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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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Journaling a life in Pittsburgh on YouTube

Written by Ethan Magoc on .

Hey Pittsburghers, remember when you were 23, remember what Pittsburgh looked like when you were 23? 

Jesse Compton will be able to tell you by linking you to his YouTube channel, where he has been creating and posting a series of videos he calls “Cinema Journals.” They are sequences of video vignettes with gentle music on the background. Call them modern reincarnations of Vivaldi's Four Seasons, these monthly video journals capturing moments of Compton's life in Pittsburgh.

Mr. Compton is from Indiana, Pa., and initially attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania as a psychology major.

 

But within the past two years, after purchasing a DSLR camera that also shoots video, he started thinking that psychology wasn’t for him. He quit IUP and came to Pittsburgh with a friend who needed a roommate.

They live near the South Side, but Mr. Compton’s videos feature a much wider view of Pittsburgh. A couple silhouetted against PNC Park became the first public frame of his Cinema Journals.

(The first three uploaded videos, he said, were too embarrassing as initial efforts and are hidden from public view.)

“I just started when I actually moved to Pittsburgh maybe six months ago,” he said. “Mount Washington is probably my favorite so far.”

He gathers about an hour’s worth of footage and edits it to three or five minutes using Sony Vegas software. Mr. Compton plans to continue shooting and uploading, though not as frequently. He eventually wants to pursue film school.

 

The videos, featuring Mr. Compton’s friends, his niece and his niece’s dog, Diva, are just a hobby for now.

 

But the central character is often Pittsburgh.

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Mapping Pittsburgh's history through "The Digs"

Written by Ethan Magoc on .

Almost 18 months ago, the Post-Gazette launched its photo archive project, “The Digs."

In that time, on “The Digs” we have told and re-told stories about landmarks across Western Pennsylvania, about local personalities such as Porky Chedwick and Mean Joe Greene and covered topics as far ranging as Pittsburgh parking headaches and the North Side’s 1927 gas tank explosion. We hope you have been digging the journey through our region’s history as much as we are.

Still, we’ve been missing a way to help you better explore that history. Since August 2012, we’ve uploaded close to 300 posts on "The Digs." That’s a lot. And without any geographic bearings, it’s easy to get lost.

And so we recently plotted “The Digs.” You can now explore all of our location-based posts in an easy-to-use Google Fusion Tables map. Click here to try it.

Around 40 entries couldn’t be plotted precisely and were left out. We did our best to make the locations as accurate as possible, but if you think something is in the wrong spot, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I will look into it.

We’ll also be using the map to explore undercovered neighborhoods that we haven’t yet written about. You're welcome to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for future posts to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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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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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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