Spring has (finally) sprung
In Pittsburgh, new development plans are blooming like tulips. Some have been better received than others: A pitch for a 137-room boutique hotel in East Liberty, Hotel Indigo, was called "real plain ... something you would see driving down the highway," according to a member of the city's planning commission. Commissioners last week also got their first glimpse of a proposed 360-unit apartment complex built around a $52 million transit center, also in East Liberty. Five miles away in Downtown, developer Todd Palcic has completed the purchase of the former Graphic Arts building at 422 First Ave., with plans to convert the eight-story, red-brick structure into residential apartments.
Please move your bananas ...
... to the bagging area. Want to use the self-checkout lane at Giant Eagle? You'll have to be a member of the supermarket chain's "Advantage" loyalty program, and use the card at checkout. Giant Eagle said the new policy is meant to ensure customers "receive all available weekly specials, fuelperks, personalized register coupon offers and other savings," but industry experts say other supermarkets and retailers are considering limiting self-checkout availability, or eliminating the technology altogether, to cut down on theft. The region's Shop 'n Save stores, on the other hand, don't require customers to swipe the chain's "Perks" card in order to use the self-checkout line.
Quote of the week
"UPMC is still loading up customers, at any cost."
-- Rick Galardini of employee benefits company JRG Advisors, on UPMC Health Plan, which he says is still using discounted group policies to woo small and mid-sized businesses into the UPMC commercial product line. On the whole, though, local brokers say some of the insurance deals are drying up, in anticipation of federal health care overhaul.
Remember when your parents took you (or you took your own kids) to the Sears portrait studio for a tasteful family photo against a mottled sky-blue background? Well, that's a scrapbook memory now -- both Sears and the Wal-Mart PictureMe Portrait studios are closing. The studios' parent company, CPI Corp, is having financial trouble, thanks to the rise of boutique photographers, digital cameras and at-home printing.
In case you missed it ...
... visit www.post-gazette.com/business to read about TriState Capital Bank, a boutique Downtown bank, launched in January 2007 by former Pennsylvania banking secretary A. William Schenck. The bank, according to the PG's Patricia Sabatini, hopes to raise $70 million by going public and selling shares. The details of the IPO have not yet been set.
In other banking news, PNC Financial Services Group has approved a 10 percent hike in the quarterly common stock dividend, up to 44 cents per share from 40 cents. It's payable to shareholders on May 5.
Also going bust is a Findlay-based solar power firm called Flabeg Solar U.S. Corp., which may file for bankruptcy. The company, a subsidiary to German parent Flabeg Holding, is out of cash and cannot afford to pay $197,000 in severance that is said to be owed to terminated employees.
Bill Toland: email@example.com or 412-263-2625.