Category Archives: Urban Design

Pittsburgh

I’m struck by how many locals are here. Like Boston, if you grew up in Pittsburgh, it seems like you never leave. Lots of natives.

The importance of the city seems so obvious, now that I know what I know.

For starters, it’s location is strategic. It’s literally sits at the point of land where two great rivers, the Allegheny and the Monongahela, come together to join the Ohio River. These are massive bodies of water.

Before rail and interstate highways, how does the growing economy move its steel, industrial products and consumer products?

The rivers!

And it now makes perfect sense to me… That, where the Three Rivers join, the leadership of this area decided that this point should be commemorated as a major park.

Point Park is just that. It’s a monument to this area, where everyone can come and see why the area exists in the first place. And as a monument inside of a monument, a massive fountain stands at the point of Point Park.

As I look to the Ohio River, to my left is the train tracks. I see a massive freight train passing, with hundreds of cars. I see an incline up to Mount Washington, which overlooks the city. The inclines are a vestige of a past when it was difficult to access the hill tops. They are everywhere.

Also to my left is the Fort Pitt Tunnel, the exit from the city to the east across the M river.

Heinz Park, the stadium, over looks Point Park to the right.

So this is where it all begins. Point Park.

The city seems to grow out of Point Park, in a gradual incline from there, with the Allegheny to the left and the M to the right.

The M River is made for walking and biking.

Three Rivers heritage Trail is the bike/walking path that goes from downtown all the way up west side of the M river

Great Appalachian Trail goes up the east side of M River.

Lots of hills. Lots of green (Schenley, Point, Highland and Frick Park are extra special).

They talk here about the “Pittsburgh Renaissance”.

They mean by that the transition of Pittsburgh from being at the center of the industrial economy, with all of its disgusting grit, to being at the center of the knowledge economy, with the University of Pittsburg, Carnegie Mellon, and Duquesne university leading the way.

Fifth Ave., Forbes Avenue, and Center Street, Penn, and Liberty all connect downtown to these outer neighborhoods.

The neighborhoods are Squirrel Hill, East Liberty, Lawrenceville, the Strip District, Bloomfield, Oakland, Shadyside, and Southside. Like Atlanta, they each have their own pride and style.

Oakland is the Univ. of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon and Schenley Park. Fifth Ave runs through it. The University of Pittsburgh is center stage. It’s a huge urban campus, with all of the hallmarks of classical architecture great libraries, chapels etc. But everyone knows that Carnegie-Mellon is the powerhouse – where you find the rocket fuel of the knowledge economy. It is every bit as much to Pittsburgh as MIT is to Boston.

Shadyside is a great little find. A real neighborhood, centered on Walnut Street (at Ivy). Only a mile walk to Oakland, East Liberty, and Squirrel Hill. Girasole is here – Italian upscale.

Bloomfield is “little Italy”. Not a very good little Italy, but maybe they will keep trying.

Squirrel Hill is awesome. Highly diverse. Walkable. On top of a hill. Close to everything. Great houses. A great find: Everyone Noodle, the home of soup dumplings in Pittsburgh. Place is always full. Big Jewish Community here too. Frick Park is here.

Strip District is warehouses, converted. 21st street and Penn is the center. My favorite: Wholey’s Seafood Market. It’s massive and very cool retail. Like Stew Leonard’s , only better.

Southside is bars, lots of them. The main drag is East Carson. It’s a wide, flat street that looks more like Texas than Pittsburgh. One place in particular, Hofbrahaus, is a raucous German beer hall, with steins, sausages, oom-pah-pah live music. In a section of Southside called Southside Works. At night, ask Uber to take you to the Bartram House Bakery at 2612 East Carson. Easy walk from Birmingham or Hot Metal Bridge.

Lawrenceville is restaurants, lots of them. It’s 48th – 40th. Past the Strip District near Penn. it’s a hike, but a good walk takes you from 48th to 21st.

Everyone here believes that Pittsburgh, a finalist, it’s going to land the second headquarters of Amazon.

