By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Planning Forum recaps South Side area developments


Last updated 6/20/2018 at 9:31pm

The June 12 meeting of the South Side Planning Forum began with Chair Hugh Brannan thanking Barbara Rudiak for chairing the forum meetings the past few months. He said he heard she did a very good job.

Mr. Brannan reminded everyone of what he announced earlier this year: “I won’t be volunteering” he said of serving as Planning Forum chair for another term.

Next, Ernest Rajakone, of the city’s Office of Community Affairs, announced news of a capital budget forum on June 20 at the Healthy Active Learning Center in Mt. Washington. Another was scheduled for June 13 in Lawrenceville. Everyone is invited.

Called Potholes and Pierogies, the meetings will consist of dinner and a discussion of the city’s 2019 capital budget. The meetings will be held from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

“It is a good way to advocate together,” he said of attendance by community groups.

Mr. Rajakone also informed attendees of “A Piece of the Pie,” forum discussions with city officials on the 2019 Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). Dinner and pie will be served.

The grants are for a range of projects which address the housing, economic, and human service needs of low- and moderate-income residents and neighborhoods. The discussion will be followed by a public comment session.

The free forums will be held from 6-8:30 p.m. on June 26 at the Kingsley Association, 6435 Frankstown Ave .; and on June 28 at the South Side Market House, 49 S. 12th St.

Candice Gonzalez, of the South Side Chamber of Commerce, reported on the recent update by Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala on the surveillance cameras along East Carson St.

She said the Chamber assisted Mr. Zappalo with the meeting held at the City Theatre.

Mr. Zappala said since Sept., 2017, 36 cameras have been placed primarily between 10th and 19th streets along East Carson St. From the first quarter of 2017 to the first quarter of 2018 crime is down 37 percent in South Side.

He concluded the Zone 3 police efforts and the cameras made an impact, Ms. Gonzalez said.

City Councilman Bruce Kraus asked if officials focus too hard on the business district would it push crime into the residential area? He said we must be ever vigilant not to shift such behavior into the residential area.

He also said Mr. Zappala talked about the “blue light” system in which so-called panic buttons can be hit by those feeling threatened or uneasy to quickly reach 911.

Mr. Kraus said South Side Parking Enhancement District (PED) revenue can be used to install such a system.

The PED -- the enforcement of South Side Flats parking meters from 6 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays – began March, 2017.

The revenue from the South Side PED is in a trust fund to be invested back in the area. The money must be spent on public safety, cleanliness, and infrastructure improvements in the neighborhood.

Tracy Myers, chair of the Development Review Committee (DRC), reported on last month’s proposal to the forum by James McNeel, managing director of the City Theatre Company, and Renaissance 3 Architects to address a shortage of space for back-of-house operations.

The proposal calls for demolition of a building on Bingham St. City Theatre owns, and renovation/conversion of the adjacent former industrial property that extends to Muriel St. into facilities for set production and other functions that support its shows.

At that meeting Ms. Myers said the project should first be reviewed by the DRC to ensure the proposal, and particularly demolition of the Bingham St. building, is consistent with the design quality and general development principles that the South Side has sustained for three decades.

Since then, the design was presented to the DRC.

The DRC suggested retaining the sign for the Walter Long Manufacturing Co., founded in 1898 in South Side, and incorporating it in the new building.

As with historic buildings, the DRC liked their plan to build an elevator at the building to be able to move things efficiently.

Mr. Myers said the DRC will write letters of support regarding the architecture and more.

The project team would also like a letter of support from the forum, which will be forthcoming if all of the forum members agree to it.

As for preserving historic items and artifacts, of which he is a big proponent, Mr. Kraus said the Pittsburgh Playhouse, which is relocating Downtown, will be preserving its historic items.

On another topic, he said retail in general is struggling, and that it is important to encourage shopping on local streets. While in Columbus recently he visited a public market founded over a century ago, and which provided everything you could ask for: cooked food, varieties of fruits and vegetables, ethnic meals, and more.

Ms. Myers said she has found that while landlords may be interested, it is difficult to find tenants who want to take the risk of a business.

Mr. Kraus said the South Side Works was very close to having a butcher shop for which city officials and others were on board with support, but it did not happen.

