ATTENTION HILL SHOPPERS—With the main structure enclosed the Centre Heldman SHOP ‘n SAVE is expected to open in September, bringing fresh food and 100 jobs to the Hill District. (Photo by J.L. Martello)


After four years, three presidents, three developers, two groundbreakings, and multiple funding shortfalls, the Hill House and its construction partner Massaro Corp. celebrated placing the last steel beam for the SHOP ‘n SAVE market that will anchor the Centre Heldman Plaza development.

Though the “topping off” ceremony was delayed a week by weather, Hill House Association President and CEO Cheryl Hall-Russell said given all that had come before, they did not mind.

“It’s beautiful to look at,” she said. “We’re very please with the work (Massaro) is doing, and how efficiently they’re doing it.”

With the 30,000-square foot building now enclosed, and even some of the cosmetic brickwork completed, contractors can now concentrate on placing the freezers, lighting, refrigeration, plumbing, flooring, wiring and other fixtures needed to have the new store ready for its fall debut.

Hall said owner/operator Jeff Ross will be able to take control of the building by late August and have it ready to go for a “soft opening” the third week of September. A grand opening celebration is planned for the first week in October.

Ross recently joked that when he originally agreed to invest in the project in 2011, he hoped to be open for Thanksgiving—he just didn’t say which one. Now, he said, he plans to begin hiring next month and expects the store to employ more than 100 people.

The grocery project was originally presented in 2009 by then Hill House President Evan Frazier as a massive development anchored by a Kuhns grocery. Kuhns, however, never committed to investing in the project and finally pulled out.

Ross came aboard in July 2010 aiming for a Fall 2011 opening, but the promised funding was not in place. Construction Manager Brinker Group was then replaced by CMI after noting the scope of work greater than what they had originally bid on and would cost more.

After the sudden resignation of Victor Roque, Hall-Russell replaced him as President and CEO that September and discovered that Brinker’s assessment was accurate and that there was a near $4 million gap in funding.

She and her team then put together a combination of foundation, local and federal grants, as well as federal tax credits and a loan from the Hill District Development Fund to make up the difference and hired Massaro to get it done.

While work will be concentrated on the store’s interior, exterior finishing work continues, including landscaping, lot paving, brickwork and completion of the street-facing, ancillary retail spaces that will cover the building’s Centre Avenue façade.

As she has in the past, Hall-Russell declined to say which retailers had already leased space. She said letters of intent have been signed but final lease negotiations are not yet complete.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburgh­


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