West End’s qkArchitecture has won the design competition that the Mount Washington Community Development Corp. created in the spring to garner wildly creative ideas to jump-start investment along a blighted stretch of Bailey and Boggs avenues.
Seven designers and architects submitted ideas for 4 acres now occupied by seven vacant storefronts and two vacant lots on Boggs just before it becomes Bailey. The acreage includes sloping hillsides behind them.
Even though the location is a few minutes’ walk from Grandview Park and 10 minutes by foot to the Mon Incline, the market has not come to the rescue.
It has great visibility but challenging terrain.
Quintin Kittle, a principal at qkArchitecture, proposed “The Bend at Boggs + Bailey,” a multi-use development attached to a bikeway and a skyway trolley that lowers to pick people up.
“The skyway trolley cars are suspended from steel moment frames that line the street,” he wrote in his proposal. “A range of residential development is proposed for the site. Accessible affordable housing will be plentiful, along with market-rate condos — all with private balconies and shared rooftop green space.
“With breathtaking views of downtown Pittsburgh and high-end amenities, there is also a strong opportunity for luxury condos at the upper corner of The Bend. Amenities like a gym, healthy restaurants and a bikeway will attract a younger demographic to the site, while affordable housing and an on-site grocery store will help serve the existing senior population.”
Don’t get your hopes or your back up over this. This contest was meant to inspire real investment. The architecture firm got the $2,000 contest prize for being that inspiration.
The money was put up by Northwood Realty and the Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience.
Neil Grbach and Laura Guralnick of the CDC said they wanted out-of-the box fantastic when they told me about the call for applicants in early May.
They chose Mr. Kittle’s idea “because it was exactly what we asked for — a unique and out-of-the-box design,” they wrote in their decision. “This entry is a thought-provoking example of the site’s potential to yield an inclusive, mixed-use, transit-oriented development that caters to healthy urban lifestyles. The Bend is a glimpse into the future, and sets the bar high on the potential of our Boggs/Bailey corridor.”
Mr. Kittle pulled all six of his office colleagues to work on this.
“We knew full well this was an exercise to get people interested” in the site, he said. “But we’d love to see a transit hub idea.” The skyway trolley is “a little James Bond-esque, but we needed to get people from the incline and Grandview Avenue to and from that property.”
It’s now a difficult up-and-down slog.
“We went after this project because we’re in the West End Village and have a neighborly vested interest in seeing both neighborhoods grow,” Mr. Kittle said. “When you have no restrictions, it is quite the architect’s dream.”
The Boggs-Bailey corridor is an important piece of the Mount Washington CDC’s housing and real estate plan, and the five property owners of the 4 acres are amenable to their properties being packaged together, said Greg Panza, a real estate agent with Northwood Realty and a former Main Street manager for Mount Washington.
The contest was “an idea generation exercise to see what surfaces and to get people talking about the opportunities,” he said.
We will have to wait to see if anyone with serious redevelopment money is sufficiently inspired to take the relay, but one idea is already being bandied about as promising — Ryan Mustio’s honorable mention, a winery and vineyard.
It could be done with much less investment than the other ideas and “it could be a destination,” Mr. Panza said.
Indeed, it would be Pittsburgh’s first winery with its own vineyard.
“If it were a winery, people could sit on a patio, listen to an acoustic guitar, take a tour, walk through the grapevines. There could be a banquet hall for weddings, maybe cottages” for tourists, Mr. Panza said.
Multi-modal mixed-use may be all the rage, but I’m already smelling the grapes and taking guests to Boggs and Bailey in my mind.
“Who doesn’t love a vineyard and winery?” Mr. Panza said. “We’re already in discussion with a local developer and a well-known restaurateur about how this idea could be fleshed out.”
Diana Nelson Jones: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1626.