While 2012 wasn’t a year of ground-breaking projects on the Northside, steady and meaningful progress was made to bettering the 14 neighborhoods that make up the area.

“I think it was a good year,” said Northside resident and City Council President Darlene Harris. “It’s important that we keep moving and every year brings more development so we can bring the Northside back to what it once was.”

The Northside saw new housing projects, new businesses, new restaurants and efforts put into revitalizing small neighborhood business districts like California Avenue in Brighton Heights and Federal North in the Central Northside

Small steps were made at The Garden Theater Block, and the Northside Leadership Conference acquired several properties on East Ohio Street to renovate.

An agreement between Highmark and West Penn Allegheny Health System ensured the future of Allegheny General Hospital and the 3,000 jobs it brings to the Northside, which will be fundamental for the next 30-40 years.

One of the most significant changes made in 2012 was the combining of the two Northside public high schools into one.

 After several months of neighbors debating which school should remain open and which should close, the Pittsburgh Public School Board voted to send Oliver students to Perry to create one Northside high school.

In September, Perry Principal Nina Sacco reported that students from both schools were transitioning smoothly, and the student body was working to become one, and community leaders hoped that it was the first step in strengthening Northside public schools.

Propel Northside also finished its first school year strongly.

“Every year doesn’t have to be a flashy step forward,” said Mark Fatla, executive director of the Northside Leadership Conference. “There just has to be steady progress.”

 

Development

Garden Theater Block
The Mayor’s office, developers, neighbors and community representatives gathered in the Garden Theater Block on W. North Avenue to mark the beginning of the redevelopment of the URA-owned block in February. Zukin Development had just signed its first lease with Nakama Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar.

A month later, the block was accepted into the Mexican War Streets Historic District, and construction work began in the Spring. In September, Piccolo Forno signed a lease to open a second location in the GTB.

North Shore Connector
After decades of planning and construction, The North Shore Connector began operating in March.

The extension of the T system that links the Northside to Downtown through a tunnel under the Allegheny River now has two stops that connect the Northside to Downtown, Station Square and the South Hills via rail transport.

For the next three years, rides between the Northside and Downtown will be free due to sponsorship from the Pittsburgh Steelers , the Stadium Authority, Alcoa and Rivers Casino.

St. Nicholas Church
After a hard-fought battle, Northside community developers will be saddened to see the abandoned St. Nicholas Church building on Rte. 28 torn down .

In November, the Millvale St. Nicholas Parish had its petition for economic hardship approved and was issued a demolition permit for the building.

The Northside Leadership had hoped to turn the building into an immigrant museum and had made an offer for the building of $1.

Buhl Community Park
In June, the Northside celebrated the reopening and dedication of the
Buhl Community Parkat Allegheny Square.

The park, at the intersection of Federal and Ohio streets, was transformed into a green, public space this year as a part of the Children’s Museum’s Charm Bracelet Project.

The park features the art installation, “Cloud Arbor,” as well as 100 trees and 5,000 flowers. The project cost $6.5 million.

 
Housing Projects

2012 saw the continuation of several key housing projects throughout the neighborhoods of the Northside. Neighborhood organizations both renovated old homes and built new ones on previously vacant land.

In February, two families were the first to move into their new homes in the Columbus Square housing project in Manchester. By the end of 2012 five of the planned 31 new homes in the housing development will be completed.

The Brightwood Civic group continued their efforts to bring homeowners to their neighborhood this year by beginning the renovations of two new homes on Woodland Avenue this summer. The homes at 1320 and 1324 Woodland Ave. will be the second and third BCG renovated houses.

In November Brighton Heights Citizens Federation finished three new homes on McClure Avenue near the site where the old St. Johns hospital stood. Seventeen homes are planned for phase two on the actual hospital site.

The Central Northside Neighborhood Council is waiting city approval to construct six new townhomes on Jacksonia Street in the Central Northside.

 

Dining

James Street Speakeasy and Gastropub opened at the tail end of 2011 and flourished in 2012 with American fare with a twist, custom drinks and a schedule full of live music for nearly every day of the week.

The Northside had its first-ever Sandwich Week in June, where local businesses faced off for the title of best Northside sandwich. This year’s winner was Bistro to Go.

In September, Lola Bistro opened in Allegheny West in Hoi Polloi’s old location. Lola Bistro specializes in simple, but elegant dining.

Benjamin’s Burgers opened in Allegheny West in October of 2012. The specialty burger joint is run by the owner of BRiX, which was briefly open in the same Western Avenue location.

Federal North neighbors were excited when El Burro brought the first Mexican restaurant specializing in tacos and burritos to the Central Northside. El Burro opened in November and is co-owned by the owner of Lawrenceville’s Round Corner Cantina.

 Community  Projects

In April, The Finevew Citizens Council secured funding through various grants to begin a comprehensive study to propose improvements to the streetscape of Henderson Street, which has suffered from years of neglect and serves as the entrance to Fineview from the Central Northside.

In June, over 300 neighbors and volunteers gathered in Allegheny Commons Park to build a brand new playground with the help of the national nonprofit KaBOOM!.

In September, neighbors approved the remarketing strategy proposed by the Central Northside Neighborhood Council to ditch the name Central Northside, and instead call the neighborhood Allegheny City Central.

Spring Hill Civic League has continuously worked on a project to improve the gateway to their community. A city-owned lot at the corner of Damas and Homer streets will be the site of a new parklet and decorative wall that will welcome visitors to the Spring Hill neighborhood.

Throughout the year East Ohio Street has been improving through community clean-up days , fresh paint jobs and community groups purchasing empty storefronts.

 

Northside Fun

In February, Central Northside Literary organization City of Asylum announced plans to build a literary venue in the neighborhood called
Alphabet City. The plans for Alphabet City include spaces for readings, writing classes and community meetings as well as bookstore, a bar-café-restaurant and two apartments for writers. CoA hopes to finish the project in early 2013.

Progress was made on the long-awaited Riverview Soccer Field in Observatory Hill this year. Construction began in March, and city officials say phase one of the project is still on track for completion in spring of 2013.

Classical musicians and Central Northside residents Tom Roberts and Susanne Ortner-Roberts who form the Ornter-Roberts Duo put on an outdoor performance in July to thank their neighbors for being there for them in times of trouble. The Resaca Place concert drew about 150 Northsiders despite the temperature, which was over 100 degrees.

Fineview became Spineview in a zombie movie that premiered this year at the New Hazlett. Though the “campy” and community development themed movie was made in 2011, neighbors got to see their work this August.

An AGH doctor and his pediatrician wife decided to open up an inn at the corner of Cedar and North avenues. The appropriately named Allegheny Inn is currently being renovated.

 Troy Hill’s Penn Brewery discovered that there was a little more to the Troy Hill Road brewery than they thought. In May,
beer caves that contained giant, old beer brewing barrels from the E&O Brewing Company were found in tunnels on-site.