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East Liberty has no parking woes

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

eastlibertyparking 

 Ask anyone in a destination neighborhood what the biggest headache is and if she doesn’t say, “Ohmigod, parking,” she says , “Ohmigod traffic.” It usually always comes down to where to put your blasted car.
 
But here’s a news flash: East Liberty has a surplus of parking pretty much any time of day, any day. If your only experience trying to park in EL is driving around and around the Whole Foods lot, you might be as surprised as I am.
 
It just goes to show that you sometimes do need a study.
 
After several public meetings last fall,the phase 1 (walkability accessibility and parking) draft report of East Liberty's Circulation and Mobility Action Plan is out now with some interesting data that suggest that even with new developments coming on line this year and next, there is enough parking if it were shared and there will be enough, if shared, for the next 10 years.
 
Zoning requirements of parking maximums have been lashed to the whipping posts by urban advocates who promote planning for a future with fewer cars. Whether zoning minimums would forge a future of fewer cars is another day’s discussion.
 
Some points from the report:
 
+ Approximately 1,700 parking spaces are 
unoccupied at noon during weekday peak 
conditions; 
 
+ If these unoccupied spaces were replaced 
with structured parking, the spaces would 
cost $25M+ to construct, not including land 
costs; 
 
+ These unoccupied spaces consume 10 
acres of space in the district. 
 
+ Everyday these unoccupied spaces are 
underutilized and zoning requirements 
mandate that new development add to the 
supply;
 
+ Businesses, including restaurants, are driving 
parking demand on the weekend like the 
weekday; 
 
+ During the weekend peak there are more 
than 2,700 spaces unoccupied, about 1,000 
more vacant spaces than weekday peak 
conditions; 
 
+ Approximately 3,400parking spaces are 
unoccupied during weekend evening peak 
conditions. 
 
Some conclusions from the report:
 
"A significant amount of unoccupied spaces (surplus of parking supply) exists during peak weekday and weekend conditions; 
 
“The issue is not a lack of supply, rather it is the lack of access to the available supply. There are physical and programmatic barriers to parking; but perhaps even more importantly [sic] there is a perception of lack of access.” 
 

 

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Fire Site: hot topic for a cold night

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

 
polishhill1Thirty hardy denizens of Polish Hill and a few others turned out last night for the “Fire Site” planning meeting at Pittsburgh Filmmakers in North Oakland. Representatives of the Program for Deliberative Democracy also attended.
 
Deliberative democracy is what architects Pfaffmann + Associates and their collaborative developer, Ernie Sota of Sota Construction and Green Services, are trying to achieve by letting people who live in Polish Hill have a say in what gets built on the site between Brereton and Dobson Streets where several buildings burned in a 2007 fire. The Pittsburgh Housing Development Corp. owns the 7,300 square-foot site.
 
Rob Pfaffmann (shown in photo below) led a workshop of people who considered the space in 3-D, moving pink building blocks (see photo above) of different sizes and shapes to represent three-story homes with pitched roofs, two stories with garages, apartments with outdoor terraces and gardens.
 
There’s room for 10 apartments, but Pfaffmann allowed for “three to 10.” Density is Polish Hill’s tradition but it may not be its future. Building on a slope that’s 18 feet higher on Brereton than it is on Dobson can be expensive, but because of that, density would make sense.
 
“We want single family houses,” said one woman, who apparently didn’t speak for everyone.
 
“I would lean away from families,” said one young participant in the Uses & User workshop. “We need spaces where people can interact.”
 
Architect Carl Bergamini suggested a use that would merge two Polish Hill demographics — those who are young and just starting out and those who want to age in place there. Both need affordability. 
 
The hardest part of the Fire Site project might not be to reach a consensus but to build to that consensus. The emerging demographic — 20 and 30-somethings — have expressed a desire for creative space. Many across all age groups want retail. In a perfect world there would be more small retail in neighborhoods but in a perfect world, small businesses are adequately supported by their neighborhoods.
 
Plus the developer has to calculate what will bring him the best return. There’s no perfect being handed out anywhere that I know of and charity isn't why people wade into this stuff.
 
“I can’t think of a single retail that would be viable” on the site, one participant said. “We couldn’t even support a butcher shop.”polishhill2
 
The participants went through development consultant Tom Hardy’s pro forma workshop to learn about the costs of development. Roughly 70 percent of a total project cost is for construction. Other costs are what they call “soft” -- for architects, attorneys, insurance, appraisals, loan interest, financing, permits, water connections, marketing, site engineering, soil tests, sales commissions, transfer taxes... 
 
.... runarounds, delays, bureaucracies, surprises — whoops! water and sewer nightmares, please share on facebook; whoops, that money we were counting on? It just backed out; back to square 2 — oh, and don’t forget that every developer needs variances.
 
The rule of thumb to keep in mind when you are pondering the pros and cons is $120 per square foot. That’s roughly $8.7 million for the Fire Site.
 
Jumpin’ jack jetskis, Batman. It must so totally be worth the hassle.
 

 

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Belloli helping Mount Washington over the hump

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

Rick Belloli head shot
The board of the Mount Washington Community Development Corp. has scooped up the former South Side Local Development Corp.’s executive director Rick Belloli to fill that role as an interim leader.
 
When he left the South Side non-profit, Rick started a consulting company called Civic Square, which specializes in the things the South Side non-profit specialized in — real estate development, business district planning and non-profit management. The South Side non-profit intentionally dissolved in 2012, proclaiming, more or less, “Our work is done here.” 
 
