to demolish. It may be that we develop a single new house on the site or it may be that it becomes a community garden space,” Mr. Shattuck said.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

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