YMCA moving to Market Square – New facility in former G.C. Murphy is cornerstone of renewal

Pittsburgh Post GazetteFriday, June 01, 2007
By Mark Belko,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Millcraft Industries wanted foot traffic to help support its revitalization of the old G.C. Murphy’s store. The YMCA wanted a more central location Downtown.

It proved to be the perfect marriage.

The YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh announced yesterday that it will open a new Downtown facility in the Murphy’s building as part of Millcraft’s $32 million Market Square Place project.

With the decision, the YMCA plans to sell its current Downtown building on the Boulevard of the Allies, but won’t be moving out until its new facility is completed. There will be no interruption in services or programs, said John Cardone, vice president of the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh.

“This is a seamless transition. There won’t be any break in services at all,” he said.

The new facility will be 38,000 square feet. The Downtown YMCA will occupy about 30,000 square feet of the old Murphy’s building and become the lead tenant of the Market Square Place project, which also will feature shops and apartments. It also will use about 8,000 square feet of an adjacent property that’s part of the Millcraft project.

At the new location there will be a 25-meter, five-lane swimming pool, men’s and women’s locker rooms, wellness facilities with cardiovascular and strength equipment and exercise rooms, and a multitude of services and programs, including nutrition, smoke cessation, weight management, physical therapy and cardiac rehabilitation.

Programs and services will be spread over three floors, from the basement to the second floor, rather than seven as at the current location. The new facility also will house Activate Pittsburgh’s staff and wellness programs.

Mr. Cardone said the YMCA had been looking for a more central location Downtown and has been seeking to consolidate space and programs. He said it has found that people generally won’t walk more than three blocks to an exercise program. Navigating seven floors in the current building also has proved to be inconvenient for members.

“Quite frankly, it’s really just too much space. The way it’s designed, it’s really broken up,” he said.

Moving to the Murphy’s building more in the heart of the Downtown business district should make it more convenient for existing members, some 2,000 to 2,500 strong, and help recruit new ones.

Mr. Cardone said the YMCA also is excited about being part of the resurgence in the Downtown business corridor, with the Murphy’s project, the construction of the Three PNC Plaza skyscraper and the conversion of the Lazarus-Macy’s store to office space and housing.

For Millcraft, the move will provide a steady diet of foot traffic, about 1,000 people a day, and a great amenity for residents of the 50 loft apartments it is planning as part of the Murphy’s conversion, said Lucas Piatt, vice president of real estate.

“It’s really going to activate Market Square and the whole Fifth and Market district,” he said.

Even with the YMCA, Millcraft will have 27,000 to 30,000 square feet of ground-level space to offer retailers and others. It sees that as potential homes for restaurants, spas, salons, and lounges. It also has plans for a market catering to the needs of residents and office workers.

The YMCA hopes to open the new facility in late 2008 or early 2009. Millcraft plans to begin taking reservations for apartments by mid-2008. A non-profit, the YMCA pays property taxes on a small portion of its current building. The Murphy’s building will become taxable once Millcraft completes its purchase. The move of the YMCA won’t affect that.

The Downtown YMCA expects to add about 50 to its 150-member staff with the move.With the sale of the Boulevard of the Allies building, about 30 administrative staff members for the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh will move to another location.

(Mark Belko can be reached at mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1262. )

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YMCA to anchor Market Square Place

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Ron DaParma
Friday, June 1, 2007

The YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh will cut the size of its Downtown facility by more than half when it moves to the vacant G.C. Murphy store complex on Fifth Avenue on the edge of Market Square, officials said Thursday.
The nonprofit organization will lease space at the Murphy structure and the neighboring former D&K retail store building, with the move expected by late next year.

The two buildings are being developed by Washington County-based Millcraft Industries Inc. as part of its Market Square Place project, a $32 million complex that will include retail stores, restaurants and apartments.

In November, the YMCA disclosed to its nearly 2,500 full-time and 500 seasonal members that it planned to sell its seven-story headquarters building on the Boulevard of the Allies and seek another Downtown site.

“The YMCA has made a major commitment to the revitalization of the Fifth and Market District and to making Downtown a much better place to live and work,” said Lucas Piatt, vice president of Millcraft Industries.
“As the lead tenant in the Market Square Place project, the YMCA will provide a sought-after amenity to the residential aspect of the project and provide essential foot traffic to help support the additional … retail use within the development.”

The move will bring 200 staffers, including 50 new hires, and the 500 to 1,000 people who use the Downtown Y’s facilities each day into the heart of the city’s deteriorated retail corridor along Fifth and Forbes avenues.

In addition to its members, the YMCA serves hundreds of others through its wellness programs.

“In our new Downtown location, we will provide wellness and other services that match the needs of our Downtown members at a convenient central location,” said Dan Lebish, board chairman of the Downtown YMCA branch.

The facility at Market Square Place will include a 25-meter, five-lane pool, men’s and women’s locker rooms, wellness facilities with cardiovascular and strength equipment and exercise rooms.

However, it will not have the basketball court, running track and other court game facilities offered at the current site.

The YMCA signed a long-term lease at the Murphy site, but terms of the deal were not disclosed. Because it is a leased facility, the new YMCA will be fully taxable property, said Piatt and John Cardone, the Downtown Y’s executive director.

Over the years, the Downtown Y attempted to secure tax-free status for its land and building at 330 Blvd. of the Allies, which drew objections from private health clubs in the city.

The organization will not move from its current location until the new complex is ready, said Cardone. He said efforts continue to sell the building, which has been home to the YMCA for 20 years.

“Our new YMCA will not only help us serve our Downtown members better, it will also enable us to invest more in YMCA programming throughout the greater Pittsburgh community,” said Cardone.

The building will be substantially more cost-effective to operate, and Cardone said savings will be returned to the community in the form of scholarships and enhanced services.

The majority of the YMCA’s new facilities and offices will be on the second floor of the former G.C. Murphy complex, about 30,000 square feet of its 38,000-square-foot space, Piatt said.

However, its main entrance will be on the ground-level floor of the seven-story D&K building, across from PNC Financial Services Group’s Three PNC Plaza project under construction. The connection between the D&K and Murphy complex will be on the second level of the two structures.

The five floors above the Y’s facilities in the D&K structure will be developed as rental apartments. Other apartment units will be located on the upper levels of the former G.C. Murphy complex, which is a combination of several adjoining buildings.

The Piatt project is being built with the aid of about $6 million in state funds. Additional help is being sought in historic tax credits.

Possibilities for ground-level retail space include a high-end spa and salon, restaurants, clothing shops and a bank, Piatt said.

News of the YMCA’s decision was welcomed by Arthur P. Ziegler Jr., president of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, which has been concerned about preservation of historic and architecturally significant structures Downtown.

“We’ve worked closely with the Piatts and their architect to ensure that the entire complex of buildings could be saved and made workable,” Ziegler said. “We’ve been pleased with the uses they are creating.”

YMCA on the move

New site

Location: Former G.C. Murphy complex and D&K Store building

Size: 38,000 square feet

Pool: 25-meter, five lanes

Facilities: Men’s and women’s locker rooms; wellness facilities, with cardiovascular and strength equipment and exercise rooms; whirlpool, sauna and steam room

Current site

Location: 330 Blvd. of the Allies

Size: 97,000 square feet on seven stories

Pool: 25-meter, six lanes

Not moving from old site: Gymnasium, racquetball courts, walking/running track

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Stained-glass ‘puzzle’ is piece of Fayette County history

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Chris Foreman
Friday, June 1, 2007

Terry Bengel hasn’t had an easy task restoring the long-hidden stained glass that once graced the rotunda ceiling in the 115-year-old Fayette County Courthouse.
For the past five weeks, the Greensburg artist has been refurbishing the soot-blemished panels that were in storage for at least decades, if not nearly the past century.

Compounding matters, nobody in county government has any photos depicting how the glass, which has a pale amber ripple background, used to look.

But Bengel said he is confident he’ll have all 20 glass panels ready for installation by Andaloro Construction before a June 15 deadline.

“It was a bit of a mystery, and it turned into a puzzle that had to be put together,” Bengel said Thursday.
Fayette County President Judge Conrad B. Capuzzi has spurred the glass restoration, which he says will create a near-mirror image of the stained-glass dome outside his second-floor courtroom.

In March, county commissioners hired Andaloro, of Hopwood, to complete the reinstallation for $124,200, although only $2,200 in matching money from the county’s general fund has been pledged.

The remaining $122,000 is split between a grant from the National Road Heritage Corridor and defendant fees paid into a county magisterial court fund.

Once mounted, the stained-glass panels will replace plain beige plaster slabs that have hung in their place in the 17.5-foot-by-22-foot ceiling.

“They all required some work,” Bengel said. “Three of the panels were total reconstructions. They were totally lost.”

Bengel is getting down to the final work in his George Street studio, mixing and grinding ceramic colors into the panels reproduced by Connellsville-based Youghiogheny Opalescent Glass.

“It’s an important piece of historic preservation,” he said.

Chris Foreman can be reached at cforeman@tribweb.com or 724-626-3561.

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New YMCA planned for Murphy building

Pittsburgh Post GazetteThursday, May 31, 2007

By Mark Belko, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh will move to the old G.C. Murphy’s building Downtown as part of efforts to revitalize the Fifth and Forbes corridor.

It is teaming up with Washington County developer Millcraft Industries to open a 38,000-square-foot facility in the old building. The new facility at Market Square Place will include a 25-meter five-lane pool, men’s and women’s locker rooms, wellness facilities with cardiovascular and strength equipment, and exercise rooms.

As part of the move, the organization plans to sell its current building on the Boulevard of the Allies, where it has been for more than 20 years. The YMCA plans to make the official announcement at a banquet this evening.

The YMCA’s administrative offices, which are at its current site, also will be moved to a yet-to-be-determined location.

“The YMCA has made a major commitment to the revitalization of the Fifth and Market District and to making Downtown a much better place to live and work,” said Lucas Piatt, Millcraft vice president of real estate.

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Hazelwood welcomes new houses

Pittsburgh Post GazetteWednesday, May 30, 2007
By Diana Nelson Jones,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

City officials and neighborhood leaders broke ground yesterday on the future site of two new townhouses, among six three-bedroom residences to be built in Hazelwood. They will be the first new homes in the neighborhood in about 15 years, said Jim Richter, executive director of the Hazelwood Initiative.

The $1.5 million project featuring four townhouses and two single-family homes is being developed under the auspices of the Urban Redevelopment Authority. It has been planned for six or seven years, said Jerome Dettore, executive director of the URA.

