Season of Lights Brightens Market Square

One hundred forty-three thousand two hundred sixty eight twinkles...that's how we measure the dazzling Seasons of Light that will brighten Market Square during the upcoming holidays. And we're telling you now so that you won't want to miss this amazing choreographed, mega-watt, synchronized show of dancing, multi-colored lights that will be ready to plug in just in time for our favorite Downtown celebration of the year — the special, two-day 50th Anniversary of Light Up Night on November 19 and 20.

You'll have to excuse us for sounding a little hyper-amped, but the Market Square Seasons of Light really puts a jolt in our jumper. After all, this luminary-palooza is designed by Blachere Illuminations, the very bright people who created legendary light shows at the Eiffel Tower and Disney World's Cinderella's Castle in Orlando. Over the next couple weeks you'll notice workers installing the displays, which will include thousands of lights around the Square blinking and flashing in time to everyone's favorite holiday tunes. And along with pole banners and swags draped over streets and sidewalks around the Square, the centerpiece of this electric extravaganza is a 33-foot tall red and white "sphere tree" made up of different size balls that will blink and twinkle each night through early January. And just in case you're keeping count, there will be almost 26,000 lights on the sphere tree.

Ronnie Brown and Luke Ravenstahl 
Now, don't worry about being blinded by the light during this special Season in the Square. You see, we're keeping the Season of Lights very, very green thanks to Blachere's innovative LED technology, which is light years ahead of the competition. In fact, according to Blachere president Ronnie Brown, the amount of energy needed to power the nearly 150,000 LEDs in the Seasons of Light show is equal to the electricity required to fire up 80 everyday household 100 watt light bulbs. Which means Santa will have a lot of extra lumps of coal to go around for those little boys and girls who were more naughty than nice this past year.

Colcom Foundation President Timothy Inglis
Of course, if you happened to be in the crowd during the Grand Reopening of Market Square a couple of days ago, you got a sneak peek of Seasons of Light when Mayor Ravenstahl and Ronnie Brown unveiled a poster of the project. But, if you weren't there, be sure to visit Seasons of Light for the synchronized shows every evening during the holidays beginning with the inaugural lighting on November 19. And after hours, it won't be lights as the tree will flash and fade and blink and brighten the Square all night long.

Just so you know, Colcom Foundation generously presented Pittbsurghers with an early holiday gift by providing the funding that will flip the on-switch for Market Square Seasons of Light. And we certainly want to second the emotions of Foundation President, Timothy Inglis, in hoping that the display becomes another Pittsburgh tradition that lights up the Downtown holiday season for years to come.


Farewell Orange Cones & Caution Tape!

It's official. The Market Square project is officially completed. Which is why local movers and shakers such as his honor the Mayor Luke Ravenstahl gathered under the Square clock today to celebrate an 18-month collaboration between civic and private organizations that transformed the Square into a dazzling, spacious European style piazza right in the heart of Downtown.

Of course, the remaking of the Square has been an ongoing work — parts of the Square have been open for public used during portions of construction and access to businesses was maintained at all times. Well, now all the bricks are in place. The trees are planted. And all the orange barrels and yellow tape are gone. That means that you are once again free to roam wherever you want in the Square.  Penn Dot is finishing up a separate project on Forbes Avenue so soon they too will be out of the way.  Then the only scaffolding and contractors you will see are the ones for renovating and new businesses.  We can't wait till the open for business. Check out our coming blog posts for more info on them!

Even though the skies were a bit on the gray side, there were plenty of bright smiles as Ronnie Brown of Blachere Illumination announced the upcoming Market Square Season of Lights, made possible by the Colcom Foundation.  It will be a dazzling holiday season display of high-tech LED lighting.  Installation activity will begin in the next few weeks, leading up to the big unveil on Light Up Night, November 19.

After remarks from the Mayor, PDP prez Mike Edwards and other dignitaries grabbed some really long scissors to cut the ceremonial yellow ribbon in the middle of the Square and to unveil a commemorative plaque that offers a well-deserved tip of the hat to all the parties involved in the Square's remarkable makeover.  To see the plaque in person, head to the center of the Square — it is embedded in the cement circle around the lighting feature that references the Square's role in the Underground Railroad.

Then it was time for a few treats for the crowd that gathered to mark the occasion. Whether it was the pepperoni pizza from Fat Tommy's, organic pickles from Bella Sera, turkey sub from Subway or the tasty tassie cups from Prantl's, everyone got to sample some of the amazing Square cuisine.

Now that the work is done, the fun's just begun. In the next few weeks, the Square will host another Steelers pep rally, the Season of Lights debut and, of course, it will be party central for the Pittsburgh's favorite holiday party and biggest bash of the year — the two-day, 50th anniversary of Light Up Night. If you weren't in the Square today, then we'll see you there soon.

Special Thanks: The Market Square renovation is a project of Mayor Ravenstahl and the City of Pittsburgh.  It is the culmination of several years of public process and has been made possible through the leadership, vision and financial contributions of the City of Pittsburgh, Heinz Endowments, Richard King Mellon Foundation, Colcom Foundation and Hillman Foundation.


