They filtered into the city, slowly at first, late on Friday afternoon, some pushing strollers, others holding hands and huddling under umbrellas.
They were determined to celebrate Pittsburgh’s annual Light Up Night.
Before nightfall, the rain stopped, the crowds swelled and Pittsburgh did not disappoint, putting on a show that began with the lighting of eight Christmas trees across Downtown and ending with a fireworks spectacular.
The holiday kickoff got under way early in the afternoon at the courthouse, where Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald lit LED lights installed at the top of the 325-foot tower. A crowd gathered at the corner of Grant Street and Forbes Avenue at noon to watch the tower shine red and green for the first time in its 125-year history.
Editor’s note: Not off to the greatest start!
The new owners of the H.J. Heinz Co. are eliminating 600 office positions across the Pittsburgh company’s operations in the U.S. and Canada – including 350 jobs in Pittsburgh — as a move toward a more efficient operation.
A company spokesman this morning confirmed reports that layoffs had begun in Pittsburgh this week, about two months after the close of the $28 billion sale of the historic food company to 3G Capital and Berkshire Hathaway.
The cuts here will take Heinz employment in the region down from close to 1,200 to about 800.
“As part of our transition to a private company, the senior leadership team has examined every piece of our business to better position Heinz for accelerated growth in a very competitive global market,” said Michael Mullen, senior vice president of corporate and government affairs.
A little more than a year after acquiring the Downtown complex, the owner of PPG Place is eyeing a property makeover that could drastically alter the food court and Wintergarden as well as the space fronting Market Square.
Highwoods Properties is seeking to upgrade PPG’s retail space and is considering the option of replacing the food court with a grocery, CEO and president Ed Fritsch said.
“We’re evaluating a number of options, and that certainly is one of them,” he said. ”It is still early on. I think any Downtown worker or resident … would love to have that type of shopping amenity in Downtown.”
Highwoods paid $179.4 million in September 2011 to acquire the glass castle-like, six-building complex in the heart of Downtown and has boosted the office occupancy from 81.2 percent to more than 90 percent since then. It also is in the process of making $17.1 million in capital improvements, including new signs and directories and modernized air conditioning and heating systems and elevators.
Pittsburgh police are hoping Light Up Night revelers will avoid the buzz kill of a parking ticket or trip to the tow pound.
They are recommending extra caution tonight for those who drive to the festivities. Because several parking meters have been removed and replaced with kiosks, the temporary “no parking” signs might not be as in-your-face as when they were attached to each meter. They recommend that visitors park in lots or garages rather than on the streets.
As an added precaution, they are urging visitors not to leave valuables like iPods, laptops or GPS devices within sight in their vehicles.
“The holiday season is upon us and there are predators who seek the opportunity to vandalize vehicles when they observe unsecured valuables left in plain view,” said police spokeswoman Diane Richard.
More Light Up Night info here: