Sunday, May 15, 2011

New Yorker Wins Pittsburgh Marathon

Pittsburgh Marathon 2011

Jeffrey Eggleston of Rochester, NY won the Pittsburgh Marathon this morning with an unofficial time of 2:16:38.  Nicholas Kurgat of Kenya broke the course record for the half marathon with a time of 1:03:03. Kurgat's time was more than two minutes better than the previous record, which was set by Baldwin native Ryan Sheehan, who ran 1:05:13 last year. Sheehan came in eighth place today.

The women's marathoner winner was Bekele Delelecha of Ethiopia with a time of 2:35:34.  Malika Mejdoub of Morocco won the women's half marathon with a time of 1:14:28, one second better than second-place finisher Aziza Aliyu of Ethiopia.

Metro Pittsburgh Real Estate
Pittsburgh Marathon

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Thinking of Biking to Work?

Thinking about biking to work, especially now that a gallon of regular gasoline costs about $4?  Bike Pittsburgh and the Downtown YMCA have a bike commuting forum for you.

The forum, free and open to the public, will be held from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday in the YMCA's Community Room that overlooks Market Square. Enter from the YMCA's Fifth Avenue entrance.
The event, a prelude to Car Free Fridays and Bike to Work Day (May 20), is designed to answer questions about bike commuting and glean information from veteran cyclists.

Bike Pittsburgh also is asking community leaders to celebrate Bike to Work Day by helping to promote bike pools. They have found that one of the main reasons people don't bike to work is because they don't feel safe on the roads.  Riding with others is a good option because it's especially comforting to new and inexperienced riders.

Bike Pittsburgh
Metro Pittsburgh Real Estate

Monday, May 9, 2011

East Liberty Redevelopment In High Gear

Eastside shopping complex in East Liberty

The renewal and revitalization of East Liberty has progressed bigger, better and faster than anyone could have hoped for.  Home Depot opened the only store located within Pittsburgh city limits in 2000.  Whole Foods opened two years later and became one of the highest grossing stores in the Austin-based chain. Then came the Mosites Co.'s Eastside development, the hipster haven Shadow Lounge and several small, high-end restaurants.  This July, a new Target will open on Penn Avenue just down the street from where Trader Joe's is thriving.

The commercial scene is obviously a success, but residential housing may yet eclipse that accomplishment.  Two homes in the neighborhood are now under agreement for $340,000 each!  Who would have ever thought? Even the guys who helped make that happen -- real estate specialists at East Liberty Development Inc. -- were staggered. The average sales price of a single-family home in the area in 2008 was $75,000.  The average hit $146,000 last year, when ELDI sold a house for $315,000.

For the past seven years, ELDI has been buying abandoned, vacant and liened properties. The portfolio now totals $10 million and accounts for almost 15 percent of the neighborhood's parcels. Payment of liens alone has East Liberty looking more like Shadyside than its neighbors to the east and west on a demographic map.

So what's next on the list?  The agency's target area for renovating and selling homes is East Liberty's historic core ..... Between Penn Circle and Stanton Avenue and Negley and Highland Avenues.  Last week, city and agency officials cut a ribbon at the Boulevard Apartments, a new six-unit building on East Liberty Boulevard and Euclid Avenue. It is solid brick, has hardwood floors, balconies with hand-crafted iron work and energy efficiency that exceeds Energy Star standards.  The agency is also working with developers to turn three existing buildings into market-rate apartments. They include the Highland Building and former YMCA, both in the business district.

The neighborhood agency's strategy is atypical.  Most community development corporations depend on public money and build homes on spec.   The East Liberty group builds for a waiting buyer.
Rather than going to the URA for money to renovate,they use the market and let the flippers take the risk.  They have legal safeguards in place that require the flipper to sell to a homeowner instead of an investor. 

What kind of homeowners have decided to make East Liberty their new home?  New residents include those who moved to Pittsburgh from out of state, some to work for Google and American Eagle, and people who have relocated from other neighborhoods and area suburbs.  After almost a decade of very aggressive work, there is a bona fide market-rate housing market in East Liberty.

Who would have ever thought .....

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Only 2 More Days For Greek Food Festival!

