Bonnie Pfister

BlogFeatureAStanzioneAlex Stanzione is a buoyant force of nature, with energy to burn for mountain biking, golfing, riding his Harley or questing for the region’s best fish sandwich.

But what really fires him up is helping others, part and parcel of his job as director of community engagement and resource mobilization at the United Way of Butler County.

Stanzione, a University of Delaware alum (go Blue Hens!) who now lives in Highland Park, is also active on the board of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Pittsburgh. You can check out his profile and those of all the Neighbors at, a virtual concierge that highlights live, work and play options in the 10-county region. Find a job or advance your career by checking out our job aggregator, sign up for updates about the region through our social media channels or RSS feed and take the “Find Yourself in Pittsburgh!” quiz to be matched up with Neighbors who may share your interests and have tips on cool things to get involved with in the region.

Phil Cynar

Just 10 years ago, it would have been wishful thinking that downtown would be one of Pittsburgh’s hottest neighborhoods. But thanks to $7+ billion of public and private investment in Pittsburgh’s urban core and parks and trails along its rivers, wishes have come true.

Today, downtown has a life after 5 p.m. with a population of approaching 8,000 residents who fill some 4,265 housing units, creating a 95.9% apartment occupancy rate, according the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s 2013 State of Downtown Report. A spectrum of living options are available – many in cool, converted spaces with a real bit of Pittsburgh history to them. This is in addition to central Market Square with its cafes and coffee houses which flank a European-feeling piazza. And just a few short blocks away is a humming Cultural District with more restaurants, theaters and performing venues and nightlife – all part of downtown’s appeal as a bona fide neighborhood. Further cementing this will be the arrival of downtown grocery store in 2014.

One of the places that Pittsburgh’s downtown neighbors are calling home is Millcraft Investment’s River Vue offering “luxury living … amazing views … at the Point.” Neighbors, Featured Employers and several downtown dwellers who call River Vue home gathered for a Nov. 1 happy hour at Stone Neapolitan Pizzeria in the River Vue complex to celebrate downtown as a Pittsburgh neighborhood. Watch our video to get some of the dish on downtown served up that evening, and hear from Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter Bill Vidonic. He was the winner of a sweepstakes tied to the June launch of a re-engineered Vidonic won a month of rent-free living at River Vue, which he wisely chose to take during October – during the Pirates race to the playoffs and the arrival of the Duck. Read his reflections on the experience in the Trib here, as an ImaginePittsburgh guest blogger here and check out a video interview with him and others who are finding downtown Pittsburgh a great place to not just work but live and play below.

Cover photo of snowy rooftops: Image Copyright Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Darrell Sapp 2008


Bonnie Pfister
Cathy Gamble, Pittsburgh Schools crossing guard, is a memorable fixture in Lawrenceville.
Cathy Gamble, Pittsburgh Schools crossing guard, is a memorable fixture in Lawrenceville.

The Pittsburgh region is rich in memorable characters. With so many folks returning home for the Thanksgiving holiday and remembering all over again why they love this place, I thought I’d give video props (see below) to one of my favorites: Cathy Gamble, crossing guard at the corner of 44th and Butler Streets in Lawrenceville.

A few years ago, I happened to be sitting behind the wheel of my car at the interminably long traffic light there, growing increasingly cranky as the seconds hung in the air. I was late (as always) for some appointment (early morning — worse and worse) in Oakland. The chirpy “good mornings” brought my attention from the drizzly horizon to the figure of a woman clad in an ankle-length bright yellow raincoat, flitting from corner to corner, white-gloved hands locomoting to some joyous, transportation-driven rhythm that was lost on me.

“What’s she got to be so damned happy about?” I thought. The red light beamed on, and my irritation gave way to wonderment: this lady is over the top. An unknown name is no barrier to a cheery greeting: “Hi, Honey-on-the-Bike!” ” ‘Morning, Honey-with-the-Dog!”  Kisses blown to the grizzled occupants of a racketing Department of Public Works pickup truck.

Cathy’s good cheer breaks down defenses and is contagious. In falling under her spell, I’m hardly alone; parents go out of their way to bring their kids to Cathy’s corner. We caught up with her a few weeks ago to find out why she’s so chipper, heedless of wind and weather.

Cathy also tends bar a few nights a week at Nied’s Hotel in Upper Lawrenceville. That place is a whole ‘nother story that we’ll share with you at a later date.


Thinking about moving – or moving back to – Pittsburgh? Find a job among the thousands open now at ImaginePittsburgh’s job search engine, and explore the Live and Play options at

Meet the Brrrzynskis – Lou and Carol and the kids, Betty and Todd. They’re not your typical “snow birds.” The Brrrzynskis are heading north this season – to Pittsburgh – to visit family and friends for the holidays. The “balmy” climate of Pittsburgh in December (compared to Antarctica!) and all the positive press that the region’s received has piqued their penguin curiosity. They’re excited to explore all that the ‘Burgh has to offer and are even toying with a relocation. As they say, it all begins with a visit. Who knows, we just might turn the Brrrzynskis into Pittsburghers in the new year.


