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Time for some spring cleaning

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 
The first of Citizens Against Litter’s spring clean-ups is April 12, when hundreds of students from Duquesne University will join volunteers in Uptown, the Hill District the South Side and South Side Slopes.
 
Boris Weinstein, the group’s leader and founder, estimates that more than 15,000 volunteers in 300 areas of Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Washington and Westmoreland counties will participate in ridding their neighborhoods of litter.
 
He said he expects the haul to weigh 300 tons in all.
 

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Bloomfield planning Saturday market

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

 
As part of its rebirth with funding from the state Neighborhood Partnership Program, the Bloomfield Development Corp. will be adding a seasonal amenity to the neighborhood in the form of a Saturday market starting May 31.
 
It will be held weekly until Nov. 1 in a parking lot at 5050 Liberty Ave. The scene will include locally grown and made produce and products and entertainment. The BDC is sponsoring this event with West Penn Hospital, which owns the parking lot.
 
The market will open at 8 a.m. and close at 1 p.m.
 
“The Bloomfield Saturday Market will be a great social event, while also providing residents with the opportunity to purchase good, healthy food,” said BDC board chairman Joey Vallarian. “Community health, both the health of the brick and mortar neighborhood, as well as the health of it’s residents, is very important to the BDC, and we think the Bloomfield Saturday Market will help accomplish these goals.”
 
The BDC hired Christina Howell to be the market program manager. She moved her focus to Bloomfield from Mount Washington, where she was involved in planning and outreach for the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation. She was previously a manager of Pedal Pittsburgh and served as president of the Pittsburgh Toy Lending Library’s board.
 
“Christina’s experience managing a variety of events coupled with her passions for Bloomfield and community building make her a natural partner for the BDC as we launch the first year of the Bloomfield Saturday Market,” said Shelly Majcen, executive director of the BDC.
 
Farmers and vendors can apply to participate in the Bloomfield Saturday Market by visiting www.bloomfieldsaturdaymarket.org or contacting Christina Howell at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 412-708-1277.
 

 

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Lights on at Allegheny City Market

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

market
The Allegheny City Market has just opened at the location of the former Doug’s Market on Arch Street, bringing an easily walkable service back to the Central Northside. 
 
Doug’s closed late last fall.
 
Proprietor Rob Collins, who also owns the Bryant Street Market in Highland Park, has brightened the space and put down wood floors. He is offering many of the same provisions — although the market in Highland Park is larger — including sandwiches-to-go that sell like gangbusters on Bryant Street.
 
The Allegheny City Market carries more produce than Doug’s did, including big hanks of cilantro, avocados, cucumbers and lettuce. It also carries a fair number of upscale brands and food(ie)stuffs such as Greek yogurt, organic items and a variety of flours and grains.
 
This market and what it stocks reflects the diversity of the neighborhood, although it still awaits the federal government’s go-ahead to be able to accept customers’ SNAP benefits — Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.
 
Since the late 1800s, 1327 Arch St. has been a neighborhood market, with that recent blip of several months in transition. Not counting the businesses on Federal and North, the Central Northside has very few retail options.
 
The Buena Vista Cafe recently closed, leaving Wilson's Bar-B-Que, the Monterey Pub and Riggs Lounge as the only other retail spots. The Allegheny City Market is not just a viable purveyor of groceries. It's another enlivened storefront in a neighborhood that would be more vibrant with more of them.
 
 

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It's time for Home Improvement

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

Spring is nigh, more or less, and we know that because Park Place/Regent Square are holding their annual home improvement workshop. We know that thanks to Marlene Green, a board member of the Greater Park Place Neighborhood Association.
 
On March 22, from 10a to noon, the seventh annual event sponsored by the Park Place association and the Regent Square Civic Association will be held at the Mifflin Avenue United Methodist Church, 905 Mifflin Ave., Regent Square. 
 
The workshop is free and open to the general public but the information will skew East End-centric, like many things in Pittsburgh these days.
 
Doors open at 9.30. The neighborhood groups are supplying complimentary coffee and bagels.
 