Four townhouses will be built on Sylvan Avenue, across from the long-vacant Gladstone School. Monongahela Street and Homewood Avenue will each get a new single-family detached home. The townhouses are expected to sell for $129,500, the houses for $135,500. Two homes will be subsidized for home owners who make less than 80 percent of the area’s median income, according to the mayor’s office.

Vanessa Anderson has lived between the two townhouse lots for nine years. They have been vacant for much longer, said Arlene Dobbs, a 45-year resident of the street.

“I’ll be glad to see the weeds go,” said Ms. Dobbs. “Glad to see the land put to good use.”

“It’ll be a brighter place,” said Ms. Anderson, who considered the prospect of four new households on each side of her, saying, “I hope they’re good neighbors.”

She said she has walked to the curb regularly to confront people hanging out in cars whom she presumed were there to sell drugs, she said.

The Rev. Tim Smith, board chair of the Hazelwood Initiative, also has confronted visitors with questionable intentions.

“It has been quiet for the past year, and I think that’s why,” she said, adding that otherwise, the street is peaceful, with lots of homeowners.

As District 5 Councilman Doug Shields described Hazelwood, “You’re six minutes from Oakland and connected to everywhere.”

To give the Hazelwood housing development a boost, the city committed community development block grant money to cover an almost $300,000 gap in financing, Mr. Richter said.

“It’s a sunny day in Hazelwood,” Mr. Richter said yesterday. “Maybe it’s a sign of a sunny future.”

(Diana Nelson Jones can be reached at djones@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1626. )

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Historical state marker will honor playwright August Wilson’s childhood home in Hill District

Pittsburgh Post GazetteWednesday, May 30, 2007
By Christopher Rawson,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Today at 10 a.m., an official Pennsylvania State Historical Marker will be unveiled at 1727 Bedford Ave., Hill District, the childhood home of the late Pulitzer Prize- and Tony-winning playwright August Wilson.

The text will recognize not only Mr. Wilson but also the Hill, which inspired his poetry and plays and provided the setting for nine of his epic 10-play Pittsburgh Cycle, which chronicles African American life decade-by-decade throughout the 20th century.

The marker is being presented by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in partnership with the Senator John Heinz History Center, the August Wilson Center for African American Culture and the Estate of August Wilson.

Making remarks will be some of Mr. Wilson’s brothers and sisters, along with his daughter, Sakina Ansari-Wilson, who will do the unveiling, although not until a number of officials have also had their say.

They include Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato, Councilwoman Tonya Payne, Andrew E. Masich of the History Center, Neil Barclay of the August Wilson Center and Barbara Franco of the Historical and Museum Commission.

There will also be messages from Gov. Ed Rendell, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and state representative Jake Wheatley.

The ceremony is open to the public. The rain location is the Ammon Recreation Center, 2217 Bedford Ave.

(Post-Gazette theater editor Christopher Rawson can be reached at crawson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1666. )

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Free tours showcase city’s special sites

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Brianna Horan
For the Tribune-Review
Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Pittsburghers didn’t need USA Today to tell them the view from the Mt. Washington overlook is one of the best in the nation. But as they work, play and live among the modern skyscrapers and repurposed factory buildings that meld to form the city’s skyline, sometimes locals forget to look up.
“People don’t see a lot of the details and don’t realize the significance of the things we have in the city. Too often people are looking down,” says tour guide Drew Chelosky. “If you wrap a nice present, you put the bow on the top. Architecture designers work the same way.”

Eight free tours of Pittsburgh neighborhoods, offered by Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, will point out unique aspects to the city, like the first drive-through banking window at the Iron & Glass Bank on East Carson Street, South Side; the world’s second-tallest educational building in Oakland; and portraits of history makers like Mary Croghan Schenley and Andrew Carnegie on the facade of Midtown Towers at Liberty and Seventh, Downtown.

“I think the tours are very nice because they help people to appreciate how interesting a city Pittsburgh is,” says William Garrett, 78, who has been leading tours for the last decade. “They make people appreciate things they see frequently, but they may not realize the importance of.”

Like Fourth Avenue, Pittsburgh’s “Wall Street” at the turn of the 20th century that held more capital than the combined holdings of the banks of England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany and Russia. Or East Carson Street, one of only 58 “Great American Main Streets,” once travelled by John F. Kennedy.

“Our tours are of places that have a fascinating history and are a vibrant place today, or that is an area in transition — and this transition is making it into a vibrant place,” says Louise Sturgess, executive director of Pittsburgh History & Landmarks.

This is the first year the organization will lead tours through the civic center of Oakland, a neighborhood where tens of thousands of students, medical staff, business people and residents give life to the buildings, parks and institutions made possible by people like Schenley and Andrew Carnegie in the late 1800s.

“It was one of the first true civic centers of its kind in the country. It’s an area where some of the most influential people came together. You can literally stand in one spot and turn 360 degrees, without moving, and see so many important elements,” says Chelosky, who’s enthusiasm of Oakland’s treasures was the first step to creating the walking tour.

Those interested in exploring the civic center can meet him every Wednesday at noon next to Dippy, a life-sized replica of the Diplodocus carnegii that Andrew Carnegie scrambled to acquire for his Institute in 1898. The group will wind around Schenley Memorial Fountain, then walk the former baselines of Forbes Field — now site of the University of Pittsburgh’s Wesley W. Posvar Hall, home to social scientists and education students. Past Schenley Plaza, the tour will continue to the Cathedral of Learning and the William Pitt Student Union, the former Hotel Schenley where Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Babe Ruth were among the elite to check in.

Central Oakland’s history is a main element of the tour, but “we also talk about how it’s the core of a very vital district today,” says Sturgess. “We like to talk about this area in a very present-day way.”

It’s often residents of the region who take the History & Landmarks tours.

“We can see retired people, we can see business people from Downtown, and we can see students,” says Garrett. “They’re people who have some connection to the city and some source of information about it.”

As a child in the East End, Chelosky, 31, learned a hand-me-down history of Pittsburgh similar to that which many locals acquire.

“Growing up in Pittsburgh, people and their families have their own stories that they kind of tell,” he says.

His curiosity about local history led him to check the truth behind these stories, and as an employee at Pitt, and formerly at Carnegie Mellon University, Chelosky focused his research on Oakland. He has found plenty of historical significance to share during his hour-long tours.

“Oakland has that blend of a business area, a cultural area, learning institutions, residential areas and, of course, you have Schenley Park,” Chelosky says. “So within walking distance, you have a blend of everything.”

Free walking tours schedule
Old Allegheny County Jail Museum: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Mondays through October
Oakland Civic Center: Noon-1 p.m. Wednesdays in June

Southside Strolls: 10:30-11:45 a.m. Saturdays in June

Downtown Walks: Noon-1 p.m. Fridays

June: Bridges and More

July: Penn-Liberty Cultural District

August: Fourth Avenue and PPG Place

September: Revitalizing Fifth and Forbes
Pittsburgh’s Parks: 4-5 p.m. Sundays in September

Sept. 2: Schenley Park

Sept. 9: Frick Park

Sept. 16: Highland Park

Sept. 23: Riverview Park

Sept. 30: Allegheny Commons
Special one-time tours:

August Wilson’s Hill District (walking tour), 2-4 p.m. June 23, $5

Pittsburgh’s Bridges from the Rivers (boat tour), 1:45-4 p.m. July 15, $45

Homewood’s Historic Landmarks (bus and walking tour), 1:30-4:30 p.m. Sept. 15, $45

Vandergrift, Pa. (bus and walking tour), 1:30-5 p.m. Oct. 13, $50
Details: 412-471-5808, ext. 527, or www.phlf.org

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PHLF Walking Tours

PSA for Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation and WQED Pittsburgh. TItle: Walking Tour

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Pitt aims to preserve the Cathedral of Learning

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Bill Zlatos
Monday, May 28, 2007

Pitt is “redding up” the Cathedral of Learning.
Workers from Forest Hills-based Cost Co. are hosing down the University of Pittsburgh icon to remove 70 years of soot.

“We feel better when we’re redd up,” said Albert J. Novak, Jr., vice chancellor for institutional advancement.

Since 2000, Cost and Pitt have experimented with everything from baking soda to chemicals to remove the grime. They settled on a mixture of water and recycled glass, an abrasive as fine as powdered sugar, because it is the least harmful to the workers, lawn and plants and does not react with the iron in the building’s Indiana limestone.

Forty-two Cost employees have been working on the project since March. Some use pressure washers to blast the 42-story building at 70 pounds of pressure per square inch.
Others replace broken or cracked stone and repoint the missing or loose mortar. About 40 percent of the building has been cleaned.

The idea is not just to give the building a bath, but to restore it.

“It’s really to save the building for another 100 years,” university architect Park L. Rankin said.

The project will cost $4.8 million. The university plans to pay for the restoration with donations or its own money. Anyone who gives at least $1,000 will become a member of the Cathedral Preservation Society.

“We’re coming at it from a legacy perspective — preserving the cathedral for future generations,” Novak said.

When university officials first considered scrubbing the building, some preservationists objected, contending the soot was part of the city’s industrial heritage.

Historical or not, the soot was harming the stone, Rankin said.

“It doesn’t allow the stone to breathe. It clogs the pores.”

In deference to the preservationists, the university is leaving a 3- by 2-foot section of stone black, behind the Fifth Avenue entrance.

Besides hurting the stone, the soot hid beautiful details, such as the cast aluminum window spandrels with molded medallions made by Alcoa. The grime hid damage, such as fallen ornamental spires that will be replaced.

Work on the restoration is expected to be finished Sept. 28.

Cost’s crews normally work from the top down, but are working from the bottom up on this project. That’s because they don’t want to tangle with the peregrine falcons and their chicks roosting on the 39th floor.

“If the falcons see us, they’ll try to do damage to the workmen,” company owner Corky Cost said.

The young falcons are expected to leave June 21, and the crews will be able to clean above the 25th floor.

Bill Zlatos can be reached at bzlatos@tribweb.com or (412) 320-7828.

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After 70 years with no maintenance, inspectors assess Heinz Chapel

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Jodi Weigand
For the Tribune-Review
Saturday, May 26, 2007

Like a scene from the movie “Mission Impossible,” a climber made his way up the inside of the spire atop Heinz Chapel, drilled a hole and dropped ropes to two accomplices waiting on the ground. The three then scaled the side of the 70-year-old building.
“It was a first for us, having people rappel off the side of the building,” said Pat Gibbons, director of the Oakland chapel. “We got a few phone calls from people asking if we knew people were climbing around on the building.”

