BlogLeft ArrowRight ArrowBackPreviousNextCloseLocationMenuSearchFacebookGoogle PlusLinkedInTwitterYoutube

Pashek + MTR Receives ASLA Merit Award for Healing Garden Terrace

The design for the Healing Garden Terrace at the Mario Lemieux Center for Blood Cancers at UPMC Hillman won a Merit Award from the Pennsylvania/Delaware Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.  It was exhibited at the national ASLA conference in Philadelphia last month.  It’s the second award for this project.

The challenge was to design a green roof on an existing facility that: uses the proven therapeutic power of art and nature to help in the healing process; provides a positive distraction for patients before and during treatment as well as throughout the four seasons; accommodates the safety and unique needs of blood cancer patients; provides a variety of intimate, contemplative and social gathering spaces within a small terrace; and uses sustainable design principles.  For more information check out the project page.

“Good for You. Good for All,”

This brief essay is from Pashek+MTR’s founding partner, Jim Pashek. It is excerpted from “Good for You. Good for All,” Pennsylvania Recreation & Parks, Spring 2018.


Every summer we enjoy the beauty of Moraine State Park. We have been going to the park for more than 20 years as a family and have many fond memories. Our sons love to ride on the bike trail through the woods and along the lake each time we go to Moraine. We drop them off at the beginning of the bike trail and then drive along the north shore to the marina to get the boat ready. The joy on their faces when they arrive at the marina at the end of their six-mile ride is very special to me. This summer, we have introduced a new generation to the bike trail. Our grandson, who is six, took his first bike ride on the Moraine trial. It was a great success, and we know that he will be excited to try a bike ride again this coming summer.

My wife and I have an older Flying Scot sailboat that we store though the summer at Moraine. We also bring kayaks with us so everyone can enjoy the lake. The lake is really beautiful, and we love to both sail and kayak. There is something very therapeutic in watching the wind fill the sails and feeling the warm sun. Any tensions we bring to the park seem to melt away as we drive along the park road into the marina and picnic area. We explore the shore habitats as we kayak, and see great blue heron, green heron, osprey, eagles and other lake birds. Even a very lost seagull is spotted from time to time. For the first time this past summer, our sons sailed the boat on their own. They were very proud of their achievement, and I was glad no one sustained a concussion as they “came about.”

Our lives are very busy. However, when a family trip to Moraine is planned, everyone works their schedules to be able to join in. Food is shared, memories are made, and there is a lot of laughter. Like most families, we have had our challenges. But when we arrive in the park, our cares seem to disappear. Even leaving the park can be a very special time. As we leave at dusk, the animals are out, and we have fun identifying them. Going to Moraine is a wonderful family tradition that we hope to continue for a long time.

Jim Pashek, founding partner, Pashek+MTR,

PRPS member since 1987


A Grass Roots Success Story – East Ohio St Ped/Bike Improvements

East Ohio Concept Plan 3-03-15 cropIn late 2014, the Northside Leadership Conference Pedestrian and Bicycle Committee learned PennDOT District 11-0 was in the final design process for improvements to the section of East Ohio Street between East Street and Chestnut Street. This corridor has one of the highest rates of vehicular/pedestrian accidents in PennDOT District 11-0, a three-county area.

Representatives of the North Side committee asked to review the PennDOT plans, and realized there was an opportunity to include pedestrian and bicycle improvements in the design. Nick Ross, chair of the committee said, “Everyone is a pedestrian at some point during their trip, and many also ride bicycles. We need to be thinking beyond car rides, and incorporating healthy transportation choices into our daily routine.” Abe Stucky, the Leadership Conference’s community organizer, then mobilized and coordinated the committee’s efforts with PennDOT, the City of Pittsburgh Pedestrian and Bicycle Coordinator Kristin Saunders, City Transportation Engineer Amanda Broadwater, and representatives of BikePGH.

At that point Pashek Associates, a landscape architecture and community planning firm with its office adjacent to the project area, offered assistance. John Buerkle, president of Pashek Associates and a member of the committee, and Sara Thompson, a Pashek Associates principal, reviewed and evaluated PennDOT’s proposed improvements. Then, with input from Stucky and the above organizations, they prepared a plan demonstrating how best practices for bicycle and pedestrian facilities (from the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials and the National Association of City Transportation Officials) could be incorporated into the plan.

East-Ohio-Concept-Plan-3-03-15-webCheryl Moon-Sirianni, PennDOT District 11-0 Assistant District Executive for design, said, “Pashek’s design made a convincing argument for the improvements, as they took into consideration PennDOT’s goals and objectives for the vehicular improvements and worked within the constraints of the physical environment to incorporate these pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements along the corridor.”

