Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority vote clears way for Hill District grocery

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With all the funding now in place, the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority Board today cleared the way for the construction of a Shop 'n Save grocery on Centre Avenue in the Hill District.

The board voted 4-0 with one abstention to approve a revised timetable and other details involving the project a short time after the Hill House Association announced at a press conference that it had closed a $3.86 million funding gap that delayed the start of construction.

"What happens to a dream deferred?" URA board chairman Yarone Zober asked just before the vote. "I don't know. But I don't have to think about it. This is a dream come true."

Now that all the money has been obtained, construction of the 29,500-square-foot store is expected to start near the end of the month and be finished by late 2013. When it opens, the grocery will be the first in the Hill in more than 30 years.

The Hill House Association and its economic development corporation closed the funding gap through a variety of sources, including $1.9 million in New Markets Tax Credits, a $400,000 grant from the Heinz Endowments, a $788,673 federal grant, a $300,000 grant from McAuley Ministries, and a $115,000 grant and a $250,000 loan from a Hill District fund set up to distribute $3 million in gambling revenues from Rivers Casino.

"I think we've dotted all the I's and crossed the T's and we're ready to move forward," said Cheryl Hall-Russell, president and chief executive officer of the Hill House Association.

URA board member Jim Ferlo, a state senator, abstained. He said afterward he had concerns about whether the store would be successful and did not support the level of public subsidies devoted to it.

He said the money would be better spent developing more housing in the Hill.

"I don't think the project's ready for prime time," he said.

The URA is putting up $1 million for the store. The Pittsburgh Penguins also are chipping in $1 million as part of a community benefits agreement negotiated with the Hill.

In addition to the full-service grocery, the $11.5 million project will feature 6,800 square feet of supplementary retail space. The complex, to be built at Centre and Heldman Street, is projected to create more than 100 jobs.

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


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