About Kristen Freiss

Kristen Freiss Kristen Freiss is a Pittsburgh-bred young professional, living the dream by helping to promote business and human investment in the region as marketing director for the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, an affiliate of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.
Kristen Freiss

In a few short days, Leadership Pittsburgh’s Leadership Development Initiative (LDI) Class XIX will shower Pittsburgh’s Upper Lawrenceville neighborhood with plenty of love. The PopUp! Pittsburgh project, “We Do. (Take Two): An Upper Lawrenceville Love Story,” will invite Pittsburgh area lovebirds to rekindle their love to each other and to Upper Lawrenceville on Saturday, May 19 in the Goodwill parking lot at 52nd Street at 2 p.m.

Dora Walmsley and Joshua Carter are among the many who have met and fallen in love in -- and with -- Lawrenceville.

Couples all across the Pittsburgh area have already signed up to participate in the mass vow renewal ceremony which will be officiated by Pennsylvania State Sen. Jim Ferlo. Lawrenceville residents Joshua Carter and Dora Walmsley will participate in Saturday’s ceremony and are excited to celebrate their love.

“We met three and a half years ago by chance at Lawrenceville’s own Thunderbird Cafe. We talked the remainder of the night and I walked her home at last call,” Carter said. “We now live together on Hatfield Street with our dog Louie. I would not change a thing and I love having Dora in my life. I am glad to be a Lawrenceville couple and am proud to call it home.”

Following the vow renewal ceremony, other activities for the day include a musical performance by Upper Lawrenceville’s own Slim Forsythe and his New Payday Loners; the premier of a documentary highlighting Upper Lawrenceville; games; and food and drink donated by Upper Lawrenceville restaurants.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Pittsburgh wedding without the traditional cookie table. We Do. (Take Two) is attempting to create Pittsburgh’s largest cookie table. Guests are encouraged to bring a dozen or more to add to the count.

Even the local media has shown some love to this vibrant neighborhood with recent publicity on the event in publications including the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, PopCity Media and Pittsburgh Magazine’s Pittsburgh Perfect Weddings e-newsletter, among others.

So, if you’ve been waiting for the right moment to renew your love to that special someone, now is the time! Register online at www.popuppittsburgh.com to share your own love story, and let us know why Upper Lawrenceville is important to you!

Leadership Development Initiative (LDI) a nine-month leadership training program for young professionals. It’s a program of Leadership Pittsburgh Inc., which is focused on top emerging talent within regional organizations.

Kristen Freiss
More than 200 business and economic development leaders joined the Washington County Chamber of Commerce to celebrate the county's remarkable economic growth

The energy level was high in Washington County last Thursday.  The reason:  a celebration of outstanding economic growth for the county.  Assembled at Range Resources, more than 200 business and economic development leaders – including Washington County Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Kotula and Board Chairman Patrick O’Brien, President & CEO, First Federal Savings Bank – heard the good news first hand.

At the event, Commissioners Larry Maggi, Diana Irey Vaughan and Harlan Shober shared a report on the county’s economic vitality.  Highlights included:

  • In 2011, Washington County attracted 45 economic development projects that accounted for $198+ million in capital investment. Range Resource’s brand new $30 million regional headquarters in the Southpointe Business Park (the venue for the event) – is just one of the deals fueling the county’s growth. Other notable expansion/attraction projects include Alstom Grid, Chapman Corporation, Gardner Denver Nash and Mark West Energy Partners.
  • Largely driven by the expansion of the natural gas industry, the county’s 4.3 percent rate of employment growth recently ranked third in the nation. Moreover, the county has experienced unemployment rates lower than the national average.
  • The county has benefited from $279+ million in additional investments that have been leveraged through the Washington County Local Share Account – a fund that is capitalized by gaming revenues over the past five years.  Funds have been used to invest in infrastructure, business parks and community development projects.

Commissioner Maggi attributed the success to a number of factors.

“Washington County government believes in partnering with our business community to create jobs and increase economic development activities through collaborative public/private efforts.  We further encourage economic growth by keeping taxes low as well as investing in infrastructure, business parks and other job creation projects.”

Pittsburgh Regional Alliance President Dewitt Peart offered his congratulations on the news:

“Washington County’s remarkable growth demonstrates the positive impact that the Marcellus Shale industry is having throughout southwestern Pennsylvania.”

Read more here.

Kristen Freiss

The vow-renewal ceremony of the decade is happening in Pittsburgh’s Upper Lawrenceville neighborhood on May 19.

The celebration is part of Leadership Development Initiative’s (LDI) PopUp! Pittsburgh Project. A program of Leadership Pittsburgh Inc., LDI is a nine-month leadership training program for young professionals. The PopUp! project, with the support of the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development, allows LDI participants to hone what they’re learning by engaging directly with a local community. Officially dubbed PopUp! Pittsburgh “We Do, Take Two: An Upper Lawrenceville Love Story,” the one-day experience is meant to surprise, engage and bring together residents, their friends, families and all Pittsburgh-area lovebirds to appreciate the neighborhood’s assets, offer opportunities to envision its potential and challenge all to see Upper Lawrenceville in new ways.

So just where, exactly, is this sometimes-overlooked gem of a neighborhood? Lawrenceville as a whole curves along the Allegheny River, hugging Bloomfield, Garfield and Stanton Heights. The most visible part is Lower Lawrenceville, bordering the Strip District and offering a gateway to the larger neighborhood at “Doughboy Square,” where Butler Street splits from Penn Avenue. Farther northeast along Butler is Central Lawrenceville, where crowd favorites like New Amsterdam, Arsenal Bowling Lanes, and Thunderbird Café add to a buzz and vibe. But the fun doesn’t stop there. Tucked behind part of the historic Allegheny Cemetery is Upper Lawrenceville, which begins around the 51st block of Butler Street. The neighborhood is nearing a tipping point as the business and arts district of Lawrenceville quickly grows. The charm of this part of Lawrenceville – and its potential – made LDI participants quickly fall in love with it.

