Are You Facing a Roadblock or Is it Just a Detour?

So the Steelers played a very forgetful preseason game against the Washington Redskins.  What I will never forget is the wisdom and maturity of a rookie named Baron Batch who suffered a season ending injury with a torn ACL.  While the majority of people would be devastated with the news, this young man inspired many including yours truly and he taught us all a very valuable lesson about life.  Specifically, how to keep a sharp prospective on the meaning of life.
Baron says “The funny thing about all roads is that at some point they all have potholes, speed bumps and detours. However,
the durability of your vehicle is what allows you to reach your destination regardless of your traveling conditions.
Friday I was supposed to play my first NFL game. That won’t happen. Today I tore my ACL. I’m not sure why I’m
writing about this right now except for the fact that God put it on my heart to do so. I probably should be devastated at the fact I wont play my rookie season but… I’m not.  After my season ending injury my freshman year of college I promised myself that I would never ask God “why?” again and I’m not about to start now. It’s during the tough times that we are able to grow. I’m excited to hit another growth spurt.”

I encourage you to read this man’s blog, but more importantly, take a peek into the heart of a Champion who will overcome every single roadblock in his life.  Look, we all know there are many families in America who are hurting and struggling to make a go of this thing called life.  Just remember that you were blessed enough to wake up this morning.  You had the opportunity to kiss your spouse, love on your kids and you got another crack at reaching your dream today.  Don’t waste it…you never know who is counting on you to be the person you were called to be.

Live with Purpose,

Jon Perry



S & P Downgrades U.S. Debt Rating for the First Time in History

S&P just announced late this evening that they have downgraded the U.S. debt rating from AAA to AA+ with a negative outlook.

NIA is absolutely shocked by this. What shocks us is just how long it took them to make this downgrade. Just like how S&P and Moody’s didn’t downgrade subprime CDOs until the mortgage-backed bonds they held were practically worthless, S&P waited for U.S. debt obligations to reach five times GDP and for the U.S. dollar to lose 84% of its purchasing power over the course of a single decade. The U.S. was a hair away from defaulting on its debt this week if the debt ceiling wasn’t raised, yet it still had a AAA rating.

NIA believes that a AAA rating should be reserved for countries that have budget surpluses, low levels of debt that could easily be paid off without printing money, and low levels of inflation. The U.S. had a cash budget deficit last year of $1.3 trillion, but once you include increases to unfunded liabilities, our real budget deficit was approximately $5 trillion. Even if Americans were taxed 100% of their income it wouldn’t be enough to balance the budget.

It is hard to imagine a fiscal situation worse than this, but the credit ratings agencies have justified giving the U.S. a AAA rating based on the dollar’s status as the world’s reservecurrency and the Federal Reserve’s ability to monetize our deficits anddebts by printing money. If it wasn’t for our printing press and the world’swillingness to accept and hoard the dollars we print in return for thereal products and commodities they produce, the U.S. credit rating would be junk.

S&P claims that their reason for downgrading the U.S. debt rating at this time is because, “the differences between political parties have proven to be extraordinarily difficult to bridge”. According to S&P, it is because our two political parties are so far apart that we weren’t able to pass a bill with anything but modest spending cuts. The reality is, the Republicans and Democrats aren’t far apart at all. Neither parties are serious about cutting spending and the underlying fundamentals of both their proposed bills were exactly the same. The Republicans that American tea party supporters elected to office have broken their promises to make major spending cuts and have accomplished absolutely nothing positive since entering office.

Our country just had an unbelievable opportunity to dramatically cut government spending in a last ditch effort to prevent hyperinflation. Instead, our government passed a bill to raise the debt ceiling that had no real spending cuts at all. The mainstream media tried to spin the bill into being a victory for U.S. tea party supporters due to the purported “spending cuts” that it contained. The truth is, government spending is set to rise every single year until the dollar is worthless. The $2.1 trillion in phony spending cuts are only tiny reductions to large spending increases and none of them will begin until early 2013 when we will need to once again raise the debt ceiling. Even if the government in early 2013 decides to follow through with them, rising interest payments on our national debt will mean substantially larger budget deficits thanwhat are projected today.

Credit ratings agencies have absolutely zero credibility left and we believe that with hyperinflation coming soon, credit ratings will become a thing of the past. To capitalize on this, on May 23rd NIA suggested to you put options in the only publicly traded pure credit ratings play, Moody’s (MCO). On May 23rd with MCO trading for $37.90, NIA suggested to you MCO November 2011 $35 put options at $1.98. MCO today closed at $32.88 and our MCO put option suggestion finished the day with a last trade of $5.20 for a huge gain of 163% in a little over two months. NIA is very pleased that we figured out the #1 most profitable way to capitalize on the major fundamental shift that is taking place in this industry and as far as we are aware, NIA is the only organization in the world that suggested MCO puts in recentmonths.

