Pittsburgh’s Downtown Tops Ranking Of Small To Midsized Cities

The Golden Triangle is America’s best downtown among small to midsized cities, according to a report released Monday by a Tennessee-based marketing company.

“Downtown has made tremendous strides in the last five years,” said John Valentine, executive director of the Pittsburgh Downtown Community Development Corp.

Livability.com, owned and operated by Journal Communications Inc., said Pittsburgh’s walkable Downtown features a growing population, numerous entertainment options and low vacancy rates.

Officials from Mayor Bill Peduto’s office and two Downtown advocacy groups said they have not worked with the marketing firm but were pleased to accept its recognition.

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15 Cheap Cities Where You Don’t Need A High Salary To Buy A House

NEW YORK (TheStreet) — Are you making enough money to afford a home in your area?

In some areas around the country, earning little more than $30,000 annually may be enough to afford a house, whereas in other, more expensive areas, you will need almost five times as much.

HSH.com, a mortgage research data Web site, analyzed fourth-quarter data to determine the minimum salary needed in order to be able to afford a home in the 27 largest metro areas in the United States.

For the third quarter in a row, Pittsburgh was found to be the most affordable city in the country, with an annual median salary of just $31,716.32 needed to afford a home there. Those working in San Francisco need to make 4.5 times the amount that Steel City workers earn to afford a home.

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http://business-news.thestreet.com/philly/story/10-cheap-cities-where-you-dont-need-a-high-salary-to-buy-a-house/13055140

Washington County Hamlet’s Residents Worry About Safety Of Tap Water

Sunlight spilled through a window into Pat West’s darkened kitchen as she filled a glass with water.

“It smells fine. It looks fine,” said West, 70, holding the etched glass to her nose and peering at it. “I still drink the water, but my kids won’t.”

West and her husband, Don, raised 13 children in their two-story house in Millsboro, a hamlet in East Bethlehem, Washington County.

Theirs is one of four houses on Harmony Avenue, where the Wests have lived since 1959. Between them and the Monongahela River is Tri-County Joint Municipal Authority, which is under orders from the state Department of Environmental Protection to reduce potentially carcinogenic chemicals in the water it pumps to homes.

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Boston’s Policy On Affordable Housing Inspires Pittsburgh Task Force

The ultra-chic Residences at Mandarin Oriental in Boston’s Back Bay — a development with its own concierge and marble foyers, as well as rents that range from $4,700 to $17,000 a month — has been the province of the rich and powerful since opening in 2008.

But not exclusively.

Thanks to a 15-year-old city policy, teachers, police officers and other modest wage earners live next door to the wealthy at the Mandarin and other luxurious residential developments in Boston.

Because of the city’s inclusionary development policy, the Mandarin houses 10 affordable apartments — comparable in size and quality to the others — with rents ranging from $1,365 to $2,340 a month. The lucky recipients were chosen by lottery.

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http://www.post-gazette.com/business/development/2015/02/22/Boston-s-policies-on-affordable-housing-inspires-Pittsburgh-leaders/stories/201502220077

Latrobe Revitalization Program Shifts Focus To Facade, Beautification Projects

Executive Director Jarod Trunzo detailed several projects the Latrobe Community Revitalization Program hopes to advance in the coming year at last week’s Latrobe City Council meeting.

Trunzo wanted to give council a “snapshot” of what the group is working on as it changes its focus on development instead of events.

The revitalization program will continue to operate the Latrobe Farmers Market, but has turned over Steelers Fest and the Great American Banana Split Festival to the Greater Latrobe-Laurel Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Some projects will start in March when the weather breaks, then continue through the summer, Trunzo said.

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Plan To Relocate Pittsburgh Playhouse Downtown Approved; Millcraft Proposes Condos For Saks Site

The stage is set for the relocation of the Pittsburgh Playhouse to Downtown. City planning commission members unanimously approved plans for construction of new playhouse complex on Forbes Avenue Downtown today, clearing the way for its move from Oakland.

Approval came over the objections of preservationists who urged the commission to no avail to save three Forbes Avenue facades that will be relocated and integrated into the new complex under the plans advanced by Point Park University.

With today’s decision, Point Park intends to start construction in March with the demolition of three Forbes Avenue buildings and hopes to have the new complex ready for audiences in July 2017.

The $53 million project will feature a 550-seat main theater, a 200-seat adaptive theater with doors that will open to a plaza for outdoor performances, a 100-seat black box theater and supporting facilities.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/business/development/2015/02/10/Millcraft-proposes-to-build-condos-garage-at-former-Saks-site-Downtown-Pittsburgh/stories/201502100184

Farm To Table To Sponsor ‘For The Love Of Pittsburgh’ Food Tasting

In the middle of a cold Pittsburgh winter, a Farm to Table Local Food Tasting might seem like an unfeasible event to pull off.

