Category Archive: News Wire Services
By Richard Gazarik, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
An Allegheny County development firm plans to build a medical facility and student housing at the site of the former Brownsville Tri-County Hospital in Fayette County, a company official disclosed.
Falck Properties of Bethel Park said Tuesday that plans include an urgent-care facility, blood lab, senior citizen center, and a restaurant and cafeteria.
Spokeswoman Karen Frank said the housing will be for upperclassmen and graduate students who attend nearby California University of Pennsylvania in Washington County.
The company is not affiliated with the school, university officials said last week.
The Fayette County Planning Commission last week unanimously recommended a zoning change that will allow development of the 27-acre site. A public hearing on the zoning change will be March 24 in Uniontown, a planning commission clerk said.
The hearing occurs two days before a bankruptcy court-imposed deadline to complete the sale to Falck in order to avoid a sheriff’s sale of the property.
A bankruptcy court judge gave Falck until March 26 to complete the transaction. Parkvale Bank, which is owed $1.2 million, wants to sell the property to the highest bidder but agreed to delay the sale to give Falck time to obtain financing.
“We are hoping that the Falck Properties will create a stable tax base for Redstone Township and will lead to additional opportunities for other land and business owners,” Frank said.
Falck is paying $1.8 million for the property and has submitted $180,000 in hand money, which will be forfeited if the sale is not completed, according to a court order.
The sale hit a snag when it was discovered that the property was misadvertised as zoned for commercial use when its actual zoning classification is residential. That error has prevented Falck from obtaining financing for the project.
Brownsville Hospital closed in 2006 because it was losing money. Another group of investors reopened the hospital but could not make the facility profitable.
Since then, community leaders searched for ways and the financial means to restart a hospital but have not been successful.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011By Diana Nelson Jones, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Bricks and mortar rained onto 21st Street Monday morning, the likely result of water damage to the side of the S&S Candy and Cigar Co. at 2025 E. Carson St. on the South Side.
No one was injured.
An almost identical incident occurred in the morning when bricks fell from the side of a dentist’s office in Washington, Pa., damaging four cars.
Bob Farrow, division chief of Pittsburgh’s EMS department, said the outer layer of bricks on the S&S building gave out, followed by a crashing down of older bricks and mortar behind it.
The owner was not available to discuss the damage, but acting Bureau of Building Inspection Chief John Jennings said he suspected that water got in behind the veneer of bricks and pushed them out.
“We have seen this before, where water seeps in behind the brick, freezes and pushes the bricks out,” he said.
A structural engineer will be called in, he said. “We need to shore up the floor joists because they are compromised, but the damage is just to this one side. This building can be saved.”
Police closed South 21st Street between East Carson and Sidney streets. The parking lane alongside the candy store was covered with rubble.
Dozens of bystanders stared as the outer layer that had not fallen hung peeled back like a rind.
The candy and tobacco store has been in business in Pittsburgh since 1965.
In Washington, the brick facade of the dentist’s office detached without warning onto a side street, crushing four cars in the building’s parking lot.
Strong winds are being blamed for the collapse, according to what building owner Thomas C. Drewitz heard from insurers.
Emergency workers cordoned off the two-story building in the 800 block of Jefferson Avenue after the 10:40 a.m. incident. The city issued an emergency demolition permit to remove any loose bricks that had not fallen.
“Everything started to rumble and shake,” Dr. Drewitz said. “It went down fast.”
Dr. Drewitz said the building was constructed around 1965.
Three cars were totaled and a fourth suffered heavy damage.
“They were flat,” fire Capt. Nick Blumer said of the vehicles.
Dr. Drewitz closed the office for the day but said he planned to reopen today.
By Margaret Harding
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Francine Mykich was preparing S&S Candy and Cigar Co. for its busiest day of the week when she thought she heard a truck hit the South Side store.
“We came in just like a normal Monday morning, and then all of a sudden ka-boom,” said Mykich, who has worked at the business on East Carson and South 21st streets for 26 years. “We came outside, and it’s been steadily crumbling.”
A wall of the building, which dates to 1892, collapsed onto 21st Street about 8:40 a.m. Rubble covered the sidewalk and part of the street. All the employees safely evacuated the building, and no one was injured.
“The time of day was very fortunate,” Mykich said. “We weren’t open yet, thank God.”
The collapse likely was caused by moisture freezing between layers of brick and breaking the bonds between them, said John Jennings, the city’s interim building inspection director. When the bricks thaw, there’s nothing left holding them together, he said.
The owner of the building, identified in property records as Richard Stephens, has to get an engineer to stabilize the building before clean-up begins, Jennings said. Bricks and pieces of the building continued to fall throughout the morning. Through employees, Stephens declined to comment.
It could take a day or more to stabilize the building, Jennings said.
The building is part of the East Carson Historic District. It first appeared as Armour & Company Wholesale Meats in 1892, said Frank Stroker, assistant archivist with Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.
“It was probably their main facility at that point,” Stroker said.