With the stock market down big in recent weeks, NIA believes that this evening’s news is already mostly factored into stock prices. With the Fed Funds Rate having been left near zero for over two years, the world is flooded with excess liquidity of U.S. dollars and there is no chance of the stock market crashing like in late-2008/early-2009. In fact, the recent downward move in the stock market means the Federal Reserve is likely to soon implement additional monetary inflation measures and will leave the Fed Funds Rate near zero permanently.

The GDP was already on its way to becoming negative in the second half of 2011 and if the U.S. wants to avoid a debt default later this decade, it needs the Federal Reserve to print enough money to see at least 5% annual nominal GDP growth. It’s not just the Federal Government that needs GDP to grow, but most cities and states will default on their debts if GDP doesn’t grow rapidly. Cities and states don’t have printing presses so unless the U.S. government wants to bail them all out like the European Union is bailing out Greece, Portugal, and Ireland, it needs to create GDP growth even if that means the Federal Reserve eliminating interest payments on the $1.6 trillion in excess reserves held by banks and taxing banks who don’t lend the money.

NIA prays that Americans don’t make the mistake of buying U.S. Treasuries as a safe haven, as they are now the riskiest asset of all. If U.S. Treasuries rally next week, it will only be temporary and will be followed by the largest and sharpest reversal in history with a crash in Treasury prices and an explosion in yields like never seen before. Most Keynesian economists will likely forecast rising Treasury prices despite the U.S. debt crisis, because they claim the bond markets in other countries are tiny compared to ours and there simply is no other place to park safe haven money. In our opinion, there is no reason to own the fiat currency denominated bonds of any country or company. Gold and silver are the only true safe havens and it is our belief that by the end of this year, the U.S. public will begin investing into gold and silver in droves as theyrealize that although we avoided a debt default for now, a debt default by inflation is still on its way.

Welcome to Gotham, Pittsburgh. The Batman’s in town.

Filming starts today for finale in Batman  trilogy
Friday, July 29, 2011
By Barbara Vancheri, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette
Dawn Keezer, right, director of the Pittsburgh  Film Office, listens as actor Christian Bale speaks at Thursday’s news  conference.

Everyone knows you’re ready for some football, but what about some  Batman?

The Dark Knight predicts a hot time in Pittsburgh for the next couple of  weeks. Literally, at least in his case.

A seemingly bemused, casually dressed Christian Bale joked Thursday that when  “The Dark Knight Rises” blankets some Downtown streets with faux snow, he won’t  get any relief.

“Well, I hope that all of you guys are going to feel cooler ’cause of the  fake snow, I certainly won’t be — stuck in that rubber suit all the time,” the  actor told a news conference at the Renaissance Hotel, Downtown.

The third and final picture in director Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy  brought a relaxed, bearded Mr. Bale — clad in black cargo pants, with folded  sunglasses tucked into his T-shirt and hooded jacket — in front of the media a  day before filming starts in Pittsburgh.

“I’ve never been to Pittsburgh before,” he told a packed room. “There will be  fighting on the streets a great deal,” he predicted, although not a whit of  detail about the story was leaked.

“Thank you so much for your generosity of spirit and hospitality ahead of  time, and we’ll try and stay out of your hair as much as possible and hopefully  leave with good memories for everybody.”

Mr. Bale was seated in front of the striking teaser poster for the movie set  to arrive in theaters July 20, 2012. As boulders tumble from skyscrapers seen  from below, a burst of light at the top is in the shape of a bat.

Pittsburgh has hosted 103 theatrical and TV movies since the Pittsburgh Film  Office opened in 1990, but nothing has generated this level of excitement. The  first two Batman movies were global blockbusters, Mr. Nolan is recognized as one  of the most intelligent, imaginative filmmakers in the business, and Mr. Bale is  fresh off his Oscar win for “The Fighter.”

Mr. Nolan, director, co-writer and producer, confirmed filming starts today  and apologized in advance for inconveniences caused by road and building  closures in places such as Lawrenceville, Oakland and Downtown. To minimize  disruptions, the movie will shoot Wednesdays through Sundays.

Continued on next page

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Pittsburgh in Top 5 Most Underrated Cities in America

America’s Five Most Underrated Cities

By Jason Notte , The Street
July 12, 2011
Provided by:

America’s cities are averaging more than 10% growth, but some of its coolest towns just aren’t getting the love.

According to the 2010 Census, U.S. metro areas on the whole grew by 10.8% from 2000 to 2010. That was great news for pre-housing-crisis Las Vegas, which grew 41.8% last decade, and for Texas towns including Dallas, Houston and Austin, which saw their populations swell 23%, 26% and 37% respectively. That comes as little relief to Detroit, however, which shrank by 25% during the same span.

The overall growth masks an unfortunate truth for American cities well beyond Detroit, however. Fourteen of the 15 biggest cities in 2000 lost population or slowed their growth by 2010, according to Census data. Philadelphia was the only standout, boosting its ranks 0.6% after posting declines for the past 50 years.