Their attitude toward Amazon is a little bit like their attitude toward all sports, but particularly the Steelers: can do.

World’s biggest battery installation

JAMESTOWN, Australia—Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Elon Musk may have overpromised on production of the company’s latest electric car, but he is delivering on his audacious Australian battery bet.

An enormous Tesla-built battery system—storing electricity from a new wind farm and capable of supplying 30,000 homes for more than an hour—will be powered up over the coming days, the government of South Australia state said Thursday. Final tests are set to be followed by a street party that Mr. Musk, founder of both Tesla and rocket maker Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, was expected to attend.

Success would fulfill the risky pledge Mr. Musk made in March, to deliver a working system in “100 days from contract signature or it is free.” He was answering a Twitter challenge from Australian IT billionaire and environmentalist Mike Cannon-Brookes to help fix electricity problems in South Australia—which relies heavily on renewable energy—after crippling summer blackouts left 1.7 million people without power, some for weeks.

Mr. Cannon-Brookes then brokered talks between Mr. Musk and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who has faced criticism from climate groups for winding back renewable-energy policies in favor of coal. South Australia notwithstanding, the country’s per-person greenhouse emissions are among the world’s highest.

South Australia’s government has yet to say how much the battery will cost taxpayers, although renewable-energy experts estimate it at US$50 million. Tesla says the system’s 100-megawatt capacity makes it the world’s largest, tripling the previous record array at Mira Loma in Ontario, Calif., also built by Tesla and U.S. power company Edison.

Drew Elementary School and Edison

I visited the Drew Charter School on April 1, 2016, in the inspiring East Lake Community of Atlanta. East Lake has been wildly successful. The community itself has been a complete transformation, but – almost as importantly – its success has anchored the exciting turnarounds underway in surrounding Kirkwood, and Oakhurst in Decatur. The entire area south of Decatur and north of I-20 is booming – in large part thanks to East Lake and Tom and Anne Cousins.

It was a very proud moment for me – since Edison was elected as the operator of the school in the early year (I was Edison’s first Chief Operating Officer). The Edison model, to grow the school a grade at a time, is now almost fully realized at Drew: they have 11 grades and will open a twelfth grade next year!

And what a grand success it has been. Almost everyone involved credits the success of the school as being an essential component of Tom Cousin’s East Lake experiment. Of course Mr Cousins and his wife Anne, as well as Lillian and Greg Giornelli, deserve massive credit for their incredible multi-year commitment to this project. It was their commitment that made it all possible, including Drew.

Drew opened with a $17.5 million facility. What I saw was an even greater commitment – the junior/senior high school!

And a bit of history below:

Note this article from the ATL Business Chronicle was written in September, 1999. I joined The Edison Project as the Chief Operating Officer in January, 1996, and left Edison in September, 1999 – just as Drew was opening!

I took Edison through the first four operating years. The contracting and planning and budgeting was under my watch, but I never stayed to see it open (sadly).

So Drew was a fifth year Edison School (first year, 1995-1996, we had 4 schools; second year, 1996-1997, 12; third year, 1997-1998, 25; fourth, 1998-1999 51; fifth, 1999-2000 77. Note that Drew opened in temporary facilities for the 1999-2000 school year.

Note Shirley Franklin was Chair of the Charter School at the time.

From:
ATL Business Chronicle Article

Sep 6, 1999, 12:00am EDT Updated Sep 6, 1999, 12:00am

The Charles R. Drew Charter School has grabbed the attention of members of the East Lake community. Organizers hope it can keep that attention once it is open.

“If you look across the country in inner cities … people are very excited about public education,” said Shirley Franklin, chair of the East Lake Academy Charter School Board. “There’s a renewed interest in remodeling how public education operates.”

The state board of education unanimously approved the new charter school in August.

But work on the school is far from complete.

The school is slated to open next August in temporary quarters, first serving kindergarten through fifth-graders.

