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

Tonight is Light-Up Night!

It’s a beautiful day for Light-Up Night! Join your neighbors from 5 to 7 tonight in admiring holiday lights around the neighborhood. Some businesses will offer specials and some homes will offer refreshments. See below for details as well as the map of homes with notable displays. The HPCC will also be providing maps at the Bryant St. Parklet. Hope to see you out there!

Food Glorious Food to launch new dinner series

Food Glorious Food plans to begin offering dinner, likely once a month to start, in the bakery. Owner and Chef Sean Wehr will design the meals which could take different formats, including themed menus, a buffet or set menus.

During a test run in November, about a dozen guests mingled while enjoying crostini and gruyere cheese puffs, then sat for a multicourse dinner of red snapper with lemon beurre blanc, vegetable fricassee with thyme and saffron, roasted red pepper risotto with chevre and chives, and beef sirloin with bearnaise sauce. The evening was topped off with apple tart tatin and coffee.

Dessert during November’s test run.

Wehr plans to experiment and have a bit of fun with the format. For instance, in the summer, the evening could kick off with appetizers across the street at Gallery Ama. One possible menu theme he’s considering is “they don’t make things like they used to,” which would include ‘70s and ‘80s era food, Wehr said.

He plans to publicize upcoming dinners via flyers posted in the bakery and word of mouth. Capacity will be approximately 15 people and guests will be invited to bring their own wine.

Food Glorious Food opened 20 years ago, offering cooking glasses and catering services, and for many years the bakery was open only on Saturdays. Wehr bought the business about three years ago.

Wehr has been in the food business essentially since graduating college and has had a varied and adventurous career that includes an apprenticeship at the Green Brier Hotel in West Virginia, owning a restaurant and vineyard in North Carolina, and a stint as a chef for a private client on a luxury motor yacht, traveling the Pacific.

Just before he bought the bakery, Wehr was the chef for a professional cycling team in Europe. “As they traveled around, I kept them nourished,” he said. It turns out that’s no small feat, as cyclists consume around10,000 calories a day when racing. A typical day for Wehr might involve making the cyclists oatmeal, eggs and toast for breakfast, followed by giant batches of soup, sandwiches or big bowls of rice, chicken and vegetables for lunch. Steak and potatoes often worked for dinner but “as soon as they were done, they’d start eating cereal,” Wehr said.

In addition to the scheduled dinners, Wehr is open to hosting private parties, either in the bakery or a host’s home. Interested neighbors can contact the bakery to discuss options with Wehr.