June 30, 2009 |

Mount Washington hotel/condo project developer moving forward with plans

Architect Luke Desmone had promised Mount Washington Community Development Corporation members that he would keep them updated regarding any changes in his proposed project that is designed to replace the former Edge restaurant adjacent to the Mon Valley Incline.

He kept his promise at the June 18 MWCDC monthly community forum meeting and brought along attorney Kevin McKeegan and developers Steven and Beau Beemsterboer to answer any questions.

The complex they want to build will include a hotel, condos, a parking garage with 400 spaces, a fitness center, a spa, meeting rooms, ballrooms, two restaurants – one offering meals for people in the neighborhood and another offering fine dining, a walking trail, a speed ramp leading down to the garage and a pedestrian plaza.

During a second phase a Grand Stairway will be built leading from the incline to West Carson Street and will parallel the existing incline. Under an observation deck located near the incline there will be offices and a visitors' center.

The building will have 18 floors and a penthouse and will feature a terrace on each floor for those staying in the hotel and condos. "You can go out with your coffee in the morning and enjoy the sunrise," Mr. Desmone said.

One change is for the complex to have 110 hotel rooms and 50 condos. Previous planning had called for 60 condos.

The planners said they had briefly considered working out an arrangement to use part of the city's park land and changed their thinking, rejected that idea and instead reduced the number of condos. "I don't think it will hurt the project," Mr. Desmone said.

He was asked the size of the condos and responded, "Every one is different. The average is 2,000 square feet and some are 1,200 square feet."

Trans Associates, hired by the developers, prepared and submitted a traffic study, including a pedestrian count on Grandview Avenue, to city planners, Mr. McKeegan said.

"We really labored on where the entrance would take place," Steven Beemsterboer said. "Residents remembered The Edge restaurant at that site and said there was no drop-off. Cars were backed up on Grandview Avenue. I swore I would never let that happen."

His complex will have a speed ramp leading down to the parking garage.

There will be public hearings to consider planning and zoning matters scheduled in the fall. Residents will be notified of the times and dates and asked to give input.

As of now, the future complex is unnamed.

Residents said they were pleased that after planning and zoning approvals the Beemsterboers will tear down the former Edge building, long considered an eyesore. They applauded when the announcement was made: "This puppy is going away!"

Attendees also discussed erecting a sign or using a covering to hide The Edge from public attention when the G-20 summit is held Sept. 24-25. Many leaders and dignitaries are expected to visit Pittsburgh.

MWCDC officials said they were informed by the city that there will be new trash cans installed and lighting upgraded along Grandview Avenue prior to the summit.

After the meeting, the board's first vice president Frank Valenta said a mayor's representative told him that trees will be cut down and the view along Grandview Avenue will be restored prior to the G-20.

Upcoming events listed in the agenda that night included: Wild Arts and Trails Fest, Mount Washington Park, Sept. 7; Grandview Park's 100th anniversary celebration, Grandview Park, Oct. 3; and MWCDC annual dinner at LeMont Restaurant, Nov. 12.

Another matter discussed was a proposed bylaw change approved by the membership that night. The board had already given its unanimous approval.

Prior to the vote that night board members had two-year terms and could be elected four consecutive times. The approved change gave members three-year terms and allowed them to be elected for three consecutive terms.

"That way we will elect a third of the board each year," board president J.T. Smith said. "We will not get an entirely new board but will be able to bring in new board members."

The results were not announced that night. Mr. Smith said later that the change was approved but he couldn't recall the precise vote.

On another matter, two board members said after the meeting they were not allowed to talk to the press. They said they received a memo from Mr. Smith saying that any comment to the media should come from him.

Mr. Smith, contacted after the meeting, said he received several phone calls from board members after issuing the memo. He said that those on the board were permitted to talk to the press but they should not represent their opinions as being the opinions of the organization. He said an attorney, concerned about an issue facing the MWCDC, gave him the advice to prepare and distribute the memo.

The MWCDC also distributed May crime statistics to attendees.

Crimes included: 10 burglaries (on Haberman, East Warrington and Southern Avenues and on Mindora, Kathleen, Norton, Kearsarge, Lime, Greenleaf and Oenida Streets); nine thefts from autos (on Olympia Road (two), Southern Avenue and on Omaha, Albert, Plymouth, Greenleaf and Augusta (two) Streets;  and four thefts from businesses (on Southern Avenue, Virginia Avenue (two) and Shiloh Street).

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