In Brookline, a working-class neighborhood for many Pittsburgh police officers and firefighters, the conclusion of one challenge Thursday opened a new set of opportunities although some obstacles remain.
Mayor Bill Peduto was on hand with a group of community leaders for the ribbon-cutting marking the official reopening of Brookline Boulevard, the neighborhood’s main commercial strip, after almost two years of construction costing $5.35 million.
The weather was perfect, the road was smooth and the mayor was all smiles, with words residents and business owners have long awaited.
“Thank God it’s open, it’s done!” he said.
He was not alone in that sentiment.
Leo Hughes, owner of Brookline Pub, said he saw business fall 40 percent during the construction, which closed off the boulevard to much traffic and left sidewalks inaccessible at times.
Bruce Brindza’s Fox’s Pizza Den saw its lunch business evaporate — he cut his workforce from four full-time and four part-time employees to just one full-timer and two part-timers. About 97 percent of his business now is delivery, he said.
Nathan Mallory’s coffee shop, Cannon Coffee, saw sales decline by almost 40 percent, or about $80,000 worth.
“For a small little coffee shop, that’s a chunk of change,” he said.
Mr. Mallory also is president of the local Chamber of Commerce and is optimistic about the neighborhood’s prospects after the massive infrastructure project. Walking down the street, he was greeted by every other passer-by, giving the city neighborhood the small-town feel he said appeals so much to young families.
Although some businesses closed altogether during the construction, the neighborhood was buoyed by some mainstays, such as Pitaland and Sal’s Barbershop.
Sal’s was opened in 1947 by Sal Bondi and now is run by a son of the same name. Pitaland, renowned citywide for its Middle Eastern food, was opened by a Lebanese immigrant couple in 1969. Both businesses have well-established customer bases that helped keep the Brookline economy flowing during the construction years.
Even with the road open, some worry about the neighborhood’s image after recent crimes, including a shooting that resulted in one injury in early July, a stabbing in late June and two bank robberies within 10 months in late 2011 and early 2012.
But Thursday was a day to celebrate.
“I love the neighborhood,” said Rina Constantine, who immigrated to Pittsburgh from Australia 30 years ago and opened her Brookline tailor business, Alterations by Rina, seven years ago. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Matt Nussbaum, email@example.com, 412-263-1504 or on Twitter @MatthewNussbaum. First Published July 24, 2014 8:00 PM