Historic Religious Properties and New Members Reception: March 2

The Historic Religious Properties Committee awarded $78,600 in 14 grants and five Technical Assistance awards to congregations in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. An Awards Reception will be held from 3 to 3:45 pm in the Grand Concourse Restaurant Board Room on March 2. George Dorman, chairman of the HRP Committee, and PHLF Board Chairman Mark Bibro will give brief remarks.

Immediately following, from 3:45 to 5:00 pm award recipients and new PHLF members will be invited to tour PHLF offices and libraries on the fourth floor of The Landmarks Building at Station Square.

Congratulations to the following grant recipients:

  • Congregation Poale Zedeck, Squirrel Hill, for brick pointing and masonry repairs.
  • First Presbyterian Church of Edgewood, for refinishing of exterior doors.
  • First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh, Downtown, for refinishing of exterior doors.
  • First Trinity Evangelical Church, Oakland, for repairing box gutters and replacing missing slates.
  • Mt. Lebanon Presbyterian Church, stained glass window restoration.
  • Pittsburgh Mennonite Church, Swissvale, for brick pointing.
  • Sacred Heart Church, Shadyside, for stained glass window restoration
  • South Side Presbyterian Church, for replacement of main roof.
  • Stewart Avenue Evangelical Lutheran Church, for brick pointing and masonry work.
  • St. Nicholas Catholic Church, Millvale, for repair and repainting of the exterior woodwork on the main structure of the church.
  • St. Paul Baptist Church, Pt. Breeze, for box gutter relining and replacing missing slates.
  • Waverly Presbyterian Church, Regent Square, for masonry repairs on main entrance stairway area.
  • The Byzantine Seminary, in Perry Hilltop, received a grant from The Kim and Miller Family Fund at PHLF, payable over a four-year period, to help with repairs.
  • Calvary United Methodist Church, in Allegheny West, received a grant from the Barensfield Fund at PHLF, to help with its handicapped-ramp project.

In addition, this year’s Barensfeld Fund Grant, of $1,100 was awarded to Calvary United Methodist Church in Allegheny West, to go toward the church’s handicapped ramp project.

The following received Technical Assistance Awards:

  • Bethesda Presbyterian Church, Homewood
  • Brown AME Chapel, Central North Side
  • Ethnan Temple Seventh Day Adventist Church, Wilkinsburg
  • Greenfield Presbyterian Church, Greenfield
  • Jesus’ Dwelling Place, North Braddock

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New President Named for Landmarks Community Capital Corporation.

Pittsburgh— We are pleased to announce that Michael Sriprasert, director of Real Estate Development, for the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation has also been named President of Landmarks Community Capital Corporation. This subsidiary was created in 2007 to undertake various forms of community revitalization activity. Since then, LCC has been repositioned as the lending arm of PHLF and will house all the loan funds, which serve non-profit and for-profit organizations.

Sriprasert, 30, who joined the PHLF staff five years ago, has been active in assisting the Board in this new focus. Under his leadership, LCC has applied for designation as a Community Development Financial Institution from the United States Treasury Department and received a grant from Treasury to help formulate the program.

“I am very excited at the opportunities LCC has to expand lending for preservation related projects in Pittsburgh and beyond. We will be focusing our efforts on increasing the pipeline of deals and raising additional capital for lending,” said Sriprasert.

Significant initial capital to launch LCC was provided by the Sarah Scaife and Allegheny Foundations, charities of Richard M. Scaife.

A graduate of Kenyon College, and Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College of Public Policy and Management, Sriprasert is also a 2011 candidate for the Master’s of Business Administration degree at CMU’s Tepper School of Business.

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New Book Helps Fans Trace Steps of August Wilson

By Alice T. Carter, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Tuesday, February 22, 2011

New Book Helps Fans Trace Steps of August Wilson
A new book published by the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation offers a guide to playwright August Wilson’s world in fact and fiction.

August Wilson poses for a portrait at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., in this April 7, 2005, file photo. Wilson, whose epic 10-play cycle chronicling the black experience in 20th-century America included such landmark dramas as "Fences" and "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," died Oct. 2, 2005, of liver cancer. He was 60. AP Photo/ Michelle McLoughlin

Published in softcover and conveniently sized for touring, “August Wilson: Pittsburgh Places in His Life and Plays” (Pittsburgh History & Landmarks, $8.95) guides visitors to sites in the Hill District and the greater Pittsburgh area connected with the playwright’s life and in his plays.

The fourth in a series of guidebooks from Pittsburgh History & Landmarks, it contains essays on the life and work of Wilson and the history of the Hill District, as well as summaries of the 10 plays in Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle, many of which were set in the Hill District. Wilson’s niece, Kimberly C. Ellis, and Sala Udin, Wilson’s lifelong friend, contributed introductory essays.

In addition, the book contains maps and descriptions that take visitors on a walking tour past locations that have connections to events in Wilson’s life or to the characters and settings in his plays.

August Wilson lived above this market at 1727 Bedford Avenue, in the Hill District, as seen here in this photo dated July 11, 2007. Published in softcover and conveniently sized for touring, "August Wilson: Pittsburgh Places in His Life and Plays" (Pittsburgh History & Landmarks, $8.95) guides visitors to sites in the Hill District and the greater Pittsburgh area connected with the playwright's life and in his plays. Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review

The goal of the book was to give the public a way to connect with those events and locations in Wilson’s life and plays, says Laurence A. Glasco, associate professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh. He co-wrote the book with Christopher Rawson, a member of the University of Pittsburgh English department and senior theater critic at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“It gives them a chance to actually walk and see and have physical and emotional contact,” Glasco says. “Something emotional happens when you walk in the feet of places where things happened. … It makes people aware of their environment, to be able to connect with that and see how it fits into a larger pattern.”

The Hill District as it appeared in 1951, when Wilson was 6 years old. The view is up Forbes Avenue from Soho. The then-new Terrace Village housing on the hilltop contrasts with older houses below. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

The authors began work on the book last summer. But both have been researching and thinking about the material far longer. Glasco teaches a course in the history of Black Pittsburgh at Pitt and Rawson teaches a course on Wilson’s plays.

Even so, there were surprises for the authors as they worked on the book.

“The book’s abundant photos illustrate locations that are still standing, such as the house where Wilson lived until he was 13 as well as West’s Funeral Home and Lutz’s (Meat) Market, locations that were mentioned in his plays,” Glasco says.

“I was surprised how much was there, how many places have a story that is fascinating and important and how much has been lost,” he says. “It shows how Wilson was aware of these places. … They resonated somehow in his mind and heart.”

From 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Pittsburgh History & Landmarks will celebrate the book’s publication with a reception and signing at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in the Hill District.

The authors will speak and books will be available for purchase.

This photo of playwright August Wilson in the Hill District was taken in his younger days. Although Wilson moved from the area, he frequently returned to visit family and friends. Submitted

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Opponents to Closing Pitcairn Elementary School State Case

Thursday, February 17, 2011
By Deborah M. Todd, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Opponents to Closing Pitcairn Elementary School State Case


Using a range of emotional and economic arguments, dozens opposed to the proposed closing of Pitcairn Elementary School stated their case Tuesday night during a public hearing hosted by the Gateway School District.

Standing before the school board and other district officials, the majority of speakers testified to the school’s significance to community vitality. Rollo Vecchio, president of Pitcairn council, said a condition of the original merger of the two districts serving Monroeville and Pitcairn in the 1950s was that a school building always remain in Pitcairn.

“It’s part of our community that has served its meaning well and I’m asking you to keep it up … It’s the centerpiece of our community and I hope it can stay that way,” he said.

The school district is considering closing Pitcairn Elementary as part of a realignment plan that could eliminate all elementary buildings in favor of a new K-4 building on the Gateway Campus.

Mr. Vecchio dismissed a finding by consulting firm Education Management Group LLC that the school faces threat of flooding from Dirty Camp Creek, stating that a project redirecting the stream is nearly 90 percent complete.

Many more speakers rejected aspects of the report, including no mention of how much money the district would save through the closure and a lack of plans to close any elementary school other than Pitcairn.

“There has been no positive plan for maintaining Pitcairn Elementary School presented by the school board. Overall, the conclusions of EMG were always prejudiced and slanted, targeting Pitcairn Elementary School time and time again for closure,” said Betsy Stevick, president of the Pitcairn High School Alumni Association.

