Time For More Changes

Later this week,  you'll notice a familiar face back in Market Square. That's when the Square's handsome landmark clock makes a timely return as workers open more space to the public.  In case you're wondering, the clock will be standing in the exact spot as it did in the old Square, just around the place where Forbes and Market streets used to cross paths. Sometimes, it's really true that the more things change the more they stay the same.

It's also a good time to check out some colorful new changes in the Square. We want to thank the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy for hanging all those beautiful baskets of red and white flowers from lamp posts in the Square.  In addition to their many community garden and greenspace projects, WPC preserves our natural landscapes and maintains and operates Frak Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater.  Be sure to keep an eye open for more floral finery in Market Square from WPC in the days ahead.

Okay, maybe you noticed something else. Just about every day, more and more of the yellow caution tape disappears. That means more of the Square is open for everyone to roam around in. Now, our insiders on the construction crews are telling us that by the end of next week, nearly every square inch of the Square will be ready for public use. Let's keep our fingers crossed and our walking shoes ready for that.

Of course, all that open space means that people will want to find their favorite spots in the new Square. In case you're wondering, we'll be busy placing more table and chairs so that just about everyone can find a place that "sits" well with them when they visit the Square.

One thing that won't be changing this week is the Farmers Market and Free Noontime Concerts scheduled for this Thursday. Each week brings more great food, flowers and tunes to the Square.  And this Friday's KidsPlay program features Gold's Gym to help kids "Know Their Own Strength."

So let's synchronize our watches to be there in the Square this week to turn back time for the clock's comeback — and hours of fun for years to come.


Thinking Outside The Square

Okay, everyone can find Market Square on a map of Downtown. After all, it's been Pittsburgh's favorite gathering place for more than 250 years. But we like to think of the Square as a state of mind that crosses streets and sidewalks beyond its boundaries to embrace its neighbors on Fifth and Forbes and Wood Street, too. That's why we're reminding you to discover what's outside the Square during a free Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation tour of the Square and its surroundings this Friday at noon.

Hooking up with the tour is easy. The group meets in the grassy triangle of park in front of the fabulous new Fairmont Hotel. Just look for the guides holding up the yellow PHLF tour signs. Then around noon, you and your fellow intrepid hikers will take off to explore Downtown's past, present and future for the next 60 minutes.

Right off the bat, you'll learn why the beautiful blue and white Buhl Building — that's the one that looks like a really big piece of Wedgwood dinnerware —  on the corner of Market and Fifth has the name "Bash" above its entry. And if you turn your eyes to the skies, you'll see all 23 stories of the shiny new Three PNC Plaza, the home of the Fairmont and the greenest mixed-use building in all of the United States. And that's just the start.

A few steps along Fifth, you'll take in the lovingly restored facades of once neglected buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries that are now bustling with new businesses and living spaces like the stylish MarketSquare Place Lofts.

Now if your appetite needs to be satisfied, you can visit the hot dog vendor across from the Capitol Grille on Wood and Fifth as the group admires the giant living mural growing on the side of the main PNC building. After a short stop on Wood Street to inspect a wonderful terra cotta building and the only remaining wooden front structure Downtown, the trek will move on to the intersection of Wood and Market. There, the guides will direct your attention to one of the city's oldest establishments — Weldin's Stationery Store — and one of the newest, the chic Boutique la Passerelle. While you're on the corner, try to spot one of the skinniest buildings you'll ever see anywhere.

Pardon the construction on Forbes Avenue as workers busily pour concrete for a new road lead to the Square. Once you pass the almost venerable George Aiken's restaurant, you'll make tracks to Pittsburgh's longest-running eatery — the world-famous Original Oyster House. Now, we certainly will understand if you can't resist the temptation to take a step back in time to savor one of the best fish sandwiches around. But we really do recommend that you stick with the tour to the end. If you do, you'll catch a peek of the relocated Mancini's and Prantl's shop on Market, just across the street from the Nettleton Shoe Shop and Heinz Healy's mens clothing store.

You'll end the tour across the street from where you started at the one of Downtown's most-traveled and least-known byways — Graeme Street. Only about 100 feet long, Graeme cuts alongside the Diamond Building on Fifth and Liberty before ending in the Square. It's also the address of one of the most intimate housing spaces Downtown, the Residences at Market at Fifth with only 7 units.

Now for extra credit, pay attention to  your tour guide this Friday. Because we'll be checking back to see who knows why Market Square was once better known as the Diamond.

The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation walking tours of the Market Square area end this Friday. So circle the date now.


Stay Connected With Free Wi-Fi In The Square

We know you’re busy. These days, who isn’t? That’s why we’ve made it easier than ever for you to stay “connected” with our free WiFi service when you’re in the Square for lunch, the Farmers Market and other events.