On March 4th, PennDOT held a public meeting to unveil the final design for the East Ohio Street Improvements project. Citizens attending the meeting supported the proposed pedestrian and bicycle improvements.

Nick Ross said, “Our proposal was a long shot. We approached PennDOT at the 11th hour in their design process. They had every reason to say we came too late into the process, and therefore our proposed improvements could not be implemented. However, PennDOT recognized the improvements would improve the safety of the pedestrian and bicycling environment, and was committed to incorporating those improvements into their design.”

John Buerkle said Pashek Associates, located along East Ohio Street since the 1990s, was pleased to donate work for this endeavor. “We want to give back to the neighborhood through our design work, and we truly believe these improvements will not only improve safety for pedestrian and bicyclists, but also will have a positive impact on the East Ohio Street business district.”

He added that the improvements are a small piece of a larger plan for bike-pedestrian corridors. The North Side committee is working toward an overall pedestrian and bicycle master plan for the neighborhood. Immediate goals include extending bike lanes along East Street to the northern neighborhoods and Riverview Park, and working with the city and county to extend bike lanes along Chestnut Street and the 16th Bridge to connect to the protected bike lane along Penn Avenue through the Downtown/Lawrenceville corridor.

The East Ohio Street improvements will be constructed over the next two years, beginning this summer and concluding in fall 2016.

1,000 Miles Biked in 2014!

bike-ride-sunriseThis morning, Matt Shaffer and Jim Pashek rode into work today from Etna, logging in just a little more than the nine miles we needed to total 1,000 commuter miles on our bikes in 2014. The sun rise this morning was spectacular as Matt traversed along the Allegheny River toward the Northside. The temperature at 27 degrees, was a little chilly this morning and Jim’s finger tips and Matt’s toes were cold the entire way in this morning. Jim will be asking for warmer bike gloves for the holidays.

There are so many wonderful reasons why I ride to work as often as the weather and my schedule permits. Probably the most important is the exercise this old body gets. But each trip has so many wonderful experiences. This morning I enjoyed riding the edges of frozen puddles, listening to the crack of the ice under my tires. As I write this blog, I can’t help but think back to those many warm rides this year, the people watching on the trail, the wonderful smells and sounds, cheering on the high school kids practicing in their sculls, and the play of light on the river landscape.

We are fortunate to have visionary leaders like Friends of the Riverfront, the County and City planners and now Bike Pittsburgh as they advocated the return of the riverfronts for trail and other recreational uses. We at Pashek Associates are proud of our contribution over the years to the planning of the riverfront trail along the Allegheny River, along the Southside, a gap study of the entire trail system in the City and the design of the mile markers used on the trail. In fact, if you have all of your shopping done, please come out to a presentation in Millvale on Wednesday, December 10 at 6:00pm at the Millvale Community Center about extending the trail from Millvale to the northern reaches of the County along the Allegheny River.

As Planners What Can We do to Accommodate Bicyclists? Part Two

The Secret: It’s all about making bicycling both convenient and comfortable.

In 2008, a paper by Roger Geller, Bicycle Coordinator for the Portland, Oregon, Office of Transportation, titled “Four Types of Cyclists,” explained the continuum of cyclists as follows:


Geller indicates the separation between these four broad groups is not generally as clear-cut as represented. There is likely quite a bit of blurring between the “enthused,” the “interested,” and those not at all interested, but this has proven to be a reasonable way to understand existing and potential cyclists.

In 1999, a Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities written by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials defined four types of bicycle accommodations: 1.) Shared Roadways, 2.) Signed Shared Roadways, 3.) Bike Lanes and 4.) Shared Use Paths.

Recognizing that these accommodations typically were only improving conditions for Strong and Fearless and the Enthused and Confident cyclists – just 8 percent of the population – planners, transportation officials and many others looked to develop bicycle accommodations that provide an increased level of comfort for everyone else, by looking for solutions beyond that of bicycle lanes. This resulted in new facilities, including Cycle Tracks/Protected Bike Lanes and Bicycle Boulevards. In 2012, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NATCO) formalized these best practices in its Urban Bikeway Design Guide.   The results are now being measured, and they are showing:

  • Decreases in injuries to all street users
  • Decreases in speeding
  • Fewer commercial vacancies
  • Increases in retail sales along the street
  • Increase in users who prefer the new configuration

We have learned that providing bicycle accommodations that are comfortable and convenient have real impacts and benefits to our health, economy and environment. And, as noted in Part One – more and more people are choosing bikes over cars.

So, how does Pashek Associates put new ideas into action? Part Three to follow next week.

As Planners What Can We do to Accommodate Bicyclists? Part One

BicyclingintheUS_4ed37e7bb5be3_w618For quite some time we have heard in the news about the economic, environmental and health benefits of bicycling.

