Troy Hill welcome sign languishes over design and placement furor

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A sign intended to welcome visitors to the city's historic Troy Hill neighborhood is spending its third birthday in a musty Uptown basement instead.

"I've taken to calling it the 'Unwelcome to Troy Hill' sign," said Nicole Moga, former board member of Troy Hill Citizens Inc.

The delay was caused by complications on a design, miscommunication and questions about neighborhood boundaries.

Going against the original plan, the sign will be placed in the parking lot across the street from Penn Brewery -- the intersection of Vinial Street and Troy Hill Road -- to mark the official start of Troy Hill. The sign is expected to be installed at the end of November once a Route 28 construction project is finished.

The sign project was started at the end of 2010 by Troy Hill Citizens and funded by the Northside Leadership Conference through a $25,000 grant from the Heinz Endowments. Pittsburgh sculptor James Simon, 59, was the winner of a competition to choose the artist.

There were meetings on choosing the design, each with a different crowd of people.

The first proposed design -- a woman with an accordion next to a glass of beer as a symbol of the area's German roots -- "was struck down because the woman looked like a prostitute," Mr. Simon said.

The second design -- a skyline of landmark architecture and children playing with pigs -- also was rejected.

Some in Troy Hill showed a strong dislike for the pig.

"We don't live in Pig Hill," Jeff Anesin said.

Mr. Anesin owns a bar on Lowrie Street called Darbea's Tavern with his wife. Mr. Anesin is also a board member Troy Hill Citizens.

Troy Hill's nickname "Pig Hill" originated from when pigs were raised and then taken down Rialto Street to the slaughterhouse.

"You can't erase history," Patty Renwick, former board member of Troy Hill Citizens, said. "All we were trying to do is preserve that history."

The third design ditched the pigs and kept the skyline. Mr. Simon also included colorful birds, flowers and trees.

"The community had a lot of different opinions. I feel that the last design satisfied that," Mr. Simon said.

Others were upset they were never told about the project.

"I only found out about the meetings through word of mouth," Mr. Anesin said. "Nobody was invited to them and they weren't advertised."

Ms. Moga objects to that.

"We had fliers, newsletters and documents that went over what was done each meeting," she said. "We wanted as many people to be involved as possible."

Troy Hill Citizens releases a quarterly newsletter, in which the board published information about the project.

The original location was where the veteran firefighters sign is -- a patch of land before the parking lot. The sign says, "Welcome to Historic Troy Hill," and has been there for 30 years.

Mr. Anesin was offended that some wanted to replace the sign.

"My father was a firefighter; his department paid for that sign," he said.

Ms. Moga didn't realize how offensive that would be. "It's not that we thought it was a bad sign. We thought the point of this project was to replace it," Ms. Moga said.

Shortly after they decided on the location, Mr. Anesin replaced the veteran firefighters sign with a new, more visible version of the sign.

Before the new sign can be placed in a parking lot across the street from Penn Brewery, PennDOT needs to complete the fifth and final phase of construction on Route 28 at East Ohio Street and the 31st Street Bridge.

This phase also involves construction of a walkway that starts in that parking lot.

Mr. Simon was compensated for his work, but to him, the money was secondary.

"I'm disappointed that a beautiful piece of artwork had to sit in my basement for three years," he said. "I worked too hard for that to happen."

Nikki Pena:

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