Church volunteer stacks diples for the Food Festival

The ladies -- and men -- at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Oakland on Monday made fried pastries called diples (about 3,000 of them) as they finished the cooking for its Greek Food Festival, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

The party runs from Sunday, May 1, through Friday, May 6. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m except on Friday, when it's open until 10 p.m. and the music goes till midnight. The menu includes more pastries (from baklava to galatoboureko) and dinners (souvlakia to fish plaki) and a la carte items (moussaka to dolmathes). Call 412-682-3866 or visit

Metro Pittsburgh Real Estate

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Book Published About Mt Washington's Chatham Village

Women play cards in Chatham Village, 1932

Pittsburgh history buffs will love the new book published about Mt Washington's Chatham Village. "Chatham Village: Pittsburgh's Garden City" has a paper jacket which feels almost like suede, giving the cover photographs extra depth. The book's design, by Kachergis Book Design of Pittsboro, N.C., is enjoyable, too, with wide margins and an abundance of photographs, drawings and plans.

Author Angelique Bamberg was the city's preservation planner from December 1998 to 2006 and it was her job to inform and guide commission members in their decision-making. A native of Germany who grew up in the American South, she first came to Pittsburgh earlier in 1998 as a Cornell University graduate student researching her master's thesis on Chatham Village, out of which this book has grown. It's the first book-length treatment of the subject, and Ms. Bamberg has detailed its design and establishing how and why the community is significant, the role it played in the history of planned developments and why it was both a smashing success and a disappointing failure.

Chatham Village, while widely known in planning circles, is one of Pittsburgh's best-kept secrets. The community was built in two phases on 45 acres on a Mount Washington hilltop -- the former Thomas Bigham estate -- between 1931 and 1936. It was a demonstration project of the Buhl Foundation, which wanted to show that quality, affordable housing could be built for middle-class families at a profit by the private sector. It also wanted to demonstrate that Pittsburgh's hilly terrain could be developed economically and beautifully. At Chatham Village, 197 terraced red-brick row houses surround village greens, gardens and paths, all stepping down the sloping site.

The 208-page hardcover edition (University of Pittsburgh Press, $29.95) opens with a look at the four men who were most influential in the development's launch, beginning with Charles Fletcher Lewis, a former Pittsburgh Sun editorial writer who headed the then year-old Buhl Foundation.  Lewis hired three consultants, Clarence Stein, Henry Wright and Frederick Bigger, all architects, planners and housing reform advocates who were members of the Regional Planning Association of America.

To combat sprawl and the ills of the city, the association's members had devised plans for a series of communities called New Towns, with homes grouped around greens, gardens and paths, limiting cars to roads and garages on the perimeter. Clarence Stein believed the automobile had made the traditional urban grid unsafe for pedestrians, especially children who made the streets their playgrounds. Inspired by the English garden city movement, Mr. Stein and Mr. Wright had collaborated on two previous projects, Sunnyside Gardens on Long Island, N.Y., and Radburn, N.J.

Mr. Lewis' consultants convinced him that Chatham could not be built and sold for a profit as individually owned homes, he shifted its focus to rental properties for the struggling middle-class. Designed by Pittsburgh architects Ingham and Boyd, the row houses were no ordinary rentals. They had limestone door surrounds and stone cartouches over some doorways, modern amenities like steel kitchens, and utility and power lines were buried underground, enhancing the aura of an urban Eden designed by landscape architect Ralph Griswold, who emphasized lush lawns accented and shaded by trees. At the first open house, 20,000 people lined up to have a look and there soon was a waiting list for occupancy.
To assure the "model community" was a "model success", the first tenants were carefully screened. They were uniformly Protestant, white-collar and white -- a demographic that has widened over time. Once geared to families with children, Chatham Village now caters more to the needs of adults.  Satisfied that the Buhl Foundation's housing experiment had come to a successful conclusion, Mr. Lewis' successor, Charles Nutting, turned it into a co-op in 1957, offering tenants the chance to become owners at extremely reasonable cost. Most of them did. 

Ms. Bamberg is currently a planning and preservation consultant and instructor at the University of Pittsburgh.