The three work for Vertical Access, an Ithaca, N.Y., company that inspects buildings in extreme locations. They spent three days this month documenting damage to the chapel’s fleche, the spire at the crossing of the nave and transept. The company will submit recommendations to help determine whether to preserve, restore, or replace it.

The project, which also involves inspection of the heating and ventilation system and the stained glass windows, is funded by a $250,000 grant from the Heinz Endowments, which likely will work with the University of Pittsburgh to pay for repairs, Gibbons said.

H.J. Heinz Co. founder Henry John Heinz donated the building as a memorial to his wife, Anna. Their children saw to its construction and Heinz Chapel was dedicated in 1938.
“It was really a great project for us due to the architecture and prominence of the building,” said Vertical Access conservator Evan Kopelson. “It’s a spectacular building and just a fantastic structure.”

It’s been 20 years since major work was done on the sheet-copper fleche, but university personnel decided it needed another look in 1995, when they found that one of the 16 hollow, metal grotesques attached to it had fallen onto the upper roof, Gibbons said.

Vertical Access was called in for the job because it was more cost-effective than assembling scaffolding, she said.

Even with their climbing equipment, it was difficult to scale the 9 1/2-foot fleche, Kopelson said. Modern buildings have elevators or stairs that lead to the roof, where climbers can find access points through which to drop ropes, but that was not the case with Heinz Chapel.

“It was a challenge in terms of rigging because the internal structure wouldn’t allow access to the outside,” Kopelson said. “There were openings about halfway up the spire, but for the upper portion we had to drill a hole from the inside.”

Once on top, the inspection team discovered that another of the 3-foot-tall grotesques had come loose, he said. The two figures will be put in storage until they can be reattached, Gibbons said.

Overall, the fleche is in good condition and shows aging and deterioration expected with exposure to an urban environment, Kopelson said.

“We found nothing we would call imminently hazardous,” he said. “We recommend that a pretty comprehensive restoration project should be undertaken.”

Ellis Schmidlapp, president of Landmarks Design Associates, the architectural firm overseeing the inspection, said he doesn’t anticipate an extensive overhaul because, compared to similar structures, the fleche was designed to withstand the elements. The South Side firm will advise the university on the best action to take once it receives Vertical Access’ report, he said.

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Turtle Creek’s historic K Building demolished

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Brian Bowling
Thursday, May 24, 2007

A small piece of history tumbled to the ground last week when a contractor demolished the K Building in the Keystone Commons industrial park in Turtle Creek.

Bob Stephenson, president of the Regional Industrial Development Corporation of Southwestern Pennsylvania, said the former Westinghouse office and storage building was rapidly deteriorating.

“It was literally falling down,” he said.

A shed on top of the eight-story building was the site of the first commercial radio broadcast when newly licensed KDKA aired the presidential election results on Nov. 2, 1920.

Stephenson said part of the K Building site will be used for parking, but most of it will be used to improve the flow of truck traffic through the industrial park.

A group hoping to start a broadcast museum has been documenting the building’s demolition. Rick Harris, treasurer of the National Museum of Broadcasting, said the group hopes to recreate the end of the building where the shed was located using old photographs and documents.

A couple of factors that apparently separate the KDKA broadcast from earlier broadcasts is the audience. Most listeners before then were radio enthusiasts who built their own sets. Frank Conrad, assistant chief engineer at Westinghouse’s Pittsburgh facility, had built up an audience by doing regular broadcasts of news and music from his garage.

Gil Schwartz, vice president of communications for CBS, worked for Westinghouse’s Group W Communications in the 1980s. He said the popularity of Conrad’s broadcasts both created a market for radio receivers and attracted the first radio advertiser — a local music store.

“For the first time, someone linked broadcasting and advertising,” Schwartz said.

Westinghouse began making and selling receivers to meet the market, and licensed KDKA to create the first commercial radio station, he said.

Schwartz said Westinghouse doesn’t get the credit it deserves for historical accomplishments, and the demise of the K Building is another example of how the company is becoming a “vanishing civilization.” Many former employees now work for other broadcast companies, and meeting them is somewhat like a school reunion, he said.

“We give each other the secret handshake,” Schwartz said with a laugh.

Brian Bowling can be reached at bbowling@tribweb.com or (412) 320-7910.

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Fort Pitt Block House to get new roof

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Allison M. Heinrichs
Thursday, May 24, 2007

Pittsburgh’s oldest building is getting a new roof.
The Fort Pitt Block House’s cedar shake roof will be replaced starting June 1 with donated labor and materials, the Fort Pitt Society of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution announced Wednesday.

“Every time we get a good wind, the yard is usually filled with toothpicks because the roof is just falling off,” said Kelly Linn, curator of the Block House, a National Historic Landmark in Point State Park, Downtown.

Estimates to replace the roof, which was installed in 1948 atop a roof from 1894, were about $20,000 — much more than the Daughters of the American Revolution could afford. Linn began applying for state grants when Carnegie-based Rickjohn Roofing volunteered to do it for free.

“I said if there’s ever a time to help out, it’s now,” said Rick Gammiere, who co-owns the roofing company with Bobby Wallo. “I visited the Block House in grade school, and it’s just really important.”
The two-week project will give archaeologists a rare chance to look in the building’s attic. “There’s no telling what’s up there, but certainly the architectural information would be invaluable,” Linn said. “We’ll learn how the building was constructed.”

The Block House will be closed during the roofing project, but people are welcome on the site to observe the process and ask questions daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Allison M. Heinrichs can be reached at aheinrichs@tribweb.com or (412) 380-5607.

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Rebuilding Wilkinsburg

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Justin Vellucci
Thursday, May 24, 2007

Deanna Steele looks at Jeanette Street’s boarded-up rowhouses — their lawns choked by shoulder-high weeds — and remembers children playing on the brick-lined Wilkinsburg street when she lived there 20 years ago, long before she settled in Murrysville.
Mary Cathcart wanders through an abandoned, five-bedroom house around the corner and sees, instead, the foundation of a future community — a neighborhood built on the potential of four soon to be refurbished historic homes.

“I love old houses, and it overjoys me that, instead of knocking something down, they’re rebuilding it,” said Cathcart, 49, of Wilkinsburg, as she descended a dusty staircase in a home under renovation Wednesday evening.

“They’re beautiful. And they have such good bones. They don’t build things like this anymore.”

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation is working to ensure they’re not demolished, either. So, it secured two $500,000 grants from the Sarah Scaife Foundation and the Allegheny County Department of Economic Development to acquire and restore the four roughly century-old structures.

Once the work is done in June or July, each will be sold for $75,000 to $95,000.

Yesterday, most neighbors who flocked to a block party to walk through the homes were less excited about mortgage discounts for prospective buyers than what the investment means to the revitalization of their community.

Sherman Moye lives around the corner from the cluster of homes developers call Hamnett Place. He sees that investment every day when he drives to work.

“I’m glad somebody’s fixing it,” said Moye, 54, of Wilkinsburg. “I know it’s going to be nice.”

Michelle Malito, a Shadyside resident thinking about buying one of the four homes, was impressed by the architectural details the developer is preserving.

Jack Schmitt, who owns a massage therapy business in Squirrel Hill, liked the idea of linking the preserved homes together as part of a sustainable neighborhood.

“I have a business in Pittsburgh, but I want to have a community,” said Schmitt, 38. “I see the vision for the future. I see an eco-village (and) a group of like-minded people.”

Others see the project as a way to improve a residential neighborhood while triggering revitalization elsewhere.

“You work incrementally, and you work your way in,” said Michael Gleba, executive vice president of the Sarah Scaife Foundation, which has funded historic redevelopment in the South Side and in the Mexican War Streets on the North Side. “You have an opportunity.”

Some see Wilkinsburg’s past in the historic homes, while others see its future. Michael Sriprasert, of Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, simply sees the houses themselves.

“I see the houses as they fit into the context of what’s here,” said Sriprasert, as he strolled down the stone alleyway that runs next to one of the restored homes.

“There’s a perception of what Wilkinsburg is. People don’t realize it’s something more,” he said. “That’s what is going on here. … That’s why we’re saving these buildings.”

Justin Vellucci can be reached at jvellucci@tribweb.com or 412-320-7847.

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Mt. Lebanon golf course will note centennial

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Daniel Casciato
For the Tribune Review
Thursday, May 24, 2007

Pennsylvania’s oldest municipal golf course will mark another milestone in its storied history as it celebrates its centennial this summer.
On July 7, nearly 100 years to the day a group of 30 men built three putting greens and began golfing on a 100-acre farm, Mt. Lebanon will throw two parties to celebrate the course’s origins.

“What has made this golf course special over the years is that it has the ability to satisfy the needs of any type of golfer, whether they are a starter or golf professional,” said Matt Kluck, head Professional Golfers’ Association of America pro and manager of the Mt. Lebanon Golf Course.

The National Golf Association recognizes it as the oldest municipal course in the state, and last month the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation designated the former private club a historical local landmark. A plaque will be displayed for the first time during the celebration.

“We’re excited about the designation,” said Steve Dean, of Mt. Lebanon, community co-chair for the celebration and an avid golfer on the course. “The golf course is essentially in its original condition. We had a golf course architect come out to examine the course, and he said the greens were in the best condition from that era that he had ever seen.”
Local golf legend George A. Ormiston designed the nine-hole course. Andrew W. Mellon and Richard King Mellon were among the elite members when the course was originally known as Castle Shannon Golf Club. Mt. Lebanon purchased the course in 1947.

A facelift for the nine-hole course is being completed just in time for the celebration. Renovations began this spring to improve drainage on the bunkers and greens, add new T-boxes and bunkers and change the teeing area on the fifth hole. Planned improvements include a picnic pavilion, an indoor/outdoor learning center, a new clubhouse, a pro shop and a grill.

“Our long-term goal is to upgrade the course so it will be more golfer-friendly for beginners and to enable faster play,” Dean said. “Nowadays, people don’t have as much discretionary time as they might have had in years past.”

The July 7 celebration begins with a morning “Family and Friends” event costing $200 for a foursome. An afternoon event concludes with a cocktail and dessert reception featuring offerings from local restaurants and a chance to meet former Pittsburgh Steelers’ fullback Rocky Bleier and his wife, Jan, the honorary event chairs. The cost for the afternoon is $400 for a foursome, including the reception, or $50 per person for the reception only.