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Several of the cities that saw their populations dwindle since 2000 are in much the same position as Philadelphia a decade ago: Struggling with the demise of manufacturing, watching its residents flee to the suburbs, failing to draw younger residents to replace them and trying to show what was good about their city to a broader audience. Part of Philadelphia’s growth comes from drawing people who appreciated the city’s culture, art, nightlife and affordability compared with Northeast Corridor neighbors such as New York and Washington, D.C., and it’s a big part of the reason Philadelphia’s median age dropped from 36.5 in 2000 to 34.2 in 2010. Combine that with a GDP that jumped from $309 billion in 2006 to $335 billion last year without any recession slump, and you’ve got the blueprint for a cool city’s comeback.

TheStreet thumbed through the 2010 Census numbers and found five cities that are a lot more fun and vibrant than their declining numbers suggest:

Population in 2000: 2,896,016
Population in 2010: 2,695,598
Decline: 6.9%

As Chicago shrinks in population is it losing some appeal?
Photo: flickr|cyanocorax

Chicago was easily the biggest U.S. city to lose numbers within the past decade and the biggest surprise after holding steady since 2006. The city’s median household income was up almost 25% in that same period and the city’s GDP rose from $498 billion to $508 billion in the past five years (including a nearly $15 billion recession-fueled drop-off in 2008). What’s the problem?

The suburbs play a big role, as Chicagoland grew 4% since 2000 while the city itself shrank. Suburban growth is part of the reason the growth of the Hispanic population dwindled from 38.1% from 1990 to 2000 to just 3.3% in the past 10 years and why the black population has dropped 17.2% during the same period.

It also has a lot to do with who’s moving in, as lakefront apartments and condos in Bucktown and Ukranian Village aren’t being filled by families, but by single young professionals and empty-nesters. That’s bringing in more expendable income, but shrinking households and driving up the median age from 31.5 in 2000 to 32.9 today.

It also means that cash has to go somewhere, which is why residents who answered Travel+Leisure’s America’s Favorite Cities survey still rank it No. 4 in the country for museums and galleries such as the Art Institute of Chicago and the Pilsen art district, No. 4 for theaters such as Steppenwolf and No. 4 for big-name restaurants such as Alinea and Charlie Trotter’s. There are still great bars and restaurants within walking distance, five major sports teams to root for and the Taste of Chicago, the Chicago Jazz Festival and Pitchfork Music Festival every summer. There are just fewer people to share them with, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Population in 2000: 334,563
Population in 2010: 305,704
Decline: 8.6%

Pittsburgh’s producing more grads and the economy is improving.
Photo: flickr|brdonovan

For a city with a population whose growth started slowing in 1910 and has been outright declining since 1960, an 8.6% drop not only isn’t bad — it’s the lowest loss rate the city’s seen in 50 years. It’s not ideal, but compared with Rust Belt neighbors such as Detroit, Cleveland and Youngstown, Ohio, Pittsburgh is not only surviving but thriving.

The city’s GDP grew from $103 billion five years ago to $111.6 billion last year and held steady through much of the recession, thanks largely to its transition from manufacturing dependence to a multifaceted approach to economic stability. Carnegie-Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh and its medical center provide most of the job base, and while U.S. Steel and PPG Industries still provide an industrial presence, finance companies such as PNC Financial Services and 1,600 tech companies including Google are taking the city out of the steel age.

There’s still a chance it could go wrong, as Pitt’s closure of a local hospital last year reminds us, but the city’s got one big advantage going for it: youth. The median age in Pittsburgh dropped from 35.5 in 2000 to 33.2 last year, and it’s not just because more students are going to Pitt, Duquesne and the seven universities within a walk of downtown. It means more of those kids are home-grown product; the Chicago Federal Reserve noted that Pittsburgh’s percentage of adults who graduated high school jumped from 55th in the country to third, while its rank for college graduates matriculated from 69th to 37th.

It’s not a bad place to party, either. The South Side, the Strip and Station Square are still packed with bars and the young crowd that fills them, and — as found out last year when it named Pittsburgh one of the best places to move to — they’re paying about 12.2% less for their beers than the rest of the country, thanks to a low cost of living and low average home prices. While it’s still better known for Pittsburgh Steelers football, Pittsburgh Penguins hockey, Iron City Beer and french fry-stuffed Primanti Brothers sandwiches, institutions such as the Andy Warhol Museum remind newcomers that the Steel City’s not to be underestimated.

New Orleans
Population in 2000: 484,674
Population in 2010: 343,829
Decline: 29%

The Big Easy is shrinking but it hasn’t lost its edge.
Photo: flickr|katjusac

Yes, Hurricane Katrina did a number on the city, but there’s a lot more than record crowds at Mardis Gras this year, the return of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four next year and the Super Bowl the year after that to remind the world New Orleans’ spirit remains.

