Nakama Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar is no longer part of the redevelopment of the Central North Side block home to a now-defunct adult-movie house.
Wayne Zukin, the project’s developer, confirmed Nakama’s withdrawal this afternoon in an email to City Paper.
In January 2012, the steakhouse chain with a flagship location on the South Side had signed a lease to take over the former Masonic Temple Building on West North Avenue, right next to the old Garden.
Phone messages left yesterday and today for Nakama’s owners were not returned. Nakama has satellite locations in Heinz Field, PNC Park and CONSOL Energy Center. There is also a Nakama in Long Island, N.Y.
The lease signing for Nakama’s space at the Garden project last January was marked by a press conference featuring Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. It was the first lease signed at the site since the Garden Theatre closed in 2007, and was hailed as a big step in the neighborhood’s revitalization.
Messages to Zukin were prompted after yesterday’s announcement that nonprofit arts and human-rights group City of Asylum/Pittsburgh would locate its new literary center in the three storefronts on the first floor of the Masonic Temple — the space formerly to be occupied by Nakama. But until today it was unclear publicly whether Nakama was still involved in the redevelopment project.
COAP president Henry Reese says he’d heard in November that the space might be available and contacted the developer. At the time, Reese says, COAP was preparing to resubmit plans for the center, called Alphabet City, to the city after a court ruling upheld a zoning appeal by neighbors objecting to the project.
But Reese says the West North Street location is in many ways a better fit for Alphabet City, which itself will include a small restaurant along with a bookstore and performance space. It is more centrally located and more visible to street traffic than the original location.
Other announced projects on the Garden block appear to be proceeding, including apartment units and a new restaurant in the old theater space run by the owners of Lawrenceville’s Piccolo Forno.
Barbara Talerico, president of the Allegheny City Central Association, says the loss of Nakama wouldn't hinder the redevelopment project. "Things change over time," she says. "We think that the whole block itself is really very exciting. There'll be a good mix of all the neighbors and all the visitors to the area."
The Pittsburgh Public Market will move to 2401 Penn Avenue this summer, its managers and city officials announced this morning.
The one-story, 31,816-square-foot building owned by the Horton Corporation is across the street from Mullaney's Harp and Fiddle Irish Pub, less than a mile from the market's current location in the historic Produce Terminal on Smallman Street.
The market will move into the full space, according to market manager Tiffani Emig, under a three-year lease that includes options to renew for up to six more years.
The lease is contingent on raising the funding needed for infrastructure improvements, such as building out cooking facilities for vendors and adding an entryway on Penn Avenue. Emig declined to discuss the amount needed to be raised in order for the deal to go forward.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority awarded a $40,000 grant earlier this year for market's relocation.
She says the market will remain in its current spot until 2401 Penn Avenue is secured and renovations completed.
The Pittsburgh Public Market has called the Terminal home since 2010, although the idea was that it would be a temporary location, according to Becky Rodgers, executive director of Neighbors in the Strip.
The market is a nonprofit subsidiary of the neighborhood group.
The Buncher Company has plans to demolish the part of the Terminal where the market is now to make way for a development that would include a hotel, retail and office spaces between the Veterans Bridge and 21st Street, connecting the Strip District properties to the river. The timeline for the project is unclear. The company backed out of a plan to put together a tax financing deal with the city after City Councilor Patrick Dowd stalled the legislation needed to move it forward earlier this year.
The market's lease expired Dec. 31. It has been operating on a month-to-month rental agreement since then. The Buncher Company had not set a deadline for when it would need to move, Rodgers said.
As City Paper reported in January, when news first broke that a new building had been located, vendors said they were looking forward to the changes, and hoping a move would offer a chance to re-brand the market.
Emig says one decision already made is that the market will be open five days a week in the new location.
The Realtors Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh announced this morning the launch of a website intended to help their campaign against an effort to create a Lawrenceville business district.
The website, www.nobid.org, is an attempt to make registering opposition to the district easier — offering a templated form and walking property owners through the steps they need to ensure their "no" votes are counted.
Spearheaded by the Lawrenceville Corporation, the district, if approved, would assess an additional tax of $10 per foot of commercial property on about 350 property owners along Butler Street and Penn Avenue in order to raise money to enhance services ordinarily provided by local government, such as street cleaning and light-pole maintenance. (For more details, see this Jan. 16 City Paper story.)
Once proposed, improvement districts fail only if owners of 40 percent or more of the affected property owners actively object by registering their disapproval with the city clerk's office. Otherwise, the owners are assumed to support the proposal.
