Fire Site Development second public meeting gets a good turnout on a very cold evening


Over thirty people turned out on a frigid evening for the second public meeting about the fire site development.  After a brief introduction, the attendees were divided into three sections, cycling between three spaces for smaller discussion groups.


One discussion was about site design, where attendees learned about the physical layout of the fire site and what could be built there.  Architects Pfaffmann + Associates provided a scale model of the site and foam shapes representing possible unit sizes.  Residents could see what different configurations might look like on the site.



In the Users and Uses discussion, the subject was who might be the potential residents, and what kinds of commercial development might be possible.  Residents could also talk about what kinds of features or amenities they’d like to see as part of the development.


In the Economics discussion, residents learned about the underlying economics of developing the site — the financial realities that would have a bearing on what could be built.

Some people wished that a little grocery store or laundry would open at the site.  As they stated at the first public meeting, the developer and architect told attendees that if prospective business owners are interested in the site, this is the time to come forward and make a commitment.


Some people wanted rental units or live/work spaces; others wanted to see just three single family homes on the site.  Others wanted some public green space.  The architects noted the opinions and feedback.


After the attendees had gone through all three discussions, they reassembled for a final group discussion.  Now, the architects will take the input they received at this meeting and create drawings of various design possibilities for the site.  At the next public meeting, which will take place sometime in March, they will present the drawings and seek another round of community feedback.

For another viewpoint on the meeting, read Diana Nelson-Jones’ article in the Post-Gazette.

Announcing the 2014 Polish Hill Pivotal Streets Façade Renovation Grant Program


The Polish Hill Pivotal Streets Façade Renovation Grant Program debuted in 2013, and the response was overwhelming.  Seven projects were awarded funding (we reported about those projects in the Fall-Winter 2013 Polish Hill Voice).

We’re excited to announce that funding has been secured to offer the program again in 2014.  Polish Hill property owners are eligible to apply for a matching grant of up to $5,000 per property for residential façade (street-facing) renovations.  Improvements could include:

✒ Replacing gutters, siding, windows and doors
✒ Painting trim or porches
✒ Planting permanent landscaping
✒ Repairing or replacing sidewalks, steps or retaining walls

Stuck on what to do?  Select renovation ideas from the Pivotal Streets Design Guide.  Or, sign up to meet with an architect on Feb. 12 for a free 15-minute consultation about your project.  Call 412.681.1950 by Feb. 5 to secure a spot.

Applications are due by March 14, 2014.  An independent committee will review applications and award funds.  Grants are competitive and funds are limited.  Awards will be announced on April 5, 2014.  Reimbursement checks are issued when work is completed.

The program application, guidelines, and design guide are available on our website or at the PHCA office.  For more information, call 412.681.1950 or email us.

District 7 Newsletter – January 2014

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Newly-elected District 7 Councilwoman Deb Gross officially takes office

It’s official! District 7 finally has a new City Council representative – Councilwoman Deb Gross. Councilwoman Gross was elected by District 7 voters to fulfill the rest of former-Councilman Patrick Dowd’s term, which will run through 2015. Deb has a long history of community involvement, specifically with regards to her work with local non-profits and the arts.  For Deb’s full biography, take a look at her bio page on the new District 7 website.

We are also proud to announce the new installment of the D7 team, which consists of two familiar faces in newly expanded roles. Take a look at our meet the team page, and be sure to stay in touch!

Deb Gross hits ground running, gives D7 residents a voice in future of Strip District Produce Terminal building

The Produce Terminal is one of the Strip District’s architectural and historic keystones, and is at the center of one of the most integral sites to be developed under the comprehensive Allegheny River Green Boulevard plan. The Green Boulevard plan, perhaps the most comprehensive plan for development in Pittsburgh, will set the tone for Pittsburgh’s future, with its most dramatic impact occurring in District 7.

Since being elected to serve the residents of District 7, Deb has been a vocal advocate for a delay in the sale of the Produce Terminal building, and has been outspoken in her stance that any proposed alterations of the building should occur under the careful oversight of City Council. Stay tuned to the District 7 Facebook and Twitter pages for real-time updates on the fate of the Produce Terminal and how Councilwoman Gross is leading the charge to ensure that this essential piece of the Strip’s past is best utilized in comprehensive developments that will shape the neighborhood’s future.

Do you have a great idea for Deb and the new D7 office? Let us know!

With a new City Council representative and an updated staff, the District 7 office is excited to hear your suggestions about what changes or initiatives you’d like to see in your neighborhood. Hitting the ground running to serve D7 neighbors is Deb’s highest priority during the transition.

Please use the feedback form on the District 7 webpage to let us know what you’d like to see our office do to help your neighborhood. From bike infrastructure to zoning issues to economic development and public safety, Councilwoman Gross is excited to hear what you think!


Polish Hill Community Meeting January 7
There will be a public presentation regarding a proposed residential development in Polish Hill at the January meeting of the Polish Hill Civic Association, which will be held on Tuesday, January 7th in the basement of the West Penn Recreation Center at 6:30 pm.