Jenny Lee's Extreme Square Makeover

We don't have to tell you how the march of time can take its toll on "looks." Of course, we're talking about buildings, right? Anyway, you've probably noticed by now the scaffolding going up around the old Jenny Lee building in Market Square. Sure, the most recent tenants in that spot were Mancini's and Prantl's. But you know how real Pittsburghers are when it comes to identifying landmarks that by things that aren't there anymore.

Whatever you call that spot, it's getting a welcome "facelift," taking advantage of our Paris to Pittsburgh program. The idea behind P2P is to improve the interaction between street level businesses and us folks on the street — just like you'd find anywhere you go in "Gay Paree." A vibrant street cafe is a perfect example, and Square regulars already know how great that can be.

So here's the inside scoop. With the project in the works, what you'll see over the next few months is a completely new facade going up on the building. According to Mike Krastas — he's with N & P Properties, the company behind the project — the new front facing the Square will sport an "Art Moderne" look.

Crews will be replacing the tinted glass roof with a metal roof. Windows at Las Velas, that muy bueno Mexican catina that sits above old Jenny Lee, will sport clear glass for better views of the action in the Square below. Even better, the windows on the Market Square side will open up to let the fresh air in and to better connect the restaurant to the sidewalks below.  Diners will be able to enjoy all the fun of al fresco dining with all of the comfort of the great indoors!

On the ground floor, the windows will actually open to remove that barriers what's going on outside with the fun inside. The best news is that Mike K. says that Las Velas will remain open for business — barring any of those "unforeseen circumstances" —during all the construction.  So go on in, grab a Dos XX on tap and get the inside scoop!

Well, that's it for now on Jenny Lee's makeover. Visit Market Square to see the progress for yourself!


Indian Summer In The Square

Don't look now, but November is just around the corner. Still, in these last gorgeous days of Indian summer, there's no better Downtown destination than Market Square. So grab that comfy sweater you've been waiting to slip on again because there are plenty of reasons to head to the Square.  

First of all, there's always lunch. And Downtown diners can get a taste of everything from Mexican to seafood to that perennial Pittsburgh fave — Primanti's. Now, even though there's a bit of nip in the air lately, the Square warms up pretty fast during these sunny autumn days for the midday office break.  For those chilly mornings we suggest a good warming beverage to keep those hands happy. 

Of course, there's always shopping in the Square. That's a season that never ends, thank goodness. Of course, there's always a bit of Serendipity for femme fatale fashionistas on the prowl for those must have handbags and other accessories. And for the guys, there are the classic looks of Heinz Healy and the Nettleton Shoes store.  WEAR has great looks for less for both men and women.  For the very best "look," check out the tres chic 3 Guys Optical Center for the trendiest specs around. 

And don't forget that the Farmer's Market is still in the Square well into November. That means you can take home wholesome foods fresh from local fields — or just enjoy some of the delicious dishes served up al fresco style. 

Now, here's our very best reason to visit the Square soon. Just because. Honestly, we can't think of a better place to spend some downtime Downtown than the urban oasis that just keeps getting better and more inviting every day. 


Steelers Rally Rocks The Square Tomorrow

Okay, for us, the only thing better than the Steelers adding another Super Bowl championship to the team's six-pack of Lombardi trophies is watching the Black and Gold smash the Cleve Brownies on the gridiron — especially in front of the hometown crowd at Heinz Field. Which is exactly where the Steelers and Browns will do battle this Sunday. 

Now everyone knows that Steelers fans are the best in the NFL. And that's why we're hoping you show your true colors — you know, Black and Gold — during tomorrow's Steelers Pep Rally in Market Square. Ther merchants in Market Square and Pittsburgh's favorite classic rock radio station, WDVE, are teaming up to host the rally from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. We're pretty sure your boss will understand why you want to take a longer lunch. 

So along with maybe a grabbing a bite to eat from one of the sponsoring merchants, you'll rock out to the hard driving sounds of Pittsburgh's own SuperMonkey. DVE's Morning Show newsie Val Porter will emcee the proceedings and former Steelers defensive back and hometown hero Mike Logan will join the fun. As part of the Super Bowl XL championship team, Mike is a real winner.  

Of course, if you don't have seats for the big game, you can always return to the Square on Sunday to catch the game at Primanti's, where the cooks will be serving up cheesesteaks and just about anything else you can squish between two thick slices of Mancini's delicious Italian bread. And one of the great things about stopping by the Square during the weekend is that many parking garages charge a flat fee of $5 — and that's a lot less than the rates near Heinz Field. Check it out on this interactive parking map.

After the game, there's still plenty to do in Market Square and all over Downtown while you wait for traffic to ease up. Check out the PDP's Evening & Weekend Dining Guide to see which of your favorite restaurants and taverns are open for business. 

And don't forget to bring your Terrible Towels to the Square tomorrow cheer on the Black and Gold in the Square.  


Zombies Invade Market Square

We weren't really counting. But to us, it seemed like a zillion zombies invaded Market Square on Sunday. That's why we're glad that the organizers of World Zombie Day kept track of the undead in the Square. Just in case you're keeping score at home, more 4,800 than creatures from the crypt crept into Market Square to bury the previous record of 4,300 set in Seattle last year.