This working-class neighborhood is still home to many families, but the heavy industry that once served as a draw has receded. Today, in 21st-century Pittsburgh, the city’s 10th Ward – Upper Lawrenceville – still has the hearts of many residents who have been loyal for decades. However, this neighborhood’s architectural beauty and affordable living options are attracting younger, “hip” residents. Location is important, but at the end of the day, a choice community is really about its people, and the love of Upper Lawrenceville’s people for their home are why LDI participants want to help honor the neighborhood’s past and its future.

PopUp! Pittsburgh’s “We Do Take Two: An Upper Lawrenceville Love Story” celebration on May 19 will feature live music, fine food and drink, family-friendly activities and a chance to contribute to and sample from what just may be Pittsburgh’s largest cookie table. We hope to help celebrate the way in which residents both new and seasoned are shaping a neighborhood that’s worth taking a second look at – a neighborhood that’s worth loving all over again.

But you don’t have to wait until May 19 to get acquainted with Upper Lawrenceville. Come early and often, because entrepreneurs are quickly filling up storefronts with an array of interesting businesses and non-profits. These are alongside long-time family-owned businesses such as Nied’s Hotel Bar and Restaurant, where owner Jim Nied makes his livelihood feeding and entertaining locals (and visitors) with his “best-in-town” fish sandwiches and bar band, The Nied’s Hotel Band.

“I’ve lived above our family bar since 1977, but have worked here since 1965,” said Nied.  “The best part of my day is opening up and cooking for my ‘Coffee Club.’  It’s just me and a few special regulars sharing coffee beans, bread, bacon and eggs served with a side order of life.”

Nied is enthusiastic and appreciative about “We Do, Take Two: An Upper Lawrenceville Love Story” that’s bound to bring a smile to residents’ faces on May 19. “It’s basically a win-win situation,” says Nied. “Fast burners of the Pittsburgh business community get to flap their wings and we as residents and business people get to enjoy a heightened awareness of the attributes of our community.”

Perhaps the LDI participants behind PopUp! Pittsburgh’s “We Do, Take Two:  An Upper Lawrenceville Love Story” will help make this wish come true. Check out the video below to see more of Upper Lawrenceville.

LDI, a program of Leadership Pittsburgh Inc., is focused on top emerging talent within regional organizations. The program uses a data-driven model of leadership development created by Dr. Robert Kelley of Carnegie Mellon University that outlines strategic approaches to cement the participants’ status as “STAR performers” in their professional and community work. These leadership skills are developed in the context of community awareness and exposure to the benefits and needs of the Pittsburgh region.

Kristen Freiss

FIVE GOLDEN THINGS: Second of five posts on holiday outings that underscore the Pittsburgh region’s commitment to sustainability in many forms.

Sphere tree in Market Square’s Season of Lights, Downtown Pittsburgh Photo by Kristen Friess, Allegheny Conference

Downtown Pittsburgh is not only decked and dazzling, it’s greener than ever.

Known for holding its holiday traditions near and dear, Pittsburgh this year is literally casting a new light on a couple of favorites – making them better, brighter and cleaner.

In 2011, generous support from Highmark and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership has made possible the use of renewable energy credits to light up the Highmark Unity Tree, as well as the Market Square Season of Lights display, sponsored by Eat’N Park.  Keeping it all aglow is wind energy generated entirely in Pennsylvania, made possible via the ChoosePAWind initiative.

For more than 50 years, the iconic evergreen has been a fixture on the former Horne’s Department Store building – now the Penn Avenue Place property where Highmark leases space.  An emblem of Pittsburgh’s ardent holiday spirit, the Highmark Unity Tree is more than 100 feet tall with 2,100+ lights and some 2,000 ornaments. Imagine being the person(s) who get to decorate that tree every year!

In addition to this well-beloved icon, there are other new and sustainable offerings to delight. Market Square’s Season of Lights debuted during last year’s 50th anniversary of Light Up Night with support from the Colcom Foundation. It includes a 33-foot, 1-ton “tree” of red-and-white spheres shimmering with 150,000 LED lights that dance to synchronized holiday music nightly.

Jim Spencer, CEO of EverPower Wind Holdings, Inc. reflects on how both of these old and new holiday decorations are powered by fresh-off-the-turbine Pennsylvania wind energy this year.  “This transition [from traditional to wind power] is a great way to welcome the holidays.” In addition to leading EverPower’s local office, in Lawrenceville, Spencer helped found the ChoosePAWind program to encourage consumer support for new Pennsylvania wind farms. Check out the video below to hear more from Spencer, as well as from Highmark Sustainability Coordinator Phyllis Barber.

Renewable energy credits represent the environmental attributes associated with clean power such as wind, solar and landfill gas. For every credit produced, an equivalent amount of renewable electricity is placed onto the power grid. One wind power credit offsets approximately 1,350 pounds of carbon dioxide.

So as you show off downtown Pittsburgh holiday decorations to family and friends, don’t be shy about dazzling them with how “bright” your city is in its commitment to sustainability – not only during this season, but all year long.

(Scroll below video for more photos.)

More photos by Kristen Freiss of Downtown Pittsburgh’s winter holiday displays.