Maybe you noticed workers installing a new WiFi transmitter in the Square last week. That’s a big improvement because it’s now actually outside instead of in the old G.C. Murphy Building — these days we call it Market Square Place — where it used to be. And real soon, we’ll put up another unit in a strategic place to cover every square inch of the Square with Wi-Fi service.

Best of all, WiFi in the Square is online 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year. All you have to do is log on to www.WiFiPittsburgh.com to register for up to 2 free hours of daily access. And since the Post-Gazette sponsors the service in the Square, you can read the PG online as long as you want without using up your 2 hours of time. That’s really news you can use anytime.

Of course, we’re all about supporting local companies, which is why aspStation of Lawrenceville is managing the system in the Square and other WiFi hot spots around Downtown. Oh, and we bet you didn’t know that each month more than 4,000 people log on to our free WiFi access through their laptops, iPads and other mobile devices in the Square and across Downtown.
Now, with free WiFi access in the Square, you can join the online crowd and  never be more than a few clicks away from catching those “can’t miss” business e-mails, surfing the web or just Tweeting friends on a sunny day. 


One Block At A Time

Okay, the next time you visit Market Square — and we really do hope that's soon — try to guess how many Belgian blocks surround the new terrazzo plaza where the Farmers Market will set up this Thursday from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Just so you know, you won't win a jar of jelly beans if your answer's correct. But you'll sure develop an appreciation for the guys who spent months on their hands and knees placing each of those pieces in place — one block at a time.

Now, if you were in the Square around lunchtime this past Monday, you might have noticed Frank Manno laying the final block just across Market Street from Mixsters. And you couldn't  have helped but see the big smile on his face when the job was done, sort of like he finished a giant jigsaw puzzle that he started last December. Even when the rest of us were snowed under this past February, Frank and Nino Costa and Anthony Merante were clearing away the white stuff so they could get back to work.

So we asked Frank if he knew how many blocks were in the Square and here's what he told us. "I don't know, but it seems like a million to me." Well, the truth is, there are approximately 50,000 blocks in the Square, according to Anthony, owner of Merante Contracting. That's about two blocks for every square foot of space they cover. And every time you step on one of those stones, keep in mind that about 75 percent of the blocks are recycled from the old Square. The rest are reused from other projects.

Here's something else to think about. Frank and his crew eyeballed each and every block to get a perfect fit. And then they made sure that each stone was level and on the Square, so to speak. With the last block down, the Square is a little closer to being finished. And that's a mighty big step.


KidsPlay In The Square

We don’t have to tell you that Market Square is a great place for grownups to have all kinds of fun — from the Farmers Market to free concerts by some of the area’s most exciting performers.

But did you know that every Friday through August 27, we transform the Square into Downtown’s hot spot for a much younger set?

Now that school’s out for most youngsters, KidsPlay in the Square is the perfect way to keep the little ones entertained each Friday morning throughout the summer from 10-11:30 a.m. with stories, crafts, hands-on educational exhibits and special guests.

From McGruff the Crime Dog to Washington Wild Thing baseball team mascot, you never know who is going to show up in the Square. Even adults will have tons of fun — we promise.

First up this Friday is "That Guy With The Birds," John Lege, who entertains with his educational and entertaining parrot programs for all ages. John mixes a little bit of music, magic and hands on interaction to give kids of all ages a close adventure with these awesomely intelligent fine-feathered friends.

And just to make sure everyone has a yummy time, the WISH 99.7 Street Treat Patrol will be passing out free ice cream and snacks.

Here’s what’s happening on KidsPlay In The Square every Friday throughout the summer:

June 11 – That Guy With The Birds
Kids will flock to Birdman John Lege and his amazing parrots. It’s time to fly with
June 18 – Take Me Out To the Ball Game The Washington Wild Things mascot will take over the Square for a day of baseball related stories and activities, including a chance for young baseball players to sign up for the W’ittle Wild Things Kids Club.
June 25 – Fire Safety Day
Join the four-alarm excitement as kids get to meet a real City of Pittsburgh firefighter and hop aboard an actual fire truck.
July 2 – Get Fit
Youngster will discover the importance of lifelong fitness and learn some cool exercises for pre-school and elementary students.
July 9 – Science is Cool Staff members of the Carnegie Library transform the Square into a giant outdoor lab to conduct some exciting science activities and tell a few stories.
July 16 – Check back for details.
July 23 –  That Guy With The Birds, Again!
John Lege is back for an encore presentation of That Guy With The Birds! (include photo attached) Plus, Think Outside the Cage with Animal Friends!
July 30 – Once Upon a Toon!
Join storyteller and quick draw cartoonist Joe Wos, of the ToonSeum, for a special live performance of Once Upon a Toon. It’s a one-of-a-kind blend of storytelling and live cartoon illustration. Kids can also mingle with cartoon character Grimmy, as the ToonSeum celebrates it’s newest exhibition, “The Dog Days of Summer: Cartoon Canines. And kids can test their funny bones during a hands-on comical crafts session. 
August 6 – Music, Music, Music