Some speakers offered alternatives to the plan to consolidate schools. Speaker Fred Mendicina suggested closing University Park Elementary and distributing its students throughout the remaining schools to increase all of the buildings’ enrollment. Speaker Leeann Pruss suggested the district extend elementary schools to fifth grade and merge schools for grades 6-8.

“It would solve the issues of those wanting more students on Gateway Campus, it would give you [Gateway Middle School] located near the parkway and turnpike that could potentially sell for a lot more than Pitcairn Elementary, it would eliminate a transition for all students instead of increasing transitions for Pitcairn students, and it gives you a lot more future benefits than closing one elementary and leaving all others operating under capacity,” she said.

District officials declined comment following the meeting, but some of those who attended said they were encouraged by board members’ actions during the meeting.

“We don’t know, but it looked like they were paying attention,” Ms. Pruss said.

“They’re going to have to go home and digest the information,” Ms. Stevick said.

Either way, Ms. Pruss said, this isn’t the last the board has heard from them.

“They have 90 days, we’re not going to leave them alone, we’re not going to let it drop,” she said.

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County Urban Farm Effort Expands in Second Year

County Urban Farm Effort Expands in Second Year
‘Allegheny Grows’ will donate produce to food pantries, families in need
Thursday, February 17, 2011
By Len Barcousky, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A new “urban farm” in Bellevue will help North Hills Community Outreach achieve one of its top goals for the more than 1,200 families it serves each year.

The fresh tomatoes, peppers and beans raised there this summer will aid the social service agency in assuring “adequate healthy nourishment for the people who use our food pantries,” executive director Fay Morgan said.

Bellevue’s new garden will be part of the second year “Allegheny Grows” urban-agriculture effort. Bellevue, Wilkinsburg and Penn Hills were selected last week to participate in the expansion of the program.

Their projects were selected from among proposals submitted by a dozen municipalities and their local partners.

The community gardens and urban farms that Allegheny Grows sponsors offer environmental, economic, social and educational benefits, project manager Iris Whitworth said. She works for the county’s economic development office.

Communities and projects were picked based on strong municipal leadership, enthusiasm of local volunteers, suitability of their garden site and community need, Ms. Whitworth said.

The effort has the support of County Executive Dan Onorato. “Allegheny Grows builds on the county’s ongoing initiatives to revitalize older communities and distressed municipalities through sustainable development and strategic investment,” he said in a statement.

This year’s budget for Allegheny Grows is about $75,000. In addition to setting up new projects in the three communities, the funds will be used to cover second-year costs for garden projects begun last year in Millvale and McKees Rocks.

Gardeners in both communities will get seedlings and technical advice. Millvale’s project also will receive rain-collecting barrels, and McKees Rocks will get help in edging its garden beds and making them accessible to people with disabilities.

The money for Allegheny Grows comes from federal community development block grants.

Local partners in each community will work with “Grow Pittsburgh,” which was formed in 2005 to encourage city gardening, and with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is well known for its summer flower gardens. Working with various partners, it plants 140 of those in 20 counties.

The organization also has been long involved in support for vegetable gardening, Judy Wagner said. She is the director of the conservancy’s community gardens and greenspace programs. Its community garden projects were common in the 1980s as the region’s steel industry collapsed, she said. Many families turned to growing food for themselves and their neighbors.

More than a year ago, the conservancy and Grow Pittsburgh teamed up to teach people how to grow food in urban setting.

Conservancy staff will work on design and construction at all three sites while Grow Pittsburgh will take lead in training volunteers.

Bellevue

Bellevue’s project will be on Davis Avenue on a 13,500-square-foot tract owned by North Hills Community Outreach. The land had been donated in 2008 by Terrie Amelio, of McCandless, to the social-service agency. The site will be named the Rosalinda Sirianni Memorial Garden in honor of Mrs. Amelio’s mother, Ms. Morgan said.

Most of the labor for the organic farming effort will be provided by volunteers, who will be supervised by a part-time community outreach employee, Ms. Morgan said. Produce grown there will be donated to food pantries.

Bellevue will supply water for the garden, and two foundations are among those aiding the effort. The Comcast Foundation will provide funds to hire the part-time coordinator, and the Grable Foundation has given money to pay local youth helpers to work with the volunteers.

Wilkinsburg

Wilkinsburg’s urban farm will be part of a 2-acre site on Jeanette Street 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.

The site will have 16 individual plots and can be expanded to more than 20, garden association president Rachel Courtney said. Another portion of the vacant lot will be converted into a play-and-learning area for neighborhood children.

Local residents are already planning their own plots. “A woman from Jamaica has told us she hopes to grow things that she can’t find in the grocery stores here,” Ms. Courtney said.

“Buildings are not what make communities,” Karamagi Rujumba said. “People make communities.”

That is why his employer, the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, is assisting in the Allegheny Grows effort, he said. Mr. Rujumba is coordinator of landmarks foundation programs in Wilkinsburg.

The garden and adjoining children’s “learning space” should teach people practical gardening skills and give them a sense of ownership in their community, he said.

The Hamnett Place project also has received funding from the Heinz Endowment, the Richard Mellon Scaife Foundation, Allegheny County and the state.

Penn Hills

Penn Hills will provide water and leaf-mulch compost for an expanded community garden that occupies the site of a former municipal ballfield in the 1100 block of Jefferson Road.

Local Boy Scouts last year helped to clear and prepare the site for gardening as an Eagle Scout project, Ed Zullo, president of Penn Hills Community Development Corp., said.

The site had been divided into a dozen raised garden beds, and plans for this spring call for almost doubling that number to 22 plots.

Gardeners last year raised vegetables both for their families and donated baskets of tomatoes and peppers to two local food pantries, Mr. Zullo said. That effort likely will expand to benefit a third pantry this year.

His agency’s partnership with Allegheny Grows could mark the start of efforts to create additional agricultural sites across Penn Hills, he said.

Community gardens offer multiple benefits, supporters say. They provide fresh, healthy food and they can improve the appearance of blighted land. Their vegetation helps to reduce storm-water run-off, and the flowering plants growing there help support bee colonies and other pollinators.

They also have less obvious advantages. “Neighbors in Millvale really enjoy working together,” the conservancy’s Ms. Wagner said. “You are growing your community as you are growing vegetables.”

Mr. Zullo agreed that gardens can serve as a development tool. “We get neighbors of different generations and different races interacting,” he said. “Old people teach young people, and neighbors compete over who has grown better tomatoes.”

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Fairview Park Gets Historical Status

By Richard Robbins
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Fairview Park Gets Historical Status

Once home to amusement rides and a swimming pool, Fairview Park today consists of aging swings sets and slides, a basketball court, a ball field and several picnic pavilions. Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review

A Westmoreland County park with roots deep in African-American history has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and named a historic landmark by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

Fairview Park in Salem Township, near Delmont, was created in 1945 in response to mostly or exclusively whites-only amusement parks throughout Western Pennsylvania.

The segregationist era began to crumble in the 1960s, and the amusement rides and other attractions at the park eventually were dismantled. Today, Fairview Park consists of aging swings sets and slides, a basketball court, a ball field and several picnic pavilions.

Ernest Jackson, president of the Fairview Park Association, said the state and federal designations were intended foremost to “honor the memory” of the men and women who founded the park and of the wonderful times the park made possible.

Originally organized by a coalition of black churches in Pittsburgh, Fairview Park hosted large gatherings until sometime in the 1970s, Jackson said.

The founders had “foresight and vision,” said Jackson, of the South Hills.

“Fairview Park enabled a lot of people, including a lot of young people, to get out of the inner city and spend time in the country,” he said.

He said photographs from the late 1970s show row after row of buses jammed with fun-seekers pulling up to the park entrance.

At the height of its popularity, the park featured a roller-coaster, merry-go-round, skating rink and swimming pool.

At 52 acres, today’s park is nearly half the size it once was. It is maintained by a small group of volunteers, Jackson said.

Each summer, the Fairview Park Association holds an annual Old-Fashioned Picnic at the park with a petting zoo and other amusements. The event is open to all, Jackson said.

