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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PhillyDeals: Is A High-End Retailer In Gallery’s Near Future?

Work crews have been hammering away, restoring the wood-and-bronze-accented central hall of the former Strawbridge & Clothier store downstairs at 801 Market St. from our Inquirer offices.

Rumors that Bloomingdale’s or another high-end department store will take the space have been current in the neighborhood.  Earlier plans and speculation had centered on a casino, a Target, or high-end restaurants.

Of course, Bloomingdale’s owner, Macy’s Inc., hasn’t announced a new Philly store.  Erin Halley, spokeswoman for Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT), told me there’s nothing to announce.

But retail-watchers say PREIT, which didn’t upgrade the Gallery complex when it improved its malls in Cherry Hill, Plymouth Meeting, and other suburbs in the late 2000s, finally looks ready to make a Center City move – especially since it agreed to pay $60 million to buy the last section it didn’t already own from Vornado Realty Trust last fall.


Project Assures Penn Street A Project Visibly Brighter Future

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Penn Street is slated for $1 million in upgrades this summer that will include new and brighter streetlights from Second to Eighth streets.

It also will include replacing the gap-toothed crosswalks at Penn’s intersections with Second and Third, replacing the bouncy bricks with plastic grids like the crosswalk at Eighth and Penn.

Both projects will get underway at the same time, likely August or September, city Public Works Director Charles M. Jones said.

And he said both are funded by federal highway grants, not local tax money.

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Makeover For Pittsburgh’s PPG Place May Include Grocery Store

PPG Place in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

PPG Place in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

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