Even though local produce is hard to find now in this region, Erin Hart, director of health-benefit services for American HealthCare Group, the sponsor of Farm to Table, says it’s a great time of year “to slow down and savor the winter offerings of local farms and food producers.”

Those offerings include greens, squash, potatoes, apples, onions and garlic; shelf staples such as canned goods, honey and maple syrup; and all kinds of meats, eggs and cheeses.

The first “For the Love of Pittsburgh” Farm to Table Local Food Tasting will take place Feb. 8 at Pittsburgh Public Market in the Strip District.

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As Banking Goes Mobile, Branch Closures Rip Through Local Economy

Phil Arlia has been dispensing medication in Pitcairn since 1968, but he was more than a pharmacist.

He was a kind of banker.

“We always had a courtesy of cashing customers’ paychecks, state checks, any kind of check,” said Arlia, owner of Phil’s Pharmacy on Broadway Boulevard.

But he stopped cashing checks when the borough’s only remaining bank, a Citizens Bank branch, closed last March. Arlia no longer had fast access to cash to replenish his register when it got low.

The branch closure made it more difficult for Pitcairn residents to access cash to spend at local businesses.

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BNY Mellon Is Putting Iconic Citizens Bank Tower Up For Sale

The Citizens Bank Tower, an iconic building that was one of Pittsburgh’s first skyscrapers and remains among the tallest in its skyline, is up for sale as its owner hopes to capitalize on intense interest for Downtown office space.

Owner Bank of New York Mellon is shopping the building as part of plans to scale back its real estate footprint to cut costs. No price has been set, nor has the bank identified a broker to represent the property, said spokeswoman Lane Cigna.

However, BNY Mellon is eager to take advantage of a hot market in Pittsburgh.

“There is a lot of outside interest in Pittsburgh in terms of the market itself. If you’re an astute real estate investor, you see the building that’s going on,” she said. “It’s really good timing to start to market this.”

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U.S. Steel Posts Strong Fourth Quarter

U.S. Steel today reported a fourth quarter profit of $275 million, capping its first profitable year since 2008.

The earnings, which amounted to $1.83 per share, topped Wall Street estimates. Sales fell 5 percent to $4.07 billion but also topped estimates.

The news sent U.S. Steel shares higher in after-hours trading.

For all of 2014, the Pittsburgh steel producer reported net income of $102 million, or 69 cents per share, vs. a 2013 loss of $1.65 billion, or $11.37 per share. Sales rose less than 1 percent to $17.51 billion.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2015/01/27/U-S-Steel-posts-strong-fourth-quarter/stories/201501270204

U.S. Steel Warns It May Lay Off Almost 2,000

U.S. Steel Corp. said it will curtail production at pipe-making plants in Alabama and Texas and may lay off almost 2,000 workers because of “softening market conditions” in the oil and gas industries.

The Downtown-based steelmaker said late Monday that it would “temporarily adjust operations” at Lone Star Tubular Operations in Texas, Fairfield Tubular Operations in Fairfield, Ala., and Fairfield Works, the primary flat-roll supplier of rounds to Fairfield Tubular Operations.

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Monessen Teenager Charged In Arson Spree

Monessen police have accused a 17-year-old boy of setting or attempting to set three fires Jan. 16 and 17.

The boy, who was charged as a juvenile and has not been identified, lives near the fire scenes, according to court documents.

The first fire occurred Jan. 16 at a building on 10th Street. No charges have been filed in that incident.

While firefighters were battling that blaze, the boy allegedly set a building on fire at 1220 Knox Ave.

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Settlement Reached Between Monroeville, Former Manager

A former Monroeville manager will receive $45,000 in back pay in addition to retirement benefits as part of a settlement with the municipality.

In exchange, Lynette Mc­Kinney, 48, of Monroeville will drop lawsuits she filed over her termination a year ago, according to the terms of the settlement the Tribune-Review obtained Thursday under a Right-to-Know request. Old National Insurance Co. will pay McKinney $45,000 in back wages and $23,000 to her attorney, Joseph Chivers. Monroeville will pay $7,000 in insurance premiums directly to her.

Council approved the terms of the settlement this month.

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U.S. Steel Plans To Close Plants Affecting 545 Workers

U.S. Steel Corp. said on Wednesday it plans to close two coke-making units and a tin mill that makes sheet for cans at plants in Illinois and Indiana, actions that would affect 545 workers.