Armour held the location until 1952. The building then briefly became home of Freezer Foods Inc., Stroker said. By 1956, Brinn’s China and Glassware moved in, he said, and held the spot until S&S took over in 1965.
City officials would have to approve any demolition, alterations or repairs because of its location in the historic district, said John Martine, an architect and member of the local advisory committee to the city’s Historic Review Commission.
Martine said he’s always admired a canopy along the side of the building. The collapse destroyed the canopy.
“It was a very simple, but interesting canopy with wonderful wood brackets that went the length of the loading docks,” Martine said. “It’s a very working-type building. It’s not that fancy, but there’s enough detail there that it would be a loss to see the building go.”
Thursday, February 10, 2011
By Mark Belko, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A Hill District grocery store is moving a step closer to reality.
The Hill House Economic Development Corp. announced today that it had hired the joint venture team of L.S. Brinker and CM Solutions to serve as construction managers for the project.
The minority-owned firms will oversee the construction of the 36,410-square-foot retail plaza on Centre Avenue that will contain a full-service Shop ‘n Save store. Brinker is headquartered in Detroit with offices in Pittsburgh, and CM Solutions is Pittsburgh-based.
Site work is expected to begin in March. The goal is to open the grocery before Thanksgiving. Besides the supermarket, the plaza will contain 6,900 square feet of commercial retail space.
Thursday, February 10, 2011By Karen Kane, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Saxonburg’s Main Street program manager says he’s feeling “pretty blessed” by the news last month that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation had come through with a $1.4 million grant.
The money was both needed and expected. But, Raymond Rush said he was happy it was all official.
“We’ve been blessed by PennDOT and beyond,” he said.
Design and engineering work is under way for reconstruction of both sides of Main Street — a four-block section of the street that spans about 2,200 feet from Butler Street to Rebecca Street. Those costs are being covered by a $373,027 grant awarded in May by the Department of Community and Economic Development.
Now, PennDOT has come through with a $1.4 million grant for construction of half of the project: from Pittsburgh Street west to Rebecca Street.
The work will involve reconstructing sidewalks and curbs, and installing landscaping. Street lights that replicate old-style German lights will be installed.
The first half of the project is to be under way in the second half of the year with finishing work in the first quarter of 2012, Mr. Rush said. Sometime early in 2012, he’s expecting to hear that PennDOT is coming through with the rest of the funding. The total project cost is estimated at $2.4 million. The second half of the project would start during the 2012 construction season. Mr. Rush predicted the job would be completed within a year’s time.
He credits receipt of the grants to a partnership between the borough and the John Roebling’s Historic Saxonburg Society Inc., a nonprofit group that sponsors the Main Street program. The society is named for the town’s founder who invented wire cable and is famous for bridge design. One of his most notable projects was the Brooklyn Bridge in New York.
Saxonburg’s Main Street is an official historic district on both state and national levels. There are 52 historic buildings in the four-block project area, including Mr. Roebling’s home. A native of Germany, he designed the borough.
Mr. Rush said the reconstruction project will maintain the borough’s historic look while modernizing the infrastructure.
“It will bring the 1850s look into modern society,” he said.
Blue Spruce a Murrysville landmarkThursday, February 10, 2011By Laurie Bailey
Murrysville’s landmark Blue Spruce Motel on Route 22 will be demolished at the end of this month.
“Basically, it’s going to be a flat piece of land,” said Hallie Chatfield, revitalization coordinator at the Westmoreland Redevelopment Authority. The organization is funding the demolition contract awarded to A.W. McNabb LLC of Burgettstown. Ms. Chatfield said the $56,800 grant for the work comes from a federal Community Development Block Grant.
Work that will result in the demise of the motel, pool, pool house and beverage area was originally scheduled to start Monday, but the necessary equipment was unavailable, said Ms. Chatfield. A.W. McNabb is contracted to complete the work within 90 days.
“They will first need to do an internal clean-out before they can demolish it,” said Ms. Chatfield who noted the outside probably wouldn’t be coming down for two more weeks.
In 1956, Camille Naffah purchased the five-acre property for $7,500 and tore down the original structure, the ’40s-era John’s Motel. In its place, he built the Blue Spruce, a single-level motel with clean, simple architecture. In the summer, the large public pool attracted locals from surrounding communities.
Stuart Patz remembered coming out to swim as a high school and college student from his Stanton Heights home in the late 1950s and early 1960s when there were few other public pool options.
“All the kids from the East End were there. It was very pleasant and a nice, social thing. I have such great memories, a real nostalgic feeling toward the facility,” said Mr. Patz, now living in Washington, D.C.
In the mid-’80s, a second level, a restaurant and bar were added to the structure. Mr. Naffah lived in an apartment above the motel’s lobby.
In 1996, the aging motel gained brief local notoriety as a location for the movie, “Kingpin,” with Woody Harrelson.
“They really fixed it up, repainted the outside pink and blue,” said John Cardwell, executive director of the Murrysville Economic and Community Development Corporation.
