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  #2801  
Old Posted Sep 20, 2019, 2:40 PM
eschaton eschaton is online now
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New Planning Commission presentation up for 9/24. Only two new items on the agenda for next week:

1. A historic nomination of the U.S. Post Office/Courthouse building at 700 Grant Street. I'm honestly surprised it wasn't already a landmark. I don't think it's really in any substantive danger, but it's good that it's being nominated.

2. A renovation of one of the mid-sized historic buildings in the Cultural District - 909 Liberty Avenue. This five-story building is probably best known downtown for being the former location of an army navy store, which has closed. The project has earlier been before the HRC, at which time I believe the plan was for office space above. It has now shifted to being residential on the four upper floors. No information is given regarding unit count, however, more detailed renderings of the proposed new entryway are shown. There would now be a residential entryway and stairwell access on the left side of the building, with a smaller commercial area on the first floor which had access via the right door. They also plan to install an elevator for the residential tenants.

I should also note the demolition plan for the "Duff's building" downtown has reappeared. Demolition of this (vacant) building is apparently essential in order to provide a staging area for the new parking garage on the block. There's an interesting "parcel plan" on one slide. As with past designs, the Parking Authority/Cultural Trust are keeping the Penn Avenue side of the block undeveloped to allow for infill. However, they also appear to be both suggesting a new public square at Penn and Eighth, along with the eventual redevelopment of the existing "Magnolia installation" at Penn and 7th. It's long been surmised that this use is a holding pattern by the Trust, as they haven't been able to buy out two buildings on the block, and this map makes it very likely that is the case.

Also, the October HRC is now online. It's a relatively short presentation - only six items. There is one substantive one however, the exterior preservation plan for the Larimer School rehabilitation. They have their work cut out for them, given the significant historic detailing and the level of decay that took place in the building, but at least there really isn't any remuddling to undo.
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  #2802  
Old Posted Sep 20, 2019, 5:04 PM
mikebarbaro mikebarbaro is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
New Planning Commission presentation up for 9/24. Only two new items on the agenda for next week:

1. A historic nomination of the U.S. Post Office/Courthouse building at 700 Grant Street. I'm honestly surprised it wasn't already a landmark. I don't think it's really in any substantive danger, but it's good that it's being nominated.

2. A renovation of one of the mid-sized historic buildings in the Cultural District - 909 Liberty Avenue. This five-story building is probably best known downtown for being the former location of an army navy store, which has closed. The project has earlier been before the HRC, at which time I believe the plan was for office space above. It has now shifted to being residential on the four upper floors. No information is given regarding unit count, however, more detailed renderings of the proposed new entryway are shown. There would now be a residential entryway and stairwell access on the left side of the building, with a smaller commercial area on the first floor which had access via the right door. They also plan to install an elevator for the residential tenants.

I should also note the demolition plan for the "Duff's building" downtown has reappeared. Demolition of this (vacant) building is apparently essential in order to provide a staging area for the new parking garage on the block. There's an interesting "parcel plan" on one slide. As with past designs, the Parking Authority/Cultural Trust are keeping the Penn Avenue side of the block undeveloped to allow for infill. However, they also appear to be both suggesting a new public square at Penn and Eighth, along with the eventual redevelopment of the existing "Magnolia installation" at Penn and 7th. It's long been surmised that this use is a holding pattern by the Trust, as they haven't been able to buy out two buildings on the block, and this map makes it very likely that is the case.

Also, the October HRC is now online. It's a relatively short presentation - only six items. There is one substantive one however, the exterior preservation plan for the Larimer School rehabilitation. They have their work cut out for them, given the significant historic detailing and the level of decay that took place in the building, but at least there really isn't any remuddling to undo.
Obviously no renderings or anything but I hope they aren't just going to settle for some generic plans for those parcels by 8th Street. I wish one of the past two plans for RiverParc would have been developed. Are they kicking out Goodyear?
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  #2803  
Old Posted Sep 20, 2019, 7:18 PM
BrianTH BrianTH is offline
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The Larimer school building is so cool.

