FINISHING TOUCHES—With the exterior and interior of the Centre Heldman Plaza SHOP ‘n SAVE nearly ready, the Hill House EDC has scheduled an Oct. 19 Community Celebration for the opening. (Courier Photos/J.L. Martello)
There is no signage, the grounds are still not landscaped, the four retail spaces facing Centre Avenue are only cinder-block caverns with dirt floors, and the entire complex is still operating on temporary electrical power.
But though the “soft opening” envisioned for next week will not happen, the actual SHOP ‘n SAVE grocery building that will anchor the Centre Heldman Plaza project is well on its way to opening next month.
“It’s looking good for the end of the month,” said Massaro Corporation Superintendent Chris Lane, who allowed the Courier to walk through the building Sept. 4. “I think it’s looking great and this neighborhood needs this in the worst way. I wish these people all the best.”
With its six skylights and additional light tubes, which use mirrors and a reflective coating to reflect sunlight down into the cavernous 23,000 square-foot building, the store hopes to save a substantial amount on lighting costs.
As for the interior of the store, coolers for produce, meat and poultry were being installed along the perimeter, while those that will define the aisles await the installation of finished flooring. The checkout counters will also be assembled and placed after the floor is in.
Exhaust fans and white ceramic tile have been installed at the hot foods counters, as has the ceramic flooring in the entranceway and the rest rooms. The large walk-in freezers, one immediately off the loading dock others further down a read hall, are insulated and connected to refrigeration units.
As for the four storefront spaces facing Centre Avenue, Lane said work on them had been stalled because of a plumbing issue that had to be rectified before the concrete floors could be poured. There is no such problem with the grocery space, he said.
“We can really get going once Duquesne Light connects to the transformer and the city electrical inspector signs off,” he said.
The other good news is that five businesses have signed on to lease open space in the plaza. Hill House Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Cheryl Hall-Russell announced Sept. 4 that Dollar Bank, Crazy Mocha, Cricket Communications, Nationwide Insurance and Subway have all committed to the project.
“Dollar Bank will actually be inside the grocery, and the other businesses will occupy the spaces along Centre Avenue,” she said. “As for the opening, we’re now planning to have a gala opening, with a community day on Oct. 19. The community has waited for this so long, we just wanted to celebrate with them.”
Additionally, the Hill Federal Credit Union, Bridgeway Capital, Urban Innovation21 and Neighborworks are jointly working to help small local businesses capitalize on the Centre Heldman development also.
“We want the businesses that pop up along the Centre Avenue corridor to be home grown,” said credit union President Richard Witherspoon. “We are focusing on improving the owners’ personal credit so their businesses can get better access to capital.”
Witherspoon said the four-week course has 19 small-business owners enrolled. Upon completion, all can apply for lines of credit through the HDFCU and grants available through Bridgeway and Urban Innovations21.
“The idea is to keep capital revolving through the community,” said Witherspoon. “Businesses have accounts with us, they hire employees who open accounts, we lend that money back out to spur more growth in and for the Hill District.”
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