Last week’s Pittsburgh news, today #15: Thanksgiving leftovers

For people who may not read the news every day, but would still like to know what's going on.

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Robot landlords buy up Pittsburgh: Investment funds and other institutional investors are buying up thousands of single-family homes and other foreclosed properties nationwide, including in Pittsburgh and other Rust Belt cities. Increasingly they turn to “automated landlords” to manage their properties and maximize profits. Pittsburgh freelance writer Nick Keppler writes about his experience for Vice.

Flisram out at URA: Big changes continue at the Urban Redevelopment Authority; Executive Director Greg Flisram has resigned. Brought on in late 2019 after a nationwide search, Flisram largely deferred to deputy ED Diamonte Walker, who herself left the authority this past April, as Rich Lord chronicled for PublicSource at the time.

Flisram’s resignation is effective at the end of December. In August, URA rehired Susheela Nemani-Stanger as Deputy Executive Director, reported the New Pittsburgh Courier. She had previously served as the URA’s Director of Economic Development. Read the press release from the URA.

Gainey ousts art commission: Mayor Gainey unceremoniously dismissed all five members of Pittsburgh’s art commission last Friday. The members’ terms were up at the end of the year, but they decried the sudden loss of institutional knowledge, and took issue with the timing and rationale. Bill O’ Driscoll broke the news for WESA.

Piper’s files for bankruptcy: Beloved South Side institution, Piper’s Pub, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The Scottish pub, which would ordinarily packed with World Cup revelers right now, has been closed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There have been signs of life on social media in recent weeks, and their websites teases “Limited Hours thru December 26”, but when the pub will ultimately reopen remains frustratingly unknowable. A sister business, the takeout-only Pub Chip Shop, remains open for business next door. Patty Tascarella broke the news for the Business Times.

Fern Hollow rising: The new Fern Hollow Bridge over Frick Park will be ready by the end of the year. The quick turnaround is thanks in part to an exemption that allows the bridge to be designed and constructed simultaneously. Ed Blazina reports for the Union Progress.

Parks tax spending questioned: 2023’s proposed city budget includes over $1.5 million for new vehicles that some believe is outside the spirit of the city’s 2019 parks referendum. The referendum, which narrowly passed by a 52-48 percent margin, was marketed to residents as a way to improve long-divested city parks, which were graded using an equity scorecard to determine which parks needed improvements the most. Kiley Koscinski reports for WESA.

Lamb announces for County Executive: As expected, longtime City Controller Michael Lamb declared his intention to run for Allegheny County executive next year. Current County Executive Rich Fitzgerald is term-limited after 12 years in office. The county executive “is arguably the most powerful local public position in western Pennsylvania,” declares the reporter, Chris Potter, who broke the story for 90.5 WESA.

Railroad bridge transformation: Trail advocates have purchased Allegheny Valley Railroad’s Brilliant Line. The four-mile railroad stretch crosses the Allegheny River not far from the Highland Park Bridge, and will “provide a car-free route all the way from Pittsburgh’s Homewood neighborhood to Sharpsburg and into Aspinwall,” reports Margaret Krauss for 90.5 WESA.

Weed card carriers canned: Just because a person has a state-issued medical marijuana card doesn’t mean they’re protected from workplace recriminations. Workers statewide have been fired for using doctor-approved cannabis, and shortcomings in the state’s medical marijuana laws mean that workers may not have protection from such dismissals. Ed Mahon digs into the issue for Spotlight PA.

Sharpsburg’s balancing act: Past, present and future coexist with each other in Sharpsburg, for now. Emma Riva profiles the borough for Belt Magazine, with special appearances by Red Hawk Coffee, Atithi Studios, Ketchup City Creative, and Zynka Gallery.

Note: In solidarity with striking Newspaper Guild workers, the Pittsburgh Independent will not share news articles from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Follow the striking workers’ news coverage at the Pittsburgh Union Progress.