Main Street Tours Reveal the Heart of Six Pittsburgh Communities
For the fourth consecutive year, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and PHLF sponsored a series of free public walking tours in September and October featuring city main streets. A total of 170 people attended the tours this season to South Side, the Hill District, Mt. Washington, Brookline, Brighton Heights, and North Side.
“These tours focused on the heart of each community,” said Education Coordinator Karen Cahall, and helped people look at buildings and neighborhoods in a whole new way.” Representatives from each community pointed out new businesses, long-established family-owned businesses, new housing, and restored housing, and discussed major plans on the drawing board.
PHLF’s Oct E-news included summaries of the South Side and Hill District walking tours. Brief summaries of the four October walking tours are described below (and photos follow).
Mt. Washington––Shiloh Street Area
On Friday, October 4, we enjoyed the view of the city from Mt. Washington before beginning our walk along Shiloh Street. James Eash, Director of Economic Development for the Mt. Washington CDC, Josette Fitzgibbons, Mainstreets/Elm Street Coordinator for the URA, Louise Sturgess, Executive Director of PHLF, and Karen Cahall, Education Coordinator for PHLF, provided commentary as we toured. We stopped at the Grandview Bakery to hear how URA assistance helped the owner find her location and start her business. The URA and Mt. Washington CDC are working to improve façades and signage along the street. From there, after a brief stop of the Mt. Washington CDC to learn more about the Emerald View Park trail system, participants walked up to Prospect School for a hard-hat tour of the renovation in progress. A.M. Rodriguez Associates is creating 67 apartments in the former school, designed in 1931 by M. M. Steen of James T. Steen & Sons––and one of the 53 featured sites in PHLF’s new guidebook, Pittsburgh Architecture in the Twentieth Century. The Lofts of Mount Washington will open in 2014.
Friday, October 11 was our day to explore the business district of Brookline. Josette Fitzgibbons, URA, provided commentary about URA involvement in the area along with Nathan Mallory, Owner of Cannon Coffee and local activist for Brookline development, Steve Salas, Brookline resident who has researched Brookline history, and Karen Cahall, PHLF. The tour included information about the URA façade and business improvement programs as we visited Cannon Coffee, walked through the LEED-certified Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh–Brookline branch, and enjoyed a pastry taste at Kriebel’s Bakery in business for over 66 years. The business district is undergoing a transformation since Brookline Boulevard, the main street through the business district and former trolley way, is being redesigned to calm traffic and encourage drivers to stop and enjoy what Brookline has to offer.
Brighton Heights––California Avenue
The Brighton Heights business district along California Avenue was the focus of the tour on October 18. Joan Bellisario, treasurer of the Brighton Heights Citizens Federation (BHCF) and John Belch, local researcher/historian and recording secretary of BHCF, together with Josette Fitzgibbons, URA, and Karen Cahall, PHLF, served as tour guides. Ed Gergerich, Brighton Heights resident and BHCF member, added comments. The group walked the California Avenue business district learning about the only surviving butcher shop in the city and saw the three Frederick Osterling designed buildings that have been renovated as homes. Around the corner up Termon Avenue, Pastor Gary Palladin invited the group to tour Hosanna Church–a Craftsman-style Gothic church. The final stop was the Oliver House, a historic home in Brighton Heights, that has been beautifully restored by Marilyn and Jim Malanos. The group was treated to tea and cookies. Brighton Heights rolled out the red carpet for this tour.
North Side––Federal Street Area
On Friday, October 25, a group of 45 participants was welcomed at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh–North Side branch. Carlton Stout, Library Manager, welcomed our group to the Allegheny City room, where historic photographs of the area were displayed. From there, Kyra Strassman, Director of Mainstreets for the URA, and Tom Hardy, Palo Alto Partners and consultant to the Central Northside Neighborhood Council for development of the Garden Theater block, with Karen Cahall, PHLF, led the group up Federal Street to the residential development there and then to North Avenue to the Garden Theater Block and into Allegheny Commons. In the Commons, Kyra and Tom talked about plans for the Garden Theater block which include a restaurant by Piccolo Forno. Alida Baker, Director of the Allegheny Commons Park Restoration through the Northside Leadership Conference, shared the restoration story of the park and proudly announced that the Allegheny Commons had just been approved for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. She shared drawings of the plans to return the fountain to the northeast corner of the park (near Allegheny General Hospital) and talked about the QR codes project to be accessed through smart phones. This tour was a great ending to the series.
PHLF thanks all those who participated in the fall tour series.