Generally, I think too many locals don't understand clearly what they have with these historic buildings, and why it is so important to the region's future. The world is still globalizing. Pittsburgh is not a national or even state capitol, nor huge or growing in population. And transportation, both local and intercity, will always be a challenge.

It does have some world class universities, but after that this is really the other big thing it has going for it--a historic built environment than many other cities could only dream of, because they either never had it or it got destroyed already.

That translates into neighborhoods that are cool, attractive, hip, and so on--and yet, affordable, whether that is for work, living, or play. You can build new neighborhoods on such a model, but it almost never really works out the same. Plus, GOOD new stuff is expensive. So the more historic elements you can incorporate, the more competitive you can be.

I'm not saying every building can or should be saved, but the attitude should be this is our legacy, our ace in the hold, and it should be played wisely.

Instead, I think the irony is there is SO much of this here, people treat it almost like an inexhaustible resource. We'll never run out of old buildings around here, right?

Until, we do. And then it will be too late to undo what we did.

Oh well. Hopefully as the local electorate keeps shifting to new people, with different perspectives, some of this will get better.
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  #2804  
Old Posted Sep 21, 2019, 9:21 PM
BenM BenM is offline
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Interesting article on the newest form of city infrastructure.

With Vast Surveillance Network, Pittsburgh D.A. Has ‘Created A Dystopian Reality’

I don't think it's dystopian, yet. But the prospect of the city combining facial recognition (without substantial public debate) with it's camera system is pretty Big Brother.
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  #2805  
Old Posted Sep 23, 2019, 4:59 PM
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Austinlee Austinlee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianTH View Post
The Larimer school building is so cool.

Generally, I think too many locals don't understand clearly what they have with these historic buildings, and why it is so important to the region's future. The world is still globalizing. Pittsburgh is not a national or even state capitol, nor huge or growing in population. And transportation, both local and intercity, will always be a challenge.

It does have some world class universities, but after that this is really the other big thing it has going for it--a historic built environment than many other cities could only dream of, because they either never had it or it got destroyed already.

That translates into neighborhoods that are cool, attractive, hip, and so on--and yet, affordable, whether that is for work, living, or play. You can build new neighborhoods on such a model, but it almost never really works out the same. Plus, GOOD new stuff is expensive. So the more historic elements you can incorporate, the more competitive you can be.

I'm not saying every building can or should be saved, but the attitude should be this is our legacy, our ace in the hold, and it should be played wisely.

Instead, I think the irony is there is SO much of this here, people treat it almost like an inexhaustible resource. We'll never run out of old buildings around here, right?

Until, we do. And then it will be too late to undo what we did.

Oh well. Hopefully as the local electorate keeps shifting to new people, with different perspectives, some of this will get better.
Preach it!

Certain smart developers like John Graf get this and they buy significant buildings and rehab them to a high standard. Of course, I think the buildings need to be big enough to be financially successful as well. The Larimer school building should be a good contender.
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  #2806  
Old Posted Sep 24, 2019, 11:28 AM
BrianTH BrianTH is offline
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The airport is about to pay off its remaining old debt early with cash reserves, setting up new borrowing at low rates for the planned $1 billion-plus renovation:

https://www.post-gazette.com/busines...s/201909210033

People continue to question the need to spend so much, but again this article is underscoring a critical point--the airport is now pulling in all sorts of revenues, and by federal law it has to spend that money directly on the airport. Because of the large debt overhang, that is where a lot of the money has been going in recent years, but it is now literally running out of old debt to pay.

So, it is basically being forced to do this sort of renovation project, because how the heck else could it spend all this money?

Of course as the article explains, all this has to be consistent with continuing to retain and attract new air service. So a lot of the planned renovations are airline-friendly, and in general as long as the airlines are on board, which they are continuing to make sure is true, then that's the only sort of reasonable plan possible.
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  #2807  
Old Posted Sep 24, 2019, 2:23 PM
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Austinlee Austinlee is offline
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Originally Posted by BrianTH View Post
The airport is about to pay off its remaining old debt early with cash reserves, setting up new borrowing at low rates for the planned $1 billion-plus renovation:

https://www.post-gazette.com/busines...s/201909210033

People continue to question the need to spend so much, but again this article is underscoring a critical point--the airport is now pulling in all sorts of revenues, and by federal law it has to spend that money directly on the airport. Because of the large debt overhang, that is where a lot of the money has been going in recent years, but it is now literally running out of old debt to pay.