“It’s going to be a wonderful time for everyone,” said event co-chair Amelia Dean, of Mt. Lebanon. “We’re planning to keep to a nostalgic theme with the event, including music and costumes from the era, and a trivia game based on facts from 1907.”

Throughout the day, there will be free clinics, prizes and contests, including a hole-in-one contest with a $20,000 prize and a putting contest with a $10,000 prize.

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North Side homes delayed-Sewer regulations force developer to seek aid

Pittsburgh Post GazetteTuesday, May 22, 2007
By Diana Nelson Jones,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A slope of grass on Federal Street, freshly mown days ago, was to have had six townhouses by now. But no deadline ever takes complications into consideration.

After a November ground-breaking for the Federal Hill townhouse project on the Central North Side, the developer’s engineering firm was planning to handle the water and sewer connections.

But when the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority received plans from the engineers, after requesting several revisions to each of the first two, it informed the co-developer, the Central Northside Neighborhood Council, that sanitary and storm sewers had to be separated and the main line replaced.

Jerome Dettore, executive director of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, said that as more planning became necessary, “it became clear that public funds were needed.”

The URA recently requested $400,000 from the water and sewer authority board for the project, which calls for 60 homes, 40 condos and a smattering of apartments, most on Federal Street, some on connecting side streets.

The soonest the authority would act on the request would be at its June board meeting.

“Our hope now is to get a tap-in plan approved for the entire development,” said Rebecca Davidson-Wagner, executive director of the Central Northside Neighborhood Council. “Even if we can get [approval] for the first six houses, we may be under construction by August or September.”

Mr. Dettore said developers often pick up the tab for small infrastructure upgrades, but for a project this large, and one that involves the city, the water and sewer authority typically allocates the money for water and sewer reconstruction. The URA will pay for street and sidewalk upgrades, including an island planter that will separate northbound from southbound traffic on Federal.

The first phase of six homes is being financed by a variety of sources for $1.8 million.

Water and sewer authority spokeswoman Holly Wojcik said the agency originally requested corrections and changes on preliminary designs from Trant Engineering. Early this month, however, she said the URA hired Michael Baker Corp. to design the improvements.

Ms. Davidson-Wagner said the company was chosen for its experience with city infrastructure.

About 80 percent of sanitary and storm sewer lines in the city are combined, said Ms. Wojcik. “When we have significant rainfall, they overflow,” delivering sewage into groundwater. “Ultimately, you want them to be separated.”

(Diana Nelson Jones can be reached at djones@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1626. )

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Urban planning expert urges leaders to make local neighborhoods walkable

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Tony LaRussa
Saturday, May 19, 2007

An urban planning expert urged local leaders Friday to adopt “smart growth” principles as they map out a strategy for the region’s future.
“There are a lot regions in this country and around the world where people have started to realize that things such as transportation and housing need to be planned in a very deliberate way,” said David Chen, founder and executive director of Smart Growth America, based in Washington.

Chen was the keynote speaker at the seventh annual Southwestern Pennsylvania Smart Growth Conference at the Omni William Penn Hotel, Downtown. About 250 business and community leaders attended.

Smart growth involves comprehensive regional planning that, among other things, takes into account environmental issues, global competitiveness, transportation, housing, changing demographics and social equity.

Given the Pittsburgh region’s aging population, Chen said community planners should make neighborhoods more walkable and less reliant on cars by improving the quality and availability of public transportation.

He suggested using smart growth principles when redeveloping older towns and neighborhoods, and when planning new communities.

“While there is still a demand for conventional developments, the market is shifting and we are beginning to see a greater desire for urban living,” Chen said.

With so many townships and boroughs, the region’s fractionalized bureaucracy creates a “significant challenge” when trying to plan on a regional scale, but it has been done in other parts of the country without annexation, Chen said.

“New Jersey has successfully linked different transit systems to create a more integrated system,” said Chen, who noted that some communities in upstate New York have begun to share municipal services.

During a question-and-answer session, David Ross, the planning director for Castle Shannon, drew attention to a lack of governmental cooperation by asking for a show of hands from representatives of local government.

Only four people responded.

“We live in a very parochial area,” he said. “Many of the issues we are discussing today have to be dealt with from the bottom up rather than the top down. That means getting local officials on board with the idea of working together. That will take time.”

Chen announced yesterday that Smart Growth America decided to hold its first national Reclaiming Vacant Properties conference Downtown in September.

Tony LaRussa can be reached at tlarussa@tribweb.com or (412) 320-7987.

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$1.5M will help arts center transformation in McKees Rocks

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Sandra Fischione Donovan
Friday, May 18, 2007

A $1.5 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation will help a McKees Rocks community group continue its transformation of an old storefront into the Sto-Rox Cultural Arts Center.
“Oh, it’s going to be grand,” said the Rev. Regis Ryan, executive director of Focus on Renewal, a nonprofit that operates a health center, credit union, high-rise apartment building and social services programs.

The agency is remodeling the former Desks Inc. on Chartiers Avenue. After buying the furniture store two years ago, the group began remodeling with $500,000 from Allegheny County and another $500,000 from the Grable Foundation, Ryan said.

The $3.4 million center will include a 130-seat auditorium, art studios and classrooms. The nonprofit expects to finish work by the end of the year.

Focus on Renewal currently runs its cultural arts programs — music, theater, dance, visual arts and literature — in Sto-Rox schools. Once it’s complete, the arts center will host those classes and performances. Movable seating will enable the auditorium to be used for receptions, Ryan said.
Officials said $1 million of the Richard King Mellon grant is unrestricted; the remainder will come as a match if the McKees Rocks group raises another $500,000.

“We are in the process of raising the rest,” Ryan said.

The group is soliciting donations from former McKees Rocks residents involved in the arts, through its Where Are They Now Committee.

A spokeswoman for the Richard King Mellon Foundation said any comment on the grant would have to come from the foundation’s director, Scott Izzo, who was on vacation and unavailable.

Ryan predicts the center would be used throughout the day. Programs for young people would be scheduled after school and on weekends. But he hopes to convince school officials to allow students to take some classes there. The center would be open during the day for adult programs and classes.

“It will be a wonderful asset for the whole region,” Ryan said.

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Fort Duquesne drain discovered

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Jodi Weigand
Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Tom Kutys knew right away that he found something special.
Kutys, 24, whose archeology firm is monitoring the $35 million renovation of Point State Park, was working in a trench two weeks ago when he found three capstones. He thought it might be a wall, but the hollow, brick lining told him otherwise.

“It was just three rocks with mortar between, but when we started further investigating it, things started popping up that tipped us off,” Kutys, a field technician with A.D. Marble & Company, said Tuesday.

Archaeologists believe Kutys unearthed a 200-year-old Fort Duquesne drain that drew water away from a storehouse or munitions storage area.

“This is, to my knowledge, the first physical evidence of Fort Duquesne that’s ever been identified since the late 18th or early 19th century, when remains were still slightly visible,” said Brooke Blades, a archeologist with A.D. Marble, based in Montgomery County.
It is the third major archaeological discovery at the park since the start of the renovation project, which will convert the area into a festival and concert venue. Archeologists previously found decades-old human bones and part of Fort Pitt’s interior wall.

The drain was found 2 1/2 to 4 feet below ground on the southeast side of the park’s Great Lawn area, about 40 feet south of the Fort Duquesne tracery — the brick outline of the original fort.

“The construction (of the drain) suggests it was made in the late 18th or early 19th century, and the distance from the remains of the fort clearly argue for association with Fort Duquesne,” Blades said.

Fort Duquesne, built by the French in 1754, was destroyed four years later as the British advanced during the French and Indian War. The British then built Fort Pitt in its place.

Few remnants of Fort Duquesne have been found.

Blades said archaeologists plan to follow the drain north and look for other evidence of Fort Duquesne, which might be near the surface.

“The fact that we’re finding things argues that there may be extensive evidence of Fort Duquesne intact,” Blades said. “Probably the lowest part, because buildings would have been eradicated.”

The archeological work will not delay renovations. The drain will be preserved and buried for a future excavation project, said Laura Fisher, senior vice president of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, a sponsor of the renovation project.

“It will be covered up in the short term,” she said, “but what we hope to do is come back and have an active program for archeology in the park.”

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Fort Duquesne remnants uncovered

By Tribune-Revew
Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Archaeologists have uncovered long-buried remnants of Pittsburgh’s original fort, state officials announced today.
A drainage system that once served Fort Duquesne in the mid-1700s was found during a $35 million renovation of Point State Park, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

The fort was later replaced by the much larger Fort Pitt, which was situated further up the Point and protected about 600 people during the French and Indian Wars in the mid-18th century.

Park renovations have been underway since December and included the controversial burial of a section of Fort Pitt that contained original bricks. Remnants of Fort Duquesne had been buried more than 100 years ago when the Point grew into a bustling railyard.

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Abolished commerce taxes spurrs growth in Avalon

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Richard Byrne Reilly
Saturday, May 12, 2007

Attorney Steven Shreve has no regrets about moving his busy Downtown law firm to Avalon last year.

The sleepy town of 5,000, less than six miles from Pittsburgh, has well-maintained homes, low crime and stable property prices, Shreve said. He purchased a former movie theater with high ceilings and brick walls on California avenue and moved in with his staff in November. He closed another office he had in adjacent Bellevue.

“There’s a congenial environment for business and for living here. You can walk on the main drag. Avalon is strategically located. I can access (Route) 65 and (Interstate) 279 easily, and I have two ways of travelling north and south,” Shreve said.

He isn’t the only one. Doctors, attorneys, accountants and other small-business owners are increasingly setting up shop in vacant storefronts and houses, said borough manager Harry Dilmore.

They are doing so, merchants say, because they don’t have to pay business privilege and mercantile taxes. The borough abolished the taxes in August. The roughly $30,000 a year it lost in revenue, Avalon more than makes up in new commerce and vitality.

Two attorneys opened offices last year, Dilmore said, in addition to accountants, a private detective agency, and a computer communications specialist. Eight doctors and other medical professionals have a presence on California Avenue, Avalon’s main thoroughfare.

Dilmore, borough manager for five years, sees a future predicated on a successful small business community.

“We’re altering zoning ordinances that will spur small business development,” said Dilmore, who favors golf shirts tucked into Dockers-style khakis.