This year’s theme is “Exterior Restoration and Renovation: Maintaining Your Home’s Architectural Style.” 
 
Professionals will present information and a survey of historic housing styles in the East End. They will talk about site planning, landscaping, defining features and materials.
 
You can also meet individually with representatives from the Design Center from 11 to noon. If you want consultation, it will help if you bring photographs or drawings that feature your specific issues of interest. 
 
 

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Putting guilt to work for the neighborhood

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

 federalst
In an article in Strong Towns today, “Guilt and the Sport of Buying Local” writer Gracen Johnson explores the concept of taking personal responsibility for the economic well-being of your town, city or neighborhood.
 
You may pay a little more at the corner storefront than on Amazon or at a national chain but the real cost would be not having the corner storefront around. The little more you pay is exponentially more to the merchant whose livelihood depends on the neighborhood as much as the neighborhood depends on his livelihood. Sometimes, that merchant is your neighbor.
 
When retail is small, it becomes more integrated into daily patterns, and the more small retail there is, the less trouble you have integrating it. It’s easier to walk three blocks for milk and eggs than to drive to a big parking lot to get them.
 
But the point of buying local is so purposeful that it can sometimes be inconvenient. I make a side trip every two weeks to buy pet food at the only indy pet store I know of in the city, Smiley’s Pet Pad in Shadyside. It's not out of the way because I am already in the East End doing other errands. I may pay a little more; it’s negligible in the scheme of things. I believe my business means something to Smiley’s business. It would mean nothing to Petco.
 
But it’s more than “us” people vs. "them” corporations. Corporations hire our neighbors and some small businesses are legally corporations. It’s more about supporting people whose stores are size equivalent to neighborhood places, a scale that lets you get to know each other and engage in interpersonal uplift. 
 
That matters.
 
Johnson’s article is eloquent. Here’s a portion: 
 
“If you’re a small business owner and take a gamble on this property, you’ve got to be bringing in over $100 per day just to pay rent. Then there’s the cost of your inventory, wages, marketing, administration, etc. When I think of how small the profit margins are on most of what I buy, and how infrequently I purchase items with large margins this all started to make my head spin. The cafés that serve as our offices, meeting rooms, and third places are earning mere cents on a cup of coffee. Our downtown art store is matching Amazon pricing while paying a team of top-notch staff. How do these places survive? Are the owners just in it as a labour of love?
 
“I’ve long been a proponent of the buy local movement for the warm fuzzies. Warm fuzzies are a powerful motivator but now I can bolster them with an even stronger one: guilt. Not a gross guilt that you want to shake off your back but a guilt carved out of admiration.
 
“It was defined a week later for me in [a] beautiful interview on Fresh Air between Terry Gross and author Ann Patchett who opened a bookstore in Nashville.”
 
The interview contained this quote from Ms. Patchett, the author of the brilliant page-turner “Bel Canto” among other novels:
 
“It’s not that I think no one should buy books online. […] But I think that what’s important is if you value a bookstore, if that’s something that you want in your community, if you want to take your children to story hour, if you want to meet the authors who are coming through town, if you want to get together for a book club at a bookstore or come in and talk to the smart booksellers, if you want to have that experience of a bookstore, then it is up to you.
 
“It is your responsibility to buy your book in the bookstore. And that’s what keeps the bookstore there. And that’s true for any little independent business. You can’t go into the little gardening store and talk to them about pesticides and when do you plant and what kind of tools do you need and use their time for an hour and their intelligence and then go to Lowe’s and buy your plants for less. That you cannot do.”
 
Gracen Johnson continues:
 
“The good guilt has turned me pretty price insensitive. That’s not to say I’m flush with cash or that the independent retailer is more expensive. It’s just that once I meet my basic needs, it matters to me less how much I acquire than how I acquire it. To enjoy the place-making benefits of unique local businesses, we need to make sure they can cover their rent too.”
 
Photo of Federal Street businesses, 1930s: Courtesy of the University of Pittsburgh Archives
 

 

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