So, it is basically being forced to do this sort of renovation project, because how the heck else could it spend all this money?

Of course as the article explains, all this has to be consistent with continuing to retain and attract new air service. So a lot of the planned renovations are airline-friendly, and in general as long as the airlines are on board, which they are continuing to make sure is true, then that's the only sort of reasonable plan possible.
I had a conversation with my dad about this when the airport renovation plans were announced last year. He said something along the lines of "Oh man they are just paying it off and going right back into debt?" and I said "Dad, this isn't a house where you pay it off and then never do any updates to it for 40 years like a grandmas house. It has to be modernized every so often to remain competitive and relevant and to keep up with modern technology trends (such as eliminating the large ticketing area since most people book online now)."
But yeah, the federal money has to be used as well.
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  #2808  
Old Posted Sep 24, 2019, 3:24 PM
Don't Be That Guy Don't Be That Guy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianTH View Post
The airport is about to pay off its remaining old debt early with cash reserves, setting up new borrowing at low rates for the planned $1 billion-plus renovation:

https://www.post-gazette.com/busines...s/201909210033

People continue to question the need to spend so much, but again this article is underscoring a critical point--the airport is now pulling in all sorts of revenues, and by federal law it has to spend that money directly on the airport. Because of the large debt overhang, that is where a lot of the money has been going in recent years, but it is now literally running out of old debt to pay.

So, it is basically being forced to do this sort of renovation project, because how the heck else could it spend all this money?

Of course as the article explains, all this has to be consistent with continuing to retain and attract new air service. So a lot of the planned renovations are airline-friendly, and in general, as long as the airlines are on board, which they are continuing to make sure is true, then that's the only sort of reasonable plan possible.
Although I'm not a fan of the chosen design - you can tell from looking at the similar design of the Zaragoza that the finished product will likely look a lot cheaper and less refined than the renderings, I do think renovations and eliminating the unnecessary landside terminal is badly needed. However, a $259 million, 3000 space parking garage is overkill. The expense of that, and what I assume is the elimination or rise in cost for the surface lots, will just drive business to off-site parking operators.
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  #2809  
Old Posted Sep 24, 2019, 3:33 PM
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pj3000 pj3000 is offline
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However, a $259 million, 3000 space parking garage is overkill. The expense of that, and what I assume is the elimination or rise in cost for the surface lots, will just drive business to off-site parking operators.
Not sure I agree that it's overkill. To me, the #1 most inconvenient, aggravating aspect of using the Pittsburgh airport is the parking situation. The short-term parking garage and area is tiny, inadequate, and crumbling. The long-term and extended parking lots are roughly 450 miles away from the terminal and the parking shuttles pass once every 5 hours.
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  #2810  
Old Posted Sep 24, 2019, 3:41 PM
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Austinlee Austinlee is offline
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Not sure I agree that it's overkill. To me, the #1 most inconvenient, aggravating aspect of using the Pittsburgh airport is the parking situation. The short-term parking garage and area is tiny, inadequate, and crumbling. The long-term and extended parking lots are roughly 450 miles away from the terminal and the parking shuttles pass once every 5 hours.
I hear you loud and clear. It sounds like you are saying we need more people movers out to the far reaches and crank them up to 10x speed!
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  #2811  
Old Posted Sep 24, 2019, 4:44 PM
Don't Be That Guy Don't Be That Guy is offline
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Originally Posted by pj3000 View Post
Not sure I agree that it's overkill. To me, the #1 most inconvenient, aggravating aspect of using the Pittsburgh airport is the parking situation. The short-term parking garage and area is tiny, inadequate, and crumbling. The long-term and extended parking lots are roughly 450 miles away from the terminal and the parking shuttles pass once every 5 hours.
For $8/day I have no problem walking when using the airport of leisure. It's really only a 15-minute walk at most from the outer parts of the extended lot to the terminal. Additionally, surface parking can be easily turned into another use when parking demand decreases, as is expected to occur, and they don't cost $97,000 per space to build.
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  #2812  
Old Posted Sep 24, 2019, 4:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Don't Be That Guy View Post
For $8/day I have no problem walking when using the airport of leisure. It's really only a 15-minute walk at most from the outer parts of the extended lot to the terminal. Additionally, surface parking can be easily turned into another use when parking demand decreases, as is expected to occur, and they don't cost $97,000 per space to build.
$8/day is the only reason I torture myself by parking in the extended lots.

