Up here, on this anonymous curve of Brownsville Road in the city neighborhood of Carrick, sits a large white cinder-block building with "Colteryahn Dairy" in loopy cursive on its facade.
Besides the factory and a handful of other buildings used by the dairy, some of the other structures on this block are abandoned, their vacant windows filled in with plywood and painted over with flowers, a sweet touch to soften the blight. There's also a pair of bars and a church.
This is a spot where Pittsburgh Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak and Carl Colteryahn III, the latest in several generations of his family to run the company, envision a rebirth of a business district, one anchored on the city's last working dairy. They've teamed with Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's office, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and several community groups, including Economic Development South, to see through the vision of the "Dairy District."
In mid-March, Ms. Rudiak stood with the mayor in front of the dairy to announce that Economic Development South had received a $50,000 grant from the Neighborhood Renaissance Fund to pay Desmone and Associates, a Lawrenceville-based architecture firm, to create a design concept for the block.
The fund, created by the mayor in concert with the Urban Redevelopment Authority and funds raised by the Design Center, gave out $300,000 in grants last year, the largest of which went to the Dairy District project.
"It's a great example of transforming this city and using all the wonderful history we have as we look towards the future," Mr. Ravenstahl said.
Ms. Rudiak said that when she toured the dairy about a year ago, "I knew we had something special on our hands.
"They're doubling down on their investment on their factory," she said. "They're eager to branch out beyond the factory walls to help make this neighborhood great."
Partners in the project are envisioning a "foodie destination," a place where food enthusiasts may someday come to get the freshest dairy products, said Greg Jones, executive director of Economic Development South. There are several other ideas on the table, including a farmers market and dairy-themed retail: a milk bar, an ice cream shop and a chocolate store, perhaps with an on-site production aspect.
"Hopefully in a few years you're going to see an exciting new dairy district in this area ... making it a true destination along Brownsville Road," he said.
Mr. Colteryahn may be the ideal partner in the project. The Colteryahns have operated this facility, at 1601 Brownsville Road, since 1917. Their brand might not be as recognizeable as their franchise operation -- CoGo's convenience stores, which carries their products.
The Brownsville Road facility underwent a $5-million renovation in 1998, tripling its production. They now bottle milk for several other plants in addition to bottling iced tea and making soft-serve ice cream base.
Despite its distinction as Pittsburgh's only dairy, Mr. Colteryahn said many of those who pass by the big white structure every day have little clue as to what goes on inside. When the factory held an open house to show off the renovation, "the residents said, 'We had no idea what was behind these walls.'
"It's something to see," he said.
It is something to see. Behind those white cinder-block walls, there's fascinating machinery at work. The assembly lines for many of the products stretch over several rooms and floors. The bottles rattle down the line, getting labeled, propped up, and then spun into a carousel to get filled with milk, each piece falling neatly into place despite a ruckus that would suggest otherwise.
Mr. Colteryahn has his heart in this business and when he plays tour guide, it shows when he grins proudly.
"This is my favorite machine," he said, standing in front of a rattling contraption that takes bottles tumbled into a cylinder and arranges them into neat lines.
Besides the packaging and bottling lines, there are vast chrome vats that process raw milk to separate out cream and make the base for soft-serve, which is then sold to iconic summer hangouts, such as Kennywood.
There's also a homogenizer in a fat metal cylinder that puts 2,000 pounds of pressure on the milk, and a pasteurizer that takes the milk from 38 degrees up to 176 degrees and back down to 38 in less than a minute.
There's an operation to make sour cream and buttermilk, too, which Mr. Colteryahn notes is a bit ironic.
"We're in the bacteria business," he said. "We're either killing it with pasteurization or growing it in a controlled environment."
He said he's excited for his company, which has operated successfully under the radar, to become the centerpiece of the new development.
"If we could brighten the ride back and forth [for commuters], bring business, see residents proud again, we'd like to be a part of that," he said.
Mr. Jones said in a recent interview that the dairy district is part of a larger plan to revitalize Brownsville Road through a series of business districts, termed "nodes." Another firm, the Jackson/Clark Partners, are studying the Brownsville Road corridor to see where business districts could be feasible. He expects the architects will finalize a concept for the district in the next few months and present it to the Jackson/Clark partners.
His goal, he said, like Mr. Colteryahn, is to get commuters to see Carrick as more than just a place to pass through.
"The exciting thing is that it's Brownsville Road. It's just getting [commuters] to press the pedal on the left," he said.
Moriah Balingit: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee. First Published April 25, 2013 4:00 AM