Ben Kamber
Highmark's Unity Tree (aka the Horne's Tree)
Highmark’s Unity Tree (aka the Horne’s Tree)

It seems like every year Light Up Night – Pittsburgh’s official start of the holiday season – gets bigger and better. In fact, this year’s is so big that festival organizer the Pittsburgh Downtown partnership has created a handy (and stylish) website that captures all of the signature events taking place as downtown Pittsburgh is transformed into a winter wonderland. You can check out to help plan your holiday fun, and check out the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s ParkPGH app to find a parking garage with open spaces, but be advised that these downtown streets will be closed to auto traffic during the Nov. 22 kickoff.

Whether you’re a Light Up Night regular or a newcomer to our region who may be attending for the first time, there’s plenty to keep you occupied if you (wisely) decide to venture into downtown Pittsburgh today. Beginning at noon with the lighting of the tree at the City County Building and dedication of the crèche at the U.S. Steel Tower, the festivities continue at select downtown locations through early evening, culminating with the word-famous Zambelli International fireworks display at 9:38 p.m.

The fireworks spectacular, launched from the Andy Warhol Bridge, is visible from many locations throughout the city. But what better way to take them in than with fellow Pittsburghers at the adjacent Roberto Clemente (Sixth Street) Bridge party, where live musical performances begin at 5 p.m. and continue through the fireworks show. You can also check out the great live music offered at three additional performance venues around downtown, including a stage at the newly restored Mellon Square Park.

And if you’re around on Saturday, Nov. 23, why not get some holiday shopping done at the Peoples Gas Holiday Market in Market Square. The second-annual world European-inspired market offers a one-of-a-kind shopping experience, with vendors set-up in Alpine-style wooden chalets and more than 150,000 lights and a 30-foot electronic sphere tree that are certain to put you in the holiday spirit. And be sure to bring the kids, as complimentary (with a donation to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank) photos with Santa are available in his spectacular Pittsburgh home. Beginning on Saturday, the market is open every day, except for Thanksgiving, up until Dec. 23.

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership estimates that Light Up Night weekend will attract 800,000 people and $21 million in economic impact to downtown Pittsburgh. Be one of them and ring in the holiday season with family and friends from all over the region as part of a fantastic Pittsburgh holiday tradition.

Bonnie Pfister

Thinking about moving – or moving back to – Pittsburgh? Find a job among the thousands open now at ImaginePittsburgh’s job search engine, and explore the Live and Play options at


In David Conrad’s recent op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the actor/Swissvale native/part-time Braddock resident waxed philosophical on the tenacious appeal our region has for many of us who grew up here, left and then were drawn back. (Some call us boomerangers, or as the Rivers of Steel’s Ron Baraff aptly puts it, gumbanders.)

Conrad, whose writings on the region occasionally appear in the P-G, the blog Two Political Junkies and elsewhere, notes how besotted many of us are with this place, even when it drives us crazy. He talks about the feedback he received from readers who talk of the family members who built our concept of home, and of almost hearing their voices rise up from across the city when returning home.

conradI recognize that goosebump-causing sensation he describes. In the early days of my own return to Pittsburgh, I often could all but see the younger selves of my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles walking toward me on Smithfield Street or Fifth Avenue. So compact is our downtown, and so central was it once to any kind of business anyone could conduct, that I have certainly trod the same ground — given the potholes, maybe even the same Belgian blocks. Here’s Fourth Avenue where Aunt Bonnie learned stenography; there’s Grandpap tucking into Dr. Diamond’s on Wood Street to pick up a new set of eyeglasses; there’s the streetcar stop where Dad, barely a teenager, used to sell newspapers (fumbling with his coins in hopes the streetcar would pull away before he could hand commuters their change).

The friendliness of Pittsburghers that Conrad mentions is equally resonant. Folks here have a way of teasing each other – even when they haven’t met before and likely won’t again – that can seem rude or a little crazy if you don’t know jagging around when you hear it. The 70-ish gent with marcelled golden hair who’d shout, “Hey lady! That dog bites me and I’m suing you!” at me and my six-pound pooch in Lawrenceville. The man a block down on Liberty Avenue with whom, on a recent darkening evening, I exchanged a nodding of heads as I broke into a sprint towards him. He wordlessly held open the door of my bus until I could leap aboard. The crossing guard who blows kisses to motorists and calls out, “Good morning, Honey-on-the Bike!”

Social scientists call them “consequential strangers,” the characters who color our everyday lives even though we often don’t know their names. Conrad calls them the homebuilders, the singers of a song to the city.

Long may their voices ring out. Keep your ears open.