Originally published on January 22, 2019 in The Downtowner newsletter.
Founded in 1964 by a group of preservation-minded citizens, the Pittsburgh History & Landmark Foundation (PHLF) is on a mission to identify and save historically significant places within our region. They are chartered to work within 250 miles of Pittsburgh, but the mainly focus on communities in Western PA.
President of the PHLF, Arthur Zeigler discussed that “in term of number of programs, the PHLF is the largest preservation group in the U.S.” The PHLF’s preservation work takes on many forms. They are involved in easements and protecting buildings Downtown, advocacy for preservation, educational programming, and lending.
“We are the only organization that is using Downtown for retail purposes and not food service. Our retailers are doing very well and are bringing good shopper to the area” said Zeigler. The Director of Real Estate Development David Farkas explained that “the work we do Downtown is about both acquiring and restoring key commercial properties to show and demonstrate that there is a market for retail business there.”
The PHLF currently has six retail businesses in Downtown Pittsburgh: Heinz Healey’s, Nettleton Shoes, Market Street Grocery, Boutique La Passerelle, Peter Lawrence, and Katie’s Kandy. “We work with our retailers to get a sense of their sales annually and we’ve been seeing double-digit growth year after year” said Farkas. The six retailers are split between Market Street and Wood Street, the areas the PHLF are focused on growing to be retail centers.
“When we acquired retailers in Market Square it was an impetus that led to additional retail in that area which now function as a group and attract more people. The same is now happening on Wood Street too” explained Farkas. Zeigler also expressed that the Downtown area absolutely needs more retailers, but that they needed to be clustered in order to attract more people. “People who are shopping in a city want all buildings side-by-side and one shop after another; they want to be able to go to two or three similar stores in a small area to meet their needs” said Zeigler.
Zeigler explained that introducing more retailers has helped the area grow because “it has brought people back to Downtown that had previously given up when so many retailers had closed before. These retailers are servicing the people who live, work, and visit Downtown.”
Operating since the 80s, the Landmarks Community Capital Corporation (LCC) is a non-profit subsidiary of the PHLF. “The loan program lends money to nonprofit and for-profit organizations, particularly in community areas that are low to moderate income. The money can be used to get good business going, but it is also for housing people” explained Zeigler. The loan program also services Downtown and can help retailers or building owners get things up and going.
The tagline of the PHLF is “renewing communities and building pride,” which is fitting for the work they do for the community. The PHLF is an important partner in the shared ambition to make Downtown Pittsburgh an exciting destination for all. We look forward to seeing their continued work.