That 29% drop looks pretty bad, but compared with the 288,113 people who were in New Orleans when the Census came around post-Katrina in 2007, it’s an improvement. Consider that the Bureau of Labor Statistics says jobs in New Orleans have risen 3.5% since 2006, the GDP inched up from $66 billion to $68 billion in that span, the Census says the city’s Hispanic population grew by 35,000 post-Katrina and, according to the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, tourism has returned as New Orleans hotels filled to 97% capacity during Mardi Gras this year.

The tourists downing hurricanes in the French Quarter aren’t the best measure of this city’s draw, however. Visitors as well as locals ranked New Orleans No. 1 in the country for local joints and cafes, according to Travel+Leisure and tops in the country for people watching, cocktail hour and the singles/bar scene — in fact, No. 1 in more categories than any other city in the country, including former No. 1 New York.

Population in 2000: 596,974
Population in 2010: 594,833
Decline: 0.4%

Despite a smaller population, the typical denizen is younger.
Photo: Beige Alert

Milwaukee’s been losing population since the 1960s, but the release valve’s shutting quickly as the losses trickle to less than a percent — the best population news Milwaukee’s received since the city grew 16.3% during the 1950s — and the city gets younger.

You don’t have to set foot in the Santiago Calatrava-designed Quadracci Pavilion at the Milwaukee Art Museum, place a complicated order at Alterra Coffee, buy rounds of organic and gluten-free beer at Lakefront Brewery or see the city’s starring role in Bridesmaids to realize that Milwaukee’s changed quite a bit in the past decade. Those may, however, be some of the best indications of the city’s youth movement that dropped the median age from 30.6 in 2000 to 30.3 last year, well below the nation’s average age of 36.8.

As a result, the town once known for dying breweries and Happy Days reruns is ending up in some fairly enviable places, including the Daily Beast’s list of the Best 50 Cities For Love and No. 9 on Forbes’ list of Best Cities for Singles. A city rivaled only by Las Vegas for most bars, clubs and restaurants per capita, Milwaukee’s GDP has grown enough to keep the taps flowing with a boost from $78.9 billion in 2006 to roughly $83 billion today behind growing companies such as Manpower and a reduced dependency on traditional employers such as MolsonCoors’ Miller.

Though the Brewers aren’t blowing the retractable roof off Miller Park and the Bucks have teams fearing the deer a little less in recent seasons, a Super Bowl win by a certain team in the suburbs is enough to give local fans something to cheer about. With all the museums, galleries, music venues and watering holes to visit, however, it’s tough to fit the local teams into the schedule.

Buffalo, N.Y.
Population in 2000: 292,648
Population in 2010: 261,310
Decline: 10.7%

It’s inexpensive to live in Buffalo – where they’re are lots of singles.
Photo: Aneurysms

Buffalo hasn’t gained more than a percentage point of population since the 1920s, so it’s understandable why people would think everyone just shy of the Bills are leaving — and even they skip town for Toronto every so often.

Like Pittsburgh, however, Buffalo may have found its sweet spot as a smaller metro area. Buffalo’s universities and burgeoning tech, tourism and health care industries help keep its median age below the national average at 34, but other factors are making it a much sweeter place to stay. Folks who decide to make Buffalo their home enjoy a cost of living 14.4% below the national average and home prices also below what their neighbors throughout the rest of the country are paying.

At that discount, Buffalo residents get a thriving art scene with more than 50 art museums and galleries and two festivals — the Allentown Art Festival and the Elmwood Festival For The Arts — a system of 20 parks designed by Frederick Law Olmstead  (of Central Park fame), a smattering of music venues and a ton of bars and clubs on West Chippewa Street and in Allentown that are open until 4 a.m. It’s so deceptively cool that Forbes put it at No. 18 on its list of the Top 40 towns for singles, ahead of Las Vegas and Miami, but even cooler is that its 7.6% unemployment rate is well below the national and allows more of its residents to see what the other cities are missing.

Target expected to drive East Liberty resurgence

Target expected to drive East Liberty  resurgence
New retail, housing, offices next on tap
Sunday, July 24, 2011
By Mark Belko, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Lake Fong/Post-Gazette
The new Target store on Penn Avenue in East  Liberty.

The grand opening of the Target store today in East Liberty is a “big moment”  in the neighborhood’s resurgence, but it’s not by any stretch the conclusion of  the community’s bid to reinvent itself.

Next on tap for the re-emerging commercial center could be offices, hotels,  apartments and even more retail, as developers, public officials and community  groups seek to capitalize on the momentum created by Target, one of the nation’s  most successful discount retailers.

In fact, Rob Stephany, city Urban Redevelopment Authority executive director,  believes the neighborhood has the potential to recapture its past, when it was  one of the busiest commercial corridors in the state.

“East Liberty was the center of the East End at one point and it could be  there again,” said Mr. Stephany, who was instrumental in the community’s  revitalization during his tenure as director of development for East Liberty  Development Inc.

