In July, with great fanfare, developers and government supporters announced a grocery operator was finally coming to the Hill District. The money was in place, they said, and ground would be broken in the fall for a November 2011 opening that would provide 100 jobs to Hill residents.
But in the seven months since that announcement, not a single square inch of soil has been moved to prepare the Centre Avenue site for the 29,000 square-foot Shop ‘n Save.
Hill Consensus Group co-convener Carl Redwood Jr. said everything has been pushed back to the spring.
“I don’t know why there’s a delay, but they said at a meeting this morning they’d break ground in the spring,” he said. “So, it’s going a little slower than we’d like but our major focus is making sure Hill residents are employed in the construction and ongoing jobs it creates.”
Redwood said though inclusion has been poor with construction jobs on the recent Consol Arena and hotel projects, employment numbers in those facilities has been encouraging.
“We’ll be vigilant, but we’re doing pretty good with people getting jobs at the arena and the hotel,” he said. “The restaurant isn’t open yet, but the hotel is and Hill people are working there.”
State Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District, who successfully lobbied former Gov. Ed Rendell to create a fund for urban grocery development, said he is not worried about any delays.
“They are doing their due diligence. And they’ve put out a request for proposals,” he said. “People just have to be patient. This is a tricky process, but it’s moving along. I am not concerned. It will be a great venue for the residents of the Hill District. I think they will be excited by what’s created here.”
Jules Matthews, executive director for the Hill House Economic Development Corporation said the Shop ‘n Save plan calls for a 29,500 square-foot building that meets LEED energy efficiency requirements and would feature bakery, deli, dairy, meat and produce departments, as well as frozen foods and health and beauty aids.
Jeff Ross, who with his family owns four other Shop ‘n Save markets, has invested $1 million in the $9 million project and will operate the store when completed. He said he plans to hire about 100 Hill residents.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh is also a partner in the development, as is Aquarium Bull Ventures LLC., a development firm owned by Matthews’ husband Jason, charged with meeting diversity goals.
Chuck Powell of the URA said the reason for the grocery delay is no contracts have been awarded yet.
“I’ve been working with Jason, whose company is handling the minority participation work,” said Powell. “I suggested to him that we should raise the bar higher than the 25 percent goal we have in place. I think we can because we’re having success with that on other projects.”
Matthews was not immediately available for comments and could not be reached by New Pittsburgh Courier deadline.
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