Highland Park Community Council
Listen to District 7 Councilwoman Deb Gross talk with Highland Park neighbors at the January meeting of the Highland Park Community Council, which will be held on Thursday,  January 16th at  the Union Project at 801 N. Negley Avenue, beginning at 7 pm. Deb will discuss her progress representing District 7 since her swearing-in in early December, as well as talk with Highland Park residents and stakeholders about their ideas and requests for the district.

Learn about the Affordable Care Act at the Lawrenceville Carnegie Library
Would you like to learn more about the Affordable Care Act and how it will affect you? Join your neighbors at the Lawrenceville branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh for an ACA information session and enrollment assistance seminar on Saturday, January 18 at 10 am. At the information session, you will be able to learn more about how health insurance works and what programs you and your family may be eligible for.


Did you know that Pittsburgh City Council elects the City Council President immediately following the swearing-in of newly elected and re-elected members? This year’s vote for Council President will occur on January 6th, immediately following the swearing-in ceremony for the new Council.

Allegheny County Offers Tips & Information in Advance of Extreme Cold Weather

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With extreme cold weather in the forecast in the coming days, the Allegheny Departments of Emergency Services, Human Services and Health offers the following tips and information on how to prepare for the extreme cold, deal with it once here, and what you can do afterward:

Preparing for Extreme Cold

·         Make certain that you have an emergency kit which includes enough food, water, medicine and other supplies to last for at least 72 hours. Basic services such as electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment and telephones may also be affected. Your supplies kit should contain items to help you manage during such outages. Consider sufficient heating fuel if you have a secondary source of heat, and also ensure that you have adequate clothing and blankets to keep you warm.

·         Keep fire extinguishers on hand and make sure everyone in your household knows how to use them. House fires pose an additional risk as more people turn to alternate heating sources. The primary hazards to avoid when using alternate sources for electricity, heating or cooking are carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock and fire.

·         Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors. At no time should a cooking stove or oven be used for heat.

·         If a carbon monoxide alarm sounds, move quickly to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door. Call for help from the fresh air location and remain there until emergency personnel arrive to assist you. Don’t have a carbon monoxide alarm? The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion.  If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, call for help from a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door and remain there until emergency personnel arrives.

·         If your pipes freeze, allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather. Running water, even at a trickle, will prevent freezing.  As a precaution, you should also know how to shut off water valves in the event that a pipe bursts.

·         Bring pets/companion animals inside during winter weather. Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas with non-frozen drinking water.

Dealing with the Extreme Cold

Stay indoors as much as possible. If you must go outside, wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellant. Wear mittens, which are warmer than gloves. Wear a hat as you can lose as much as 50 percent of your body’s heat through the head. Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.

If you are outdoors, watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia, the dangerous and sometimes fatal lowering of body temperatures. Frostbite includes loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, and the tip of the nose. Symptoms of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion.

Marc Cherna, Director of the Department of Human Services, encourages all county residents to check on older neighbors to make sure they are safe during periods of severe weather and offers the following tips and guidelines:

·         Make sure seniors have a list of emergency telephone numbers that includes neighbors and family members who can help, if needed.

·         Check to see if the furnace is working if the home feels cold. Become alert to dangerous methods of heating a room, such as open flames or ovens.

·         Ensure that walkways and steps leading to their homes are cleared and that there is food and water in the house.

·         Go back later or the next day, if at all possible, to make sure everything is still alright. Remove your coat and stay at least 15 minutes to determine if the home is warm enough. This is also a great chance to share a cup of coffee (decaffeinated, of course), verify the pipes are not frozen, and check on pets.

·         Be particularly mindful of older neighbors during a power outage. Lack of electrical power not only presents dangers associated with lack of heat, but also risks associated with non-functioning vital medical equipment, such as oxygen systems, emergency lighting, stair glides and medication timers. If you cannot contact someone you believe is in the house, contact your local police or emergency services.

When weather circumstances dictate, the Area Agency on Aging and its contracted providers contact frail, isolated and high-risk consumers who are registered for care management. Care managers visit those at highest risk and ensure each home is well-heated and has enough food, water and medication to last for several days. Care managers also respond to emergency needs as they arise.

The Area Agency on Aging has already provided about 1,250 “Snowy Weather Boxes” to at-risk older adults who are registered with the agency and often live alone. The boxes include toilet paper, non-skid slipper socks, hand sanitizer, flashlight and batteries, peanut butter, crackers, tuna, fruit juice, bottled water, and other shelf-stable meals and drinks.

After Extreme Cold

If your home loses power or heat during periods of extreme cold, public shelters are typically opened and information on such openings will be provided online, and through the media.

Continue to protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia by wearing warm, loose-fitting, lightweight clothing in several layers. Stay indoors, if possible.

Conserve fuel, if necessary, by keeping your residence cooler than normal. Temporarily close off heat to some rooms.

If the pipes freeze, remove any insulation or layers of newspapers and wrap pipes in rags. Completely open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they are most exposed to the old (or where the cold was mostly likely to penetrate).

Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or other local news channels for critical information from the National Weather Services and other resources. Be alert to changing weather conditions.