Economics aside, the opening of the Target also has symbolic value for a  neighborhood that has worked hard to overcome failed urban renewal and years of  neglect and decay.

Audrey Guskey, an associate professor of marketing at Duquesne University,  said the fact the retailer chose East Liberty over many other areas shows that  it is a viable, economically growing market.

“It’s almost a stamp of approval,” she said.

Even before the paint has dried on Target’s trademark bull’s-eye, other  retailers are expressing interest in locating near the 145,000-square-foot  store, which will feature traditional offerings as well as an expanded grocery  section.

Steve Mosites, president of the Mosites Co., the developer responsible for  bringing Target and Whole Foods to the East End, said he is fielding calls from  fashion retailers and junior department store retailers similar to T.J. Maxx and  Kohl’s that have an interest in being in the neighborhood.

“Target will drive retail around it,” he said. “You see it everywhere. I know  three or four family restaurants that are interested in being across from  Target. We’re talking to some of them.”

But retail is by no means the only redevelopment in the works.

East Liberty Development Inc. is negotiating with Ace Hotel, a trendy chain  with boutique hotels in New York, Seattle, Portland, Ore., and Palm Springs,  Calif., to occupy the former YMCA building.

Skip Schwab, the development organization’s director of operations, said the  parties are trying to assemble financing for the $14 million project. They are  looking at new market and historic tax credits.

Ace apparently was drawn to the neighborhood by search engine company Google,  whose offices are located at Bakery Square in Larimer near the East Liberty  border. Mr. Schwab said Ace liked the former Y’s public space, which includes a  ballroom, gym and swimming pool.

“They use their facilities as a way to do arts and arts-related activity to  create traffic and to create a revenue stream,” he said.

Alex Calderwood, Ace Hotel co-founder, said in a statement, “Although we are  very interested in Pittsburgh and inspired by the city, no plans for an Ace  hotel have been finalized or formalized.”

According to its press material, the chain likes to remodel old buildings in  emerging locations and link its hotels to local culture.

Mr. Schwab said East Liberty Development hopes to have a final deal with Ace  in place by the end of the year. He said the chain, in part, was drawn to the Y  by the development organization’s plan for a town square concept in the core of  the business district near the East Liberty Presbyterian Church.

The agency envisions a gathering spot awash with retail, restaurants and  entertainment similar to town squares in Europe. Mr. Schwab believes such  potential exists, given the new restaurants that have popped up in the vicinity,  such as Paris 66, Spoon and BRGR.

“It’s amazing that there are two Ethiopian restaurants in East Liberty.  That’s phenomenal. That’s head-scratching,” he said.

In East Liberty’s center core, there’s still plenty of lower-end retail, but  that is gradually changing as new restaurants and other businesses move in.

Mr. Stephany doesn’t envision the center core ever becoming a “Disneyland  shopping experience,” but he stressed that it doesn’t have to be.

“The goal here is just a cool, quirky kind of place,” he said. “It could be  one of the neatest main street experiences in the region.”

With Target under its belt, Mosites is concentrating its efforts on its  proposed Eastside III and Eastside IV developments near the store and the East  Busway.

At Eastside III, it is pitching a plan for either a hotel or apartments. At  Eastside IV, the plan is to erect two office buildings in the 45,000- and  80,000-square-foot range with ground-level retail.

However, if Mosites can land another retailer such as Kohl’s, the mix could  change, with a department store replacing one of the office buildings, Mr.  Mosites said.

He and others see a strong demand for more office space in East Liberty.  Developer Walnut Capital has leased all of its office space at Bakery Square,  with Google being perhaps the most notable tenant.

“We’re out of room,” said Todd Reidbord, Walnut Capital president. “There’s  just nowhere else to grow. I believe [East Liberty] is the natural direction.  It’s so close, and it’s easily connected by transportation.”

Mosites sees the Eastside III and Eastside IV projects as part of a larger  transit-oriented development that would incorporate the East Busway, providing  another access point to neighborhood amenities.

The company has solicited proposals from potential tenants for the new  developments. Mr. Mosites said it will probably be another 18 months before  construction can begin, assuming that tenants and financing fall into place.

Mosites also is working to secure a tenant to replace Borders bookstore on  Centre Avenue. Mr. Mosites said the two-story space will probably be split up  for multiple tenants. He said he now is reviewing a handful of prospects,  including fashion and service-oriented tenants.

As for future development in the corridor, he sees potential for a theater  and other types of entertainment uses. He said the proposed redevelopment of the  former Y and the Highland Building should help to revitalize the center  core.

“It’s coming. It could be three to five years before you see a noticeable  impact on Penn Avenue, but that’s not far away,” he said.

Mr. Mosites sees more ancillary development taking place now that Target has  been completed. He said the new store should help to energize Home Depot, which  is a block or two away, and provide good connections between Whole Foods on  Centre Avenue and Bakery Square on Penn.