Now, even though these zombies weren't exactly a sight for sore eyes — actually some of them didn't even have eyes — it warmed our hearts to see so many cold-blooded bodies packed into the Square for a good time and a good cause, namely helping to raise much-needed funds for a local food bank. Best of all, we applaud this mass of massacred unmankind for being on their best behavior in the Square and all over Downtown. You were all a credit to your non-species.

Well, sometimes we really do believe that a picture or two is worth a thousand words. Which is why we put together a few photos of the zombie-palooza in the Square. Oh, just a fair warning, the squeamish might want to avert their eyes since some of the photos might be hard to stomach for the faint of heart. Enjoy!


Square of the Living Dead

We really don't want to scare you. Well, maybe just a little. But we thought we should warn you anyway.  The undead are coming to Market Square. That's right, this Sunday is World Zombie Day in Market Square. We get shivers down our spine just thinking about it!

But, these creatures from the crypt are coming together to inject a little "life" into the Square on a Steelers bye week, along with helping to raise money for the local food bank. While those of us who are more than glad to be among the living can get our fill of special Zombie donuts from Dunkin Donuts or a Zombie margarita at Moe's Southwest Grill, the real zombies among us will be participating in a brains eating contest and Zombie Olympics. To join in this UnDead Fest, come to the Square between Noon and 8 p.m. on Sunday.

Now we don't have to draw you a picture of what sights will await you at World Zombie Day. However, we do want to appeal to the artist in you with an invitation to visit the Square tomorrow for Sketch Crawl. From 10 a.m.-4 p.m., you can join us on this drawing marathon that takes you on a journey through some of Downtown's most scenic plazas, which include Market Square, of course. To help you render your best sketches, a team of artists from the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators. To create your Pittsburgh masterpiece, all you need to do is bring a pencil or two, some paper and a bag lunch.

For more literary pursuits, we want to remind you that next week is the last time to purchase a few books during the Carnegie Library's Tuesday Reading Room in the Square. Librarians from the Downtown branch will roll into the Square with a cart full of best-sellers, page-turners and other great reads. So make sure you bookmark this one - Tuesday, Oct. 12, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Sketch courtesy of the Cultural Trust. 


Baby, It's Cool Outside

Seriously, it seems like just last week that we strolled across Market Square, sipping on a cool cola to beat the early fall heat. Now, here we are listening to the weather guy talk about frost warnings and shivering from temperatures chilly enough to make us toss a blanket on the bed. Well, that's Pittsburgh for you.

Still, even as the days and nights grow cold and autumn leaves turn to read and gold, we're here to suggest a few specialty beverages that will leave you with a warm feeling inside the next time you happen to find yourself in or near Market Square.  

First off, let's suggest a stop at Nicholas Coffee & Tea Co. as one of the best ways to start your day. Just let your nose follow that wonderful fresh roasted aroma across the Square to the building with topped of with a wonderful Chippendale facade. Inside, you'll find plenty perking, as the talented beanmeisters brew one of the best cups of morning Joe in town. Now you can go traditional with a tall mug of black java to go. Or you can order one of the custom concoctions with LOL names like Voodoo Daddy, Chocolate Banana Bread or the Fat Man in a Little Coat. No matter what you pick,  you're sure to walk out of Nicholas Coffee with a smile on your face. 

Maybe you won't find your 15 minutes of fame at the Fairmont Hotel's fab fab watering hole named after a certain Pittsburgher Carnegie Tech grad who exploded on the New York art scene with a giant "Pop." But what you will discover at "Andys" is the appropriately named "Andy Warhol." This Warhol blends exact measures of Hennesey, Benedictine and brandy, lillet —an oh so French aperitif wine — orange bitters and a twist of lemon to create a true masterpiece.  And for a bit of musical flavor, drop in for a drink any Wednesday through Saturday October evening for some cool Jazz at Andys, with local talents such as Etta Cox, Maureen Budaway and Fred Pugh on stage to add the perfect grace note.

Now Pittsburgh rightly takes a lot of pride in being a blue-collar, shot-and-a-beer type of town. So, we decided to visit the Square's own Bella Sera, which is Italian for "beautiful evening" any season of the year. Well, the imported and micro brews at this cozy hideaway certainly got our night off to a good start. Our first round started with a tasty Pietra Amber from Corsica, a tiny French governed island off the coast of Italy. This heady brew's dual lineage feels right at home here in the Steel City. On a more seasonal note, a zesty Screamin' Pumpkin spiced ale provided far more treat than trick. Best of all, you don't have to wait for Halloween to imbibe this bedeviling brew.

Maybe it's just us. But a margarita seems to be a perfect for any time of the year. Which is why we journeyed up a flight of stairs to Las Velas, the Square's numero uno Mexican cantina. Perched above the nearly completed Square, we slowly savored a strawberry 'rita and noshed on crispy nacho chips and muy picante salsa and watched the late afternoon Downtown desk set scurry across the terrazzo plaza below. Sure, it's getting colder outside. But there's always a nice warm indoor spot to be found for everyone in Market Square.