LEGACY—Onlookers celebrate the Hill District’s oldest resident, 105-year-old Lillian Allen, as she cuts the ribbon officially opening the Heldman Plaza SHOP ‘n SAVE.

The list of everyone who pushed to help turn the idea of a Hill District grocery store into the reality of the Heldman Plaza SHOP  ‘n SAVE market would probably include everyone in the 15219 zip code at one point or another.

And every community and political leader who took the podium at the Oct. 18 press conference announcing the grand opening made sure to acknowledge that point. The $12.5-million project was a real community effort.

Though she couldn’t thank everyone, Hill House Association President and CEO Cheryl Hall-Russell gave it a novel try. She said she had been waiting for this day ever since coming to Pittsburgh.

“I’ve been wanting to say this for two years—Welcome to the Center Heldman Plaza and SHOP ‘n SAVE,” she said. “You folks out there just turn and thank whoever is standing next to you. Go ahead, because they probably had something to do with this.”

David Morehouse, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Penguins, said the organization was pleased to have contributed $1 million to the project.

“It looks fabulous,” he said. “It’s bright. It’s big. And it will benefit not just the Hill, but Downtown too, because people living there are going to come here to shop.”

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald congratulated the Hill residents for their perseverance and patience.    

“I remember being at meetings about this in 2003. That was three mayors, two county execs, and a couple governors ago,” he said. “You’ve earned it.”

One of those meetings Fitzgerald spoke of, in fact the second statewide meeting to address urban food deserts, was held across the street at the Kaufmann Auditorium—and it was due to state Rep. Jake Wheatley.

So in a large sense, the SHOP ‘n SAVE is his baby. But he gave the credit to state Rep. Dwight Evans, who first raised the issue when Wheatley was a freshman in Harrisburg.

“Dwight regrets not being here, but this wasn’t me, or the Hill House or Danny Lavelle that did this, it was the people who’ve been at this since the last grocery close,” Wheatley said. “So all I have to say is, I hope you brought your money.”

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said he was pleased the URA could be so helpful in site procurement and funding and wished the project continued success.

City Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle was relieved not to have to answer questions about the project anymore.

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