The closings are the latest to be announced by the Downtown-based steelmaker as it “moves through its Carnegie Way assessment of all our operations,” said spokeswoman Courtney Boone.

Two weeks ago, U.S. Steel said it will shut down two more oil and natural gas pipe plants and lay off 756 workers. In August, it closed pipe plants in McKeesport and Bellville, Texas, affecting 260 workers.

CEO Mario Longhi has moved to restore confidence and improve performance. He has closed mills and saved almost $1 billion under its Carnegie Way initiative to cut costs and by halting an iron ore expansion project in Keewatin, Minn. The company also has relinquished control of its money-losing Canadian unit.

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Lawrenceville Interior Designer Gets Some Fresh Recognition From HGTV

Her work transforming an awkward, cramped kitchen into an inviting space ideal for entertaining has earned a Pittsburgh newcomer national attention.

Interior designer Lauren Levant Bland, 32, of Lawrenceville won for “Most Dramatic Transformation” in HGTV’s Fresh Faces of Design competition identifying the Top 10 American designers under age 35.

“I was really thrilled” says Levant Bland, owner of Lauren Levant Interior. “I always like it when I know the design I’ve done pleases the client, and to think it’s also been intriguing for other people to see is a wonderful honor.”

In their search for the newest crop of up-and-coming talent, HGTV invited designers from all over the country to submit their work. A panel of industry leaders then selected finalists for awards in 10 categories, and the public voted to select the winners.

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Uniontown, Washington Crown Center Malls For Sale

Two malls in Western Pennsylvania were put up for sale by their Philadelphia-based owner as part of its strategy to sell lower-performing properties and improve returns.

Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust said Monday that Uniontown Mall in Fayette County and Washington Crown Center mall in Washington County are among five shopping properties it will try to sell this year.

“I’m a little surprised,” said Jeff Kotula, president of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, who lives nearby. “Over the past year, the Washington Crown Center has done a lot of upgrades, adding a Marshall’s, Ross and Ulta. From what I’ve seen, they’ve been investing in that mall. The improvements make it very attractive, in my opinion.”

The company said it sold eight properties in other areas in 2014 for a total of $191.7 million. It has sold interests in 16 properties for more than $424 million since its portfolio review began in 2012.

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Generational Shift: Pittsburgh Milennials Help Reshape The City

When Beth Swanson moved out of her house in Collier last spring, she looked at places from Mount Washington to the South Hills and the Strip District before settling on Downtown.

She couldn’t be happier.

“I can walk anywhere I want to go. I can walk to a restaurant. I can walk to go to a show. There’s so much to do Downtown. For me being in my 20s, it’s just the ideal location,” she said.

Ms. Swanson, 25, has lived in a two-bedroom apartment at Market Square Place since May. She is among the growing legion of millennials and young professionals who are helping to fuel the residential building boom in and near Downtown.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/business/career-workplace/2015/01/03/Generational-Shift/stories/201501030003

Monroeville Mall Quieter Today After Friday Night Fracas

No trouble was reported as of this afternoon at the Monroeville Mall, which reopened today under heightened police watch after a series of fights broke among 1,000-plus teenagers and young adults Friday night, prompting the facility to close early.

Two injuries not believed to be life-threatening were reported in the skirmishes that began on the first floor and moved upstairs, startling shoppers on the day after Christmas and drawing police from multiple communities. Authorities expected to cite at least one for disorderly conduct, in addition to a pair of arrests made earlier Friday over a domestic dispute.

Monroeville Police Chief K. Douglas Cole said today he knew of no connection between the disturbance at the mall in his community and problems reported Friday in at least two other malls elsewhere in the nation.

Some mall stores within Independence Center in Independece, Mo., were locked down Friday night after several hundred youths congregated inside, with some fights breaking out, The Kansas City Star reported.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/east/2014/12/27/Monroeville-Mall-quieter-today-after-Friday-night-fracas/stories/201412270116

Penn Hills Wants To Step Up Code Enforcement, Cite Violators

Penn Hills officials say they plan to be more proactive in code enforcement while they wait for litigation to free up funds for additional code enforcement officers.

“The current number of code enforcement officers is not acceptable for the needs within the municipality,” Deputy Mayor Sara Kuhn said at the Dec. 22 meeting.

At a public budget hearing attended by about 60 residents, nearly every speaker asked council to include funds in the 2015 budget to increase the number of code enforcement officers.

Penn Hills resident Sandy Sikora told council that more code enforcement officers are needed to help fight blight and code violation in the municipality.

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