The interim hiring in Mount Washington will give the board leadership while it searches for a permanent executive director.
 
Jason Kambitsis held that job from May 2012 until the beginning of January when he left to take the job of business development manager for Deep Local, a studio of high-tech brand doctors.
 
Belloli, a native of Detroit, “will oversee operations and staff to ensure a smooth transition, while also assisting the board to identify organizational needs for a permanent executive director,” according to a statement from the Mount Washington CDC.
 
“Rick has a long and successful history in community development,” said Jon Lusin, president of the board. “We look forward to partnering with him over the next few months to ensure our programs operate seamlessly during this time.”
 
On behalf of the Mount Washington board, a committee is searching nationally for an executive director to be named by late spring.
 
Belloli started his job on Monday, and Walkabout wanted to know why on earth... er, what motivated him to put the hat back on.
 
“Mount Washington is a Civic Square client and interim management to help organizations over the hump is actually one of my offerings” as a consultant, he said. “This is my first interim management job.
 
"Community development is near and dear to my heart. I knew the issues they were dealing with and I knew the people, so I want to help make the organization better as long as I’m here. 
 
“The good news is that it was structured as short term.”
 

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Young artist shows Beechview some love

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

mural
 
While the Urban Redevelopment Authority markets three properties it owns in Beechview, many residents continue to wait in frustration over so many empty storefronts along Broadway Avenue. The URA has delivered on a promise its acting director Rob Rubinstein made at a meeting last summer to demolish 1602. The promise drew a hearty round of cheers, but that was almost the extent of the good news.
 
But a sliver of good news at the end of the meeting was the hatching of a plan to install a work of art at one of the URA’s properties, 1600 Broadway.
 
Resident Kim Frie headed a committee sponsored by the Beechview Merchant’s Association that promoted a public art work as at least a sign that they could do a better job with windows than plywood boards. At best, it shows that the neighborhood hasn’t given up.
 
Kim knew 15-year-old Claire Pullen from church; Claire’s family lives in Mount Lebanon, where she is home-schooled. Claire is a budding artist. Kim asked Claire if she wanted to produce some mock-ups of images that would suitably cover all the windows in the former Mexican restaurant, which has been vacant for several years.
 
“I agreed,” said Claire, who was familiar with Beechview because she has friends who live there and she makes use of the Carnegie Library there. “I did three and Kim chose that one. Because of the name, I felt like I had to put a tree in it. I did the lights because I thought they were whimsical and welcoming.
 
“It was installed over the weekend,” she said. “We drove by the night we were put up, and it was kind of surreal to see my art in the windows and that big. It was cool though.” 
 
She drew on the impressionists as an inspiration, specifically Van Gogh, she said. 
 
“I’m afraid that when people pass through [on the T] think of Beechview as run-down buildings,” Claire said. “I hope this creates a more welcoming atmosphere. I hope people think ‘someone cares.’”
 
Rob from the URA said there’s no way to be sure what how much a mural or other public art might inspire an investor to take a serious look around “but it is an interim strategy,” he said. “That mural almost gives you the feel of a ‘coming soon’ event and says ‘This isn’t a forgotten building.’”
 
Photo by Kim Frie
 

 

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NYC's 'humane streets' sets example for us

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

 

 

 
Atlantic Cities features Clarence Eckerson Jr.’s film on the transformation of numerous streets and squares in New York city since 2005.
 
A paean to Michael Bloomberg’s administration, notably his transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, the film points out the great accomplishments in traffic redesign that gives over much more space to people on foot and on bicycle, with separate channels for cars. The film shows before and after scenes from places like Times Square, the Queensborough Bridge and Union Square.
 
With Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first term beginning, Sarah Goodyear, writing about the film and Bloomberg’s legacy of humane streets in “The Dramatic Makeover of New York’s Streets Under Bloomberg,” states that “now that New Yorkers have begun to get used to more humane streets in many parts of the city, it’s startling to see just how stark the contrast is. It makes you wonder, how did people accept the previous status quo?
 
“Bill de Blasio’s new transportation commissioner, Polly Trottenberg, has a tough act to follow. Yesterday, before de Blasio’s inauguration, she was outside City Hall meeting with members of Make Queens Safer, Make Brooklyn Safer, and other street safety advocates, who were rallying in support of the new mayor’s ambitious “Vision Zero” plan to eliminate traffic fatalities in the city by 2024. It was an early indication that we won’t be going back to these “before” pictures of New York streets any time soon.”
 
New York City is flat and Pittsburgh is hilly but there are many places in our city where these kinds of transformations are not only feasible but advisable. Unlike New York, which is still car-congested, Pittsburgh has lots of underused boulevards, many of them multi-laned, that almost beg for a redesign for exclusive bike lanes.
 
Outgoing Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has made modest progress in granting some space to cyclists. The painted images of bicycles on streets with no provisions for safety might be raising the consciousness of some car drivers but it’s time for Pittsburgh to get some protected bike lanes. More chairs on the streets — beyond the ones people post to save parking spots — would be nice, too.
 
Like New York, we have a new mayor, Bill Peduto, who responds to the description progressive. Maybe 2014 will be the year Pittsburgh breaks out the bold, dramatic changes that have transformed the experience of cycling in the Big Apple.
 

 

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