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For several reasons, Megan Stearman and her husband moved to Brookline seven years ago when they were expecting their first child. “It has a walkable business district,” says Stearman, “with great parks and playgrounds and it was affordable for a young family.”

They’re still there today, now with two young children, for those reasons and more. “We’ve since stayed in Brookline because we’ve got great neighbors – some who have lived here their whole lives, and some newbies like us.

“There is a rich diversity of people here and we love that our kids are able to interact with and learn from kids of different backgrounds, languages, and cultures,” says Stearman. “Plus who doesn’t love to be able to walk a few blocks for a Saturday brunch of donuts and tacos?”

Jocelyne and Joe Chahine might agree but they represent another segment of the Brookline population. Some say they have been on a 41-year-long honeymoon in Pittsburgh.

The Lebanese natives honeymooned in Pittsburgh after their wedding in 1974 when a civil war broke out in their home country. The couple sought asylum in Brookline, working with relatives at Pitaland and in the 80s they bought the store, moving it to its current location on Brookline Boulevard.

“We were always in Brookline,” says Donna Tweardy, their daughter and now office manager of Pitaland. Similar to many stores in Brookline, Pitaland is family-run, with siblings working alongside their parents.

It’s that kind of community: family-oriented, tight-knit and traditional and as authentic as they come. But now there’s an infusion of new businesses and energy and especially, young people like the Stearman family as well as singles moving in. The affordable houses in this walkable neighborhood in the South Hills—with its rumbly bricked streets and an enviable location close to downtown Pittsburgh—have attracted the young and young families, giving Brookline one of—if not the—largest population of under 18 in the city, according to some in the neighborhood.

Las Palmas attracts customers from all over Pittsburgh. Photo by Tracy Certo

Las Palmas attracts customers from all over Pittsburgh. Photo by Tracy Certo

It’s also a community that is becoming increasingly diverse. “Diversity is part of the richness of the Brookline community. There’s an openness to diversity, and the contribution that comes from diversity. You can see it as you go down Brookline Boulevard,” says Sister Janice Vanderneck of Casa San Jose, a community resource center for Latino immigrants.

For years, Sister Janice was searching for a location for her outreach program until St. Mark’s Lutheran Church on Brookline Boulevard offered its basement. Since then, Casa San Jose has had success partnering with local businesses such as Las Palmas, the hot destination Mexican grocery on Brookline Blvd. with the ever popular taco stand, and Cannon Coffee, a charming and welcoming spot which doubles as a community hub.

“We found a very welcoming place in Brookline,” says Sister Janice who is quick to offer that they welcome volunteers and they are always seeking bilingual Pittsburghers to help with weekly outreach programs.

At Cannon Coffee on Brookline Blvd. Photo by Tracy Certo

At Cannon Coffee on Brookline Blvd. Photo by Tracy Certo

The New Brookline
“In the last five years, I’ve seen such a change, so much more of a nicer, community-based place. A lot more people are taking pride in the community. A lot more businesses are opening up and staying,” says Tweardy.

The major change has been the recent and extensive $5.3 million renovation of the long and broad Brookline Boulevard, giving the main street much-needed repairs, including extended sidewalks to accommodate more pedestrian traffic, modern lighting and landscaping, benches, bike racks and more.

It’s a main street many communities would die for.

While it has greatly enhanced the street, businesses suffered some losses while the boulevard was under construction.

During the renovations, business owners and community members alike worked together to keep the local businesses up and running, says Nathan Mallory, owner of Cannon Coffee and president of the Brookline Chamber of Commerce. Stores applied together for grants and instituted successful “shop local” campaigns during the 18-month period when store access was limited or nonexistent. “People came out of the woodwork for support during the construction,” he says.

Since the Boulevard reopened last summer, not only has there been an increase in pedestrian traffic but there has also been an increase in new businesses opening, says Mallory.

With 86 businesses on the Boulevard, which includes everything from Mateo’s, a small BYOB restaurant, to a modern and a beautiful new Carnegie Library, “We’re not trying to be the next Lawrenceville or Regent Square,” he says. “We’re emerging to be something uniquely our own.”

