150 Students Envision New Uses for the New Granada Theater

More than 150 middle and high school students from Westmoreland County Schools participated in the 15th Annual Architectural Design Challenge sponsored by the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation in cooperation with the Hill Community Development Corporation and Hill House Association. After visiting the Hill District and touring the New Granada Theater on October 26, 2010, the middle and high school students worked in teams for five months to construct 3-D models showing their visions for the New Granada Theater. On March 3 and 4, 2011, thirty-two teams of students presented their models in front of a jury of architects at Ebenezer Baptist Church.

The students had exceptionally creative ideas and their models were beautifully detailed. They spoke with conviction about their ideas and described how their plans celebrated the history of the building and yet brought new energy and life to the vacant structure. After participating as one of the judges in the competition, Caitlin O’Hara from Urban Design Associates said: “Thank you for inviting me to be a part of such a wonderful experience today. Seeing the enthusiasm of the students and their attention to the specific details of the project was amazing! It was encouraging to see such a strong interest in the architecture profession and I couldn’t have been happier with all of the results that we saw.”

Architect Bob Baumbach added, “I thought the Architectural Design Challenge was a great success on many levels. The students were fully engaged in the project and they had an opportunity to get a better picture of the Hill District.”

Judges for the two-day event also included: Joanna Beres, Brian DiPietro, Julie Edwards, Sheri Kosh, Kelly Lyons, Canan Mutlu-Akin, Anne Riggs, Richard Schmitz, Leanne Stelluto, Marvin Walker, and Drew Weinheimer. We thank them for their time and thoughtful comments.

Marimba Milliones, executive director of the Hill Community Development Corporation, thanked the students for their hard work and interest in the New Granada. Terri Baltimore, program director from Hill House Association, thanked the students for “loving the New Granada back to life.”

Student recommendations for the New Granada included the following:

First floor: Cafe with WiFi, stage, and open mic; bookstore (with a section for new and old jazz selections); sports bar; 500-seat theater with a restored stage; poetry readings, theater classes, local band concerts, open Karaoke nights on Saturdays; theater for movies, plays, or local presentations; small cafes and dining areas surrounding an exhibit featuring the history of the building; Child Care Center; a skate park; grocery store and pharmacy; and an ESPN Zone restaurant and entertainment facility (for the entire building).

Second floor: A ballroom for dances, formal receptions, graduation parties, and birthday parties; a dinner theater with jazz musicians performing; classrooms for painting, sculpture, music, drama, etc.; a jazz-themed food court; a gym with bleachers, locker room, concession stand; a cafe with a stage and “open mic nights”: Yoga and Zumba classes; paintball; an organic grocery store; the Hill Museum with historical photos and artifacts; a gym and yoga center.

Third floor: Rental office space; a mall with spaces for one large store and eight smaller stores; a children’s art museum with space for local artists to hold classes; ballet, music, and art studios; a jazz-themed restaurant; spa; a community arts museum; batting cages and a pitching practice facility; a community center with computers and internet connections, pool tables, and a TV area.

Roof: Solar panels; a landscaped outdoor lunch area; a rooftop restaurant featuring organic food; an outdoor hot tub and Jacuzzi.

Vacant Lot: A community garden in the vacant lot; a parklet for children; an outdoor barbecue area.

Prizes were awarded and important lessons were learned. Student comments included the following:

“At first I thought old buildings were a waste of time. Now I see there are a lot of cool things in them.”

“It showed us that while you can keep the historical value of a building, you can also throw a new twist into it.”

“This is the most ambitious project that we do all year, and without it, our gifted program wouldn’t be as exciting.”

“I learned to see the greatness in old cities.”

“Fun! Fun! Fun! Do this next year.”

Funding support from the Alfred M. Oppenheimer Memorial Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation, The Fine Foundation, and McSwigan Family Foundation make it possible for PHLF to offer educational programs such as these to more than 5,000 students in the Pittsburgh region.

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Old Allegheny County Jail Museum Self Guided Tour

A PHLF docent is on hand to tell you the story of the place. Completed in 1886 to the designs of Boston architect H. H. Richardson and in use until July 27, 1995, the former Allegheny County Jail was renovated between 1999 and 2001 to house the Family Division of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. A portion of one of the cell blocks has been preserved as the “Old Allegheny County Jail Museum.” The Jail Museum was created through a grant from the Drue Heinz Trust to PHLF, in cooperation with the Allegheny County Juvenile Court and Curator Ed Urban, former Deputy Warden. The Jail Museum opened in 2005. Enter the Family Court Facility through one of two entrances. In both cases, you must go through security and NO cameras are permitted.

  • Either enter through the main Ross Street entrance.
  • Or, enter through the great courtyard arch on Fifth Avenue.


