Funding secured for Hill District Shop 'n Save

URA will revisit project's timetable

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A long-delayed Shop 'n Save grocery in the Hill District is back on track after political and neighborhood leaders found a way to close a $3.86 million gap in the financing for the store.

Cheryl Hall-Russell, president and CEO of the Hill House Association, confirmed Tuesday that the agency, with help from others, has been able to secure the commitments needed to eliminate the funding gap.

"We did get it closed. We had a significant gap on Aug. 1. The funding community stepped up and we were able to close that gap through some creative work together," she said.

With the funding in place, the city's Urban Redevelopment Authority board is expected to take action Thursday to accept a new timetable for the completion of the $11.6 million grocery. Robert Rubinstein, URA acting executive director, said the agency could not have done so without knowing that the funding was in place for the development.

Construction is expected to start by the end of the month, with completion slated for late spring or early summer, he said. Massaro Corporation is handling the work.

"We've been having regular meetings," Mr. Rubinstein said. "We believe the team is in place that can deliver this."

Ms. Hall-Russell declined to identify the funding sources secured to close the gap pending a press conference Thursday to discuss the issue. But Mr. Rubinstein said one big piece involved New Markets Tax Credits, which will raise $1.9 million in equity for the project.

The Hill House, through its economic development corporation, secured a federal grant, totaling almost $800,000, for the project last month.

It also was able to get an allocation from the Greater Hill District Development Growth Fund, which was set up to distribute $3 million in gambling revenues provided to the neighborhood by Rivers Casino. Ms. Hall-Russell said the grocery allocation wasn't as high as the $800,000 Hill House had requested "but we're thrilled that they stepped up."

"This has been a tough project," she said.

Others funding the project include the Pittsburgh Penguins, who contributed $1 million as part of a community benefits agreement with the Hill, and the URA, which is putting in $1 million. Store operator Jeff Ross also has said that he is kicking in almost $1 million of his own money.

The 29,500-square-foot grocery will be built on Centre Avenue at Heldman Street. The full-service store will be the first in the Hill in decades.

As that project gets ready to advance, a Pittsburgh developer is teaming up with another Hill group to bring new life to the block around the New Granada Theatre on Centre Avenue a short distance away.

Developer Ralph Falbo and the Hill Community Development Corporation are collaborating on a 51-unit residential and retail complex along Centre and Wylie avenues.

The Residences at New Granada Square would feature 35 one-bedroom apartments and 16 two-bedroom units. Nine of the units would rent at market rates, while the rest will be priced to make them more affordable to lower income residents.

In addition to the housing, the team is planning 7,200 square feet of retail space along Centre Avenue. Twenty five parking spaces also would be created as part of the development.

The URA board is expected to take a series of actions related to the development Thursday. Yarone Zober, URA board chairman and chief of staff to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, said the development would be built around the New Granada Theater, a one-time jazz hot spot that hosted the likes of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Lena Horne.

Marimba Milliones, executive director of the Hill CDC, said the complex would occupy a number of vacant properties in the block, most of them owned by the URA.

She added the new development would be consistent with the vision and guidelines set forth in master plan for the Hill. "We're 100 percent committed to that plan and fulfilling the ambitions of that plan through this development," she said.

While the New Granada Theater is not part of the apartment and retail complex, the Hill CDC also is hoping to redevelop the Hill landmark. It is considering possible cultural and retail uses for the old building and plans to commission studies to determine what would be feasible. The Hill CDC was instrumental in stabilizing the structure after it fell into disrepair.

neigh_city - businessnews

Mark Belko: mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1262.


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