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  #3761  
Old Posted Aug 19, 2020, 3:30 PM
eschaton eschaton is offline
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First, thanks for taking the time to produce these informative and easy-to-use posts
It's gotten much easier since the commissions have gone to the virtual format. I kinda wish HRC would change their formatting to align with ZBA and Planning with each project in its own PDF, but I can deal.


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1. Great read about the Herron Hill Pumping Station, its architect, and its context within turn-of-the-century Pittsburgh. I've actually spent the morning reading that comprehensive history, instead of doing work While I like the idea of preserving old, industrial/civil architecture as often as possible, I guess I'm on the fence with this one. It definitely qualifies based on its history and importance, though like many city properties, it hasn't been maintained one bit... but I can't deny that it is a property worthy of designation. I'm wondering if historic designation could help spur a renovation and utilization of the large lot as a public park. Considering that this is an active and vital part of the city's water distribution system, it's not going anywhere anytime soon.
The use of that plot as a parklet is an interesting idea. I mean, Highland Park has a functioning pumping/filtration system on site, why not here as well? You'd need to fully restore the building, cut down on the hardscape (maybe with a single short driveway off Dollar Street), and put in a set of steps towards the rear on N Dithridge where there's a big grade change. Maybe convert the smaller "Laboratory Building" into a structure with park amenities like public restrooms. The city might need to lease a few parking spaces elsewhere in the neighborhood as well for remaining staff needed at the pump house. But such a parklet would be relatively well used, considering it's surrounded by big apartment buildings on all sides (other than the low-rise block of commercial on Centre, and it's only a matter of time before that gets redeveloped).

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2. I do imagine that this nomination is grounded in working to preserve the remaining homes on that block of N. Dithridge. However, there is no arguing its uniqueness and presence in the neighborhood. I'd like to see this block left alone anyway, so I'm all for it.

I'd honestly rather the HRC nominate the entire row of homes on the opposite side of Dithridge, considering it's the last intact block of grand housing in a section of North Oakland dominated by apartment buildings. I know there's a bit more between Centre and Baum, but that area is more run down/remuddled. Generally speaking I think it's better to nominate entire blocks rather than individual structures when you're talking about houses, because the context of the massing of the block is key when it comes to impact.

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3. The corrugated panels on the garage portion could end up looking pretty cool or pretty terrible. I agree with your points about the building's entrance on Smallman and its "back" on Penn. I understand the reasoning for its "front door" facing Smallman, since it will open to the new "tech hub" across the street, the produce terminal redev, and any future development, which is heavily focused on the area between Smallman and the riverfront. The plan for the loading dock along Penn is unfortunate, and maybe better suited to where it is currently along 15th.
I mean, Penn will arguably be a step up, because there will be that little "bike cafe." But Penn Avenue between 16th Street and Downtown is a dead zone, and this project is doing little to bridge the gap.
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  #3762  
Old Posted Aug 19, 2020, 4:16 PM
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The use of that plot as a parklet is an interesting idea. I mean, Highland Park has a functioning pumping/filtration system on site, why not here as well? You'd need to fully restore the building, cut down on the hardscape (maybe with a single short driveway off Dollar Street), and put in a set of steps towards the rear on N Dithridge where there's a big grade change. Maybe convert the smaller "Laboratory Building" into a structure with park amenities like public restrooms. The city might need to lease a few parking spaces elsewhere in the neighborhood as well for remaining staff needed at the pump house. But such a parklet would be relatively well used, considering it's surrounded by big apartment buildings on all sides (other than the low-rise block of commercial on Centre, and it's only a matter of time before that gets redeveloped).
yeah, i do think it would be well used given all the residential buildings surrounding it. It's really a perfect spot for it.