Dilmore will propose a measure May 16 to prohibit buyers from converting large, single-family residences into multi-apartment units. The borough wants to attract families and businesses that will keep the homes intact and in good condition. Financial grants the borough obtained through Allegheny County would help qualifying small-business owners clean up property and install facades, Dilmore said.

Like much of the county, Avalon deals with declining population, says Constance Rankin, head of the North Suburban Chamber of Commerce. Rankin is an attorney and publisher of a small newspaper in Bellevue. The borough’s population dropped from 5,294 in 2000 to 4,962 in 2005, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Avalon is doing something about it. There’s an emphasis on code enforcement. A quality of life committee, residential cleanups, Dumpster days. They have brought in outside experts. They’ve done useful things to improve the quality of life,” Rankin said.

Avalon attorney and borough Councilman Patrick Narcisi, whose office is a few doors down from Shreve’s, founded the Avalon Quality of Life Committee last year. Tax abatement and tax breaks for home buyers and tweaks to zoning ordinances to prevent slum or absentee landlords to rent apartments to irresponsible tenants are crucial, he said.

“We’re really kind of on the edge. The borough can go down rapidly. You need to work hard to keep it from doing so,” Narcisi said.

His committee brings together the police, the building inspector, fire chief and representatives from local churches. He stresses the importance of property owners maintaining homes, and it recommends to the borough deteriorating properties whose owners should be fined. He wants to launch a database using a color-coded system that would rate properties from good to poor.

“We’re hoping this will have a positive impact on the borough,” he said.

Vicky Tedesco will open her children’s clothing boutique on California Avenue on Monday. Affordable rent, location and steady traffic flow sold her on Avalon. She is located across the street from the borough’s $2.2 million municipal building, which opened last year.

Press Craft Printers Inc. has been in the same location on California Avenue for 47 years. Owner Bill Miller inherited the commercial printing business from his father. He welcomes the newcomers — and efforts Dilmore and others are making to accommodate them.

Dilmore “is addressing different problems. He is trying to take the borough to the next level,” Miller said.

Richard Byrne Reilly can be reached at rreilly@tribweb.com or (412) 380-5625.

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New homes in Hill open doors to first-time buyers

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Jeremy Boren
Friday, May 11, 2007

Goldie Harris likes the look of the tidy, new, two-story houses next to her home in the heart of the Hill District, but she’s not sure who can afford to live in them.
“The most important thing is to make them affordable,” said Harris, 76, who has lived on Roberts Street for 11 years.

Her new neighbors are the first eight of 29 planned houses — called Bedford Hill Homes — by the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh. The homes are the newest part of an existing 400-unit, affordable housing development.

Harris said the Bedford Hill Homes’ $150,000 price tags could be steep for some first-time home buyers.

Tom Cummings, housing director for the Urban Redevelopment Authority, disagrees.
He said zero-percent federal and URA deferred loans are available to cut drastically the cost of new mortgages — as long as the new owners are first-time home buyers and meet income requirements.

The brick-faced homes have individual entrances and small front yards — a type of design that’s slowly replacing the Housing Authority’s much-maligned public housing high-rises, authority officials have said.

The homes were developed by Hanson Design Group, Steve Catranel Construction Co. and others.

“We believe these are more than just buildings behind us. This is an investment in the community,” said A. Fulton Meachem Jr., the housing authority’s executive director. “We are making home ownership available to all residents in the city of Pittsburgh.”

Buyers have applied to purchase five of the eight first-phase homes, Cummings said.

They’re expected to close those sales by the end of the month, when the second round of eight homes will begin going up, he said.

None of the potential buyers attended a dedication ceremony Thursday in the Hill. Attending the event were Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Council President Doug Shields.

Howard Cooper, 72, another Roberts Street resident, said a rowdy dive bar — and others like it — used to occupy the land where the model Bedford Hill home sat open yesterday for tours.

“There’s been a whole lot of changes here,” said Cooper, who stopped by the ceremony to snap photos with his camera. “There used to be a lot of bars around here, and they caused a lot of problems” with drugs and crime.

“I’m hoping some kids will move in now,” Cooper said. “It’s a lot better here.”

Jeremy Boren can be reached at jboren@tribweb.com or (412) 765-2312.

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Heinz Endowments Make Initial Grant for New Granada Restoration

The Heinz Foundation have announced a grant of $200,000 to Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation to work in partnership with the Hill Community Development Corporation (Hill CDC) to begin physical stabilization work for the New Granada Theatre and planning for its future use. The building was designed by Pittsburgh’s first African American architect Louis A. S. Bellinger (1891-1946). The Hill Community Development Corporation expects to have a matching grant from the State Department of Community and Economic Development.

PHLF’s Construction Manager Tom Keffer, will begin immediately to meet with engineers and contractors to further define the immediate work program and construction budget; Eugene Matta, Director of Special Projects for PHLF, will join the New Granada Planning Committee to bring his experience in heading the team that restored City Theatre in New York to the planning effort.

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Heinz grant to revitalize Hill District theater

Pittsburgh Post GazetteThursday, May 10, 2007
By Ervin Dyer,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The fading New Granada Theatre in the Hill District moved a step closer to new life yesterday, thanks to a $200,000 grant from The Heinz Endowments that will begin the process of stabilizing the storied theater.

The New Granada, one of the last remaining works of early 20th-century African-American architecture in Western Pennsylvania, is weathered from 40 years of neglect and non-use.

“We are so excited,” said Marimba Milliones, a member of a Hill committee leading the way to polish up the former movie house and ballroom. “The Granada is just the heart and soul of the Hill. Its rehab will re-awaken the hope and belief that the Hill is going to be a great community again.”

The Hill District grant will go to the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, working with the Hill Community Development Corp. to begin stabilizing the structure of the New Granada.

The building will require as much as $2 million to complete stabilization. The Heinz funding will be matched with a grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development. The funding also will support a team of local and national consultants studying possible uses for the theater.

The theater funding was among 221 grants totaling $36.9 million that The Heinz Endowments approved during a two-day meeting of the foundation board that ended yesterday.

The largest grant, $5 million, went to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh to create the Pediatric Environmental Medicine Center.

The program will be housed at the $575 million, green-certified hospital under construction in Lawrenceville,

The center will focus first on developing new approaches for the prevention and treatment of asthma due to its prevalence in minority and medically under-served communities, but also in response to recent reports identifying Pittsburgh as second from the bottom in air quality among American cities.

But the Environmental Medicine Center also will have the broader goal of making consideration of environmental links to health problems standard in any medical setting.

The grants reflect The Heinz Endowments’ new plan to shift at least 30 percent of its philanthropy over the next five years to special areas of concentration. These include supporting the reform of the Pittsburgh Public Schools; assistance with wiser economic development that is technologically and environmentally sound; and influencing the direction of Downtown development.

One grant that does the last is $200,000 for construction opportunities that will go to the Community Loan Fund of Southwestern Pennsylvania in partnership with the Minority and Women Educational Labor Agency. It is designed to help minority- and women-owned businesses to increase capacity so that they can successfully participate in larger construction jobs, especially those stemming from the boom in Downtown development.

The program will provide financial backing for certification requirements that will allow these firms to bid on progressively larger projects.

Other grants approved yesterday include:

$3 million to the Carnegie Museum of Art to cover costs of repairs made to skylights and ceilings in its galleries.

$2 million to the Pittsburgh Public Schools to continue the foundation’s support for Superintendent Mark Roosevelt’s Excellence for All Initiative.

$2 million to the Carnegie Library to provide renovation, remodeling and educational resources for branches in the Hill District, North Side and East Liberty.

$2 million to the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild to assist in establishing a $10 million endowment, and to support a new business plan designed to improve program quality and operating performance.

$747,000 to Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future for continued operating support of the environmental nonprofit.

A total of $700,000 to several grantees to support continued growth of charter and faith-based schools.

(Ervin Dyer can be reached at edyer@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1410. )

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Garfield project may get go-ahead

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Bonnie Pfister
Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Urban Redevelopment Authority is poised to approve nearly $1.2 million in loans and more than $700,000 in grants to help develop an 18-unit residential and commercial building in Garfield.
The URA board is expected to vote Thursday on proposals to help finance the $6.17 million “Glass Lofts” development on Penn Ave and North Fairmount Street. The developer, Friendship Development Associates, has worked with architect Arthur Lubetz Associates and Sota Construction.

The project would include 3,200 square feet of ground-floor commercial space intended for a restaurant, 1,100 square feet of office space, and four artists’ studios.

The URA also is scheduled to discuss redevelopment efforts at Wood Street Commons, a 16-story building at the corner of Third Avenue and Wood Street, Downtown, which offers affordable housing to the working poor and those at risk of homelessness.

Operated since 1987 as a partnership of the nonprofit Community Human Services Corp., developer Mistick PBT and local government agencies, it houses 259 apartments and six floors of commercial space. But Mistick PBT is liquidating its assets and must be removed from the ownership structure, according to URA documents.
The Allegheny County Office of Community Services will vacate its office space there in June 2008, resulting in a loss nearly $1 million in annual income for the building owners.

The URA board will vote on a reimbursement agreement with the county to help pay Baker Young Corp. to reassess the building’s value and potential redevelopment of the commercial floors. The county would reimburse the URA half the cost to conduct the study, up to $25,000.

Officials from the URA and Friendship Development Associates did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment Tuesday.

Bonnie Pfister can be reached at bpfister@tribweb.com or 412-320-7886.

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Cork Factory apartments get bubbly reviews

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Ron DaParma and Sam Spatter
For the Tribune-Review
Saturday, May 5, 2007

Debbie Dougherty gushes superlatives when she describes the two-bedroom loft apartment that she and her husband, Bill, share at the new Cork Factory apartments in the Strip District.

“It’s just so wonderful. We’re enjoying every minute of it,” said Dougherty, whose seventh-floor corner unit offers views of both the Allegheny River and Downtown. “We have brick walls and 17-foot ceilings, and it’s incredible,” she said.

Because her husband is retired and their four children have grown and moved, Dougherty said the couple decided to downsize from their large family home in Murrysville. They moved in March to the 297-unit luxury Cork Factory complex, which celebrated its grand opening Friday.

With 135 apartments — about 45 percent of the units — already scooped up by renters, the $70 million project is well ahead of its leasing goals, said Daniel McCaffery, of Daniel McCaffery Interests of Chicago.

“We’re very pleased,” said McCaffery, who developed the site in partnership with Charles Hammell III and Robert Beynon, the local businessmen who own the property on Railroad Street between 23rd and 24th Streets.
“The important thing is we are making our rental rate and renting at a pace that’s faster than we predicted,” McCaffery said.