A 15-minute leisurely stroll through the parking lots (with no sidewalks, mind you) and into the long, covered moving walkway to get to the terminal is one thing. The same route in a frantic rush with suitcase in the dark at 6 AM in blowing, wet, frigid winter conditions is another ordeal altogether.

It sucks and Pittsburgh can do a lot (lot, get it ) better.

But, yes, the $259M pricetag seems a bit steep.
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  #2813  
Old Posted Sep 24, 2019, 8:39 PM
Bricktrimble Bricktrimble is offline
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$8/day is the only reason I torture myself by parking in the extended lots.

A 15-minute leisurely stroll through the parking lots (with no sidewalks, mind you) and into the long, covered moving walkway to get to the terminal is one thing. The same route in a frantic rush with suitcase in the dark at 6 AM in blowing, wet, frigid winter conditions is another ordeal altogether.

It sucks and Pittsburgh can do a lot (lot, get it ) better.

But, yes, the $259M pricetag seems a bit steep.
I use off site parking (Charlie Browns) all the time and get curb side drop off and pick up. It takes no longer than the shuttle buses to extended parking. We'll see if the new parking garage is conveniently located (with moving walkways) with reasonable costs...
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  #2814  
Old Posted Sep 25, 2019, 2:59 AM
BrianTH BrianTH is offline
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Additionally, surface parking can be easily turned into another use when parking demand decreases, as is expected to occur, and they don't cost $97,000 per space to build.
I think that time is now(ish). Meaning maybe not tomorrow but during the lifetime of the capital expenditure of the garage.

The garage is indeed pricey--although I think if you look at business travelers and such, and multiply 15 minutes out each way by the economic the cost of their time, it starts looking a little less pricey. In fact, as a lawyer I realized it often makes sense for my client not to park in Extended, because the extra time I bill costs them more than the additional parking fee.

But anyway, I think part of why they are doing this is they are in fact planning to free up a bunch of former surface parking for development purposes. And then the revenues they get from that will be used to help pay the debt, and there you go.
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  #2815  
Old Posted Sep 25, 2019, 4:08 PM
eschaton eschaton is online now
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So, the Post-Gazette has an article detailing Michael Lamb's audit of the broken process the city uses to clear title and sell vacant properties.

Most of this isn't new information to me. But the report identifies the single worst culprit in stopping sales of property between the City and individuals as the URA. The URA apparently has a "pocket veto" over the sale of any city property, which it can use to put sales on hold indefinitely for no stated reason. It does this most heavily in blighted, historically black neighborhoods.

Even putting aside the issues of corruption, I think much of the problem is the URA is an agency which has outlived its usefulness. Fundamentally it is an urban renewal organization, and urban renewal works through having "master-planned" development in large chunks which replaces what was there before. It is thus in the URA's interest if a block is 80% city owned to stop any sales from going through because one day the City might have site control of the entire block, and the URA can put the financing together to work with major developers on a new mixed-income development. The end result is gridlock in land sales, and a system which effectively land banks for the URA and shuts out smaller developers who might want to restore individual homes, or residents who would like to buy a side yard.
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  #2816  
Old Posted Sep 25, 2019, 8:29 PM
BrianTH BrianTH is offline
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Couldn't agree more. Replacing the URA with a transparent, open, efficient land bank would be great. If developers want to use that to help assemble larger parcels, fine. But we don't need the URA in between, trying to master plan everything that happens.
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  #2817  
Old Posted Sep 25, 2019, 11:18 PM
Johnland Johnland is offline
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I just spent a week in Pittsburgh and flew in and out of the airport. While the airside shows some signs of nice upgrades, like the new terrazzo flooring in the center of the concourses, much of the airside and landside are really dilapidated. I know there's big plans to re-do a lot of it, so that should be good. This is the second or third time now that I've used the 28X to get from downtown to the airport. Actually, that is one of the little gems of Pittsburgh. It may not have rapid transit like a train, but the 28X is really good to get there and back from town.

