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Oakland Crossings development draws criticism, questions

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

On today’s episode of The Confluence: WESA development and transportation reporter Margaret J. Krauss explains why an 18-acre plan that includes mixed-use housing in Oakland is getting pushback from residents and scrutiny from planning commissioners; the Iris Lunar Rover, built by Carnegie Mellon University students, is one step closer to liftoff now that it’s secured to Astrobotic’s Peregrine Lunar Lander; and is Pittsburgh part of Appalachia, or something else?

Reactions to Oakland Crossings development mixed
(0:00 - 8:03)

Pittsburgh’s Planning Commission has begun consideration of an 18-acre development in Oakland known as Oakland Crossings. But commissioners have expressed serious reservations about the proposal of multi-story mixed use buildings that could include first floor commercial space, and apartments on the upper floors.

Oakland is heavily populated by students attending universities in the neighborhood, but students aren’t developer Walnut Capital’s target audience.

“The emphasis is on, specifically, non-student housing,” says WESA Development and Transportation reporter Margaret J. Krauss. “Walnut Capital has said, Oakland is losing population, which is true, and they want to draw back people who are not students, ideally people who work for the large institutions, like Pitt [the University of Pittsburgh], UPMC, CMU [Carnegie Mellon University].”

The steering committee for the Oakland Master Plan issued an interim letter to developers earlier this year highlighting ten priorities any development should include. Walnut Capital has said Oakland Crossings does take those priorities into account, like attracting population back, and attracting residents with diverse income levels. But Krauss says others are unsure if the plan provides for affordable housing, or amenities for all people.

City Council voted to advance the project to the planning commission, but planning commissioners are still looking for answers on how Oakland Crossings will impact the community and other parts of the neighborhood.

The student-built Iris rover has been attached to the lander that will take it to the moon 
(8:05 - 14:38)

A rover the size of a shoebox is one step closer to fulfilling its mission of moon exploration. It’s expected to make the journey next year. The Iris lunar rover was attached to the deck of the Astrobotic Pergrin Lunar Lander earlier this month.

“The final part was both just so anticlimactic in that it was just a couple of bolts that we put on but also just, so much emotion behind it,” says Raewyn Duvall, program manager for this project and a Ph.D student at Carnegie Mellon University. “That’s it going, we’re never gonna touch it again really. The next time we really interact with her is when she’s on the moon!”

Duvall says the main goal was to create a lightweight rover capable of driving and taking photos on the moon, and her team has so far succeeded: the rover clocks in at about two kilograms, or four pounds.

“The biggest cost factor in any space project is weight, or mass I should say, and so if you can bring down your mass to as small as possible, that is going to reduce your launch costs and ultimately your project costs tenfold.”

Duvall says the project delved into new ways of designing rovers. Moving forward, perhaps multiple small rovers could accomplish more data collection and exploration on space missions than one large rover.

Do Pittsburghers feel Appalachian? 
(14:39 - 22:30)

Pittsburgh is considered Appalachia’s biggest city by the Appalachian Regional Commission. But do Pittsburghers feel like they’re Appalachian?

WESA News and Inside Appalachia teamed up to find out. Inside Appalachia producer Roxy Todd asked a number of Pittsburghers for their opinion.

WESA’s Katie Blackley contributed to this story. You can find more from Inside Appalachia wherever you listen to podcasts.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

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