The developers expect the percentage figure will be close to 70 percent as early as the fall.

In addition to the apartments, interest also is high in the 48,000-square-feet of retail space available, he said. Leasing deals may be pending with two upscale restaurants and a local grocery store, he said.

The three-building complex originally was built as the home of the Armstrong Cork Co. in 1901. The estimated development is privately financed although federal tax credits for historic sites cover some of the costs.

So far, tenants are a mixture of young single professionals, many newcomers to the Pittsburgh, a smattering of suburbanites and elderly residents, said Debbie Roberts, Cork Factory general manager.

“We’ve met so many nice people,” Debbie Dougherty said. “We’ve even formed a dinner-out once-a-month group with people here, and it’s all ages — the young, the baby boomers and so forth.”

Now that leasing of apartments is well under way, the development team can move ahead on their plans to develop a private marina on the Allegheny River for the exclusive use of Cork Factory residents.

Also ahead is a river walk that will allow tenants to walk the grounds of the complex.

Other features include the historic, fully restored smokestack and engine room.

Under its current configuration, the complex offers 206 one-bedroom units; 73 two-bedroom, two-bath units; and 18 three-bedroom, two-bath units.

Studio apartments rent from $1,200; other one-bedroom units from $1,009 to $2,480; two-bedrooms from $1,499 to $2,850; and three-bedrooms from $3,430 to $3,800.

The complex offers a game room, 24/7 concierge service, complimentary wireless Internet in select common areas, and out-of-town services such as mail, newspaper and package pickup.

Other features, either already available or scheduled to be opened in the future, include patio/lounge area with fire pit, riverview barbecuing, swimming pool with landscaped deck, hot tub/spa, a courtyard garden, a fitness center, business center, dry cleaners and a 450-car parking garage located across Allegheny Valley Railroad Street.

As the Cork Factory nears completion, Hammel and Beynon can look back on nearly 11 years of frustration since they bought the property in a bankruptcy court sale in 1996.

Several times other investors had come board to help with the project, only to drop out before it could move forward.

“Today is culmination of a lot of hard work,” said Hammell, owner of the Pitt-Ohio Express trucking company in the Strip District. Beynon is owner of Beynon & Co., a Pittsburgh-based real estate and insurance company.

“I think it’s awesome what they’ve done with that building,” said Larry Lagattuta, owner of The Enrico Biscotti Co., an Italian bakery and cafe at 2202 Penn Ave. in the Strip.

“I think this can only help the Strip when you have more people living here,” said Lagattuta, whose has operated his business within two blocks of the Cork Factory for 15 years.

Lagattuta said his only concern is that the Cork Factory and other new developments in the Strip could attract national chains and franchise retailers, coffee shops, and the like that could possibly hurt locally owned businesses.

“We have to be careful about how those things happen,” he said. “But otherwise, lets get the people moving in and start shopping in the Strip,” he said.

“The Cork Factory is an excellent addition to the downtown housing mix,” said Patty Burk, vice president of housing and economic development for the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.

“It adds to the diversity of units and income ranges that we are trying to achieve Downtown. It also represents the ‘New Downtown,’ which is becoming a mixed-use environment.”

“Even when were living in Murrysville, we would come into the city at the minimum, three days a week, for cultural events and ball games,” Dougherty said. “We loved the city so much, so we visited a few other loft apartments, but when we walked into the Cork Factory, we stopped. We said this was it.”

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Tour forges link to steel-making past

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Andrew Conte
Thursday, May 3, 2007

Jim Kapusta tells his granddaughter plenty of stories from his 20 years as a journeyman at the Carrie Furnaces of U.S. Steel’s former Homestead Works.
Few of the tales made much sense to the 13-year-old until Kapusta took her on a tour of the rusting, graffiti-covered hulk — now open for tours as part of the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area.

“Pittsburgh as a steel area is gone now,” said Kapusta, 61, of Peters. “To keep the thoughts and heritage going, we need something like this. It’s almost like going to the Carnegie museum.”

Rivers of Steel gained tour access last year to the Carrie Furnaces site — stretching along the Monongahela River in Rankin, Braddock and Swissvale — after Allegheny County purchased the former mill.

The tours help the heritage area deliver on its mission of bringing to life Western Pennsylvania’s industrial history, said Augie Carlino, president of the Steel Industry Heritage Corp., which oversees the seven-county heritage area.
About 2,000 people toured the furnaces last year, yet names remained on a waiting list. Rivers of Steel plans to start offering the tours again this month.

“There’s a big difference,” Carlino said. “It’s not imaginary anymore. The scale and magnitude and what the potential is I don’t think comes home to anybody until they’re walking around there.”

The National Park Service last year designated the furnaces as a historic landmark, and backers are hoping to win congressional designation as a full National Historic Site within the next two years.

The furnaces would be on par with the Gettysburg Civil War battlefield and Grand Canyon in terms of prestige, federal marketing and park service staffing, Carlino said. The site could draw hundreds of thousands of tourists a year.

A futuristic vision includes a monorail snaking around gleaming factory buildings, while visitors linger on wide brick walkways and at open-air cafes. At night, fireworks and flaming gas plumes would erupt from a factory trimmed in decorative lighting.

Federal and state governments could share the $100 million to $120 million cost with local foundations, Carlino said.

The plans seem far-fetched — especially from the barren mill site, choked with weeds — but have roots in similar industrial tourism sites in Germany. There, a former steel mill has been turned into an amusement park with rock climbers scaling iron ore storage bins and scuba divers swimming in a seven-story water tank.

“It’s not a museum only,” said Janis Dofner, the heritage group’s spokeswoman. “You’ve got to have other amenities.”

For now, the Rivers of Steel tour allows visitors to simply walk beneath and around the 92-foot blast furnaces as they stand silently among chirping birds. The cast house, where molten iron once poured from the furnace amid showering sparks, stands as an open-air cathedral.

Kapusta and former mill workers volunteer their time to share stories of wrestling with oversized valves and the fire-breathing machines.

“It was like you’re controlling a volcano,” Kapusta said. “It was probably the same heat and everything.”

Andrew Conte can be reached at aconte@tribweb.com or (412) 320-7835.

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Storm Damaged Allegheny Library Repaired

Arthur Ziegler, President of PHLF & David McMunn, President of the Mexican War Streets SocietyToday, the granite finial of the historic Allegheny Library was returned to its commanding position atop the clock tower after months of restoration work.

The Allegheny Library, located next to the Children’s museum in Central Allegheny City, was struck by lighting last summer which caused extensive damage to the finial, causing it to break into several large pieces, some of which landed inside the building and some on the lawn outside. No one was injured.

The library itself is relocating to a new building soon to be erected on Federal Street just north of North Avenue. Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation (PHLF), working with the Children’s Museum and neighborhood North Side organizations, the Carnegie Library system, and the City, has commissioned studies by the architectural firm of Landmarks Design Associates for the possible adaptive use of the building.

Finial being secured to the crane.The Allegheny Carnegie Library was the first Carnegie Library commissioned, but it opened later than the one at Braddock. It was designed by Smith, Meyer & Pelz in 1888-1889 In the 1970s, the City announced the demolition of the Library, but PHLF spearheaded a petition drive, accumulating 7,000 signatures.

After that, the interior suffered unfortunate modernization, but the exterior is still in excellent condition. An interesting feature of the building is the slight lightening of color in the stone rising in the sections of the tower. Landmarks staff worked with Cost Corporation to try to achieve the appropriate coloration of the granite for
the finial.

Finial being reinstalled to the tower.The building is on the National Register of Historic Places, is a City designated landmark, and has PHLF plaque.

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Preserving a Sure-To-Be Landmark

The Pittsburgh area landscape is dotted with architectural landmarks that reflect the character of the people who built this community. We’re familiar with Richardson’s Courthouse, Hornbostel’s Rodef Shalom Synagogue and Wright’s Fallingwater. Yet, nestled among century-old houses near Chatham College on Woodland Road is a structural contradiction so magnificent in design that its architect now considers it one of his defining creations.

The post modernist home was designed in 1979 for Irving andBetty Abrams by internationally renowned architect Robert Venturi. From the outset, the project faced two major challenges: how to construct the house on a lot so small and damp that many builders didn’t want to tackle the job; and how to integrate the architect’s emphasis on form with the client’s need for function.

Like Wright and the Kaufmanns, Venturi and the Abrams found a way to fit an innovative design into a unique setting. Coming to agreement on function was a different story.

“I think I broke a few of his traditions, like putting a kitchen in the living room and moving an
eloquent stairway from within view of the front door,” says Betty. “All in all, however, we eventually got the job finished to our mutual satisfaction.”

In the end, Betty got the changes she wanted, but Venturi distanced himself from the project until it was rediscovered during a Pittsburgh-hosted national design show in 2003 and praised by Richard Pain in a 2004 issue of the British journal Blueprint. In a personal letter to Betty, Venturi reassessed the Abrams house: “You should know that via Richard Pain’s recent and current focus on the Abrams’ house in general and then our visit to the house last November and my reviewing Richard’s distinguished manuscript on the house and our original drawings currently, I am now considering the project one of the best that has come out of our office which I am very, very proud of.”

The Abrams house is now considered such an important Venturi work that this Pittsburgh house was selected to be featured in Dream Homes of Greater Philadelphia. But this isn’t the end of the story. Several years ago, Betty hosted a Landmarks Heritage Society members tour. There, she couldn’t help but be impressed by the appreciation her guests had for her home. That’s when Betty began to think about taking steps to preserve her personal masterpiece. Since the house is not eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places until 2029, there would be no tax benefit associated with a gift of a preservation easement. A gift to endow monitoring costs associated with the easement would also be

After discussions with Landmarks’ planned giving office, Betty decided that if she could not find a way to acquire a preservation easement during her lifetime, she would take steps now to bequeath the house to Landmarks to fund a charitable gift annuity for each of her children. Not only would the gift associated with the annuities endow the preservation easement Landmarks would place on the property after her death, but Betty’s daughters would have lifetime income and never be burdened with the responsibility of selling the house.

Betty’s personality is reflected in the creativity of her house. Her legacy will be reflected in the creativity of her gift.

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Mt. Lebanon Municipal Golf Course: A slice of history for 9-holes

Pittsburgh Post Gazette100th anniversary to be celebrated July 7

Tuesday, May 01, 2007
By Gerry Dulac,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It will never hold a U.S. Open, not like the more famous Western Pennsylvania course that happens to have one of the same founding fathers. Nor will it be able to list a course-record score for 18 holes — at least, not anymore.

