Thursday, December 30, 2004

Duquesne Light and Downtown Living Initiative to Illuminate Building Facades Along Penn Avenue Corridor

This story and project is a glowing example of our wrongheaded embace of bricks and mortar solutions. Putting a bath of new lights onto a block or two of downtown buildings is all about the hardware end of the spectrum -- not the software side of life. I think we need to get away from the focus on the buildings and instead give a priority to the programming, the software, the network, the human elements and the thoughtful components.

Furthermore, this solution is costly. How much? How much to install? How much to maintain? Where is the mention of money? I have no problems with making an investment. And, I have no problem with allowing the foolish to burn their own money and keep control of their own property rights. I'm just flexing my right to speak up and call em as I see em.

But, then again, who voted on this effort? Who owns the public company? Who pays the rates to this power company? Who has to deal with the economic and enviro waves it is to make? Who benefits?

This isn't the first time I'm called into question the efforts of Duquesne Light. A couple of years ago the company thought it a top priority to light up the bridge over the Allegheny River. I made light of the fact that the same money might be better spent if it was invested into math teachers for our 9th graders who were failing algebra. I'd rather have a dozen teaching specialist to tudor, give night classes, assign and check homework, and advance scholorship rather than light a rusting steel expanse in the night sky.

Don't you take great pride in those lighted bridges? I'm sure many hear the claim that their new neighbors have moved to the city despite the 65% failure rate in 9th grade algebra just to soak in the post-card landscapes of our bridges built in the 1930s and 40s.

Since Duquesne Light does lights, and not math tudors, perhaps they would find it more to their mission for the funding of a Vo Tech program. Or, if you gotta have illumination, why not light some ballfields, if not PNC Park for local kid's to use. The bill to hold the city's little league championship games at PNC Park is $7k per year. That's paid out of the Citipark budget.

Duquesne Light and Downtown Living Initiative to Illuminate Building Facades Along Penn Avenue Corridor: "The premier begins with remarks from Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy at 7 p.m. in front of 940 Penn Avenue. J. Kevin McMahon, president and chief executive officer of The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, which hosts the First Night celebration, and Morgan K. O'Brien, president and chief executive officer of Duquesne Light, will join him to inaugurate the facade lighting program. Their remarks will be followed by a spectacular laser-light show, which will course up and down the two-block area of Penn Avenue.

'This is just one in a series of public lighting projects Duquesne Light has initiated to help foster a strong, safe and vibrant downtown,' said O'Brien. 'We believe that a healthy downtown is critical to the overall economic well-being of the region, and we are proud to be a part of such a unique project.'"

(More of the press clip is reposted in the comments section.)


Anonymous said...

"This is just one in a series of public lighting projects Duquesne Light has initiated to help foster a strong, safe and vibrant downtown," said O'Brien. "We believe that a healthy downtown is critical to the overall economic well-being of the region, and we are proud to be a part of such a unique project."

"The truly unique aspect of this project is the cooperative effort among many parties who came together to make this possible," said O'Brien. "The power of this unique partnership enabled the project to be developed and fully executed in less than 12 months."

Earlier this year, the Downtown Living Initiative commissioned Hilbish McGee Lighting Design to create a master lighting plan for the entire downtown corridor. Hilbish McGee also helped develop the architectural lighting plan for the Roberto Clemente Bridge, which Duquesne Light illuminated in November 2002. Other partners in the facade lighting project include the Cultural Trust and the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.

"The lighting projects spearheaded by Duquesne Light are natural extensions of our world-class Cultural District," said McMahon. "These initiatives highlight Pittsburgh's rich architectural landscape that we work hard to preserve and showcase, helping to make Pittsburgh a major urban arts and tourism destination."

The project went through a rigorous review process with the Penn-Liberty local review commission and the Pittsburgh Historic Review Commission. The lighting design calls for a subtle grazing of the facades with minimal wattage white light to capture the architectural detail of the buildings. To maintain the architectural integrity of the buildings and minimize stray light, the cylindrical lighting fixtures were chosen for their discreet appearance, optical control and endurance.

The property managers of the 17 participating buildings along Penn Avenue were responsible for funding the purchase of the light fixtures and completing any necessary internal wiring. Duquesne Light crews installed the exterior lighting fixtures.

