Hill District Shop 'n Save opening delayed until spring 2013
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Completion of the Shop 'n Save in the Hill District has a new timeline of a spring 2013 opening and a new construction contractor in the Massaro Corp.
Cheryl Hall-Russell, president and CEO of the Hill House Association, said a final cost analysis is expected in three to five weeks, after which partners on the project "can return to the funding community with a workable plan they can have confidence in."
The project is estimated to cost about $9 million, most of which has been committed, including $1 million from the Urban Redevelopment Authority, grants from several foundations and the county and state, she said.
The site, which was expected to become the Hill's first full-service grocery in decades in November, has been dormant since before then.
"We have been months in negotiations with funders and our partners, so as quiet as it has been out on the land, it's been a frenetic pace getting to this point," she said.
While waiting for the final cost from Massaro, she said Hill House is requesting money from the Greater Hill District Development Growth Fund -- which was pledged by casino developers -- and from the federal Healthy Food Financing Initiative.
Previous partners had included the construction firm of Starks/CMI, which finished the groundwork, after which "we agreed to move in another direction," she said. She would not elaborate on the reasons. Representatives from Starks/CMI could not be reached for comment.
The site on Centre Avenue at Heldman Street is 36,410 square feet, 29,500 of which would be the grocery. Several retailers would occupy the rest of the space. She said several retailers have expressed interest in what will be known as Center Heldman Plaza.
The design picture has changed, with more glazing and a wrap-around art work "that will make the look of this store unique," she said.
Jeff Ross, owner of a Shop 'n Save in McKeesport, has stuck with the project through different design plans and many stops and starts. He could not be reached for comment, but Rob Rubinstein, acting executive director of the URA, confirmed that Mr. Ross "has reaffirmed his commitment to the project."
Regarding allegations and a recent lawsuit filed in Common Pleas Court by former executive director of the Hill House Economic Development Corp., Julie Matthews, that funds designated for the store were misspent, Ms. Hall-Russell said a forensic accounting audit by Sisterson came back "a clean review."
"It was a struggle for me to understand how this has been so difficult to get done," Ms. Hall-Russell said. She started the job in September. "I'd read about it before I came here, and it is very clear the impact this would have on this community. Out on Centre Avenue one day, an elderly lady held my hands and asked, 'Are you going to get this done?' and I said 'Yes, I'm going to get this done.' "
First Published June 7, 2012 12:00 am