More than 30 years after the last grocer closed in the Hill District, residents and community leaders celebrated the groundbreaking for a new SHOP ‘n SAVE, creating 85 construction and 100 retail jobs, and saving hundreds of residents from having to leave their community for basic needs.

But there is more, said Hill House Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Jules Matthews.

DIG IN—Representatives from the Hill House Economic Development Corp.; funders; city, county and state government; and operator Jeff Ross break ground for the Hill District SHOP ‘n SAVE scheduled to open in November. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

“To date 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.”

Matthews was joined by development and funding partners, local and state government officials, owner/operator Jeff Ross and Hill residents eager to celebrate the long-awaited opening.

“This was the issue when I first ran for County Executive in 2003. I’m glad to see it completed before I leave,” said Dan Onorato. “When you look at the new library branch, the new YMCA, and now the grocery, this is comprehensive development in an area that has a lot of buying power. This is a good investment and I look forward to shopping here when the doors open.”

City Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle said the store was still an issue two weeks earlier when seniors at the Ebenezer Towers were taking him to task about it.

“Now that it’s here, the community has to vigorously support it,” he said. “Downtown is watching to see that this is as catalytic as we predicted.”

Two men who have been working since 2004 to make sure it is catalytic are state Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill, and Dwight Evans, D-Philadelphia. Wheatley noted that Evans held the first of 10 public hearings on urban “food deserts” at the Kaufmann auditorium both said they are pleased to be back to see the Hill grocery development come to fruition.

“This would not have happened without a lot of people, people who were working on this long before there was a Jake Wheatley here, and I want to thank you all,” Wheatley said. “And I especially want to thank the Ross family for having the courage to take a chance on this community.”

Evans, who said he would not have missed the groundbreaking, also thanked Ross, as well as the foundations, banks, the Hill House development team, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, city and county government and the Pittsburgh Penguins for putting this deal together.

“This is about business development, about jobs, jobs, jobs,” he said. “This will be a success. Government has a role, but it cannot subsidize success. It’s up to you to patronize this business.”

Dollar Bank Vice President for Community Development Mona Generett added that she was delighted to have been a part of the project.

“This is a glorious day for me and for Dollar Bank. Usually, I’m surrounded by people who crunch numbers, but this is about more than numbers,” she said. “This is a story about the value in communities. We are proud to tell that story from top to bottom at Dollar Bank.”

Ross recalled standing in the lot across Centre Avenue in 90-degree heat last July announcing his commitment to add the Hill SHOP ’n SAVE to the three he already owns.

There were a lot of promises made, and I’m here to reiterate mine,” he said. “My family is honored to add Ross’ Centre Avenue SHOP ’n SAVE to our family of stores. I want to thank everyone here, but I want to give a special thanks to the people of the Hill District.”

Ross said the construction schedule, which calls for a November opening, is vigorous, but will be met. When completed, the $8.5 million, 29,500 square-foot store will feature fresh meat and produce, a deli, and a bakery. It will also offer Pump Perks and double coupons.

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