For several years, the property has been vacant, with the paint in the abandoned pool increasingly chipping.
“The motel closed about four years ago. The pool probably has been closed for 10-plus years,” Mr. Cardwell said.
Mr. Naffah tried unsuccessfully to sell his motel in 2005 before his death in 2007. He left the property to his employee, Emily Moroney, who also died that same year.
Currently, the Blue Spruce is part of the estate of Ms. Moroney, which approved the demolition in hopes of making the property more attractive to developers, Mr. Cardwell said.
Right now, there are no plans for the land, which includes a one-acre “banner parklet” adjacent to the Blue Spruce. It is also for sale with the property and is owned by the development corporation.
“I think there is a vision that is consistent with the streetscape study done in the ’90s,” Mr. Cardwell said.
That vision includes small shops and offices.
Wednesday, February 09, 2011
This spring, mens’ clothing store Jos. A. Bank will be moving from its current Downtown location at 527 Smithfield Street to Market Square. Another recent Market Square development includes the upcoming installation of a beautiful work of public art.
Jos. A. Bank signed a deal with developer Millcraft Industries at the beginning of February to lease space in the 40,000-square-foot Market Square Place development, located in the former G.C. Murphy building. Herky Pollock of CB Richard Ellis represented Millcraft Industries in the deal. Jos. A. Bank will share ground floor retail space in Market Square Place with the recent additions of Liberty Travel, DiBella’s Old Fashioned Submarines, Chipotle, and Vallozi’s.
“This relocation, which will feature the Jos. A. Bank’s new prototypical layout and design, further validates the success of our vibrant central district and all the new energy that has been harnessed with the new development project in the corridor,” says Pollock.
Keep your head up when entering Market Square from Fifth Avenue this spring as artist Carin Mincemoyer’s light sculpture “Diamond, Diamonds” will soon be hanging around. The piece entails the installation of 80 glass “diamonds” lit with LED lights and hung from two poles–a nod to the public space known as The Diamond, which was located at the Market Square site until it was demolished in 1961. Mincemoyer won a design competition to illuminate the connection between the square and the Cultural District after the City’s Office of Public Art put out a call for proposals.
Sources: Herky Pollock, executive vice president of CB Richard Ellis
Hollie Geitner, vice president of marketing and communications for the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership
Thursday, February 10, 2011By Len Barcousky, Pittsburgh Post-GazetteAllegheny Grows Funds First-Year Projects in Wilkinsburg, Bellevue and Penn Hills“Allegheny Grows” is itself growing with urban-agriculture projects spreading to three more communities.
Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato will announce today that Bellevue, Wilkinsburg and Penn Hills will be the sites this spring of new urban farms and community gardens.
This year is the second for the program designed to dress up empty lots, build community spirit, encourage local organizing, aid the environment and provide fresh produce for local food pantries.
“Allegheny Grows builds on the county’s ongoing initiatives to revitalize older communities and distressed municipalities through sustainable development and strategic investment,” Mr. Onorato said in a statement.
A dozen communities competed to participate in this year’s program.
The three that were chosen were selected for their strong leadership, enthusiasm of local volunteers, suitability of their garden site and community need, project manager Iris Whitworth said. She works for the business development unit of the county’s economic development office.
Allegheny Grows has a budget this year of about $75,000. In addition to setting up the three new agricultural projects, the funds will be used to cover second-year costs for garden projects begun last year in Millvale and McKees Rocks. The source of the money is federal community development block grants.
The effort is a collaboration with Grow Pittsburgh and local partners in each community. Grow Pittsburgh was formed in 2005 to encourage city gardening.
Bellevue’s project will be a urban farm on Davis Avenue on a 1-acre vacant tract owned by North Hills Community Outreach. The land had been donated in 2008 to the social-service agency by the Amelio family for an organic garden, according to Fay Morgan, executive director of North Hills Community Outreach.
North Hills Community Outreach is a faith-based social-service agency that serves families and individuals in communities north of Pittsburgh. Most of the labor for the organic farming effort will be provided by volunteers, supervised by a part-time agency employee. Produce grown there will be donated to food pantries.
Wilkinsburg’s urban farm is a 2-acre site in the city’s Hamnett Place neighborhood. The land is owned by Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, which already is involved with several housing renewal projects in the community. Allegheny Grows will be working with a citizens organization called Hamnett Place Community Garden Association to plant and care for the site.
Penn Hills officials are providing a water truck and leaf-mulch compost for a community garden on the site of a former municipal ballfield. The tract had been planted as a garden last year by a youth group. Produce grown through this year’s effort will benefit up to three local food pantries.
Second-year Allegheny Grows’ assistance to gardens in Millvale and McKees Rocks will include providing both seedlings and some technical advice from Grow Pittsburgh. Millvale also will receive several rain-collecting barrels and McKees Rocks will get help in edging its garden beds and making them accessible to people with disabilities.