Bridging past and future: It's 'an exciting time' for Homestead

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Homestead manager Ian McMeans said an increasing number of festivals are being held and more than $20 million in private and public funds have been invested in the Amity Street corridor connecting Eighth Avenue to the Waterfront since 2010.

“It’s a very exciting time for Homestead with all the energy that’s here, and young professionals moving in,” he said. “Homestead is a lot more than just The Waterfront (shopping  and entertainment complex).”

The first Homestead Jazz, Blues, & Arts Festival, to be held Saturday and Sunday under the Homestead Grays Bridge, will feature art, crafts, music and poetry. It also will honor jazz singer Maxine Sullivan, who was born Marietta Williams in Homestead in 1911 and is considered one of the best jazz vocalists of the mid 20th-century,according to the festival organizers’ website.

On Saturday, an ANEW Women Rising Concert will be held as part of the festival in memory of Ka'Sandra Wade of Pittsburgh, who was a victim of domestic violence.

On Oct. 11, the Blue Dust Pumpkin Beer Festival also will be held under the bridge between Sixth and Seventh avenues.

Mr. McMeans said a number of brewery representatives came to last fall’s Blue Dust Pumpkin Beer Fest with their own pumpkin beers. It was a popular event attended by about 1,500 people, he said. A Spring Bloomin’ Beer and Oyster Festival with spring beers, a flower and plant sale and oysters flown in from the Pacific Ocean drew 2,500 earlier in the year, Mr. McMeans said.

Of the $20 million invested in the Amity Street corridor, about $13 million is being invested by A.M. Rodriguez Associates Inc. which plans to construct a building in the 100 block of East Eighth Avenue on four vacant lots that will have space for stores on the first floor, and 30 apartments upstairs, he said.

The company also has started construction on several of 21 townhouses to be built on Amity Street by St. Mary Magdalene Church. The new townhomes will face Homestead’s Frick Park.

The new Homestead municipal parking lot was built with a Community Infrastructure and Tourism grant of about $75,000, and Homestead’s new borough building was constructed in 2010 with a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant of about $2 million, Mr. McMeans said.

He said Voodoo Beer from Meadville is renovating the former borough building at the intersection of Ninth and Amity streets into a restaurant and hopes, one day, to open a brewery there.

A number of new businesses have opened in Homestead, he said

These include Blue Dust restaurant and bar, The Tin Front Cafe and Annex Cookery and Studio A.M., an art gallery and hand-crafted furniture store recently opened by former Steelers Baron Batch and John Malecki on Eighth Avenue.

The Dorothy 6 Blast Furnace Cafe is expected to open soon on Eighth Avenue, Mr. McMeans said. Homestead could still use a woman’s clothing store, more restaurants, a bike repair shop and an ice cream parlor, he said.

In addition to young professionals, a lot of college students have moved into the community, he said. It is close to Oakland and the colleges and universities there, and people driving into Pittsburgh don’t have to “wait in traffic behind the tunnels forever” on the other side of Squirrel Hill, Mr. McMeans said.

Mr. McMeans said he is a big supporter of the Great Allegheny Passage bike and hiking trail, a 150-mile link in the trail from Washington, D.C., to Pittsburgh. The last section opened in June.

Will Prince, manager for The Progress Fund Trail Town Program, said earlier this year that he expected 1 million cyclists to use the trail in 2014. 

Mr. McMeans would like to find funds to build a connector trail under the railroad bridge, between the railroad tracks and into Homestead to allow cyclists to patronize borough businesses. He said an initial cost estimate for the connecting trail is between $150,000 and $200,000 to build.

Mr. McMeans said Homestead may be able to get grant money for the trail connector through either the Trail Town Program or the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Anne Cloonan, freelance writer: suburbanlinving@post-gazette.com.


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