To get a feel for the place, Mallory suggests walking the Boulevard. The best strategy? Park at the top of Brookline Boulevard and walk down to the parklet that houses the iconic cannon so you can closely observe the street life and cluster of shops, houses and amenities. Note the welcome from business owners if you stop by.

Owner Nathan Mallory at Cannon Coffee.

Owner Nathan Mallory at Cannon Coffee.

“We’re very close knit,” explains manager of Wyld Chyld Tattoo, Rebekah Miller. “Brookline is different in that the business owners really look out for each other and others who live in our community. We also hold meetings from time to time and plan community events.”

In addition, “It has two private parks and its own community center,” says Tweardy. And Brookline regularly hosts holiday parades and festivals, uniting community members of all ages.

At Mallory’s Cannon Coffee on the Boulevard, it’s not just about a dose of caffeine. The shop is an excellent location to meet locals and become more involved in the community. “Cannon [Coffee] feels a little like home. It’s a springboard to stay engaged and connect with the community,” says Mallory.

The shop features Open Mic Nights, American Sign Language Socials and even vocational rehabilitation training. When Mallory recently applied for a Kiva business loan to expand the kitchen area, it became the fastest funded project to date.

mateo's

BYOB Mateo’s is a small but popular dinner spot. Tracy Certo photo

“There are a lot of great businesses here,” Mallory says. “Pitaland has great baklava, Antonio’s has awesome pizza, and if you’re in the mood for something sweet, check out the Party Cake Shop. If you need a caffeine fix check out Cannon Coffee, and if you want to unwind with a beer, the Brookline Pub is your go-to place.”

The new, modern Carnegie Library provides a nice contrast on the Boulevard. Tracy Certo photo

The new, modern Carnegie Library provides a nice contrast on the Boulevard. Tracy Certo photo

The renovated Pitaland has a new café in the store, where shoppers can taste some of the pita freshly baked on site, along with a vast array of imported spices and traditional specialties such as hummus and baba ghannuj. Like Las Palmas, it’s a destination store that attracts customers from all over Pittsburgh.

Day trippers looking for a more structured visit can sign up for the ‘Burgh’s Bits & Bites Tour. The aptly named “Brookline: Pittsburgh’s Undiscovered Gem” was recently added to the company’s portfolio of tours, and it gives visitors a comprehensive taste of the neighborhood.

On Brookline Blvd. Photo by Tracy Certo

On Brookline Blvd. Photo by Tracy Certo

People from around the city and state are exploring Brookline for the first time on these trips, says Mallory, and he’s glad they’re visiting. “We want everyone to know what we have. We’ve worked hard, and we have something to brag about.”

See more about Brookline in this video by the Sprout Fund published earlier this week by NEXTpittsburgh.

NEXTpittsburgh staff contributed to this article.

 

On April 15, the final of eight pitch competitions across the nation came to Pittsburgh’s Tech Shop in Bakery Square, the last step before the final face off  for a national prize of $50,000 in startup capital and other prizes.

The contest is the brainchild of AlphaLab Gear, a leading product accelerator based in Pittsburgh, and TechShop, the nation’s premier ‘maker’ facility providing tools and knowhow for do-it-yourselfers. The AlphaLab Gear National Hardware Cup aims to find the top ideas in hardware (that is, tangible products, as opposed to software or services) in each of the eight cities where TechShop has a location. Winners from competitions earlier this year in Detroit, Washington D.C., Austin, Phoenix, San Francisco, Redwood City and San Jose will compete Wednesday, May 6 in the grand finale at AlphaLab Gear’s offices in East Liberty.

“There are so many great ideas for products that entrepreneurs dream up from their work experience as a designer or engineer, a university project that a team of students is trying to solve, or just an imaginative leap from an individual,” said Ilana Diamond, managing director of AlphaLab Gear. “We want to tap into all these brilliant ideas and give entrepreneurs a way to fund and commercialize their vision.”

