Jim Ferlo, Highland Park Neighbor and Friend

Highland Park lost a good friend and ally recently with the passing of Jim Ferlo. City Councilman for fifteen years, followed by twelve years as our State Senator, Jim was a force to be reckoned with in both settings, never one to back down from a critical issue of principle and fairness. One of many speakers at Jim’s memorial service in Allegheny Cemetery in May, who served with him in Harrisburg, referred to him as “the conscience of the Senate.” He was that and more, with longtime residents of Pittsburgh also recalling Jim leading battles with the powers that be over historic preservation, health care, workers rights, tax-exempt properties, sustainable development, billboards… the list is long.

Newcomers to the neighborhood may not be aware of Jim’s sometimes colorful but always effective methods to push both those he served, as well as those he hoped to convince, to aim higher, but we live in a neighborhood where the proof of his impact is visible every day. The Highland Park we enjoy today had a far less certain future just a short time ago. Whole blocks suffered from disinvestment and decay, Bryant Street was dysfunctional and vacant, and the park was a shadow of what it once was. In the early 90’s, at Jim’s urging, a band of determined neighbors created the Highland Park Community Development Corporation to take on the “bricks and mortar” projects necessary to begin to reverse the tide on blocks that were at the edge of no return. The work in this corner of the neighborhood continues today, but these are now safe, livable places that attract both significant investment and great neighbors.

Bryant Street always held a special attraction for Jim. It drove him crazy that this neighborhood was saddled with a commercial district of empty storefronts, eyesore buildings, irresponsible property owners, and noise and drug use when all could see that the community was hungry for a total makeover. With Jim’s urging a new vision was set, problem properties were acquired, partners and funding were secured, and restaurants and services that the neighborhood wanted and needed began to open in restored and new buildings. Such turnarounds are complicated and take time, and while Jim was not a patient person, the Bryant Street of today would never have happened without Jim’s unwavering 20+ years of dedication and support.

As you walk around Highland Park, thank Jim for being able to enjoy the walk around the Upper Reservoir, threatened in the 90’s with a cover like the one now being replaced on the Lower Reservoir. He was in the neighborhood’s corner with other key individuals and institutions in the 10-year standoff to find the eventual solution, the Microfiltration Plant, that both assured a safe drinking water supply while also respecting the unique experience at the heart of the park that makes Highland Park special.

As you leave the park and pass by the fountain and under the granite and bronze entry piers at the end of Highland Avenue, thank Jim for making sure that the city’s proceeds from the sale of the King Estate stayed in the neighborhood, funding both the restoration of the historic Moretti statues as well as the key initial design process that led to the full rejuvenation of the entry gardens in partnership with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and the City.

These are but a few of Jim’s contributions to the neighborhood he loved, and we will miss him greatly.

David Hance, president of the Highland Park Community Development Corporation

Community Hearing on BRT Bus Shelters Monday 6/27 at 5:30 pm

At last week’s meeting, the Pittsburgh Regional Transit (formerly Port Authority) provided an update on its plans for new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) upgrades. The presentation will be posted soon on the HPCC website. The long and the short of it is that the extension running to Highland Park is no longer part of the short term plan. Long-term they hope to add it, but funding and other constraints has caused them to restrict the initial project to the Downtown-Uptown-Oakland corridors.  The 71A and 71B buses that you catch in the neighborhood will be part of those routes, but we will not see any new stops or shelters in Highland Park until additional funding is obtained and public engagement is conducted.

On Monday 6/27, there will be a Development Activities Hearing about bus shelter designs in the Downtown-Uptown-Oakland corridors.  Use this link to attend:

BRT Shelter Design meeting
Or connect by phone: 1-301-715-8592 using Webinar ID 898 7098 7195

The Neighborhood BBQ Returns Thursday June 23!

The 2019 Spring Fling was the HPCC’s first neighborhood BBQ – and what a success!  Now, after a 2-year, COVID-induced hiatus, the our neighborhood BBQ returns under a new name:The Highland Park Hullabaloo!

Join us this week – Thursday June 23 – at the Rhododendron Shelter on Stanton Ave., 4 – 8 pm, for:

  • Live music!
  • Free food – hot dogs, popcorn, and more!
  • Face painting!
  • Door prizes!  
  • 50/50 raffle! 

Highland Park Family Shares Hollywood Film Experience

By Diane Averill

It all started with a knock on the door.

A movie company’s location scout asked if the owners of the house would consider allowing their home to be used as a movie set. Thus began, at just about this time last year, a rare experience for Mary and Mac Lynch of Elgin Street.

As the parents of four-year-old twins and a toddler, the Lynches had a lot to consider, but many questions and answers later, they decided to take the plunge. In consultation with an attorney, they reviewed the proffered contract, which specified not only financial compensation but also a detailed list of the changes that would be made both inside and outside the house, all to be reversed at the end of the filming. There was serious concern that the house, built in 1901, might suffer damage.

“With a house this old,” Mac said, “you don’t know what you’ll find when you start removing layers.”

The company was “very up-front,” Mac said, and patient with their questions and concerns.

Movie trucks in the neighborhood (that’s Billy Porter, enjoying coffee from La Scola’s).

Shortly after the contract was signed, an entourage of production workers began to come and go, taking numerous photographs and exhaustive measurements, discussing logistics and equipment placement. Among them was actor, singer and producer Billy Porter, who had agreed to direct the film “Anything’s Possible” (working title, “What If”) when he realized that it would be set in his hometown of Pittsburgh. The Lynches said that he was very friendly, even spending time with them just chatting on the couch.

When it was time to hand the house over, the family headed to the beach for a week, then settled in with Mac’s father at his home nearby. Throughout the month of August, they would occasionally drive past their Elgin Street home, but did not stop, unwilling to impose. An invitation came, however, and the family got a tour of the works.

“Some of the rooms were almost unrecognizable,” Mary said. Curtains, furniture, lighting, wall colors and coverings—all were different.

For the children, Mary said the best part of the day was visiting the commissary truck, where they were welcome to enjoy any of the vast array of snacks.

Once filming was concluded, the Lynches said, it was amazing how quickly the production crew restored the house to its pre-filming condition. They agree that the whole experience was interesting and fun.

“But we wouldn’t want to do it every year,” said Mac.

“Anything’s Possible,” a coming-of-age dramedy, is Porter’s directorial debut and his self-described love letter to Pittsburgh. It will begin streaming on Amazon Prime Video July 22. Watch the trailer and read more about the film in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article.