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I'd honestly rather the HRC nominate the entire row of homes on the opposite side of Dithridge, considering it's the last intact block of grand housing in a section of North Oakland dominated by apartment buildings. I know there's a bit more between Centre and Baum, but that area is more run down/remuddled. Generally speaking I think it's better to nominate entire blocks rather than individual structures when you're talking about houses, because the context of the massing of the block is key when it comes to impact.
Agreed. I was going to mention that it was the last block of those types of houses in N Oakland... but I wasn't too sure if it was. And I wonder if nominating that single house (since it's in such nice condition) is an early component of getting the entire block nominated to preserve the homes on other side of the street.

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I mean, Penn will arguably be a step up, because there will be that little "bike cafe." But Penn Avenue between 16th Street and Downtown is a dead zone, and this project is doing little to bridge the gap.
Yep. I guess they're trying to capitalize on the Penn Ave bike lane, but it seems like they might be missing an opportunity to bring greater value to their development with more of a presence on Penn. I get that the 14.75-mile long, low Buncher building across the street is a detractor to any life form as we know it, but considering that the new building's address is 1501 Penn... I would think it's official front deserves better treatment than a bike cafe and loading area.
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  #3763  
Old Posted Aug 19, 2020, 5:44 PM
bmust71 bmust71 is offline
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https://static1.squarespace.com/stat...Holdings+c.pdf

Renderings for a proposed apartment building on Forbes in Oakland (former Marathon Gas Station).

It definitely does not blow me away but talk about a massive building. Kind of like SkyVue
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  #3764  
Old Posted Aug 19, 2020, 6:08 PM
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Originally Posted by bmust71 View Post
https://static1.squarespace.com/stat...Holdings+c.pdf

Renderings for a proposed apartment building on Forbes in Oakland (former Marathon Gas Station).

It definitely does not blow me away but talk about a massive building. Kind of like SkyVue
Nice! If there is anywhere in Pittsburgh that is easiest to build large new apartments buildings it should be N. Oakland.
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  #3765  
Old Posted Aug 19, 2020, 7:23 PM
eschaton eschaton is offline
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Originally Posted by bmust71 View Post
https://static1.squarespace.com/stat...Holdings+c.pdf

Renderings for a proposed apartment building on Forbes in Oakland (former Marathon Gas Station).

It definitely does not blow me away but talk about a massive building. Kind of like SkyVue
Not bad in terms of density, but it's strange how the bottom half of the building basically a small bit of building wrapped around a giant parking garage.

It's long past time to reduce parking minimums in Oakland. With the huge student population there are a lot of people who don't bring cars with them to campus.
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  #3766  
Old Posted Aug 19, 2020, 7:31 PM
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New virtual ZBA up for September 10. Three small of interest:

1. Proposal to replace a Polish Hill beer distributor with an art gallery.

2. New infill house in Lower Lawrenceville. The site plan is very crude, so it's hard to get much of an impression.

3. New infill house in Manchester. This was before the HRC a few months ago. Not a bad design, but I still find it odd they're aping an early 20th century foursquare in a Victorian neighborhood.
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  #3767  
Old Posted Aug 19, 2020, 10:30 PM
eschaton eschaton is offline
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Regarding the new Oakland apartment, I did notice that the owner of the parcels immediately behind (Family House) plans to raze its buildings. Interestingly they don't have any concrete plans yet for the property - just leaving it vacant. I wonder if it's too late for the developer to purchase this and integrate it into the project?

In other Oakland news, it looks like last month OPDC reviewed a planned parking garage at PTC. It's a parking garage, but it's designed by Indovina, so it's at least a nice parking garage. I believe once this and that tech/flex office on Second are built, PTC will be 100% built out.
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  #3768  
Old Posted Aug 20, 2020, 5:14 PM
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Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
Regarding the new Oakland apartment, I did notice that the owner of the parcels immediately behind (Family House) plans to raze its buildings. Interestingly they don't have any concrete plans yet for the property - just leaving it vacant. I wonder if it's too late for the developer to purchase this and integrate it into the project?