The de facto segregation of blacks was a way of life in the northern United States during most of the 20th century. Blacks in Western Pennsylvania were routinely barred from public facilities such as movie theaters and swimming pools. All of this was in contrast to the Jim Crow segregation — mandated by state and local laws — practiced in the South.

Carol Lee, the state’s national register and survey coordinator, said Fairview Park is the only black amusement park in the state. “At least it’s the only one we know of,” she said.

That makes Fairview Park significant in the commission’s eyes, Lee said.

The state and federal actions recognizing the park were wrapped up in December, Lee said. The review process took about 18 months.

“Basically, it’s a matter of having bragging rights,” Lee said of the designation as a state and federal historical treasure.

There are no bars to private development of the property, she said. At one time, the park association was looking forward to the construction of a multimillion-dollar, assisted-care living facility on the property.

Jackson indicated that no project is planned, though he holds out hope the park’s enhanced status will stimulate interest in the park’s history and possibly development.


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Plans Revealed for Ex-Fayette Hospital Site

By Richard Gazarik, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Plans Revealed for Ex-Fayette Hospital Site

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.

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Water to Blame for Wall Collapse

Tuesday, February 15, 2011
By Diana Nelson Jones, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Water to Blame for Wall Collapse


Pittsburgh building inspectors examine the partial collapse of a brick wall at S&S Candy and Cigar Co. at South 21st and East Carson streets on the South Side Monday morning. Bob Donaldson/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.

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Historic District Building’s Wall Collapses in South Side

By Margaret Harding
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Historic District Building’s Wall Collapses in South Side

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.”


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Construction Managers Picked for New Hill Grocery

Thursday, February 10, 2011
By Mark Belko, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Construction Managers Picked for New Hill Grocery

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.

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Grant to Help Return Saxonburg Main Street to 1850s

Thursday, February 10, 2011
By Karen Kane, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Grant to Help Return Saxonburg Main Street to 1850s

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.

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Market Square Shines with Jos. A. Bank and Crazy Diamonds

Pop City

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Market Square Shines with Jos. A. Bank and Crazy Diamonds

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

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Allegheny Grows Funds First-Year Projects in Wilkinsburg, Bellevue and Penn Hills

Thursday, February 10, 2011
By Len Barcousky, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Allegheny 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.

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Deal Reached to Save Historic Franklin County House

Tuesday, February 08, 2011
By Len Barcousky, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Deal Reached to Save Historic Franklin County House

A history-loving physician has worked out a deal to save an 18th century home in Mercersburg.

Dr. Paul Orange said today the William Smith House will be taken apart piece by piece over the next several weeks and reassembled on a new site elsewhere in the Franklin County community.

The future of the building has been in question since the structure and land on which it stands were acquired two years ago by a local volunteer fire company. The MMP&W Fire Co., which has its headquarters and garages next door to the house on Main Street, bought the property for expansion and had announced plans to demolish the building.

That news resulted in the creation of a citizens group, the Committee to Save the Justice William Smith House. Members say that events planned in the stone Ulster-style cottage in 1765 resulted in the earliest opposition to British rule in the American colonies and laid the groundwork for the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That amendment guarantees the right to bear arms.

Dr. Orange, who has a family medical practice outside Chambersburg, estimated that the relocation project will cost as much as $250,000. He has agreed to fund at least $50,000 of that amount.

The first steps involve removing 19th- and 20-century additions to the structure, carefully taking apart and numbering stones and timbers from the core of the building and arranging for storage nearby. That process is likely to take several weeks, he said.

No decision has been made on where the house will be rebuilt. Several suitable properties are vacant along and near the borough’s Main Street.

Mercersburg is about 150 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

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Around Town: Point of Realism Interferes With Preserving Arena

Tuesday, February 08, 2011
By Brian O’Neill, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Around Town: Point of Realism Interferes With Preserving Arena

An architectural superstar of its time. And now?

The Civic Arena can still pack ‘em in. It was standing-room-only last week at the Pittsburgh Historic Review Commission meeting on Ross Street, just down the hill from the vacated hockey palace.

Some very smart people made a polished and impassioned presentation that showed the 49-year-old Igloo to be an architectural superstar, an engineering marvel and the symbol of Pittsburgh’s Renaissance, rising just as the city’s skies were clearing.

What nobody offered, though, is what practical use it has now. In the past quarter-century, three multipurpose arenas of ascending size — the 5,400-seat Palumbo Center, the 12,500-seat Petersen Events Center and the 19,000-seat Consol Energy Center — have been built within two miles of the place.

This city needs another arena like it needs a hole in the Hill.

To be fair, it wasn’t the job of preservationists this day to offer a practical new use for the empty building. The question was whether the Civic Arena should be designated a historic structure.

But if the commission votes next month to grant historic designation (preliminary approval last month is no guarantee), that would prevent the city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority from demolishing the arena. That would muck up the Penguins’ development plans for the 28-acre site, and the most prominent Hill District leaders don’t want those plans blocked. Residents have been waiting 50 years to get their neighborhood back.

Both preservationists and those who want to see office buildings, stores and about 1,200 new homes built at the site agree on one thing: The way the Hill District was treated when the arena site was cleared in the 1950s was a civic crime. About 1,300 buildings, 400 businesses and 8,000 lower Hill residents got the heave-ho. Promises of better housing were never kept, and the highway ditches and largest park-for-pay lot in Western Pennsylvania are the neighborhood amputation scars.

Rob Pfaffmann, the Downtown architect who has spearheaded the Reuse the Igloo campaign, suggests that keeping the building can help future generations remember that painful history. He quoted the native son who did the most to celebrate the neighborhood, the late playwright August Wilson, who said, “My plays insist that we should not forget or toss away our history.”

Mr. Pfaffmann even broke out a Rick Sebak video on the arena. (The video player, like the Igloo’s acoustics, went awry shortly.) But neither Mr. Pfaffmann nor the city’s premier architectural storyteller, Franklin Toker, could persuade Hill leaders that this mammoth steel assemblage would be anything but a humongous kink in plans to reknit the neighborhood into Downtown.

City Councilman Dan Lavelle said the commission’s mission statement also speaks to the preservation of neighborhoods. He hoped it would pay attention to community residents rather than those with fond memories of coming to the lower Hill “to listen to the Beach Boys at the expense of those who lived there.”

This “case study of urban renewal gone wrong,” which isolated and divided the Hill, is “not the sort of history we wish to preserve,” Mr. Lavelle said. Preserving it, he said, would be like flying Confederate flags on state buildings in the South.

Paying $50,000 a month to maintain it, or tens of millions of dollars to modify it for a new use, would not be a smart move for a strapped city, he concluded.

What do you do with a spare arena? Modification plans all seem a bit like getting a bear to ride a bicycle. It can be done, but that’s not really what either bears or bicycles are for.

What about saving part of it? TV actor David Conrad, in a videotaped presentation, said he understood why neighborhood residents want the arena erased, but saving a piece could “transform an insult into pride.” Preservation of a remnant would be akin to the iconic murals of saints, he said, which often show the martyred figures holding the very weapons that killed them.

Sala Udin, who formerly held the council seat in the Hill, didn’t think the neighborhood would oppose a “remnant that stayed as some kind of icon.” But full preservation would block development plans.

Penguins President David Morehouse said preserving a remnant, as was done with the Forbes Field outfield wall, is possible, but “you can’t have half of a dome in the middle of your development.”

The Hill’s comeback has to be the primary goal. That started more than 20 years with the hugely successful Crawford Square townhouse development just east of the arena. With gasoline prices soaring, building another 1,200 new homes in the heart of the region is about the best news a shrinking city could get.

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Picketing Planned to Save Historic Mercersburg House

Saturday, February 05, 2011
By Len Barcousky, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Picketing Planned to Save Historic Mercersburg House

When the British government failed to protect their homes and farms, residents of Pennsylvania’s Conococheague Valley gathered in 1765 at a house in what is now Mercersburg to organize themselves into a militia.

That historic house may be demolished to make room for a volunteer fire company’s expansion, and some 21st century residents plan to gather this weekend to oppose that plan.

“It will be a peaceful protest,” said Tim McCown, a spokesman for the Committee to Save the Justice William Smith House. “We want the fire board to see that the community is behind saving the house.”

