Stocks & pedestal — Winter 2007

Pittsburgh Parking Authority & Damian Soffer
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Mayor Tom Murphy used to decry the lack of risk-​tolerant Pittsburgh developers willing to invest in the city. In Damian Soffer, the city found the perfect partner. Together, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and Soffer turned blight into beauty and created the dynamic Southside Works. The URA bought and remediated the land, and Soffer brought the vision and guts.

It’s one thing to build a development when you have the tenants lined up. Soffer built the Southside Works on spec. The first building went up in 2000, and now Southside Works has turned the corner.

It contains 84 lofts and flats, more than 40 retail stores — many are one of a kind in the region — and numerous offices, including some of the region’s most interesting high-​tech companies. The cinema complex is the region’s best.

American Eagle Outfitters, the successful North Hills-​based clothier, searched nationally to find the right place for new headquarters. They chose Southside Works, and this summer they’re expected to move some 800 people to the South Side. It’s a major boost for the project and the region, injecting a huge dose of vitality into the heart of the city.

Without vision and risk, nothing happens. With it, an exciting mini-​city can grow where the ruins of an old mill once stood. Soffer is someone who believes in Pittsburgh and wants to make a distinctive mark. And the Southside Works is that, with attention to detail that gives it a unique sense of place.

And he isn’t finished, with a next phase along the Monongahela in design. We hope more will follow his lead.

In the stockade: Pittsburgh Parking Authority

If you have a business, chances are collecting money isn’t your favorite part of it.

If you send an invoice and are having trouble getting paid in 30 days, you may want to consider taking a tip from the Pittsburgh Parking Authority. It has solved the problem with an abrupt simplicity.

Put the invoice under the customer’s windshield wiper. On the back, mention that if they don’t pay within 10 days, the amount due will go up 144 percent. If they don’t pay within 25 days of the invoice, the amount due will be 250 percent higher than the original charge. (Disclaimer: it works best if you have a monopoly and your customers need your service.) In the case of the Pittsburgh Parking Authority, that means that if you’ve overstayed the 7.5 minutes you get for a quarter Downtown, you’ll get a ticket for $16, soon to be $39, soon to be $54.

We understand that the city needs revenue, which is why the parking tax is 50 percent, highest in the nation. (Mayor Ravenstahl hopes to lower that to 45 percent.) But parking is probably the city service with which commuters and visitors have the most contact. Making it difficult and expensive with rapidly escalating fines doesn’t leave visitors with a friendly feeling toward the city. It makes them say, “Next time, I’ll set up the meeting somewhere else.”

Douglas Heuck

A journalistic innovator, Heuck has been writing about Pittsburgh for 25 years, as an investigative reporter and business editor at The Pittsburgh Press and Post-​Gazette and as the founder of Pittsburgh Quarterly. His newspaper projects ranged from living on the streets disguised as a homeless man to penning the only comprehensive profile in the latter years of polio pioneer Dr. Jonas Salk to creating a statistical means of judging regional progress that has led to similar projects across the country. Heuck’s work has won numerous national, state and local writing awards. His work has been cited in the landmark media law case “Food Lion vs. ABC news.”

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