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South Side staircase comes alive with light

| Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, 9:47 p.m.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
After five years of planning and work, the 18th Street Steps Lighting Project connecting the South Side Flats and the South Side Slopes will be illuminatedAfter five years of planning and work, the 18th Street Steps Lighting Project connecting the South Side Flats and the South Side Slopes are now illuminated. During the ceremony on Friday evening a person is silhouetted against the new lights. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review

The South Side Slopes community has taken 140 steps in the right direction in completing a lighting project, officials say.

Two neighborhood groups joined to illuminate the city-owned 18th Street steps, which climb seven stories on the South Side from South 18th Street to Pius Street.

On Friday night, officials showed off 140 LED light bars, one attached under each stair tread, and projector lights on three poles. About 50 people attended the ceremony.

The South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association and the now-defunct South Side Local Development Co. worked on the lighting project, said Judy Dyda, who had been project manager for the development company.

“It's very, very rewarding,” said Dyda. “It absolutely feels fabulous.”

Duquesne Light funded the $120,000 lighting installation, said Peter Kreuthmeier of Garfield-based Loysen + Kreuthmeier Architects, lighting designer.

The South Side Slopes, which is mostly residential, is crisscrossed by hundred of staircases that steelworkers used to travel between their homes and the steel mills in the South Side Flats, he said.

“And the 18th Street steps are easily the most iconic of these,” he said.

Conceptualized in 2007, the 18th Street Lighting Project is the third in a series of “gateway” projects — those near key South Side Slopes entrances — undertaken as part of the Elm Street Program,

The program is a state initiative that gives grants to improve residential areas close to business districts, said Kreuthmeier, a South Side Slopes resident and member of the neighborhood association's board.

The city's Urban Redevelopment Authority designated the eastern part of the Slopes, including South Side Park, as an Elm Street District, he said.

The neighborhood groups completed two gateway projects near the South Side Slopes. They are the Monastery and Brosville streets project, which included installation of a 48-foot-long slab of steel with lights and a neighborhood map inscribed in it, done in 2009. In 2011, a 16-foot-tall, solar-powered pylon, or monument, was installed at 18th and Josephine streets.

All of the gateway projects were made with Cor-ten, a steel alloy developed by U.S. Steel that resists damage and graffiti. Its use is a nod to South Side's steelworker heritage, Dyda said.

Officials have invested about $250,000 in state and city money and grants in the Slopes' Elm Street Program, which also included renovation of a war memorial, producing marketing publications, and revitalization studies, Dyda said.

Founded in 1982, South Side Local Development Co. addressed historic preservation and real estate development as a result of the steel mill closures.

It closed in June because real estate values in the Flats outpaced those for the city, Dyda said.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or tparrish@tribweb.com.

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