Participants will gather at 8 a.m. today, Sunday and Monday in front of the property on Mercersburg’s Main Street. They will hand out fliers describing the building’s history and will outline efforts to rescue or relocate it.

The house and land on which it stands belong to the MMP&W Fire Co., which acquired them in August 2009. The initials in its name stand for the Franklin County communities it serves: Mercersburg, Montgomery, Peters and Warren. They are about 150 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

The site is next to the fire company’s aging garage and headquarters. Fire officials have said they were interested in only the land. Plans to demolish the building, however, have been on hold since a Chambersburg physician came forward with a plan to relocate the house to a vacant lot across the street. That property had been occupied by a gas station. Dr. Paul Orange has said he was willing to cover the costs of moving the building if it will save it from demolition.

Dr. Orange placed $10,000 in an escrow account as a show of good faith while sporadic talks have continued with the firefighters and the demolition firm. The parties, however, have been unable to come to an agreement.

The relocation plan has support from Mercersburg Mayor James Zeger and some members of borough council. Dr. Orange said he was hoping to enlist their aid in setting up another meeting with the firefighters.

Supporters of the house are worried, however, by signs of activity around the Smith house that they fear are preparations to start the demolition. A chain-link fence was put up Thursday.

A spokesman for the fire company did not return calls seeking comment.

William Smith was an 18th-century businessman and local magistrate. His home, originally a one-story stone cottage, has been altered and renovated extensively in the 250 years since it was built.

His house was the meeting place for mostly Scotch-Irish settlers who armed and organized themselves into militia units. Their purpose was to protect themselves from raids by Native Americans who opposed white settlement in the region.

William Smith’s brother-in-law, James Smith, took armed resistance one step further. Among the settlers’ complaints was that Philadelphia merchants were sending arms and ammunition to Fort Pitt, knowing that some of those weapons would be sold to hostile Native American warriors.

Eight years before Bostonians dressed up like Indians to throw British tea into Boston Harbor, James Smith led disguised settlers in a raid on pack trains heading west. Smith’s “Black Boys” confiscated and destroyed supplies they thought might aid their Indian foes.

When the British sent troops to nearby Fort Loudon to protect the traders, the soldiers found themselves surrounded and besieged by angry frontiersmen.

Those actions, years before the Boston Tea Party, were the first shots of the American Revolution, Mr. McCown said. The activities of the frontier militia also laid the groundwork for the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — the right to bear arms, he said.

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The New Granada Theater is Granted National Historic Register Status!

By Historic Hill Institute

February 5, 2011

New Granada Theater

Congratulations to the Hill Community Development Corporation, the steward of the New Granada Theater historic preservation project. With the assistance of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, the New Granada Theater was granted National Historic Register Status by the National Parks Service on January 7, 2011!

Having been stabilized with the assistance of the State of Pennsylvania and The Heinz Endowments, we look forward to the long, fundraising road ahead to renovate this historic institution as a multi-use, sustainable facility that pays tribute to its former uses, including that of a theater, office space, skating rink and even a car show room!

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Real Estate Notes

By Sam Spatter, FOR THE PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Real Estate Notes
• An $215,000 agreement with Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation to provide design and construction management for Downtown buildings has been approved by the Urban Redevelopment Authority. Services may include facade renovations, core and shell and life safety improvements, and elevator renovations or installations. The goal is to stimulate occupancy on upper floors in buildings that often have a tenant only on the first floor. Examples are the ISDA property at Forbes and Wood streets and Kashi jewelers, 253 Fifth Ave.

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A Place Where Image is Everything

Staff Blogs by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Wednesday, February 02, 2011 11:26 AM

Written by Diana Nelson Jones

Bruce Klein - Photo Antiquities Museum

You know how some projects are so compelling that you can start them at 8 p.m. and not realize the time? Suddenly it’s 2 a.m. — but time had ceased to exist.

That happens to me when I immerse myself in old journals or boxes and files of historic documents and photos. It could have happened this morning at the Photo Antiquities Museum, 531 E. Ohio St. in Deutschtown except that I have an Historic Review Commission meeting to cover at 12.30.

Bruce Klein (that’s Bruce in the camera room) founded the museum 17 years ago in a huge Victorian building that his collection has outgrown. The storefront had been his photo exchange shop. He had some daguerreotypes about which customers kept asking, “What are those?”

He decided to exhibit them. That first case grew to two, then three. He systematically has collected and filled what had been an otherwise empty three story building.

Exibits include a replica of a late 1800s photo studio with natural skylight, a room of photos from Allegheny City (today’s North Side), a room of cameras shoulder to shoulder in cases and on shelves and a case of lantern slides — handpainted glass panels projected by a carbon arc lantern projector.

People used to go to great halls to see them projected as large as movie slides. I could look at those slides all day. They are all little works of art, and Bruce has a magnifier sheet so you can see them enlarged. He said he has tens of thousands and changes 200 of them every month, so if you’ve seen them in the past, you will see different ones now..

He had hoped to expand the museum when he bought the Allegheny Social Hall, which was built in 1900 in Spring Garden, nine years ago. He put a new roof on the building but has not gotten the funding he needs to restore it into a museum the size of which would allow him to show those lantern slides on the big screen.

The “snow” exhibit — Pittsburgh in White — opened yesterday and runs through March. Its images are of the 1950 and 2010 snowfalls, the two deepest this city has had.

A daguerreotype show runs through March 15.

If you go, plan to spend a couple of hours. Don’t miss the permanent “Shantytown” exhibition, deeply moving images of men in Depression-era shanties in the Strip.

The museum is highlighting a different camera in its camera room every month through the year. The camera on the pedestal in February is an Ansco portrait camera from 1930. In the photo above, Bruce is flanked by two of them, one in a cherry cabinet.

On a horrible day of snow, wind, rain or whatever, the museum is a refuge to help you forget the weather and the time.

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Civic Arena a ‘Symbol of Genocide’

By Bill Vidonic
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Thursday, February 3, 2011

Former City Councilman Sala Udin was among the 8,000 residents and businesses in the lower Hill District who were displaced in the 1950s for construction of the Civic Arena.

On Wednesday, he urged Pittsburgh’s Historic Review Commission to reject a push to grant the arena protection under the city’s historic structure preservation law.

“This is more a symbol of genocide than a historic icon,” Udin said. “Demolish the arena and let the promise begin.”

During more than four hours of testimony, preservationists said that the arena’s distinct domed shape, its engineering and its place in the fabric of Pittsburgh’s history should spare it from a wrecking ball.

The city-county Sports and Exhibition Authority, which owns the building, and city Planning Commission have voted to demolish the building. The SEA had hoped to start in April, but the nomination for historic status has delayed that.

“There’s nothing like it anywhere else,” said Eloise McDonald of the Hill District, one of the people who nominated the structure in November. “That’s what makes it historical.”

Franklin Toker, a University of Pittsburgh art and architecture professor, said development and construction of the arena in the 1950s and ’60s coincided with “the most exhilarating, most creative and most ambitious moment this city has ever known: the Pittsburgh Renaissance.”

“It is the branding image for Pittsburgh, right under our noses,” Toker said.

A 2007 agreement between the Sports and Exhibition Authority and the Pittsburgh Penguins gave the sports franchise development rights for the 28-acre site.

Various representatives outlined a long-term redevelopment plan — one in which the arena is leveled — to make way for residential, retail and commercial development, creating thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue.

City Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle, who represents the Hill District, said there’s no redevelopment plan for the arena itself.

“The hard truth is that the Civic Arena remains a symbol of failed public policy and a continual deterrence to economic viablility for the Hill District community. Historic designation and preservation, for many reasons, is not the correct decision. On the contrary, what might be more appropriate at this time is an apology for the historic injustices that were heaped upon the Hill District when it was torn asunder nearly a half-century ago.”

The city rejected historic status for the structure in 2002. The Historic Review Commission could make a recommendation next month; the city’s Planning Commission and City Council still must consider the request, a process that likely will stretch into summer.


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Demolition of Iron City Ice House OK’d

Thursday, February 03, 2011
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Historic Review Commission Wednesday approved demolition of the original ice house at the Iron City Brewing Co. in Lawrenceville, one of a collection of buildings on the site that has the city’s protection of historic status.

