Kuhn's backs out of Hill District supermarket

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More than a year after Pittsburgh's Urban Redevelopment Authority selected Kuhn's Market to build a full-service grocery store in the Hill District, market officials have dropped their plans and the neighborhood is again searching for an operator to run the store.

Kuhn's Market spokesman Dan Sakala declined to discuss the development, but Urban Redevelopment Authority spokeswoman Megan Stearman said plans were dropped because the owner of Kuhn's Market has health problems.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority has been working with the non-profit Hill House Association on plans to bring a grocery store to the Hill District for years.

"We're still very optimistic about the future," said Hill House Association CEO Evan Frazier. He said the organization has been talking with several other potential operators, though he declined to identify them.

"All the work has been done to date, it makes it a much more attractive project and an easier project to get done," he said.

His organization secured $8.4 million of required funding in February, and the City Planning Commission approved land development plans in July. The future site of the store is located at Centre Avenue and Heldman Street.

But after moving forward, the plan began to stall over the summer. At community meetings this fall, it was revealed that the grocer had still not signed a lease for the lot in the Hill District.

The predominantly black neighborhood has not had a grocery store in more than 30 years, said Mr. Frazier.

He said Hill District residents frequently travel long distances to shop at grocery stores around the city.

"Often it's several bus rides," he said. "What this grocery store would mean to the Hill is easier access -- better access -- to fresh foods and healthy foods."

The store also would bring jobs to the community, he said, and anchor the Hill District's business corridor.

He said the Hill House Association had already been looking for alternative operators before the Kuhn's decision was made public yesterday.

"We owed it to the community," he said.

More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Vivian Nereim can be reached at vnereim@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1413.


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