Friday, December 28, 2007

Behind the Pop City: Week One

We noticed an article about Bakery Square by Jennifer Baron at the inscrutable Pop City Media. It features the TIFF awarded to the office complex, and mentions the exclusion of the hotel.

Yet nowhere does it mention the implications, or the controversy... ?


Elsewhere in this issue, there is a link to a full-blown Post-Gazette article about Pop City itself by Maria Sciullo.

"Our whole staff is passionate about Pittsburgh," she said. "We want people to read this and say 'How can you NOT want to live in Pittsburgh?'"

Okay, so you're a booster. Nothing wrong with that.

Pop City has a staff of about two dozen writers -- mostly stringers -- who provide six or eight stories of about 250 words, plus one or two 1,000-word feature stories, a week. The shorter items fall into categories such as "Pittsburgh Innovates" and "Development News."

Twenty-four writers -- and we must say, the website is gorgeous in terms of photography and layout. Sumptuous, even.

How can they afford to churn out such quality? Nowhere does the P-G mention how they manage to stay afloat!

Apparently, Pop City makes money by selling a little advertising.

A cursory glance at the homepage informs us that Pop City is sponsored by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and Imagine Pittsburgh 250 (all functions of the City of Pittsburgh), as well as the Allegheny County Department of Economic Development.

As for nonpublic interests, Pop City is also sponsored by Dollar Bank and National City Bank, some attorneys, some architects, and that other awesome civic amenity, FlexCar.

Think the URA has any money left over to fund the Comet?


Just because Pop City Media is the propaganda arm of the Forwardmoving-Imperial Complex, does that make it totally useless?

Check out this cover-length article by Chip Walker on mass transit:

The question is: how do we get great? For starters don’t stand pat. This seems to be our current strategy. When announcements were made about the new light rail spur being built under the Allegheny to the North Shore, the Port Authority also announced that they had no additional plans to build anything else, anywhere. There was hardly been a peep about public transit in the mayoral race, and despite plan, after plan for the past 30 years, we’ve made only incremental improvements.

Wait ... we're not great? The Chunnel isn't great in its own right? Our political leaders should be doing, in some sense, something different?

Later, in a section headlined "Low-Hanging Fruit":

Must every transit initiative become a mission to Mars? What if we kept projects as simple as possible; and modular so that later they can easily be connected, like Legos. Tap some of the state’s $400 million to jump-start efforts that utilize current (read low-cost) rail right-of-ways to create a transit line between Pittsburgh, Oakmont and Greensburg. A project like that would accelerate the resurrection of riverside communities from the Strip to North Versailles as well as buttress neighborhoods around the new $600 million Children’s Hospital.

Yes. Yes! Why not?

How many years have we been visiting Boston and Montreal, in awe of their public transportation like stupid hayseeds? Why can't we put one foot in front of the other and begin moving in the direction -- forward, even -- of actually providing the bare-bones basics of world-class service?

Why can't we start impressing people?


For all its quirks, Pop City can be illuminating. Check out this other Jennifer Baron piece on Federal North redevelopment.

A review committee selected three finalists from proposals submitted in response to the URA’s RFP. As one of three finalists, developer James Welker is proposing to create 18 apartments in the Bradberry Building, which is located at 1112 Reddour St. Also a finalist is a proposal by Jim Aiello, who hopes to develop a mixed-use property on Federal St. that will feature first-floor retail space and up to 18 second-floor residential units. “Those two proposals were deemed ready to go.

Three finalists out of how many applicants? What went into the "deeming" process? If we were so inclined, might we have popped in to the deliberations to offer comment, or just to nose around?

What an odd way to pursue development. In olden times, we would have just held an auction. Now we have this body that's sort of public -- but sort of insulated from the public -- that is deeming not only what gets to go where, but whether or not the public is going to be made to pay for it.

Since we should all learn more about this stuff, we are happy to add Pop City to the blogroll.


  1. My favorite quote from Pop City's Ms. Certo:

    "Pittsburgh," she said, "strikes me as a small, European city, one that offers great arts and culture."

    Pittsburgh.....European? What? Despite the homerism of PoPCity, it is, like you said, a very well put together web-zine.

    I enjoyed the Chip Walter article on World Class Transportation but I disagree with him on a downtown to the airport rail being a critical priority. Those who live or work downtown and in the Oakland area can hop on the 28X flyer for $2.25. There is virtually no traffic heading out that way once you get beyond the Fort Pitt tunnels, and, a very small percent of airport passengers originate from downtown (someone said around 5%?).

    The light rail extension to Oakland and the eastern neighborhoods should be #1 on the list of transit needs. Only once we can pump up the volume of the city of Pittsburgh's population back over 500k then I say yeah, go ahead and link downtown and the airport.

  2. How did I miss this one. Okay, here is my second favorite quote:

    "Our focus," Ms. Certo said, "is really on moving the region forward."

    I heard Pop City and co. received bonuses for putting a variant of "moving forward" in their articles and press releases. Well played, Ms. Certo.

  3. "Pittsburgh.....European?"

    Actually, I agree. To the extent that it was designed on an ad-hoc basis one building at a time, making it resemble everybody's first game of SimCity, to the extent that much of it was built with horses and buggies in mind instead of cars, etc. And of course every third building is historic. Visitors from Phoenix must certainly be impressed by our "old-world charm."

  4. Bram,I am falling off my chair at the post below. Okay, it is only half from your post and the other half from my Saturday Cap'n Morgan visit. I have been trying to come up with a way to get my teenage daughter interested in political blogs and mentioning your's with the Sims reference might do it. Excuse me now, I must go to the attic and look for some babushkas to further advance the "old-world charm" mystique.

  5. Pop City, 'Rah, raw, raw!'

    Nuff said.

    BTW, how do you get onto Matt H's blogroll? I'm not listed there.

  6. Just for the record, deegazette, Sims and SimCity are VERY different balls of wax. Of course, maybe it'll still work for your teenage daughter...