The former Drew Elementary School, which was closed a few years ago due to low enrollment, will be rebuilt. It is scheduled to open in its permanent location in August 2001.

The school will add one grade level per year, up to eighth grade in 2003.

The school likely will have an enrollment of about 850 in the $17.5 million facility.

Meeting multiple needs
A child development center serving community children up to the age of four is slated to be a part of the Drew Charter School. The charter school also will have an attached YMCA.

The YMCA “was something we’d been working [on] with Atlanta Public Schools and the YMCA since Day One. All three parties [see] the YMCA as a critical part of the redevelopment of the East Lake community,” said Greg Giornelli, executive director of the nonprofit East Lake Community Foundation, an effort driven by Atlanta developer Tom Cousins.

There are some immediate tasks to tackle in order to keep those redevelopment efforts on track.

The real estate closing on the Drew Elementary School property will take place in a few weeks, Giornelli said.
Topping the priority list for the charter school’s board meeting in September is discussion of a temporary site for the school and the status of the contract with The Edison Project, the nation’s largest education-management company, which will run the school for the charter foundation.

Rebuilding a community
The Drew School is just one example of the rebirth in East Lake and East Atlanta.

Cousins has been at work through his foundation, along with partners such as the Atlanta Housing Authority, to build a mixed-income housing development — the Villages of East Lake.

Besides being managed by The Edison Project and having its charter school board, the Drew School will be different in that there will be site-based decision-making, Giornelli said. There also will be an extended school day and year.
But to eradicate any misperceptions about the charter school’s identity — such as that it is some sort of private school — Giornelli stresses the partnership with Atlanta Public Schools.

“It never can be anything but an Atlanta public school. It is a unique school,” he said. “I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that this is a public school, and it’s very much a partnership effort. We are 100 percent accountable to the Atlanta Board of Education.”

The Atlanta Board of Education will pay $6,070 per student for the school’s first year. The expenditure will cover most of the school’s operating costs, except for transportation services and nutrition programs.

Drawing in residents
Atlanta school board member Mike Holiman, who represents District 3, which includes East Lake, hopes Drew’s set-up leads parents to become partners in the school’s success.
“I’ve seen it over and over again — when parents come in, elbow their way through the halls and take over, so to speak, things start happening,” Holiman said.
He said that he believes parents will be involved.
“I was at the initial public meeting when we started talking about the charter [last fall], and I think there were 70 or 80 people there at that first meeting,” he said.
“I can tell you, they are very interested in Drew being something special,” he added.

Developing a curriculum
The Edison Project was hired to initiate the education program, along with technology and management systems at the Drew School.

The Drew School’s curriculum will have an intensive focus on reading and math, with 90 minutes of language arts daily and 60 minutes of math instruction daily.

Franklin of the East Lake Academy Charter School Board gives high marks to the Edison-managed schools she has visited.

“I was impressed with all the people involved — the student body, parents, faculty — their focus on student performance,” Franklin said.

Edison manages schools in a number of places, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas and Washington, D.C.

By this fall, there will be 77 schools under its management.

Changing the school calendar
Under current plans, the school day at the new Drew School will be one to two hours longer than it is at other public schools.

The first school year will be 185 days. There will be a minimum of 200 days in each subsequent school year.
With initiatives such as quarterly meetings between teachers and parents, a Parent Advisory Committee and a mentoring program, parental involvement will be heavily stressed.

Parental involvement
That won’t be a problem if parents voice the same enthusiasm for the school as Pamela Davis, who has lived in East Lake for 12 years and is a charter school board member.
Although her children, who are ages 10, 11, and 12, won’t be attending the school, Davis still is confident about Drew’s effects.

“The grades are supposed to improve,” Davis said. “The charter school is supposed to be … one-on-one.”
Davis isn’t nervous about the many eyes that will be focused on the charter school’s performance.

With the community undergoing a number of recent changes, East Lake has encountered scrutiny before. “We overcame that,” she said.

Of the school and community’s success, she added: “It only works if you make it work.”