According to Patty Burk, program director, Downtown Living Initiative, the Penn Avenue corridor, which will soon boast more than 400 apartments and six new restaurants, is ripe for such a project. "The new lighting will give the street a more comfortable, neighborhood feel," said Burk. "Given the dramatic increase of interest in living downtown, the timing of Duquesne Light's efforts is perfect. The new lighting will provide a safer night-time environment for residents, visitors and conventioneers."

Properties in the project include Rugby Realty, RIDC, LLI Technologies, the Reese Brothers, the Marriott Courtyard, Halpern Buildings, and D.E.S. Commercial Real Estate. The lighting on the buildings will run nightly throughout the year from dusk to 1 a.m.

About Duquesne Light

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, Duquesne Light is a leader in the transmission and distribution of electric energy, offering superior customer service and reliability to more than half a million direct customers in southwestern Pennsylvania.

About the Downtown Living Initiative

The Downtown Living Initiative was created by The Working Group on Downtown Housing, which encourages housing development in Downtown. (The Working Group is a team of representatives from The Heinz Endowments, the Richard King Mellon Foundation, the McCune Foundation, the Mayor's Office, Pittsburgh City Planning, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the Parking Authority, the Port Authority, the Strategic Investment Fund, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Urban Design Associates and the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.) (412) 325-0163

About First Night Pittsburgh

First Night Pittsburgh is a project of The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, planned and produced with the assistance of Three Rivers Arts Festival. The largest New Year's Eve celebration in Pittsburgh, First Night showcases the talented artists and performers in the region.
Duquesne Light

CONTACT: Joe Balaban of Duquesne Light, +1-412-232-6848

Anonymous said...

Those lights on the bridges are wonderful and looks great at night. Big deal.

The lighting of the facades look great at night as well. Who cares?

Anonymous said...

A bright idea in the PG:

Mark Rauterkus said...

I care.

Who should care? Anyone who wants to care.

I care that we change our thinking to the software issues in life -- not hardware ones.

Sure, the lights look great. But its eye candy. It is little more. It is expensive and a drain. And, it is about the miss-placed priorities that I want to illustrate.

They have the right -- as I agree fully in property rights. But, they don't have my praise.

What is NOT seen is more pressing. It is hard to show what is missing. It is hard to shine a light on failures of 9th grade math students. That's what needs to get our energy and attention.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Some cost mentions came onto the radio today. Duq. Light paid about $25,000 per building. Each building owner had to pay a few hundred. So, there is a good subsidy from the power company to these building owners. They take from one rate payer and give to another.

The ongoing cost is about $35 per month per building. Say there are 20 buildings? What's that $8,400 per year? These are my raw estimates. I'd like to know real projections.

That amount is equal to the costs for playing city championship (baseball and softball of all ages) games at PNC Park each year.

With capital of $35k x 20 = $700,000.

How much did it cost to light up the Clemente Bridge? How much does it cost a year to light it up?

How much coal is used?

How many extra nickles and dimes does it cost the average home owner to keep those lights on -- because it comes out of our bills.

Perhaps it would make more sense to me if this was a demonstration project for solar light and battery efforts -- or wind powered generators to make the lights work on the bridge with mini-turbines on the structure. Fine. R&D. Re-newable power. Benefits in other areas.

Just dumbness -- eye candy -- and no nutritional value: no thanks. Think again.

Anonymous said...

Nobody likes a penny pincher scrooge!

Mark Rauterkus said...

Just to be clear. Nobody who is presently elected in the city is a penny pincher. They all got elected because they are well liked. And, they all know how to spend money and they don't know how to be prudent, don't know how to pinch the purse strings, don't know how to do spending on anything other than hardware.

But, the lack self control has turned Pittsburgh into a financial mess and makes our crisis hard to fix yet alone understand.

I think the real part of playing the scrooge in our situation isn't me but it is the existing leadership. They don't have the capacity now to do things like pave our streets. The over spending has backfired.

Tough love. It isn't about being well loved or well liked. Now is the time to being well reasoned, well with balance and purpose, well with our means and our spending. Now is the time for "TIGHT leadership" and if you don't like it too bad. We can fight it and die in a dream world. Or, we can fight for what is right and set the course so we can prosper again in the future.

Chus said...

This is what I think: Duquesne Light