Mary Lu Denny, Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, marylu@phlf.org or 412-471-5808, ext 527

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PHLF Preservation Society of Tavern Seekers

Pittsburgh’s taverns have long provided a place for good friends to sit back, relax, and enjoy good company. Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation’s (PHLF) Society of Tavern Seekers (SOTS) invites you to join us as we find out about Pittsburgh’s unique gathering places. You will get a chance to discover or rediscover local taverns, while finding out what PHLF is doing to preserve other favorite Pittsburgh spaces.

SOTS events will be held throughout 2011. Please join us in March for our first program of the year.

  • When: Thursday, March 24, 2011 from 5:30 – 8:30 pm
  • Where: Gandy Dancer Saloon inside the Landmarks Building at Station Square
    100 West Station Square Drive, Pittsburgh, PA

There is a $5 cover charge at the door, which entitles you to drink and appetizer specials. For $15 you can participate in all three SOTS events in 2011 with the additional bonus of receiving a one- year PHLF membership, but you have to attend the first event on March 24th to take advantage of this membership offer.

RSVP to Mary Lu Denny by March 21, 2011 marylu@phlf.org 412-471-5808, Ext. 527

Or, contact Sara McGuire (saramcguire@phlf.org) for more information about SOTS events


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Old Allegheny County Jail Museum Self Guided Tour

A PHLF docent is on hand to tell you the story of the place. Completed in 1886 to the designs of Boston architect H. H. Richardson and in use until July 27, 1995, the former Allegheny County Jail was renovated between 1999 and 2001 to house the Family Division of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. A portion of one of the cell blocks has been preserved as the “Old Allegheny County Jail Museum.” The Jail Museum was created through a grant from the Drue Heinz Trust to PHLF, in cooperation with the Allegheny County Juvenile Court and Curator Ed Urban, former Deputy Warden. The Jail Museum opened in 2005. Enter the Family Court Facility through one of two entrances. In both cases, you must go through security and NO cameras are permitted.

  • Either enter through the main Ross Street entrance.
  • Or, enter through the great courtyard arch on Fifth Avenue.


Mary Lu Denny, Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, marylu@phlf.org or 412-471-5808, ext 527

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Career Assesment and Awareness Program – FocusNOW

This free career assessment and awareness program presented by Dr. Herman L. Reid, Jr., EdD, is for young adults (ages 12 to 25) who are interested in developing a personal career plan. Parents are welcome to attend the Saturday session too. Following pizza and introductions, Dr. Reid will talk about career options and skills needed. After taking a brief personality test, participants will create career plans based on their strengths.
Career paths to be discussed include: accounting, auto and diesel mechanic, building maintenance, computer programming, computer specialist, dental assistant, electrician, graphic design, heating and air conditioning, hospitality and travel, legal administration, medical assistant, merchandising management, network management, office administration, paralegal, and welding.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation is facilitating this series of six Saturday sessions in historic neighborhoods where it is at work.

Each session is limited to 20 young adults (plus parents)

RSVP required by the Tuesday preceding the Saturday event.


Mary Lu Denny
Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation


Saturday March 19, 2011 from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM EDT
Landmarks Housing Resource Center
744 Rebecca Avenue
Wilkinsburg, PA 15221

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Old Allegheny County Jail Museum Self Guided Tour

A PHLF docent is on hand to tell you the story of the place. Completed in 1886 to the designs of Boston architect H. H. Richardson and in use until July 27, 1995, the former Allegheny County Jail was renovated between 1999 and 2001 to house the Family Division of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. A portion of one of the cell blocks has been preserved as the “Old Allegheny County Jail Museum.” The Jail Museum was created through a grant from the Drue Heinz Trust to PHLF, in cooperation with the Allegheny County Juvenile Court and Curator Ed Urban, former Deputy Warden. The Jail Museum opened in 2005.

Enter the Family Court Facility through one of two entrances. In both cases, you must go through security and NO cameras are permitted.

  • Either enter through the main Ross Street entrance.
  • Or, enter through the great courtyard arch on Fifth Avenue.


Mary Lu Denny
Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation
412-471-5808, ext 527

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Preservationists Praise Rehab Plan for Old Morgue

Friday, March 11, 2011


Sam Taylor, principal architect/building manager for Allegheny County department of public works, gives a tour of the old Allegheny County Morgue before it undergoes a $4 million renovation. James Knox | Tribune-Review

As a 14-year-old growing up in Oakland, Sam Taylor went to the Allegheny County Morgue at the urging of his friends to see the bodies on display.

It was a tradition for generations of Pittsburgh teens, he said. Some even took their prom dates.

“When you’re 14, you think you’re invincible,” said Taylor, 59, of Mt. Lebanon. “There was this yellowish light, and the bodies were kind of leaned back.”

Taylor, the county’s principal architect/building manager, is overseeing a $4 million renovation of the former morgue. The building, completed in 1903, was moved the length of a football field in 1929 to make way for the County Office Building.

