Contractor change causes Hill grocery store delay

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The money is supposed to be in place, the site was being prepared, and everything seemed on track for the Centre Avenue Shop ’n Save to open for Thanksgiving.

But as anyone traveling Centre Avenue could see, nothing beyond some site grading had been finished. Why the delay? The project has a new general contractor.

matthews
JASON MATTHEWS

According to the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, project manager Jason Matthews replaced the Brinker Group with CMI Contracting.

Chuck Powell, the URA’s director of diversity affairs & community outreach, said though CMI is not a wholly owned minority firm like Brinker, one of the two principals is contractor Max Starks Sr., father of the former Pittsburgh Steeler lineman.

“I’ve been told CMI has agreed to keep the minority subcontracts, suppliers, etc. assembled by Brinker on the project,” he said.

Matthews’ wife Jules, executive director for the Hill House Economic Development said during the May ground breaking, the project has substantial minority participation.

Our (Minority Business Enterprise) participation is over 80 percent,” she said during a press event at the Hill House Kaufmann Auditorium. “And we estimate that construction will include 5,000 hours of resident Sect. 3 employment.”

Despite multiple requests for additional comment on the contracting change and if there were any other changes that had or might delay the project, neither Jason nor Jules Mat­thews return calls by New Pittsburgh Courier deadline.

New Hill House Association President and CEO Cheryl Hall-Russell, whose first official day on the job was Sept. 1, said she still needed to be briefed on the project’s status before making any detailed comments.

“I’ve been assured it’s moving forward,” she said. “I know the players and I’m told there are no major issues,” she said.

State Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill, said he would not have been surprised at the delay either way, because he thought a November opening was ambitious.

“So now I’m hearing January. This is development, things happen,” he said. “I know there are no red flags because, if there were a major problem, I’d have been getting phone calls. Yeah, it might look slow compared to the new YMCA building going up down the street, but while they have a structure up, I’m still waiting for the Y to open too. I want my new card.”

When completed, the 29,500 square-foot store will anchor the Centre Heldman Plaza, across from the Hill House. The store, operated by multiple Shop ‘n Save owner Jeff Ross and his family, will feature fresh meat and produce, a deli, and a bakery. It will also offer Pump Perks and double coupons.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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