“I feel like the trees have been planted. Now it’s time to plant the shrubs  and flowers,” he said.

Walnut Capital, meanwhile, hopes to start construction in January to convert  the Highland and Wallace buildings off Penn Circle South into 130 apartments and  6,000 square feet of retail space. A 181-space parking garage also would be  built.

Mr. Reidbord said the developer has finalized its U.S. Housing and Urban  Development financing but is still awaiting word on whether Gov. Tom Corbett  will release a $4.5 million state capital grant designated for the project.

“It’s critical. It’s the last spoke in the wheel we need. Without it, we  can’t move forward,” he said.

While Target and East Liberty will get most of the attention today, Mayor  Luke Ravenstahl said his goal is to carry the momentum into Lincoln-Lemington,  Larimer and Homewood, neighborhoods that have struggled over the years to right  themselves.

The URA has invited developers to submit their qualifications to develop 70  to 120 units of housing in Homewood and 70 to 100 in Larimer as a first phase of  redevelopment. Mr. Ravenstahl sees the potential to build “good quality housing  stock” and rebuild neighborhood business districts in both.

“The success we’ve seen in East Liberty allows us for the first time in a  long time to plan for the future of those neighborhoods,” he said.

While the mayor acknowledged that there are still “way too many homicides and  violent crimes” in some of the neighborhoods, he added the city and police are  working aggressively to eradicate both.

And for those who wonder whether a rebirth is possible in those communities,  Mr. Stephany has a history lesson.

“The same skepticism people might have about a high-valued Larimer or a  high-valued Homewood was the same skepticism I had when I was doing community  development in East Liberty seven years ago. People just didn’t think East  Liberty could come back,” he said.

“When government, the philanthropic community and a proactive developer align  their forces, this town can make incredible change, and that is the story of  East Liberty and that can be the story of these other neighborhoods as  well.”


Mark Belko:  or 412-263-1262.
First published on July 24, 2011 at 12:00  am

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Pittsburgh is Ready to Be Gotham in the “Dark Knight Rises”

‘Dark Knight’ to touch down in Pittsburgh this week

Sunday, July 24, 2011

–>The Dark Knight and his entourage touch down in Pittsburgh this week, turning  Steel City into Gotham City by coating Downtown streets with snow, rerouting  traffic and keeping city officials on hand for pyrotechnics.

Magnus Rex — the working title for “The Dark Knight Rises” — is scheduled to  film in Pittsburgh from the end of this week through late August, said Dawn  Keezer, director of the Pittsburgh Film Office. And the mayor’s office  anticipates the movie’s economic impact will be significant, “in the millions”  of dollars.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Pittsburgh in terms of jobs and  exposure,” said Joanna Doven, spokeswoman for Pittsburgh Mayor Luke  Ravenstahl.

A July 1 letter from a production company working with Warner Brothers says  bus stops will be relocated, about a dozen roads will have sections closed at  various times and traffic control will occur when filming takes place Downtown  from Aug. 10 to Aug. 20.

Though filming Downtown is scheduled to occur only on Wednesdays through  Sundays during the day, the Batman crew could keep hours as late as the Caped  Crusader himself with activities occurring as early as 3 a.m. and as late as  midnight, according to the Subconscious Productions letter. Also, Carlyle  Condominiums residents on Fourth Avenue will be relocated Aug. 17 and 18 during  filming, according to the letter.

This movie is the most high-profile film to come to Pittsburgh to date,  Keezer said. “The whole difference is people know what this film is because it’s  a part of a series,” she said.

The end of filmmaker Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, which is has a  scheduled July 20, 2012, release date, will feature Oscar winner Christian Bale  as Batman/Bruce Wayne, Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle (that’s Catwoman for D.C.  Comic readers) and Tom Hardy as Bane, the brainy, strong D.C. villain who broke  Batman’s back in one comic tale.

Oscar winners Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman will return to the main cast  as Alfred and Lucius Fox, respectively.

Bringing in dollars

“The Dark Knight Rises” is shooting in locations worldwide, including sites  in India, England and Scotland in addition to the American cities of Pittsburgh,  New York and Los Angeles, and filmmakers plan to do more IMAX camera work than  was done on “The Dark Knight.”

The BBC reported June 30 that stuntmen dressed in black making parachute  jumps at a Scotland Highlands airstrip and a film crew there were working in  connection with the film.

For this movie, filmmakers won’t get a break on their budget from  Pennsylvania’s Film Tax Credit Incentive because it requires 60 percent of a  film’s total production budget to be spent in the Commonwealth to qualify,  Keezer said.

Information about the budget for the film is unavailable, but  estimates that “The Dark Knight” had a budget of $185 million and made more than  $1 billion worldwide, according to the Associated Press.

Filmmakers will spend dough on hotels, food and other supplies, and Keezer  said all that money will boost the city’s economy. One known expense — Pittsburgh police work — will cost roughly $89,000 for officers to staff  barricades and road closures, control traffic and do some escorts, said Christie  Gasiorowski, a Pittsburgh police officer in special events.