Property owners have until Feb. 28 to "vote" by sending a letter of objection to the City Clerk. At least 140 property owners will have to speak in opposition for the proposal to be halted. Otherwise, it will go to Pittsburgh City Council for a vote.
Way back in 2010, we wrote about local musician, artist, and party facilitator Ali Spagnola, who had become embroiled in a legal battle over Power Hour, a drinking game in which participants drink a shot of beer every minute for an hour.
It wasn’t the game itself in question, but rather Spagnola’s right to use the name Power Hour for her album of 60 upbeat, one-minute booze-themed drink-a-long songs (think Liz Phair meets Andrew WK.) A man named Steve Roose had released and trademarked a Power Hour DVD in 2000 — essentially a video stop-watch which, through a series of burps and goofy dares, tells viewers when to drink — and claimed to own the rights to the name Power Hour. He issued Spagnola a cease-and-desist, which would require her to remove all Power Hour videos from her website, stop selling her CD, and put an end to her raucous bring-your-own-shot-glass live shows.
Spagnola decided to challenge Roose, launching a fundraising campaign to help pay for a lawyer, and — in the mean time — has made headlines on various tech news sites with her Shot Glass USB party pack, a plastic shot glass attached to a USB loaded with her album.
This morning, Spagnola released this video announcing that —three years and over $30,000 in legal fees later — it’s a win for Team Spagnola, and competitive drinkers everywhere. The court ruled that the term “Power Hour” is descriptive of the game, and therefor cannot be owned by anyone.
The decision is, of course, a huge relief for Spagnola. “When we first started, my lawyer predicted that high end it could get to $10,000," she tells CP. "I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, I don’t know if I want to go through with this. But I couldn’t let [Roose] push me around.” When they passed the projected $10,000 mark, Spagnola knew there was no turning back. “You’re in this tunnel where you don’t see the end, but you know you’ve gone so far into the investment. I couldn’t give up.”
Now, as she says in the video, “It’s time for a victory lap.” She’s left her “safe career” to pursue music full time, and has launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund the Power Hour Freedom Victory tour. A donation of just $1 gets you a download of the album, which Spagnola hopes will get listeners pumped enough to come out and party at one of her live shows.
Last summer, you might've read our short review of a new Bob Mintzer album recorded live at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild.
Turns out Gordon Spencer wasn't the only one who liked For the Moment; last night, the album received two Grammy nominations: one for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album, and one for Best Instrumental Arrangement, for the song "Irrequieto."
The album was recorded live at MCG in September 2011. The MCG Jazz label has won four Grammys in the past for albums by artists including Paquito D'Rivera.
Goodman cannot attend because her sister is gravely ill and she is remaining with her.
Arts & Lectures plans to reschedule the talk, and will honor any tickets purchased for the Nov. 5 event.
Travel problems related to Hurricane Sandy have forced postponement of Pittsburgh's Bayard Rustin Centennial Festival, an event we noted in Blogh yesterday.
The multi-day tribute to the civil-rights hero will now be held Nov. 29-Dec. 1.
A couple months back, we reported on some possible static between long-standing local venue Shadow Lounge and neighbors in East Liberty. Today, owner Justin Strong announced that after 12 years operating at 5972 Baum Blvd., he'll be closing down Shadow next year and working to buy an building elsewhere.
Strong says the associated venue in the same building — AVA Lounge with the adjoining Blue Room — will continue to operate. Read more here on Shadow Lounge's blog.
The word is in: In Gov. Tom Corbett’s Pennsylvania, the state has the right to turn residential areas into industrial zones. And your town can’t do anything about it.
That’s so at least according to attorney Matthew H. Haverstick, who represented the Public Utility Commission and the Department of Environmental Protection at this morning’s oral arguments about Act 13 before the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
Earlier this year, in the midst of a shale-gas boom, the Republican-controlled state legislature passed, and Corbett signed, Act 13. Among other things, the law says that municipalities can’t use zoning laws to keep companies from siting drilling rigs, toxic retention ponds and compressor stations near homes, schools and hospitals.
The law appeared to place Republicans, usually reliable supporters of local autonomy, firmly on the side of state-level control for the benefit of the oil-and-gas industry.
Act 13 was challenged by seven municipalities — including Robinson Township, South Fayette, Peters, Cecil and Mount Pleasant — and an environmental group. In July, Commonwealth Court struck down the law’s statewide zoning provisions as unconstitutional. Commonwealth Court also struck down a provision mandating that DEP grant waivers to state rules requiring that drilling operations be set back from waterways.