The one-story building, which sits behind the original brewhouse, is dilapidated. Brewery CEO Tim Hickman said he would not consider an estimated $750,000 it would take to restore it.

Acting commission chair Ernie Hogan said that the Pittsburgh Historical and Museum Commission and a preservation planner advised the commission that if the building is properly documented it can be demolished without jeopardizing the rest of the site’s potential for placement on the National Register of Historic Places or the tax credits that would go with its redevelopment.

Preservationists argued against any demolition at the brewery site before completion of a master plan.

The commission also approved demolition of an unused garage in Deutschtown, to be replaced by a new Duquesne Light valve station, with pipes and conductors beneath it. The original plan to build the station in Allegheny Commons Park was abandoned after strong neighborhood outcry.

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Fate of Civic Arena Debated

Panel considering historic designation for Hill landmark
Thursday, February 03, 2011
By Mark Belko, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

John Oyler, right, an engineer, talks Wednesday about how important the Civic Arena is as an example of structural engineering because it was done in the days before computer design. Speaking before the Historic Review Commission, he described how remarkable and unique the retractable dome is. Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette

To those who want to see it saved, the Civic Arena is an engineering marvel, an irreplaceable icon and a testament to Pittsburgh know-how.

But to those who want to see it go, the arena is “more a symbol of genocide” than a civic treasure, an aging relic with bad pipes, lousy acoustics and high maintenance costs.

So it went for more than four hours Wednesday during a public hearing before the Pittsburgh Historic Review Commission to determine whether the 49-year-old landmark should be designated as a city historic structure.

The commission, in a 5-1 vote last month, already gave preliminary approval to the designation, which would prevent the city-Allegheny Sports & Exhibition Authority from demolishing the building as part of a plan by the Pittsburgh Penguins to redevelop the site.

It is scheduled to take a final vote next month. Preliminary approval is no guarantee the arena will survive. In 2002, the panel gave similar approval to the designation only to reject it in a final vote.

Perhaps that’s the reason the nominator, Hill District resident Eloise McDonald, backed by Preservation Pittsburgh and Reuse the Igloo, and the SEA and the Penguins each spent more than an hour Wednesday advancing their arguments for or against designation.

Ms. McDonald and her allies believe the arena meets six of the 10 criteria that make a structure worthy of designation, including its location as a site for significant historic events, its exemplification of a rare, unique or innovative architectural style, and its unique location and distinctive physical appearance.

Only one of the 10 must be met to get a designation.

Franklin Toker, an architecture professor and the author of “Pittsburgh: A New Portrait,” argued that the arena “is, historically, the most representative building now standing in the city of Pittsburgh,” more so than the Cathedral of Learning, the county courthouse or the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

He said the arena’s planning and construction “coincided exactly with the most exhilarating, most creative and most ambitious moment this city has ever known: the Pittsburgh renaissance.”

Others cited the arena’s retractable dome, one of the few in the world, or the engineering that made it work as reasons the old building should be saved.

Shawn Gallagher, the SEA’s attorney, said the agency doesn’t believe the arena meets even one of the 10 criteria for nomination.

He and others who support demolition said the arena requires millions of dollars in capital improvements, doesn’t meet accessibility standards and has no viable future as an entertainment venue.

“It clearly is not worthy of preservation,” Mr. Gallagher said.

City Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle said the arena, for many in the Hill, represents failed public policy, one that destroyed homes and businesses and displaced thousands of residents.

“This is not the sort of history we wish to preserve,” he said.

The hearing drew a number of other Hill residents who made similar comments, including former city Councilman Sala Udin, who said the arena is “more a symbol of genocide than a historic icon.”

And while some remember favorite concerts or exciting hockey games when they go into the arena, Hill resident Angela Howze recalls something else.

“Every time I go in there I remember it once was my grandmother’s house,” she said.


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Saving Historic Schools

Crafton Elementary School, Carlynton School District, Threatened With Closure in 2011

Many communities treasure their historic school buildings as centers for neighborhood or community activity, symbols of civic pride, and as local architectural landmarks. At the same time, communities face the challenge of ensuring that older school buildings meet the needs of today’s students and teachers. Meeting the challenge requires good planning, knowledge of preservation tools, and, at times, creative design solutions.  Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation has been assisting communities and Schools find creative ways to preserve historic school buildings and address the needs of both the community.  We have had productive relationships with schools throughout Pennsylvania including:
  • Pennsylvania Department of Education, Technical Assistance for School Renovation Guidelines
  • Allegheny College, Campus Preservation Plan
  • Brentwood School District, Moore and Elroy Elementary
  • California University of Pennsylvania, Campus Preservation Plan
  • Carlow College, Technical Assistance
  • Carnegie Mellon University, Technical Assistance
  • Chatham University, Technical Assistance
  • City of Pittsburgh School District
  • Geneva College, Campus Preservation Plan
  • Grove City College, Campus Preservation Plan
  • Hazleton School District, “The Castle”
  • Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Campus Preservation Plan
  • Meadville School District, Technical Assistance
  • Mt. Lebanon School District, Technical Assistance
  • Point Park University, Technical Assistance
  • Seton Hill University, Campus Preservation Plan
  • Slippery Rock University, Campus Preservation Plan
  • University of Pittsburgh, Technical Assistance & Educational Programming
  • Washington & Jefferson College, Campus Preservation Plan
  • Woodland Hills School District, Turtle Creek High School

Link to Photographs Of An Elementary School Undergoing Complete and Comprehensive Rehabilitation

Publications Relating to Saving Your Historic School

A Roadmap For Saving Your School
by the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Why Johnny Can’t Walk To School
by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, The National Park Service, and Smart Growth Network

State Policies and School Facilities:  How States Can Support or Undermine Neighborhood Schools and Community Preservation
by Constance E. Beumont, National Trust for Historic Preservation

Renovate or Replace?  A case for restoring and reusing older school buildings
by the Pennsylvania Department of Education
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association
The Pennsylvania Historic Schools Task Force
AIA Pennsylvania, a Society of The American Institute of Architects

Historic Schools:  Renovation vs. Replacement & The Role of the Feasibility Study
by the National Trust for Historic Preservation

How to Save Your Historic School:  10 Action Steps

Historic Neighborhood Schools Deliver 21st Century Education
By Constance E. Beumont, National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities

A Community Guide to Saving Older Schools
By Kerri Rubman, National Trust for Historic Preservation

Model Public Policies:  Preserving Historic Schools
A Public Policy Report published by National Trust Forum, a program of the Center for Preservation Leadership

New Life through Adaptive Use: Saving Our Historic Schools
2010 Saving Places Conference, Denver, CO

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Iron City Allowed to Raze Building

By Bill Vidonic
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Thursday, February 3, 2011

The city’s Historic Review Commission will allow the president of Iron City Brewing Co. to tear down a dilapidated building at its former Lawrenceville production site.

The commission on Wednesday said Tim Hickman should provide it with photographs and other documentation of the 1,900-square-foot building for its records, but otherwise can proceed.

The city’s Bureau of Building Inspection cited the brewing company because of the distressed state of the building, but the site’s historic status — granted by the city last year — had complicated the issue of razing the building.

Commission acting chairman Ernie Hogan said state officials indicated that tearing down the former pipe shop shouldn’t interfere with the historic status or development tax credits. Hickman said the site could be developed for light industrial use and industrial warehousing.

Iron City moved production from Lawrenceville to Latrobe in 2009.

Hickman will have to talk to the commission next month about taking fermentation tanks out of another building. Hickman proposed removing two walls to do so; he said the building is useless with the tanks inside.

Also, Hickman has an agreement with the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority to use the proceeds of the tanks’ sale to settle a billing dispute dating to 2007.


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Row of Vacant Lawrenceville Houses Being Restored with Historic Exteriors, Custom Interiors

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Pop City Media

19th Century Row Houses in Lawrenceville

Since they were left vacant in 1995, the row of five historic brick houses on 48th Street, between Hatfield and Butler Streets, in Lawrenceville have fallen into terrible shape. With creative design and green construction, the homes are being restored to look the way they would have when they were built in the 19th century, but with customized modern interiors.