For More Information

In an emergency, call 9-1-1 immediately from any wired or wireless phone. An emergency is any situation which requires immediate assistance from the police, fire department or medical professionals.  If you’re not sure whether the situation is a true emergency, call 9-1-1 and the call-taker will determine whether you need emergency help.

While extreme cold weather cannot be controlled, we can all be prepared by taking action in advance to protect ourselves and our families. Be informed. Make a plan. Build a kit. Get involved. Those are the four fundamental steps to being prepared if an emergency occurs.  For more information, visit

Cold weather health tips may be obtained by calling the Allegheny County Health Department at 412-687-ACHD (2243) or visiting its website at

Information about programs and services for older adults is available calling the SeniorLine at 412-350-5460 (TDD/TTY 412-350-2727), sending an email to or by visiting the DHS Older Adults website at

UPDATE: New date and location for the Fire Site Development Community Input Workshop

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UPDATE:  This workshop will take place on Monday, January 27 from 6:30 – 9:00 p.m. at Pittsburgh Filmmakers, 477 Melwood Avenue.

This is  the second in a series of public-input sessions focused on the Fire Site.  This meeting will feature three interactive workshops (25 minutes each) for sharing more about the project’s process and next steps and gathering community input:

Site design

Uses & users

>  Economics

Attendees will split into three smaller groups so the sessions are more interactive. Attendees will then rotate through and participate in all three workshops. At the end, we’ll get together as one big group to discuss and recap.

We are interested in hearing from all Polish Hill residents. We also encourage business owners who are interested in locating their operation in Polish Hill to attend.

The Fire Site is located in the 3100 block of Brereton and Dobson Streets in the heart of Polish Hill and consists of three parcels of land.  The site is owned by the Pittsburgh Housing Development Corporation, an affiliate of the Urban Redevelopment Authority of the City of Pittsburgh.


Across the neighborhood, expressions of the holiday spirit


The lights are up around the neighborhood, and the cold and snow makes it feel very Christmas-y.  The spirit of the season is expressed in many ways, from the lights on homes, to the monument tree.  Here is a lovely small nativity scene, in an old storefront on Brereton Street.


And you may have noticed a spot of light on color up on the old billboard frame on a building on Bigelow Boulevard, just inside the Polish Hill border by the Bloomfield Bridge:

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It’s a dove, by Polish Hill sculptor Tim Kaulen.


Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and all the best of the season to everyone!

(Photos of the Brereton Street storefront creche by Leslie Clague, photos of the Bigelow billboard dove by Mark Knobil)

A little over 108 years ago: the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church nears completion

Elaborate ceremonies will mark dedication of Polish Church_lighter

This Xerox copy of a tattered newspaper clipping is one of older press items  we have in the Polish Hill archive.  The day and year was cut off, but we know that the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church was dedicated in 1905.  This item from the Pittsburg Dispatch in November of that year notes that the church is nearing completion and will be dedicated on December 1.

The church was built on a site that formerly contained a brick factory.  The small building just to the right of the church is long gone, but the two buildings to the right of that still stand.

Click here for a printable PDF version of the article.

Grow Pittsburgh’s vegetable gardening course is back for 2014



Who says that gardeners have the winter off?  Once the gardens have been put to bed for the winter, it’s time to study and plan next year’s growing season.  For those who are new to vegetable gardening and hope to start next year, this is a great time to learn.  Grow Pittsburgh has just announced the 2014 dates for its Garden Primer course, which covers all the basics, including which tools beginner gardeners will need, what and where to plant, and when to harvest.  In addition, those taking part in the course will be given step-by-step instruction on everything from starting a compost to properly transplanting seedlings.  All classes will take place at the East Liberty Presbyterian Church and will run from 7:00pm – 9:00pm.

The class will be offered three times:
On Tuesdays:
February 11, 18 & 25  OR    March 4, 11 & 18

On Thursdays:
April 3, 10 & 24 (note: there is no class on April 17th)

The cost is $60 ($50 for Grow Pittsburgh Members)and includes a detailed resource manual and some light snacks.  To secure your place in a class and make your payment online visit and select from either the February, March, or April sessions.  Payments can also be made by sending a check to Grow Pittsburgh at 6587 Hamilton Avenue, #2W, Pittsburgh, PA 15206.  A limited number of scholarships and childcare are available.  Please email or call the office at 412-362-4769 for more details.

A first peek at a new business: Pope’s Place


After Sarney’s Bar closed in September, residents have eagerly been waiting to see what would come next.  Before it was Sarney’s it was Orie’s Tavern; before that, the Frank Kaminski Pharmacy.


Now, it’s Pope’s Place, named for Frank Pope — that’s him, above, one of the owners (the other owner is Mark Baranowski, known for the North Park Lounge).  Pope’s quietly opened today and residents have been stopping in to check it out.  They don’t have the full kitchen up and  running yet, but the tvs are on, the smoke filter is running, and the place looks really nice.





The official opening is on Friday, but they’d love it if you stopped in before then.  Hours are 10 a.m. – 2:00 a.m. Monday thru Saturday; 11:00 a.m. – midnight on Sundays.  Welcome to the neighborhood, Pope’s!