In other Oakland news, it looks like last month OPDC reviewed a planned parking garage at PTC. It's a parking garage, but it's designed by Indovina, so it's at least a nice parking garage. I believe once this and that tech/flex office on Second are built, PTC will be 100% built out.
Wow, yeah I'm not a huge fan of giant parking garages but that one is designed quite nice. They really are filling that area with parking structures. I would think more tech buildings would be preferrable with only 1-2 garages.
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  #3769  
Old Posted Aug 24, 2020, 11:57 PM
bmust71 bmust71 is offline
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I saw this update in the latest Jeff Burd post - does anyone know what this is about?

Oxford Development selected Rycon Construction as CM for its $3.5 million adaptive re-use of the Achieva Building in the Strip District.
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  #3770  
Old Posted Aug 25, 2020, 12:19 PM
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Looks like there's a new development plan finally for the former site of the Edge on Grandview. And what a step down it is - 29 condo units, 10 townhouses, and a single bar/restaurant.

Remember that five years ago this site was supposed to include hundreds of new apartments and a major hotel.

I'm sure NIMBYs will be thrilled they won. More proof the days of anything interesting happening in Mount Washington is long past.
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  #3771  
Old Posted Aug 25, 2020, 3:27 PM
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I’ve long held the stance that a major hotel just isn’t financially viable on Mt. Washington.

Unless Pittsburgh somehow morphs into a four season resort destination, lack of access/connectivity on Mt. Washington just dooms any feasibility study.
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  #3772  
Old Posted Aug 25, 2020, 4:19 PM
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I’ve long held the stance that a major hotel just isn’t financially viable on Mt. Washington.

Unless Pittsburgh somehow morphs into a four season resort destination, lack of access/connectivity on Mt. Washington just dooms any feasibility study.
What exactly are the accessibility issues for a hotel on Mt. Washington? One would think that being right next to an incline and being able to avoid the fort Pitt tunnel if driving combined with those killer views would make it a very attractive location.
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  #3773  
Old Posted Aug 25, 2020, 5:46 PM
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What exactly are the accessibility issues for a hotel on Mt. Washington? One would think that being right next to an incline and being able to avoid the fort Pitt tunnel if driving combined with those killer views would make it a very attractive location.
Just speaking as someone who stays in CBD hotels for conventions, etc., I want my hotel to have ease of access. Ease of access to the convention/meeting site, ease of access by transportation (while lugging baggage and other stuff), ease of access by foot to get to restaurants: all of this in addition to clean rooms. Once you get past the Edge hotel site having spectacular views, there's not much else going for it. I've never understood why (NIMBY opposition aside) a really large and significant condo tower hasn't been built there.

Yeah - I know that the opposition to the creation of another Trimont won't let that happen. But in my imagination I see lots of high rise condos planted on hill tops and elsewhere around the city with great views. I'm thinking of Cincinnati here. But for whatever reason Pittsburgh doesn't really embrace that style of living.
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  #3774  
Old Posted Aug 25, 2020, 6:01 PM
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What exactly are the accessibility issues for a hotel on Mt. Washington? One would think that being right next to an incline and being able to avoid the fort Pitt tunnel if driving combined with those killer views would make it a very attractive location.
It’s on the top of a big hill with a sheer face on one side. Zero major access roads serving the neighborhood. Difficult and time consuming to get downtown, to Oakland, to anywhere besides Mt. Washington.

Stating that “being right next to an incline” as an example of accessibility says everything about what you are missing in your understanding of accessibility, particularly from the perspective of considerations taken in decisions regarding financing a hotel project which would absolutely need to heavily cater to and rely on business travel.

