Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Allegheny Grows" More Urban Farms

Allegheny County officials announced Monday that they are looking for applications from more municipalities and neighborhood groups interested in participating in the third year of the "Allegheny Grows" program.  Communities and organizations selected will get gardening supplies and technical support for two years. 

The program's benefits extend beyond providing a source of vegetables for food banks.  "Allegheny Grows" teaches communities how to develop and operate urban farms and community food gardens. They create a catalyst for community development, job training, environmental stewardship and youth education. Such gardens also reduce urban storm water runoff, minimize erosion, absorb carbon dioxide and reflect as much as 25 percent of the sun's heat, according to the county. They also can provide shelter for wildlife and support migratory bird species.

During the first two years of the program, gardens and urban farms have been set up in Millvale, McKees Rocks, Penn Hills and Wilkinsburg in addition to Bellevue. Plans call for expanding the program to at least two more communities next spring. Allegheny Grows programs are limited to municipalities and organizations operating in communities where at least 47 percent of residents qualify as low- to moderate-income families.  More information is available by calling 412-350-1198 or visiting the Economic Development Department Web site at economic.alleghenycounty.us. Click on the "Allegheny Grows Application" under the "Features" listing on the right-hand side of the page.

Potential applicants must attend one of two information sessions scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 7 in the Millvale Community Center or 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Sept. 12 in the Wilkinsburg Housing Resource Center.  Completed applications must be postmarked or submitted in person by Sept. 30. Interviews and site visits will take place during October with awards announced in November.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Community Meeting With PWSA To Address Flooding

There will be a community meeting with Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl & Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority on Sept 6th at 6pm at Winchester Thurston School in Shadyside.  (555 Morewood Ave, 15213)  The officials will be there to listen to public comment and answer public questions about the unusual flooding which has occurred in the East End over this last year.

Metro Pittsburgh Real Estate
Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority
Winchester Thurston School

Thursday, August 25, 2011

McKees Rocks Gets "Jiffy" Park

Volunteers "create" Third Street Park in McKees Rocks

The flat 3.2-acre Third Street Park in McKees Rocks received a mountain of mulch on Friday morning but was otherwise barren except for a picnic pavilion that had been erected earlier this summer by 25 corporate volunteers.  But by 3 o'clock, the park had a KaBOOM! playground with slides, swings, ladders and other climbing devices in vivid shades of orange, yellow and blue.

More than 200 corporate and community volunteers -- including Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma-- labored mightily to excavate the mulch mountain. That was after they dug holes, mixed and poured cement, installed playground equipment and built a gazebo, a horse shoe pit, eight picnic tables and four benches. The workers used shovels to load mulch into wheel barrows and big sheets of plastic and rakes to spread mulch around the swings and slides and into a winding walkway. Though a mid-morning storm with thunder and lightning mandated a 30-minute halt to construction, workers beat the 3 p.m. completion deadline by 10 minutes.

The Pens sent 45 employees from the front office and Mr. Bylsma. They worked the entire playground construction shift, with the coach wearing a purple do-rag on his head and the same grey teeshirt worn by all the volunteers.

The corporate sponsor of this endeavor was the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group. The group is spending $15 million over three years to build or fix up 2,000 playgrounds across the country.  About $75,000 went to the Third Street playground. Forty Snapple Group employees worked on the McKees Rocks project. Other volunteers include elected officials and employees of McKees Rocks, the McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation and organizers from KaBOOM! as well as borough residents. Duquesne Light Co., which sent volunteers in June to build the pavilion, returned on Friday to help with the playground.
Neighborhood children were consulted about what equipment should go into their park. Some of them even showed up to help, including Andy Cochran, a fourth-grade student. "This is like my second home," he said of the park that is within walking distance of his house. "I've been here since 10:30 and I've done a little bit of everything, including hauling mulch."

Future improvements are planned for Third Street Park, including the installation of bocci courts.

McKees Rocks
Metro Pittsburgh Real Estate

Monday, August 15, 2011

Good Things Happening In East Liberty!!

Emily & Sten Carlson work on their Borland Green rowhouse.

For many years, Maria Piantanida has been part of a group who had a dream of creating a "co-housing" development in the Metro Pittsburgh area.  A co-housing community is a group of residents who share a lifestyle vision.  And so for many years, Maria and her group kept searching for a place that was suitable or had potential to accommodate them. The group eventually split into those who wanted to build new and those who wanted to be in the city and reuse existing housing.  Maria's group, the "City" group, found exactly what they were looking for in a stretch of (seven) brown-brick rowhouses on Black Street behind Peabody High School.

The rowhouses had been in the process of falling apart when East Liberty Development Inc. bought them out of foreclosure last year. Since then, the agency has assembled eight more residences on the blocks within Borland, Black and Beatty streets as part of a bigger plan.  It was this "bigger plan" that caught the eye of Piantanida's group.  They took the plunge, bought the distressed properties and promptly named their new co-housing community "Borland Green".

The community started ahead of renovations by establishing a garden on a large tract that was remediated by three years of sunflower and canola planted by the non-profit GTECH. The 18,000-square-foot garden lot will be developed to include an orchard and other edible plants. East Liberty Development still owns that land and is working with the city to get title for two more parcels. Maureen Copeland, GTECH's community programs manager and now a Borland Green resident, bought and moved into the most habitable unit in May. Pat Buddemeyer, an original member of the co-housing group, expects work to be done on her unit in October.  Sten and Emily Carlson are other members of the group who presently live in North Point Breeze as they renovate and restore the unit they recently bought.