The final regional contest here in Pittsburgh kicks off with a panel of local venture capitalists, investors and entrepreneurs sharing thoughts on hardware startups. Panelists include Alex Frommeyer of Beam, Dawn Rucker of L3, Don Morrison of Blue Tree Allied Angels, Josh McElhattan of Startbot, Ryan Zafris of Adam’s Capital and Zach Malone of Draper Triangle. Then six teams will give a four-minute pitch to panel of judges. The winning team will receive $1,000 cash, a single year-long TechShop membership, Fusion 360 software and support from AutoDesk.

That team will compete against winners from the seven other cities at the grande finale on Wednesday, May 6 at AlphaLab Gear. Both competitions are open to the public, but seating is limited. Register for the April 15 event at TechShop here, and for the May 6 event at AlphaLab Gear here.

More information is available at AlphaLabGear.org/HardwareCup/

it rotator
Click the image to check out our info graphic about the tech opportunities in the Pittsburgh region.

Did you know there are nearly 10,000 IT-related jobs OPEN NOW in the 10-county region? They cut across entertainment, energy, advanced manufacturing, healthcare/life sciences and financial services.

Google, Disney, Intel, Apple and Yahoo are among the companies that have chosen to locate in the Pittsburgh thanks to the top-rate talent emerging from Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh and 34 other area colleges and universities. And such Fortune 500 companies as BNY Mellon, PNC Bank, PPG Industries, H.J. Heinz, U.S. Steel and CONSOL Energy are always in the market for the best IT talent.

Learn more about the Pittsburgh region’s IT sector        ~       Search for jobs by keyword or company

Affordable Living Among Smart, Friendly Natives and Newcomers
In Pittsburgh, you can have both a decent place to live and a decent social life. You won’t have to sacrifice fun in order to pay the rent on a remote apartment, or stack up with roommates to live in the heart of the city.

Housing costs are generally half of what you’d find in Boston, more than 60 percent less than in Washington D.C. or Silicon Valley and 80 percent lower than New York. The Economist, Forbes, NerdWallet and others regularly include Pittsburgh among the nation’s most-livable cities. Pittsburgh has an innovative restaurant scene, abundant recreational options amid lush topography in four seasons and a robust cultural life from the classical to the cutting edge.

We have the country’s second-largest population of college-educated young people after Boston. Artists and creative people are increasingly moving from larger cities because here they can afford to both launch their dream career and buy or rent a house in hip neighborhoods like Lawrenceville, East Liberty, Downtown and the South Side.

Rich Ecosystem for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Pittsburgh is also the location of choice for dynamic startups and established firms in entertainment and internet technologies, big data, robotics and more. It is home to such companies as Schell Games, DeepLocal, The Resumator, 4Moms, ShowClix, ANSYS, Duolingo, Digital Dream Labs, Ness Technologies, Smith Micro, Netronome and Astrobotic – which is on track to be the first private company to land on the moon.

Why Pittsburgh? Because the region has a robust startup support network. AlphaLab and AlphaLab Gear, Tech Shop, the Pittsburgh Technology Council, the Pittsburgh Life Science Greenhouse and Idea Foundry are among the organizations that help innovators turn ideas into enterprise.

Pittsburgh also helps entrepreneurs find startup capital through such nationally recognized groups like Innovation Works.

 

Click HERE to check out our infographic about the tech opportunities in the Pittsburgh region. Pass it on to friends itching to get back to the ‘Burgh.

 

Lou Corsaro
Point Park University students  Jaz McKibben, left, Jordan Durham and Blaise Kepple will travel to South Africa later this year to film a documentary about the process of shark finning and how it is endangering the species. Photo Credit: Victoria A. Mikula/The Globe
Point Park University students (from left) Jaz McKibben, Jordan Durham and Blaise Kepple will take their cameras to South Africa later this year.
Photo: Victoria A. Mikula/The Globe

Three Point Park University students are traveling to South Africa later this year to film a documentary about shark finning, a controversial practice that has caused some species of the animal to reach the brink of extinction.