But if we had gondolas... (running joke aside, greater “destination” and neighborhood development of Mt. Washington would be much more viable with a convenient, fast, and reliable transit means, like gondolas connecting downtown could provide).
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  #3775  
Old Posted Aug 26, 2020, 10:51 AM
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What exactly are the accessibility issues for a hotel on Mt. Washington? One would think that being right next to an incline and being able to avoid the fort Pitt tunnel if driving combined with those killer views would make it a very attractive location.
Yeah I never drove to Mt. Washington thinking about accessibility issues and very few cities have a Hotel with that amazing view. The original hotel plan would serve the city better than condos which Mt. Washington already have. I think people forget how many tourist visit Mt. Washington every year.
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  #3776  
Old Posted Aug 26, 2020, 2:21 PM
eschaton eschaton is offline
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The Planning Commission really, really crapped on the planned new office tower in the Strip yesterday.

I personally listened to a lot of the commentary after the fact on youtube. I personally feel it was a bit unfair on the part of the commissioners. They appeared to be sort of trying to find some justification for rejecting the project because the tower is ugly, but couldn't find one.

One thing they were somewhat focused on related to the 10% open space requirement. The developer thinks it satisfied this via a colonnade on the Smallman Street side of the building open to the public. However, for reasons which I believe were related to flood risk, this needed to be elevated off sidewalk level, which meant due to handicapped accessibility installing a railing. Some of the commissioners argued it thus wasn't true open space - basically trying to find a way to reject the project for not following downtown zoning.

Overall though the commissioners seemed to like the parking garage section. There was a discussion with DOMI which sort of elucidated why there are parking entrances off of Penn. Apparently the city has decided Smallman is going to be the "new pedestrian street" due to all the development by the Terminal and Buncher's various projects. On 15th there's a planned new bike lane in order to provide connection via the riverfront trail. Thus they felt they were left with no choice other than to have some of the garage traffic off of Penn Avenue. As a cyclist, I really don't think a bike lane on 15th is needed, though perhaps it will change in the future when the riverfront trail is usable all the way up through Lawrenceville.

Most of their comments had to do with the tower itself, and how bland and generic the design was. The architect defended the design saying basically that "some buildings are just background buildings" and that he felt strongly not every building should attempting to pull the eye with high design, and they focused their design on the garage since that was what people walking through the Strip will actually see. The commissioners were instead focused on how this would be the tallest building for blocks and very prominent, and they just "expected better."
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  #3777  
Old Posted Aug 26, 2020, 3:02 PM
Don't Be That Guy Don't Be That Guy is offline
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The Planning Commission really, really crapped on the planned new office tower in the Strip yesterday.

I personally listened to a lot of the commentary after the fact on youtube. I personally feel it was a bit unfair on the part of the commissioners. They appeared to be sort of trying to find some justification for rejecting the project because the tower is ugly, but couldn't find one.
Regardless of any personal opinions of this project, it'll be interesting to see how the Commission rules on this. The more vocal current Commissioners really stray from the zoning code requirements with a lot of their commentary and conditions of approval, and they've lost a few high profile cases on appeal after rejecting projects over purely aesthetic reasons.
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  #3778  
Old Posted Aug 26, 2020, 3:25 PM
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Most of their comments had to do with the tower itself, and how bland and generic the design was. The architect defended the design saying basically that "some buildings are just background buildings" and that he felt strongly not every building should attempting to pull the eye with high design, and they focused their design on the garage since that was what people walking through the Strip will actually see. The commissioners were instead focused on how this would be the tallest building for blocks and very prominent, and they just "expected better."
The thing is, if the building were designed to its current proposed height and massing, but instead of a "plain box", the design featured multiple roof levels and some type of ornamentation, then they'd have a problem with it being "too distracting" or "not respecting the character of the Strip".

A national developer is proposing to replace an unused, dilapidated concrete bunker... with a high-quality, Class A office building... designed by an internationally-acclaimed architecture firm... during a massive economic downturn... in Pittsburgh.

And the project gets shit on by the chair of the planning commission as "an elite tower in the sky", which somehow doesn't respect "the guy selling Steelers gear on the sidewalk".

What the fuck does this even mean? :
“When you’ve spent time with the guy selling Steelers gear on the sidewalk, you recognize that some of the magic of that is in the kind of ability of people to put something on the sidewalk. It is the honky tonk, it is the chaos that is there that is part of it,” commission Chairwoman Christine Mondor said.