These infographics clearly illustrate those benefits:

What we haven’t heard is why we are even talking about bicycling.

Our society has been car-centric since Henry Ford’s invention of the Model T in 1908, but now our national mindset appears to be changing.

In the 20th century, we geared nearly all development toward car travel. Want more convenience? Sure! Let’s build more two-car garages and large suburban parking lots. Want more efficient routes? Of course! Let’s cut down on starts, stops and red lights, and add more highways.

As we entered the 21st century, we learned that what was good for the car was not necessarily good for our health, our environment and our economy: More sedentary lifestyles fostered skyrocketing obesity rates; carbon emissions from car exhaust exacerbated climate change; and the rise of car-oriented suburban shopping malls hollowed out our once-thriving Main Streets.

There is reason to have great hope for the future, though. Upcoming generations appear to be far less reliant on motor vehicles. Fewer young people are getting a driver’s license. In 1983 about 92 percent of 20- to 24 year olds had one, but in 2011, only 79 percent did. The percentage of 16- to 19 year olds who had licenses fell from 72% to 51% in the same time period.

Young People are Driving Less Today

As a society, we are beginning to realize that that there are more convenient and desirable transportation choices with demonstrated health, environmental and economic benefits. Therefore, many of us are taking a more balanced approach. A recent study by the American Public Transportation Association indicates more Americans used public transportation in 2013 than in any year since 1956. From 1995 to 2013, transit ridership rose 37 percent.

Bike Commuting Growth is Fastest - 2014 American Community Survey State ReportThe 2013 American Community Survey shows a 62 percent increase, since 2000, in bicycle commuting nationwide. Pittsburgh’s increase was a whopping 408 percent, the largest increase of any city in the nation.

So, how can we accommodate bicycling without compromising the efficiency of vehicle travel? Part Two to follow next week.



Solving Typical Rain Garden Problems

Many of us embraced rain gardens in the past several years for their ability to mitigate storm water runoff and to help cleanse groundwater of pollutants.
We love rain gardens; we really do. It’s just that sometimes rain gardens don’t love us back. Here are some reasons that rain gardens don’t always work, and the most likely solutions:
1. Problem: Lack of an underdrain. Rain gardens are designed to infiltrate storm water into the soil. But sometimes they fill up faster than they can drain.
Solution: Install a 4’’ perforated pipe underdrain below the rain garden basin. This underdrain operates as a kind of relief valve if excess water accumulates in the rain garden. The underdrain is connected to an outlet structure, which is there to function during intense storm events when the basin fills up.
2. Problem: Clay and silt clog the perforations in the 4” underdrain pipe.
Solution: If the rain garden stops draining, the underdrain pipe may be clogged. Flush the underdrain pipe with a garden hose via the outlet structure.
3. Problem: Sediment washes into the rain garden from surrounding surfaces, filling in all the desirable and needed air pockets in the mulch, preventing infiltration.
Solution: Protect the rain garden from sedimentation with a silt fence or filter sock until the surrounding areas are stabilized with vegetation or paving.
4. Problem: Water won’t seep into the soil. Sometimes heavy construction vehicles compress subgrade soil to a degree that water cannot infiltrate.
Solution: Loosen the subgrade before constructing the rain garden.

N. Oakland Proposed Trails: Linking People, Nature, Neighborhoods

Neville-Trail-elevated-trail-renderingThroughout Pittsburgh are wild landscapes that could be terrific places for people to get out in nature. These are the hillsides that we often ignore as we pass by, or that we grumble about because they act as barriers between two nearby places.

What if we consider these wild urban landscapes as amenities instead of annoyances? What if we think about them as convenient places to walk the dog, watch birds or just be outside amidst nature?

Neville-Trail-trailhead-Centre&NevilleThis idea became the final project of Pashek Associates staff member Elaine Kramer in her master of landscape Neville-Trail-trailhead-Centre&Nevillearchitecture program at Chatham University. The  project proposes turning the wild urban hillsides of the North Oakland neighborhood into community assets. This builds on a long-term goal in the Oakland Planning and Development Corp.’s 2025 vision plan. Here are two parts of the plan:

  • The hillside between North Oakland and the Hill District could include a rugged trail that enables walkers to reach the fabulous views at Robert Williams Park, the highest spot in Pittsburgh.
  • The hillside between North Oakland and Lawrenceville could accommodate a multi-use trail leading from Centre Neville-Trail-Melwood-Ave-TrailheadAvenue and Neville Street to Herron Avenue Bridge, creating an important link between neighborhoods and existing trails. Part of this trail would be a tree-top elevated boardwalk.

Here are two links for additional information about the North Oakland wild urban trails proposal:

Post-Gazette news story

Oakland Planning and Development Corp newsletter