Piantanida says it was the green space Borland Green had to offer which cinched the deal for the group.  She and her husband live in Churchill and do not have a move-in date yet. "I've lived in [Churchill] for 32 years and hardly know anybody. This is sort of where my heart is now."

What are some of the benfits of "co-housing"?

"Sharing resources so you don't need seven lawnmowers, just one," said Sten Carlson.

"Having someone look out for your house while you're out of town," added Ms. Piantanida. "Another advantage is that elders have support while they pool their resources to get care at home instead of having to go to a nursing home."

These are the staples of what makes co-housing attractive to a growing number of people. Diana Leafe Christian, a national expert on co-housing, said at least 116 communities are established across the country and roughly another 150 are in the stages of finding and purchasing land.

For further details on this exciting project, read the entire Post Gazette article:

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Hill Disctrict: Then & Now

Silver Bar at 1911 Centre Ave circa 1930

The Post Gazette has launched a multi-media project called the "Storefront Project".   Storefront photos and information from various neighborhoods throughout time will be displayed.  The first street scenes are from the Hill District.  In this particular case, because of the deterioration, the photos are sad.  Interesting but sad.  Lets hope the current redevelopment projects in that neighborhood are successful.

Other neighborhoods are cued up for display soon.  I will post them as they come!

Link to Post Gazette Article
Hill District Then & Now

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Re-Born Victorian on Manchester House Tour

Steve & Linda Hansen in their renovated kitchen.
The gutted and totally renovated Victorian at the corner of Manhattan St and West North Ave will definitely be a highlight of this year's Manchester House & Garden Tour.  Steve Hansen lived on West North Avenue in the North Side's Manchester neighborhood for almost 30 years without noticing this house a block away. Obscured by a pair of overgrown trees and abandoned for 10 years, it was quietly decaying when he stopped and peered inside one day in 2005. Curious, he began stopping by for a closer examination and in April 2007, he climbed in a second-floor window for a look around.  Extensive water damage from a leaky roof (and the raccoon family living there) would have frightened away most people. But Mr. Hansen, who partnered with Jimmy Roach as the WDVE-FM morning radio duo in the 1980s, saw a chance to bring a Victorian house back from the dead.

 After nearly two years of begging the city not to tear it down and 18 months of hard work by Mr. Hansen, his wife Linda and two teams of contractors, there's new life in this old Victorian. New life for this home and the neighborhood as well.

The Hansens' house at 1337 W. North is one of six houses open next weekend for the Manchester House and Garden Tour. Its renovation is further along than its neighbor, but both have come up a long way from what they were two years ago.

The Hansens bought 1337 W. North from the city in February 2010. Much of last year was spent in demolition and gutting the three-story, 5,000-square-foot space that has been apartments, a speakeasy and possibly a brothel (that would explain all the mattresses Mr. Hansen dragged out).  Stalczynski Contracting worked on the exterior, replacing roofs on the house and two garages, rebuilding box gutters, sandblasting and repointing the brick and priming and painting the exterior. A carpenter installed 38 new double-hung windows by Allied Millwork, This January, RW Ripley & Sons leveled and reinforced the floors before laying bamboo, installed drywall, redid the electrical, repaired original tin ceilings and woodwork, and fashioned a modern kitchen and bathrooms that are showstoppers. Architect Bob Baumbach designed the kitchen, where just this week contractors installed concrete countertops by Outlaw Studios and stainless-steel counters by Bishop Metals.

Crew chief Brian Ripley is particularly proud of the master bathroom he helped design and build with his brother, Adam, and Ed Cerra Plumbing.  They ended up with a stunning L-shaped space with dual shower heads, Cifre Oxido wall tile from Spain and a nubby, river-rock tile floor.  To add to the contemporary feel, Mrs. Hansen hopes to install an old paneled door on sliding barn-door hardware across the water closet.

Only some of the tin ceilings in the first and second floors could be salvaged. Several panels in the master bedroom had rusted through from roof runoff. Luckily, the Hansens were able to find exact duplicates online at Chelsea Decorative Metal Co.

Mr. Hansen also has his mind on the future. Inspired by a newspaper he found tucked in a wall -- dated July 4, 1876 -- he created his own time capsule and hid it in a wall for future owners of this house.
In it, he packed 20 photos and a long essay in which he identifies himself, his wife and all the contractors who worked on the project. He describes his fortunate discovery of a forlorn house, the ups and downs of renovation and the incredible amount of work that has gone into reviving this piece of history. He closes this way:

"We hope that we have added to the future vitality and livability of Pittsburgh by saving and restoring this magnificent house. We hope that the Manchester you know is a dynamic destination neighborhood that attracts and nurtures a diverse tapestry of residents, lifestyles and views. We hope you enjoy this house as much as we hope to."

13th annual Manchester
House and Garden Tour
  • What: 6 houses, 2 gardens, benefits Manchester Historic Society
  • When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Aug. 6, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Aug. 7
  • Tickets: $15 on tour days at Conroy School, 1398 Page St.
  • Information: www.manchesterhistoricsocietypa.com.

Metro Pittsburgh Real Estate