The case is a complicated one, as evidenced by some 400 pages of briefs, plus 18 friend-of-the-court briefs, that sat by each of the six justices. The oral arguments lasted two hours.
In one of the morning’s more interesting exchanges, two justices, Seamus McCafferty and Max Baer, questioned attorney Haverstick about how far the state’s power to override zoning might go.
McCafferty asked whether Haverstick’s argument “means residential communities can be turned into industrial areas.”
Some observers laughed as Haverstick appeared to evade the question. But finally he admitted that yes, that was the case. “But that’s a policy choice the General Assembly made,” Haverstick said. “It’s not [the role] of this court to criticize the policies the General Assembly made.”
“What about the constitutional right of the citizenry of this state [to] the quiet enjoyment of their properties?” asked McCafferty.
Haverstick continued to make the argument that if the municipalities have a beef, it isn’t constitutional; rather, it’s with legislators’ policy-making. “The General Assembly already did this balancing test” between the rights of landowners who lease to drillers and those who live next door, he said.
Following up, Justice Max Baer asked whether the General Assembly could simply eliminate zoning in Pennsylvania entirely.
“There are plenty of parts of Pennsylvania that have no zoning whatsoever,” answered Haverstick, again appearing to not quite answer the question. Then he re-emphasized that the point is whether Act 13 can be applied constitutionally. The Act, he said “gives a property owner … greater rights to [use] his property the way he wants. It moves the needle closer to where our constitution wants it to be.”
Are there no constraints at all on the state overriding municipal law? Baer asked.
No, answered Haverstick — as long as the “regulation [is] rationally related to legitimate state interests.” And in this case, the “legitimate state interest” is gas extraction.
Haverstick argued that in overturning Act 13, Commonwealth Court pulled a “constitutional right” to zoning “out of thin air.”
“There is no consitutional right to be free of incompatible uses,” he said. He noted precedents in the state’s siting of a casino (in Philadelphia) and a prison in areas not zoned for it.
The question was later also addressed, somewhat less than reassuringly, by Haverstick’s co-counsel, Howard G. Hopkirk, of the state Attorney General’s office. Hopkirk said that yes, legislators could repeal all municipal zoning, but “they would have to have a rational basis to do that,” and there isn’t one.
Attorneys for the municipalities, meanwhile, argued that the state’s one-size-fits-all no-zoning rule for the gas industry was itself unconstitutional. Attorney John Smith said the state can’t force municipalities to behave in ways contrary to the state constitution’s mandate to protect the “health, safety and welfare” of the citizens. “This is why we do not have industrial uses in residential areas,” he said.
Attorneys for the municipalities also argued that Act 13 violates Pennsylvania’s 130-some-year-old ban on “special laws” that benefit specific private parties. In this case, Smith argued, Act 13 aids the oil-and-gas industry but not other industries its class, such as coal-mining or limestone quarrying.
He also cited Act 13’s notorious gag order against physicians, who would have to sign a nondisclosure rule simply in order to learn what chemicals used in drilling their patients might have been exposed to.
Haverstick countered that special laws are those that apply to a single individual or company, while Act 13 does apply to a class — oil-and-gas companies.
Across the state and the country, faulty seals have permitted methane to migrate from drilling operations into ground water. Landowners and other critics say toxic chemicals used in fracking have also contaminated wells and sickened animals and people. drilling operations have heavily polluted air in places like Wyoming and Texas. Trucks damage roadways. And pipelines have fractured wildlife habitats, from farmland to state forests.
Such concerns were shared by courtroom observers like Elizabeth Donohue, of Forest Hills.
“I’m just so worried about the effect this is going to have on the water and the air … we can’t separate [them],” said Donohue, who works on small local farms. “In order to be able to do the farming, I need clean air, clean water and clean soil, and all of that’s completely at risk with this industrial process.
“There’s no security.”
The court is not likely to rule on the case for months.
Due to the departure of Joan Orie Melvin (who’s facing corruption charges), the court is split evenly along party lines. A 3-3 vote would uphold the lower court’s ruling striking down Act 13.
Based on the questioning, Baer and McCafferty seem likely to vote to uphold that ruling. If that scenario plays out, just one more vote from among the remaining four justices would let municipalities continue to zone as they please on gas drilling.
For readers who would like to see the visually engaging and fun-filled event, here is…
Dear readers, you can make your voice heard on this issue by signing the petition…
"Mr. Peduto is afraid to see a day in which all Pittsburghers are realizing prosperity.."