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Pop City

| Sunday, Sept. 23, 2007

Don't look for negative vibes about Pittsburgh and its environs to turn up on "Pop City," a weekly Internet publication known as a Webzine.

"Pittsburgh really is beautiful place, and we are really trying to make people see that," says real estate developer Eve Picker, who signed on as the local publisher of the endeavor launched here in March 2006.

Pop City actually is the brainchild of Brian Boyle, a Detroit businessman, who two years ago joined co-founder Paul Schutt in launching their initial publication, "Model D," in the Motor City.

Much like the original publication, Pop City -- on the Internet at www.popcitymedia.com -- has a goal of calingl attention to "cool" happenings in the region.

"We tie our editorial calendar to a concept we call TIDE," said Boyle, who serves as group publisher. "It stands for talent, innovation, diversity and environment. We see ourselves as a highly localized online magazine that combines a lot of new urbanist elements ... with new economy elements. It's a really localized look at urban transformation and transformation to the new economy."

Their company, Issue Media Group LLC, is parent to five similar Web-based publications -- in Detroit, Grand Rapids and Lansing in Michigan, and in Pittsburgh -- that stress a forward-thinking tone in viewing development.

After starting Model D in 2005, the idea for a similar publication in Western Pennsylvania came via a suggestion from Louis Massanti, a Pittsburgh-based consultant who happened to be working on economic development issues with state government officials in Michigan, Boyle said.

In subsequent conversations, a search for a publisher eventually connected to Picker, a real estate developer whose nowallproductions company since 1997 has developed more than 130 loft-style residential units in 13 buildings, and 70,000 square feet of renovated commercial and retail space Downtown and in urban neighborhoods.

"The more we got involved with Eve, the more she felt this was a tool she could use to add value to what she was trying to do to bring more bodies to Pittsburgh and kind of re-frame the conversation about Pittsburgh," Boyle said. "So we formed a relationship so she would run operations there."

Picker, who works under contract with Boyle's firm, heads a small staff of similarly contracted employees, including Managing Editor Tracy Certo, who among other things is editor of Columns, a monthly magazine for the Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

But most of the original content for the publication comes from 20 to 30 freelance writers who are paid for each story that is published.

Boyle declined to disclose financial details of the operation, but said that Pop City started out costing about $200,000 to run, with advertising sponsors asked to pledge $15,000 and $40,000 to have their names listed on the Web site.

"That's still relatively accurate, but as we add content and do enhancements, the publication becomes more expensive to run," he said. "For example, since we launched Pop City, we've added the Innovation and Jobs news section and continue to add more neighborhood guides."

Boyle said Pop City receives about 150,000 visitors a month, and based on domain names and e-mails, they include what he said is "a pretty good mix" of the development community, members of the so-called "creative class" and an increasing number of business leaders.

Content is syndicated nationally, according to Boyle.

"So if someone signs up with Google Alerts for Pittsburgh, every Wednesday you will find a number of Pop City-related stories on the national Google alert feed," he said.

"More and more, we're getting a lot of feedback from people outside Pittsburgh," Boyle said.

That should be good news for developers, neighborhood associations, economic development organizations and government agencies who are trying to get more people to Pittsburgh.

"Much of our effort and what we continue to try to work on is how to get more of that Pop City message outside of Pittsburgh," he said. "I think that's probably the most important thing we do. As we've found in most markets, our growth is pretty viral. We work really hard to get our content connected to community and neighborhood people and developers."

An example is the city's Urban Redevelopment Authority, which is working with Pop City to create a URA-branded version of the publication that can be used as a business attraction tool, he said.

Real estate notes:

• The second Original Pancake House in the region is scheduled to be built on Swallow Hill Road, Scott, by Charles and Nelly Schweinberg. Plans call for a one-story, 5,000-square-foot building with construction to begin perhaps by mid-October. The other Pancake House is located in McIntyre Square, McCandless. Desmone & Associates is the architect.

• The Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority has approved a $65,000 contract with Wilbur Smith Associates for construction monitoring services for the public space improvements on Parkhurst Street, between Federal and Sandusky streets, North Side. The authority will seek bids on the work that includes curbs, sidewalk, decorative lighting and trees for the street that connects Allegheny General Hospital and the medical facilities on Federal Street.

• Grant Street Associates has recorded several major leases for Downtown buildings. AIG Claims Services and its National Union Fire Insurance division signed a six-year lease in Dominion Tower. Tim and Michele Goetz and John Ferguson of Cushman & Wakefield of Georgia and Pat Greene of CB Richard Ellis/Pittsburgh were involved. Leech Tichman Fuscaldo & Lampl renewed its lease at 525 William Penn Place and signed for an additional 4,168 square feet. Rob Geiger represented the landlord, Bank of NY Mellon, and Mike D'Amico of Grubb & Ellis represented the tenant. Geiger, representing Rugby Realty Co. Inc., the landlord, helped Ventyx Inc. expand its existing space in the Frick Building.

• Four of six Marriott hotels in the Pittsburgh region are among 20 sold nationally by Concord Sierra for about $68 million, according to deeds filed in Allegheny and Butler counties. The four and their prices are Penn Ave. Hotel L.P., Downtown, for $33.5 million; the Concord Sierra Waterfront Associates L.P., at the Waterfront in West Homestead, $15.2 million; and the Sierra Fayette Associates L.P. hotel in North Fayette, $12.1 million, all in Allegheny County. The price for the Butler Fairfield Inn and Suites in Butler County was $7.2 million. Prices were not available for two other hotels, the Washington Springhill Suites and the Altoona Courtyard Downtown.

• The Kingsley Association will receive a $1.3 million "bridge loan" from the Urban Redevelopment Authority for construction and renovation at the Lincoln Larimer Community Service Center in Larimer. The loan will provide funds to begin work while the association awaits receipt of a $1.4 million grant the authority approved in February.

Transaction:

• Condor Realty LLC, owner of North Hills Toyota-Scion, has sold the land beneath its property at 7401 McKnight Road, Ross, to Capital Automotive Real Estate Services Inc. for $10.5 million, according to deeds filed in Allegheny County. The dealership will continue under its present ownership.

• Allegheny Associates, consisting of four partners, has sold a building at 3000 E. McKnight Dr., Ross, to Three 3000 McKnight East Associates, for $790,000. The partnership consists of James D. Hohman, James J. Browne, Phillip M. Gallagher and Joseph M. DiCarlo, according to a deed filed in Allegheny County.

Real estate gallery

Darleen Clements was named sales director of RE/MAX Select Realty's Moon office.

Ann Reale from Prudential Preferred Realty's Cranberry office completed a course for the residential specialist designation from the National Association of Realtors. The company hired as sales associates Jennifer Hildenbrand and Anita Fanara , Cranberry; Gayle Gavin and Francis Puskaric , Rostraver; Deanna Panza , Butler; Barry Visnic , Greensburg; Benjamin Guzek and Kelli Winwood , Laurel Highlands; Robert Janvier , Murrysville; Janice Caputo , Anastasia Mustian and Mike Rakestraw , Route19 South; and Kelly Foster , West .

The Real Estate Gallery is a listing personnel moves at area companies. Submitted items should include contact names and telephone numbers. Photographs should bear the names of the individuals. Items may be mailed to: Real Estate, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, D.L. Clark Building, 503 Martindale St., Pittsburgh, PA 15212 or sent by fax to 412-320-7921. Items may be sent via e-mail to business@tribweb.com .

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