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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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Military aircraft fly over Pittsburgh before Obama's visit to West Mifflin, Pa.

Written by Ethan Magoc on .

 

 

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Doozy of a detour coming to Route 910 in Indiana Twp.

Written by Jon Schmitz on .

910turnpike

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission will close one of the bridges carrying Route 910 over the pike on Monday for a 10-month replacement project.

The posted detour is about 14 miles, and follows Saxonburg Boulevard, Harts Run Road and Middle Road back to Route 910. The bridge is one of six crossing the turnpike in the area that are being replaced to prepare for widening the highway to six lanes. The bridge is at mile 42.65. Completion is scheduled for December.

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Another bridge project in the area will cause a full closure of the turnpike in both directions between Butler Valley and Allegheny Valley from 11:59 p.m. Saturday to 5 a.m. Sunday. Traffic will be detoured via Route 8, Route 28, Route 910 and Freeport Road. Local traffic using Rich Hill Road in this vicinity will experience 15-minute stoppages during the five-hour period as crews erect beams for the bridge over the turnpike there.

Westbound Interstate 70 will be reduced to a single lane from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday and Friday about a half-mile east of West Alexander (Exit 1) in Washington County. Crews will replace damaged expansion dams on a bridge.

Tale from the T: Several disabled vehicles caused delays and detours on the Light Rail Transit system this morning. PG's Sean Hamill reports waiting at Allegheny Station for 30 minutes, with no announcement on the public address system about when the next vehicle would arrive. He finally gave up and walked to town.

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Testing twitter embeds

Written by Matt Kennedy on .

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David Conrad for king of Pittsburgh

Written by Kim Lyons on .

A piece that actor David Conrad wrote for the Post-Gazette nearly three years ago continues to draw readers to our website.

'David Conrad says it's hardly polite to be outside Pittsburgh' was one of our top-five most-viewed articles in 2013. It's a lovely, enduring valentine to his hometown: 

Know what you're doing, honestly. Know where you work best in a situation, and who you can serve. Know where you're from. Know your "place."

Me? My place is Pittsburgh.

 

His 2013 follow-up piece, 'More than just being polite' thanking Pittsburghers for the overwhelming response to this piece was equally lovely (seriously, the guy loves Pittsburgh and is a terrific writer):

The letters I've been given speak together like a chorale, a song to a city and its people. A prayer for what it turns out a great many of us have been given by those who came before.

I've been blessed to hear it. You. Humbled.

Last night, he told WQED's Michael Bartley he wasn't worried that living in Pittsburgh may have negatively affected his Hollywood career (h/t Virginia Montanez):

 

 

I think it's time we seriously discuss some kind of official appointment for David Conrad. He's already one of Pittsburgh's best ambassadors. Maybe "king" is a little much, but, do we have an official David Conrad Day in Pittsburgh?
If not, let's get on it, OK?

David-Conrad-Pittsburgh-skyline

Post-Gazette photo of David Conrad by Andy Starnes

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