Allegheny County expects to seek bids for demolition inside the building in late April or early May. That will create an additional 30,000 square feet of office space, while preserving many of the building’s unique features. The plan is to reuse transoms, stair railings and courtroom banisters, Taylor said.

The autopsy room inside the old Allegheny County Morgue will be transformed into a new use. James Knox | Tribune-Review

A $900,000 project that included installing a terra cotta roof and masonry work was completed in 2006.

Officials haven’t determined who will use the space.

“We have a number of departments using leased space, including the Law Department and Economic Development,” said county spokesman Kevin Evanto.

Architect Paul Apostolou, who made a trip to the morgue when he was in high school, said a big part of the project will be undoing the “sledgehammer and hacksaw” approach to renovations over the years.

Preservationists praise the effort.

“I think they are trying to treat it very well for a building that no longer suits its original purpose because of modern technology,” said Arthur Ziegler, president of Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation. “It’s a notable building in the government complex.”

The city designated the Frederick Osterling-designed building as a Pittsburgh landmark in 2002. Osterling, one of Pittsburgh’s premier architects, designed the county jail expansion of 1904 and Union Arcade (1915-17), which became Two Mellon Bank.

The "chapel" of the vacant old Allegheny County Morgue Friday was a place of prayer in a somber place. James Knox | Tribune-Review

The morgue building was designed to visually match the jail and courthouse, but by 1929, county government needed more space, according to a history of the building compiled by History & Landmarks. Officials decided a consolidated office building on Ross Street between Forbes and Fourth avenues would be the most efficient. That forced them to relocate the morgue.

The move was an enormous undertaking that took about three months. Work inside the building by the coroner and his staff continued without interruption, though. Temporary gas, water and sewer lines were connected and maintained on a 24-hour basis.

Huge timberwork and steel rails were used to move the building, which had to be lifted to the same height at the same moment. That ticklish maneuver was carried out by 100 men from a Balkan tribe — specialists in moving buildings from the “old country.”

They manned screw jacks that they gave a quarter turn every time a whistle sounded, until the three-story building was 27 feet in the air. It then was moved onto a system of beams designed by Kress-Oravetz Co. and slowly, laboriously pulled by cable to the foundation at 542 Fourth Ave.

Once there, Taylor said, they had to “shoehorn” the building between two structures.

In 2005, voters approved a referendum that eliminated the coroner as a row office, returning it to its early roots as an appointed position, now called medical examiner. The medical examiner’s office relocated in 2009 to a building in the Strip District.

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Historic Designation Rejected for Civic Arena

Wednesday, March 02, 2011
By Mark Belko, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Historic Designation Rejected for Civic Arena

The city Historic Review Commission refused to designate the Civic Arena a city historic structure today, a setback for those seeking to save the old building.

The panel voted 6-0 to reject the building’s nomination, reversing an earlier decision to designate the arena as a historic structure.

It followed the same pattern that occurred in the early 1990s when the commission gave preliminary approval and then rejected it in a final vote.

The decision is a setback for local preservationists who have been trying to stop the demolition of the 49-year-old arena. It is a victory for the Penguins, who want to use the site for housing, offices and shops.

Before he voted, Ernie Hogan, the commission’s acting chairman, said he did not think the arena met any of the 10 criteria for nomination.

Rob Pfaffmann, leader of Reuse the Igloo, said afterwards he was very disappointed with the decision but would continue the battle to save the structure.

The fight is far from over. The city planning commission and ultimately city council still must take up the nomination.

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PHLF Receives Major Geographical Information Systems Grant

February 28, 2010

The Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri), base in Redlands, California, approved a software grant for mission-related work of specialized GIS software, ArcInfo, to the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation that has a valued at $160,000. The award was announced February 25.

“PHLF does a significant amount of work in historic and urban inner-city neighborhoods,”, said Landmarks Chief Information Officer Ronald C. Yochum, Jr., “and understanding the raw data we collect via sophisticated mapping technology helps us better visualize and achieve our goals of successful and sustainable neighborhood revitalization.”

PHLF has been using a version of ESRIs ArcView GIS software to produce maps for our efforts in Wilkinsburg, PA., however we wanted to expand the level of spatial analysis of the raw data, so Mr. Yochum approached Esri and applied for their Non-profit Organization program.

Landmarks will be using Esri’s ArcInfo GIS software for an upcoming quantitative analysis of PHLF activities over the history of the company and will be developing maps of the regions historic assets. The software will also help support staff projects in our education, neighborhood development, Main Street and Elm Street programs, and other bricks and mortar projects.

Esri offers a variety of programs to support groups working for social and environmental benefit. Organizations use GIS to analyze complex situations, visualize problems, and create plans and solutions, as well as increasing efficiency, reducing costs, and helping people make faster and better decisions. More information on this software can be found at www.esri.com.

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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

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’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’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
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
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


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
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
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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