Neo-traditional housing at home in Summerset

| Saturday, March 30, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Six new buildings in Squirrel Hill's Summerset at Frick Park seem to be filled with fashionable apartments, but developer Ralph Falbo wants to stay away from one trendy word.

“Don't use the word ‘lofts,' ” he says, standing on Parkview Boulevard where work vehicles rumble by at the site he hopes to have open by mid-April. “This is really ‘neo-traditional housing'.”

Those words are the key to that job and the whole Summerset development, says architect Daniel Rothschild from Rothschild Doyno Collaborative in the Strip District, which designed the apartment area.

Summerset's development team wants the apartments, called the Gateway at Summerset, to look like a continuation of the planned community around it. The area of single-family homes and condos has been growing for a decade.

The Gateway will consist of 131 one- and two-bedroom apartments renting for between $1,450 and $2,200 a month, says Stephanie G. Fuchs, regional property manager for Pennrose Management.

Summerset is a project jointly handled by Pennrose Falbo, Downtown; Montgomery & Rust Inc., Allison Park; the Rubinoff Co., Downtown; and EQA Landmark Communities, Bridgeville. Together, they function as the Summerset Land Development Associates.

The apartments are the latest step in the development of a 244-acre site that once was a slag dumping ground for steel mills. There is a great deal of work to continue, Falbo says, mentioning development of the Swisshelm Park area on the hillside toward the Monongahela River.

Right now, though, the Gateway represents a large step because of its multi-family nature and its role as a main entrance to the community off Browns Hill Road.

Standing in one of the large entranceways that lead into the buildings, Falbo points out the design of the doorway.

“Even though it is a multi-family building, we wanted to make it look like it could be the entrance of one of the single-family homes,” he says.

The entranceway will serve as a meeting spot as well as the spot of utility meters for all of the units. It also will be the way to the bike storage area in each building.

There are 52 one-bedroom apartments of 760 square feet and 79 two-bedroom units, Fuchs says. Sixty-one of those are 1,258 square feet and 18 are 1,051 square feet.

She and Rothschild say the two-bedroom units are built to provide “a little roommate space.” He calls the two-bedroom space “the typical unit” for the building.

The bedrooms are put on each side of the living area so residents who are not legally or emotionally attached can have separate spaces.

The two-bedroom units all enter on an angle, Rothschild says, leading into the main area that is a kitchen with a dining area and living room around it. First-floor units have patios; above that, each has a balcony.

There are two bathrooms and a laundry room in each apartment.

One-bedroom units are rectangular, with the living area and bedroom side by side and just one bathroom.

One of the major neo-traditional aspects of the design, Falbo says, is the “service area” in the rear, which functions as the parking area and an entrance for deliveries.

He compares it to the alleys that once were at that back of many traditional neighborhood designs.

Falbo says there will be slightly more than one parking space for each apartment as well as on-street parking. There is no parking fee.

Rothschild says the neo-traditional design idea was generated by Summerset associates, who produced a document for his firm that outlined the style, colors, material and overall look they wanted.

“I felt like I was back in a college design class,” he says.

Craig Dunham, principal at Rubinoff, says that design text is part of the overall effort at dictating the look of the neighborhood. He says the associates established this design code so the homes built there have the look of homes built from the 1890s to the 1940s.

The other part of that plan determines where streets, alleys and walkways will be.

The idea, he explains, is to create buildings that someday will no longer seem like a new development established in Squirrel Hill, but rather simply a part of the neighborhood.

There is a design code run by the homeowners' association that dictates what owners can do to their properties in an effort to maintain that look.

The design review board does that function with architecture, Dunham says.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-320-7852.

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