The City of Pittsburgh acquired the buildings, with the help of the Lawrenceville Corporation, in 2007 at very low cost using a tax lien process. After receiving proposals from many eager developers, the Lawrenceville Corporation closed on the sale last week with Botero Development, who’s principal Brian Mendelssohn lives in the neighborhood.

“They’re going to be a high quality product. We’re going to restore the exteriors using real materials, meaning real stone and real slate, and install stone steps and things like that to make them look like when they were built,” says Mendelssohn, who is working with Moss Architects on the project. The interiors will be custom-built for the aesthetic whims of the individual buyers, blending historic elements and original materials with modern features, such as stainless steel appliances, and energy efficient design aspects, like a 2-inch white rubber roof.

The homes, which are currently for sale, include four 1900-square-foot, 3-bedroom units with rear yards. Two come with 2.5-baths and the other two have  2-baths. One 1,250-square-foot unit has 2-bedrooms and 2-baths. The houses will be completed by next October and are priced between $180,000 and $265,000. A sixth building was beyond repair, but its lot will serve as a private courtyard for the $265,000 unit.

“I feel the prices are below market value for what these buildings are,” says Mendelssohn. “It will be good for the neighborhood not to start charging $300,000 for homes in Lawrenceville. You don’t want to gentrify your own neighborhood, you want to keep it what it is.”


Writer: John Farley
Source:  Brian Mendelssohn

Image courtesy of Botero Development

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$10 Million PHLF Redevelopment Projects Restore Three Homes and Create 27 Apartments in Wilkinsburg

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Pop City Media

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation - Wilkinsburg Redevelopment

When Pop City last reported on The Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation‘s Wilkinsburg redevelopment projects in 2008, four homes in the Hamnett Place neighborhood had successfully been restored. The PHLF recently announced that three more historic Hamnett Place houses, as well as the two-building, 27-unit Crescent Apartment development, are scheduled for completion by fall of 2011.

“It really is one big project because all of these things are kind of interlinked. We also launched a housing resource center in the same area last year and we’ve done a lot of cleaning and vacant lot work around the area. There are a lot of initiatives happening right now in Wilkinsburg that total over $10 million,” says Michael Sriprasert, director of real estate for the PHLF.

“Right now the three properties at 833 and 845 Holland Avenue and 517 Jeanette Street have undergone interior demolition and we have begun construction,” says David Farkas, director of main street programs for the PHLF, in regard to the second phase of the Hamnett Place project that began in December. The PHLF received assistance from Allegheny County Economic Development and The Allegheny Foundation for the restoration of these homes, which will have buyer incomes restricted to 120% of the area median income.

The PHLF is 30% finished with the redevelopment of two buildings in the $8.6 million, 27-unit affordable Crescent Apartments, which was funded by The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, Allegheny County’s Office of Behavioral Health, and private sources.

The PHLF worked with architects Landmarks Design Associates on both the Hamnett Place and Crescent Apartments projects, and with Mistick Construction and Sota Construction on the Hamnett Place and Crescent Apartments, respectively.

Writer: John Farley
Sources: Michael Sriprasert and David Farkas, PHLF

Image courtesy of PHLF

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Landmarks Foundation Waits for Word on $4 Million State Grant

By Craig Smith
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Arthur Ziegler, president of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, surveys Fifth Avenue, Downtown, part of an area his group has earmarked for more redevelopment like its Market at Fifth project. The foundation is awaiting word on whether a $4 million state grant from former Gov. Ed Rendell's administration will come through. Gov. Tom Corbett is reviewing that grant and others like it. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review

Arthur Ziegler Jr. likes what he sees Downtown.

Seven apartments and two retailers occupy three historic buildings that were brought back to life through a $3 million Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation project dubbed Market at Fifth. More projects in the area could come to fruition if a $4 million state grant comes through.

“I am very pleased … the momentum is gaining,” said Ziegler, the foundation’s president.

Ziegler hopes to leverage the $4 million grant from former Gov. Ed Rendell to do more historic renovation work. Gov. Tom Corbett, who took office last month, is reviewing the grants, handed out in the final days of the Rendell administration through the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, or RCAP.

The money was committed to Pittsburgh for historic building facade and core shell restoration, Ziegler said. The city appointed the landmarks foundation to carry out the work.

“It would be a great project for the city and Downtown,” said Rob Stephany, executive director of the city Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Some leaders criticized Rendell’s use of the RCAP grants, which come from borrowed money. Corbett said before he took office he would review all of the grants Rendell approved at the end of his term.

“We’re trying to go through the RCAPs as quickly as possible to make a decision,” said Kevin Harley, spokesman for Corbett.

Other areas of the country are successfully using historic renovation to spur development.

“We’re seeing a real move back to our center city — businesses and residents,” said Kevin Schwab, vice president of communications for CenterState Corp. for Economic Opportunity in Syracuse, N.Y.

Since the late 1980s, the downtown population has doubled from 1,000 to 2,000 people and 16 of 18 condos near a historic district have been sold, Schwab said. In the past decade, the revitalization has gained momentum, even during the recession, he added.

“It has all been driven by the rehabilitation of buildings that have been deemed historic,” he said.

New buildings are going up “with an eye toward being in concert” with what is already around them, he said.

If the $4 million grant for Pittsburgh survives Corbett’s review, the landmarks foundation plans to augment it with donated funds “so we can really solidify the new quality retailing we introduced with Market at Fifth,” Ziegler said.

“We would like to double (the $4 million),” he said.

The money would be used to renovate a half-dozen historic buildings scattered in the Fifth and Forbes area that have been scheduled for preservation since the days of former Mayor Tom Murphy, Ziegler said.

The Market at Fifth project restored three buildings within the Market Square historic district, including the former Regal Shoe Co., which opened in 1908.

The Regal building was designed by Alden & Harlow, then one of the city’s prominent architectural firms, responsible for the Carnegie Institute and Library additions in Oakland, and Carnegie branch libraries in various communities.

Its chief designer was one of the firm’s principals, Frank E. Alden, who in the late 1800s worked with architect H.H. Richardson supervising construction of noteworthy Downtown buildings such as the Allegheny County Courthouse and the Allegheny County Jail.


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Praise for PHLF Educational Programs

A Sampling of Comments from the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation 2010 Education Report

Compiled by interns Allison Ake (Duquesne University) and Lizzy Stoyle (University of Pittsburgh)

“We both agreed that it’s a fabulous program and a perfect enhancement to the 3rd grade Pittsburgh social studies curriculum.” [“Building Pride Building Character Trolley Tour”] Alea Melacrinos, Banksville Elementary School, February 19, 2010.

“Going on these tours makes one feel more connected to the city!” [Free Friday Walking Tours] Susan Karas, April 13, 2010

“Our guide was excellent, catered to everyone in the tour group, and full of useful information. It enhanced my appreciation of Pittsburgh.” [Grant Street and More Tour] Matthew Kessler, May 10, 2010

“That was the best field trip I ever went on and probably the best one I will ever go on.” [“Building Pride Building Character Trolley Tour”] Jimmy L., Pittsburgh Minadeo Student, May 20, 2010

“The guide was very informative and friendly. Thank you for all you and your team do to promote this wonderful city.” [Friday Grant Street Tour] John Kanik, May 24, 2010

Well-organized, thorough descriptions of our city’s history, student-friendly and fun, knowledgeable educators/docents guiding the trip. Students are able to ride a trolley and visit places they may never have the opportunity to visit!” [“Building Pride Building Character Trolley Tour”] Anonymous Teacher

Now I don’t call something an “old building.” I say, “Look at the potential that historical building has.” [Westmoreland Design Challenge] Anonymous Student

A magical blend of history and architecture – the students were in awe!” [Downtown Dragons Tour] Anonymous Teacher, Summer 2010

Loved by both kids and parents, and extremely educationally valuable.” [Downtown Dragons Tour] Anonymous Teacher, Summer 2010

I feel that I learned a lot about involving the community in the history, preservation, and arts of our city.” Loraine Ziegler, former intern, August 3, 2010

PHLF seems like a prefect partner to help underscore the relevance of history!” [CMU Prize in Architectural History] Kai Gutschow, M.Arch/PhD CMU School of Architecture, August 24, 2010

“I may not be the first scholarship recipient to achieve this goal, nor do all go into architecture, but I thought you’d like to know that what began so many years ago as a simple $4,000 scholarship helped me get to where I am today.” [He is a fully-registered practicing architect.] Steven Albert, August 27, 2010

What he learned is going to make him appreciate his Downtown office environs a lot more.” [Fourth Avenue & Grant Street Tour] Violet Law, September 11, 2010

This was my first time to Pittsburgh… such a great way to start my visit.” [Car Free Saturday-South Side Tour] Trisha Knueven, October 23, 2010

Thank you very much for taking your time and providing my students with a trip that really held their interest.” [Downtown Dragons Tour] Mary Beth Veri, Carlynton School District, October 21, 2010

Every year, I learn something new.” [Urban Survival Tour] Anonymous, Gateway High School, October 27, 2010

It was so well organized and I felt that the kids were safe and engaged the entire time.” [Urban Survival Tour] Anonymous, Winchester-Thurston, September 20, 2010

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Historic Crafton Elementary School Threatened with Closure

PHLF News
January 28, 2011

In 2010, the Carlynton School District conducted a district-wide facilities-use study on renovating or replacing its two elementary schools: the Carnegie Elementary School and the Crafton Elementary School.

