Pittsburgh’s building boom, centered for years on Downtown and East End neighborhoods, is spreading into the West End.
Developers are focusing on Banksville Road where nearly $3 million is being spent to build a hotel, an office building and an expansion of offices for an engineering firm.
“The city of Pittsburgh overall is doing well in terms of development,” said City Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith, who represents West End communities. “Banksville has good access to Downtown, the Parkway (West), the airport and suburbs.”
A Comfort Inn and Suites is going up near a Days Inn along lower Banksville Road. The $2.7 million project includes a four-story hotel building with 69 rooms and 64 parking spaces, according to Pittsburgh Planning Commission records.
The Heinz Endowments is redirecting resources toward smart urban planning to seize upon an “amazing moment” in Pittsburgh’s development, foundation president Grant Oliphant said Thursday.
A citywide building boom, an infusion of young professionals and heightened partnerships between foundation and civic officials are among factors jump-starting conversations about long-term planning strategies.
“Suddenly, in 2015, Pittsburgh is a place to be,” Oliphant said. “There is an energy in Pittsburgh around development that makes possible things that were really not possible to push forward 10 years ago.”
Oliphant’s remarks emerge 18 months after a major personnel shakeup at The Heinz Endowments, Western Pennsylvania’s second largest foundation with more than $1.5 billion in net assets. A string of executive departures in 2013 left the foundation without an executive director for eight months, amid an apparent clash between the Heinz family and departing staffers over the foundation’s ties to an industry-backed environmental group.
On a cloudy and cool spring morning, Downtown Pittsburgh’s first grocery in five years was emerging from its shell like a butterfly from its cocoon.
Some workers stocked a freezer with frozen shrimp, lobster langostino and other seafood. Others handled deliveries of cheeses and other goods. Yet others trained to use the cash register.
At the back of 435 Market St., bottles of imported red and white Italian wines beckoned visitors. Pastas, cereals, chocolates, pickles, olives, teas, cookies, jelly, potato chips and sauces crammed the shelves.
“ ‘Finally’ is the word,” developer Ralph Falbo said as he talked to two friends and surveyed the scene.
It’s a home tour visitors don’t typically take: overgrown gardens leading to homes with boarded-up windows, peeling paint and broken stairs.
The Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation and a group of Carnegie Mellon University students hope to highlight hidden beauty in the borough and reframe how people see vacant properties. The students conceived the idea for a Vacant Home Tour on May 9 as a way to address blight.
They’ll walk people through the history of five vacant properties in Wilkinsburg that could be prime candidates for restoration.
At each house, volunteer docents from the neighborhood, who researched the homes’ histories and owners, will present old photos or documents to show the houses in their heydays, said Marlee Gallagher, communications and outreach coordinator for the CDC.
Pittsburgh police are trying to identify a group of about 30 people who donned masks and ran through Shadyside on Friday night, smashing the windows of more than a half-dozen businesses and an unknown number of automobiles.
There were no injuries in the vandalism spree that began shortly after 8:40 p.m., when police first spotted the group, marching peacefully near Liberty Avenue and Baum Boulevard in Bloomfield, holding candles and telling officers they were holding a funeral procession for a friend, city Public Safety Department spokeswoman Sonya Toler said.
A few minutes later, there was chaos a few blocks away as the group turned onto Walnut Street and marched past the shops and restaurants filled with patrons.
“I saw a group of nine or 10 guys. I couldn’t see their faces because they all were wearing hoodies,” said Miranda Leanos, 18, a waitress at the Thai Place Restaurant.
Southwestern Pennsylvania has low unemployment, a plethora of high school and college graduates and relatively safe streets, but residents are more likely to smoke cigarettes and be overweight compared to a group other major U.S. metro areas, according to a University of Pittsburgh report released Wednesday.
Researchers found that while the region “continues to be a national model for economic recovery and public safety, the region still has major deficiencies in overcoming issues related to the environment, infrastructure, public health, and other matters that are key to the quality of life for most Americans.”
A new day is dawning in Larimer, with the city getting ready to plant the first seeds in a massive effort to revitalize the neighborhood with the help of a $30 million federal grant.
Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority board members are poised to give the go-ahead Thursday for construction of 85 mixed-income residential units in Larimer and East Liberty, the first phase of a broader $400 million revitalization strategy.
The townhouses and apartments will be built at the site of the former Liberty Park site and Omega Place in East Liberty and the former Auburn Towers site in Larimer.
They were made possible in part because of a $30 million Choice Neighborhoods Initiative grant awarded last year by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Pittsburgh was only one of four cities in the country to win a grant. Forty-three had applied.
With the demolition of what once was Alcoa’s Logans Ferry Powder Works, Plum will lose a historic touchstone but could gain a new foothold to the borough’s future.
A real estate company that bought the 20-acre industrial site in 1987 when Alcoa idled the plant recently began to raze more than a dozen brick buildings moldering at the base of Coxcomb Hill Road.
Alcoa moved its powder works to Plum in 1918 after the aluminum powder it produced sparked an explosion at the New Kensington Works the prior year. It was the first of three explosions associated with powder production in Alcoa’s New Kensington and Plum facilities that killed 17 people, the last in 1979.