He also mentioned the new bakery incubator in Mt. Oliver on the former Kullman’s Bakery site. At the facility bakers learn, while others refine, technical baking skills, as well as learn the marketing and financial skills necessary to start their own businesses.

“I think the times are changing, and we can welcome those changes,” he said.

Regarding the neighborhood plan, Ms. Myers said development review is good for developers, architects, and others in the trade, as well as for garnering input from the community. With the latter, forum groups can look at the “impact” of a development.

Her proposal is to talk to community groups to explain the value of the DRC. She will also write a handbook for people who want to get started on a project to dispel any confusion among city officials, neighborhoods, developers, and others.

Mr. Brannon said the important message is that the South Side is very invested “in good design” – which is why there is a DRC.

The South Side community wants good design, and depends on the DRC to guide us, he said.

He added that developers and architects often benefit from good tips they receive from the DRC and are very grateful for it.

In announcements, the 27th Annual South Side Home Tour and Neighborhood Art Walk will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 23. Tickets are available at , and at check-in.

The self-guided walking tour supports the South Side Community Council.

Ms. Rudiak, of the Community Council, said the tour consists of nine homes, and are hoping participants also visit artsy sites like Vessel Studio Glass on 16th St., The Zenith on 26th St., the murals, and more.

“We are extremely rich in art down here.

“We are hoping to highlight all that South Side has to offer,” she said.

In Brashear Association news, the organization’s “Christmas in July” toy drive will be held from 5-8 p.m. on July 11 at Trixie’s, 1323 E. Carson St.

Attendees are urged to bring a new, unwrapped toy or a cash donation.

The annual drive begins in the summer so as not to run short of toys in December.

Ms. Gonzalez reported there were 36,000 participants for the May 27 OpenStreetsPGH, with its four-mile route from Market Square, Downtown to Uptown through the Armstrong Tunnel to East Carson St.

In the free event, miles of city streets are closed to traffic from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for joggers, bicyclists, walkers, and skaters to use the streets for fun in a car-free environment.

OpenStreetsPGH will next be held on June 24 and July 28.

The June 24 route will be four miles from Market Square along Penn Avenue, from Downtown to the Strip District, and Butler Street from Doughboy Square to 52nd Street in Lawrenceville.

The July 28 route will be the longest OpenStreetsPGH route ever: a 4.4 mile loop in Pittsburgh’s East End traveling through Homewood, Larimer, East Liberty, Shadyside, and North Point Breeze.

In other upcoming events, the South Side Chamber and eight other Greater Pittsburgh Chambers of Commerce will hold a MegaMixer Chamber Happy Hour on July 23 from 5 to 8 p.m. aboard the Gateway Clipper. Tickets may be purchased at

Ms. Gonzalez also reported that the 2018 Summer Golf Classic, sponsored by the Chamber and the South Side Bar and Restaurant Association, will be held on July 30 at the South Hills Country Club in Whitehall. About 72 to 80 players are expected. For details, phone 412-431-3360, or email

From January 1 to May 31, the Welcome Center had 130 volunteers for 1,014 hours of donated work. There were 2,860 Center visitors.

In other news, a workshop on the East Carson St. business district strategy will be held from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on July 12, with details to come.

A consultant contract was recently awarded to develop a three- to five-year strategy for the East Carson St. business district.

At past meetings, Josette Fitzgibbons, neighborhood business district manager for the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA), said what is needed is a look at the business district as a whole: what businesses are doing; which is having overflow crowds; which businesses are struggling; and more, or what she referred to as “boots on the ground.”

She said a void was created with the closing of the South Side Local Development Co. (SSLDC), which was the “eyes and ears” every day for East Carson St.

At the meeting’s conclusion, Mr. Kraus said the Carson St. project “appears to be on track,” with a start date of late August.

Typical improvements include enhancing pedestrian accommodations, like high visibility crosswalks; replacing street trees; upgrading traffic signals and signage; improving visibility for pedestrians and motor vehicles; and more.

He said he is exploring ways of providing PED revenue to enhancements such as to maintain flower baskets, which would be changed seasonally.

The next forum meeting will be a combined July-August meeting on July 31.


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