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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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Local anti-litter crusader gets national award

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

boriswBoris Weinstein, Pittsburgh’s leading Mister Anti-Litter Man, was honored by Keep America Beautiful at its national convention in Charlotte this evenning.
 
The Shadyside resident — a member of the Clean Pittsburgh Commission and founder of Citizens Against Litter — was chosen to receive the 2013 Iron Eyes Cody Award for his “exceptional leadership in raising public awareness about litter prevention, roadside and community beautification, solid waste issues, and the need for citizens to participate in activities that preserve and enhance natural resources and public lands,” according to KAB.
 
It has honored 20 men with this award since 1988. The national awards program honors women with the Lady Bird Johnson award among other categories.
 
Mr. Weinstein sent this statement to Walkabout:
 
"I’m overwhelmed that I have been chosen for the Keep America Beautiful Iron Eyes Cody Award. My life in retirement mirrors many of the Keep America Beautiful principals. I work to rid us of litter.”
 
“I work for a cleaner environment. I believe one person can make a difference. People who care must pick up for people who litter and don’t care.”
 
"Citizens Against Litter’s mission is to inspire residents of the Pittsburgh area to collect litter and connect neighborhoods. Keep America Beautiful sees millions of Americans who take small actions that bring about a world of change. I believe I am one of those Americans."
 

 

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A little salt goes a long way

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

 
roadsalt
Salt is a natural substance that is safe in small portions. Just ask your doctor. But in great concentrations, it can be hazardous to your health. Similarly, salt in big piles on streets and sidewalks can be hazardous to the health of birds, trees and other plants, aquatic life and the groundwater.
 
This photo, taken at the corner of the Boulevard of the Allies near Commonwealth Place Downtown, is what you might call a great concentration. It is a speed bump of salt right up against a drainage grate just waiting to be washed into the slurry of water that will end up at Alcosan for treatment. 
 
The piles of salt on the sidewalk are likely to drain off in the next rain into a strip of young trees that are already tightly girded by Christmas lights.
 
As we approach February with hope for mercy from another bout of painful cold, we know we will continue to see those guys with wheelbarrows out there tossing and dumping mountains of salt on sidewalks and roadways for at least another month or so. 
 
There’s a way to use de-icing road salts and there’s an obnoxious way.
 
The Journal for Surface Water Quality Professionals reports on the ramifications of excessive salt run-off based on several studies that conclude that excessive road salt causes all manner of ecological imbalance and disruption.
 
“Road salts applied to roadways can enter air, soil, groundwater, and surface water from direct or snowmelt runoff, release from surface soils, and/or wind-borne spray. These salts remain in solution in surface waters and are not subject to any significant natural removal mechanisms. Their accumulation and persistence in watersheds pose risks to aquatic ecosystems and to water quality. Approximately 55% of road-salt chlorides are transported in surface runoff with the remaining 45% infiltrating through soils and into groundwater aquifers.
 
“Exposure to NaCl inhibits some soil bacteria at concentrations as low as 90 mg/l, which ultimately compromises soil structure and thereby inhibits erosion control.
 
“Elevated sodium and chloride levels in soils create osmotic imbalances in plants, which inhibit water absorption and reduce root growth. Salt also disrupts the uptake of plant nutrients and inhibits long-term growth.
 
“Numerous studies attribute tree injury and decline to road-salt application, concluding that NaCl can cause severe injury to the flowering, seed germination, roots, and stems of roadside plant species. Damage to vegetation can occur up to 200m from roadways that are treated with deicing salts. Up to 50.8% of woody plant species are sensitive to NaCl.
 
“Damage to vegetation degrades wildlife habitat by destroying food resources, habitat corridors, shelter, and breeding or nesting sites. Behavioral and toxicological impacts to wildlife also are associated with road salts.
 
“Seed-eating birds may not be able to distinguish between road-salt crystals and the mineral grit their diets require. Laboratory studies of sparrows consuming salt particles at the upper limits of their known preference range reveal that ingestion of 0.25 NaCl particles (266 mg/kg) results in a breach of homeostasis; ingestion of 1.4 particles (1,500 mg/kg) may result in death (median lethal dose = 2.8 at 3,000 mg/kg). This means behavioral abnormalities can occur in small bird species with ingestion of a single salt particle and death can occur with ingestion of two particles.”
 
“Reports of chloride concentrations in highway runoff run as high as 19,135 mg/l. Salt tolerance of fishes ranges from 400 to 30,000 mg/l, greater than the salt concentration of seawater. A seven-day exposure of 1,000 mg/l is lethal to rainbow trout (NRC, 1991).” 
 
 
“Evergreen plants near roadways are especially vulnerable to salt spray damage. Melt water containing salts can leach into nearby soil where plants can take up the sodium and chloride ions as they resume growth in the spring. This uptake may cause stunted growth, desiccation and dieback. The accumulation of salt in soil over successive years may result in progressive plant decline and eventual death.
 
“Sodium chloride that leaches into the soil may contaminate nearby wells or groundwater supplies. Runoff may enter surface waters. Also, sodium chloride is highly corrosive to cars, buildings and some paved surfaces.”
 
Reminder News reports on two organically-based de-icing alternatives — calcium magnesium acetate (CMA) and potassium acetate.  They are biodegradable and pose little harm to vegetation but only if used as directed. Too much of these substances can run into surface water and reduce oxygen levels.
 
Remember that a little goes a long way. And we have a long way to go before the trees start to bud.
 

 

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