But there is a celebration going on this summer at Mt. Lebanon Municipal Golf Course, and it shares a slice of history with another local club planning a big summer celebration — Oakmont.

Mt. Lebanon will celebrate its 100th anniversary July 7, commemorating the history and origin of a course that began as a private 18-hole layout known as Castle Shannon Golf Club and was built by an erudite Scotsman named George Ormiston, one of the original members at Oakmont. What’s more, eight of the original greens remain at the municipal course — greens that appear to have been influenced by the great Scottish designer, Donald Ross.

“A lot of people have cut a lot of balata balls and lost a lot of balls there,” said Tom Butcher, a member of the golf committee appointed by Mt. Lebanon commissioners to oversee a five-year course renovation.

Appropriately, the course’s centennial anniversary will nearly coincide with the U.S. Open, which will be staged just three weeks earlier at Oakmont.

And, like Oakmont, the nine-hole golf course has been designated an historical Western Pennsylvania landmark through the Pittsburgh History & Landmark Foundation.

Mt. Lebanon Golf Course is something of an anomaly because it has lasted a century in one of the most desirable areas to live in Western Pennsylvania.

Built on 99 acres less than a mile from Castle Shannon Boulevard, it has avoided the real-estate or commercial development that has swallowed a number of public and private courses around the country.

Butcher said real-estate developers have estimated the value of the property site between $10 million and $17 million.

“It’s amazing we’ve lasted 100 years,” Butcher said.

But, it has, generating somewhere between an estimated 1 million to 1.4 million rounds of golf and employing only four head golf professionals in the course’s 100-year history.

The latest is Matt Kluck, a master PGA professional and one of the top instructors in the country.

He has been at Mt. Lebanon since 1983.

“Public golf courses have really been on the rise, particularly those that keep developing them and keep them up to snuff,” Mt. Lebanon councilman Dale Colby said. “With the cost of gasoline these days and people struggling to find time to play, it doesn’t pay in many respects to drive great distances to the golf course anymore.”

Mt. Lebanon was built by Ormiston, a former accomplished amateur player and first winner of the West Penn Amateur championship in 1899 when it was played at Schenley Park Golf Course, then known as the Pittsburgh Golf Club.

He was also president of the West Penn Golf Association from 1914 until his death in 1940.

Ormiston was born in Haddingtonshire, Scotland, in 1874 and migrated in 1888 to the Pittsburgh area, where his father owned a law firm and printing company. He was a close friend and associate of Oakmont founder Henry C. Fownes, who built the course that would go on to host 17 national championships in 1903.

Ormiston played at Oakmont and, along with Fownes, dominated amateur golf in Western Pennsylvania for much of the early 1900s. He also was on the committee for the first U.S. Open that was held at Oakmont in 1927. There is a picture in the Oakmont guesthouse of the first Oakmont golf team, and Fownes and Ormiston are seated next to each other.

It is not known how much input, if any, Ormiston had in the construction of Oakmont. But, in 1908, he was contracted to build an 18-hole golf course on a portion of farmland owned by William Smith, who bought the property located near the Pittsburgh & Castle Shannon Railroad in 1846.

Smith was the first to begin construction on the course, building three holes in the summer of 1907 before Ormiston was hired to lay out the course on paper.

Castle Shannon Golf Club opened nine holes on July 4, 1908 and expanded to 18 holes in 1910, according to documents contained in the club’s application for landmark status. Membership was $25.

“The railroad came right down here in Castle Shannon,” Kluck said, sitting inside the Mt. Lebanon clubhouse that was built in 1961. “People would get off the train and take buggies to the golf course.”

But here’s another twist:

Ormiston and Fownes spent winter months in Pinehurst, N.C., and Ormiston would often take his friend to visit another Scotsman who lived there, Donald Ross. The three would play golf together, and it is widely believed Ross, who would become one of America’s leading course architects, had an influence on the design of Oakmont’s world-famous greens because they bore similarities to the crowned surfaces at Pinehurst No. 2, a Ross masterpiece.

There has never been any documentation to suggest Ross helped Ormiston with the design of Castle Shannon’s greens. But, Kluck said, “I guess it’s possible.”

Indeed, when Craig Schreiner, a Myrtle Beach, S.C.-based architect, was retained by the municipality to oversee the course renovation, he detected more than a trace of Ross’s influence when he toured the nine-hole layout. Schreiner, a native of Akron, Ohio, who designs courses for The First Tee, specializes in restoring Ross designs.

“He said, ‘Someone was copying his philosophy,’ ” Butcher said.

Castle Shannon was reduced to nine holes in 1919 after a two-year period in which the club was inactive because of World War I and also lost members to the newly formed St. Clair Country Club.

It stayed that way till 1947, when Mt. Lebanon purchased the course and opened it to the public.

The golf professional at the time was Wally Grant, who was hired in 1937. He remained in that position until he died in January 1983.

Mt. Lebanon, which recently received landmark status, will have a July 7 celebration that will include family and sponsor tournaments, cocktail reception and entertainment.

Meantime, the course has just embarked on a five-year renovation plan that, if funding is appropriated, will ultimately include a new clubhouse, indoor learning center and outdoor practice range by 2010.

A new double-row irrigation system was installed in the fall. Construction will begin shortly on multiple tees on every hole, as well as all sand bunkers and greens complexes, a project Kluck hopes will be completed by June 1. Colby said the municipality has budgeted approximately $400,000 this year for the course renovation.

A new clubhouse is essential because Mt. Lebanon does not serve food or drinks, except from a vending machine. That prevents the course from holding outings, typically a great source of revenue.

“We want the kind of improvements that will make it more profitable and more of a broad facility, not just for Mt. Lebanon residents but South Hills residents, as well,” Butcher said. “With Baldwin, Bethel Park, Peters Township, Scott, you have a tremendous demographic with all kinds of people.”

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Bridge built before the automobile age sparks talk of preservation for its history, condition, age

Pittsburgh Post GazetteAn antique with a future

Thursday, April 19, 2007
By Carole Gilbert Brown
Pittsburgh Post Gazette Wire

The single-lane, single-span Dorrington Road Bridge crossing the rushing waters of Robinson Run in Collier rates highly with bridge experts and history lovers for its design, condition and age.

But those are the factors that have placed the 119-year-old span on the endangered list.

The state Department of Transportation wants to replace the 60-foot-long bridge, which is 19 feet wide, with a concrete box-beam bridge that would be wider for two traffic lanes, would have expanded approaches for improved sight distance and would be have a stronger structure that would remove the current nine-ton weight restriction.

PennDOT wants to demolish the bridge and erect its replacement within two years.

PennDOT, the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation and Collier officials met last month to discuss relocating the structure, which is eligible for national historical registry designation, to an undeveloped 50-acre park near Nevillewood, where it could be situated over a gully near the old Woodville cemetery.

Several other township sites are potential relocation places, too, including on the Panhandle Trail.

“It would be most appropriate to keep the bridge in Collier, but it could go elsewhere,” said Louise Sturgess, Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation executive director, who believes retention of the structure is necessary to show the evolution of bridge design science during the 1800s.

Retaining the structure locally is important to the region, too, because of Pittsburgh’s designation as “the city of bridges,” she said.

Mrs. Sturgess has enlisted the aid of Todd Wilson, a 2006 civil engineering graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and a bridge enthusiast since childhood, to develop cost estimates.

Mr. Wilson, a traffic engineer for DMJM Harris who has a copy of the original drawings for the bridge, believes the structure could be a tourist attraction, even on a national level. He also sees it as an educational tool and a community landmark.

What makes the pin-connected Pratt pony truss bridge, built in 1888 by the Pittsburgh Bridge Co., unique is its basic design and vertical end posts, which are now covered by black-and-yellow road markers.

In most standard truss bridges, the end posts are inclined. The use of vertical end posts is more typical of earlier 19th-century designs which went by the wayside because they used more material and, thus, were more expensive.

Another unusual characteristic is that the bridge is made partially of cast iron instead of steel.

“It’s the oldest metal truss bridge that is unaltered and still open to traffic,” Mr. Wilson said. “The Dorrington Road Bridge represents an archaic design, even for 1888. Though Allegheny County once had several similar bridges, they have all been demolished.

“If any bridge is saveable and worth saving, it is this one,” he said.

Wherever the bridge ends up, it’s clear that funding will be needed.

Mrs. Sturgess indicated the foundation could apply for a History Channel grant, as well as coordinate fund-raising campaigns.

“I really see this as a wonderful community project,” she said, pointing out that university students as well as Chartiers Valley students could get involved.

Mr. Wilson said professors from Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh had expressed interest in supplying students for the relocation project.

In last month’s meeting with PennDOT, the history foundation and Collier, Mr. Wilson ended his presentation with these words, “The Dorrington Road Bridge has served Collier Township for over five generations. Dating from a time before the automobile was invented, it is a rare surviving piece of transportation history. By relocating the bridge to a park or trail, we can preserve this structure and create a ‘bridge’ to the past for many more generations to enjoy.”

The Dorrington Road Bridge is featured on the Web site, www.historicbridges.org.

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New life proposed for former South Hills High School

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Jeremy Boren
Thursday, April 19, 2007

The former South Hills High School soon could be given new life after sitting dormant for 20 years in the heart of a Mt. Washington residential neighborhood.

“It’s been a white elephant for a long time,” said Mt. Washington resident Virginia Gates, a 1959 graduate of the school, which was built in 1916 and closed in 1986. “You can see from the sheer size of it what an impact its (revival) is going to have on the whole community.”

North Shore-based developer a.m. Rodriguez Associates Inc. has prepared a $20 million redevelopment plan to build 84 one- and two-bedroom apartments and 25 two-bedroom, market-rate rental lofts in the building.

The apartments would be marketed to senior citizens. The first floor could have more than 10,000 square feet of commercial space and a health center.

Room for off-street parking should be plentiful once the developer removes three sections of the mammoth building to bring its size to 155,000 square feet.

“In terms of why it’s important to bring this building back, it’s a huge building that at one time was a landmark and center of activity for that community,” said Tom Link, manager of the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s business development center. The URA has targeted the school for redevelopment.

Gates, chairwoman of the South Hills High School committee, believes the renovation project will boost property values around the site and drive out drug dealers and vandals.

Link and Gates said many developers have tried over the past 20 years to devise ways to renovate the building, but none has come as far as Rodriguez Associates.

