BACK IN BUSINESS—Twenty-six years after the doors of this former Giant Eagle closed for good, Bottom Dollar is scheduled to begin renovation in August and open for business in the spring. (Photo by J.L. Martello)
Next year, the 5200 block of Penn Avenue will see something it hasn’t since 1987, a grocery store.
The plan to put a Bottom Dollar food store in the former Giant Eagle site at 5200 Penn Avenue was held up for a year after residents in neighboring Friendship filed an appeal to the Pittsburgh Zoning Board’s approval of the project, claiming they would be burdened by extra traffic, noise and odors.
The developer, Commercial Properties Inc. of Raleigh, NC., agreed to erect masonry partition walls along Coral and South Pacific Streets, effectively screening off the neighborhood, and to forego placing a lighted sign on Coral street. The company also said it would plant trees along the walls to prevent graffiti.
Rick Swartz, executive director of the Bloomfield-Garfield Corp. said unlike the SHOP ’n SAVE being built in the Hill District with $11.5 million in subsidies, the Bottom Dollar will have none.
The $10 million-project to renovate the old building into a new 18,000 square-foot store is “on their own dime” Swartz said, noting the project will also jibe with a $5 million renovation project for Penn Avenue in Garfield that will include new pavement, sidewalks and lighting.
He also said it would bring more people to that part of Penn Avenue.
“Right now, on the weekends it’s mostly deserted,” he said.
Commercial Properties President Brantley Tillman said construction should start in August and be completed by spring.
“We’ll put it out to bid a week after closing. So interior demolition start in August, renovation in September, and opening in the spring,” he said. “I’m happy to be part of it. I think it’s going to be an asset to the community and people will be tickled pink to have a full-service grocery in the neighborhood after all these years.
Tillman said he has developed four or five of the Bottom Dollar stores now operating in the greater Pittsburgh area, and has a long relationship with both it and its sister company Food Lion, which is also based in North Carolina.
Since 2010 the company has opened 13 Bottom Dollar stores in western Pennsylvania, two near Butler, and the rest surrounding Pittsburgh in communities stretching from McKeesport to Aliquippa. The Bloomfield store will be the first within the city limits.
Bottom Dollar offers fresh meat and seafood, as well as brand-name products and store brands groceries at discount prices. It saves on overhead by keeping its fresh produce in a large walk-in chiller, and by having customers bag their own groceries.
Bloomfield-Garfield Corp. Deputy Director Aggie Brose said Tillman told a community meeting in February 2012 the store would hire 40-45 people, half of which would be full time.
“He said management would work with the East Side Neighborhood Employment Center to host a job fair for those spots,” she said. “We’ve also spoken about getting community people on some of the construction jobs too, but we won’t know about those numbers until the bids are in.”
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