The Pittsburgh Film Office has helped more than 100 films and TV productions  in the Pittsburgh region since 1990 to generate more than $575 million for the  area, according to the office’s website.

Connecting with Pittsburgh

The perfect backdrop for Gotham City because of its historic architecture,  Pittsburgh could be viewed even more friendly to films if shooting goes well  here, said Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership President and CEO Jeremy Waldrup.  Recent films such as, “I Am Number Four,” “Unstoppable” “Love and Other Drugs”  and others were at least partially filmed in the region.

The inconvenience of having Batman shut parts of Downtown is outweighed by  the “wow factor” of having such a major project in the city, blasting special  effects and making it snow on Oliver Avenue and Smithfield Street in August,  Waldrup said.

“That’s all stuff that you don’t see every day,” he said. “I’m sure folks  will try and catch a glimpse.”

But Pittsburghers trying to sneak a peek at Nolan’s latest film project may  have to wait for it to hit the silver screen.

“The set is closed,” Keezer said. “It’s not open to the public at all.”

Filmmakers have been working with the Pittsburgh Film Office for the past six  months on the movie, preparing for a couple hundred crew members typical of a  feature film and more than 10,000 extras to get to work, Keezer said.

More than 8,000 people stood in line at two open casting calls for paid  Batman extras Downtown last month, but a Los Angeles casting director said they  were looking for only 3,000 extras.

Shooting elsewhere

In addition to all the filming action Downtown, Batman also will be in action  at the Steelers’ Heinz Field in early August and at Carnegie Mellon University’s  Software Engineering Institute in late July and the university’s Mellon  Institute in late July and early August.

Pittsburghers still hoping for an early look at the film can sign up at to be an unpaid extra from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 6,  at Heinz Field. Extras ages 14 and up can try their chances at door prizes such  as a large flat-screen TV, vintage comics and more while they cheer on the  Gotham Rogues in a football game against the Rapid City Monuments. Those under  18 must be accompanied by an adult., the film’s publicist,  a Steelers spokesman and others did not provide further details about the  film.

“I’m afraid that I can’t answer any questions at this time regarding the  filming in Pittsburgh,” wrote Claudia Kalindjian, the film’s publicist, in an  email. “We are operating a strictly closed set on the film and trying to keep  our exposure to a minimum.”

Downtown Pittsburgh street closures

Aug. 9 to Aug. 11:

Oliver Avenue from Wood Street to Grant Street, 8 p.m. Tuesday to 5 a.m.  Thursday

Smithfield Street from Fifth Avenue to Sixth Avenue, 8 p.m. Tuesday to 5 a.m.  Thursday

Aug. 11 to Aug. 13:

Cherry Way from Third Avenue to Fifth Avenue, 6 p.m. Thursday to 6 a.m.  Saturday

Forbes Avenue from Grant Street to Smithfield Street, 6 p.m. Thursday to 6  a.m. Saturday

Fourth Avenue from Grant Street to Smithfield Street, 6 p.m. Thursday to 6  a.m. Saturday

Aug. 12 to Aug. 15:

Smithfield Street from Boulevard of the Allies to Sixth Avenue, 10 p.m.  Friday to 6 a.m. Monday

Third Avenue from Wood Street to Cherry Way, 10 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m.  Monday

Fourth Avenue from Wood Street to Cherry Way, 10 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m.  Monday

Forbes Avenue from Wood Street to Cherry Way, 10 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m.  Monday

Fifth Avenue from Wood Street to William Penn Place, 10 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m.  Monday

Oliver Avenue from Wood Street to William Penn Place, 10 p.m. Friday to 6  a.m. Monday

Aug. 16 to Aug. 19:

Smithfield Street from Boulevard of the Allies to Forbes Avenue, 10 p.m.  Tuesday to 5 a.m. Friday

Third Avenue from Cherry Way to Market Street, 10 p.m. Tuesday to 5 a.m.  Friday

Fourth Avenue from Cherry Way to Market Street, 10 p.m. Tuesday to 5 a.m.  Friday

Wood Street from Boulevard of the Allies to Forbes Avenue, 10 p.m. Tuesday to  5 a.m. Friday

Aug. 19 to Aug. 21:

Strawberry Way from Coffee Way to Smithfield Street, 7 a.m. Friday to 10 p.m.  Sunday

Strawberry Way from Smithfield Street to Grant Street, 11 p.m. Friday to 7  a.m. Sunday

William Penn Place from Sixth Avenue to Liberty Avenue, 11 p.m. Friday to 7  a.m. Sunday

Seventh Avenue from Grant Street to Liberty Avenue, 11 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m.  Sunday

Smithfield Street from Sixth Avenue to Liberty Avenue, 11 p.m. Friday to 7  a.m. Sunday

Montour Way from Sixth Avenue to Seventh Avenue, 11 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m.  Sunday

Source: Subconscious Productions, Inc.