The Crafton Elementary School, built in 1913 and designed by architect Press C. Dowler, is a handsome Tudor-style building located at 1874 Crafton Blvd, a lovely residential neighborhood of Crafton Borough.  The school is threatened with closure and ultimate abandonment in one of the options being considered.

Included in the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission Architectural Survey of Historic Resources, the building has served as a community focal point for nearly a century and was one of the deciding criteria in selecting Crafton as the best place to raise children in Pennsylvania by Bloomberg BusinessWeek.  The Crafton Elementary School is made of hand-burned brick laid in Flemish bond and has two projecting bays with crenelated tower projections, giving the building a stately appearance.

Crafton Councilwoman April Weitzel called the building a “gem of the community that has served and will continue to serve the citizens of Crafton and Carnegie.”   Councilwoman Weitzel is convinced that renovating the school will be less expensive, resulting in no tax increases for the district.  She further stated that “maintaining our neighborhood schools instead of abandoning them helps stabilize property values and encourages others to move into Carnegie and Crafton.”

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation would like to see this building continue being used as a school and has expressed its concern about possible closure of this important community asset.  Renovation of historic schools is often less expensive than new construction. Restoration supports “green” policy and helps stabilize historic neighborhoods.  This issue is scheduled to be discussed at the next School Board meeting.   Comments can be sent to:

Carlynton School District
435 Kings Highway
Carnegie PA 15106
Click for Map

Board Meeting:  Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. in the High School Cafeteria
and
Board Meeting:  Thursday, February 17, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. in the High School Cafeteria

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Work Continues on Wilkinsburg Restoration Projects

Work continues on the Crescent Apartments and Wilson house project in Wilkinsburg, to restore two historically significant buildings and bring 27 affordable housing rental units to the market. The project is over 30% complete, with apartment walls now being installed along with electrical wiring and plumbing. Both buildings are on schedule for completion in fall 2011.  Social services will be offered at both buildings, on and off-sight, through Hosanna House. This $8.6 million development is being funded with assistance from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, Allegheny County, through its Department of Economic Development and office of Behavioral Health, PNC Bank, and the Federal Home Loan Bank Pittsburgh.

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The New Granada Theater Listed on National Register of Historic Places

The New Granada Theater, which housed a prominent Hill District civic organization, and was also used as a movie theater, live entertainment venue, and community center for decades, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The listing, announced January 7, is the result of a submission of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation (PHLF) and the Hill Community Development Corporation (Hill CDC).

Designed in 1927 by Louis A.S. Bellinger, Pittsburgh’s first African American architect, the three-story building located at 2009-11 Centre Avenue was the Knights of Pythias Temple—an African American fraternal organization—from its opening in 1928 to 1936. It re-opened as the New Granada Theater in May 1937, under the management of the Handel Theater Corporation and remained active until the 1970s when it closed under private ownership. After years of vacancy and deterioration, the Hill CDC purchased the building in June 1995, with the help of a loan from PHLF.

The Hill CDC and PHLF collaborated on a $1.1 million stabilization of the New Granada in 2007-10, funded by The Heinz Endowments, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Redevelopment Capital Assistance Program, and Allegheny County’s Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund.

African American architect, Milton Ogot, and Repal Construction Company assisted with the stabilization project.

“The renewal of this building will anchor future development in the entire area. We look forward to the results of the visioning process now underway by the Hill CDC,” said PHLF President Arthur Ziegler.

The New Granada is one of 32 sites in Pittsburgh’s Hill District featured in PHLF’s forthcoming book, August Wilson: Pittsburgh Places in His Life and Plays, by Laurence A. Glasco and Christopher Rawson, with introductions by Kimberly C. Ellis and Sala Udin. A book signing and celebration, free to the public, will be on Saturday, February 26, 1-3pm, Ebenezer Baptist Church, 2001 Wylie Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15219. Reservations required: marylu@phlf.org; 412-471-5808 ext. 527.

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Row-House Museum Harrison Group’s Top Goal for 2011

By George Guido,
FOR THE VALLEY NEWS DISPATCH
Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bill Godfrey of Natrona Comes Together, the grassroots neighborhood improvement group, says the group has a list of goals for this year for this aging, riverside neighborhood that’s nestled between two steel mills.

One is establishing a row-house museum on Federal Street.

The project would restore a row house to its original state and be operated by the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.

Residents have been donating artifacts to the proposed museum, but the discovery of a $6,000 tax lien on the property possibly could complicate the project.

A steel heritage sculpture is proposed for the corner of Federal and Blue Ridge Avenue.

Natrona Comes Together needs $1,300 to buy the vacant property.

The sculpture will resemble the coal miners’ memorial sculpture in the Harwick section of Springdale Township and will be sculpted by New Kensington native Steven Paulovich. The parklet will be managed by the Rivers of Steel Group, based in the Mon Valley.

Another project involves ongoing additions to the Natrona playground.

A concession stand, bike racks, landscaping and a horseshoe-pitching court are among the planned items for the $142,000 federal grant.

Godfrey’s group hopes to have the former bank building renovated to the point where it could be sold, rented or leased to a private business.

The Natrona group also hopes to get AmeriCorps members to help manage the park and mow grass on vacant properties in the community.

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Buying Here: Thornburg

Saturday, January 22, 2011
By Gretchen McKay, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

This home in Thornburg is on the market. Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette

Bidding wars are not common in Pittsburgh. Every once in a while, though, multiple buyers will set their collective hearts on a house in a much-desired neighborhood. Linda Padget and her husband, John Miller, had to outbid eight others to buy the nearly century-old Craftsman-style house at 508 Yale Road in Thornburg that is currently for sale by owner for $389,900 (www.oldhouses.com, No. 5121).

The Living Room. Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette

The couple adored the big Victorian they’d spend years restoring in nearby Crafton, but not its location at a noisy intersection.

“We wanted peace and quiet,” recalls Ms. Padget, who paid $243,500 for the house in 1999. “This was out of the way, with virtually no traffic.”

A closer view of the living room fireplace. Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette

Laid out in 1899 by two cousins who subdivided 250 acres of family farmland, Thornburg has curving, shaded streets named after Ivy League colleges and many large, Craftsman-style homes that appealed to turn-of-the-century Edwardian sensibilities. The Thornburg Land Co. advertised the new development in the Chartiers Valley Mirror as a “high-class residence district.” The borough, most likely modeled after New York’s blue-blood Tuxedo Park, also had one of the first private golf courses in Allegheny County (members cut the grass on Saturdays and played on Sundays) along with a community club and a community theater founded in 1937.

The Home's Sitting Parlor. Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette

Just 10 minutes from Downtown, Thornburg has remained a family-centered town with a lively community spirit: Both the Thornburg Community Club and Village Players are still active; the golf course, which fell into private hands for a time, is now a conservation area with walking trails for residents.

A few of Thornburg’s homes are true mansions, including the Frank Thornburg House built in 1907 on Lehigh Road, which has 7,000 square feet of living space, seven bedrooms and 10 fireplaces. The Miller-Padget house, built in 1904, is more modest, with five bedrooms, three working fireplaces with original tile hearths and just under 4,000 square feet of space.

