Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wednesday: Nearing the End of an End and the Beginning of a Beginning

Tyndale House

The day foretold in Revelations has arrived when the Pirates shall win and the Steelers shall lose, when the fountain at Point State Park runs red or at least runs, and Dread Lord Zober is summoned before a grand jury.  InvesgtigatePGH prosecutors have now twice brought in one high-level governing official on the same day as at least one titillatingly mysterious mayoral acquaintance. *-UPDATE: Authorities also are seeking documents.

State Sen. Jim Ferlo thinks it's time to burn the ICA in order to save it. For those asking the function of the ICA anymore, it has rejected proposed City budgets on grounds of phantom revenues, encourage it at length to meet certain purchase agreements and can generally insist upon a certain level of financial discipline to satisfy the City's creditors. Whatever else are its problems.

The Post-Gazette's Mark Belko is on location researching and writing a series of top-notch pieces on how other cities have redeveloped or reinvigorated their historic warehouses, and contrasting these with plans on the agenda in our Strip District.

It's interesting: In the Strip District, Buncher Co.'s plans have been advanced under constant threat that otherwise Pittsburgh can only be left with a sea of parking for the next 20 years. In Oakland, a developer is warning that without him we might be stuck with a parking lot for a long, long time. We could also go back to Stage AE, that is the North Shore Uglitheater as well. It is fortunate that subsidized entertainment venue sticks with nonunion labor, or else we never would have improved upon that sea of surface parking. And in past days here and whenever necessary since 2007, we read dire warnings from Penguins proposal advocates of no alternatives to it except a future rife with surface parking. And werewolves.

Future Mayor Peduto and a major and active Downtown developer identified until now with Ravenstahl seem to be cooperating productively. There are minor and typical differences of opinion on how to leverage further financing for the latest project.


  1. Thanks for the ICA reminder. Acronyms confuse me from time to time.

    I'd really rather the county spend the extra money on the bus than to give an incentive for a parking garage in Oakland, but what do I know.

    1. MH,

      I tend to agree on subsidizing parking structures. If their tenants really want that amenity, then like any other amenity the cost of providing it should be included in their rent. To me it is like asking the public to pay for bathrooms, stairs, elevators, and so on--all that stuff is TRULY necessary for any given office building to work, but that doesn't mean the public should have to pay.

    2. If you're a Kenny Chesney fan, a parking structure is even more like a bathroom.

  2. Two basic reasons for why the surface parking issue is often raised in these context:

    (1) It is a highly credible, and not merely theoretical, problem, given the history of surface parking both here and in other cities;

    (2) Among the many possible pro-development arguments, it has relatively high intuitive appeal among certain sorts of self-identified "urbanists", "progressives", "policy wonks", and so forth. In other words, depending on your audience you might place more emphasis on jobs, or tax revenues, or attracting outside investment, or so on, but in some audiences talking about the scourge of surface parking is a particularly good tactic.

    Note that Point #2 doesn't necessarily subtract from Point #1, and indeed those various urbanists/progressives/polic-wonks/etc. have a very good point about why surface parking should be much rarer than it typically is in U.S. city cores.

    By the way, talking about the problem in terms of "surface parking" is a fine-enough short hand for certain purposes, but often the underlying motive is really more about land-banking than parking (a notable exception being when the relevant entity also owns a nearby property with high peak parking needs, such as a stadium). In other words, the landowner in question may really just be waiting for others to invest in the area first and thereby increase the future development value of their land, but in the meantime they operate their land as surface parking because that often gives them a nice little profit which they can use to cover their carrying costs indefinitely.

  3. Could Ferlo be the next to go before the Grand Jury?

    He sits on the URA board and Zober worked on his staff.

  4. Wonder what became of these Zober photos:

    Camera returned, but photos wind up with lawyer in Pittsburgh

  5. There is a hole in your coverage!

    One of the most interesting 'new beginnings' in the city will be the outcome of the Gross / Ceoffe race. I'd love to see more coverage of that and hear your thoughts on Ceoffe. Indeed if you could get the candidates to actually sit down to an interview and put real policy questions to them I think it would turn the race into something more substantive than crowing about endorsements and taking pictures with yinzers on the front porches of District 7.

    I know the Hill is interesting, given your expertise, but the Strip is now in District 7 and the next council rep should have ideas about it and neither has said anything - don't let them get away with that Bram!!!

    1. Soon! Not only is the Hill interesting but this legal drama is really interesting... but I promise!