Street Closings near Carnegie Mellon University

July 25 to Aug. 5:

Dithridge from Fifth Avenue to Winthrop Street, 5 a.m. Monday to 10 p.m.  Friday

July 28 to Aug. 5:

Bigelow Boulevard from Fifth Avenue to Forbes Avenue, 8 p.m. Thursday to 10  p.m. Friday

July 29 to July 31:

Utica Way from Henry Street to Winthrop Street, 7 a.m. Friday to 10 p.m.  Sunday

July 29 to Aug. 1:

Henry Street from Utica Way to Craig Street, 5 a.m. Friday to 5 a.m.  Monday

July 30 to Aug. 1

Fifth Avenue from Bellefield Street to Craig Street, 5 a.m. Saturday to 5  a.m. Monday

July 30 to July 31:

Dithridge Street from Bayard Street to Fifth Avenue (except for local  access), 5 a.m. Saturday to 10 p.m. Sunday

Read more: ‘Dark Knight’ to touch down in Pittsburgh this week – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Pittsburgh’s Urban Vitality Nets Honors

Pittsburgh’s urban ‘vitality’ nets honors

Saturday, July 23, 2011
<!—->Pittsburgh is a happening place culturally and economically.

It can be heard in the bustle of a busy sidewalk sale or the murmur of an art  gallery; seen in the construction of a skyscraper or the opening of a  neighborhood cafe; felt in a ride on a riverside bike path or in a crowded  stadium.

Pittsburgh’s buzz and amenities have helped it score yet another high ranking  among organizations and publications that parse data.

The Steel City is ranked 11th of 35 communities on New York-based Creative  Cities International’s “Vitality Index,” issued this week. The urban planning  and government consulting company built its list by crunching numbers on  demographics; cultural offerings and recreational amenities, such as parks and  trails; as well as conducting surveys of neighborhood life, attitudes and  atmosphere.

“Pittsburgh is blessed with important institutions and foundations, and they  have been energetic for years,” said Creative Cities Director Linda Lees. “Great  (cultural) institutions are important to every city. They anchor the life of the  city. But there are also things like art walks, small galleries, the way in  which people can interact on a daily basis, that create energy.”

John Osborne moved to Regent Square two years ago from Seattle — which ranks  third on the list, behind Chicago and New York. He said Pittsburgh has compared  favorably to his former home in most ways other than the weather.

“It’s a medium-sized city that has all the offerings of a large city, I  guess, with a lot left over from its Big Steel days,” said Osborne, 55, walking  through Squirrel Hill yesterday as businesses set up for a three-day sidewalk  sale. “We can be Downtown, sitting in our seats at the symphony, in 15 minutes.  You can’t do that in Seattle.”

Margaret Krumm, 28, of East Liberty, also boasts about Pittsburgh.

“I try to convince everybody I know to move here. … There’s cheap rent,  great schools, great restaurants, and I love being able to walk places and bike  places,” she said. “It used to be when you say you’re from Pittsburgh, people  would make a face, but now that it keeps showing up on these lists I see that  changing.”

Pittsburgh was the smallest city on the list in terms of population but was  outranked by Minneapolis and Columbus, Ohio, at Nos. 7 and 8, respectively.  Cross-state rival Philadelphia ranked just behind Pittsburgh at No. 12.

Lees said the 50-50 split between data analysis and local surveys changed the  placement for some of the cities on the list.

Pittsburgh outclassed Columbus and Minneapolis on paper, but survey  respondents gave those cities higher marks. Portland, Ore., has a reputation as  a hip place and came in high on the surveys, but was brought down to No. 25 on  the list because the qualitative data on its offerings were so low, Lees  said.

Some of the 3,000 survey respondents nationwide said Pittsburgh could be even  livelier if there were more joint projects between cultural institutions and the  community, and if there were a more vital “cafe culture” of small businesses,  restaurants and coffee shops offering art, music and conversation, Lees  said.

Joanna Doven, spokeswoman for Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, said the city  already was working on some of those initiatives even before the study was  released.

The Storefront Renovation Program offers grants to small businesses to spruce  up their facades, improve signage and create outdoor seating, she said, and  about $240,000 has been allocated so far. The mayor will seek more funding from  City Council soon, Doven said.

Having another high national ranking bolsters boosters trying to entice new  residents, businesses and investment here, said Mitch Swain, CEO of Greater  Pittsburgh Arts Council.

In recent years, Pittsburgh has been ranked highly for being among the best  places to raise a family, the best sports city and having courteous  motorists.

“Not to sound cocky, but I’m not surprised we did well,” Swain said of the  recent survey. “It’s a really telling fact that next to parks and recreation,  our residents are most proud of their arts. I think that’s a key reason we keep  appearing in these surveys.”

Read more: Pittsburgh’s urban ‘vitality’ nets honors – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review