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Camera, action: Brighton Heights

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

 camera
The Brighton Heights Citizens Federation has put out a call for photographs of the neighborhood, and a handsome neighborhood it is, nestled up against Riverview Park, with lots of big brick houses and front porches. 
 
Photographers can submit up to three photos. Find out more here. At the first of each month, starting in April, Facebook friends of the federation can vote on those submissions.
 
The prize for each month’s winner is publication in the Brighton Heights Citizens Report. Of course, the real prize is a photographer’s discovery of form and light in an attitude of place plucked from anonymity and given everlasting life. 
 
I wouldn’t know this from personal experience, being naturally woeful at the art form and untrained to boot.
 
In fact, I had to muster all my audacity to ask the great Darrell Sapp if I could take the photo (above) of his camera, then I made the mistake of trying to shoot it while it was prone. You never shoot a camera while it is down. 
 
I should have known that but I'm hopeless.
 
The rest of you have at it. With an April 1 deadline, you may have an opportunity to make it up some of the side streets without falling.
 
For the ringers out there, Brighton Heights’ boundaries are as follows:  from the city line to the Ohio River to Oakdale Ave, Oakdale to Woods Run Avenue, Woods Run to McClure Avenue, McClure to Richardson Avenue, Richardson to Bainton, Bainton to California Avenue, California to McClure, McClure to Eckert, Eckert to Ohio River Boulevard (Route 65), Ohio River Boulevard to the McKees Rocks Bridge, the McKees Rocks Bridge to the Ohio River, Ohio River to the City line.
 

 

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Beechview's Canton Avenue has bike cred

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

 
Beechview’s Canton Avenue makes the grade in John Metcalf’s Atlantic Cities article today, “The 10 Most Hellish Hills for America’s Cyclists.”
 
He cites Waipio Valley Road in Hawaii as what Lance Armstrong claimed is the “steepest climb I’ve ever seen on a bike.” Canton Avenue comes in at No. 2. The YouTube video above is of the 2010 Dirty Dozen race here.
 
Canton and the next four steepest grades, all in Los Angeles, might challenge many people’s expectations that America’s steepest cycling challenges are in San Francisco or the Rockies, he writes.
 
The ranking was created by Fixr, which the article says describes Canton as the “steepest public street in the United States.” Interestingly, a street in East Hills, Dornbush, comes in at No. 8, ahead of the top two in the Pretty City by the Bay, which are numbers 9 and 10.
 
San Francisco’s rankings rankle its natives, who take issue with having the ninth and 10th steepest grades, according to the article. C'mon, Frisco, your housing prices are steep enough. Why do you want to go trying to hog all the honors? 
 
As for the top ranking, Waipio Valley Road is described as “a tortuous climb of 800 feet in six-tenths of a mile. With sections slanted at a 45-degree grade, and access given only to cars with 4-wheel drive, just looking at the muscle-shredding lane can make rivers of sweat start to flow.”
 
Canton is a little monster, one block long between Coast and Hampshire avenues. If I'm on two wheels, I’d stay away from it until spring.

 

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Getting a market buzz in Cleveland

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

clevemkt
Except for the selection of dried beans at Urban Herbs, the Westside Market in Cleveland doesn’t sell anything you can’t find in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. What they have that we don’t have is a grand work of marketplace architecture. 
 
If we still had the Allegheny Markethouse, people would surely travel to see and shop in it.  That dawned on me on the ride home from a trip to Cleveland over the weekend. 
 
I marveled at the beauty of the building, built in the early 20th century, with a beautiful vaulted brick ceiling (shown below, left) and generous window light.
 
The trip prompted many thoughts about what we have and don’t have and led to a rumination on the potential of the Pittsburgh Public Market and the Terminal Building on Smallman Street to be long-term additions to the scene. The terminal building is not a grand work of marketplace architecture, but it’s the closest thing we have to an historic and iconic symbol of the legacy of the Strip. The Terminal Building was the incubator that gave rise to the vibrant retail scene that defines the Strip as we know it today.clevefish
 
It was the first point of sale — wholesale — before supermarkets took control of their own distribution networks. It remained a wholesale food center until several years ago, when it began to empty because of uncertainty over its future use. When last year the Buncher Co. proposed a riverfront development that would eliminate the western third of the five-block long building, the Pittsburgh Public Market, which established in 2010 in a small portion of the Terminal Building, relocated to 2401 Penn Ave.
 
It has 20 full-time vendors and six part-time vendors using a little more than 3,000 square feet of the 12,000 that’s available.
 
cleveCindy Cassell, special projects manager for Neighbors in the Strip, said the public market has recently received county and federal grants to install a shared use commercial kitchen that should give more vendors an incentive to move in. Ventilation hoods are expensive and many of the people who have occupied spaces there are early-in entrepreneurs.
 
“We think the commercial kitchen will help support them,” she said.
 
If you want to get your toes into the restaurant market, a license and maintenance fee of a little more than $500 a month, with a connection to utilities and a kitchen, is a great incentive. It will be interesting to see whether the shared commercial kitchen boosts participation in the only public market house Pittsburgh has.
 
clevepoultryThe Pittsburgh Public Market was and is a laudable venture for Neighbors in the Strip to advocate into being and to manage as the leasor of the building. It was in large part NIS’s brainchild based on visits to the several remaining historic markets within reasonable driving distance, the Westside Market being one.
 
Pittsburgh’s potential to support a growing public market house and a renovated Terminal Building and the current storefronts of the Strip is an unknown.
 