The dining room has a fireplace and a curved wall of windows. Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette

Located on a professionally landscaped lot in the historic district, the 21/2-story house is believed to be one of the borough’s original dozen or so houses. Its exterior is constructed of fieldstone and cedar shakes; there’s also a driveway leading to a two-car detached garage. While it has been updated with cosmetic changes, none of its six or seven owners over the past 100 years made the mistake of significantly modernizing its rooms or exterior.

“Everyone took very good care of it,” says Ms. Padget. “They kept the integrity intact.”

An overhead view of the kitchen. Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette

Original hardwood floors, brass hardware and leaded-glass transoms are among the period details that dress up the first floor, which includes a 15-by-19-foot family room. There’s also a 20-foot oak bay with a cushioned window seat in the 13-by-19-foot dining room, parts of which are wallpapered with pale blue silk grass cloth.

An adjoining 12-by-15-foot living room has mahogany paneling, with windows overlooking the side yard. At first, the couple wasn’t too keen on the light blue tint of the stain on the paneling (probably not original). But they feared the room would be too dark if they stripped it and stained it dark mahogany. The color ended up growing on them.

The refrigerator sits in a pantry off of the kitchen. Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette

The recently updated eat-in kitchen features stainless-steel appliances, cherry cabinets and granite countertops; they also turned a closet into a butler’s pantry with glass-fronted cabinets, fridge and a wine rack. Accent tiles in the backsplash depict Italian scenes; the copper ceiling is faux.

The second floor holds a 14-by-29-foot master bedroom with a pair of walk-in closets and a window seat. The master bath, brightened by a skylight, has a whirlpool tub. The smaller of two additional bedrooms serves as a home office, and there’s also a newly remodeled main bath with a porcelain floor.

The second-floor office. Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette

The attic has two more bedrooms — one with a wood floor and the other carpeted — and a 10-by-16-foot “bonus” room that’s currently used for storage.

The finished basement has a game room/den with wall-to-wall carpeting, a 9-by-14-foot cedar closet and a store room/shop with built-in shelving. A vintage quartersawn-oak Banta icebox is used by the current owners as a bar. Since it’s too massive to move, it comes with the house.

The master bedroom. Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette

The fenced-in backyard is surrounded by mature trees that cloak the house in privacy in spring and summer. Year-round, there’s a fabulous view from the 14-by-33-foot deck off the kitchen, outfitted with a built-in gas grill, below-railing lighting and stereo with quadraphonic sound.

“At night, you can see the sparkling lights of Sheraden and Ingram,” says Ms. Padget, It is, she says, their favorite spot in the house. “We spend seven months of the year out here.”

The "his" bathroom ... Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette

No properties have changed hands on Yale Road in the past several years, but homes have sold on other streets in the neighborhood with prices ranging from $160,000 on Cornell Avenue to $347,5000 on Harvard.

... and the "her" bathroom. Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette

To request a brochure on 508 Yale Road, call 412-921-0508 or e-mail padgetmiller@verizon.net.

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Children’s Museum Has Bulk of Funds to Build Park

Friday, January 21, 2011
By Diana Nelson Jones, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Children’s Museum is $2.2 million away from raising the funds it needs to transform the sunken concrete square outside its doors into the Allegheny Public Square Park and make upgrades inside the museum.

Officials Thursday announced they had raised $6.3 million of the $8.5 million needed and that the remainder would be solicited as public donations.

The bulk of the money to date has come from foundations. A $250,000 challenge grant from the Buhl Foundation will match $1 for every $2 contributed by the public.

The existing square was created in the 1960s as part of the Allegheny Center Mall. A sunken area housed a fountain encircled by amphitheater-like seating. The area now is a walk-through zone, sometimes used by skateboarders but otherwise ghostly.

The museum chose San Francisco landscape architect Andrea Cochran in a design competition in 2007, when it embarked on its capital campaign. Ms. Cochran’s design for the new park calls for native plants, a meadow, 75 additional trees, solar lighting, a rain garden and a V-shaped walkway with benches and movable seats and tables.

The park’s art feature will be a stainless steel sculpture by Ned Kahn. Called “Cloud Arbor,” the piece will stand as rows of stainless steel tubes with nozzles to create “a sphere of mist,” said museum executive director Jane Werner. “It is a companion to our wind sculpture,” called “Articulated Cloud,” which Mr. Kahn also designed as 43 panels on the building that create the illusion that the building is moving with the wind.

A north-to-south row of cypress trees along Children’s Way will be kept while about 10 others will be replaced, said Ms. Cochran, adding that arborists had determined them to be unhealthy.

Plants have been chosen for their contributions to green design, she said. “We are teaching by example, with plants that don’t need pesticides or fertilizers.”

“Everything we all say we care about — the environment, green space and kids — all comes together here,” said state Sen. John Pippy, R-Moon, a museum board member.

The project’s budget will also cover alterations of the museum’s nursery, store and cafe.

“We are hoping to break ground sometime this year,” said Ms. Werner. The project may be completed next year.

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Tax Incentives for Historic Buildings

Federal Preservation Tax Incentives for Historic Buildings

The Federal Preservation Tax Incentives Program encourages the reuse and rehabilitation of historic buildings through two tax benefits: federal rehabilitation tax credits and charitable contribution deductions for the donation of preservation easements.  Both incentives are available for historic buildings or buildings within districts that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places (National Register) and/or are contributing structures to “registered historic districts,” which includes National Register-listed historic districts and state or local historic districts that are certified by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior (Secretary).  The programs are administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) on behalf of the National Parks Service and the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

Rehabilitation Tax Credits

Two levels of rehabilitation tax credits are available: a 20% rehabilitation tax credit for projects that the Secretary designates as certified rehabilitation of a historic structure and a 10% rehabilitation tax credit for the rehabilitation of non-historic buildings placed in service before 1936.  The 20% rehabilitation tax credit is more frequently used in the Pittsburgh region.  It was instrumental in the financing of the Heinz Lofts, the Armstrong Cork Factory, the Bedford Springs Resort, and Market at Fifth­­––a project of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.

To access the 20% rehabilitation tax credit, owners and developers must fully comply with the Internal Revenue Service’s requirements.  The process is overseen and managed by PHMC and includes, among other things, a three-part application that: (i) certifies that the building is a certified historic structure; (ii) approves the plans and specifications for the rehabilitation work, and (iii) certifies that the rehabilitation was completed in accordance with the plans after the work is complete.  The 20% rehabilitation tax credit requires that:

  • the building is a certified historic structure (as discussed above);
  • the building is depreciable, i.e. income producing such as offices or rental housings;
  • the rehabilitation is substantial; and
  • the property must be placed in service or put into use after the rehabilitation, among other things.

More information on rehabilitation tax credits can be found at the PHMC and NPS Web sites.

Preservation Easements

Section 170(h) provides a charitable contribution deduction for a donation of a preservation easement on certified historic structures to a qualified organization such as PHLF.  In exchange, the donor of a preservation easement receives a federal charitable contribution deduction equal to the fair market value of the preservation easement as determined by a “qualified appraisal” conducted by a “qualified appraiser.”

A preservation easement is a legal agreement negotiated between the donor/property owner and PHLF that places restrictions on the exterior, and sometimes the interior, of a historic property so that it will be preserved forever or in perpetuity.  The owner retains the right to make changes to the property in accordance with the Secretary’s Standards for Rehabilitation.  The preservation easement is recorded in the local recorder of deeds office and runs with the land.  PHLF is then responsible for monitoring the property on an annual basis to ensure compliance.

PHLF has received over 30 preservation easements on buildings in Allegheny, Bedford, Butler, Greene, Washington, and Westmoreland Counties.  These include single-family homes, large industrial complexes that have been rehabilitated into apartments, downtown condominium buildings, historic farms and farmland, and a historic resort hotel.  More information on preservation easements and PHLF’s preservation easement program can be found at the following Web sites: PHMC, NPS and PHLF.

NOTE:  PHLF does not provide tax or legal advice. The above information is for informational purposes only and does not include all of the details and requirements of the Federal Preservation Tax Incentive Programs or the Internal Revenue Code.  Please consult your own attorney and tax advisor if you are interested in these programs.

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