In the early 20th century he promoted and developed a civic center plan for the Oakland district of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania—miles away from the city's smokey, congested downtown—as a new center for culture, art, and education. The plan was inspired by the City Beautiful movement. Nicola had been key in the formation of the Bellefield Company with the help of Pittsburgh businessmen Andrew W. Mellon, Henry Clay Frick, Andrew Carnegie, George Westinghouse and H.J. Heinz, who were among the first stockholders. The Oakland plan unfolded on land once owned by fellow stockholder Mary Croghan Schenley. Nicola's company transformed open acreage into a host of new urban landmarks: the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, entire campuses both for the University of Pittsburgh and the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University), Forbes Field, Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall, the Masonic Temple (now the University of Pittsburgh's Alumni Hall), the Pittsburgh Athletic Association, Schenley Hotel, and an upscale residential neighborhood, Schenley Farms. Today Nicola's model urban suburb is a listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district.
- Aurand, Martin (2006). The Spectator and the Topographical City. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. ISBN 0-8229-4288-7.
- Bails, Jennifer (2008-Spring). "Schenley Farms: This Grand Old Neighborhood Began as a Model Urban Suburb" (print). Shady Ave. Pittsburgh: Shady Ave Media. 12 (2): 38–44. Retrieved 2008-03-01. Check date values in:
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