“With the planned residential development” by Buncher, “we potentially have a larger local market, and our tourist market grows every year,” Cindy said.  “We did a market study before the [public] market opened and it showed that in a 20 mile radius around Pittsburgh there was a stronger demand for niche food products than the existing supply.” 
 
As I toured the Westside Market, I caught myself oohing and aahing, wondering why at first and then realizing why — the intensity of consolidation. It is Wholey’s, Penn Mac, Stamolis, Parma Sausage, Sam Bok, Stan’s, Labad’s, La Prima and every farmers’ market all together in one big teeming, gleaming -- and at times overwhelming -- place.
 
As a Pittsburgher, I love the Strip and think it is more interesting than any marketplace I’ve visited except in the Third World.westsidemarket
 
I would love to see people flock around vendors packing every available space in the Pittsburgh Public Market and at the Terminal Building if it is developed into a food-oriented regional draw and remain just as devoted to the Strip’s street scene.
 
I wonder how much we would have to grow -- or how far regionally we would have to draw -- to achieve that kind of massing.
 
But the certainty I came away with from Cleveland was that a great city needs a great indoor market scene and any city that still has its old-world market house is blessed, lucky, farsighted or all three.
 
Photos, from the Westside Market, by Paul Nawrocki

 

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A city vision that's on the level

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

 
Infrastructure presents a great challenge and great opportunity to cities looking to the future, from the redesign of storm water collection to the remaking of streets.
 
Atlantic Cities today features a look at the opportunity Syracuse, N.Y. has to regain a stolen piece of its urbanity by tearing rerouting I-81, a national highway that cuts through the core of the city.
 
In “The Future of Urban Freeways Is Playing Out Right Now in Syracuse,” Amy Crawford writes about one leader’s interest in correcting the suburban mindset of city planners in the mid-20th century. Van Robinson, a member of the Syracuse Common Council, proposes to reroute I-81 around Syracuse and build on its current footprint a landscaped boulevard. 
 
“But suburban business-owners and many of the 45,000 drivers who use the highway to commute fear that any change could hurt the local economy,” the article reads. “It’s a debate that goes beyond the immediate question of how Syracuse workers will get to work — to what kind of city Syracuse will be in the 21st century.
 
It continues: 
 
“Similar discussions are happening across the United States, says John Norquist, president of the Chicago-based Congress for the New Urbanism, which publishes an occasional list of interstates ripe for demolition. Many urban freeways — a staple of mid-20th century car-centric development — are beginning to fall apart, and today cities from New Haven to Seattle (not to mention others around the world) are taking the dramatic step of tearing them down.”
 
Now that society has become more city-friendly, this idea resonates on several fronts in Pittsburgh.
 
A couple of years ago, Carnegie Mellon University architecture and design students came up with a brainstorm to drop Route 65 to street level as it passes through Manchester and Chateau on the North Side. Their brainstorm went much further, with designs to make Chateau — which is almost wholly industrial — into a more liveable place.
 
By dropping Route 65, the roadway would be part of the neighborhood and tie Manchester and back Chateau together. A landscaped boulevard with consideration for pedestrians could be a game-changer for both neighborhoods.
 
The 579/Veterans Bridge atrocity is too new to be “ripe for demolition” but in my bag of fantasies, that roadway disappears and becomes a boulevard that reintroduces Downtown to the Hill at pedestrian scale.
 
Mr. Robinson's vision sets a good example and it begins with this quote from the article: "Who in the world would put an interstate through the middle of a city?”
 
But that's not the last word. I-81's current path through Syracuse benefits outlying communities just as Route 65 serves interests in Bellevue and further upriver. If you pulled traffic down to the level where people walk and slowed it, would it be as likely to shoot through to these communities?
 
Every potential solution has a consequence, but it can be argued that strength should not be nurtured from the outside in but from the inside out. A suburb is only as strong as the metro hub that gave it birth.
 

 

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Do you have a Pittsburgh song?

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 
The Post-Gazette held a Best Pittsburgh Song Contest in 2006 and Bob Pegritz gave each one a listen. Bob is a native of Smock, Fayette County who used to live and work in Pittsburgh. He has been living in Lancaster County for several years.

“Some people used melodies that already existed and put in Pittsburgh words,” he said. “Some were original melodies but I got so angry one night that I sat at my computer and this song came out.”

Bob writes: "Mike Gallagher, Pittsburgh Irish and folk music icon was so kind to set my words about my home town to music. Paddy Folan, accordianist in Guaranteed Irish lent his expertise and Jamie Peck, master engineer and part-time bassist and percussionist made our song come alive.

 “I don’t want to make anything from this," he told Walkabout today, "but I want to let people know what Pittsburgh is about. It’s not synonymous with Primanti’s. It’s not the shot-and-beer thing or the Steelers. My grandparents did not break their backs in this town to be told that’s what Pittsburgh’s all about.”
 
Post-Gazette readers cast 14,866 votes in choosing “I Love Pittsburgh” by Jimmy Sapienza in 2006 It has a swinging, uptown spirit and calls out all the sports teams. You can surely dance to it. It won with 64 percent of the vote.
 
My former colleague Monica Haynes reported on the contest result, citing the inspiration as coming from Atlanta’s 2005 commissioning of a song to promote that city. “The result was a hip-hop-flavored R&B tune called the ‘ATL,’” she wrote. “After hearing about Atlanta’s new ditty, folks at the Post-Gazette began wondering what kind of song could best show the world what Pittsburgh is all about.”
 
It has been eight years since the contest. Might be time for a new contest to see how the city is inspiring a new generation. 
 

 

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