Cinema production sophomores Jordan Durham and Jaz McKibben and global studies freshman Blaise Kepple are trying to raising $10,000 to pay for their travel and camera gear. They have created a Kickstarter page titled “Rock Bottom: The Truth Behind Shark Finning.” The campaign closes Feb. 9.

The students will travel to Cape Town via GoEco, an organization created by experienced volunteers for people who want to travel while contributing to the community, wildlife and environment they experience on the trip. All three Point Park students will do volunteer work with great white sharks during their two- to four-week trip, which could take place as soon as May. They will assist scientists with shark tagging, beach cleanup and ecotourism, while recording the process in an effort to reduce the stigma sharks face, great whites in particular.

“The lack of care for these animals has made the species decline in numbers,” said Durham, who will act as producer and co-director. “In reality, sharks only kill about four people a year and, out of 500 species of sharks, only 12 are dangerous to humans.”

More than 70 million sharks are killed for their fins each year. Fishermen bring the shark onto the boat, cut off all its fins while still alive, then kick it back into the water, where it eventually drowns.

Durham will be the producer and co-director of the documentary, while McKibben will act as co-director and editor. Kebble will be the production manager. Learn more about Point Park University here. and read more about the student’s project at The Globe, the university’s student-run newspaper.

NEXTpittsburgh

Powered by Laurie Bailey for NEXTPittsburgh.

Pittsburgh innovation studio Deeplocal created a new twist to the balloons and birthdays theme. Call it an inflated sense of selfie.

Combining the pop culture selfie craze and a birthday party staple, the Selfiebration Machine was designed and constructed by Deeplocal for Old Navy to honor the retailer’s 20th birthday. In October it made stops in New York City’s Times Square and near Los Angeles’ TCL Chinese Theater for eight hours at each location.

Selfies, sent by well-wishers via Twitter and captured by Deeplocal-designed software, were transformed into digitized photos made up of nearly 1,000 customized latex balloons on a 15-by-15-foot structure.

The balloons, divided among 16 identical “balloon boxes,” inflated simultaneously with each capture, thanks to almost five miles of wiring and a pneumatic valving system built by Deeplocal engineers, explains CEO Nathan Martin.

The device is capable of showing two images a minute.

“Fun is intrinsic to Old Navy’s DNA, and the smiles from the wonder and amazement were so rewarding. That said, the reaction in social really blew us away,” says Taylor Bux, director of digital/social for Old Navy.

Displaying about 2,000 images, last week’s participation far exceeded Deeplocal’s goals, says Martin.

“We generated 640 million impressions on Twitter alone; #selfiebration was used over 17 thousand times,” says Bux.

Concept through creation to going live took just eight weeks.

A mix of about 20 artists and engineers, Deeplocal began in 2006 when Martin, then a research fellow at Carnegie Mellon University, led mapping software research work. Since then Deeplocal has crafted concepts and the technology to produce national campaigns for the likes of Nike, Gap, Toyota and others.

“We come up with the ideas to generate news coverage and attention without the client paying for it to help promote the brand for the company,” says Martin.

And most projects, he says, are typically done for less than the cost of a television commercial.

A 2013 campaign for Google grabbed the attention of the Today Show, ESPN and more when the company designed a telepathic robotic pitcher with a vision system. The project allowed Nick LaGrande, a 13-year-old whose rare blood disease prevented him from being in crowds, to virtually pitch a ball through Google’s Fiber network from a studio in Kansas City to an Oakland A’s home game in California.

NEXTpittsburgh

UPDATE: Parking will be FREE OF CHARGE in Pittsburgh Parking Authority lots on Friday, Nov. 28, Saturday, Nov. 29 and all Saturdays through Christmas to encourage shopping at downtown merchants. Learn more here.

Powered by Jennifer Baron for NEXTPittsburgh.

Get switched on to the holidays at Pittsburgh’s 54th Annual Light Up Night.

Presented by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP) on Fri., Nov. 21st, the highly anticipated kick-off to the 2014 holiday season will feature a vibrant mix of time honored traditions along with brand new components and expanded programming spanning the Golden Triangle.

