There’s a profusion of commercial, retail and residential development underway in downtown Pittsburgh, so don’t feel bad if you need to do a double-take when walking by a ”coming soon” or recently opened restaurant, retail storefront or condo/apartment complex.
Yet, as I strolled through downtown’s Cultural District recently, I did a lot more than your standard, quick double-take. It was more of a stop-dead-in-my-tracks take.
So, what blew me away?
At 210 Sixth Ave., there’s a store named Fraley’s Robot Repair. If this name alone doesn’t pique your interest, then what you’ll see in the large display window probably will: a robust collection of robots in varying states of…umm…repair? (Or is that disrepair?)
How did a full-service, “robot repair shop” literally pop-up overnight in one of the most heavily trafficked districts in downtown Pittsburgh? Someone was probably trying to have a little fun by making curious pedestrians stop to gawk at these sorry-looking androids. Unless Pittsburgh had magically morphed into some sort of science fiction futuristic world, this “robot repair shop” was more likely a “robot ruse.” Right?
Well, sort of. The truth, as I discovered, is that robots are not actually being meticulously restored to mint condition in the heart of downtown. But this is no stale hoax either.
Part of Project Pop-Up: Pittsburgh, “Fraley’s Robot Repair,” is in reality a public art installation created by Toby Atticus Fraley, an artist from Washington, Pa. The installation, which was launched publicly during November’s 51st Annual Light Up Night, gives downtown passers-by a chance to glimpse into a future wherein robot ownership – and the bothersome repairs that accompany it – may be quite commonplace.
Project Pop-Up: Pittsburgh is a program initiated by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl in partnership with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), Department of City Planning and Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP). The project aims to inject new life into abandoned downtown Pittsburgh storefronts, playing off of the many other positive downtown developments already underway. More than 90 entrepreneurs from throughout the nation submitted grant proposals in hopes of making their “pop-up” dreams a reality in Pittsburgh. These applicants were whittled down to 12 recipients – seven of which launched their projects in November.
Learn more about Project Pop-Up: Pittsburgh and the other six “pop-ups” by clicking here. And be sure to head into town for First Night on December 31 for the official launch of the program, during which the remaining five pop-up projects will be unveiled.
But, if you’re curious and don’t want to wait for First Night, “robot repair” is open for business right now. Before you bring your own Rosie all the way into town for a tune-up, you might want to call ahead and schedule an appointment. It is, after all, the busy holiday season.