During its 68 years of existence, the plant produced powder that gave automotive paint its sparkle, added durability and cooling properties to roof coatings, and was used as a base in rocket fuel, dynamite and fireworks.
The crowd inside — and eventually outside — 816 E. Warrington Ave. one recent evening gathered to showcase a newly renovated Allentown property. The former Ken’s Variety had been vacant for more than 20 years.
As the evening deepened, “Open in Allentown,” a “pop-up” event with a garage-style glass door rolled up, became a stew of neighborhood leaders, investors, consultants, residents of Allentown and nearby neighborhoods mingling over cocktails and catered nibbles.
The event and mix of people signified what Hilltop Alliance executive director Aaron Sukenik called “Warrington Avenue in its reinvention phase.”
One mile from Downtown (Pittsburgh) and cradled by the hot markets of Mount Washington and the South Side Slopes, Allentown is riddled with residential blight, and 35 percent of its commercial properties are vacant. But the newly repaved Warrington Avenue is on the cusp of a transition from being seedy to being seen.
Despite a state law signed last year to avoid such circumstances, some communities are still applying parts of local ordinances that allow them to have “disruptive” tenants evicted if more than a few calls to 911 have been made from a residence — even when those calls result from domestic abuse.
The American Civil Liberties Union is involved in a current case in Verona and worked with a woman in Mount Oliver who faced a similar situation last summer. In 2013, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit against Norristown, Pa., after the organization said officials there pushed for the eviction of a woman who was a victim of domestic violence.
Sara Rose, an attorney at the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said it’s hard to tell how often these types of ordinances — intended to prevent disruptive behavior — are being used as punishment when tenants call 911. Several municipalities in the state have such ordinances, but Ms. Rose said she’s not aware of any towns that have repealed or changed them since then-Gov. Tom Corbett signed the new law in November.
“Just having it creates a chilling effect on tenants who might be afraid to call the police,” she said.
Monessen police are looking for two men involved in a drive-by shooting Tuesday afternoon.
City police were called to Somerset Street around 2:20 p.m. when neighbors heard gunfire.
Police Chief John Mandarino said the suspects, believed to be white or light-skinned black men in a black or dark blue sport utility vehicle, were traveling down Somerset Street when one of the men shot toward a house. The bullets struck three houses on the same block.
In Hays there will be no eaglets. Late Friday the Western Pennsylvania Audubon Society confirmed that the second of two eggs laid a month ago was no longer viable. The first broken egg was pushed out of the nest March 14.
“We’ve been watching all day — their behavior seemed unusual, kind of baffling,” said Audubon executive director Jim Bonner. “A screen shot from 10:25 a.m. looked conclusive to me. It looked like a broken, flattened egg being lifted out of the nest. I doubt that the first broken egg would look that intact after two weeks. We are unfortunately at this time saying the egg looks to be lost.”
It was a disappointing conclusion to the bald eagles’ third breeding season. The 6 1/2-year-old female laid the first egg Feb. 17 and the second Feb. 20, to the glee of thousands of eagle watchers in Pittsburgh and beyond watching streaming video from a wildlife camera mounted near the nest.
This is the second year the state Game Commission has permitted the camera system, donated by the Murrysville-based PixController security camera company, and this year managed by the local Audubon chapter.
For more than a decade, Virginia Summers anticipated the day she could gaze across the street from her Donora home and see – nothing.
She is about to get her wish.
The borough on Thursday began demolition of the century-old building known as Fifth Street School. The structure, located at the intersection of Fifth Street and Allen Avenue, has been deteriorating for years and had become a safety issue.
“It’s been a pest,” Summers said. “… It is unsafe and everybody knows it. You could see bricks falling down. We’ve been troubling council for 10 years asking to please get it down, get it down. And I’m grateful they were finally able to make it happen.”
The hearts of the families of two missing Pittsburgh men were broken Thursday when they learned that bodies recovered from the Ohio River in West Virginia last week were those of their loved ones.
The deaths of Andre Gray, who had been shot to death, and Paul Kochu, who might have drowned, “are not related” and are being investigated separately, city police Cmdr. RaShall Brackney said at a news conference Thursday night.
“I’m thankful to God for bringing my son home,” said Gray’s mother, Victoria Gray-Tillman, as she and other family members stood next to Brackney. “Now I can have closure. … I knew all along the Lord had my son.”
City Public Safety Department spokeswoman Sonya Toler said Hubert Wingate, 30, who has been in the Allegheny County Jail since Feb. 21 on unrelated fugitive from justice charges, has been arrested for the slaying of Gray.
The most disappointing part of Mt. Lebanon’s deer management program that ended abruptly last week was “the divisiveness and mean-spirited rhetoric” that split the community, commissioners said at their meeting Monday night.
“For the good of the community, we must try to reset the dialogue,” President John Bendel read from a letter at the meeting.
But opponents of the program said there is still work to be done.
They again lined Washington Road before the commission’s discussion session and subsequent meeting.