Victor Rodriguez said his company has applied for $12 million in tax credits from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. If those credits come through in September, an estimated 15 months of construction could begin as soon as June 2008.

“There’s a great market for this up there, especially for seniors,” he said.

Ethan Raup, executive director of the Mt. Washington Community Development Corp., credited Gates and the URA for helping to persuade the building’s owner — Pittsburgh Public Schools — to make the property more enticing to developers by removing asbestos, adding a new roof and doing other renovations.

“To me, it’s going from having an enormous dead space in the middle of a residential community to injecting it with new life,” Raup said.

Jeremy Boren can be reached at jboren@tribweb.com or (412) 765-2312.

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Carnegie Museum of Art receives $348,885 for Teenie Harris project

New Pittsburgh Courier
By Courier Newsroom
Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded Carnegie Museum of Art $348,885 for ongoing work related to the museum’s Teenie Harris Archive.

The archive contains more than 80,000 black-and-white prints and negatives taken by photographer Teenie Harris between 1936 and 1975 that document daily events in the life of Pittsburgh’s African-American community. The funding will allow the museum to conserve, catalogue, digitize, and post images on the museum’s web site, and archivally store approximately 26,963 negatives as Phase II of the Teenie Harris Archive Project.

In addition, the Teenie Harris Archive has been chosen as a “We the People” project by the NEH. “We the People” is an initiative to encourage and strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture through the support of projects that explore significant events and themes in U.S. history and culture that advance knowledge of the principles that define America.

“We are especially gratified that this worthy project has received critical funding through the NEH’s rigorous peer-review process; this support acknowledges the importance and value of the archive to scholars and the public,” says museum director Richard Armstrong.

“We thank the National Endowment for the Humanities for its help in preserving the works of one of the great masters of photography, not just for the people of Pittsburgh, but for anyone interested in the subjects captured by Teenie Harris,” says museum board chairman William E. Hunt.

Phase I and Phase II of the project are part of an overall plan to preserve the life’s work of Charles “Teenie” Harris, an African-American photojournalist who was a lifelong resident of Pittsburgh who worked for the Pittsburgh Courier. With support from the Heinz Family Fund, the museum was able to purchase the materials that make up the archive, now considered the largest and most complete portrait of African-American urban life in existence.

Additionally, this funding will enable the museum to continue its efforts to identify the people, places, and activities in the photographs.

CMA has an ongoing collaboration with the Courier placing ads that contain undocumented photos in the paper to solicit the community in identifying unknown individuals in Harris’ photographs.

Ultimately, the grant moves the museum closer to its goal of allowing access to the archive by its intended audiences-scholars and historians, teachers, students, media, publishers, museums and other organizations, and the general public.

“As the preeminent chronicler of African-American life in Western Pennsylvania for four decades, Teenie Harris produced an incredible archive of images, including many photographs documenting the pivotal figures and events in Pittsburgh’s Civil Rights Movement. It is critically important that his work be preserved and shared with future generations,” says Neil Barclay, president and CEO of the August Wilson Center for African-American Culture and a member of the Teenie Harris Archive Advisory Committee.

“Already the August Wilson Center has made extensive use of the Teenie Harris collection in exhibitions, publications and signage, and as the inspiration for a world premiere dance work choreographed by Ronald K. Brown for Evidence Dance Company.”

In September 2006, Carnegie Museum of Art launched an online collection database on the museum’s web site, www.cmoa.org. Today more than 27,000 Teenie Harris images are posted.

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A Start-up Grant Given to Begin Revitalization Work in Three Armstrong Communities: Freeport, Leechburg, and Apollo.

Flag-1a.jpgArmstrong County – April 12, 2007 – A start-up grant to fund initial work for a joint main streets project for Freeport, Leechburg, Apollo, was announced today by National City Bank as part of its community revitalization program. The grant was made to Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.

Senator Jim Ferlo initiated the program for the three communities.

“As the elected State Senator who represents many small town communities in Westmoreland and Armstrong counties, I have helped to lead efforts to re-invigorate their Main Streets based on principles of preservation, sustainability, and empowerment. The Vandergrift Improvement Program (VIP) is now in their second year of formal state recognition as a Main Street community and I am proud and supportive of efforts by Freeport, Leechburg, and Apollo stakeholders who envision a multiple Main Street approach in these Armstrong county municipalities. National City and the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation are to be commended for their financial support and leadership in the re-building of these wonderful communities,” said State Senator Jim Ferlo.

Mitch McFeely, branch manager for National City’s Freeport branch, said “Our bank has been serving individuals and families in the Freeport, Leechburg and Apollo region for more than a century and a half. This our hometown, where our employees reside, work, raise their families and volunteer with the organizations that make this a special place to live. We are proud to support the business, municipal and community leaders who have established the F.L.A.G. program, with a seed grant of $7,500 to implement a Pennsylvania Main Street Program. The Main Street Program will strengthen our existing retail corridors and significantly improve the vibrancy and quality of life in these neighborhoods. At National City, we are fond of saying that taking care of our communities is not just the right thing to do, it is the best thing we do.”

Freeport Leechburg Apollo Group Inc. was recently incorporated as a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation on 3/19/2007. The multi-municipal organization is in the initial stages of creating a five-year multi-municipal economic revitalization plan. Developing such a plan is one of the application requirements to enroll the group in Pennsylvania’s Main Street program. If approved for the Main Street program, FLAG and its participant communities will have the ability to leverage over $295,000 in state grants through the Department of Community & Economic Development. National’s City’s $7500 seed grant will provide initial funding for the organization, enabling them to hire a consultant to conduct public “Visioning” sessions in each community.

FLAG Board officers include: President, Mary Bowlin (Freeport); Vice President, Bill Charlesworth (Apollo); Treasurer, Chuck Pascal(Leechburg); and Secretary, Jim Seagriff Jr. (Freeport).

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation actively creates and manages Main Street and Elm Street programs for the revitalization of Western Pennsylvania Communities. The Foundation initiated the Carson Street Program in 1969, which became a successful national prototype Main Street Program through four decades.

Currently PHLF is managing a relatively new Main Street Program in nearby Vandergrift, PA. “We would like to see these communities in this area work on their significant individual architectural and business resources to attract new businesses and to work together so as to leverage the area as an attractive one in which to visit and shop in variety of interested small business districts,” said Arthur Ziegler, President.

Shaun Yurcaba, who heads the Vandergrift Program for the Vandergrift Improvement Program for PHLF said, “I am really looking forward to working with these communities to magnify our individual results through cooperative activities.” “We are very grateful to National City for this faith in the efforts that Senator Ferlo has launched.”

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Repairs on North Side library branch expected by early summer

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Bill Zlatos
Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh expects to finish repairing damage done by a lightning bolt at the former Allegheny branch by early this summer.
“In the next few weeks, they’ll place the actual capstone upon the clock tower,” said library spokeswoman Suzanne Thinnes.

Lightning struck the 117-year-old, Romanesque-style library in the North Side’s Allegheny Square on April 7, 2006. It has been closed since, and plans call for it to no longer be used as a library.

A piece of granite weighing several hundred pounds fell into the lecture hall on the second floor, and a one-ton chunk destroyed the building’s heating and cooling system and damaged waterlines.

The collapse did not injure anyone or damage the library’s collection.

The repairs will cost an estimated $2 million. Insurance will cover most of that, Thinnes said.

North Side-based Mascaro Construction is doing the work. “We chose them because they have expertise in repairing historical buildings,” she said.

The building was named a historic landmark by Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation in 1970 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places four years later.

“The work that’s going on is helping its historical fabric, not hurting it,” assured foundation President Arthur P. Ziegler Jr.

Carnegie Library is planning a new building along Federal Street, and will not be using the Allegheny branch building after the repairs are done.

The New Hazlett Theater and a city senior citizen center occupy the building. Landmark Design Associates, a South Side firm, is studying possible uses for the space once used by the library.

Ziegler said one option is office space, possibly for a nonprofit group.

The library hopes to break ground on the Federal Street building this fall, Thinnes said.

Bill Zlatos can be reached at bzlatos@tribweb.com or (412) 320-7828.

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Old church murals cast in new light in Strip District

Pittsburgh Post GazetteBy Angela Hayes
Saturday, April 7, 2007
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Josie Santapietro always had a habit of looking up while praying in church, but during tonight’s Easter vigil she and other parishioners may find new inspiration to worship.

During the Mass, which begins in total darkness and then gradually illuminates with light, St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in the Strip District will unveil its new lighting system, a project that will bring the church’s 120-year-old ceiling murals to life.

Before, “you always looked at them but you didn’t really see them,” said Ms. Santapietro, the rectory secretary.

“I equate it to our own kind of Sistine Chapel,” said Derris Jeffcoat, the sacristan.

The project was started after a smoking chandelier prompted a visit from the city Fire Department. Fire officials at the time told the Rev. Harry Nichols, pastor of the church, to replace the electrical wiring immediately.

With a wealth of history behind the church, the decision to renovate was obvious. So far, the church has received $80,000 in donations to help fund the $300,000 project.

Although the project began as a safety necessity, Father Nichol’s saw it as an opportunity to emphasize the building’s architecture and paintings.

Lighting designers from Astorino, the Downtown architectural firm, used new lamp designs to enhance and protect the paint of the murals and to bring out the ornate detail of wooden columns in the church, down to the tiniest leaf.

“It’s showing up things in the church we’ve never seen before,” Father Nichols said.

In a church where it used to be difficult to read a book of hymns, the new light system is something the parish is celebrating.

Each of the murals represents a significant event in either the history of the Catholic Church or in Polish history.

During a test-run of the lighting project, Mr. Jeffcoat saw the difference in visibility of the murals. With the lights switched on, he saw a mural painted around 1900 of Polish king Jan Sobieski defeating the Turkish army in the battle of Vienna in 1683 and pointed out the vivid color.

“No one’s ever seen the murals like this,” he said.

During the project, lighting designers worked with Mr. Jeffcoat and Father Nichols to ensure that the approximately 106 new light fixtures were carefully hidden from view. The team also chose two custom-made chandeliers that fit the church’s present architecture, matching a pattern found in the church pews.

Unveiling the project at tonight’s Easter vigil is symbolic to Mr. Jeffcoat and the congregation because the Mass is actually a ceremony to honor light.

“We couldn’t think of a better time to inaugurate the lighting,” he said.

“To have Christ light up our church and to have our church physically light up — it gives me goosebumps.”

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