Discover the more festive side of Downtown Pittsburgh, from dusk to dark, with an entire evening of activities and events for all ages designed to showcase the city’s world-class holiday attractions and shopping. One of the country’s largest holiday celebrations, Light Up Night also ushers in full month of Downtown programming presented by the PDP.

The Christmas tree and skating rink in PPG Plaza.
The Christmas tree and skating rink in PPG Plaza.

Highlights include new components, additional family activities and an expanded lineup of entertainment spanning the event’s four Downtown stages.

Party on the Roberto Clemente Bridge, where the BNY Mellon New Music Stage will welcome national headliner, Cobra Starship, a dance-pop band based in New York City. Rocking over the Allegheny with some of Pittsburgh’s top emerging bands, the Clemente Bridge will also feature performances by Grand Piano and Donora, and an array of tasty treats. The picturesque locale also boasts prime viewing for Zambelli Internationale’s dazzling fireworks finale by, being launched from the adjacent Andy Warhol Bridge.

Looking for a good party spot? Over at the Northwest Savings Bank Stage at Smithfield Street, the crowds will rock out with headliner and local legends Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers who will be joined by special guest sax player and E Street Band member Eddie Manion, for a sneak peek at their upcoming Asbury Park concerts. Also rocking the Northwest Savings Bank Stage will be soul singer Billy Price and country rockers NOMaD. All that rock making you hungry? An added attraction to the Smithfield Street festivities will be the event’s Food Truck Roundup offering an eclectic selection of local eats.

Head to the Holiday Market Stage in Market Square, where the traditions of the season will really come to life. Count down with a guy in a red suit named Santa as he flips that giant switch, illuminating the dazzling BNY Mellon Season of Lights. Featuring more than140,000 lights and a 33-foot tall sphere tree, the choreographed, glittering wonderland will be synchronized to a new high-energy holiday medley and mini-concerts by Jeff Jimerson and Airborne.

Jazz fans should not miss the special homecoming of renowned trumpeter Sean Jones at the EQT Jazzmasters Stage in Katz Plaza. Newly appointed as Chair of the Brass Department at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, Jones will be joined by legendary drummer Roger Humphries and vocalists Michele Bensen, Spanky Wilson and Anqwenique Wingfield.

It’s not a holiday without some shopping, and there’s no better place to find those stocking stuffers and special gifts than at the Peoples Gas Holiday Market in Market Square. New for 2014, the charming European-style holiday market will swing open its doors on Light Up Night featuring 30-plus vendors selling international and handcrafted gifts. While in Market Square, visit Santa’s downtown digs and enjoy live entertainment by local bands and performing arts groups.

If tree lighting is your favorite ritual, you’re in the right place. A full lineup of eight official tree lightings and ceremonies begins at noon, with the lighting of the tree at the City-County Building and the dedication of the US Steel Tower crèche, and then concludes at 7 p.m. with the lighting of Highmark Unity Tree followed by rooftop fireworks.

christmas market
Beeswax and honey items for sale at the Holiday Market.

Looking for indoor family-friendly programs? Visit One Oxford Centre for free indoor activities for children, including face painting, balloon art, sand art and caricatures, an exhibition of historic photos celebrating Pittsburgh during the winter season and live holiday music by The Rick Gallagher Trio. Visit with Santa Claus, see the lighting of a 30-foot tree and even take a free horse drawn carriage rides around the block!

For a VIP party experience, check out Light Up Night’s Blast, a special reception hosted by the PDP. VIPers will start at the Union Trust Building with hors d’oeuvres, cocktails and music from 7 to 9 p.m., and will then watch the fireworks from an exclusive viewing area on the Clemente Bridge at 9:38 p.m. Limited tickets are available. (NEXTpittsburgh is a proud media sponsor.)

Be sure to pop into Downtown’s signature buildings and businesses, including Macy’s, Fifth Avenue Place and PPG Place, which will all host Light Up Night merry making, music and family activities.

Leigh White, with the PDP says that between 200,000 and 400,000 revelers are expected to attend this year’s edition of Light Up Night.