Also, spent time in the Strip, Lawrenceville and the East End. So much renovation and new building going on. So many areas that were dead years ago are now transformed with new vitality. Like the Strip for instance. It now appears developed all the way to Lawrenceville. But to me, the biggest turn around is East Liberty. When I lived on S Highland in Shadyside years ago, one just didn't cross the railroad tracks into East Liberty. It was a dead zone, literally. Now, it's completely turning around. So amazing.
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  #2818  
Old Posted Sep 26, 2019, 2:56 AM
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For all you sustainability nerds, I found this interesting report done by the Penn Water Center recently on best practices for managing Pittsburgh's water resources.

Accelerating Transformational Change in Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Phase I Report, July 2019 (Amended)

Article in Penn's The Daily Pennsylvanian about it:

Quote:
Water Center releases report on managing water in Pittsburgh area

The Water Center at Penn recently released its plan for improving water management in the Three Rivers area in Pittsburgh, the first step of a multi-stage project.

The Water Center, a trans-disciplinary research center focused on urban water policy, public health, and infrastructure, was invited to perform an analysis on the Three Rivers Area in late 2018. It was tasked with constructing a long-term plan to improve water management and sustainability in the region, which is found where the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers meet. The center recently completed the first stage of this analysis.

The Water Center published an initial report on Pittsburgh that identified the challenges the area faces, including industrial and agricultural pollutants, crumbling infrastructure, floods, poorly coordinated land use, and sewer overflow. The report is based on interviews with over 50 area organizations, as well as research into the literature of water management.

The Water Center concluded that a “systematic and integrated approach” is needed to resolve the water system challenges. This role could be filled by a centralized regional entity that would coordinate efforts to develop a water management strategy. However, the report concluded that "the region does not appear ready to accommodate the emergence of a new or re-organized regional entity" and that smaller groups should develop short-term solutions without this central oversight.

The Water Center is now moving to the second phase of the project to better manage the Three Rivers region. In this phase, the center hopes to create the "Three Rivers Watershed Action Network," which will link local initiatives to create a joint movement to improve water resource management.

The Water Center also aims to develop a leadership incubator to train regional leaders to make a long-term political impact in the area, create a data collection framework, and offer technical and financial assistance to the areas near the Three Rivers region.

The Pittsburgh Three Rivers project is one of multiple initiatives that the Center is pursuing, along with other projects that work to improve water management in cities like South Bend, Ind. and Toledo, Ohio.
https://www.thedp.com/article/2019/0...h-three-rivers
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  #2819  
Old Posted Sep 26, 2019, 11:26 AM
BrianTH BrianTH is offline
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Water management in the area is such a classic failure due to a combination of factors--fractured government, rampant negative externalities, MASSIVELY deferred maintenance/improvement, so now the need for a very expensive investment which will mostly have only subtle (but necessary) shared long term benefits . . . it is like it was designed to be a microcosm of the sorts of issues our political system is completely incapable of handling rationally these days.
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  #2820  
Old Posted Sep 26, 2019, 4:23 PM
eschaton eschaton is online now
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10/17 ZBA is up. A fairly busy agenda for that week, though several projects are retreads I won't discuss here:

1. Construction of three new townhouses on E Jefferson St in Central Northside (here). I always found this a curious location because it looks like someone began building foundations for new houses and then stopped. I guess the project is starting again.

2. Eight new townhouses near the Birmingham Bridge in South Side (here).

3. Infill house in Banksville (here).

4. The biggest news by far, CMU is putting in for the existing Doherty Hall to be replaced by a new dormitory.
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