August 13
– Eat Smart, Eat Healthy
August 20 – Read, Read, Read With Carnegie Library
August 27 – Policemen Are Our Friends Meet McGruff, the Crime Dog, check out the Bomb Squad truck and imagine yourself behind the wheel of the D.A.R.E. car. Gather round as one a City of Pittsburgh police officer reads a great story to kids. And, parents who wish to have their child fingerprinted may do so  to, as long at least one parent is on site to give permission.

KidsPlay in the Square is presented by:


Market Square: Buy The Book!

Well, last week we opened a new chapter on Market Square with the return of the Farmers Market. Now, we turned another page yesterday when the Carnegie Library of Downtown set up its mobile branch in the Square for the very first Tuesday Reading Room.  We think this will be one of the year’s best sellers.  

Here’s how it works. Every other Tuesday though October 19, the Library will sell used paperbacks and hardcover books in the Square from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  And you won’t believe how affordable the prices are. For just 50 cents, you can pick up a paperback, and a hardcover is just a buck. Even better, the money from the books will help keep Carnegie Libraries open and their programs going strong.

Even without a lot of advance notice, Downtown bookworms got to the Square early to catch their favorite titles. By 12:30 more than half the books on the cart were gone. And we spotted more than a few buyers sipping icy, cool drinks and satisfying their literary appetites in the midst of city’s lunchtime bustle.

In case you’re wondering, the next Tuesday Reading Room is set for June 22. And Karen Rossi — she’s the Downtown branch manager — invites everyone to browse the books up for grabs and encourages them to sign up for the library’s Summer Reading program to earn points and prizes for every book they read.

Oh, if you happen to have any books you’ve already finished, don’t toss them in the trash. Karen says the library accepts previously enjoyed books to keep the Reading Room shelves stocked. To recycle your old books, just drop them off at the Downtown branch at 612 Smithfield Street.

Remember the next Carnegie Library Tuesday Reading Room in Market Square is June 22. Book it now. 


The Farmers Market Is Back Home In Market Square

Maybe it’s because we recently moved our offices to the fourth floor of 925 Liberty Avenue, but we couldn’t wait to get our feet on the street again to head to Market Square for the first day of the 2010 Farmers Market.

That’s right. After selling their wares in Gateway Plaza last summer to make way for the initial phase of the fabulous makeover of Market Square, our favorite vendors — plus some new faces — are back in one of the city’s best-loved gathering spots. And it really does feel like a homecoming.

Of course, we stopped at the Salsa Man’s stand to sample some of the spicy dips and chips. Even though the skies were a little gray, the Spanish peanut sauce turned up the heat, for sure. And pie man Bob Schilling’s big, bright smile supplied more than enough sunshine at Sand Hill Berries in front of all the lunchtime diners chowing down al fresco style on cheesesteaks outside of Primanti’s.
And you know we can't stop talking about how great it is to live, work and relax in Downtown, but even city slickers couldn’t resist the homemade goodness of farm-fresh cheddars and other cheeses at the Clover Creek Cheese Cellar stand — a rookie this year in the Square.

Even though workers are still laying terrazzo and yellow caution tape surrounds newly planted saplings, the Square was bustling, which is usually the case during the Farmers Market. Did you know that on Market Thursdays, about 6,000-7,000 workers, shoppers and other passersby gather in the Square for tasty Greek pastries, just-picked produce for dinner and first-rate live music? Not that we were counting, but Market Square was packed by time the Lincoln Park Steel Drum Corps started entertaining with a mix of calypso and jazz tunes that had just about everyone tapping their toes to the irresistible beat. Before we forget to mention it, free, live noon concerts are part of the Farmers Market through August 19, with a variety of rock, country and more in store.

If you’re a people watcher, Market Square is a prime spot just about anytime. But it’s even better during the Farmers Market. Along with paparazzi from local TV stations and newspapers, we caught Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Bobby Crosby with his wife, Gina, and son, Tyler. The Crosbys, who happen to live Downtown, said the Farmers Market was grand slam for them.

Now, as hard as it is to believe, some people in the area were finding out about the Farmers Market for the very first time. And we think that’s just great. We noticed Jackie Valley of Bethel Park sniffing a pretty bouquet of flowers and just had to ask her what she thought of the new Market Square and the Farmers Market. “I was just walking through and discovered,” Jackie told us. “It’s fabulous. I’ll be down here again.”

Jackie, we can’t wait to see you and everyone else this summer and fall for all the fun at the Farmers Market in the new Market Square.