The powers that be are acting as if this is: 1) a 1000' supertall consisting of a Mandarin Oriental Hotel plus 50 floors of high-end condos, 2) a building that will somehow eradicate the entire Penn Ave stretch of stores and sidewalk vendors, and 3) a ultramodern design sticking out like a sore thumb surrounded by a 19th century village of quaint brick houses.

None of that is remotely accurate. It's only 22 stories and the block has never been a part of the Penn Ave. activity, and it's surrounded by converted old RR warehouses, parking lots, and new construction.

To me, it seems that this opposition has little to do with the actual design or height of the building, and much more to do with the notion that this development will somehow ruin the Strip District. Well, I'm all for "ruining" the Strip District.
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  #3779  
Old Posted Aug 26, 2020, 5:48 PM
eschaton eschaton is offline
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The Shady Hill redevelopment is moving forward. As a reminder, the plan calls for 232 apartment units (15% affordable) a 420-space garage, and a Giant Eagle about 2,000 square feet smaller than the current one. Plus additional retail space not discussed in this article.

The article has some quotes from a single elderly NIMBY in the Village of Shadyside gated community (they have been dead-set against this). There's an odd rich/poor coalition trying to oppose this development in particular, with the rich NIMBYs trying to take advantage of the fact that Giant Eagle is going to make the store more upscale (and that there will be no store there for two years during construction) in order to try and drum up opposition from anti-gentrification activists (even though it's not really a case of gentrification - it's in Shadyside and it's a non-residential area right now).

The developer is presenting to ELDI and the Shadyside Action Coalition in the next few weeks. Deb Gross is in favor, and so far it has sailed through the rezoning okay, so I think the chances of these groups defeating the project are dim.
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  #3780  
Old Posted Aug 26, 2020, 7:32 PM
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Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
The Planning Commission really, really crapped on the planned new office tower in the Strip yesterday.

I personally listened to a lot of the commentary after the fact on youtube. I personally feel it was a bit unfair on the part of the commissioners. They appeared to be sort of trying to find some justification for rejecting the project because the tower is ugly, but couldn't find one.

One thing they were somewhat focused on related to the 10% open space requirement. The developer thinks it satisfied this via a colonnade on the Smallman Street side of the building open to the public. However, for reasons which I believe were related to flood risk, this needed to be elevated off sidewalk level, which meant due to handicapped accessibility installing a railing. Some of the commissioners argued it thus wasn't true open space - basically trying to find a way to reject the project for not following downtown zoning.

Overall though the commissioners seemed to like the parking garage section. There was a discussion with DOMI which sort of elucidated why there are parking entrances off of Penn. Apparently the city has decided Smallman is going to be the "new pedestrian street" due to all the development by the Terminal and Buncher's various projects. On 15th there's a planned new bike lane in order to provide connection via the riverfront trail. Thus they felt they were left with no choice other than to have some of the garage traffic off of Penn Avenue. As a cyclist, I really don't think a bike lane on 15th is needed, though perhaps it will change in the future when the riverfront trail is usable all the way up through Lawrenceville.

Most of their comments had to do with the tower itself, and how bland and generic the design was. The architect defended the design saying basically that "some buildings are just background buildings" and that he felt strongly not every building should attempting to pull the eye with high design, and they focused their design on the garage since that was what people walking through the Strip will actually see. The commissioners were instead focused on how this would be the tallest building for blocks and very prominent, and they just "expected better."
Interesting. I wonder if Minorou Yamasaki heard the same commentary from the City of New York regarding his proposal for the Twin Towers.

I do like the idea of having a taller structure in the Strip, but design-wise I see this as one sticking out like a sore thumb. I know I made a reference to the original World Trade Center. One difference there is there were other tall buildings surrounding or close to that development (the Woolworth Building, 70 Wall St. etc). The Strip development doesn't have any existing buildings that are taller than 4 stories...
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