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Pittsburgh plays the name game

Monday, March 26, 2001

By Lillian Thomas, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Avenue of the Pirates is about to be cut before it ever got a shot at fielding baseball traffic. Hall of fame delirium will do that do you.

The name of a new street created near PNC Park on the North Shore was unceremoniously dumped when Bill Mazeroski finally got into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Though it hadn't been officially named yet, the street is lined with granite curbs already etched with "Avenue of the Pirates."

This granite curb that has already been installed on one of the new streets near PNC Park will be removed because the street will be renamed Mazeroski Way. (Gabor Degre, Post-Gazette)

"The Pirates called us right after Bill Mazeroski was voted into the hall of fame and said they want to call it Mazeroski Way," said city Public Works Director Guy Costa.

Though new streets aren't that common in an older city like Pittsburgh which is locked in by surrounding municipalities and thus can't expand, there are a number of new thoroughfares coming onto the city street grid, Costa said. And there's a process for naming them.

The ex Avenue of the Pirates, a north-south cul de sac that lies just west of PNC Park, is not under the jurisdiction of the city yet. It's the property of the Sports & Exhibition Authority.

"Right now it's not a city street; it's [a sports authority] street," said Costa. "They own the property and they are working with federal dollars to build those streets over there. We can't get federal dollars.

"When we accept that street -- when it's completely done -- from the [sports authority], we'll accept it as Mazeroski Way rather than Avenue of the Pirates."

The street is almost finished, he said. City Council must approve both the transfer of the street from the sports authority to the city and the street name. And since the name inscribed on two curb sections is now wrong, the Pirates will have to arrange and pay for tearing out those curbstones and replacing them, Costa said.

All the streets being reworked or created near the new stadiums will be turned over to the city of Pittsburgh when they're completed, Costa said. The city will be getting nicer streets in the deal, he said: They are concrete streets with granite curbs, new lighting and landscaping.

Names for new streets are chosen in a variety of ways.

"Over on the South Side, where there's new development going into the old LTV site, the [Urban Redevelopment Authority] is building those roads," said Costa. Like the sports authority, the redevelopment authority is technically the owner of those streets now. Through a legal formality, the city will accept the streets back from the Urban Redevelopment Authority with council approval.

"We're in the process of transferring those streets over to Pittsburgh. The main street is going to be Hot Metal Street/29th Street," he said.

The street runs off the reopened Hot Metal Bridge, which once conveyed molten metal across the Monongahela River. Local residents wanted to maintain 29th Street as part of its name, so the double name was agreed upon. Another street in the new development will probably be called Water Street, Costa said.

Sometimes existing streets that are upgraded get new names. Etna Way, between 11th and 13th streets in the Strip District, is part of a parcel that is being used for the new headquarters of Seagate Technology Inc., a computer disk-drive maker. Contractors are upgrading the street during construction.

"Seagate wanted a fancier name for their world headquarters. I mean Etna -- they didn't want that," said Costa. The company suggested using Seagate. "The city didn't like Seagate since they could leave. Then you'd have a Seagate Street but no Seagate. So we compromised on Waterfront Place."

In another new city development, Summerset at Frick Park, street names were chosen by committee.

"We actually had a brainstorming session with the partnership, with each of the five partners represented," said Sally Pfaff, project manager for Summerset Land Development Associates, which is creating the new community adjacent to Squirrel Hill. That didn't mean five people; it was more like five gangs of people, she said.

"Originally we thought of architects' names, such as Olmstead," Pfaff said. "Then we realized one of the assets of this community is Frick -- Frick Park itself. We wanted to keep the history and components that make this area special."

The group came up with a list of about two dozen names.

"The mayor has a monthly Nine Mile Run Task Force meeting with representatives from the neighborhoods surrounding the new development [including Regent Square, Squirrel Hill, Duck Hollow and Swisshelm Park], and we took it to them," said Pfaff. Working together, they came up with the group of names that has now been approved by City Council.

The entry road for the first phase of the development will be called Summerset Drive, Pfaff said.

"In the area that will connect phase one and two, which is an overlook into the Mon corridor and into the park, will be Parkview Boulevard," she said.

The street by Crescent Park -- a park of that shape -- will be called Crescent Place. Two neighborhood streets will be Frick Lane and Hasley Lane.

Raymond Hasley, a retired attorney who worked for the Downtown firm Rose Schmidt Hasley & DiSalle, grew up on a farm in the area of the Summerset development.

"My grandfather settled first in Allegheny City, then moved to Squirrel Hill and had a farm on what is now Phillips Avenue. He later moved from there over to another property off Beechwood, near English Avenue. That's where I was born and reared," Hasley said. In the course of discussions with Summerset developers about the possible sale of another parcel of land he owns, Hasley mentioned the farm.

Everyone involved liked the idea of using the name of a local family with ties to the land, said Pfaff, so Hasley Lane was born.

It's in keeping with a long street-naming tradition.

"Many streets are named for farms," said Costa. "Wilkins was a judge and landowner, and his wife's maiden name was Dallas. Murdoch also was a farmer. On the South Side, Ormsby was a farm, too."

Sometimes names come from the heritage of the people of the neighborhood. Troy Hill, a German enclave, has its Goettman and Goerhring streets.

Well-known people and events can spawn a name. Bates Street is named for Tarleton Bates.

"He was a Quaker who left the faith and became an excitable eccentric," said preservation architect Terry Necciai. "Then [he] got himself into a duel, the last duel on record in Pittsburgh, in which he died of a gunshot wound at the foot of Bates Street. See what happens when Quakers drift away from their commendable pacifism."

Sometimes names aren't what they seem: The former Llawnipsa Street in Aspinwall is Aspinwall spelled backward. Ditto for Aidyl Avenue in Brookline, which is named for landowner Lydia Flemming.

Wars have always played a role in naming streets.

Pittsburgh has the Mexican War Streets with names like Buena Vista. Many Pittsburgh streets are named for famous generals, such as John Neville, John Stanwix and John Forbes. General Robinson Street is named for Gen. William Robinson, the first white child born in old Allegheny and the first mayor of that town. The Boulevard of the Allies was named after the World War I protagonists.

And most recently, sports heroes have figured in street naming, with the Roberto Clemente Bridge for the Pirates legend, Mario Lemieux Place for the Penguins star and owner, and now Mazeroski Way, for the ace second baseman, 1960 World Series savior and guy who finally made it into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

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